HC Deb 30 April 1936 vol 311 cc1225-31

Considered in Committee under Standing Order No. 69.

[Captain BOURNE in the Chair.]

Motion made, and Question proposed,


  1. (a) for the purpose of any Act of the present Session to amend the Midwives Acts, 1902 to 1926, it is expedient to authorise the payment out of moneys provided by Parliament—
    1. (i) to such local authorities (in this Resolution referred to as authorities') as may be determined by the provisions of the said Act of the present Session (hereinafter referred to as 'the said Act') on which additional expenditure is imposed in respect of any year in the third fixed grant period by the provisions of the said Act requiring an authority to secure the provision of a service of domiciliary midwives which is adequate for the needs of the area of the authority, of a grant in respect of that year calculated to the nearest pound by multiplying half the amount of the said additional expenditure by the weighting factor and dividing the product by the aggregate weighting factor; and
    2. (ii) to every authority of an amount equal to one-half of the aggregate expenditure incurred by the authority in each financial year in paying, by way of compensation to midwives who surrender or are required to surrender their certificates in pursuance of the said Act, such sums as will be sufficient to provide compensation equal, in the case of midwives who are required to surrender their certificates, to five times, and in any other case to three 1226 times, the average net annual emoluments derived from their practices as midwives or maternity nurses during such period as may be provided in the said Act;
  2. (b) for the purpose of sub-paragraph (i) of the last foregoing paragraph—
    1. (i) expenditure imposed as therein mentioned on an authority in respect of any year shall be deemed to be additional if, and to the extent that, it is estimated to the satisfaction of the Minister of Health (in accordance with directions given by him as provided in the said Act) to exceed the expenditure incurred by that authority and any welfare councils as defined in the said Act in employing or providing for the employment of domiciliary midwives in the area of the authority in the financial year ended on the thirty-first day of March, nineteen hundred and thirty-six:

Provided that the said directions shall require the amount of the expenditure imposed as aforesaid on an authority by reason of its employment of midwives to be estimated by reference to the estimated average net annual cost incurred by authorities in employing a midwife in pursuance of the said Act;

(ii) the expression 'weighting factor' means, in the case of an authority being the council of a county or county district, the quotient obtained by dividing the weighted population of the county constituting or containing the area of the authority, as determined at the commencement of the said Act for the purpose of the apportionment of the General Exchequer Contribution, by the estimated population of that county as so determined, and in the case of an authority being the council of a county borough, the quotient obtained by dividing the weighted population of the borough as determined as aforesaid by the estimated population of the borough as so determined;

(iii) the expression 'aggregate weighting factor' means the quotient obtained by dividing the aggregate weighted population of all the counties and county boroughs as determined as aforesaid by their aggregate estimated population as so determined;

(c) in this Resolution the expressions 'fixed grant period' and 'General Exchequer Contribution' have the same meanings as in the Local Government Act, 1929."—(King's Recommendation signified.)—[Sir K. Wood.]


I have to call the attention of the Committee to the fact that there are several Amendments on the Paper. Those standing in the name of the hon. and gallant Member for South East Leeds (Major Milner) are out of order because they would impose a charge. Those standing in the name of the hon. Member for Mile End (Mr. Frankel) are unnecessary because they can be raised on the Committee stage of the Bill and the same applies to the Amendment in the name of the hon. Member for Stone (Sir J. Lamb).

11.3 p.m.


I am reluctant to detain the Committee in view of the extremely courteous and competent reply which was delivered by the Parliamentary Secretary on the Bill. But I wish to make a short protest against the form in which this Financial Resolution—like so many others—has been cast so that it hampers subsequent discussion of the Bill. There is embedded inextricably in the Resolution this question of the average net annual emoluments and although the Parliamentary Secretary said that we might find that it had a wider interpretation than we had supposed, the fact remains that this was the subject of substantial protests on the Second Reading of the Bill by Members of all parties. Those Members were in grave doubt as to whether justice could be done to midwives in the poor areas who had been kind in not collecting debts or had not been able to collect them. Once we have passed the Financial Resolution we shall be in the position that that matter cannot be put right unless the Government introduce another Financial Resolution or recommit the Bill. A practice is growing by which, in a few minutes at the end of the day, we may do something which will hamper the genuine wishes of a Standing Committee which is considering a Bill upstairs or of the House itself on Report stage. It is regrettable that the Government themselves may, on hearing voices from their own side as well as ours, decide afterwards that this thing originally was not well done. I call attention to the matter not only in respect of this Bill but as a matter of general Parliamentary practice.

11.15 p.m.


