§ 3.35 p.m.
§ Mr. George Hall
I beg to move,That, in view of the growing importance of the social insurance services to the well-being of the nation, this House is of opinion that some co-ordination is necessary in order to remove anomalies and prevent overlapping, that the services should be extended to provide a greater measure of security in times of sickness, unemployment, widowhood, and old age, and that, accordingly, an inquiry as to how these purposes are to be achieved should be instituted without delay.The Motion deals with a very important question, in which considerable interest is taken, particularly among the working classes of this country. The social services cover a very wide field, much too wide for me to deal with in the course of this short Debate. I propose to confine myself to what are called the social insurance services, and that subject alone is sufficient, although I may have to refer to what are called the assistance services as well. It is fitting that this Debate should take place to-day after the Debate of yesterday, for the two questions which are causing much concern to the people of this country, and indeed to the people of the world, are, first, the question of security against war and, second, and quite as important, security against poverty.
For two days this week the House has been engaged in discussing the huge expenditure to be incurred in providing some security against a potential external enemy. This Motion will take the time of the House for just half a Parliamentary day to consider the question of dealing with an enemy which we know exists in our own country and from which millions of the best of our people suffer. The Government may claim that the nation is forced, through circumstances over which it has no control, to carry out the heavy expenditure upon armaments, but for the suffering of the people from poverty the Government must take full responsibility. Who will deny that in this, our own, country economic insecurity is a nightmare to the great mass of the people, not only to the working classes, but to the middle classes, and indeed, to some of the wealthy classes, too? There is this great fear of the scourge of poverty, from which so many of the men, women, and children of this country suffer, poverty which humiliates, 396 which destroys the moral of the best of our folk, which makes the function of motherhood a tragedy, which robs the child of its rightful place in life, and which drives to despair the widow and the aged. We claim that the Government have the power, if they only had the will, to do the right thing by these people.
It can be claimed that five causes of insecurity come under these social insurance services. First, there is the question of sickness, which brings temporary or prolonged incapacity for work. Then comes unemployment, which may continue for a week or for years. Then there is industrial accident, that sudden misfortune, which may mean days or months of disablement, which may cripple for life or indeed destroy life. Next, there is widowhood. The mother, after the loss of the breadwinner, not only has the responsibility of rearing the children who are left but also of finding much of the income to maintain them. Then there is the question of old age. These old industrial workers are many of them thrown upon the scrapheap after a lifetime of toil, and somehow there is little realisation that the need to be fed, housed, clothed persists to the end of life, but that earning-power, without specific disease, usually stops at a certain age, and if a person lives beyond that age, then, in accordance with our social insurance services, he or she is expected to live on a very inadequate income.
In all five ways the income of the family from earnings may be suspended permanently or for a time. It is certain that a large proportion of the population will suffer during their lifetime from one or other of the causes referred to. These are not disorders of the individual; they are disorders of society. After the industrial revolution which turned creative inventions and mass production into great wealth the nation was blind to the squalor of its social consequences, for, apart from the Poor Law and a few friendly societies, little was done to deal with the sufferings of the people. It was towards the end of the last century that the nation began to realise that left alone it was beyond the means of the great majority of workers to make proper provision to meet their needs and that some collective bearing of risks was necessary to modem society.
397 Then came the first Workmen's Compensation Act, in 1897. That was a permissive Act, and it was followed by other Acts. Then came the first Old Age Pensions Act, in 1908. Little was done until 1910. Some progress was then made, and it is true to say that all parties have shared in bringing about that progress. We on this side of the House claim that the trade unions and the party to which I belong did much to create the social conscience which demanded from Governments those services which we now have.
It is interesting to note that in 1910, less than 30 years ago, all the provision made by the State and the municipalities to deal with the social ills to which I have referred, measured in money, was £7,500,000 for old age pensions and £16,000,000 for Poor Law relief. Since then we have had national health insurance, unemployment insurance, and so on, and it is interesting to compare the figures of the expenditure under the various heads in the latest available full year, 1936. In that year there was an expenditure under the various social insurance services, including public assistance relief, of £268,000,000–10 times that of 1910. This figure appears to be very large, but when we realise that it is less than 5 per cent. of the total income of the country, it will be seen that it is a small sum. When it is realised, also, that the beneficiaries under the various schemes represent 20 per cent. of the total population among which this 5 per cent. of the national income is divided, the sum appears very small indeed. It is as well that we should realise that this money does not all come from the State. I am inclined to think that the State gets out of it very lightly, for out of the £268,000,000 to which I have referred the direct State contribution is £136,000,000. The remainder is divided among contributions from the workpeople and employers. If we look at some of the services we see the substantial contribution which they make.
In unemployment insurance £42,700,000 is the contribution of the workpeople and employers, against the State contribution of £21,000,000. In national health insurance the contribution from the workpeople and employers is £35,000,000, and the State contribution £7,500,000. For contributory pensions the workpeople and employers contribute £30,000,000, and the State £15,000,000. The State makes 398 some contribution to public assistance relief, but it is very small. The bulk of the money comes from the ratepayers, and in the main the workpeople find the rates. The contributions from the State, therefore—and I want to emphasise this point—are such that it gets out of its obligations very lightly. It is an interesting point that, if we compare the national income to-day with that of 1910, the spending of this money has not made the nation poorer. The nation is much richer. I have read the Debates on the Old Age Pensions Act and the early National Health Insurance Act, and it is interesting to note the fright which was expressed by hon. Members who opposed these Measures as to the condition of the country and the possibility of the country being able to meet this expenditure. That is a lesson in finance and economy which I hope the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the Government will take into consideration even at this time.
These services touch the lives of from 20,000,000 to 25,000,000 people in a dozen or more different ways during their lifetime. Never before have the public services been so intimately and continuously bound up with the family life of the ordinary citizen. There are almost 10,000,000 beneficiaries, and one thing which the social insurance services has done is to establish State responsibility for many of our social ills. It has led to the foundation upon which the authors of the insurance scheme in the first instance intended that they should be built. No Government in a democratic system dare attempt to touch these services. As they stand they prevent a deal of want, unhappiness and humiliation, but it can never be claimed that they provide a sum of money on which life can be supported. The cash benefits paid were originally intended, not to cover even the minimum needs of the beneficiaries, but to be only a foundation upon which sufficient income to meet needs should be built. All these benefits are inadequate for the purposes for which they were intended, but, notwithstanding their inadequacy, it is interesting to compare service with service.
There are many anomalies. If 17s. per week with dependant's allowances is regarded as only sufficient to meet minimum needs for tiding over a period of unemployment, why should 15s., without dependant's allowances, be thought 399 proper to tide over the first six months of ill-health, when it is reduced to 7s. 6d.? No one on this side of the House claims that the unemployment insurance benefits are adequate, but there is a marked contrast between them and the other benefits. A married man in receipt of national health insurance benefit receives 15s. a week for the first six months and 7s. 6d. a week for long disablement, irrespective of whether he is married or what family is dependent upon him. Under unemployment insurance a man and his wife are entitled to 26s. a week statutory benefit, and if there are two children 6s. is added, making 32s., against 15s. a week for the first six months under national health insurance. Under workmen's compensation the average payment, as was pointed out by my hon. Friend the Member for Llanelly (Mr. J. Griffiths) in a Debate a short time ago, works out at 24s. a week, which is 8s. a week less than a husband and wife with two children receive under unemployment insurance. Compare those payments with the sum on which the Government expect the old age pensioners to live, 10s. a week. The Financial Secretary to the Treasury said a short time ago that it was never intended that old age pensioners should live upon this sum. What must they live upon? The Financial Secretary to the Treasury has never faced up to that issue, but I hope that the hon. Gentleman who, I understand, is to reply to this Debate will face up to it.
Take the anomaly of the insured person when he comes to the age for his old age pension. A person must be an insured person to enable him to get the contributory pension at 65. He is insured under national health insurance. A month before he is 65, if he is in receipt of sickness benefit, he is entitled to 15s. a week. A week after he is 65 he suffers a reduction from 15s. to 10s. The anomaly is much more glaring in the case of unemployment benefit. A person aged 64 years and 11 months who is in receipt of unemployment benefit for himself and his wife is entitled to 26s. a week, statutory benefit. As soon as he attains the age of 65 his income is reduced from 26s. to 10s. a week, although he is still under an insurance scheme. If he is a married man both he and his wife will get pensions, if she is 65, but even if both get pensions, their income is at once 400 reduced from 26s. a week to £1. For some reason or other quite a number of men marry women much younger than themselves, and as the wife does not qualify for pension until she is 65 we find that there are nearly 300,000 women in this country whose husbands are old age pensioners but who themselves do not draw the pension because they are not yet 65.
Let me give the instance of a family of five adults. A son disabled in the War and in receipt of 100 per cent. disability pension gets £2 a week. Another son, disabled as a result of an accident in the course of his employment, will receive, on the basis of the average of workmen's compensation, 24s. a week. Another son, in receipt of statutory benefit under the Unemployment Insurance Act, gets 17s. a week. Another son, in receipt of benefit under national health insurance, gets 15s. a week during the first six months. The father, an old age pensioner, receives 10s. a week. Can the Government justify these variations in the income of members of a family such as this? I have simply used that case as an illustration, but it is quite possible that cases of that kind should arise.
Even among the national health insurance services themselves there are anomalies, for the reason that some approved societies are operating among people who do not follow arduous occupations, and therefore they can pay additional benefits, whereas other societies whose members are engaged in dangerous or arduous work have very little surplus and cannot pay any additional benefits at all. I think the case as regards anomalies under these schemes is being proved beyond question. Let me deal with overlapping in these services. Public assistance is still recognised as the last resort of those seeking assistance, and is a service which deals with a wide range of human needs. Notwithstanding the growth of the other services it remains one of the main public services, and is used in many cases to supplement the benefits received from those other services.
I do not know whether it was thought that public assistance would be abolished as a result of the operation of these other services, but the strange thing is that even with these other services in existence the expenditure upon public assistance has increased from £16,000,000 in 1910 to 401 £51,000,000 at the present time. I wonder what the expenditure on public assistance would be were it not for the existence of these other services? No estimate can be given of the amount of the supplementation, but there is the scandal of the old age pensions. In reply to a question, we have been informed that nearly 250,000 old age pensioners in this country need to have their old age pensions supplemented by public assistance. They are men and women who all their lives have fought against the possibility of having to resort to such assistance, but the force of circumstances in the last years of their lives has driven them to it. In my own county of Glamorgan public assistance costs the ratepayers £157,000 per annum —that is exclusive of old age pensioners and widows under 65—only to supplement the income of the old age pensioners. In Monmouthshire the proportion is similar to that in Glamorganshire. The same thing can be said with regard to workmen's compensation. Those figures are sufficient evidence in themselves of the inadequacy of the benefits supplied.
Then there is the overlapping which causes so much confusion among the insured workers. On matters connected with national health insurance a man must go to his approved society; for unemployment benefit he goes to the Employment Exchange; if he is applying to the Unemployment Assistance Board he goes to the area officer; an old age pensioner goes to the Ministry of Health and the Post Office; and in the case of workmen's compensation, the man goes to the employer's office. There are different rules and different people to deal with. An old age pensioner over 70 years of age applying for pension visits the Post Office and the investigation is carried out by an officer of the Customs and Excise. His application then goes before the local pensions committee, and he is paid at the Post Office. So one could go on. If an hon. Member is dealing with unemployment insurance he goes to the Ministry of Labour; if it is a question of public assistance or old age pensions, to the Ministry of Health; if it is workmen's compensation, to the Home Office. What the Home Office have to do with workmen's compensation is beyond me. If he wants to deal with industrial assurance he goes to the Board of Trade. If it is a question of war pensions, he goes to the Ministry of Pensions.
402 Is it not about time that we were thinking of bringing all these services under one Department? Why not a Minister of Social Services? We do not want to add to the Ministries which we already have. Take the case of the Minister of Pensions. He has so little to do that he is the messenger boy for a number of other Departments. In 1920 the expenditure of the Ministry of Pensions was over £100,000,000. To-day it is only one-third of that amount. I would give that Minister some useful work to do by placing him in charge, or placing someone, not necessarily the present Minister—not that there is very much against him—in charge as Minister of Social Services, for there is no clear view at the present time as to the purposes of these services, their improvement and extension, and the relation between one service and another. Then take the question of surpluses. In national health insurance there is a surplus of between £120,000,000 and £130,000,000. Under unemployment insurance there is a surplus of £40,000,000, after the £25,000,000 we took out last year to assist in repayment of a loan. Under co-ordination there would be an abolition of many of the anomalies and instead of a lowering to the lowest there would be an increase to the highest benefit paid.
§ The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Health (Mr. Bernays)
I want to get the hon. Member's proposal clear in my mind. Is he proposing a Minister of Social Services to co-ordinate all existing social services?
§ Mr. Hall
Oh, yes. I should take out of the hands of the Minister of Labour and the Departments all the work which covers the present social insurance services. I think that each of the Ministers has as much as he can do without acting as administrator of the funds. I am making the proposal entirely off my own bat without consulting my colleagues; so I do not desire to associate them with it. If the test of these services is to be adequate maintenance for the recipients, then they leave much to be desired, for to-day, notwithstanding these services, the penalties for unemployment, sickness, old age pensions, accidents and widowhood, are terrible. In many of the homes of sufferers the economic status of the family is imperilled and in many cases the home is broken up and the family scattered. No 403 estimate can be given of the suffering incurred. Cries for sympathy have now become claims for justice and demands for right.
It is as well that we should remember who these people are: 2,220,000 of them are old age pensioners; 1,100,000 are widows and orphans; 1,250,000 come under the Unemployment Assistance Board; and then you have the sick and suffering through accident. Nearly 10,000,000 people in this country are suffering for the reasons I have endeavoured to give to the House. I do not think it is beyond the wisdom of the House to devise some means whereby plenty could be brought to those who want. So much could be done for so little. What the people of this country are paying now for insecurity is a terrible price. Under a system of co-ordination we could deal with the question of industrial assurance. I have just read a very excellent book written by the hon. Member for Hitchin (Sir A. Wilson) on the question of industrial assurance. I almost wish that I had tabled this Motion on the lines of the nationalisation of the industrial assurance companies, for then possibly the hon. Member would have seconded the Motion. If ever a ramp has been disclosed, it has been disclosed in the book of the hon. Member. He has pointed out the terrible cost to the working-class population of this country for a service which is intended only or mainly to provide a decent funeral. The insurance companies in this country are becoming the most powerful financial organisations in the country, almost entirely out of the pence of the poor people.
