§ Before any regulation is made under Section one or Section two of this Act the Minister shall cause the regulation to be laid in draft before both Houses of Parliament, and such regulation shall not be made unless both Houses by Resolution approve the draft, either without modification or addition or with modification or addition to which both Houses agree, but upon such approval being given the Minister may make the regulation in the form in which it has been approved, and the regulation on being so made shall be of full force and effect.—[Mr. Foot.]
§ Brought up, and read the First time.
§ 5.18 p.m.
§ Mr. Dingle Foot
I beg to move, "That the Clause be read a Second time."
I said on the Second Reading of the Bill that it seemed to me that this Measure represented the high water mark, so far, of Government by regulation. That process is carried further in this Bill than it has ever been carried before, I think. Everyone must appreciate that in these days a large number of Ministerial orders and rules and regulations is unavoidable. It is impossible to ask Parliament to settle every detail of legislation, and it is not an unreasonable arrangement 246 that we here should lay down the main provisions of a Statute and leave the minor matters to be filled in by the Department by means of regulations. But that is not what has been done here.
The hon. Member for Chester-le-Street (Mr. Lawson) has referred to the great importance of the matters covered by Clause 1, and has ventured the somewhat startling prophecy that when that Clause is put into operation it will cause as much uproar in the country as did the first set of unemployment regulations of unfortunate memory. Hon. Members will see that under Sub-section (2) of the Clause the Minister may make regulations for determining a number of matters. One of them is whether an insured contributor in the circumstances specified in the regulations is or is not to be deemed to be on holiday for the purposes of the principal Act. I draw attention to the words "is or is not." It is left completely to the discretion of the Minister. No one can tell by looking at the Clause what arrangement will be made under the regulations. There is a similar provision in paragraph (b) of Sub-section (2). Subsection (3) lays down that the powers of the Minister of Health and of the Department of Health in Scotland to make regulations under the National Health Insurance Act and the Widows, Orphans and Old Age Contributory Pensions Act, 1936, shallinclude power to make regulations for determining whether payments received by an employed contributor in, the circumstances specified in the regulations are or are not to be deemed for the purpose of the provisions of those Acts relating to the payment of contributions to be remuneration paid in respect of any week during the whole or part of which the employed contributor was on holiday.What has to be decided clearly is whether, when a man gets a holiday with pay, it is to be a contribution week for health insurance purposes. That point has to be decided one way or the other, and why should it not be decided by this House instead of being left to the Ministry of Labour or any other Government Department? That is not an unimportant detail and it is a matter which could perfectly well be decided on the Floor of the House instead of being left to a Minister. We are not just filling in the gaps by means of regulations; we are actually making regulations a substitute for Acts of Parliament. We are asked, 247 in effect, to abdicate our legislative responsibilities in favour of a Department in Whitehall.
As the Bill stands there is only one safeguard, and that is that the regulations will be deemed to be regulations to be treated under the Act of 1935 and laid on the Table of the House for a certain period. We all know how little value is to be attached to that safeguard, how difficult it is to move a Prayer at some late hour of the night and get a sufficiently interested House to start an intelligent Debate. There is, further, this great difficulty in which the House finds itself whenever it deals with these matters by way of regulations, and that is that it cannot amend the regulations. When we are dealing with small matters it is reasonable, no doubt, that we should not have that power of amendment. On the many occasions on which I have raised the question in this House I have never suggested that we should have the power to amend in every case, or that it is necessary for us to draft and shape every small regulation, but when we are dealing with a question of the magnitude and importance of those dealt with in Clauses 1 and 2 it is vital for the House to retain the power to make amendments. I know that there are very few precedents for giving the House power to amend a Ministerial order or regulation, but I think it is time we established some precedent, because again and again we find matters of great consequence are not dealt with in the Act itself but are left over to be dealt with by means of regulations.
Hon. Members will recall how, in the last Parliament, we spent a great part of a Session discussing the Unemployment Act, 1934. That Act followed upon a three years' agitation over the means test, which was at the time the most burning political issue before the country. When the Bill was brought in we all looked eagerly to see what the future of the means test was to be, but we could not possibly tell from the Bill itself, because it was laid down that the conditions of the means test should be determined by regulations which, indeed, needed the assent of Parliament—in that respect the position was a little better than here—but which Parliament was powerless to amend. It constantly happens that hon. Members are placed in a great difficulty when 248 called upon to accept or reject regulations en bloc, because they may be reluctant to vote against the whole set of regulations, though having very strong objection to some particular part. This procedure does tie the hands of the House and derogates in a very real way from the authority of the House. Here we are going even further than we went in 1934. Certain broad general rules were laid down in the Act of 1934, which governed the regulations afterwards made, but there is no provision of that kind in the first two Clauses of this Bill. There is only a general power to make regulations on this subject, and there is not a single hon. Member who can possibly tell what the result of this step will be upon the people who will be affected.
§ 5.27 p.m.
§ Mr. K. Griffith
I beg to second the Motion.
The subject which is raised in the new Clause is an extremely important one, concerning a process in modern legislation under which this House is getting rid of some of its most important functions, devolving them sometimes upon outside boards and other authorities and sometimes upon the Minister in charge of the Bill. It raises a question of wider importance even than the important subject of unemployment insurance. As we, as a legislative body, devolve our powers more and more upon other bodies, we decrease the importance and prestige of this House. It is essential that the House should keep the closest watch upon and the closest control of all matters which affect the day-to-day life of the people so much as do these questions of unemployment insurance and unemployment assistance.
§ 5.28 p.m.
§ Mr. Hayday
I support the new Clause because in going through Clause 1 one can realise the important issues which are at stake. We are proposing to hand over to the Department the right to make regulations dealing with practically the whole of the unfortunate persons who will be receiving benefits under this legislation. We often ask the Minister whether he can consider this or that suggestion, and we get sympathetic replies, but often he has to tell us that while he would like to consider our proposals he has to remember that there is in existence a Statutory Committee to whom they must first 249 go, particularly if they raise any financial problems. I do not think it is fair to the Minister to explain that the House of Commons is ready to hand over to the Department the full power of making regulations without the House of Commons having a controlling power and an effective check, apart from waiting until some late hour at night to exercise it, when a Prayer is presented. That usually takes place about 12 p.m. or One o'clock in the morning, when there is a great difficulty in securing a quorum. It develops into a farce, no matter how serious. grave and important the subject-matter may be. It is a travesty of control. Anything which will give effective control would be a protection to the Minister.
The Minister might well accept this new Clause and say: " I will, in the first instance, take the responsibility, by consultation with my Department, of presenting what I deem to be the regulations required in the circumstances, as prescribed in Clause 1, but I would like to consult the House of Commons upon this matter. I would like the guidance of the House, and fresh discussion upon the matter." Otherwise, a situation will arise which is rather paradoxical. When you ask for something definite to go into the Bill so that there will be no question about it, the Minister and the Government say: "No. We sympathise, and we would like to do it, but, definitely, No. It must not go into the Bill; but, as a substitute, you can give us power to make regulations." Is it to be supposed that a Government Department will make regulations more favourable than proposals which they rejected when put forward as Amendments to the Bill to make the Clause more definite? No. It is more likely that their manipulations will be carried out to deal with circumstances that might arise quite suddenly, and in such a manner that all the reactionary influences can be brought to bear on the Department. The matter will not become a subject of discussion and be faced in the full light of Debate upon the Floor of this House. That process lends itself to influences operating outside the House of Commons and not representing the people at all.
§ Mr. Hayday
Yes, to federations of employers and finance corporations. If, next year, the Trades Union Congress 250 were to go again before the Committee, and, in the light of whatever balances there were, asked for certain recommendations, I know what would happen. If one studies the representations of the Trades Union Congress on the Blanes-burgh and other Commissions that have sat, and examines how far they have been considered in comparison with counter-proposals submitted by the great federations of employers and financial institutions, the balance of advantage will never be found to fall the way of the industries. If the Trades Union Congress suggests something to the Minister, he may say: "I will consider it. I will consult the other interests involved before coming to a decision." Then he will consider and consult those interests. If it happens to be a mining question or one relating to the maintenance of holidays in connection with national health, he will say: "I will consult the mine-owners." My miner Friends will know where the balance will go in those circumstances, upon those economic subjects.
It is because I can see dangers like that, that I am raising this matter. I would not care if the Minister were entirely beyond reproach and were a person without sin, or a man of the highest virtue. I would still say that he is a frail human in this respect. He is frail in the sense that there are these outside influences, and all the power of his Department constantly warning him and telling him to beware of this, that and the other. That will wear him down, no matter how sturdily he may start out on the fight, and however good his intentions may be. There is a phrase used in connection with good intentions. I do not know where they pave the road to.
§ Mr. Hayday
Yes, no doubt he does; but this is really a serious case. In the circumstances we would ask the Minister to make regulations to permit payment to unemployed men, about whom there was a doubt whether he was receiving his holiday pay or not, or whether his circumstances were such that he should be called upon to pay his contribution or to be excused his contribution for the maintenance of himself. What is his desire? Can he tell us now what he is 251 afraid of? What has he in his mind in connection with these regulations? What condition of things can he conceive which would mean that he could not accept the conditions proposed and put them definitely into a Clause in the Bill to take the place of the Clauses which will give an enormous amount of power without any Parliamentary check besides that of offering a Prayer? I give the fullest possible support to the idea, and if the movers of the proposed new Clause force the matter to a Division, in the absence of a suitable reply from the Government, I am sure we shall be with them. Such regulations cannot be allowed without check in the hands of a reactionary Government to control the lives of those who have to seek the assistance of the social machinery of unemployment insurance.
§ 5.38 p.m.
§ Mr. Holdsworth
I hope that the Minister will accept the proposed new Clause. I will not follow the line taken by the hon. Gentleman who has just spoken, but I would oppose power being given to any Minister, whether he is reactionary or not such as is being asked for in the Bill. I am not certain that there would not be equal danger whatever Government came in, in giving to any Minister the powers for which this Clause asks. I loathe and hate the growth of bureaucracy. I believe there is a danger in this country of losing our legislative privileges in this House bit by bit. There can be a growth of dictatorship without a seething revolution. In my eight years' experience in this House it seems that we have been continually handing power over to people outside the House. It is true that the Minister is responsible in theory for the regulations. I am not one to criticise the Civil Service, as I recognise their splendid work, but with all their ability and good will they are not so well acquainted with human problems as are we who are sent here to represent the people of the country.
This case may emphasise the danger of giving the power to make these regulations, because the subject with which they would deal is acute, and relates to human problems of a very serious nature. It does not alter the principle of this House giving power to a Minister—probably to some man employed at a desk in White- 252 hall, because that is what it means—to draw up regulations, and for the only opportunity we have in this House to be by putting down a Prayer. I have had experience in this matter and I have been through a good deal of opposition of that kind. I know what it means if, after 11 o'Clock at night, one ventures to get up and express an opinion on a Motion which has been put down in a form of a Prayer. One is howled down and one hears: "For goodness sake let us get away." After 11 o'Clock it is apt to be impossible to give to a matter of this kind the attention it ought to have.
I have one other point. I have no faith in the infallibility of any Minister, to whatever party he may belong; my hon. Friend knows that I am not saying this with particular reference to himself. I want to see this House retain power, not merely to accept or reject regulations, but to alter them. I have found myself in a difficult position on many occasions with regard to regulations. I may have agreed to quite a good part of the regulations, but to a certain part I have had to offer strong opposition, but one has had to take them or leave them. On some part of the proposed new Clause there may be some difficulty, but we want to have the power of amendment. That is vital, and this House ought to regard that as part of its legislative duty. I trust that the Minister will accept the proposed new Clause. It will not take away his power. It will mean only that we examine the regulations, and if we do not like them we shall try to amend them and make them better. I see nothing in that which challenges the power of the Minister. We all talk much about democratic government and the power of the representatives of the people, but on whatever side of the House we sit we ought to watch with great vigilance that our power is not abrogated, and that our functions are not used outside the House. This is a very reasonable new Clause.
§ 5.43 p.m.