I should like to join my voice to this modest protest. I do so without any towards the Bill or towards my right hon. Friend who introduced it. I should have liked earlier in the proceedings to congratulate him upon an admirable Bill in every respect. In fact, judging from h s reception tonight, I think we may we1l say with regard to the Bill and its author that both are doing well. With regard to the question of net earnings, I should like to ask you, Captain Bourne, for your wise guidance in this matter. It may be possible that many Members would like to take into consideration, when the Bill is discussed upstairs, this rather important question because it affects many women who are operating as midwivies. Imagine a midwife who is earning £100 a year. From that has to be deducted, say, £20 for laundry and travelling. and an extra £10 for bad debts, reducing what would ordinarily be considered her net earnings to £70. If your interpretation of net earnings is £70, and the general sense of the Committee upstairs would be to take the full figure, that is to say the full incomings of £100, it would entail an increased charge, and, as I understand it, we should not be able to discuss the matter.


I think the hon. Member will not expect me to interpret the functions of the Chairman of the Committee upstairs. I am afraid that the question as to what may be covered by this Resolution must rest with whoever presides over the Committee.


Could not the difficulty be got over simply by the Minister moving the omission of the word "net"?


I am afraid that even the Minister cannot move that. It can be moved by nobody.


I have endeavoured in the Financial Resolution to give as full liberty as I could to the Committee upstairs. As a matter of fact, I have had in mind the observations of Mr. Speaker concerning Financial Resolutions, and I think the right hon. Gentleman opposite, who has had some experience of this matter, will agree that in this Resolution I have endeavoured to meet what I felt sure would be the wishes of the Committee, that is, to give as much opportunity as possible upstairs. I had this matter expressly in mind and discussed it with my advisers before the Resolution was finally settled. The Committee may have observed that the Financial Resolution as it now appears on the Order Paper is in different form from what it was two or three days ago. It was for the purpose of endeavouring to meet Members of the Committee that the Resolution was put in its final form, that is to say, in order that we might debate fully upstairs the question, for instance, of the authorities to be entrusted with the administration of the Bill. Most Members of the Committee will not disagree with me when I say that I think, so far as finances are concerned, it is not improper for me to cover this matter in the Financial Resolution.

I examined many of the precedents and the observations of Mr. Speaker, and I do not think I have in any way trespassed on the good nature of the Committee or on the precedents of the House by expecting the Financial Resolution to deal with matters of policy, of which this is only a very minor one. Also, I do not think that anyone will leave this Committee to-night really thinking that any injustice has been done to these excellent women. Their position is immeasurably improved by the financial provisions of the Bill. With every desire to meet the case of these women, because I have a great admiration and respect for their work, I do not think we can ask the House of Commons to compensate them otherwise than on the basis of their actual profits. No professional man with a practice would expect to be compensated for bad debts, but only on the actual profits of the practice, and no considerable body of opinion has suggested that we should give compensation on any other basis. Indeed, most of the representations I have received have said that on the whole a very fair basis of compensation has been found. It is true that one local authority objected to giving any compensation, but I think that on the whole we may feel satisfied that we have dealt with the matter fairly.

11.23 p.m.


There is a certain amount of doubt among county administrative authorities as to whether the unit average of the cost is one that is going to tell against those authorities in whose areas there is a considerable amount of travelling to be done owing to the size of the area. I have put down an Amendment on the point but I under- stand it will not be called. Consequently in Committee I shall take the opportunity of bringing that point forward. I should like the Minister to know of the widespread feeling of doubt as to the wording of the Resolution on that point.

11.24 p.m.


I wish to take the opportunity of correcting a statement made by the Parliamentary Secretary that the Durham wives send their husbands to serve on the voluntary committees. The Durham miners have for years subscribed to every form of charity—to infirmaries, to aged miners' homes and the rest. Perhaps they have contributed even in their distress. Their wives cannot sit on the committees, because the lodges look after the whole business and naturally their husbands attend there. Many wives and other women contribute to the work of nursing organisations, even though they will not need their services for themselves.


Will the Parliamentary Secretary explain what he meant by the phrase "weighted population"? People often assume they know about a thing, but when they are asked to explain it they cannot do so. I do not know what the phrase means. I am trying to work out a calculation on the formula he gave us and if I can know what the phrase means I can spend half an hour to-morrow in trying to work it out.

11.25 p.m.


These midwives are to be compensated, but, on the other hand, they are being refused leave to practise in the future. That is being done by Act of Parliament, and to that extent they are losing their living. The Minister referred to bad debts. Does he mean that that will include provision for laundry, or is it simply a question of the net cash which comes into their hands? There should be a more generous interpretation. I am unhappy because I do not know what we are going to be able to do when we get into Committee.

11.26 p.m.


Putting it very briefly, a weighted population of any local authority means a population increased or decreased according to four factors: unemployment, rateable value, children under five, and the sparsity factor. Those four factors, in conjunction, sometimes send up an actual population two or three times.

Question put, and agreed to.

Resolution to be reported upon Monday next.