I do not intend to deal with the question of industrial assurance. It is a very interesting question and possibly it will be debated on another occasion. But let us compare the income obtained from the workers by the industrial assurance companies and what they get in return from the companies, with the income of the social insurance schemes of the State and what the workers get from them. The premiums paid into the industrial assurance companies for the last year for which we have figures were £66,000,000, and £32,000,000 of that found its way back in benefits to the people. All that many of them had was a decent funeral, and some of them did not get that be- 404 cause their policies had lapsed very shortly after they had started paying. The income of the State social insurance schemes amounted to £54,000,000. Out of that £54,000,000, together with the income from other sources, they received unemployment benefit, unemployment assistance, national health insurance benefit, old age pension benefit—101 benefits compared with that which was provided by the industrial assurance companies.
There is a means whereby income can be diverted into a fund which would bring great benefits to the working people. Consider the workers' contributions into the insurance schemes. In the case of a person earning 35s. a week his payments are equal to 4.5 per cent. if his income; if his earnings are 50s. they amount to 3.2 per cent. But it is estimated that the charge upon many workers' homes for industrial assurance is something like 5 per cent. of an income of £2 a week. In my opinion, if we had a co-ordinated scheme such as I have advocated, we could deal with the matter, which the Government of 1911 unfortunately was afraid to tackle. I am of opinion that the time is ripe for a bold step forward. There is a growing demand for it in the country. Take the case of old age pensions. The Government will have to face the demand and face it soon. Who can deny the justice of the pensioners' case? In the course of the last six weeks I have attended numerous meetings of old age pensioners in my division. At one meeting there were between 400 and 500 old pensioners present, men upon whom the industrial greatness of this country depended, men who have been cast adrift, men and women who are expected to live on 10s. a week.
Not only will the demand for increased pensions come from the working people themselves. There is a growing demand from employers that increased pensions be paid. Two years ago the coalowners in South Wales offered a sum of £50,000 as a Jubilee gift to supplement old age pensions. The miners quickly responded and promised £25,000. That was £75,000 to form the nucleus of a fund. Certain questions were put to the Minister of Labour and the Minister of Health, and unfortunately, notwithstanding the fact that the coalowners and the miners agreed to a levy of 6d. per week in addition to 405 the money that they had paid, they discovered that it was impossible to have a workable pension scheme upon that income. I believe that pensions by industries will not be successful. The State must come into the scheme and must see that the pensions are paid.
The Government have already fixed a precedent for adequate pensions and the age for retirement. I put a question to the Financial Secretary to the Treasury the other day. I asked him to state the average age at which certain people retired in this country. He replied that the average age of police officers on retirement was 48 years and the average period for payment of pension was 24 years. Civil Service men retired at 61 and women at 60, men teachers at 62 and women teachers at 61; and all of them retire on pensions which they may not regard as adequate but which are far in excess of the pensions of the industrial workers. There is not a single person on this side of the House who will argue that those public servants who are in receipt of the pensions I have mentioned are not entitled to them. They are entitled to them. But we ask that the Government should be as generous to the people who pay as to the people who are in Government service.
There can be no question that a precedent has been fixed. My Motion asks for an immediate inquiry and asks that there should be no delay in dealing with anomalies. Old age pensions and widows' pensions should be dealt with at once. The Government of 1908 did not wait for the report of the Royal Commission on the Poor Law but passed the Old Age Pensions Act. When they introduced it it was a new principle. There is no new principle in increasing the pensions. I cannot understand the attitude of the Government on these matters. There is an Amendment on the Paper and we can see the Government's attitude in it. It refers to the national expenditure upon armaments. That expenditure should not blind the House to its responsibility to the people of whom I have spoken. The Amendment indicates quite clearly that it is to be guns or butter. We say that if there are to be guns there should be no shortage of butter. If war should break out—God forbid that it should—I suppose that the slogan will again be that this country must be a country fit for heroes 406 to live in—a slogan remembered by Statesmen during the War and forgotten afterwards, but not forgotten by the people. We deny that there is such a shortage of wealth in the country that consideration of the needs of the sufferers must be deferred.
There are over 2,000,000 workers unemployed, ready and willing to produce, but there is no market for their goods; and there are millions of people who are in want. There is money in abundance; the only question is the purpose for which it is required. We have been told that there has been an eightfold increase in the national income during the last 100 years. When the insurance schemes were introduced in 1908, the national income was estimated at £2,000,000,000; and in 1936, we are told, it was £5,276,000,000. In the three years before 1936, the average income increase, we are told was £300,000,000 a year. Who is there that will say that this nation has not the money to meet these needs? We are the wealthiest nation in the world. One of our troubles is that the wealth of our nation is the envy of some of the other nations. In order to show what money there is in this country, I will quote, not the notes issued by the Conservative party, to which reference was made last night, but the "Daily Mail," which stated last year, in dealing with the financial returns for 1936, that there were 77 more millionaires in Britain, that the yield of Surtax was the highest in six years, and that Britain was getting more and more millionaires.
It is no use saying that this nation is at the end of its taxable capacity. Some of us can remember the experience during the War. The nation during that period attempted to catch as many as possible of those who were making huge profits out of the blood and suffering of its people, but at the end of the War there was such an outcry that a Commission had to be appointed to inquire into war wealth. A friend of mine, the late Mr. Vernon Hartshorn, was a member of that Commission, and what did he discover? That, after all the expenditure on armaments, this nation, at the end of the War, was better off to the tune of over £4,000,000,000 than it was at the beginning. Many statesmen who were Members of the Government at that time were so ashamed at the profits which were 407 made during that period that, as is common knowledge, some of those profits were handed back. There is no shortage of money in this country, but it cannot be said that there has been an increase in wages commensurate with the increase in the national income. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George), in introducing the Old Age Pensions Bill in 1908, referred to the fact that there had not been a census of wages in this country since 1886. In 1886, he said, the average wage of the industrial worker was 24s. 9d. per week; and the "Economist" in August of last year stated that 11,000,000 industrial workers in this country had an average income of not more than £100 a year. Notwithstanding the fact that since 1886 the national wealth of this country has increased five-fold, wages have not been even doubled.
It is impossible for the workers themselves to make this necessary provision. Other nations are far outstripping us in their provision for social services. My hon. Friend the Member for Normanton (Mr. T. Smith), who, I trust, will speak later, will be able to give the House some first-hand information with regard to what is being done in New Zealand, and possibly he will deal with some other countries as well. It is 30 years since the last comprehensive inquiry into the provision of social services for the people of this country. That was the Royal Commission on the Poor Law, which, after four years' deliberation, issued its report in 1909. It was an exhaustive report, not only on Poor Law administration, but on the handling of a wide range of social problems, from the care of the orphan child to the protection of the aged. Since that report was published, the whole face of British social service provisions has been changed. The social insurances have been created, unemployment has become an even greater problem, a host of new problems never contemplated by the Royal Commission have been created; and there has been no attempt to make anything like a comprehensive review of the results of the disordered growth of those services. There have been numerous official inquiries into separate problems, such as those of the Royal Commission on Local Government, the Hadow Committee on Education, the Royal Commis- 408 sion on Unemployment Insurance, and the Cohen Committee; but there has been no examination of the principle on which the public services are based, of their results, of the question of overlapping, or of their extension. Such an inquiry will not be an easy matter, but it is necessary. It may take some time, and we say that the anomalies to which I have referred should be dealt with in the meantime.
There can, in my opinion, be no case against such an inquiry. But, notwithstanding that fact, if the hon. Gentleman who is going to speak for the Government will give a definite promise that the anomalies, especially those in connection with old age pensions and widows' pensions, will be dealt with in the near future, we shall not press this claim for an inquiry, although we believe such an inquiry to be necessary. I would ask the hon. Gentleman to tell us in the course of his reply whether the Government think that these benefits are adequate. Are there anomalies? Is there overlapping? Why is it that money cannot be found to deal with these difficulties from which the people are suffering, when so much can be found for other purposes? The men and women who are concerned in this matter—the men particularly—are mainly engaged in the great productive industries of the country. The country's greatness depends upon them; the security of the nation from a foreign enemy depends upon them. You can build your ships or aeroplanes, you can make your guns, you can mechanise your Army, but without the courage of the working man, his physical strength and his vision, these instruments will be of very little avail. These men will work, and they will fight for the nation if need be. All that they ask in return is, not a land fit for heroes to live in in the sense in which that phrase was used in 1918, but economic security, a standard of life which will give them economic freedom, a standard of life which will only mean a sufficiency of food, a sufficiency of clothes, good housing, good education and recreation for their children, and leisure for themselves. I ask the House to agree with this Motion, and not to deny to these men that which they ask.
§ Mr. Denman
May I ask the hon. Member a question with regard to his Motion? I should have asked it a quarter of an hour ago, but I did not wish to interrupt him during his speech. He made a great 409 point of the wastefulness of industrial assurance, but his Motion does not in any way refer to that. As the Motion stands, it reads:…should be extended to provide a greater measure of security in times of sickness" —and so on. Would the hon. Member accept an Amendment to add, after the word "extended," the words "to include funeral benefit," so that the Motion would read:… should be extended to include funeral benefit and to provide "—and so on?
§ 4.26 p.m.
§ Sir Arnold Wilson
I beg to move, in line 3, to leave out from "House," to the end of the Question, and to add instead thereof:welcomes the fact that, even in this time of unprecedented calls upon the Exchequer for the purposes of national defence, it has been found possible to maintain and extend the social insurance services, and urges that close and careful review of their administration and their aims should be maintained, with the object of the further improvement of these services, the prevention of overlapping, and the removal of anomalies.I have listened with profound interest and a large measure of concurrence to what has been said by the hon. Member for Aberdare (Mr. G. Hall). I should not have tabled this Amendment did I not think, in common with a good many others, that the task of a Royal Commission with terms of reference so broad as the hon. Member suggests, would be beyond the wit of man. It would involve half the Cabinet and something like half the total activities of Whitehall. The hon. Member has suggested that the Amendment reflects the attitude of the Government, but I must contradict any idea that I am reflecting the mind of the Government. This is a private Members' Motion, and those who back the Amendment do so on their own responsibility.
This problem of the social insurance services is as important as any which we can discuss, and I am glad that it has been put down for this, the last day on which such Motions can be discussed in 410 the House. Those who sent us here last time, and who, we all hope, will send us here again, are unquestionably greatly concerned with the subject of the Motion. As was made quite clear by the general applause of hon. Gentlemen behind the hon. Member for Aberdare, this is an electoral question of real moment, which has to be dealt with here, to some extent, in accordance with our party divisions. At the same time it is a matter of very great interest to the public outside, who are more concerned with this particular form of collective security than with the one which we were discussing yesterday, for a sound system of social insurance, affording benefits extending from the cradle or a little before, namely, maternity benefit, to the grave or a little after, namely, death benefit, is as complete a form of collective security as has yet been devised. To continue its development is unquestionably the line of least political resistance, and is also, broadly speaking, in the national interest. But there are certain dangers to be guarded against, and they are not only financial. Social insurance schemes are nowhere so complete or so efficient, and so economical, as they are in the totalitarian States. The reason is that to make the schemes fully efficient and complete involves a great element of regimentation, which has its perils as well as its advantages; we should do well to recognise that fact.
Before I deal with the Amendment, I will, if the House will bear with me, try and stand back and look at the subject in perspective. Broadly speaking, there are two schools of thought on the subject, and they correspond very roughly to our party divisions. One of them, so well voiced by the hon. Member for Aberdare, holds that the social insurance services can and should be rapidly extended, attaches little importance to whether the schemes are wholly or mainly contributory, and whether they are administered bureaucratically or through the genuine old-fashioned friendly societies or the trade unions. That school of thought is prepared to take financial risks and assume financial burdens, and to hope for the best.
The second school of thought is one for which Lord Baldwin spoke when, on 14th July, 1930, in his address to a very non-political audience, reprinted in "This Torch of Freedom." he asked (page 49) 411 three rhetorical questions, and answered none of them—(1) Are the protective social services, as now administered, calculated to encourage inertia or release fresh energies? (2) Do the constructive social services encourage variety, initiative, individual enterprise and exertion? and, (3) Do the public social services, taken as a whole, foster that sense of corporate responsibility upon which our political system rests?
He suggested that Parliament would do well to devote a whole Session to examining the results of what he called "these assaults on human personality." Those for whom the hon. Member for Aberdare speaks would probably give a doubtful affirmative to the last two questions; those for whom Lord Baldwin spoke would give a hesitant negative. I would also like to ask the same questions in another form, namely, do the social insurance services as at present administered—(1) help to maintain the family as the basic unit? (2) help to maintain the self-respect of the insured person during unemployment and sickness? and (3) assist the insured person by his own efforts to avoid destitution or complete dependence when he is past work in the knowledge that his remains will be decently dealt with in a manner which will not bring shame on his relatives, without the intervention of the Poor Law? One has only to ask those three questions to realise how hard it is to give an affirmative reply to all of them. But the history of the last 30 years is a record of real progress in all three directions. The despairing negative is wider of the mark than an unqualified affirmative. We have made great progress with the social services, as the hon. Member for Aberdare made clear. The expectation of life has risen faster in this country than anywhere else, and there is less real ill-health as contrasted with statutory ill-health than there was in 1910. That may fairly be put to the credit of the social services.
The basis of our social services is Christian. They are based upon two lines of St. Paul in his Epistle to the Galatians which, properly translated, read, "Bear ye one another's calamities" or misfortunes and, on the other hand, "each man must bear his own responsibility" or pack. In other words, social insurance schemes should be fully contributory in order to maintain a man's self-respect, and as nearly universal in their applica- 412 tion as may be, in order that the burden of calamity may be widely spread. Nearly all social insurance contributions are a tax on wages, as all miners know. The more directly this is apparent, the less likely are abuses of the system by individual contributions to be tolerated. No schemes can be of permanent value if they undermine individual responsibility, discourage thrift, loosen family ties, and increase the sense of dependence on the State, particularly of the younger generation. The social services, as at present bureaucratically administered, are not in these respects as effective as when they were voluntarily administered by the contributors themselves through their own membership. This constitutes a greater latent danger to the national welfare than any financial weakness.
Sound administration, to prevent abuses on the one hand and cases of cruel hardship on the other, is of first importance. It cannot be effective unless it is in the hands of men who know who they are dealing with. The hon. Member for Aberdare referred to a whole series of anomalies. They arise from the fact that all the schemes are statutory. Any insurance scheme must have anomalies on the border-line; to remove some is to create others. They arise from the different age limits and different qualifications laid down in different Statutes. When such schemes were administered by friendly societies and trade unions, it was generally possible for those hard cases to receive exceptional treatment. Once Parliament begins to intervene and lay down statutory limits, it begins to create hardships.