§ Mr. Ridley
The hon. Gentleman who has just spoken has obviously an uneasy mind as well as an uneasy seat in the House. The point he has put on the question of bureaucracy seems to be from the middle of the nineteenth century. The proposed new Clause raises a question of very considerable importance to the House as a whole. It raises the whole question of good government, parliamentary 253 authority and parliamentary control. If one looks at the Bill one discovers that there are as many reserved powers and authorities in it as there are Clauses. I cannot understand why the Minister could not have a definition of "holiday" in the Bill or in a Schedule at the end. A little later in the evening we shall be asked to vote on Clause 1, but as the Clause stands it is entirely meaningless without the definition which should have accompanied it in a Schedule.
The first point, therefore, is that we are delegating to the Minister a power which is almost as great as the power of the Bill. We are giving him a power that the House itself should retain, and we should have in the Bill a definition of the significance of Clause 1 and the subsequent Clauses. The Minister either knows what the definition of a holiday in the regulations is going to be, or he does not. Presumably he knows what the definition is going to be, because certain figures as to advantages to the tune of £600,000 and economies to the extent of £400,000 were quoted in the Second Reading Debate, and, if those figures were accurate, they could have been quoted only on the basis of a definition already determined by the right hon. Gentleman. I do not know in what other way calculations could be made than on the basis of determined definition. If he has not made up his mind as to the definition of a holiday, I view the powers that he seeks to acquire under the Bill with even graver misgiving than would otherwise be the case. On the Second Reading the right hon. Gentleman said:It is clear, since we are laying down the principle that holidays will be holidays and unemployment will be unemployment, that the regulations will be drawn in accordance with that principle."—[Official Report, 28th March, 1939; col. 1918, Vol. 345.]I have no desire to be unduly discourteous to the right hon. Gentleman, but that definition seems to me to be just about as clear as mud, and if the regulations are to be no clearer than what the right hon. Gentleman called the principle, I must repeat that I view with very considerable misgiving the terms of the regulations, and that misgiving as to the authority which the Minister seeks to acquire by the terms of the Bill would justify every Member of the House, not only on this side but in the House as a whole, in supporting the new Clause and requiring that the House as a whole shall have adequate 254 opportunities of examining and improving the regulations whatever their terms may be.
§ 5.48 p.m.
§ Mr. Stephen
I desire to support the new Clause. I recognise, however, that whatever Government is in office the Opposition generally put forward a proposal such as this, and it depends on which side of the House one is what line one takes with regard to this matter of regulations. I remember that, when I was on the opposite side of the House, I went into the Lobby against my own Government to try to get the principle embodied in this Amendment carried. On looking back, I do not know whether I was altogether as wise as I thought I was on that occasion, but the issue here is somewhat narrower, and there is in all quarters of the House a recognition that this process of government by regulation which has grown up in recent years has very many faults. It has its conveniences, especially for harassed Ministers, but there seems to be a general recognition in the House that there is something wrong with the present practice. It may be that the old leisurely legislation of days when problems were not so complicated as they are to-day allowed of more examination by the House of Commons of specific pieces of legislation, and I dare say a certain amount of regulation and order is necessary in connection with our legislative machinery to-day. There is, however, a general feeling in the House that the present practice is not sound. The present procedure, whereby attention can be called to deficiencies in regulations by a Prayer that is taken after 11 o'clock, is not adequate.
I put it to the Minister of Labour that he should make a concession in regard to this matter. The new Clause provides an opportunity for trying out another part of the machinery of the government of the country. If it were accepted, no great harm or delay could follow, and it would provide us with a very good idea whether along this line we might be able to gain a certain advantage in the maintenance of democracy in this country. It applies only to a very limited section of the working of the unemployment insurance scheme. The present Minister of Labour thinks of himself as an open-minded person, ready to listen to argument and ready to experiment. He might give us a lead in this respect. The definitions 255 that will have to be made in these regulations are certainly definitions which will necessitate consultation in the House, because at present the practice in dealing with holiday periods is different in different parts of the country, and if the House has the opportunity of modifying the definitions suggested by the Minister in the light of the different experience in different parts of the country, it will be of very great advantage to all concerned.
I would remind the Minister that when the first set of regulations were made under the Act of 1934, there was a misprint in the draft originally put before the House. It was discovered by the hon. Member for Normanton (Mr. T. Smith) that a wrong word had been put in and the sentence did not make sense. But neither the House nor the Minister could amend or modify the draft, and a whole day of Parliamentary time was lost because the draft regulations had to be withdrawn and brought in again the next day with the grammatical error corrected. That showed that our rigid system is a wrong system. There is no doubt that the people behind the Minister on his own benches do not like the present procedure, and feel that some change ought to be made, but, in spite of all the appeals that have been made to Ministers from time to time, they have always shut their eyes to the necessity for alteration. I do not know whether they are too much in the possession of their friends under the Gallery or of the civil servants, who naturally like to keep the matter as it is, because it means that in Britain, if we have not government by Hitler, we have now very largely government by civil servants. I hope that Members in all quarters of the House will insist on using this opportunity to see that the House of Commons has a more adequate say in what is being done.
§ 5.58 p.m.
§ Mr. A. Jenkins
I want to add a word to the appeal that has been made to the Minister to accept this new Clause. I feel that very substantial inroads are being made into the powers of Parliament, and I hope the right hon. Gentleman will take steps to see that the powers of which for so many years Parliament has been proud will be preserved. The first Clauses of the Bill extend to the Minister power to legislate by regulation, and, in 256 spite of what has been said about the procedure by Prayer, it means that the House has very little power indeed. During the Debate I have been looking up the book written by the Lord Chief Justice, entitled "The New Despotism," which is very closely related to the report of the Donoughmore Committee in 1932. It is significant that the present Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Labour often quoted that, and endeavoured to limit the powers of Ministers very substantially. I do not know what attitude he is going to take to-day when he comes to reply, but that report recommended that the powers of Ministers should be limited very substantially, whereas here there is very little limitation of them. With regard to this matter the Lord Chief Justice wrote:Writers on the Constitution have for a long time taught that its two leading features are the sovereignty of Parliament and the rule of law.If the Bill stands as it is, the sovereignty of Parliament will be substantially weakened, and the power of Parliament under these regulations will be very limited indeed. The Lord Chief Justice goes on to say that in the old days the power of the King to dominate Parliament was defeated, but that method has now been abandoned; and he proceeds:In those days the method was to defy Parliament—and it failed. In these days the method is to cajole, to coerce, and to use Parliament—and it is strangely successful. The old despotism, which was defeated, offered Parliament a challenge. The new despotism, which is not yet defeated, gives Parliament an anaesthetic. The strategy is different, but the goal is the same. It is to subordinate Parliament, to evade the courts, and to render the will, or the caprice, of the Executive unfettered and supreme.That, I think, sums up the position of this Debate to-day. It hands over to the Executive supreme control. That, in my judgment, is wrong; and I hope every Member of this House will try to preserve to Parliament the liberties and rights to which so many centuries of battle have been given. I want to remind the Parliamentary Secretary of his attitude with regard to the Donoughmore Committee. He did, time after time, support the recommendations for the limitation of the powers of Ministers, and I hope that he will be consistent: that he will abide by his own recommendations and agree to accept the Amendment.
§ 6.1 p.m.
§ The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Labour (Mr. Lennox-Boyd)
I assure the lion. Member for Pontypool (Mr. Jenkins) that I will not attempt to evade my responsibility in answering any charges that may be brought against me for inconsistency, though I think I should be less than human if I failed to point out that when I once sought to limit the powers of Ministers I was not a Minister myself. The two hon. Members who have spoken have drawn attention to what they regard as a general desire on the part of the community to see that Parliamentary responsibility and powers are not abrogated. With that I entirely agree. There is also a desire on the part of the community, and not least on the part of hon. Members who have spoken to-day, that social reform should go on. It would be rather ironic if, owing to a quite proper desire to see that Parliament does not lose its control, hon. Members succeeded in limiting the powers of my right hon. Friend or the Unemployment Insurance Statutory Committee in such a way that improvements were rendered impossible. Hon. Members must see this problem in the proper proportion.
I will endeavour to describe the various checks and safeguards which make this procedure proof against the improprieties to which I recognise I did, at the time of the Donoughmore Report, draw attention in this House. There are two forms of regulations provided for under this Bill. The Minister may make regulations for determining whether or not the insured contributor is on holiday and whether payments which he has received have been made in respect of the holiday. It is my right hon. Friend's intention to issue these regulations about October. We hope that that will be possible. It is not intended that they shall become operative until T8th January next year. These regulations, as the hon. Member for Camlachie (Mr. Stephen) must recognise, involve a great variety of different circumstances and conditions, an infinite variety, which it is almost impossible to conceive as being properly dealt with within the form of a Parliamentary Bill or the ambit of a Parliamentary Debate.
There is also the second set of regulations, which are not so important as the first lot, to which I think I would be in 258 order in drawing attention. They arise on the Amendment which stands in the name of my right hon. Friend to insert certain words at the end of Clause 1, page 3, line 2. This is to meet a special case. If that case was not met a number of people might suffer. It is our intention, when this Bill becomes an Act, that those regulations should be made at once. The hon. Member for Dundee (Mr. Foot) wants, instead of the normal procedure, a new and special procedure to be followed in this case. He wants the regulations to be brought before Parliament and to be subject to full Parliamentary control. I would draw his attention to the report of the Beveridge Committee, which, for reasons that I wholly understand, was not quoted by any hon. Member who has spoken. The Beveridge Committee knew the difficulty of defining holidays. The same difficulties as confronted them confront the Government at the present moment. If the hon. Member for Dundee or any other hon. Member will turn to the Beveridge Committee's report on Holidays and Suspensions in relation to Unemployment Insurance, they will find that on page 15, in paragraph 32, these words occur:The principle is clear and should now be embodied in the statutory conditions defining unemployment. But the application of the principle to the infinitely varying conditions of industrial life involves questions of detail for which some flexibility of procedure is required. Legislation on the subject referred to us—and some legislation is obviously needed—should take the form of laying down the general principle that holidays are not unemployment, while leaving details to be worked out in regulations, to be made by the ordinary procedure, involving report by ourselves after receipt of representations from employers and workpeople.When the hon. Member for South Bradford (Mr. Holdsworth) suggested that what was in fact going to happen was that civil servants were going to have unlimited control, and when the hon. Member for Pontypool suggested that it was only my right hon. Friend who would have this responsibility, they lost sight of the important fact that the regulations will go before the Unemployment Insurance Statutory Committee. My right hon. Friend will put up the draft to the committee, and in this procedure it would be foolish to deny that the help of officers of our Department will be of great benefit. The draft is put up to the Unemployment Insurance Statutory Committee. They then publish a notice and ask for com- 259 ments and evidence. All sorts of interested parties will be called upon to give their evidence if they wish. The hon. Member for Dundee can go and give evidence himself. It is no disparagement of the hon. Member to say that the evidence of experts who are vitally affected or who are responsible to people who are vitally affected has a value that is the real justification of this procedure.
§ Mr. Foot
I am very anxious to follow the hon. Member's argument. The argument, if I understand it properly, is that all sorts of outside organisations, representing employers and employed, are to have a hand in framing and drafting the regulations, but the only authority which is to have no hand in it is the House of Commons.
§ Mr. Lennox-Boyd
The hon. Member cannot get away with that. That is not so at all. I merely mention this to show that Members of the House of Commons have their normal right as citizens to go to the committee and give evidence, in their capacity as ordinary public-spirited citizens. At a later stage the House of Commons will have full power of consideration and control.
§ Mr. Lennox-Boyd
After about four more sentences, when I have finished this particular argument, I will give way to the hon. Member. When the committee has obtained evidence it will report to my right hon. Friend, and he will make regulations. It is true these regulations will come into force at once; and it will not be to the disadvantage of recipients of unemployment benefit that that is so. The regulations will, however, come before the House of Commons. It will be possible for this House within 20 days to reject them, after a Prayer has been introduced. It is true that it may be difficult to get an intelligent and sustained discussion on a matter which has been brought before the House as the result of a Prayer, but if there is a feeling that real injustice has been done is it suggested that this House would be so neglectful of its responsibility that it would fail to remedy that injustice?
