HC Deb 03 December 1936 vol 318 cc1515-8

7.14 p.m.


I beg to move, That the draft of the Unemployment Insurance (Private Gardeners Inclusion) Order, 1936, laid before Parliament on the nineteenth day of November in pursuance of the provisions of Sub-section (2) of Section fourteen of the Unemployment Insurance (Agriculture) Act, 1936, be approved. It will be remembered that when the Unemployment Insurance Statutory Committee reported in favour of agriculture being included in insurance, private gardeners were omitted for the time being. The Committee considered that further investigation was required on this subject. One of their reasons for excluding private gardeners was that the extension of insurance to them would include a class of employers who had not hitherto been concerned in unemployment insurance. Agriculture was brought into insurance, but private gardeners were expressly excluded. In the proceedings on the Bill the Minister gave an undertaking that the question of the inclusion of private gardeners should be referred to the Statutory Committee. Power was reserved in that Bill for the Minister of Labour, if he thought fit, to include private gardeners in the agricultural scheme by an Order of this kind. The question was accordingly referred to the Statutory Committee on 23rd April. The Committee presented their report on 3rd July.

Before making their report the Committee took all pains to ascertain what was the prevalent opinion, either in favour of or against inclusion, among private gardeners themselves. In addition to the normal form of publication in the London and Scottish Gazettes, notices were inserted in papers dealing with gardening matters, the views of bodies of employers and of employed were canvassed, and, in addition, the chairman of the Committee on 11th May issued, so to speak, a questionnaire over the wireless. The response to these various communications showed that there was a general desire that private gardeners should be included in agricultural unemployment insurance, and therefore the Committee had no hesitation in recommending that they should be included, and the draft Order before the House to-night is intended to give effect to their recommendations. The Statutory Committee pointed out that as far as they could judge from the census returns the general level of unemployment among private gardeners was a little below the general level of unemployment estimated for agricultural workers generally.

It is estimated that the number of private gardeners affected may prove to be 125,000. The Exchequer contribution under the agricultural scheme in respect of this number will be rather more than £100,000 a year, and this should be more than offset by the saving to the Exchequer, from 1st April, 1937, of the cost of unemployment allowances which would otherwise have been payable to unemployed private gardeners. No doubt hon. Members have in their minds certain border-line cases where the question arises whether the people concerned will be included or excluded, and I think that I cannot do better than read a passage from the report of the Statutory Committee: Second, there is the case of the man working partly as a gardener and partly in other capacities for the same employer. Undoubtedly, in a good many individual cases, the question will arise as to whether the employee should be insured under the agricultural scheme, the general scheme, or not at all. But questions of this kind have arisen at the borders of the insurance scheme ever since it was established and have been dealt with administratively on principles that are now well established. There is no new difficulty of principle to contend with. The Order, if it is passed, will operate from 1st February next, and that date will enable the necessary preparations to be made.

7.18 p.m.


It would be ungracious if, when an opportunity presents itself, we should not show agreement on both sides of the House, and therefore the hon. Member need have no doubt about the Order being passed, but at the same time he will not begrudge us, shall I say, some note of congratulation when we say that his report has borne out what has been said from this side of the House again and again, that there was a large volume of public opinion in favour of the extension of the Act in the manner he has indicated. He has also borne testimony to the sound economics of the situation, which have been pressed from time to time and over many years in this particular connection. I wish to thank the Minister of Labour for so quickly implementing his promise and bringing about this desired result. One question I should like to ask is whether a private gardener employed in the centre of a big town, with wages of £ a week, will come under the agricultural section or under the general scheme. The question has been put to me, and I should like the Minister to clear it up.

7.20 p.m.


There is one point which I should like to raise. I doubt whether it is really in order and if it is not I shall resume my seat. Private gardeners are the one class of private servants who have been brought into unemployment insurance and, like other private servants to-day, they are liable to have the licence duty for private servants paid in respect of them. It seems to me that something will have to be done to prevent them from becoming a double charge on their employers. I think it will be of little benefit to gardeners if their employers are to be subject to paying licence duty as well as unemployment insurance. I hope the Minister will give me an indication of whether something can be done about that position.

7.22 p.m.


I wish to raise a point as to the position of the people, sometimes called groundsmen, who are engaged as gardeners and also look after ground which may be used as a playing field or for other purposes of that kind. I think the Department considered this matter in connection with the general scheme, but I am not aware that a definite opinion about this class of people was then expressed. I wish to know whether it is intended that these people are to come under this new Order or are to be under the general scheme. They are employed throughout the whole of the year at a weekly wage, and I think the conditions under which they work are much more like those of people under the general scheme; but in order to satisfy grounds men throughout the country I hope that we may have a definite statement as to their position.

Lieut.-Colonel MUIRHEAD

In answer to the point raised by the hon. Member for North Camberwell (Mr. Ammon), a person who is a private gardener will be insured as a private gardener regardless of the particular locality in which he happens to be situated. If his business is that of a private gardener he will be so insured. As to the question of licence duties, that does not really arise on this particular Order. It is another subject altogether, since it is a question of taxation. With regard to the question raised by the hon. Member for Rochdale (Mr. Kelly), groundsmen will be included as gardeners.

Question put, and agreed to.

Resolved, That the draft of the Unemployment Insurance (Private Gardeners Inclusion) Order, 1936, laid before Parliament on the nineteenth day of November in pursuance of the provisions of Sub-section (2) of Section fourteen of the Unemployment Insurance (Agriculture) Act, 1936, be approved.