I gave the maintenance of the family as the first desideratum of the social services. I hope one day to see family allowances an integral part of our social system. Discrimination against married couples, and particularly against those with children, is inherent in every Finance Act, and in much that is done by public and local authorities. The relief that is given is comparatively small. Many hon. Members on both sides would welcome an inquiry into this particular proposal though I know that the trade unions and the Labour party as a whole are not yet convinced that it is desirable. It is nearly three years since the Statutory Committee on Unemployment Insurance urged such an investigation, seeing that family allowances are an integral element in public 413 relief and unemployment. I think the time is ripe for inquiry. I hope to see the income limit of the Unemployment Insurance Act raised before long. In view of the fact that the Royal Commission of 1930 recommended raising the limit to £350, while the Statutory Committee in 1934 recommended raising it to £400, the case for action seems to be unanswerable. We have a statutory committee which is an ideal body for such inquiries. I, personally, await with confidence the action that will one day be taken on its recommendation. As recently as 1st November, the Minister of Labour said that the matter was still under consideration. I hope that no news eventually means good news.
I hope, as does the hon. Member for Aberdare, to see the national health insurance scheme further developed, but I question whether it should be extended by raising the income limit. I am by no means sure that it would be welcomed. Panel practice, panel doctors, the whole machinery of National Health Insurance, is doing a great work, but I do not think there is any effective demand for an extension. On the other hand, the present system of administration through 917 approved societies and 6,500 actuarially independent branches is difficult to justify. It is wasteful, and the time is approaching for a national system to be devised. But it is only 10 years since the Royal Commission on National Health Insurance sat, and it had a very large task before it. I should view with alarm the prospect of a Royal Commission which had to inquire not only into that matter but also into the other half-dozen matters referred to by the hon. Member for Aberdare.
The cost of administration of national health insurance in 1937 was 19.63 per cent. of the national revenue. The large approved societies, particularly those run as an annex to their business by industrial insurance societies, are those which give the smallest benefits, and they are in no sense "friendly." There is wasteful competition. There are often a score of different approved societies represented in a single street, and very often 100 in a single town. If I ask the Minister what societies give what benefits, the Minister replies that it is impossible to say, and that it would not be worth the labour to publish a handbook showing what value is given for money by the different societies. When I ask the Minister for a copy 414 of the Statutes and rules and regulations under the National Health Insurance Act, I am told that the latest edition is that for 1924, although over two years ago I was told that a new edition was in active preparation. The system at the moment requires not an inquiry but a little breathing-space, to allow it to bring itself up to date. The societies are controlled, not by their members, who cannot afford the cost of attending the annual meetings, but, for the most part, by the agents, who should be the servants of the members. The Ministry has only a very vague idea of what the societies are doing, except in regard to their finances.
The provision as regards dental benefit is most unsatisfactory. The Minister will, perhaps, say that the cure for dental trouble is not the services of the dentist but larger supplies of milk. But the wealthier classes are just as badly off as the poor in the matter of teeth. [Interruption.] I am not in a position to dogmatise, but dentists assure me that such is the fact, and the last report on teeth by the London County Council's medical officer certainly gives me that impression. The only reason why the well-to-do do not suffer so much is that they spend three times as much on their dentists as on their doctors, and they count that money well spent.
Another important point is raised by the Government actuary in his report on the Fourth Valuation (Cmd. 5496, July, 1937). He draws attention to the "very high" rate of lapse in the approved societies conducted and managed by the industrial assurance offices as an annex to their commercial business. It is higher by far than in the smaller approved societies. We ought to know more on this subject, and perhaps the Parliamentary Secretary will be able to give us further information. I have no desire to see a Royal Commission appointed to inquire into that and cognate matters. A good Minister and a good civil servant, we have a plentiful supply of both, are far more likely to reach a useful decision on these matters and to get something done.
§ Mr. Buchanan
A few months ago the hon. Gentleman, speaking on workmen's compensation, was against action by a Department and claimed that a Royal Commission was indispensable. What has made him change his mind?
§ Sir A. Wilson
The difference is quite clear. In this case we are dealing with the details of an existing Act, which does not require more than extension or amendment, but in the case of workmen's compensation, I urged repeatedly, as have hon. Members on the Opposition side, the necessity of a profound and complete alteration in the Act itself.
§ Sir A. Wilson
It would be difficult for any Minister even with the assistance of the Civil Service to launch out upon a new system without any inquiry whatever. I have learned something in the last five years and I am getting rather tired of Royal Commissions and committees, including partisans of both sides, with an impartial chairman, who finally induces them to sign a jejune, anodyne and vacillating report, which has no merit except its unanimity.
I submit that the proper way to remedy some of the anomalies mentioned to-day is not by an inquiry, not even by Ministerial action, but by getting right away from that system and to instal a statutory commission, such as we have for unemployment. The Statutory Commission on unemployment has certain powers vested in it by this House, where under it can alter the scales of benefits in certain directions and make certain modifications, and I can see no reason why the National Health Insurance Act should not be to some extent placed under the administration of a statutory commission, which would have power to make modifications and to rectify anomalies by Orders in Council, subject to ratification by the House.
I turn now to the system of contributory pensions which, as the hon. Member for Aberdare said, is a social insurance against old age, widowhood and the loss of the bread winner. There has been expansion here. The Act of 1936 should add 600,000 people to the list of contributory pensioners. That is a bold and generous Measure. We are paying £21,500,000 to widows and £19,000,000 to pensioners between the ages of 65 and 70, and the working expenses are less than 5 per cent. This is apart from non-contributory pensions, which cost £45,000,000 last year— a substantial figure. Moreover, we have a commission sitting on the subject of spinsters' pensions. These ad hoc com- 416 mittees are much more likely to produce good results than a roving inquiry, such as that suggested in the Motion.
I hope to see the old age pension raised to a higher figure than at present, on a contributory basis, so that there can be no question of a means test; but as long as we have no sinking fund and we are borrowing for rearmament, it is cruel to suggest to the aged people that the Treasury could safely find £100,000,000 or £200,000,000 in order to produce a scheme which is watertight, and one which would not be subject to the risk of a Geddes, an Inchcape or a May axe.
§ Sir A. Wilson
There are two schemes, one estimated to cost £200,000,000 and the other £100,000,000. I should not, however, like to bandy words with the hon. Member on the finance of pensions' schemes. Perhaps that opportunity may occur on some other occasion. We have made greater progress in the past five than in the previous 15 years. We are much the heaviest-taxed nation in Europe, yet we have raised the scales of unemployment benefit, and have increased the Unemployment Assistance Board allowances by 20 per cent. during the past three years. We have also extended national health insurance backwards to the school-leaving age, and forwards by contributory pensions at a cost of £1,200,000 a year. So far as we have the power we have shown the will. We have to remember that there has been a very great increase in the proportion of old persons to young persons, and that will increase year by year, making the burden on the younger generation proportionately heavier.
§ Sir A. Wilson
I can imagine nothing more unfortunate than to tell the older people that the social services can be increased for the benefit of some, regardless of the cost to the whole population, and regardless of the fact that in a few years time another economy axe might come into operation—the worst possible advertisement for Parliamentary institutions. It will not relieve anxiety to start schemes for which we cannot guarantee an assured future. 417 If I am asked what can be done, I find myself in considerable agreement with the hon. Member who moved the Motion. I agree that workmen's compensation should be a State Insurance service. Indeed, a Royal Commission will begin to sit to-morrow to deal with that specific point among others, and I hope for great results from its deliberations The idea that workmen's compensation should be a State service was originally put forward by Joseph Chamberlain in 1893, and was heartily endorsed by Sir Charles Dilke. My own researches have entirely confirmed the statement made by the hon. Member that the trade unions were very active at that time in developing the social conscience of this country. But for the work of such men as Joseph Arch, Mr. Broad and Havelock Wilson, progress in these matters would have been very much slower. We all recognise that fact.
The hon. Member also suggested that death benefit should become an automatic benefit under national health insurance. I welcome that statement coming from the Front Opposition Bench; it is the first time that it has been made. This is not a Socialistic idea. It was sponsored in 1876 by Sir Michael Hicks-Beach and Sir Stafford Northcote who, as chairman and vice-chairman respectively of a Royal Commission, reported that the time had come when a system of State insurance should cover the whole field now known as industrial insurance. I hope that in the not distant future we may secure after 60 years what our grandfathers wanted. It was also part of the original scheme of the right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) when he introduced his National Health Insurance Bill.
The expense ratio of death benefit to-day for industrial assurance companies is about 33 per cent. and for collecting societies 41 per cent. If it were part of the National Health Insurance scheme it would not cost more than 5 per cent. Some £20,000,000 to £30,000,000 could be saved there. As the hon. Member said, the premium income is £66,000,000 a year, so that rather more than £5,000,000 a month is taken out of the poorest working class homes to provide for death benefit. That is £1,000,000 a week more than the savings accumulated by means of the Post Office, the 418 trustee savings banks, and the National Savings Committee, which average £4,000,000 a week. There is money available, and that is one of the ways in which it can be found.
In many parts of England, as the new cost-of-living index will show, insurance money for death benefits approximates to 5 per cent. of the cost of living in the poorer families. The system is very wasteful but enormously profitable. Anatole France once said that civilisation rested on the patience of the poor. Whether or not that statement is true to-day, and I should dispute it, it is true of much industrial insurance business. There is the haunting fear of the pauper funeral. If we could exorcise it by death benefit and intelligent control of burial and funeral costs we should do more good than under other schemes which may appear at first sight more promising. The fear of the pauper funeral is very real. One person in eleven who dies in Great London goes to a pauper's grave— what used to be called the pauper pit—at public expense, in spite of the fact that there are 95,000,000 industrial assurance policies out to-day. This question has also been examined by a very competent committee under Sir Benjamin Cohen; whose recommendations await action.
I hope that I have said enough to justify the view put forward in my Amendment that no general inquiry is necessary. On every point to which the hon. Member referred, with one or two exceptions, inquiry has been already launched or reports have been made on them. The main exception is the anomalies of the national health and pensions schemes, but that can be best dealt with by the Minister, through his Departmental machinery. When the hon. Member asks for a new Ministry, a Ministry of social insurance services, I would beg him to consider very carefully whether the remedy would not be worse than the disease. The Unemployment Fund is a matter primarily for the Ministry of Labour. The National Health Insurance Fund is primarily the concern of the Minister of Health. While I agree that the time has now come, as was suggested in 1918 by a committee presided over by Lord Haldane, when factory inspection and workmen's compensation should be removed from the Home Office and placed in part under the Ministry of Labour and 419 in part under the Ministry of Health, I should view with great anxiety the establishment of a Ministry of Insurance, which would work in vacuo, without any reference to the social needs or the political implications of the schemes. The responsibility for all pensions, for unemployment funds, for national health insurance funds, and, presumably, for third party insurance and death benefits, would be more than any one Minister could tackle, and he would be a most attractive target at all times for the Opposition. Frankly, whatever party is in power, we ought to get these tangles out of politics, and I submit that the proper course is, as far as possible, to set up statutory commissions to control and administer all contributory schemes.
§ 5.0 p.m.
§ Sir Stanley Reed
I beg to second the Amendment.
I want to put only one or two points. I listened with very great respect to the speech of the hon. Member for Aberdare (Mr. G. Hall) who seemed to want two things—a general inquiry into our whole system of social service anomalies, but, if he cannot get the overhaul from the Home Office, he is quite willing to do without it, provided he can get rid of what he calls the anomalies. When he speaks of removing anomalies he means the raising of the level of payments under the various benefit schemes. What that level should be we have never yet been told. I think the hon. Member gave the figure of what they were at the end of 1936; my information is that they were about £506,000,000 at the end of 1938 and that they had gone up by £50,000,000 per annum since 1931.
§ Sir S. Reed
The figures I gave were the latest available. From where does the money for the payments for the social services come? The hon. Member for Hitchin (Sir A. Wilson) said that it came out of wages, but I am prepared to broaden that statement and to say that it comes out of industry. It is because of that relation of cost to industry that 420 I want to put a particular point to the House. The foundation of our social services rests on the prosperity of our industry. If that is sapped or weakened, the whole of the superstructure, which we all want to see developed to the highest possible degree, will be in imminent danger of falling to the ground. The prosperity of industry depends upon the maintenance of the export trade. If the export trade declines, the whole condition of our industry and of everything based upon it will be so markedly inferior to what it is to-day that we shall have to consider every aspect of our social structure.
The hon. Member for Aberdare made no estimate of the total cost of the revised scale of social services which he wishes to see established. Nor did he indicate from where would the money come. When hon. Members on any side of the House bring forward proposals for further expenditure on social reform I ask them to consider the likely effects upon industry and export prices. We have heard over and over again most grievous stories from different parts of the House of the depression, suffering and decadence which have come from the loss of export industries. Who has listened unmoved to the tales told in this House of the results of the loss of the great Lancashire export trade in textiles? Why was that trade lost? It was on the question of prices, because manufacturers could not compete on equal terms with others in other parts of the world. That is why other export trades have been lost. We have listened with the utmost attention to the facts of what I believe to be the mass precipitate of exports by the totalitarian States but that is not the only and not, in some ways, the greatest danger. There are other trade dangers which have their origin in America, Sweden, Switzerland, Belgium and, far more sinister still, Japan. I do not think that anyone would not join with hon. Members opposite in wishing to raise the social services to the highest pitch that we can bear, in season and out of season, in bad as well as in good years, but I would ask them to make their calculations on facts obtained from their own expert office, which is exceedingly efficient, and always to consider what the effects of their proposals will be upon our manufacturing costs before they commit themselves, in the 421 warmness of their hearts. [An Hon. Member: "What about the cost of armaments?"] I am not talking about armaments, but I am trying to look ahead to all the years before us to what our policy with regard to the social services will have to be, as far as we can see.
We have heard protests against the loss of much of our shipbuilding industry. Why has that industry been partially lost? Again, on the question of prices and on that of the wage-scale and other ancillary conditions. We cannot with all our skill produce ships to-day at the same rate as other countries. I represent the point of view of the overseas buyer, and of the man who is trying to make the export trade possible. In the last resort I may get a margin of trade for British goods at a higher price because they are British and because customers know their quality, but if the cost is up by as much as 40 per cent. it stands to reason that overseas buyers will not, and cannot, continue to bear that difference. If we raise the cost of the burden we put upon industry, and so raise industrial costs and export prices to the point where our industries are unable to compete at all, our last state may well be worse than our first.
A spokesman from the Front Opposition Bench said on Thursday that we should raise wages 20 per cent. and unemployment pay by 20 per cent., but I ask hon. Members from industrial areas, from the textile areas in particular what the effect would be of raising wages by 20 per cent. forthwith. A very large number of our overseas customers have only a low economic status and, however good our articles, even if they are intrinsically worth the higher price, those customers cannot buy them unless they have a low range of values; otherwise you are up against a consumers' strike. That is one reason for the success of the enormous drive of Japanese industry in the Eastern Levantine countries. In all earnestness and sincerity I ask those who speak from industrial areas in favour of raising the burdens on industry, however great their desire maybe to do so, never to lose sight of the effect of their suggestions upon the export trade of this country, or they may weaken or destroy the social services we have to-day, and, even more, the great things which we want to have to-morrow.
§ 5.11 p.m.