§ Mr. Lennox-Boyd
That is a tribute to the way that the Act has worked. Now I will give way to the hon. Member for Seaham (Mr. Shinwell).
§ Mr. Shinwell
The hon. Member has, in fact, answered the point I was about to put. He has made it quite clear that, having gone through all the procedure he has described, the House of Commons has no control in regard to amending the regulations.
§ Mr. Lennox-Boyd
What I have described is the usual procedure. In this case, as the hon. Member for Dundee knows, it is our intention, after the whole of the preliminary procedure has been gone through, to make the regulations available in draft to Members of the House but not to put them into operation until some weeks afterwards, not before 18th January. In this case, although the procedure remains the same in theory, in practice every hon. Member who wishes to avail himself of the opportunity would have a full chance, during those weeks, to discuss these regulations, and an opportunity would be provided for these regulations to be rejected. I think, therefore, that it can fairly be said that there is an opportunity for Parliamentary control.
§ Mr. Lennox-Boyd
I said there would be a period of some weeks during which the regulations would be available for Members of the House, between the time when they appear and when they come into operation. I also referred to the normal procedure of the 20 days period allowed for a Prayer. [Interruption.] I have given way sufficiently, as the House as a whole will agree. There are one or two other points which I feel I ought to bring to the attention of the House because they are germane to the arguments of the hon. Member. The regulations can say that a man or woman is on holiday or not. Since Clause 1 comes into force on 18th January—and this Clause says that, if the insured contributor is on holiday, he does not get 261 benefit or continuity—it follows that some of those who might under the proposed regulations not be deemed to be on holiday would suffer unless our proposed procedure were followed, and if we were to go through the whole Parliamentary performance, if I may, with respect, use the word that comes easiest to my mouth. Also, if we deal with the holiday regulations in this way, we must deal in the same way also with the other regulations to which I have drawn attention. This would, however, cause hardship. I hope, therefore, that I have said enough to suggest that the course we propose is the proper course to pursue. If not, the reason may be found not in any inadequacy of the arguments I have put forward, but rather in the morning-after realisation of the Opposition party that the Ministry of Labour yesterday presented such an unanswerable case.
§ 6.15 p.m.
§ Mr. Lawson
The House will be satisfied now that there will be no opportunity at all of dealing with and amending these regulations. The hon. Member was chivvied by my hon. Friend the Member for Pontypool (Mr. Jenkins) about his past deeds in this matter, and he had the privilege of "meeting himself coming back" upon this particular point. He gave an answer that was typical of his frame of mind when he said, "It is all right; so long as I am here, you need not have any fear." I ask the Minister and the House to remember that I have previously said that this Bill was going to do rather serious things. We had regulations laid before us once before. It is nonsense to say that the House can influence such regulations. [Interruption.] There was a general impression that the hon. Gentleman told the House that draft regulations would be laid before the House for six weeks.
§ Mr. Lawson
When we have had regulations before they have been designed to deal with matters definitely provided for in a particular Bill, but this Bill has been introduced for the sole reason to give the right hon. Gentleman the power to make regulations to alter other Measures which have been in operation for a long time. The right hon. Gentleman has put other things into this Bill in order to gild the 262 pill, but the one object of introducing the Bill is to ask for regulations in order to take away some of the rights of the unemployed. The hon. Gentleman never met that point at all. He went round and round. He is developing quite a first-class technique as a Minister, but he never met this particular point. I would remind the House of an occasion when regulations were introduced and certain hon. Members opposite pleaded with the Government, who had a bigger majority than they have now, to amend the regulations. The Government said that they could not alter them. The Minister himself said so. There were signs of violence in the country. Although there were just 50 of us in Opposition, the whole country was in such a turmoil that the Minister had to come forward and withdraw the whole of the regulations. These are the facts. The Government had to withdraw those regulations because of the violence that was developing in the country. The Minister upon this important matter has put up the hon. Gentleman the Parliamentary Secretary to make a statement, not to meet criticism, but skilfully to avoid it. I do not know whether the Noble Lady the Member for Sutton (Viscountess Astor) considers this amusing or not.
§ Mr. Lawson
The Noble Lady seems to treat this as amusing, but I can tell her that she will have some of the unemployed on her track as a result of the operation of this Bill.
§ Mr. Lawson
No, probably the Noble Lady is not afraid, but I know parts of the country where she would be afraid.
§ Mr. Lawson
All I can say is that, if the Noble Lady had been here during the whole of the Debate, she would have realised that this is a very serious matter.
§ Mr. Lawson
The Noble Lady has no right, in face of the fact that she is clothed in fine linen and lives softly in high places, to treat this matter lightly.
§ Mr. Lawson
I will return to the remarks of the hon. Gentleman the Parliamentary Secretary in dealing with regulations under this Bill. The right hon. Gentleman should have taken the course of consulting the House and laying draft regulations before it. The power for which he is asking is so great and will make so much difference. We shall go into the Lobby with the hon. Gentleman, if he decides to challenge a Division, in support of this Clause. I think that the right hon. Gentleman will find that he has made a mistake in not deciding to lay the regulations in draft.
§ 6.25 p.m.
§ Mr. S. O. Davies
The fact that a backbencher has dared to get up, after the very strong protest which my hon. Friend the Member for Chester-le-Street (Mr. Lawson) has made from the Front Opposition Bench, will be taken, I hope, as an indication of how extremely seriously we regard the matter that is before the House. Personally, I can understand the reason that has animated the right hon. Gentleman in permitting an outrage of this kind to be perpetrated not only against the House, but against the unemployed, who will suffer as a result of regulations to be imposed without this House having an opportunity of approving them. I quite understand the spirit of the right hon. Gentleman. Every Debate in this House on unemployment, or on any aspect of unemployment, makes the right hon. Gentleman more unpopular in the country. It will be a very long time before the unemployed in this country can forget and forgive certain statements which the right hon. Gentleman made yesterday, and now the right hon. Gentleman is lending himself more willingly. and, apparently, more enthusiastically than ever before, to legislation by subterfuge, and even by fraud. What hon. Gentlemen on the Government benches 264 have not appreciated is the fact that already, by regulation, a most elaborate penal instrument and code has been developed in the background without this House having any but a very meagre opportunity of examining and of protesting effectively against it. It has already been said this evening that, if the regulations governing the application of the means test had come before this House, scores of representatives on the Government side would not have dared to have gone into the Lobby in support of them. We have heard the right hon. Gentleman talk rather glibly about the means test, but this House has never appreciated the hurt and the humiliation of the means test outside.
§ Mr. Davies
I do not propose to elaborate it, other than to give an illustration, and I am trying to give it clearly and effectively. What evil is involved in these regulations administered by outside bodies who—and I say it deliberately—have not had the experience and the knowledge to draft such regulations and see them applied decently and humanely among the unemployed of this country. Should this House be a party to the passing of regulations in order to build up such a complicated structure as to enable the law to be made by the umpire? I can quite understand why the Parliamentary Secretary so eloquently defends this practice. We know that he has no love for democracy, no regard for constitutional government, and would like to be in a position to impose totalitarianism on the people of this country, apart from the opposition in this House. We have seen the evils which have arisen from the issue of regulations before. We have seen homes destroyed and concentration camps, misnamed as reconditioning camps, created by regulation, and we shall continue to object to any attempt on the part of the right hon. Gentleman to impose restrictions upon the unemployed by throwing the responsibility upon outside bodies, because he knows that every Debate on unemployment in this House reveals how mean-spirited he is as far as the unemployed are concerned.
§ 6.32 p.m.
§ Mr. G. Griffiths
I want to take up a phrase which the Parliamentary Secretary 265 used when he said that these regulations would be for the benefit of the recipients. The Parliamentary Secretary did not tell the House that Clause 1 of the Bill is going to take away no less than £400,000 from these recipients in connection with holidays, but he says that the Minister, if there is power to make regulations, may ease the situation. We do not want any easing of the situation. Any alteration in the matter of holidays with pay made by regulations must not make things worse for the people. We desire that these men shall be as well off after the Clause goes through as they are at present. I was speaking at a meeting of 850 men on Sunday morning, and I put this Clause in front of them. They at once said that holidays would not in the future be linking-up days. It is all very well for the Parliamentary Secretary to laugh about it, or for hon. Members opposite to do so. They have not to put their feet under the table and live on 3s. 10½d. a day. The men at present are able to play on Good Friday—
§ Mr. Lawson
May I draw your attention to the fact that these regulations will deal with the first six Clauses in the Bill, and is not the hon. Member within his rights in discussing what the regulations will do?
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker
That may be right, and I am not preventing the hon. Member discussing that point, but he was getting rather wide when he was discussing Clause 1.
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker
I have given all the Rulings I intend to give on this point. I have not given a general Ruling on the matter; it is a Ruling dealing with a specific point. I have merely given a warning that I thought the hon. Member was going beyond the question before the House.
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker
The hon. Member is perfectly right in doing so and I have allowed him to do so.
§ Mr. G. Griffiths
I am much interested in the question of holidays with pay, and the Minister may by regulations vary it. I want to make sure that in the future, after this Bill becomes an Act, a man's unemployment benefit will not be affected because the linking-up days have gone. There are linking-up days, waiting days, and continuity days. A man can play on Good Friday, that is a holiday. He can be unemployed on Saturday, that is a working day and counts for pay. He can play on Easter Monday, that is a holiday. In the past he has been able to pick up one day's unemployment benefit because the other two were linking-up days. That is to go. In the future he will not be able to do so because the two holidays are not to be regarded as linking-up days. I say that this House of Commons should have the final say in this matter. The Minister of Labour puts up the Parliamentary Secretary, who talks for 20 minutes and says nothing. I guarantee that now he has sat down he does not know what he said. Indeed, the further he went on the bigger mess he made of it. [Interruption.] I am not going to tire of telling hon. Members opposite the facts about unemployment and part-time employment. I have been through the mill. I understand it, and there is nobody who will suffer more than the miners because they are working on short time. In a pit in my division, which employs 4,000 men, the men have never worked more than four days in a week since 1926, and they have lost thousands of pounds. I hope the Minister will agree to accept the new Clause.
§ 6.40 p.m.
§ Mr. Gallacher
A remark made by the hon. Member for Hemsworth (Mr. G. Griffiths) struck me as one worthy of great consideration. He said in connection with his argument that this House should have the last word so far as regulations affecting the earlier Clauses of the Bill are concerned; that "we are the people who should decide." Is there an hon. Member who will dare to deny that the hon. Member is absolutely correct in that proposition? We are the people who should decide. I represent many men and women who are suffering from unemployment, and I do not suppose that there are 267 many hon. Members in the House who have not unemployed men and women among their constituents. It is their duty to represent them in this House, and they have no right whatever to divest themselves, or allow themselves to be divested, of that responsibility. Unemployed men and women come to us and ask for assistance on many questions. Many of them earnestly believe that the Member who represents them is anxious to do his utmost for them; all kinds of promises and pledges are given at election time. Hon. Members may evade their responsibilities when they come here, but there is not one who at election time has not given solemn pledges to the people, including the unemployed, that he or she would earnestly seek to represent their best interests. Here we are in a situation where something which is of the most vital interest to these men and women is to be decided outside and quite apart from the House of Commons. It is an unbelievable situation.
If hon. Members will read the newspapers they will see that Hitler has made a speech, and they will also see that the Parliamentary Secretary was and is associated with Hitler. [Interruption.] That has to be taken into account. A man cannot divest himself of his mode of thought or the interest with which he is concerned, and the fact remains that we are faced with the situation that on all questions which affect many thousands of families in this country the Minister of Labour has a Parliamentary Secretary who is a notorious Fascist. [Interruption.] I hope hon. Members will continue to call me a Communist, and certainly, I shall do my best to deserve that title. The Parliamentary Secretary has a very great responsibility in this matter, and he has made it clear that he believes in the totalitarian method of government and all that goes with it. We cannot close our eyes to that fact when considering the question of the regulations and the unemployed. It is the duty of every hon. Member to tell the unemployed in his constituency the character of the men who will be responsible for the regulations that will affect their lives. Apart altogether from the very cogent arguments advanced by the hon. Member for Hemsworth in regard to the regulations and their effect on holidays with pay, and many other 268 matters about which the unemployed are concerned, I wish that hon. Members opposite could be with some of us occasionally when we are sitting in working-class homes and the men and women there are talking to us about the regulations and asking us questions about this, that and the other thing.
