§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ 8.20 p.m.
§ The PARLIAMENTARY SECRETARY to the MINISTRY of LABOUR (Lieut.-Colonel Muirhead)
I beg to move,That the Bill be now read a Second time.The object of this Bill is to fulfil a pledge which was given during the passage of the Unemployment Act when the proposals were being discussed lowering the insurance age to the school age. It was the generally expressed opinion that credit should be allowed to every child who remained in education beyond the age of 14. This concession was made, and it is now embodied in Section 75 of the Unemployment Insurance Act, 1935, which, as hon. Members know, is a consolidating Act. The Act lays down in that section that the regulations regarding this matter shall come into force on 3rd September of this year, and that children who are then continuing their education shall be given credit.
116 When the Unemployment Bill of 1934 was before the House, the matter was raised by the hon. Member for Chester-le-Street (Mr. Lawson), and, in reply to him, my predecessor said that children who left school in July, 1935, would have the advantage of this particular section of the Act—I think that the hon. Member was concerned about children leaving in July, 1935—and that, in spite of the fact that they would not have been at school for two years, but only for one year after the coming into force of the Act, they would become entitled to the full credit of contributions. When the Act subsequently emerged, the date of 3rd September of this year was embodied, and it was then apparent that children who left during the summer of this year would be excluded from the credit and that it might be detrimental to them subsequently when it became a question of their qualifying for unemployment benefit. The object of the Bill, therefore, is to try to put that matter right. The pledge which was given by my predecessor was given in all good faith, and this Bill is to give effect to it. There will be no charge upon the Exchequer, and it is difficult to estimate the charge which will come on the Unemployment Fund, but it will be only a small one. I believe that there is considerable agreement on the Bill, and I hope that it will be given a Second Reading.
§ 8.23 p.m.
§ Mr. LAWSON
I believe that this is the first occasion on which the hon. and gallant Gentleman has appeared at that Box as Parliamentary Secretary, and it is all the more pleasing to congratulate him when introducing a Bill of this kind. I think he will agree that, as the representative of the Ministry of Labour, he has been very fortunate in his selection of the Bill upon which he has had to speak. I congratulate him and the Ministry upon being sufficiently wide awake to see this difficulty before any hardship was caused to the boys and girls concerned. I was very much surprised when I was told about the flaw in the Act, and when one recollects how wide and complex the Bill was in its two parts, one cannot grumble that this small flaw has appeared. We on these benches agree that the best thing the House can do is to give the Bill a Second Reading, and we hope that there will not be any 117 objection to it. It means nothing but gain to the boys and girls concerned, and it was only because of a general understanding that it would be possible to get this business through rather quickly that we have been enabled to have this Bill at all. I trust that the House will give the Bill a quick passage, in order to make quite sure that the boys and girls who will leave school this year will be credited with their contributions. I understand that there will be no charge on the Exchequer and that the charge on the fund itself will be almost negligible. The provision will not touch a great many boys and girls, but it makes sure that there will be no hardship with regard to those whom it affects.
§ 8.26 p.m.
§ Mr. McGOVERN
In the absence of my hon. Friend the Member for Gorbals (Mr. Buchanan), who takes a deep interest in these matters, I should like to say that we also agree to the passage of the Bill without any question of obstruction, and that we welcome it. May I be permitted to say that I, like the hon. Member for Chester-le-Street (Mr. Lawson) am glad that the Parliamentary Secretary has had such a pleasant task? It is only the preliminary canter for the very serious things which lie ahead, which will prove the mettle of himself and the Minister of Labour in the very near future. We welcome the provisions of the Bill, which are to ensure that no injustice shall take place regarding the young persons affected. In welcoming the Minister's appearance, I hope that he will in the future carry out the policy enunciated in this Bill and that he will do justice to all sections of the unemployed.
§ Bill committed to a Committee of the Whole House for To-morrow.—[Sir G. Penny]