§ Mr. Logan
I have listened closely to the speeches with the idea of approving of one or two things. I heard the Mover of the Amendment remind us of the Scriptural admonition that we should bear one another's burdens, and then it struck me forcibly that it might be well if hon. Members bore that injunction in mind in relation to the subjects we discuss in this House. I have had 28 years' experience of the administration of National Health Insurance, and because of it I shall say nothing at all about it, its difficulties, its anomalies or its advantages. That angle of the matter will be dealt with by my colleague who will finish the Debate this evening. I listened with attention to the last speech, but it was a dissertation upon trade, intended to prove that trade could not bear this, that or the other burden. I would point out to the hon. Member that the Motion proposes that the social services should be extended to providea greater measure of security in times of sickness, unemployment, widowhood and old age.Questions relating to the contributory pensions have been raised. I am concerned with the pension which is now paid at 70 years of age. Carrying out in his writings the Scriptural admonition, Robert Burns said:Man's inhumanity to manMakes countless thousands mourn.I want to give, out of my actual experience of life in my neighbourhood, and not out of research departments or the proceedings of committees of inquiry, why I think this Motion calls for the immediate attention of this House. Life's mosaics are to be found in every constituency and they are most graphic when the human side of life is being told, and when we are brought up against the reality of old age. We realise that there are many people of 70 years of age still living in poverty-stricken conditions and who are, in this year 1939, just managing to keep themselves alive. I have before my mind at this moment the instance of two men who both volunteered in the War. They were both prepared to lay down their lives for their country as any man will be who thinks this country is worth fighting for in the time of necessity. One young man came home wounded and died of his 423 wounds. The other, a son of the same father, died on the field of Flanders. The father was about 66 years of age. The War Office sent a beautiful bronze tablet, about 18 inches in dimension, to the father of John Finnigan, stating that the boy had died and that the tablet was awarded to him for his valour on the field. The medallion was inscribed, "For Valour." Think of the tragedy of this father who gave two sons to the nation. This old man received a pension of 5s. a week in respect of the loss of one of his sons. He had to pay 3s. 6d. per week for lodging and 6d. a week for insurance. He had an old age pension of 10s. out of which 4s. had to be deducted, thus leaving 6s. to supplement the 5s. allowed him by a grateful nation.
§ Mr. Logan
I appealed to the Minister and was told that he had no power to deal with the case, and that the man must go to the Poor Law for assistance. The Poor Law authorities took into account the 5s. pension allowed to him in respect of the loss of his son, and said that they could not give any further relief. A father who gives two sons to the service of the nation ought to be allowed to live in comfort. Is this the way that a grateful nation ought to treat the father of two such sons? I know of cases where fathers who were killed in the Great War were in a position to leave great estates and titles for their sons and others to enjoy for generation after generation, but the poor remain poor. It is because I know of the dire straits of these poor people that I plead that this anomaly should be done away with expeditiously.
I have heard discussions with regard to relativity, but very few people seem to understand that subject. When Sir Michael Hicks-Beach, in the year 1876, talked about a certain Measure, he said that they ought not to be disconsolate, but a period of 63 years has passed since 424 then, and perhaps if we only wait a little longer, say, another 60 years, this old fellow of 70 will be 163 when his case comes to be dealt with.
It is because I agree with the point of view that was sincerely put forward by my hon. Friend the Member for Aberdare (Mr. G. Hall), that I ask the consideration of the House to this definite case. I defy any hon. Member in the House to say that this is not a case that should receive immediate attention. I have a letter from the Minister of Health, who, while deploring the position, tells me that he has not the power to deal with such a case, and that the public assistance committee is the statutory body, and he has no right to interfere. Therefore, I believe that I have a right to bring this particular case to the notice of the House. I bring it because I can prove every detail. This case is one of the cameos from the City of Liverpool. On Merseyside there are hundreds of such cases of men who went to the Great War. I have in my constituency men who returned to their duties in the Mercantile Marine repeatedly after having been torpedoed. This case calls for immediate attention, and with all due respect to the eloquence of the hon. Member for Hitchin (Sir A. Wilson), I do not want to wait 63 years before this case is dealt with. If this is the speed of legislation, I do not wonder that young men do not want to come to this House. It would appear that, when men leave their jobsoutside, they come to the House of Commons to sleep, and not to legislate. If the right hon. Gentleman does not want to be a Rip Van Winkle, let him consider the facts of the case that I have placed before him to-day. I appeal to hon. Members to remember the words of Robert Burns:Man's inhumanity to manMakes countless thousands mourn.and to play their proper part in this House and support this Motion which has been so ably put forward. It contains not only the breath of life, but human, Christian principles.
§ 5.23 p.m.
§ Mr. Graham White
I do not think that any Member in this House is likely to deny his full sympathy with the case presented by the hon. Member for the Scotland Division (Mr. Logan), but I would like to crave the indulgence of the House in order to deal with the wider aspects of this question. I am very glad 425 that the hon. Member for Aberdare (Mr. G. Hall) has utilised his good fortune in the ballot to enable us to have a discussion on this subject. It is one of the sad misfortunes of the times in which we live, disorderly and savage as they are, that so much not only of our money and our resources is taken up in considering matters of defence, but that so much of our time and energies is also devoted to matters very far away from our domestic concerns. It is refreshing, and certainly very useful that we should be able once in a way to devote our attention to the condition of the people.
The social services of this country are most impressive in their scope and extent. They touch 30,000,000 of our citizens in one way or another, and the expenditure on them, which has been multiplied by 12 since the early part of the century, now reaches something like £480,000,000. We have travelled a long way since the Liberal Government of 1908 in their Budget of that year, and subsequently the Budget of 1910, laid the foundation upon which this super-structure has been built. We have a very great advantage in considering these matters to-day in the complete change of atmosphere and outlook which has taken place since those days. It then was a difficult and almost impossible matter to get the initial step of the old age pensions legislation taken at all.
When I was refreshing my memory the other day, I could not help thinking what a revolution has taken place in the minds of the parties in this country since those days. When a small old age pension was proposed, Mr. Asquith was informed that the bill would cost the nation as much as a world war; that it would weaken the moral fibre of the nation and diminish the self-respect of our people. The best course, it was said, was to throw upon His Majesty's Government the sole and entire responsibility for a Measure which they regarded with great apprehension, and which they feared might have far-reaching and disastrous effects upon the future of this country. Another speaker said that the Bill would involve an immense increase of taxation, perpetuate poverty, lower wages and discourage thrift.
When we set ourselves to climb a hill at the end of which we hope to offer security for the people of this country, it is encouraging to look back on the way 426 we travelled and consider the matter not in the light of prejudice, but with regard to the ways and means that are available to carry out our projects. Since those days the social services in this country have grown up. It is not true that they have grown up haphazard, but they have been added to according to the administrative fashion of the particular time and according to some stress—economic or political demands. They have never been planned in their development, but they have been added to here and there as the necessity seemed to demand. In the early part of the last century the principle was that the local authorities should be the sole administrators of works of assistance of one kind or another. That was changed by the Health Insurance Act, and the fashion became more prevalent for all these things to be administered from the centre, and in 1934 we completed the last process by starting the Unemployment Assistance Board, planting it down among a number of existing services and taking away from the local authorities much of their time-honoured duty of relieving and helping those who were in need. The hon. Member remarked that the system was not understood by the people who benefited from it. That is true. I do not think it is understood by Parliament itself. It requires a considerable study to understand the relationship between all these services. The whole system is filled with stresses and strains, overlappings and anomalies, so much so that I say without the slightest hesitation that we are not getting value for our money to-day. That is an important fact which must be recognised.
There are many ways in which we may look for improvement. How is it to be brought about? The hon. Member suggested a Royal Commission. Certainly some inquiry is needed. If this system does not require an inquiry it is about the only thing in this country which does not. But it does require an inquiry, and the question is what sort of an inquiry? Is it to be a Cabinet inquiry? Certainly not. The Cabinet could not begin to think of an inquiry into this matter under present conditions. Is it to be a Departmental inquiry? There again, the Departments are so heavily engaged in their own jobs that they cannot look over the fence and inquire what is being done by other Departments. In my opinion a Departmental inquiry would be absolutely 427 useless. The hon. Member favoured something in the nature of a Royal Commission, and I shall support the Amendment rather than the Motion. In fact, I do not think there is any occasion for an Amendment to a Motion of this kind. All the facts which require to be known about social conditions are readily available; they have been inquired into already. If there is no co-ordination we shall go blundering on spending money which might be available for the beneficiaries.
If a Departmental and Cabinet inquiry are no good, and if a Royal Commission would delay things far too long what remains? Why not follow the analogy and appoint a statutory committee to survey continuously the administration of the social services? That is a possibility. We might have a statutory committee reporting to the Cabinet as a whole. I think that is a proposal which should be considered. Or we might have a special committee, a general headquarters staff for the social services, whose business it would be to survey developments continuously. If we were to set up a body of that kind I would ask hon. Members to consider what the functions of such a committee of inquiry would be. They would have to give thought continuously, in the course of their work, to the basic principles governing the relationship of the various public services to one another and of the social services as a whole to social and economic policy. They would have to consider consecutively the administration and financial structure of the services in order to secure more efficient and economic working.
The third task to which such a body would devote itself would be to draw attention to the anomalies and gaps to be dealt with and, what is very important, recommend the order of priority in which these gaps should be filled, recommending to the Cabinet and leaving the final decision to Parliament. They would be called upon to undertake what is a most urgent public task, an investigation into the relationship of the Unemployment Assistance Board to the Ministry of Labour. That is one of the outstanding anomalies at the present time. The Unemployment Assistance Board was given statutory powers to bring help to people in need, but these powers are enjoyed concurrently by other authorities. There is a lack of demarcation, 428 there is often competition between them, and there is therefore a tendency for one statutory authority to say that if this body is going to do the job there is no occasion for them to bother about it any more. In Liverpool, where we had an inquiry, it was found that one in five persons getting help from the Unemployment Assistance Board was in contact with some other authority either statutory or voluntary. Think of the amount of overlapping and the unnecessary expenditure which arises in that way.
May I quote an example in the north-west London Appeal Tribunal area. In that area of the Unemployment Assistance Board there are some 15 different local authorities. In the performance of their duties they have to give extra nourishment to school children and expectant mothers. Some boroughs give this assistance free, others give it according to an income scale. There are about 15 different income scales varying according to the receipts of the family, and the consequence is that the Unemployment Assistance Board in. that area have to make about a dozen different calculations of family incomes and scales in order to deal with the matter. Could anything be more ineffective or futile or wasteful than a system of that kind? The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Health is not a muddle-minded man and he cannot approve of such slipshod, disorderly processes. I would ask him to invite his colleagues to say how much longer this is to go on. I think this is one of the reasons why the Unemployment Assistance Board costs so much more than the same service did when it was performed by the Minister of Labour under the transitional arrangements. Some inquiry, therefore, would not come amiss. It should not be a spasmodic inquiry, but a continuous review to root out these matters and set the system on a better basis.
The vital question in regard to our social services is whether we should deal with it piecemeal as it arises or whether we should recast the whole system on a different basis. Certainly if we were setting up a new system I do not think we should do it in the way it has been done. Take old age pensions. I think we should undoubtedly start upon a national superannuation scheme, pensions being of an adequate rate and payable contingent on 429 the individual retiring from his occupation. I do not believe it is realised that the State is paying, according to contract, pensions to 400,000 people who are in full work. A little mental arithmetic will show that that amount is a considerable sum, and as we are limited most seriously in our resources for the payment, it is a matter of consideration whether if we were starting again we should do it on these lines. But we have to deal with the situation as it is. Every hon. Member has spoken with great sympathy and feeling of the lot of the old age pensioner. I do not want to see their position left over until we have had a report of a Royal Commission; nor is that necessary.
The lot of the Single old age pensioner, living alone, is the most pitiable in this country. You cannot get a room in my part of the country for less than 5s. a week, often it is a little more, and to live in those conditions is simply a continuous and monotonous calculation of how to make ends meet. There is no freedom of movement except where they go on their own feet. It is not life, it is a sub-human existence, in which the wearing out of a pair of boots and the necessity of a winter overcoat, which is an incident to most of us, is a catastrophe which casts its shadow a long way in advance. When the Old Age Pensions Act was introduced by Mr. Asquith, and in 1925 when the present Prime Minister introduced the Contributory Pensions Scheme, the State assumed responsibility for old age. Mr. Asquith definitely did so, and between the introduction of pensions in 1908 and 1913, the number of individuals in receipt of out relief diminished in a most significant manner. Out relief to the old was almost done away with. Then with advancing standards and changing conditions, the relief situation altered, but when the present Prime Minister introduced his contributory scheme in 1925 the money paid by local authorities in supplementing old age pensions had increased substantially. In his Second Reading speech the present Prime Minister pointed out that:There will be an immediate relief to the rates of something like £3,000,000 a year, which will gradually rise to something like £7,000,000 a year."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 18th May, 1925; col. 90, Vol. 184.]At the end of another 10 years that situation had completely altered, and 430 what I think should be done now, done in the next Budget, is for the State to takeover this liability and make these people independent of poor relief. I have said that the expenditure on our social services amounts to £480,000,000 a year. I am certain that if the State set up an inquiry into the matter, they would save at least 1 per cent. of that sum, £4,800,000, and that saving would enable the State to take over this liability from the public assistance committee and render this section of the old age pensioners free from liability in that respect. The position is very serious indeed from the point of view of local authorities, and the Government would get cordial support from them if they proposed to take a measure of that kind. In the city of Liverpool the sum spent in supplementing old age pensions is over £2,000 a week and in Birkenhead it is in proportion. In Glasgow, according to some figures given by the hon. Member for St. Rollox (Mr. Leonard) the amount paid out is £355,000.
§ Mr. Austin Hopkinson
There is a point in what the hon. Gentleman is saying which rather puzzles me. His remarks seem to imply that there is something extremely disgraceful in receiving assistance, in destitution or old age, from the rates, whereas there is nothing disgraceful in receiving assistance from the taxes. It seems tome that there is no disgrace in either case. If a person in old age or in destitution receives assistance from the rates, there is no disgrace, and certainly there is no more disgrace in receiving it from the rates than in receiving it from the taxes. The question of disgrace depends upon the reasons why the person falls into destitution.
§ Mr. White
Certainly, I did not use the word "disgrace," and I entirely agree that any distinction such as that to which the hon. Member has referred is illogical and ought not to exist. Nevertheless, that feeling does exist on the part of the recipients of assistance. I have lived sufficiently long among poor people to know that there are some people who would rather starve than go for assistance. In one case I had to take a taxi-cab, call at the applicant's house, induce her to get into the taxi-cab, and take her to the public assistance office, having made a special appointment with the head officer, before I could get her to take the 431 necessary steps to prevent herself from starving. I do not differ from the hon. Member, but he is as well aware as I am that there is a deep-seated prejudice against receiving relief from the parish, as it is called, although perhaps that prejudice is dying out now, because there is nothing dishonourable in receiving such assistance. I think the suggestion I have made is one which, even in these days of stress and difficulty, could easily be carried into effect.