Do hon. Members opposite, who have been born, fortunately or unfortunately, as the case may be—for when I look at some of them, I realise that the conditions into which they have been born has been a calamity not only to themselves but to the country — into such a different condition from that of the unemployed, ever think of how these men and women are harassed and of the agony of mind which they have to endure because of the character of the regulations? I know that many of the men who have the responsibility for operating these regulations are in every sense humane men, trying to do their best in the limited conditions under which they are working. Occasionally, I have been to them and I have found that there are many of them who would willingly and gladly tear up the regulations that they are at present operating without having any new regulations to operate. But I can remember others who make use of the opportunity that is given to them by the regulations of playing the part of little Napoleons in their areas. Of course, if one looks at the Minister of Labour, one can understand that if the men who are operating the regulations have any desire to emulate him, then it is a case of God help the unemployed. I often imagine that I can see the Secretary of State for War posing before a full-length mirror—conscious or all the mighty services he has carried through in connection with the conscription of youth—looking at himself, and muttering, "Damn the Minister of Labour; how can he be Napoleon?" There is no doubt about the fact that the Minister of Labour has that idea in his head, for he is continually flaunting the fact that he has been in his job so long—so different from the others fellows round about him—and has been reducing unemployment, and that there is now only a hard core, and so on, forgetting the fact that over 1,000,000 are unemployed for short periods at a time, which means that nearly 3,000,000 or 4,000,000 people in this country are completely lacking in security. They are in work one week and out of work the next.
269 It is these 3,000,000 or 4,000,000 people on whom the regulations are to be imposed. The regulations will not merely affect 1,500,000 people; these 3,000,000 or 4,000,000 people will be affected by them. Yet hon. Members behind the Government, the robot majority, simply walk into the Division Lobby and vote away their responsibility. Surely, that is not going to continue without end. Surely, the time is coming when hon. Members will realise what is happening, and take up the task that has been placed upon them as a result of the vote at the General Election, and carry out the pledges which they gave then. How many hon. Members opposite, at the last Election, gave pledges, not to abolish the means test, but to ease it? There is scarcely an hon. Member opposite who did not give a pledge at that time, but the regulations were of such a character that they could do nothing after they had given their pledges. Let hon. Members go to any constituency and read the Election literature that was issued and the reports of the speeches that were made. I do not suppose that there were half a dozen hon. Members opposite who did not at that Election agree that the operation of the means test was far too harsh and that something would have to be done to ease it; but the regulations were there, and hon. Members could do nothing. [Interruption.] An attempt is being made to distract my attention by an hon. Member who is a notorious seeker after publicity, but I do not intend to be distracted.
I come now to another question. Hon. Members opposite took the responsibility of supporting the conscription of the youth of this country, the lads of 20. Many of these lads are unemployed now, and many thousands of them will be unemployed after the six months of service are over. I ask hon. Members opposite whether they are going to do their duty by these lads towards whom they have taken that responsibility? When these lads finish their six months' service and come out, they will be faced with these regulations. Are hon. Members opposite going to say to them, "We are calling you up for service to the country, we are calling you up, if need be, to die for the country, but when your training is over, we are not concerned about what happens to you; we are going to leave the regulations to the Minister of Labour and Franco's pal, who is assisting him; we are going to leave the 270 regulations to them, and not interest ourselves in what the regulations will be." I think that would be in every sense of the word, not simply a dereliction of duty, but a criminal dereliction of duty on the part of hon. Members opposite.
§ Mr. Gallacher
That is a remark with which I can agree wholeheartedly, but no matter how criminal they may be, there is always a crime at which even the worst criminal may hesitate, and this is a case in point. I put the matter straight to hon. Members opposite. On that ground alone of the calling up of these lads—
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker
I must warn the hon. Member that in my opinion a great deal of what he has been saying during the last few minutes has been irrelevant.
§ Mr. Gallacher
I would like to know from you, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, whether it is irrelevant to suggest that if hon. Members opposite have a responsibility towards these lads who are being called up, they also have a responsibility towards them when they finish their training. Who can tell what may happen within the next six months? These lads may die for their country, or they may be unemployed.
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker
I ask the hon. Member to take note of the warning I gave him just now, and if he persists in going on with this kind of irrelevant remarks, I shall have to ask him to resume his seat.
§ Mr. Gallacher
I want to ask hon. Members opposite whether they are prepared to allow the responsibility for shaping the regulations that will affect the lives of thousands of lads of this country, for whom they have taken a great responsibility, to pass out of their hands. Are they going to say to these lads, "We do not care what happens to you?" Of course, if the regulations are very bad and cause very great hardship, hon. Members opposite will give a great deal of sympathy to the people affected; because one always finds that the one thing we can get is a ready flow of sympathy. But when a man is unemployed, when he and his wife and children have to live on the fare of the unemployed, when they are borne down by harsh regulations, sympathy is not of very much use. Good regulations are of much greater value 271 than sympathy. If we want to get good regulations, which can be relied upon to protect the interests of those who are affected by them, then the regulations should be discussed and decided in the House. That is not going to happen Hon. Members on this side are asking only that Parliament and hon. Members should accept the responsibility that was taken on at the General Election. As my hon. Friend the Member for Hemsworth said, we here are the people who should and must have the last word. Do not let us hand over the regulations to some particular group of bureaucrats. Do not let us leave these people to be harassed and worried as they so often are, until they are in a condition almost bordering on insanity in many cases. I have met many people in whose cases continual worry has led to a state of complete un-settlement of the mind. It is a terrible thing that people can be harassed and worried as they often are in this country, especially by regulations regarding unemployment. I remember an experience that I once had in a Welsh village. I was going to a house there, and in going down the street, I noticed women standing at the doors of several houses. I had a portfolio under my arm as I walked down the street, and suddenly realised that the women had disappeared from the doorways. [Interruption.] I am talking about the regulations.
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker
If the hon. Member is addressing that remark to me, I must ask him to discuss the Clause before the House.
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker
The hon. Member, in doing so, would do well to remember the three warnings that I have given him.
§ Mr. Gallacher
I want to give an example of how the regulations work in order to impress upon Members the necessity of taking responsibility for controlling them. When I got to the door of the house to which I was going the woman came out, but I had the greatest difficulty in getting her to talk to me because she thought I was the means test man come about some regulations, whereas I wanted to see her husband on entirely different business. We should 272 have a minimum of regulations and they should be considered here in the House, and every Member should take the responsibility of seeing to it that he is considering the position of his constituents according to his election pledges. He should not simply give automatic support to the Government, but should make certain that by his action in the House he is doing everything possible in the interest of the unemployed in his constituency. It is not simply the great and the wealthy whom we represent. It is not simply the big organisations. We have to take into account and give the most consideration to those who are the hardest hit in the struggle for life—those who have been suffering from the greatest adversity. I ask hon. Members opposite to support the new Clause so that when the regulations are drawn up they will come before the House and it will be our responsibility to see that they are of such a character as to make things as easy as possible for the unemployed.
§ 7.3 p.m.
§ Mr. Magnay
I should be false to my conscience and judgment if I did not say a few words on this matter. I think the new Clause is right, but I regret the speech we have just heard. The hon. Member has done his very utmost by his extravagant statements to obscure the real issue, which is to me the sovereign rights of Parliament. Only a few days ago I uttered my protest against bureaucracy in excelsis on a Private Member's Bill dealing with coast erosion. There have been Kings and Queens who have desired to do what the bureaucracy of the day desire to do, and they have paid very heavily indeed. When one talked about the divine right of Kings we cut his head off to stop his arguing about it. That was the end of him. He was not able to continue the argument. But what amazes me, too, is that from those benches there should be standing up for Liberal principles the very last people in the world to do it, especially a Communist, who cannot believe in the Liberal principles which have made this country great. If the present Minister and his colleague were always to remain in Office, I should be quite easy about it. This is precisely what the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for East Bristol (Sir S. Cripps) said he would do when the Labour party came into power.
273 He will correct me if I am wrong, but I think he said he would take certain powers and if necessary, by implication, that he would close Parliament.
§ Sir Stafford Cripps
I will correct the hon. Member as he is wrong. What I suggested was that regulations should be under the close control of the House of Commons, that they should be capable of amendment by a committee of the House in order to expedite procedure, and that no regulations should be made which were not capable of amendment by the House.
§ Mr. Magnay
I am very glad that I was wrong, and I have no doubt that careful note will be made of that interjection for future purposes at general elections. Certainly I shall. I will never agree to the powers of Parliament being filched away by any bureaucracy, however good. Neither expedition nor any other excuse is good enough for me. We must have the right to say whether we will amend them. It is required of stewards that they be faithful. I am not going to agree, in spite of my friendship and loyalty to the National Government, to these inalienable rights being taken away from Members of Parliament. As trustees for those rights we must have the power to amend if we so desire. If we do not, that is our business, but we must have the right.
§ 7.6 p.m.
§ Mr. Wedgwood Benn
There is a matter that I should like to put to you, Sir. I am not sure whether it is a point of Order, but the Minister referred to questions put from the Chair and votes of the House on these regulations in a contemptuous way as Parliamentary performances. I think it is worth while that attention should be called to that, especially in view of the well-known outlook of the Minister in question. [Interruption.] I do not think it is a waste of time.
§ Mr. Stephen
On a point of Order. Is a member on the Government Bench entitled to interrupt another Member and accuse him of wasting time?
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Sir Dennis Herbert)
I do not think it was an observation of an unusual kind or that it interrupted the hon. Member.
§ Mr. Buchanan
Is it not extremely bad taste for a man who is more responsible for waste of Government time than anyone else, the chief Whip, to make that interjection?
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker
The hon. Member must not appeal to me on that question of taste. I have intimated that I saw no reason to interfere.
§ Mr. Benn
What is and what is not waste of time must always be a matter of controversy, and I make no complaint about that, but I do make serious complaint that, for the first time, as far as I know, in recent years, a Minister has thought fit to describe the processes of this House as Parliamentary performances. If it is possible that any comment could be made from the Chair on a remark which I think disrespectful to the House I wish it could be done. If not, I shall be satisfied with having drawn attention to it.
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker
The difficulty in the way of any observation from the Chair on the point, is that the right hon. Gentleman is too late in raising it: he should have done it at the time. The question of the objectionable nature or otherwise of the word "performance" probably lies in the mind of the listener rather than in the user of the word.
§ 7.11 p.m.
§ Mr. E. J. Williams
We sat for many hours discussing the regulations under the principal Act. The point, as I see it, is that the Minister is seeking to legislate outside Parliament. I challenge the Government with deliberately attempting for the last six or seven years to deprive the unemployed man of his political rights. The imposition of the means test was primarily for that purpose, and the regulations made it practically impossible for any unemployed person to ventilate his grievances properly in Parliament. The only way by which these matters can be debated is upon a 275 Prayer after eleven o'clock at night. We may debate them until one or two o'clock in the morning, as we have done in times gone by, and although it may be the desire, as I think it is now, of a large number of Members to amend them, it is impossible under such procedure for any Amendment to take place. Everyone in the House welcomes the innovation of holidays with pay on a large scale. It is possible for the Minister to issue regulations which will substantially militate against the success of something which everyone in the House, I am sure, appreciates. The House will never have the opportunity again of amending anything pertaining to the regulations unless they indicate now in the Division Lobby that they are opposed to the Minister obtaining these powers.
Harsh words have been used against the Parliamentary Secretary. I do not know whether he is in the same frame of mind now as when he used to speak from below the Gangway, but he will realise that we have cause to suspect his political predilections. We hope that he will learn, as he gets older, the value of Parliamentary government. I hope he will endeavour to learn how the powers of Parliament are slowly slipping away to the executive; how the executive is growing more and more powerful, while we are legislating through all kinds of boards such as import boards. Slowly but surely we are introducing something in this country which good Parliamentarians abhor. It is a phase of Fascism without any parades of the troops. We are taking away from Parliament its powers and handing them over, in some cases, to boards of non-elected people who are not answerable to the electorate for their conduct. That is what these regulations imply. All the time individuals can be selected by the Minister to administer matters which concern the lives of millions of people, and those to whom these powers are handed over, are not answerable either to constituents or to this House. That is something which I feel certain most hon. Members do not welcome, if they are in reality Parliamentarians.