We ought also to extend the Contributory Pensions Act. I believe this could be done within the present resources of the State. We cannot go back on the contracts we have made with the 400,000 people under the contributory pensions scheme, who are drawing benefit as a right, and are continuing to work, and may do so for a long time. I have seen schemes which would enable a supplementary benefit to be paid at the age of 65 and a pension to be paid to the wife of a man on his reaching the age of 65, if she was over 50, thus giving them an income on which they could retire in reasonable comfort. There are two ways in which such a scheme could be financed. First, it is conceivable that it might be financed by means of direct taxation; but having regard to present conditions, probably the only practical way in which it could be financed would be by means of an extension of the contributory system.
If there was an inquiry such as I have described continuously investigating and correlating different social services, they might decide to investigate whether there is any reserve of contributory power in industry in this country. There is no Minister in the House who can tell us anything on that subject. Such a body of inquiry might say—what I believe to be true—that the Unemployment Insurance contributions are too high. It might be that 2d. could be taken from those contributions and devoted to increasing the pension to be paid at the age of 65. It is well within the range of probability that an additional 3d. a week paid by the three parties to the contributory pensions systems would enable an adequate pension of £1 a week to be paid at the age of 65 to those coming under the contributory system.
432 I am very glad that this Debate is taking place. We should discuss these subjects at great length and in great detail. I have tried to give some picture of the disorderly nature of our social services. The greatest thing that can be said of the social services is that, in spite of the way in which they have grown up and in spite of the compartmentalised method of administration, somehow or other they work, and confer a great benefit on our people. Moreover, they provide a spending power which is a source of great strength to the country in times of economic stress. I believe that one of the reasons this country met the economic difficulties of 1931 so much better than the United States of America was that there was always this steady body of expenditure being made by these people. The social services represent a very important economic contribution to the strength of the country. A body of inquiry such as I have mentioned would no doubt turn their attention to the claims of spinsters for pensions at the age of 55. In many quarters there are very strong arguments and demands for something to be done in that direction. I mention that as the type of extension of the social services which such a body might consider and on which it might report to Parliament.
In considering these questions, we are at the present time confronted with difficulties owing to the financial stress and the matters of which the Prime Minister reminded us yesterday, which compel us to waste our substance, not on the means of life, but on the means of destruction; but I submit, without fear of contradiction, even in this House—where one can say very little without being contradicted —that an extension of the social services and an extension of old age pensions on a proper basis would indeed be a means of defence, for in the long run, if democracy is to survive, it will be only because the people who live under that system believe that it is worth saving. As long as we have hundreds of thousands of old age pensioners living the sub-human existence which I have described, and 2,000,000 unemployed people, there must be many people who, if they were asked to save democracy, would ask themselves whether it is worth saving. I maintain that, in spite of all our difficulties, we must not cease to devote a considerable 433 proportion of time and thought to the development of the social services, because the best investment for the nation's money is the happiness, health and efficiency of our people.
§ 5.55 p.m.
§ Mr. Buchanan
This Debate has been worth while, if for no other reason than the speech of the hon. Member for Aberdare (Mr. G. Hall), who moved the Motion. The hon. Gentleman performed a public service in making his speech to-day, and I wish to pay a tribute to him for the remarkable method in which he placed the facts before us. As to the Debate itself, it seems to me that it would have been better to devote more time to this Motion and possibly less time to the Debate which took place on Monday and Tuesday of this week. On those two days, we hammered away at the question of a loan in connection with National Defence, and to-day we are spending comparatively little time on the subject of the social services. I cannot say that I agree with every hon. Member who has spoken. I would remind hon. Members above the Gangway, who are to-day stating frankly the need for increased pensions and improved conditions of life for the people, that although it may be true, as they argue and as I believe, that we have sufficient wealth for those purposes, yesterday for good or for ill hon. Members almost unanimously—for there were only a half a dozen dissentients—agreed to take £800,000,000 of the wealth of this country and devote it to armaments. It may be that there is something left, but £800,000,000 is to go for armaments, and there will be £800,000,000 less for other things.
§ Mr. Buchanan
It may be a loan, but we have to pay the interest on it and to meet the capital; and although there may be something left, there will be £800,000,000 less for other things. One cannot get away from that fact. I have opposed these National Defence loans and I have opposed national service, and I feel that hon. Members, by doing what they did yesterday, were depriving the common people of certain necessities of life which otherwise they would have received. Hon. Members have spoken about a Royal Commission in connection with this Motion, but the Motion does not ask for a Royal Commission. On hearing 434 hon. Members refer to a Royal Commission, I read the Motion again, but found that it does not mention either a Royal Commission or any other commission. All that the Motion does is to call attention to certain anomalies in the social services, and the need for co-ordination.
§ Mr. Buchanan
It does not ask for a Royal Commission, but it states that an inquiry as to how the purposes enumerated in the Motion are to be achieved should be instituted without delay. As to the anomalies, I would like to say a few words about the contributory system that is now in being. Some time ago, after a good deal of research, the Labour party produced a scheme for pensions, which had as its object £1 a week for a man and 15s. for his wife. There was attached a condition that they should retire from work, a condition which was fair; and there was a further condition that they should contribute—I am speaking from memory—6d. or Is. a week. I believe that in the matter of contributions out of wages, we have reached the limit, and for that reason, I do not think the Labour party's scheme is feasible.
Some time ago, the Board of Health in Scotland made an inquiry into contributions to insurance which the workers paid out of their wages. They took a typical case in my division of a man, wife and three children. They found that the man was contributing Is. 9d. a week in health and unemployment insurance, which was compulsorily deducted from his wage of £3 10s.; 4d. a week for infirmary; 1s. 2d. to his trade union; 6d. each to insurance for his three children, and 5d. each for himself and his wife. In all, he was making contributions to insurance amounting to 8s. a week, and paying 8s. for rent out of an income of £3 10s., and I maintain that that is far too much to take from his income for those particular purposes. If one deducts from a man's income for those purposes, one reduces the sum that he has to spend on the necessities of life. For my part I say frankly that for an extension of insurance you will have to look to the proposal on which the Trades Union Congress originally gave evidence, namely, the extension of a non-contributory system to the common people of this country.
435 I would like the House of Commons to face, not merely the question of increased pensions but also the position under the present system. We forget that every day a large number of people are getting no pensions at all. When we talk about a pension of £1 a week, let us not forget that there are masses of people who do not even get the 10s. a week. Take the man who when unemployment comes, says, "I am not going on to unemployment benefit. I have got £100 and I will start a small business." He starts a small business; he does not become a voluntary contributor, and at the end of two years he is out of insurance. If he dies, his widow and family will get nothing, though he may have contributed far more than many others in whose cases pensions are granted.
Take the case of a man who says, "I am not going to walk about the streets here. I will try my luck in America and I will send home enough to keep my wife and family." He does so. Then he comes back to this country, works for a few months and dies. There is no pension for his widow and children unless he has been back long enough to have contributed and to have got 104 stamps. An unemployed man may be stamping at the exchange and the approved society have the right to come along and put that man out at any time after two years, on the ground that they think—not that the law thinks, but that they think—he is no longer within genuine insurance. There is no pension —nothing—in that case. A whole range of such anomalies exists, and to my mind one of the first things to be done is to see that even the 10s. pension is paid to great masses who are now denied it.
I turn to the national health insurance system and here I think something ought to be done. I am the chairman of a trade union approved society which, I claim, is an efficiently run society. Our trade of pattern-making is one in which the sickness rate and the unemployment rate are not high. We pay £1 a week, we pay extra for maternity cases, we pay convalescence benefits and send people to homes and so forth, and we pay for optical and dental treatment. But then take the cases of the moulders, the craftsmen who work alongside the 436 pattern-makers. Their work is different and is done under much worse conditions and the rate of sickness and the rate of unemployment are both higher in their case. The moulders' society is just as efficiently run as our society, but because of the higher incidence of sickness and unemployment the moulder gets no additional benefits and is paid 5s. a week less. He is not granted optical or dental treatment, not because of any inefficiency in the running of the society but merely because of the fact that the moulder has to meet a heavier incidence of sickness and unemployment than his fellow-worker beside him. Both pay the same contributions. What hon. Member would stand for a higher rate of unemployment benefit being paid to one tradesman than is paid to another? Who would defend a proposal that one class of men should get a higher rate of standard benefit for unemployment than another body of men? Why, then, should that anomaly exist in health insurance?
Then there is this question which I would raise with the Minister. Approved societies now are all looking for good lives. That is their system. A man comes along who follows an occupation in which there is unemployment, and the approved society say "We do not want him," He cannot become a member of an approved society. He does not even get the benefits which are laid down by law —the 15s. a week. The approved societies simply will not have him. As for women, you have almost to bribe them to take women. No approved society will look at women workers, particularly when they get up in years, and their only entry to health insurance is through the Post Office as deposit contributors, and all they get in benefit is the amount which they pay in to the Post Office. They are refused health insurance membership; they get only what they pay in and as they are paying in as little as possible they get hardly anything at all out of it. That is the system at the present time. There is no appeal against refusal to allow these people to become members; they are simply left derelict. I say that entry into health insurance ought to be as free and as easy as entry into unemployment insurance and that there should be no differentiation between one trade and another.
We find this position arising in connection with approved society work. 437 When trade was bad, men and women went in for dental treatment where it was available. They took that opportunity of having their teeth seen to. But when trade becomes good and people get employment, then they take the view that dental attention is not an absolute necessity. The question of eye-sight becomes the dominating factor and they want to get optical treatment. Those who are in approved societies which pay for optical treatment can get the treatment which will allow them to keep their jobs, but a man who possibly needs it more, but who is only a deposit contributor, or who is only in one of the collecting societies, is unable to get optical treatment. Why should these things exist? On the question of an inquiry I would point out that we have already had the committee of inquiry into health insurance appointed by the Labour Government of 1924. The late John Wheatley set up a committee on national health insurance and there is a whole range of reforms which that committee suggested and which could be applied to-day to eliminate many anomalies, if the Minister cared to tackle the question. There was also a committee on health and industrial insurance which recommended a number of reforms. We do not need extra commissions. Commissions have been set up and have made reports and if those reports were put into practice to-morrow we could do away with many of the anomalies which exist.
It seemed to me that the Mover and Seconder of the Amendment took different grounds of argument. The Seconder of the Amendment spoke about the export trade. With all due respect to him I am not going to discuss export trade to-day. I wish he had discussed export trade yesterday when he was agreeing to the handing out of £800,000,000. I cannot follow the arguments of hon. Members who agree to an expenditure of £800,000,000 for arms, without a word about the export trade, but when they are asked for one-eighth of that sum in order to promote human happiness immediately shout out about export trade. I could follow the logic of saying, "Export trade" yesterday and saying it again today, but I cannot follow the logic of those who say nothing about export trade when we are discussing the means of death and destruction but shout out about it when we are discussing questions of human life and happiness.
438 The Mover of the Amendment said that the Government were faced with the spending of this money on armaments and he was not sure what was to be done. I am sorry that the hon. Member for Hitchin (Sir A. Wilson) is not in his place because he has made many researches into these questions and written many books. But having watched him for this last six months I would warn him of the things which some of us are thinking about him. We are beginning to think that instead of being the research worker that we all thought he was, he is becoming a kind of Government hack. [HON. MEMBER: "Oh!"] I would warn him that for a man of his standing— [Interruption.]. I am only saying what is in the minds of some of us and it is as well that he should know it rather than that we should hide it. We have watched him on workmen's compensation and various other-subjects and we think that he has now become—because of lack of talent on the Government side, because there are so very few on the Government side able to do it—the leading excuse finder for the Government doing nothing at all, and he had better watch or the fate which has befallen others may befall him.
Three or four things are needed. First we need to tackle the issue of those decent men and women who are prevented today from getting any pensions at all. Why should a woman who has been left a widow with three children be punished merely because her late husband failed to send in his card and particulars? Why should the vengeance of the State be wreaked upon innocent women and children merely because of some alleged negligence on the part of the late husband? The first thing to do is to sweep away the stupid and illogical anomalies which deprive widows and many aged people of pensions even at the present rate. Secondly, I think the time has arrived when the State ought to consider the amount of the pensions. Already the State is practically paying £1 a week pension through the Poor Law when account is taken of the cost of the Poor Law administration. The indictment is not that the Poor Law authorities are paying it, but that they are not paying enough. Most authorities are much too mean and ought to be paying more. It is not that a person should be ashamed of taking it 439 from the Poor Law. Jewish people, for instance, on grounds of belief will not go to the Poor Law authorities, but I have constantly told them that they ought to go to the Poor Law and claim that to which they are entitled. There is no disgrace in claiming it. It is part of public money, the only thing being that it is local instead of national.
There is this difference, however, that a person who is living under a generous local authority will receive more than a person who is living under another local authority. A generous local authority pays to a married couple 32s. 6d. a week, that is to say, 12s. 6d. in addition to their pension. That is paid out of public money. But just across the boundary there may be another local authority which would pay only 7s. 6d. or 5s. out of the same public money. Therefore the case for a national increase is two-fold, first on the ground of the justice of the claim, and, secondly, on the ground that decent people ought not to be treated differently for old age pension purposes, because they happen to live in one place instead of another. Why should these differences exist?
§ Mr. Hopkinson
I take it that the hon. Gentleman's question is not purely rhetorical and perhaps I may answer it. Surely the explanation is this.
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Colonel Clifton Brown)
The hon. Member is not entitled to set up an argument. He is only entitled to ask a question.
§ Mr. Buchanan
You really have no health insurance system at all. Why should certain people be covered by unemployment insurance or health insurance, and others not be covered? Why should a policeman or a teacher in regular, constant employment not pay unemployment insurance and a builder be subject to it? I always thought insurance meant that everybody at work ought to pay into a common pool, and those in steady work just as much as those not in steady work, and one of the things to be faced, if you are to have insurance, is to bring within the fold of unemployment and health insurance every available penny that you can and every person in the community.
440 Lastly, one of the crying needs is an increase of pension. You have had commissions and inquiries enough, but it is a question of someone or other co-ordinating what has already been done by inquiries and putting it into effect and into legislation. I suggest that you do not need a Royal Commission, but that there are in this House capable Members who would devote their time to it on a Committee upstairs for, say, six months, and I venture to say that men drawn from all ranks in this House, given the will and the desire to do it, would no doubt at an early date produce a scheme which would mean raising the standard, sweeping away the anomalies, and making for a set of circumstances that would make this nation greater than all the guns of other countries can make them, because the greatness of Britain will not depend on its Armies, Navies, Prime Ministers, or Kings, but on the homes and the lives of the common people.
§ 6.18 p.m.
§ Mr. R. Morgan
I would like first of all to disabuse the mind of the hon. Member for the Scotland Division of Liverpool (Mr. Logan), who seemed to think I was criticising what he was saying about the 5s. a week. As a matter of fact, one of the things that I am greatly in favour of and that I think we ought to increase is the old age pension. I think the hon. Member for Gorbals (Mr. Buchanan) put his finger on the spot when he said that the way to deal with the question that is before the House is to send it upstairs to a Committee, where we might examine all these anomalies and these claims for extending the social services. After all, it is the different Ministries which are responsible, and it is our job to see that they are brought up to a full sense of their responsibility. I think there has been a very doleful note struck throughout this Debate so far. I know there are these anomalies and hard cases, but, after all is said and done, I suppose there is no other country which proportionately carries out its social services on so generous a scale as does this country. I was rather alarmed when the last speaker, with so much of whose speech I agreed, kept criticising the national loan of £800,000,000 for Defence, and I must say that I parted company with him there, because the social services and everything else of that nature would be of no use unless your country was safely guarded, 441 and I think that on reflection the hon. Member would possibly agree with that.
I agreed with that part of the hon. Member's speech in which he said that there is a large number of people in this country who get no benefit at all. I do not like to call them the lower middle class, which is a terrible phrase, but I refer to that class whose claims seem never to reach this House, though we all know of their hardships. A large number of these people have no unemployment pay, no sick benefit, and no old age pension, and we could well afford to set up a Committee to examine how we could extend State benefit to them. It is true that the last voluntary contribution scheme that we have just passed' will bring in another 2,000,000.
I am not concerned too much about the extraordinary additional expense that would be thrown on the nation. I believe it is not a matter of urging the country to spend more, but that it is more a case of greater efficiency and co-ordination, and here I am bound to make a comment which may cause some distress to certain approved societies, but I think that in the case of some approved societies there has been a sort of bureaucracy which wants seriously looking into. The hon. Member for Gorbals threw one or two rather sharp lights on what goes on in these different societies, and I have had a case recently of an insured young woman who happened, after a serious illness, to be sent away to the seaside to a friend's house. She received a letter from her society to say, "As you have gone away without our permission, you are suspended from benefit." They shelter themselves behind a technicality like that, and I think it is unworthy of a great society. What we really want to see in this country is that the principle of insurance against the three grim spectres, as we call them, of sickness, unemployment, and old age, should be applied in a national scheme of tripartite contributory insurance in every works and business throughout the country. It ought to be made compulsory.
I wish now to say a word or two about the question of people with large families, because something ought to be done in this matter of family allowances. There is always the danger that family allowances tend to depress the basic scale, and whether that will get opposition from hon. 442 Members opposite I do not know, but we have to face some very hard facts. In the next 40 years, if we are to rely upon statistics, we are going to have our population fall from 45,000,000 to 33,000,000, and I see that young people, that is, those under 15, are prophesied to fall from 10,000,000 to 4,000,000. These are very serious figures, but they also show us the need for extending our social services as far as we can, and I hope that if this Debate has done nothing else, it has brought to the Minister in charge a realisation of the very real problems that affect the people. We all have our postbags every morning, almost without fail, or anyway every week, with some complaint about the effects or ineffectiveness of the social services. These anomalies ought not to exist.
I could give case after case. I have a case that I am putting up to the Minister this week, and it is a very hard case. But how we are going to alter them without a Royal Commission—and I see no argument for a Royal Commission—I do not know. A committee of some kind to go into these anomalies in this House would be rendering a great national service, and I believe that this is an occasion on which there is no need for any party Division in this House. Surely both sides can agree that if these anomalies and hardships exist, they should be remedied forthwith. I hope there will be no attempt made in this House to make party capital on these questions, but that we shall agree in asking the Minister to see to it that these things are remedied in the easiest and quickest way possible.
§ 6.26 p.m.
§ Dr. Edith Summerskill
I am sure those of us on this side will welcome the support of the hon. Member for Stourbridge (Mr. R. Morgan) in asking for this inquiry. As I have listened to this Debate, which has been so far exclusively confined to the male Members of the House, I have observed that there has been one significant omission, and that is that nobody has stressed the claims of the dependants of the insured workers for national health insurance benefit. The hon. Member for Gorbals (Mr. Buchanan) did say there was discrimination between trade and trade, but I claim also that there is discrimination between sex and sex, and although I realise that there are many anomalies, although, of course, I 443 support the claim of the old age pensioners for an augmentation of their pension, at the same time I ask this House to consider the claims of the dependants of the insured workers. The National Heatlh Insurance Act was introduced in 1911, and 28 years have passed, and still the wives and children of insured workers are excluded from benefit.
Some people may argue that the children obtain some measure of supervision at school, but many of us know that in fact it is not in any way comprehensive. The children actually have a free examination during their school life up to 14 years of age, and there is a clinic to which they can be sent, but there is no treatment of which the mothers of these children can avail themselves. The mothers have to depend upon teachers spotting a child in a class who they think might need clinic treatment. I therefore suggest that one of the most important things for us to consider when this inquiry is set up is the inclusion of the children in the national health insurance system to-day. In fact, the Government are so conscious of the importance of this matter that they have during the last year bridged the gap between the 14-year-old and the 16-year-old children, and they have included them in the national health insurance system. But while we may perhaps say that the children are catered for in some way, the wives, the mothers of the children of the insured workers are absolutely ignored. In fact, the hon. Member for Gorbals said just now that when a woman wanted to get into an approved society when she had attained a certain age—he did not say what the age, was, but I presume it was 50 or 60—it was a most difficult thing for her to find an approved society which would accept her at all.
Let us think for a moment of what provision there is for women in this country. The woman worker, for the first two years after she is married, is included in the National Health Insurance scheme. If she is married at 21 she is insured until she is 23. After 23 she joins what, in my opinion, is the most neglected section of the community so far as health is concerned. I am afraid that the lives of many poor women after that age is an obstetrical steeple-chase. She is no sooner over the hurdle of one confinement than she is facing another. Statisticians tell 444 us that the expectation of life of women at that period is shorter than that of men, and yet during this most important period of their lives they are denied any form of State health insurance. Can it be wondered at that when we go to our hospitals we find the out-patents' department crowded with these women, who are the end-products of this neglect? Can it be wondered at, as the hon. Member for Gorbals said, that when a woman reaches a certain age no approved society will touch her?
I suggest, therefore, that the scope of this inquiry must be so big that it will particularly inquire into the inclusion of dependants in the National Health Insurance scheme. When we debated the Cancer Bill, I reminded the Minister of Health that it would make no contribution to the reduction of the morbidity and mortality statistics in cancer until the women of the country were included in some National Health Insurance scheme. Only when they have the opportunity of going to a doctor free as their husbands have, so that they can have the first stages of the disease diagnosed in time, will the cancer clinics which it is proposed to set up operate properly. I am sorry the hon. Member for Hitchin (Sir A. Wilson) said that, in his opinion, there was no need to increase the categories included in National Health Insurance. He ignored the category which I am discussing, and said that panel doctors would not welcome them. I disagree entirely. I believe that the medical profession would welcome this new category. I agree that they made a strong protest in 1911, but since then they have realised that National Health Insurance has made a great contribution to the well-being of society. I ask the Government to realise that there will be no opposition from outside to the inclusion of the dependants, and that, therefore, it is in the hands of the Government to remedy a great injustice.
§ 6.34 p.m.
§ Mr. Bernays
I am sure that the House will wish me to congratulate the hon. Member for Aberdare (Mr. G. Hall) on the way in which he has used his success in the Ballot, and also upon his most vigorous and yet moderately phrased speech, which embraced all the aspects of our social insurance services. With the spirit of the Motion the Government are agreed. It lays stress on the importance 445 of our social insurance services to the well-being of the nation, and no one in any quarter of the House would seek to dispute that. These services have been a gulf stream which, although it may not have saved our people in all cases from winter, has, at any rate, saved them from the kind of arctic winter experienced in the territories of some of our neighbours. There was one phrase used by the hon. Member for Aberdare which I would like to take up in this connection. He said that other nations were out-stripping us in social reforms. The hon. Member for Normanton (Mr. T. Smith) has not yet spoken, and I shall be glad to hear from him what nations are out-stripping us in social reforms, because it is our proud boast that this country rivals and outdistances every country in the provision of social services.
The Motion lays stress on the need for further extension of social services, and the Government are fully alive to this need. I shall have something to say later on this subject, but I would remind the House that, in spite of the unprecedented calls upon the Exchequer for rearmament, we are, in fact, spending £50,000,000 a year more on social services than when the Government came into office. Many individual suggestions have been made as to how social services may be extended. I can assure my hon. Friend the Member for Stourbridge (Mr. R. Morgan) that his proposals will be taken into consideration. All these matters are constantly under review, and before any King's Speech the Cabinet have to decide between the many conflicting claims and to choose the most urgent subjects for legislation.
I have been challenged, and I respond to it, to state the attitude of the Government in regard to old age pensions. I can only reply that I have nothing to add to the statements that have already been made by Members of the Government on this question or to the Resolution that was passed by the House last November. Hard and moving cases have been put to the House this afternoon, but I would say that, after all, there is public assistance. [Hon. Members: "Oh!"] I cannot understand why hon. Gentlemen always jeer at public assistance. It was, after all, devised for this very purpose.
§ Mr. Bernays
That is a particular case. All I am saying is that it is always open for anyone to apply for public assistance and that we have done a great deal to remove the stigma of the Poor Law. In fact, only 10 per cent. of the pensioners to-day apply for public assistance. I am bound in this connection to mention the factor of cost in social services. While hon. Gentlemen have been speaking I made a note of the cost of some of their proposed reforms. To double old age pensions would cost £74,000,000. The reform mentioned by the hon. Member for West Fulham (Dr. Summerskill) would cost the country £10,000,000. The proposal for pensions for wives at 60 would cost another £4,000,000. I do not want to overstate the cost. I am only saying what they would cost in the first year. One knows that the cost of old age pensions increases as the years go on. I agree with the hon. Member for Aberdare that it is fitting that this Debate should take place after yesterday's Debate, because we have to consider the colossal bill that we shall have to meet this year for armaments. I admit that in comparison with our armaments figures, the millions that I have just mentioned do not seem so gigantic as they did three years ago. Clearly, however, these reforms cannot be undertaken without substantially increasing taxation, and at this moment he would be a rash man who said it would be good for the country that there should be a further increase in taxation.
§ Sir F. Fremantle
Surety my hon. Friend would say that far and away the strongest point in his case is that the additional expenditure on social reforms would be a recurring addition, whereas the armaments loan is only a temporary addition to expenditure.
§ Mr. Bernays
That is just the point to which I was coming. I was going to point out that much of our armaments expenditure is non-recurrent, whereas expenditure on social services, so far from diminishing, as we hope armaments expenditure will, will actually increase. For example, in the cost of old age pensions there will in 40 years be a natural in- 447 crease of £50,000,000. We have to consider, too, a point which has been mentioned in the Debate, that the number of old people is increasing and the number of young people is decreasing. That is such an important point that I would like to refer to it later in my speech.
In any reform that costs large sums of money, the Government have been compelled to ensure that it will not adversely affect those two vital indirect social insurances which are often forgotten in our Debates, but which really are the foundation of our social services. The first of these is the purchasing power of the pound which must be maintained. The second, and no less important indirect social insurance, is the provision for defence. It is an insurance against war. If that insurance proves insufficient and war comes, then all our social services may perish as if in an earthquake. I sometimes reflect when I see the housing returns that are brought to the Ministry of Health each month that 15 years of housing progress might perish in one week of air raids. That is my answer to the hon. Member for Gorbals (Mr. Buchanan) who commented on the fact that the party opposite were in favour of armaments expenditure. It is these considerations which the Chancellor of the Exchequer must bear in mind, and which he must have in the forefront of his mind. He would be totally unworthy of his position if he did not give priority to the needs of defence and the financial stability on which the social services depend. I remember my right hon. Friend the Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill) using a vivid phrase in one of his books, "The World Crisis," on the subject of Jutland and Lord Jellicoe. He said of Lord Jellicoe that he was the one man who could have lost the War in an afternoon. My right hon. Friend the Chancellor is the one man who could lose the social services in a couple of Budget statements.
§ Mr. Bernays
The Chancellor of the Exchequer must also keep in mind that it is the young that keep the old. It is only under the shelter of the young that the aged can end their days in a reasonable standard of comfort. Owing to the high birth rate at the end of the nineteenth century and the low birth rate now and the longer expectation of life, we 448 are getting more and more old people to be supported, and fewer and fewer young workers to maintain them. I suggest that that is a consideration which must be borne in mind by all hon. Members on whatever side of the House they sit. The power to increase old age pensions depends upon the extent to which we can equip our young men and women for the struggle to maintain and extend Great Britain's power and influence in the markets of the world, and that we contend is being done in the maternity and child welfare services, in the school medical inspections, in the consulting rooms of panel doctors, in the employment exchanges, in the training centres and in the education services.
Four demands are made in the Motion. First, the removal of anomalies and overlapping. Everything that anyone dislikes is always called an anomaly. It is not possible for me to go into each of the so-called anomalies which have been put forward this afternoon, because that would open a vast question, involving a detailed review of the whole machinery of the administration of the insurance schemes, but I should like to take one instance submitted by the hon. Member for Aberdare. He pointed out that the standard rates of benefit are higher under unemployment insurance than under national health insurance, and argued that an insured person needs more when away from work and sick than when he is away from work and well. The answer to that is that the standard rate under national health insurance is increased by way of additional benefits to the great majority of insured persons. The rate he quoted represents the minimum, and only the minimum, for which everybody is called upon compulsorily to insure. It is open to each person to supplement those rates in the light of his own circumstances, and there are greater facilities for supplementing insurance against sickness than against unemployment. We all know and admire the great work of the friendly societies in that direction.
The hon. Member for Gorbals called attention to the differentiation in benefits between one society and another. That is inevitable under the approved society system. If a particular society has heavy sickness experience it has not the money for additional benefits. The only solution would be the pooling of the surpluses, but that would be the end of the approved 449 society system, and I know from the smile on the face of the hon. Member for the Scotland division of Liverpool (Mr. Logan) that that is not a reform which he, who knows so much about the work of the national health insurance system, would be willing to accept.
§ Mr. Bernays
The problem of overlapping was raised by the hon. Member for Aberdare, and it is possible to make out a plausible case for the institution of a single stamp for all these insurance services, but that could only be done if there were a single administration, and the reason we do not have that is that the main objectives in unemployment insurance and in national health insurance are quite different. In health insurance the objective is to keep people well, and in unemployment insurance it is to equip people for work, and the material for each of those schemes must be in the hands of the Department which has to judge them. The position was inquired into by a special survey committee which was set up by the Labour party. I conclude that it was found that the reform suggested could not be carried out.