I would not care to speak disrespectfully of Members of this House, but during the eight years that I have been here, I have heard many of them ad- 276 vocating vested interests. I have seen the introduction of tariff reform and all the rest of it. I have heard special pleading for all kinds of vested interests. I have seen Parliamentary government slowly becoming disreputable. But the one class who have not a vested interest are the unemployed. They are absolutely defenceless. They are not organised in large numbers. Each unemployed person has to depend almost entirely upon his own Member of Parliament to ventilate his grievances. Unless provided with the opportunity of not only ventilating their grievances but obtaining some consideration in these matters which concern their interest, the unemployed in this country will be obliged to take other courses, and the last thing in the world that hon. Members would desire to see done by the unemployed or by any other body of people who are suffering hardship is the adoption of measures other than the legitimate means of ventilating their grievances through this House.
For that reason I support the volume of opinion which has been expressed indicating that most Members are not satisfied with the procedure which it is proposed to adopt in relation to these regulations. I hope the Minister will reflect again. It is no use for him to talk about old Radical days. I remember when he sat here below the Gangway. I have watched him looking up towards the Press Gallery, perhaps seeking inspiration for those interjections which he continually made in those days. I can still see him doing all those things. But I trust he realises that the last vestige of Radicalism is being destroyed by seeking the power to issue such regulations over the heads of Parliament. If the right hon. Gentleman has not passed right over to the other side, I trust he will reflect again and that most of the back bench Members on both sides will indicate in the Division Lobby that they are prepared to scrap for their Parliamentary rights, particularly when it also means fighting on behalf of a defenceless class of people like the unemployed.
§ 7.20 p.m.
§ Mr. Mainwaring
This new Clause has now been under discussion for over two hours and we have succeded in inducing two Government supporters to declare themselves in favour of it. I wonder how many hours it will be necessary to discuss 277 it until we have won over a sufficient number of Government supporters to ensure success in the Division Lobby. If the procedure proposed by the Government merits the condemnation that has been heaped upon it this afternoon, then any action to prevent it being carried in this House would be justified. It would merit the continuance of this discussion right through the night that is before us. It would merit a determination here and now on the part of the Opposition, to continue every day and on every Bill that comes before the House, the utmost possible resistance. If what we say be right, then all our efforts at opposition are fully justified. If this is Fascism, a thing which we all condemn and which we hope will never be established fully in this country, if this sort of procedure is undermining Parliamentary institutions and custom, then there is nothing from which we should keep our hands, in our endeavour to prevent it.
What have we before us? A very simple case. A system of holidays with pay has been introduced in a number of our industries. Because the principle of holidays with pay has been accepted in several industries the Minister of Labour at once asks, "How many times and at what periods of the year may a man become unemployed so that we can compel him to use his holiday pay in lieu of unemployment benefit?" That is the sum and substance of the Government proposal. How many times a year can the Minister rid himself of responsibility under this system? He can do it apparently five times in the year, or even more. There are miners in South Wales and no doubt in other parts of the country who have already, this year, been deprived of holiday pay by the Minister. They have been unemployed once or twice this year already and their holiday pay has been utilised in lieu of unemployment benefit. The only suggestion put forward in an attempt to justify this matter being taken out of the hands of Parliament is the suggestion that there will be such an infinite variety of conditions throughout the country in relation to this matter, that Parliament could not deal with them. I ask the Minister whether it would not be possible to give the House some estimate of this so-called "infinite variety" of conditions? Are there 100 different sets of conditions to be contemplated? That would not be an infinite variety. Would 278 the Minister care to suggest that 100 different sets of conditions would arise under this scheme of holidays with pay?
Whatever the number may be, even if you follow the procedure which has been outlined by the Parliamentary Secretary, the Minister himself will make the first draft of what he considers to be necessary to meet this infinite variety of conditions. With his permanent staff and his advisers he will analyse these various conditions and arrive at certain conclusions and send a draft to the Statutory Committee and then that non-Parliamentary body will notify any interested parties. What does that mean? It may be asked what is Parliament doing? What are Labour Members doing on these benches? What do the working class send us here for when they are now to be invited to send other representatives to another body to deal with this matter.
§ Mr. Gallacher
On a point of Order. Is an hon. Member privileged to walk about the House trying to create a disturbance while another hon. Member is speaking?
§ Mr. Mainwaring
Here we have a situation in which the Minister, instead of submitting his draft regulations, his considered judgment of what will meet the circumstances of holidays with pay throughout the country, to this House, proposes to submit them to another body. Why not submit them directly to the judgment of this House, since he has already done his job in arriving at these conclusions? But no—presumably that is no longer the privilege of the House of Commons. This matter is to be submitted to an outside body, a Statutory Committee whose members have less experience of the industries of this country than the Members of this House. Then what of the trade unions who will be directly interested? It is folly to talk about the employers' association being interested. The trade unions and the workmen who are not organised—they are the people who will be interested in this and they are to be invited from the length and breadth of the country to send representatives to this committee. Then when the committee have finished their investigation and considered any representations made to them, I suppose they will report 279 back to the Minister with any suggestions which they have to make.
Once again the Minister will have to revise his own job. Is he to admit that he has been wrong in certain particulars? Even if he does admit that he has been wrong in some respects, and modifies his original draft, by the time it is laid on the Table of the House it will have become operative in the country. When the matter comes before the House, on an occasion when a Prayer may be urged against the regulations, will the Minister undertake to say that the Whips will not be put on by the Government and that supporters of the Government will be free to vote against these regulations? The regulations will then have been weighted by the authority of the Minister and the discipline of the party opposite will ensure their acceptance. Neither in practice nor in theory can the House of Commons vary the regulations in the slightest degree.
There is no justification in the circumstances for going outside the experience of Members of this House in regard to these matters. I am sure the Minister will at least concede me this point. Throughout all the years of administration of unemployment insurance in this country his Department has received valuable advice and guidance from hon. Members on these benches and from our colleagues in the Labour movement throughout the country. Our experience I think he will agree has been of value to the Ministry of Labour during all these years. In discussing these regulations it is certain that the Minister would receive infinitely more valuable advice from hon. Members on these benches than from any other part of the House, because of our knowledge and experience and our close contact with the industries concerned. We know, now, every detail of the circumstances in which holidays with pay are likely to be made effective. Why not, therefore, submit the draft regulations, which the Minister I am sure has already in mind, immediately to the consideration of Members of this House? Let us examine them and hammer them out here and now.
Is it not our experience in this House that on practically every Bill which comes before us, minor Amendments and modifications have to be made in the original 280 draft? In the Military Training Bill, as it was first introduced here, how many minor Amendments proposed from this side of the House were accepted by the Government? It was quite a large number, thereby admitting at once that some measure of wisdom at least can be put forward on occasion from this side. They accepted them as being well intentioned and likely to improve that Bill. Is it not likely that the same thing could happen with these regulations? Here is an example of the very basis of democratic institutions being undermined. What does democracy mean in practice unless it be the right to express your opinion and pursue your interests in common with others at a common meeting place? If the actual work of drafting regulations is to be done outside this House, the day is not far distant when I shall expect the Cabinet to introduce a Measure imposing power upon themselves to issue a regulation stating when this House shall be called together. If each Department in turn is to be handed over to a non-Parliamentary committee—unemployment assistance committees here, the Unemployment Insurance Board there, some tariff committee in a third place, and so on—one by one, the actual administrative work of this House will go outside altogether, and sooner or later we shall come to the end of that passage, and Parliament itself will need only to meet as and when a Minister calls it together to inform it, once in two or three years, what he has done in the past and what he will do in the future.
If our fears in connection with this policy be rightly founded, anything and everything we can do to obstruct the business of this House is thoroughly justified. The damnable part about these regulations is that they define the conditions not only under which men shall receive benefit, but under which they shall not receive benefit, and if granting this power to the Minister will enable him to define conditions which will prove additionally hard on the unemployed, I say the Members of this House, whatever their views about constitutional practice in the past may have been, can have their sincerity put to the test. Do they mean that- they are proud of the British Constitution? One hon. Member talked about the Liberal party as being the party that introduced British greatness in the past. Probably the Members opposite 281 would claim that Disraeli and the Conservatives did the same thing. I am not concerned about which of the two robber parties laid the basis of British history and glory in that form. What I am concerned about is the tendency of present-day policies and what they may foreshadow for us in the future. Do these tendencies mean increased liberty or a reduction of liberty for ourselves? We fear that they are against the retention of our present-day liberties, reducing the privileges of the average citizen of this country, and I am prepared to say that anything and everything that can be done to obstruct that should be done, even if it means rousing the country once again into the mass demonstrations which we had in connection with the unemployment regulations on a previous occasion.
I think it can easily be done, if we once send out the cry from this place to-day—I am quite prepared to do it—to the working classes of this country. Whatever may be the real amount of danger in this one set of regulations, we must not consider them by themselves, but as one set of regulations in conjunction with several preceding sets, and we must consider the possibilities of this policy being continued in the future in other directions. Therefore, I hope hon. Members who have listened to this Debate will be able to prevail on those who have not heard it. It is, perhaps, the unfortunate thing about the democracy of this House that so many of us occasionally vote without having heard the subject upon which we vote discussed, and if the Minister would introduce a regulation compelling every Member of this House who had to vote on a given subject to listen to the Debate upon it, it would meet with our approval. But until then I am certain that we should resist the present tendency to the utmost of our power.
§ 7.36 p.m.
§ Mr. Batey
I have listened to most of this Debate, and I understand that the point put from this side is that before any regulations are made a draft of the regulations should be laid before the House, that the House should be able to discuss them, and that after that the regulations should be laid. The Parliamentary Secretary said the regulations would be laid before the House for five or six weeks, but that the views of Members of 282 this House would not be entitled to be heard on those regulations. Outside organisations might come to the statutory committee and put their views before them, and the committee would then come to a decision on the regulations. With the other Members on this side and with one or two opposite, I want to say how strongly I am opposed to such a policy. I believe that before these regulations are made they should be submitted to this House, which should have an opportunity of considering them and passing any comment upon them which it might desire to make. Again and again during the time that I have been a Member of this House I remember regulations coming before the House after 11 at night, and the House being unable to amend them, but having to accept them as they are or to reject them altogether, with the result that while there might be some good in them, Members felt themselves hampered because they did not want to destroy that good part of them. Therefore, in order to get the good part, they had to accept the bad as well.
I want to ask what these regulations are to be made for. They will be important regulations. This Clause is a dangerous Clause, but its danger will not be recognised fully until after the regulations are made and the Bill is passed. When the unemployed realise the danger, however, I am certain that there will be a storm in the country and that things will not be taken as quietly as they are being taken to-day. Under paragraph (a) of Sub-section (2) of this Clause the Minister may make regulations to deal with insured contributors, and under paragraph (b) with employed contributors. I have been connected with the working classes all my life and with national health insurance ever since it started, and I have taken an interest in unemployment insurance ever since it started, but if anybody were to ask me what is the difference between an insured contributor and an employed contributor, I am bound to confess that I should be at a loss to give an answer. Yet the Minister proposes to make regulations to deal, first, with insured contributors and, secondly, with employed contributors. Then the regulations will deal, under paragraph (c), with "payments received by an insured person." What does that mean? I am certain that no one in this House clearly 283 understands what it means, and before we agree that any of these regulations should be made, we should understand what is meant by these paragraphs (a), (b) and (c). It is not only the statutory committee and the Minister who will make regulations, because in Sub-section (3) the Minister of Health also is given power to make regulations. I do not suppose they will be made by him and laid before the statutory committee. I think they will be made off his own bat, and before we agree to that we should understand what is meant by the Minister of Health making regulations in this connection. Then, in Sub-section (4) there is a regulation that absolutely puzzles me. It states:(4) Any such regulations as aforesaid may be made so as to apply either generally as respects all insured contributors, employed contributors or employed persons, or as respects any particular insured contributors, employed contributors or employed persons, or any class or classes thereof.What does that mean? There is no Member of the House who understands what that means, and before we agree to the making of any regulations, even by the statutory committee, it is necessary that the Minister of Labour should take a hand in this Debate. The Parliamentary Secretary simply left us in a more difficult position than we were in before he spoke, and I think the Minister should take a hand in this and tell us just what is meant by this Sub-section.
These are very important regulations for the working classes of this country, because, among other things, they will deal with holidays. I know that the new holidays may be the cause of this Bill, but these regulations will deal also with the old holidays, and in the county of Durham we feel very strongly in regard to the old holidays, because we have had the old holidays, and they have counted for continuity purposes, and we are very anxious that nothing should be done to rob us of those old holidays. When the Parliamentary Secretary spoke I hoped he would have had something to say in regard to the old holidays, and especially I thought he would try to relieve some of the fears in the minds of hon. Members on this side in regard to them. In the county of Durham we have had eight holidays in the year to count for continuity purposes. We assume that these new regulations 284 when they are made will sweep away the right of the workmen to count those eight days as waiting period for continuity purposes. If the new regulations sweep the old holidays away we shall be in a far worse position under the Bill than we are now. We would much rather stay as we are. Not only do Good Friday and Easter Monday count for continuity purposes, but in Durham County it is found by the colliery owners better in many cases not to work the colliery on Saturdays, so that the men are idle on Good Friday, Saturday and Easter Monday. Thus there are three days counted for continuity purposes, and the proposal is to sweep away all the privileges the Durham miners and other miners have had in regard to holidays.
The Minister proposes to make regulations to deal with the new holidays, and he is to blame for the necessity of these new regulations and for the Debate which has taken place to-day. But what we proposed to the Minister was a simplification. We said that if a man receives pay during his holiday he is not entitled to unemployment benefit, but if he does not receive pay he is entitled. In many cases a man may leave one colliery and go to another and may not qualify for his holiday pay, so when his holiday is taken he receives no pay and no unemployment benefit. The Government ought not to make things worse than they are now, and that first Sub-section could have been simplified if the Minister had added the words "with pay." Then a man would know that if he received pay he was not entitled to unemployment benefit, but if he did not he was entitled. Nothing could have been fairer than that. But the Minister says neither one thing nor the other. He says regulations will be made laying down when the man is to receive unemployment benefit if he is on this new holiday.
But when it is proposed that the regulations shall be sent to the Statutory Committee, that is a proceeding that leaves me gasping. I could have understood it if the Minister, as we at first thought, had been going to make the regulations himself. The Minister said he was going to make them, but now the Parliamentary Secretary has told us that the Minister is simply going to draft regulations and submit them to the Statutory Committee, and that body— one that is not always favourable to the 285 unemployed—is going to draft them, and the House of Commons will be bound to accept them. Like the Anomalies Act, that is a thing to which we can never agree. Personally, I am opposed to regulations, but, if they have to be made, there is no justification for giving the power to this outside body. It may seem an important concession to say that the trade union organisations can present their views before the Statutory Committee, but that is taking a power which ought to rest with this House, and until this House has the power to discuss the draft regulations we shall never be satisfied with the procedure.
§ 7.52 p.m.
§ Mr. Ede
This is really an extraordinary series of addresses we have had today—one can hardly call it a Debate. This Clause has been before the House since 13 minutes past five o'clock—for two hours and a-half—and only the Parliamentary Secretary has risen to oppose it. He was not very successful; in fact few speeches could have been made more strongly in favour of the new Clause than the one he delivered to us. Two other hon. Members who normally support the Government have risen to address the House, and both of them have given their most unqualified approval to the new Clause. Not a single word has been said in opposition to it, except what was said by the Parliamentary Secretary, and I am bound to say that anyone who examines the new Clause and realises the difficulties that will confront everyone in working Clause 1 of the Bill will understand the reluctance of anyone to get up in the House to oppose the new Clause.
Last year on Tyneside there was considerable difficulty owing to the way in which certain holidays were treated for the purposes of unemployment benefit. There are on Tyneside certain holidays that, I believe, are known as the Race Holidays. Men employed on the Tyneside have for many years had an arrangement whereby they take the Newcastle Race Week off, and draw pay in respect of it. The Parliamentary Secretary will recollect that last year the hon. Member for Wallsend (Miss Ward), whose constituents had been very unfavourably affected by the regulations that had been made, and other Tyneside Members put questions to him, and the very greatest possible difficulty was encountered both on the Tyneside and here. Now we 286 have this proposal in Clause 1 concerning the future regulations for dealing with unemployment pay during holiday periods. It is quite clear that we are going to get involved in a good many verbal subtleties that will completely mystify the plain men whose benefit will be affected. Because Sub-section (2) of Clause 1 makes it quite clear that we are going to have regulations for determining whether or not certain conditions, which are not now defined, will constitute a holiday period in respect of which pay should be received. When one reads paragraph (a) of Sub-section (2) it is quite clear that regulations are going to be drawn up that will closely define the conditions that will entitle a person to draw benefits, and fine lines will be drawn so that two men in the same employment may quite easily find themselves, through some accidental circumstance of time or place, on different sides of the line that is being drawn.
The Minister may make regulations determining whether an insured contributor in the circumstances specified in the regulations is or is not to be deemed to be on holiday for the purposes of the principal Act and this Act and any regulations made under it. I know that during the last War men were "deemed to have been enlisted" in the Forces—-men who in fact never served at all; but I think it will be very difficult to explain to a man that he is deemed not to be on holiday at a time when his employer has told him that he is on holiday. The firm may very likely recognise the period as a holiday, and the regulations may define that period as not being a holiday. When we come to paragraph (b) where an employed contributor within the meaning of the National Health Insurance Act in the circumstances specified in the regulations is or is not deemed to be on holiday for the purposes of any regulations made by virtue of the next following sub-section, there again we get to this extraordinary phrase '' deemed to be on holiday." I know that some men, having spent a fortnight at the seaside with a wife and a large family, will go back feeling rather more tired than when they went, but in those cases the employers will have no doubt that they have been on holiday. Really we ought to have far better opportunities to deal with these regulations which are to define so closely and narrowly what a holiday 287 is, than we are to get under the proposals of the Government.
I want to deal with the attitude that the Parliamentary Secretary adopted towards the duties of this House in such matters. He used the phrase to which the hon. Member for Gorton (Mr. Benn) drew attention —"Parliamentary performances." "Performances".—it is quite clear that that is how he regards the whole thing. Members of Parliament are not here to look after the interests of their constituents; they are here to go through certain "performances" at stated times, as a result of which the Minister gets his way, and nothing very serious happens to anybody except the unfortunate victim of the regulations. Those of us who represent industrial constituencies cannot shut our eyes to the fact that this matter will cause serious difficulties. The greatest explanations in detail will have to be offered to the people who will come, as the men came after the last Newcastle Race Week, and ask to have explained to them why one man in the shipyard has been able to get his unemployment benefit and another man has not. After the last Newcastle Race Week certain men found that the payments which they had received during the period when they were unemployed before the Race Week and after the Race Week were in fact used to deprive them of benefit for the Race Week and for a few days following the Race Week.
I had in my constituency men who came to see me on that point, who brought to me various computations that had been made in the Employment Exchange of their appropriate payment, and they were expecting me to be able to solve the mathematical problems presented. It was clear that only some fantastic reading of the regulations could have justified men whose circumstances appeared to be so similar receiving such different treatment. If we are going to apply that not merely to one place and its special circumstances, but generally throughout the country, the anomalies that will arise will be even greater than those that occurred last year. The Parliamentary Secretary seemed to assume that that was the best of all possible reasons for withdrawing the regulations from the purview of the House. He said 288 that because the matter was so complicated this House should not deal with it, that it should go to the Statutory Committee, that persons should appear there and give their evidence, that the Statutory Committee should reach its conclusions on the draft regulations, and the regulations should then be brought to this House so that we might either take them or leave them.
I take the opposite view. The idea that that kind of thing should be taken away from Parliament and that we should consider only the conclusions of persons who have heard evidence outside— evidence to which we have no access—is one that ought to be continuously resisted. We have in these matters, for the people concerned, a heavy personal responsibility that we cannot avoid. It will be no answer in South Shields for me to say that these matters were settled by wiser heads than Parliament; that the Statutory Committee dealt with them. The hon. Member for Spennymoor (Mr. Batey) trained the miners of his lodge too well for them to take any such answer as that. They will say that they were brought up to believe that Parliament is supreme, and that its responsibility is specially heavy to those who find themselves confronted by the legal and verbal sophistications that will be found in these regulations. This House is the appropriate place in which these matters should be argued, at a time when the regulations are still malleable.
It is clear that the Minister intends to bring to us a set of regulations with one of which we might find ourselves in strong disagreement. They may be opposed here after eleven o'clock, and one of the arguments by the Minister will be "You may object to this one regulation but some of the others are good, and if you reject these regulations because you oppose the one, you reject the whole." That is an impossible position in which to put the House. The Parliamentary Secretary gave us no reason other than his jibe at the procedure of the House for suggesting that we should have control over these matters. The wording of Clause 1 makes it clear that the importance of these regulations will not be their general scope but their detailed application to the diverse circumstances throughout the country. If this House is to be able to deal with the pith and 289 marrow of these regulations, it can be done only by the new Clause which has been moved by the hon. Member for Dundee (Mr. Foot) being incorporated in the Bill. I share the view expressed by supporters of the Government—the hon. Members for South Bradford (Mr. Holdsworth) and Gateshead (Mr. Magnay)—that this is another example of the way in which the sovereign rights of Parliament are being filched away. We ought to regard our responsibilities in these matters as being among the most onerous of those we have to carry, and I sincerely hope that in the Division the Government will be defeated and the new Clause incorporated in the Bill.
§ 8.6 p.m.
§ Mr. Ritson
I have been alarmed—not being on the Committee and feeling that one could trust one's colleagues—to find that they came down complaining of the hard-faced attitude of the Government on this Bill. As my hon. Friend the Member for Spennymoor (Mr. Batey) said, we have holidays in Durham that have been hallowed for a long time. In these regulations there is a linking-up chain within them that may be destroyed. We had one of the most glorious Debates in the House on holidays with pay. We who know the mining areas, where the men have never had a complete week's holiday —I remember when Good Friday, Saturday and Easter Monday felt like a year's holiday to me—were delighted when the House determined that if it wanted men to keep A.1 fit they must be given opportunity to develop body and mind in fresh air and recreation. But now we may have all that destroyed. Even if the old holidays are not destroyed there is this other aspect. These men are putting from their money a certain amount every week to help them to get the holiday, but they have such a job from year's end to year's end to make ends meet financially that if anything happens to operate against them the holiday is killed because they cannot afford it. I cannot understand why you want regulations when you have Acts of Parliament. Regulations to me are good laws sublet.
I am not going to say hard things about the Parliamentary Secretary as some of my hon. Friends have done. All the arrows have gone to his target, and have missed the target that has just left for its dinner. I feel that this question of holi- 290 days with pay is more important than mere regulations. The hon. Member says "we will put them in the Library in October." We once had some trouble with regulations before. We were promised regulations by Miss Bondfield, but when she came back the House had flitted and the inhabitants had gone. What chance shall we get in October to examine anything until we are called back in the usual way? What opportunity shall we get of considering them but a prayer? One of the best things to do in answering prayer is to answer your own. The people who sent us here sent us to see that they got a fair opportunity as citizens, and full opportunity for the discussion in this House of rules and regulations that closely affect their lives. You have the audacity to tell us that you are going to make regulations through somebody that we do not know. There is no need for regulations as long as we are prepared to sit here day and night to see that justice is done in a Bill. You did not lay down regulations for conscripted people; you laid down the law to make sure, and nailed it and riveted it. I hope the Minister even yet will give way. The Minister of Health is coming in under these regulations, and we do not know what he is going to do. I came here with great pride, and remained with great pride, in this, the greatest assembly in the world, truly democratic, and I find my hands tethered by regulations laid down by the Minister and by his refusal to give us the opportunity to discuss them in the ordinary form under the constitution. He boasted yesterday that men had got holidays with pay, and to-day he comes down with regulations that may undo everything that has been done by a Bill that everybody welcomed. I hope that somebody will have some influence on him in persuading him to accept this Clause.