Now I come to the problem of co-ordination, to which such importance was attached by my hon. Friend the Member for Hitchin (Sir A. Wilson). He advocated co-ordination by a statutory committee on the lines of the Unemployment Insurance Statutory Committee. It is an interesting proposal, and I think it has appeared in one of the P.E.P. publications. The difficulty is that such a statutory committee could not deal with policy. None of these statutory committees deals with policy. An attempt to do so was made in the case of the Quota Imports Committee under the Marketing Act, but making decisions upon quotas has been found to be too important a matter for any ad hoc outside committee, and they are now the responsibility of the Government. Again, when the Unemployment Assistance Board was set up the original idea was to take unemployment assistance out of politics, but the House would not allow it, insisting that it was far too important a question to be withdrawn from the purview of the House of Commons.
In the direction of co-ordination the hon. Member for Aberdare suggested the 450 establishment of a Minister for Social Services. I understood that he had in mind a co-ordinating Minister on the lines of the Minister for the Co-ordination of Defence. I do not think that such a Ministry would really help us. The case for the co-ordination of the Defence Ministries rests on the need for establishing priority in the placing of contracts. There is no similar problem in the social services. The difference between the Defence Services and the social services is the difference between peace and war. The essence of armament is the maintenance of secrecy. If there is a question of priority as between one Department and another, it cannot be settled upon the Floor of the House, and there must be some overriding authority, but such considerations do not operate in the case of the social services. We can debate them here, in the good, democratic way, with complete freedom and complete publicity. I suggest that it is the House of Commons that is the real co-ordinating committee and see no reason why it should abrogate its functions to any outside body. There are many opportunities for reviewing and co-ordinating administration. There is the Debate on the Address, there are the Adjournment Debates, and there is the Motion for the Adjournment every night. Surely the best co-ordination is done by the Legislature, and not by the executive.
As regards an inquiry, for which a strong plea has been made, the Government does not shut its mind to the possibility of an inquiry, but I am bound to say that I do not think that to-night a case has been made out for such an inquiry. Admittedly there has been no Royal Commission on the subject for 30 years, but there have been constant inquiries into this or that aspect of administration, running audits of administration, a continuous process. Moreover, I think we can claim that there is no evidence of exhaustion of thought about future legislation. The time to dig round the roots of a tree is when the tree shows signs of withering, and there is no danger of this tree showing signs of withering. The tree of social reform is not merely in good earth, but it is continuously pushing forth new branches, and more and more of our people are being brought within its shelter. New classes of people have in recent years been brought under the umbrella.
451 There was the extension of health insurance to juveniles between the ages of 14 and 16. We did not need any inquiry for that; we just went and did it; and now 1,000,000 boys and girls are having medical attendance and medical supervision between the ages of 14 and 16, the gap which used to exist at those critical years having been filled up. We did not need an inquiry when we established the voluntary system of pensions for black-coated workers. More than 750,000 have applied for admission and 300,000 have already been admitted. That system has involved a very substantial gift from the State. No man pays more than Is. 3d. a week, yet the benefits for a man of 24 are equivalent to what he would get for a payment of 2s. 6d. a week, and for a man of 54 they are as though he had paid 15s. 1d. I think we can claim that that was a very substantial gift from the State to a hard-pressed section of the community.
There have also been other remedial Measures which in the short time that I have been Parliamentary Secretary at the Ministry of Health I have had the honour of assisting—the Midwives Bill, the Blind Persons Bill and now the Cancer Bill. An improvement in social insurance is going on at this moment. By improvements in finance, by the improvement in the health of the nation and by the stability of trade, the surpluses in the National Health Insurance Fund are increasing and out of them come increasing benefits. My hon. Friend the Member for Hitchin spoke of dental benefits, and I certainly agree with him as to their importance. He will be glad to know that two-thirds of the whole insured population now have an opportunity of receiving dental treatment. The Unemployment Insurance Fund is constantly providing more benefits. In 1935 an extra Is. was given for children, and contributions were reduced. In 1936 the waiting period was reduced and the period of benefit extended. In 1937 the waiting period was again reduced and the period of benefit again extended.
We have no substantial quarrel with this Motion, because we are doing what the Motion invites us to do, that is, we are not merely maintaining but we are extending our social services. The Government are as anxious as any Member of the House that that policy should be 452 continued. All that we object to is the suggestion that there is need for more committees or for a full-dress inquiry. The right hon. Member for South Hackney (Mr. H. Morrison) made a very pregnant observation during the Committee stage of the Cancer Bill when he said:In addition to medical cancer there is such a thing as administrative cancer, and one of the best ways in which to bring about administrative cancer is to complicate the procedure by setting up a whole host of committees before you start to do the job of work."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 13th February, 1939; col. 1412, Vol. 343.]We are doing the job of work without a host of committees and inquiries. Where it can be avoided we do not wish to see progress held up in a maze of committees and inquiries. We want to get on with the job, and we contend that our record in legislation and administration is a proof that we are getting on with the job.
§ 7.0 p.m.
§ Mr. T. Smith
I want to say how pleased I am that the hon. Member for Aberdare (Mr. G. Hall) chose this subject for debate this afternoon. I agree with those hon. Members who have said that perhaps it would have been better if we had had more time to discuss this Motion, because it covers five or six of the most important things affecting the workers and their dependants, and it is not our fault that these subjects are not discussed more than they are. The Parliamentary Secretary said that he would like to hear from me some proof of the statement made by the hon. Member for Aberdare that other countries were leaving us behind in certain social reforms. I shall be very pleased to give the hon. Gentleman some information. And when he says that we boast of our social services, it is quite true that we do, but sometimes we show in our boasting that we have forgotten a little of the history of the last 40 or 50 years. When we begin to examine that history and the social reforms that have come into operation since the War, while we may be proud of what has been done there is still a lot more that needs doing.
I am very pleased that the hon. Member for Hitchin(Sir A. Wilson) is in his place. Like most people in this House, I have a good deal of regard for him in his research work. I have read some of his books, and I have read them with 453 interest, but I am bound to say that if he is not extremely careful he is going to sink in the estimation of some of us, because he seems now to be the one Member who is prepared to stand up whenever there is a Motion for the immediate improvement of a social service, in order to show reasons why it should either be delayed or not legislated upon at all. Two weeks ago he had on the Paper an Amendment directed against any action on workmen's compensation until such time as the Royal Commission reported. Nevertheless he made out the best case for immediate action that I have heard for a long while, and as he happens to be interested, and the Parliamentary Secretary is interested, in the history of social reform in this country, perhaps it may not be out of place to remind him that about the first piece of social reform that this House passed affecting the individual worker was the Workmen's Compensation Act, 1897—a gigantic step forward from the then existing state of things, but one of the most inadequate pieces of legislation that I can remember. The most that could be paid to a man totally incapacitated was £1 a week. The most that could be paid to the widow and dependants of a man killed at work was either three years' earnings or £300. Before a man totally incapacitated could get a week's compensation he had to be out of work three weeks. When this injury was done to my arm—and that arm will never go straight—I was buried in the pit at about 18 years of age, unconscious from the early morning, and I had to be off work for three weeks before I drew the first week's compensation. You were expected to carry two weeks wages in your pocket in those days.
That was the first workmen's compensation legislation in this country. At that time hon. Members on the other side of the House predicted ruin for every friendly society in the country, for every coal mine in the country, and for industry generally. Then we had the Old Age Pensions Act in 1908–5s. at 70. Hon. Members in the Conservative party in this House predicted that that 5s. at 70 would destroy thrift and demoralise the people. We have heard from the hon. Member for Hitchin to-day some new Conservative principles outlined by Lord Baldwin. I am very pleased to know that the Conservative party have far better principles to-day than they had 20 454 or 30 years ago. Because let me remind them that when the first Bill was before this House dealing with health matters, namely, the National Insurance Bill of 1911—famous for the 9d. for 4d. agitation—134 Conservative Members voted against it. The late Mr. Bonar Law wrote to the "Times" saying that if his party came into power he would repeal it. Is there a Conservative supporting the Government who can deny that statement? That was in 1911.
Let us look at that Act, because it bears on the Motion. That Act is not national in character, and it was not national in character in 1911. The only national feature about it was that the State undertook to collect contributions from the two parties and from itself. There were hon. Members in the House at that time who saw that anomalies and inequalities were bound to arise under that Act. I am one who, fortunately, has enjoyed good health for half a century, one who believes that health is the greatest wealth. A nation should be as healthy as it possibly can be, and we must be very much perturbed by the state of the nation's health to-day. We have to-day approved societies of which 70 per cent. of the members are entitled to cash additional benefits, 88 per cent. to some form of additional benefit, and 12 per cent., or more than 2,000,000, not entitled to any additional benefit at all. If hon. Members care to consult the report of the Government Actuary issued last year they will find that the exact number of those not entitled to additional benefits is 2,219,525.
It is interesting to know just where those people reside. The deficiency tables show that Durham and Northumberland had a deficiency of £146,000; the Durham miners, £56,000; the Amalgamated Weavers, £84,000; the West Riding, £13,000; Lancashire and Cheshire, £11,000; the Scottish miners, £16,000; and South Wales is in a similar position. These are all people in the heavy industries, in areas where there has been unemployment and where sickness rates are high. What does it mean? It means that there are two and a quarter million people who are having no assistance at all so far as treatment of the eyes, the ears in some cases, and the teeth are concerned. I think the hon. Member for St. Albans (Sir F. Fremantle), who has 455 has long experience in the medical profession, will agree with me that attention to the teeth is vital if you wish to preserve good health. Indeed, I am told by those who are supposed to know, that decayed teeth are a direct cause of rheumatism, and rheumatism causes hundreds of thousands of people in this country to lose work in the course of a year. Did hon. Members to-day hear the answer of the Parliamentary Secretary to the Admiralty when he told the House that last year more than 25,000 out of 60,000 young men were rejected as recruits for the Navy—45 per cent. of them owing to eye trouble, 15 per cent, owing to bad teeth, and 7½ per cent, owing to bad hearing. Twenty-five thousand young men. largely from the districts where there are no additional benefits, are so physically unfit that they cannot find a place in His Majesty's Navy. I suggest that the Parliamentary Secretary might pay some attention to that.
When the hon. Gentleman talks about Royal Commissions he forgets that in 1936 there was a Royal Commission on National Health Insurance, which made certain recommendations dealing with anomalies that have been discussed today. Will the Parliamentary Secretary either now or at some other time tell the House and the country the reason why those recommendations were not put into operation? They recommended the pooling of partial surpluses, and estimated that it would cost just more than £2,000,000. Is the Parliamentary Secretary so devoid of knowledge of history that he forgets that the present Prime Minister, when he was Chancellor of the Exchequer, raided the approved societies to the extent of more than £2,000,000, and that £2,000,000, or even less, would put these two and a quarter million people who are in National Health Insurance on the same terms almost as the people in approved societies who can get these benefits? When the hon. Gentleman talks about anomalies may I mention that we had an influenza epidemic in Yorkshire? In one house that I know there were three people down with influenza, all members of different approved societies. They all paid the same contributions, but only one out of the three was able to get some additional benefit. Why cannot we get from the Government some small grant to 456 give these people the additional benefit to provide the treatment they so urgently need?
When we come to the question of our medical services, what do we find? This medical service is purely a general practitioners' service. You have the panel doctor for the insured person only, and he is purely a general practitioner. As was stated by the Royal Commission on National Health Insurance, that means that the medical service given in respect of the insurance contribution stops short just where the need is greatest. Our aim as a nation should be to have a kind of throughput treatment in regard to disease, from the general practitioner to the specialist if need be, and hospital treatment if need be. That cannot be got today. There are some approved societies who provide specialist treatment, but there are some who do not, and many men to-day have to go without specialist treatment because they just cannot afford it. The Royal Commission recommended that expert medical advice and treatment should be provided for patients who can travel to the specialist, but what is the use of telling the country that there has been a Royal Commission and another is not necessary when you have had Royal Commissions by the score whose recommendations have not been carried out? The Royal Commission also made recommendations with regard to the provision of expert advice for those unable to travel and with regard to voluntary services.
If we are to study the whole question of health, we have a lot of things to do. It is a good investment. As regards co-ordination, we ought to bring the whole of the health services under the administration of one department. To-day we have the school medical service under the Board of Education, and we have certain other sickness regulations under the Home Office. If all these things were co-ordinated under one department, that would enable the problem to be focused in its right perspective. We have made a good deal of progress in the last 30 years, but in a kind of haphazard, higgledy-piggledy way, without any coherence. Indeed, it would not be too much to say that Governments have done very little by way of social reform until they have been compelled to do it by public opinion outside. They have never done it because it was right to do it; usually they have 457 done it because they have been compelled to do it. The hon. Member for West Fulham (Dr. Sumerskill) spoke about dependants' benefit, and that also was included in the Royal Commission's recommendations. Why cannot we devise a scheme whereby the wife and children of the insured worker will have some kind of medical attention? How many women are there in this country who are struggling to give the kiddies the best possible chance, and who need medical attention, but cannot get it because they cannot afford to pay for it? Again, when we are talking about health statistics, let us not forget that we are still losing thousands upon thousands of people in this country from the common cold, or what results from the common cold. In this problem of National Health Insurance we need, not only co-ordination, not only inquiry as to future possibilities, but some action now by the Government, because the problem is urgent and immediate.
Let us look at the question of pensions. A man, when he reaches the age of 65 is entitled to 10s. a week, but his wife does not get it until she too is 65. Then they get £1 a week. In the first place, the amount is too low. It puts on the local authorities a burden which they ought not to be asked to carry. There are many anomalies in the pension schemes, and in my opinion, despite the fact that we have to find £800,000,000 this year for armaments, we could find the money for a workable and adequate pension scheme if we had the will to do so. There is an economic side of the pensions problem as well as a human side. To-day we have, in England alone, 330,000 people at work in insurable occupations who are more than 65 years of age. We have also 2,000,000 out of work. I know that many of those men of 65 and over who are in industry would be quite willing to retire from industry if they knew that for 52 weeks in the year, as long as they lived, the 35s. a week would be there- They would make way for younger men to get into industry. Further, I wonder how many men over 65 there are in insurable occupations who have had their wages reduced by 10s. a week. Perhaps the hon. Member for Hitchin, who is so thorough in his researches, might inquire into the number of exemptions in the agricultural industry, and find out how many of these men, because they have turned 65, have had 10s. knocked off their wages. It means that in those cases 458 we are subsidising wages to the extent of 10s. a week.