§ 8.15 p.m.
§ Mr. Tomlinson
As one who, prior to coming to this House some 18 months ago, spent a good deal of time endeavouring to interpret regulations which had been made dealing with these difficult problems, I am not prepared to sit here without raising my voice against the House being deprived of the power of deciding under what conditions benefits shall accrue to the people who have paid for them. I remember an occasion when the two indi- 291 viduals who were members of my union came to me in a dilemma. Both had taken holidays at the same time. One of them received a week's holiday as continuity benefit in connection with his claim for unemployment pay but the other man did not receive continuity benefit. I took up the cases and discovered that one man had been on holiday in Torquay and the other had gone to the Isle of Man. The one who had been to the Isle of Man could get back to the Employment Exchange, if called upon, in less time than the one who had gone to Torquay, and yet he was unable to qualify for benefit because, under the regulations, the Isle of Man was regarded, and is still regarded, as a foreign country for the purposes of this Act of Parliament.
I contend that when an individual is called upon to pay he should know for what he is paying, and the benefits to which he is entitled ought to be laid down. He ought not to be called upon to pay an insurance premium and then find that the contingency against which he has insured is deemed not to have arisen on account of some regulation which the Minister has made and over which this House has no control. I am not prepared to hand over to other people, however admirable they may be, the job for which I am paid. If after these regulations have been made a constituent comes to ask me why he has been deprived of something to which he thinks he is entitled I shall have to answer him by suggesting that the House of Commons did not consider themselves to be fit and proper people to decide the conditions. Both we and the Minister are placing ourselves in an undignified position by refusing to accept this simple Clause, which proposes that the powers for which the House of Commons has been elected should be exercised by it.
I should have thought that the very fact that the Clause had been put down by the party to which the Minister of Labour used to belong would have induced him to accept it. He might have come to the conclusion that at any rate it was pretty harmless if the Liberal party were in favour of it and it was backed by Members who have had experience of the difficulties which have been created not only for themselves but for him. I will not say that he does not do it in a jovial sort of way, but he manages to 292 shuffle out of his difficulties by passing them on to those who are responsible to the individuals affected in their own constituencies. When people come to me with complaints against regulations it is no answer for me to say to them, "Well, Mr. Brown, in a nice, pleasant, agreeable way promised us that it would not happen." That is no good if it has happened.
The right hon. Gentleman would lose none of his dignity by accepting this Clause. Instead of hampering him it would help him, and I am certain it would help hon. Members, because if they had examined the regulations they would be in a better position to interpret them when their constituents came along with complaints. Who can interpret regulations which are to be drawn up in this way? We are compelled to rely upon the case law set up by the Umpire in interpreting the regulations. Instead of drawing up additional regulations we ought to determine here in Parliament what the people are entitled to. The acceptance of a proposal which was made in Committee upstairs that an individual should be entitled to reckon a holiday for which he has not received pay as a period of unemployment would have met the case, and no necessity for regulations would have arisen. I once heard a man say that the difference between leisure and unemployment was the difference between being in the streets with an empty pocket and being in the streets with a well-lined pocket. In other words, unemployment with cash is leisure, but unemployment without cash is in a real sense a hardship. If that test had been applied the necessity for this new Clause would not have arisen, nor would there have been the necessity to make these regulations. I hope that the new Clause will be carried and that a real opportunity will be given to the House of debating the regulations when they are laid upon the Table, so that we may know what is to happen to the people who are to suffer under them.
§ 8.22 p.m.
§ Mr. R. J. Taylor
I regret that I had not the opportunity of serving upon the Committee upstairs, but I heard the stories from Members coming down about the difficulty they had had in trying to move the Minister. We are all very pleased that holidays with pay are coming. It is a tremendous social 293 achievement that the trade unions, the Labour party, the Co-operatives and all progressively-minded people have been able so to influence public opinion that the Government were compelled to bring in a Bill for holidays with pay. We regret that it was not a Bill which compelled holidays with pay, that the Minister did not put the "shall" into the Bill. We are not altogether satisfied, not sure whether we ought to throw up our hats, because the scheme is far from perfect, but it is a first step in the direction of securing organised leisure for the workers.
I am astounded that the Minister of Labour should come along with the proposals which we find in Clause 1. What happens with cases which come under the Unemployment Assistance Board? If there is a complaint or someone feels that he has suffered a hardship and his Member takes the matter to the Minister of Labour the latter replies "The House took the power away from the Minister of Labour and prevented him from dealing with disputes under the Unemployment Assistance Board." I have not the slightest doubt that the Minister has time and time again regretted that it is so, because if there is any man who likes to be able to sit there and look as if he were "It," it is the Minister of Labour. Not for the world would I be personal about the Minister of Labour and his Liberal days, but it is clear that in some cases a man while seeming to be progressing is actually deteriorating. Evidently he is deteriorating from those Liberal ideas that he used to hold, or he would not have put this provision in the Bill.
Visitors come to this House from my constituency and I take them into one of the Standing Committee Rooms upstairs where there is a picture on the wall showing the five Members holding an occupant of the Seat which you now occupy, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, in that Chair, so that the rights of this House would be safeguarded and upheld. To-night we are fighting the battle that was fought years ago for the rights of the elected Members. A statutory committee is not an elected body. We are fighting for the right of the elected Member to have a look at the draft regulations before they are finally, inflexibly and definitely made the rule, and may be the shackle, that will define how a working man may receive benefit when 294 there is a question of holidays with pay. The Minister of Labour may make regulations outside any circumstances specified in the regulations. The Clause states that they may cover:whether payments received by an employed person in the circumstances specified in the regulations arc or are not to be deemed, for the purpose of the provisions of the principal Act relating to the payment of contributions, to be remuneration paid in respect of any week during the whole or part of which the employed person was on holiday.Probably that will be clearly defined in the regulations.
We had a circumstance in my county that was operating and which was the commencement, as the Minister of Labour knows, of the holidays-with-pay movement. We had half a week. This week, if the men have qualified—and there are fairly good safeguards as to what disqualification shall be—they are entitled to a whole week's holiday with pay. That agreement was made between the coal-owners of Northumberland and the Mine-workers' Association of Northumberland; but all the coalowners in Northumberland are not members of the coalowners' association. The result is that, if a man leaves a colliery which is not in the association and goes to one of the associated collieries, as it were, he has not been able to get an amount standing to his credit in the colliery. The Minister has very kindly produced in book form the holidays-with-pay agreements, and that was a fine thing to do, but on looking at them you will see that the employers of this country appear to have been all using the same spoon and taking the ingredients for the regulations out of the same bowl, because they are very much alike in the way they have been framed. The man to whom I referred may land at the new colliery just a week before the holidays, and he gets no holiday with pay. Certainly the mine is idle and the other workers at the colliery are getting their holiday, and because they are getting pay with it they consider that they are getting a holiday with pay. That man will have no pay. Those of us of the working class who, for years, have been—
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Colonel Clifton Brown)
The hon. Member is not entitled to deal in detail with the question of holidays with pay, but only with the question of the regulations as it is raised in the proposed new Clause.
§ Mr. G. Griffiths
The same point was raised by the previous occupant of the Chair, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, and when it was explained to him he thoroughly understood that these holidays were to be bound up with the regulations and that you could not speak about the holidays without speaking about the regulations. I, therefore, submit that my hon. Friend is in order.
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker
The two subjects may be connected, but the subject of holidays is not really connected with the point raised in the proposed new Clause now before the House.
§ Mr. Taylor
I was giving an illustration to show that while some men might get holidays with pay others would not, because they had no credits at the colliery. Some of us have had experience of idle days without pay and the misery that they bring in waiting for pay day, and we want to be able, out of our experience, to alter or to approve of the regulations. As elected Members of this House we ask that these regulations should come here for their final approval and that they should not be laid on the Table of the House in order that some Prayer might be offered and then the hordes of Gideon be summoned in, and we be asking ourselves: "What is the good of our talking? We might as well have gone with the wind." As long as I am here I shall go on putting the point that I represent our people, and that nothing shall be done which allows bureaucracy to rear its head in this elective Chamber.
§ 8.33 p.m.
I want very briefly to place before hon. Members some of the reasons why Scottish Members take a very definite stand against the attitude adopted by the Government. I have noticed anxiety on the part of hon. Members on the other side to have this question of committing political suicide ended. I warn hon. Members on the other side to be very careful, because if, by carelessness, by inattention or by blind support of the Government, they give up their rights to inspect regulations that affect the lives of their constituents they are taking a very serious step that might come very heavily upon their own shoulders in the future. This principle has been brought forward by representatives of the Liberal party, and they should be congratulated on bringing before us such an important 296 topic. Apart from details as to draft regulations being good or bad, the point is that you are giving to outsiders the righ to interpret your legislation and to make regulations, and you are refusing to yourselves the right, as representatives, to say whether those regulations represent your opinion or not. Hon. Members on this side of the House, particularly, are very conscious that the people outside—not only working-class men and women, but middle-class people and many people of the upper class—expect Members of Parliament, in return for their salaries, which are adequate salaries, to give them service in regard to legislation for the benefit of the country. It is not good enough for men and women who appear before public audiences, or for a Minister who represents a typical working-class constituency, to say with regard to the unemployed people who are to be found in every constituency that Members of the House of Commons shall have no right to inspect, modify or improve regulations affecting the lives of these people.
I appeal to hon. Members to hesitate before they take this very dangerous step, because it is not only an insult to the Members of this House, but an indication to the people outside that at least a section of the House is not prepared to do its duty by these people. Hon. Members may sneer, but I have in my constituency, and they have in theirs, considerable numbers of unemployed men and women whose whole social and economic life depends on the unemployment legislation that is passed by this House. Unemployment is one of the bitterest problems of the nation, and one that requires the most serious and urgent consideration. Are we to say to-day that we will pass an Act of Parliament, but will leave it to an outside body who have not been appointed by the people, who have never appeared on a platform before the people, who have never asked for their confidence, to draft the regulations that will control the lives of those who are unemployed and will decide their future so far as their conditions are concerned?
I say without hesitation, and without attempting in any way to be sentimental or dramatic, that this is an instance of Fascist legislation, and not legislation in a democratic sense at all. This appeal has been made from all quarters of the 297 House, by Members with very great experience, as the Minister himself has had, of this problem of unemployment. He will remember how in the past regulations have reacted unfairly against different sections of the unemployed. He will remember how the regulations that were to be imposed in 1934 were treated by the public. He himself represents a working-class constituency, where his constituents will expect him, as I and other Members are expected, to discuss fully their economic position. I am prepared, and hon. Members here are prepared, to stay all night, if the Minister desire it, to inspect and modify and improve these regulations. Hon. Members who believe that they were returned to look after the people in their constituencies are all in the same position. We are here to give our time to this urgent problem. It is our duty, and we shall be failing in our duty if we do not do so. Those who vote against this Amendment are men without honour to their constituents. They are acting a lie to their constituents, because they cannot represent them by handing over decisions affecting them to an outside unelected body. My last word of warning to the Minister is this: We have selected a young candidate in his constituency, a candidate who will take full advantage of every word the Minister speaks, of every step he takes towards refusing us our right in this House to decide the conditions of the people. If he carries on in this way, he will not be sitting there as Minister of Labour in the next House of Commons.
§ Mr. Griffiths
It is with regard to Sub-clause (3) of Clause 1, which appertains to National Health Insurance.
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker
That question does not come within the new Clause that is now before the House.
§ Mr. Griffiths
I am sorry to come against you again, but surely it must come within the Clause, because it states that the Minister may make regulations as far as the Minister of Health is concerned. That is Sub-clause (3) of 298 Clause 1, and I would like to ask the Minister —
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker
Before the right hon. Gentleman replies, I must point out that it is not in order on this new Clause to discuss what is contained in other Clauses that are already in the Bill.
§ Mr. Lawson
May I point out that the Minister has full power to make these regulations, and there is not really another opportunity, as far as I can see, because on Report there is no discussion on the Clause standing part of the Bill?