Both the Parliamentary Secretary and my hon. Friend the Member for Aberdare wanted me to touch upon what is being done in other countries. As many people know, I had the pleasure of discussing very thoroughly in the Dominions, not only the question of social legislation, but other matters as well, and I also had the pleasure, with other Members of the House, of making a six weeks inquiry as to how social reform is dealt with in Russia. I have no time now to arouse the ire of hon. Gentlemen opposite in regard to the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, but there is time for me to deal with Australia and New Zealand. In Australia, old age pensions are a matter for the Commonwealth, and not for the individual States. A non-contributory pension of £1 per week is paid to a man at 65, and to his wife at 60, making £2 a week together. They also have a workmen's compensation scheme that makes ours look like a Woolworths one. In New South Wales, the maximum amount that can be paid as compensation for total incapacity is £5 a week or full wages. I discussed in Sydney with some good Imperialists questions of social reform, and they were amazed that the Old Country had such a poor, miserable compensation scheme; they could not believe that 30s. a week was the maximum. In New Zealand, where there is a Labour Government, which happens to have the support of even fanners, workmen's compensation is £2 a week minimum, and £4 maximum. New Zealand has an old age pension scheme under which the man at 65 and his wife at 60 receive 22s. 6d. a week each, or a total of 45s. Of course, it cannot be done here; so we are told by employers.
§ Mr. Smith
Certainly, but it is fairly high, and it allows those with no resources to draw 45s. a week. These social services, therefore, are much better than ours. Is 10s. a week at 65 all the reward that these industrial veterans are to get from the country? Who are they? They are men who have spent the whole of their working lives in industry. Many of them are industrial derelicts—monuments to the capitalist system. A few years ago, in 1914–18, they were thought a lot of. They were younger than they 459 are to-day. Many of them were good colliers, as the hon, Member for North Leeds (Mr. Peake) will admit. If we got down to it, we could certainly find ways and means of putting these pensions on something like an adequate level. Every time that social legislation has been brought into this House to give something to the workers, someone has used the age-long argument, "We would like to do it, but we are sorry that industry cannot afford it." Historians know that 100 years ago there was a Royal Commission with regard to young women and children working in the pits, and the selfsame argument was used then in this House and in another place. It meant ruin every time anything was brought before this House with the object of social betterment. It is rather remarkable that the increased activity of governments in bringing in social legislation coincided with these people having the vote. In pre-war days, when they had not the vote, they got nothing. To-day they have the vote, and I hope they are going to get something, because they certainly deserve it, and it is the job of the House of Commons to deal with this urgent need. I hope that this Motion will be carried by general good will, and that the Government will take it as an instruction, without waiting for Royal Commissions, to get down to the job of removing these anomalies, bringing in these improvements, and giving to the people affected a little more justice than they are getting at the present time.
§ 7.28 p.m.
§ Sir F. Fremantle
Perhaps I may be allowed, in the two minutes that remain, to say a final word from the point of view of one who has been concerned with the public health side of this problem and with public welfare for many years. There is agreement on every side as to the general requirements and desires which have been put forward to-day, but the idea that it is merely a question of spending money is grossly fallacious. We medical people know the danger of suggesting that these things can be done merely by spending money. The hon. Member for Normanton (Mr. T. Smith), as well as the hon. Member for Aberdare (Mr. G. Hall), made that mistake, which is common among hon. Members opposite. They are always emphasising the idea that these things would be done if you would only spend the money. We, however, know that the thing to do is to bring public opinion along to help themselves, together with such money as is required for the purpose. That is the real difference between us. You cannot bring in any new scheme of reform; you must improve matters by natural growth, and we are growing. In the belief that we do not need any further inquiry, I support the Amendment as the right thing to follow with a view to progress.
§ Question put, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."
§ The House divided: Ayes, 149; Noes, 172.461
|Division No. 40.]||AYES.||[7.30 p.m.|
|Acland, R. T. D. (Barnstape)||Denman, Hon. R. D.||Hayday, A.|
|Adams, D. M. (Poplar, S.)||Denville, Alfred||Henderson, A. (Kingswinford)|
|Adamson, Jennie L. (Dartford)||Dobbie, W.||Henderson, J. (Ardwick)|
|Adamson, W. M.||Dunn, E. (Rother Valley)||Hepworth, J.|
|Ammon, C. G.||Edwards, A. (Middlesbrough E.)||Hicks, E. G.|
|Anderson, F. (Whitehaven)||Edwards, Sir C. (Bedwellty)||Hills, A. (Pontefract)|
|Aske, Sir R. W.||Evans, D. O. (Cardigan)||Hollins, A.|
|Attles, Rt. Hon. C. R.||Evans, E. (Univ. of Wales)||Hopkin, D.|
|Banfield, J. W.||Fletcher, Lt.-Comdr. R. T. H.||Jenkins, A. (Pontypool)|
|Barr, J.||Foot, D. M.||Jenkins, Sir W. (Neath)|
|Bellenger, F. J.||Frankel, D.||John, W.|
|Benn, Rt. Hon. W. W.||Gallacher, W.||Johnston, Rt. Hon. T.|
|Benson, G.||Gardner, B. W.||Jones, A. C. (Shipley)|
|Broad, F. A.||George, Major G. Lloyd (Pembroke)||Jones, Sir H. Haydn (Merioneth)|
|Bromfield, W.||George, Megan Lloyd (Anglesey)||Kennedy, Rt. Hon. T.|
|Brown, C. (Mansfield)||Graham, D. M. (Hamilton)||Kirby, B. V.|
|Buchanan, G.||Green, W. H. (Deptford)||Kirkwood, D.|
|Burke, W. A,||Greenwood, Rt. Hon. A.||Lathan, G.|
|Cape, T.||Grenfell, D. R.||Lawson, J. J.|
|Charleton, H. C.||Griffith, F. Kingsley (M'ddl'sbro, W.)||Leach, W.|
|Cluse, W. S.||Griffiths, G. A. (Hemsworth)||Leonard, W.|
|Clynes, Rt. Hon. J. R.||Griffiths, J. (Llanelly)||Leslie, J. R.|
|Cocks, F. S.||Groves, T. E.||Lipson, D. L.|
|Collindridge, F.||Guest, Dr. L. H. (Islington, N.)||Logan, D. G.|
|Daggar, G.||Hall, J. H. (Whitechapel)||Lunn, W.|
|Davidson, J. J. (Maryhill)||Hardie, Agnes||Macdonald, G. (Inee)|
|Davies, C. (Montgomery)||Harris, Sir P. A.||MacDonald, Sir Murdoch (Inverness)|
|Day, H.||Harvey, T. E. (Eng. Univ's.)||McEntee, V. La T.|
|McGhee, H. G.||Parkinson, J. A.||Taylor, R. J. (Morpeth)|
|Maclean, N.||Pearson, A.||Thorne, W.|
|Macmillan, H. (Stockton-on-Tees)||Pethick-Lawrence, Rt. Hon. F. W.||Thurtle, E.|
|MacNeill Weir, L.||Poole, C. C.||Tinker, J. J.|
|Mainwaring, W. H.||Price, M. P.||Viant, S. P.|
|Mander, G. le M.||Pritt, D. N.||Walkden, A. G.|
|Markham, S. F.||Quibell, D. J. K.||Walker, J.|
|Marklew, E.||Richards, R. (Wrexham)||Ward, Irene M. B. (Wallsend)|
|Marshall, F.||Roberts, W. (Cumberland, N.)||Watson, W. MsL.|
|Mathers, G.||Sanders, W. S.||Walsh, J. C.|
|Maxton, J.||Seely, Sir H. M.||Westwood, J.|
|Messer, F.||Sexton, T. M.||White, H. Graham|
|Milner, Major J.||Shinwell, E.||Whiteley, W. (Blaydon)|
|Montague, F.||Silverman, S. S.||Williams, E. J. (Ogmore)|
|Morgan, J. (York, W.R., Doncaster)||Simpson, F. B.||Williams, T. (Don Valley)|
|Morrison, G. A. (Scottish Univ's.)||Sinclair, Rt. Hon. Sir A. (C'thn's)||Wilson, C. H. (Attercliffe)|
|Morrison, Rt. Hon. H. (Haskney, S.)||Smith, Ban (Rotherhithe)||Windsor, W. (Hull, C.)|
|Morrison, R. C. (Tottenham, N.)||Smith, E. (Stoke)||Woods, G. S. (Finsbury)|
|Muff, G.||Sorensen, R. W.||Young, Sir R. (Newton)|
|Nicolson, Hon. H. G.||Stephen, C.|
|Noel-Baker, P. J.||Stokes, R. R.||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Oliver, G. H.||Strauss, G. R. (Lambeth, N.)||Mr. George Hall and Mr. T. Smith.|
|Paling, W.||Summerskill, Dr. Edith|
|Acland-Troyte, Lt.-Col. G. J.||Fleming, E. L.||Perkins, W. R. D.|
|Adams, S. V. T. (Leeds, W.)||Fox, Sir G. W. G.||Petherick, M.|
|Agnew, Lieut.-Comdr. P. G.||Fremantle, Sir F. E.||Pickthorn, K. W. M.|
|Allen, Lt.-Col. Sir W. J. (Armagh)||Fyfe, D. P. M.||Pilkington, R.|
|Anderson, Sir A. Garrett (C. of Ldn.)||Gluckstein, L. H.||Raikes, H. V. A. M.|
|Anstruther-Gray, W J.||Grant-Ferris, R.||Ramsden, Sir E.|
|Astor, Viscountess (Plymouth, Sutton)||Gridlay, Sir A. B.||Reed, A. C. (Exeter)|
|Astor, Hon. W. W. (Fulham, E.)||Grigg, Sir E. W. M.||Reid, J. S. C. (Hillhead)|
|Baldwin-Webb, Col. J.||Guest, Hon. I. (Brecon and Radnor)||Robinson, J. R. (Blackpool)|
|Balfour, G. (Hampstead)||Guinness, T. L. E. B.||Ropner, Colonel L.|
|Balniel, Lord||Hambro, A. V.||Rosbotham, Sir T.|
|Barclay-Harvey, Sir C. M.||Heilgers, Captain F. F. A.||Ross Taylor, W. (Woodbridge)|
|Beauchamp, Sir B. C.||Hely-Hutchinson, M. R.||Royds, Admiral Sir P. M. R.|
|Beechman, N. A.||Heneage, Lieut.-Colonel A. P.||Ruggles-Brise, Colonel Sir E. A.|
|Bernays, R. H.||Herbert, Major J. A. (Monmouth)||Salmon, Sir I.|
|Boulton, W. W.||Hogg, Hon. Q. MoG.||Samuel, M. R. A.|
|Bower, Comdr. R. T.||Holmes, J. S.||Sanderson, Sir F. B.|
|Briscoe, Capt. R. G.||Hopkinson, A.||Sandys, E. D.|
|Broadbridge, Sir G. T.||Horsbrugh, Florence||Scott, Lord William|
|Brooklebank, Sir Edmund||Howitt, Dr. A. B.||Shaw, Captain W. T. (Forfar)|
|Brown, Brig.-Gen. H. C. (Newbury)||Hudson, Capt. A. U. M. (Hack., N.)||Smith, Bracewell (Dulwich)|
|Bull, B. B.||Hunloke, H. P.||Smith, Sir Louis (Hallam)|
|Bullock, Capt. M.||Hunter, T.||Smith, Sir R. W. (Aberdeen)|
|Butcher, H. W.||Hutchinson, G. C.||Snadden, W. McN.|
|Campbell, Sir E. T.||James, Wing-Commander A, W. H.||Somervell, Rt. Hon. Sir Donald|
|Cazalet, Thelma (Islington, E.)||Jones, Sir G. W. H. (S'k N'w'gt'n)||Southby, Commander Sir A, R. J.|
|Cazalet, Capt. V. A. (Chippenham)||Kerr, Colonel C. I. (Montrose)||Spans. W. P.|
|Channon, H.||Kerr, H. W. (Oldham)||Stanley, Rt. Hon. Oliver (W'm'l'd)|
|Chapman, A. (Rutherglen)||Keyes, Admiral of the Fleet Sir R.||Stourton, Major Hon. J. J.|
|Christie, J. A.||Kimball, L.||Strauss, H. G. (Norwich)|
|Clarke, Colonel R. S. (E. Grinstead)||Lambert, Rt. Hon. G.||Stuart, Hon. J. (Moray and Nairn)|
|Clarry, Sir Reginald||Law, Sir A. J. (High Peak)||Tasker, Sir R. I.|
|Colville, Rt. Hon. John||Lees-Jones, J.||Thomas, J. P. L.|
|Conant, Captain R. J. E.||Leighton, Major B. E. P.||Thomson, Sir J. D. W.|
|Cook, Sir T. R. A. M. (Norfolk, N.)||Lennox-Boyd, A. T. L.||Titchfield, Marquess of|
|Cooke, J. D. (Hammersmith, S.)||Liddall, W. S.||Toucha, G. C.|
|Courthope, Col. Rt. Hon. Sir G. L.||Lindsay, K. M.||Train, Sir J.|
|Cox, H. B. Trevor||Lloyd, G. W.||Tufnell, Lieut.-Commander R. L.|
|Croft, Brig.-Gen. Sir H. Page||Mabane, W. (Huddersfield)||Turton, R. H.|
|Crooke, Sir J. Smedley||McCorquodale, M. S.||Wakefield, W. W.|
|Cross, R. H.||Macdonald, Capt. P. (Isle of Wight)||Wallace, Capt. Rt. Hon. Euan|
|Crossley, A. C.||McKie, J. H.||Ward, Lieut.-Col. Sir A. L. (Hull)|
|Crowder, J. F. E.||Manningham-Buller, Sir M.||Waterhouse, Captain C.|
|Cruddas, Col. B.||Margesson, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. D. R.||Watt, Major G. S. Harvie|
|Culverwell, C. T.||Mason, Lt.-Col. Hon. G. K. M.||Wedderburn, H. J. S.|
|Davidson, Viscountess||Mayhew, Lt.-Col. J.||Williams, C. (Torquay)|
|Davidson, Major Sir G. F. (Yeovil)||Medilcott, F.||Willoughby de Eresby, Lord|
|De Chair, S. S.||Mellor, Sir J. S. P. (Tamworth)||Windser-clive, Lieut.-Colonel G.|
|Do la Bère, R.||Mills, Major J. D. (New Forest)||Winterton, Rt. Hon. Earl|
|Donner, P. W.||Mitchell, H. (Brentford and Chiswick)||Wise, A. R.|
|Drewe, C.||Moreing, A. C.||Womersley, Sir W. J.|
|Duncan, J. A. L.||Morgan, R. H. (Worcester, Stourbridge)||Wood, Hon. C. I. C.|
|Eastwood, J. F.||Morris-Jones, Sir Henry||Wragg, H.|
|Elliot, Rt. Hon. W. E.||Muirhead, Lt.-Col. A. J.||Young, A. S. L. (Partick)|
|Ellis, Sir G.||Munro, P.|
|Emery, J. F.||O'Connor, Sir Terence J.||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Emrys-Evans, P. V.||O'Neill, Rt. Hon. Sir Hugh||Sir Arnold Wilson and Sir Stanley Reed.|
|Entwistle, Sir C. F.||Palmer, G. E. H.|
|Everard, Sir William Lindsay||Peake, O.|
§ Question proposed, "That the proposed words be there added."
§ Major Sir George Davies rose——
§ It being after Half-past Seven of the Clock, the Debate stood adjourned.