§ Mr. E. Brown
As this is an important point, may I, on a point of Order, suggest that the hon. Member might raise this point on the Third Reading, when I could answer it?
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker
I think the hon. Member for Hemsworth (Mr. G. Griffiths) was raising the question of regulations under Clause 3.
§ Mr. Griffiths
No, Sir, under Sub-clause (3) of Clause 1, and I suggest that Sub-clause (3) comes under the same ruling as any other part of the Clause. I would like to ask whether, in the case of a man who is entitled to his holiday with pay and who, a week before he gets his holiday with pay, falls sick, the regulation will so work out that he cannot have his sick pay, although he is entitled to it on a doctor's certificate?
§ Mr. E. Brown
The answer to that question is that the hon. Member is wrong. That regulation is like the regulation with regard to unemployment insurance. The question was discussed in the Committee's report whether contributions should be paid, and it was decided that they should. That decision applies also to health insurance and pension contributions, and this Sub-section gives the Minister of Health power under the Act to do for health and pension contributions what we 299 now take power to do with regard to unemployment.
Is it not a fact that the Minister himself cannot possibly know what regulation he is going to make?
§ Question put, "That the Clause be read a Second time."
§ The House divided: Ayes. 130; Noes, 184.301
|Division No. 158.]||AYES.||[8.47 p.m.|
|Acland, R. T. D. (Barnstaple)||Griffiths, G. A. (Hemsworth)||Parkinson, J. A.|
|Adams, D. (Consett)||Griffiths, J. (Llanelly)||Pearson, A.|
|Adams, D. M. (Poplar, S.)||Groves, T. E.||Poole, C. C.|
|Adamson, Jennie L.(Dartford)||Hall, G. H. (Aberdare)||Price, M. P.|
|Adamson, W. M.||Hall, J. H. (Whitechapel)||Quibell, D. J. K.|
|Alexander, Rt. Hon. A. V. (H'lsbr.)||Hayday, A.||Richards, R. (Wrexham)|
|Ammon, C. G.||Henderson, J. (Ardwick)||Ridley, G.|
|Anderson, F. (Whitehaven)||Henderson, T. (Tradeston)||Riley, B.|
|Aske, Sir R. W.||Hicks, E. G.||Ritson, J.|
|Banfield, J. W.||Hills, A. (Pontefract)||Robinson, W. A. (St. Helens)|
|Barnes, A. J.||Hopkin, D.||Sexton, T. M.|
|Batey, J.||Jagger, J.||Shinwell, E.|
|Beaumont, H. (Batley)||Jenkins, A. (Pontypool)||Sinclair, Rt. Hon. Sir A. (C'thn's)|
|Bellenger. F. J.||Jenkins, Sir W. (Neath)||Sloan, A.|
|Benn, Rt. Hon. W. W.||John, W.||Smith, E. (Stoke)|
|Benson, G.||Jones, Sir H. Haydn (Merioneth)||Smith, Rt. Hon. H. B. Lees- (K'ly)|
|Bevan, A.||Kennedy, Rt. Hon. T.||Smith, T. (Normanton)|
|Broad, F. A.||Kirby, B. V.||Sorensen, R. W.|
|Bromfield, W.||Kirkwood, D.||Stephen, C.|
|Buchanan, G.||Lansbury, Rt. Hon. G.||Stewart, W. J. (H'ght'n-le-Sp'ng)|
|Burke, W. A.||Lathan, G.||Stokes, R. R.|
|Cape, T.||Lawson, J. J.||Taylor, R. J. (Morpeth)|
|Charleton, H. C.||Leach, W.||Tinker, J. J.|
|Chater, D.||Lee, F.||Tomlinson, G.|
|Cluse, W. S.||Leonard, W.||Viant, S. P.|
|Cocks, F. S.||Leslie, J. R.||Walkden, A. G.|
|Collindridge, F.||Logan, D. G.||Watkins, F. C.|
|Cove, W. G.||Macdonald, G. (Ince)||Watson, W. McL.|
|Daggar, G.||McGhee, H. G.||Welsh, J. C.|
|Dalton, H.||Maclean, N.||Westwood, J.|
|Davidson, J. J. (Maryhill)||Mainwaring, W. H.||White, H. Graham|
|Davies, S. O. (Merthyr)||Marshall, F.||Whiteley, W. (Blaydon)|
|Day, H.||Mathers, G.||Wilkinson, Ellen|
|Dunn, E. (Rother Valley)||Maxton, J.||Williams, E. J. (Ogmore)|
|Ede, J. C.||Messer, F.||Williams, T. (Don Valley)|
|Edwards, Sir C. (Bedwellty)||Milner, Major J.||Wilmot, J.|
|Fletcher, Lt.-Comdr. R. T. H.||Montague, F.||Wilson, C. H. (Attercliffe)|
|Foot, D. M.||Morgan, J. (York, W.R., Doncaster)||Windsor, W. (Hull, C.)|
|Frankel, D.||Morrison, Rt. Hon. H. (Hackney, S.)||Woods, G. S. (Finsbury)|
|Gallacher, W.||Morrison, R. C. (Tottenham, N.)||Young, Sir R. (Newton)|
|George, Megan Lloyd (Anglesey)||Muff. G.|
|Gibson, R. (Greenock)||Naylor, T. E.||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Green, W. H. (Deptford)||Oliver, G. H.||Sir Percy Harris and Sir Hugh Seely.|
|Greenwood, Rt. Hon. A.||Owen, Major G.|
|Griffith, F. Kingsley (M'ddl'sbro, W.)||Paling, W.|
|Acland-Troyte, Lt.-Col. G. J.||Chapman, A. (Rutherglen)||Elliston, Capt. G. S.|
|Adams, S. V. T. (Leeds, W.)||Chapman, Sir S. (Edinburgh, S.)||Emmott, C. E. G. C.|
|Agnew, Lieut.-Comdr. P. G.||Clarke, Colonel R. S. (E. Grinstead)||Emrys-Evans, P. V.|
|Albery, Sir Irving||Cobb, Captain E. C. (Preston)||Entwistle, Sir C. F.|
|Apsley, Lord||Colfox, Major W. P.||Errington, E.|
|Astor, Viscountess (Plymouth, Sutton)||Conant, Captain R. J. E.||Everard, Sir William Lindsay|
|Balfour, G. (Hampstead)||Cooke, J. D. (Hammersmith, S.)||Fildes. Sir H.|
|Balfour, Capt. H. H. (Isle of Thanet)||Courtauld, Major J. S.||Findlay, Sir E.|
|Beauchamp, Sir B. C.||Crookshank, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. F. C||Fleming, E. L.|
|Blair, Sir R.||Crossley, A. C.||Furness, S. N.|
|Bossom, A. C.||Cruddas, Col. B.||Fyfe, D. P. M.|
|Boulton, W. W.||De la Bère, R.||Gibson, Sir C. G. (Pudsey and Otley)|
|Bower, Comdr. R. T.||Denman, Hon. R. O.||Gledhill, G.|
|Braithwaite, J. Gurney (Holderness)||Denville, Alfred||Gower, Sir R. V.|
|Brass, Sir W.||Despencer-Robertson, Major J. A. F.||Graham, Captain A. C. (Wirral)|
|Brooke, H. (Lewisham, W.)||Doland, G. F.||Grant-Ferris, Flight-Lieutenant R.|
|Brown, Rt. Hon. E. (Leith)||Dorman-Smith, Col. Rt. Hon. Sir R. H||Granville, E. L.|
|Browne, A. C. (Belfast, W.)||Dugdale, Captain T. L.||Greene, W. P. C. (Worcester)|
|Bull, B. B.||Dunglass, Lord||Gretton, Col. Rt. Hon. J.|
|Butcher, H. W.||Eastwood, J. F.||Grimston R. V.|
|Campbell, Sir E. T.||Edmondson, Major Sir J.||Guest, Maj. Hon. O. (C'mb'rw'll, N.W.)|
|Channon, H.||Ellis, Sir G.||Hacking, Rt. Hon. Sir D. H.|
|Hambro, A. V.||Maitland, Sir Adam||Shakespeare, G. H.|
|Hannah, I. C.||Makins, Brigadier-General Sir Ernest||Shepperson, Sir E. W.|
|Hannon, Sir P. J. H.||Manningham-Buller, Sir M||Shute, Colonel Sir J. J.|
|Harbord, A.||Margesson, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. D. R.||Simmonds, O. E.|
|Haslam, Henry (Horneastle)||Markham, S. F.||Smith, Sir R. W. (Aberdeen)|
|Haslam, Sir J. (Bolton)||Maxwell, Hon. S. A.||Smithers, Sir W.|
|Heilgers, Captain F. F A.||Medlicott, F.||Snadden, W. McN.|
|Hely-Hutchinson, M. R.||Meller, Sir R. J. (Mitcham)||Somerset, T.|
|Heneage, Lieut.-Colonel A. P.||Mills, Major J. D. (New Forest)||Somerville, A. A. (Windsor)|
|Herbert, A. P. (Oxford U.)||Mitcheson, Sir G. G.||Spens, W. P.|
|Herbert, Lt. Cot. J. A. (Monmouth)||Moore, Lieut.-Colonel Sir T. C. R.||Storey, S.|
|Higgs, W. F.||Moreing, A. C.||Strickland, Captain W. F.|
|Hogg, Hon. Q. McG.||Munro, P.||Stuart, Hon. J. (Moray and Nairn)|
|Holmes, J. S.||Neven-Spence, Major B. H. H.||Tasker, Sir R. I.|
|Hopkinson, A.||Nicolson, Hon. H. G.||Taylor, C. S. (Eastbourne)|
|Horsbrugh, Florence||O'Connor, Sir Terence J.||Thomas, J. P. L.|
|Hudson, Rt. Hon. R. S, (Southport)||Peake, O.||Thomson, Sir J. D. W.|
|Hunloke, H. P.||Petherick, M.||Thorneycroft, G. E. P.|
|Hunter, T.||Pickthorn, K. W. M.||Thornton-Kemsley, C. N.|
|Jennings, R.||Ponsonby, Col. C. E.||Titchfield, Marquess of|
|Jones, L. (Swansea W.)||Prooter, Major H. A.||Touche, G. C.|
|Keeling, E. H.||Radford, E. A.||Wakefield, W. W.|
|Kellett, Major E. O.||Raikes, H. V. A. M.||Walker-Smith, Sir J.|
|Kerr, Colonel C. I. (Montrose)||Ramsbotham, H.||Ward, Lieut.-Cot Sir A. L. (Hull)|
|Kerr, J. Graham (Scottish Univs.)||Ramsden, Sir E.||Wayland, Sir W. A|
|Lees-Jones, J.||Rankin, Sir R.||Wedderburn, H. J. S.|
|Lennox-Boyd, A. T. L.||Reed, A. C. (Exeter)||Welts. Sir Sydney|
|Levy, T.||Reed, Sir H. S. (Aylesbury)||Whiteley, Major J. P. (Buckingham)|
|Lewis, O.||Reid, J. S. C. (Hillhead)||Williams, H. G. (Croydon, S.)|
|Liddall, W. S.||Reid, W. Allan (Derby)||Windsor-Clive, Lieut.-Colonel G.|
|Lindsay, K. M.||Remer, J. R.||Wise, A. R.|
|Lipson, D. L.||Rickards, G. W. (Skipton)||Womersley, Sir W. J.|
|Llewellin, Colonel J. J.||Ropner, Colonel L.||Wood, Hon. C. I. C.|
|Loftus, P. C.||Rosbotham, Sir T.||Wragg, H.|
|Lyons, A. M.||Ross, Major Sir R. D. (Londonderry)||York, C.|
|Macdonald, Capt. P. (Isle of Wight)||Ross Taylor, W. (Woodbridge)||Young, A. S. L. (Partiok)|
|McEwen, Capt. J. H. F.||Rowlands, G.|
|McKie, J. H.||Ruggles-Brise, Colonel Sir E. A.||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Maclay, Hon. J. P.||Salt, E. W.||Lieut.-Colonel Harvle Watt and Captain Waterhouse.|
|Macmillan, H. (Stockton-on-Tees)||Samuel, M. R. A.|
|Macquisten, F. A.||Schuster, Sir G. E.|