§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ 4.30 p.m.
§ The Minister of Labour (Mr. Ernest Brown)
I beg to move, "That the Bill be now read a Second time."
History alone can record the infinite variety of human life as revealed in the innumerable details which really constitute our political affairs. Our British system of unemployment insurance provides many comments on the complexity of our industrial and social life. This fact has been illustrated many times in the last few years in the numerous extensions and improvements of unemployment insurance that I outlined to the House on 13th March, 1939. The Bill that we are now considering covers a number of important issues and some minor ones. It affects holidays, periods of suspension from work, continuity, benefit to adult dependants, excessive claims, schemes—and since it does not appear on the surface, I would point out that the particulars given here may have a bearing on the problem of wet time and the scheme now before me in the building industry—contributions to those receiving whole-time education, training courses, both with regard to juveniles between 16 and 18 years of age and to serving soldiers, and periodical hirings in agriculture. These are the principal issues covered by the Bill.
It is a varied, interesting, and important subject. The first subject which calls for attention is contained in the early Clauses of the Bill, which are designed to give effect to the recommendations of the Unemployment Insurance Statutory Committee in their report of 7th October, 1938, on holidays and suspensions in relation to unemployment insurance. This follows the report of the Amulree Committee of May, 1938, on Holidays with Pay. The first major fact to be borne in mind is that the term "holiday" is not at present used in the Unemployment Insurance Acts, and all the practice with regard to holidays under the Acts, as regards many types of holiday, is now regulated by a number of decisions of the Umpire. The necessity 1912 for legislative action is imperative, not merely because of the great variety of circumstances and their growth, as shown in the very long review in the committee's report on this question, but because of the rapid increase of holidays with pay.
It may interest the House to have a brief summary of the progress of this great movement. It was estimated that at the end of March, 1938, holidays with pay were in some form provided for 7,750,000 workpeople, and of these 4,750,000 were covered by arrangements with individual employers or were in occupations where the right to holidays with pay had been established by agreement, and 3,000,000 were covered by voluntary collective agreements. I now estimate that since March, 1938, the numbers in the second category have risen to 4,250,000 and that at present the number of workpeople covered by arrangements providing for holidays with pay is 9,000,000. That 9,000,000, as the House will at once see, will be increased not merely because of the rapid extension of voluntary agreements, but as a result of the Holidays with Pay Act, 1938. That Act covers trade boards and Agricultural Wages Committees and the Road Haulage Central Wages Board. The present position is that 22 trade boards have decided to issue notices of proposal providing for holidays with pay, and 10 of these have actually issued the notices; 14 boards have agreed in principle to the exercise of their powers and are now engaged in working out the details; one board has decided not to exercise its statutory powers, but I am glad to say that a voluntary scheme has been adopted by the trade concerned; seven boards have now got the matter under active consideration; and four boards have not yet taken any action.
With regard to the Agricultural Wages Committee, Members will find that operation there has been rather more rapid than some hon. Members believed it would be. As regards England and Wales, 16 committees have provided for holidays with pay during the present year, and the necessary Statutory Orders have been issued by the Agricultural Wages Boards, 15 committees have issued statutory notices of proposal, and 10 of the remaining 16 have the matter actively before them. In Scotland six committees have issued statutory notices of proposal. With regard to the Road Haulage Central 1913 Wages Board, the House will understand that that has only just been set up and has not yet considered the matter. These facts will, I am sure, convince the House, in addition to the arguments in the report, which I need not repeat, of the necessity for action to clear the ground so that the situation may be made perfectly plain to all those who are considering extensions of holidays with pay. The Committee recommended unanimously that holidays should be treated as an incident of employment and that unemployment insurance should be confined to unemployment. That is the clear distinction they drew, and the Bill draws that distinction quite clearly, as between holidays and unemployment.
§ Mr. Brown
It draws the distinction in Clause I, where, in Sub-section (1), it states:An uninsured contributor shall not be deemed to be unemployed for the purposes of the principal Act on any day on which he is on holiday.That is where it is drawn, and' unemployment insurance is confined to unemployment. But the committee reported that since the details are complex and difficult to foresee, any Bill dealing with the subject should provide for powers to make regulations as and when necessary, and the Bill in Clause i, follows that course and provides the necessary powers. The Unemployment Insurance Statutory Committee put the problem curtly and said in their report, on page 15, in paragraph 32: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.That is the scheme which the Bill follows. It is clear that as holidays which now count for continuity of employment are in future not to count, there ought to be a review of the rules which govern the requirement of a fresh waiting period after the spell of unemployment. The 1914 Bill makes provision by way of increasing the number of weeks interval.
§ Mr. Dingle Foot
What safeguards, if any, are there in the Bill for laying the regulations before the House?
§ Mr. Lawson
May I take it from the right hon. Gentleman that these regulations are to be made under the 1934 Act and will be submitted to the consideration of this House when they are ready?
§ Mr. Buchanan
If the right hon. Gentleman will look at the Memorandum to the Bill, he will see that it says that the saving to the Fund will be £400,000 a year. The Department know this, and they must have some idea in their mind as to the scheme that they are going to work, because they know the saving. Will the right hon. Gentleman tell us what is in his mind as to the scheme that he intends to work in order to save the £400,000? Merely telling us that there will be regulations is not the scheme.
§ Mr. Brown
That, of course, involves re-arguing the whole case that was put before the committee, and I had hoped to save the House from that, but if the House desires it, I will make the position clear. The committee recommended that this procedure should be followed, because of the present state of affairs, which, is, as I said in my speech, that there is no law about holidays save the general law of unemployment, but that holidays come in through the decisions of the Umpire as to whether or not a holiday which is a holiday in fact may be a holiday in terms of his decisions. It is a matter of practice, and it is because of the varying circumstances that we desire to carry out the committee's recommendations in order to make the distinction in law quite clear. If the House will turn to page 8 of the report, they will find that there are three outstanding facts to which the committee refer.
§ Mr. T. Henderson
If at present an unemployed person in receipt of unemployment benefit and not receiving a holiday with pay goes on holiday with his family, under Clause 1 will it be impossible for him to receive unemployment payment as he is now allowed to do under the Act?
§ Mr. Brown
I was going to make that clear, but the hon. Member for Gorbals (Mr Buchanan) desired more information, and I am always glad to give it. I will point out that there are three outstanding facts which must be taken into consideration, and which the committee had to take into consideration, in estimating what would be gained to the fund and, on the other hand, what would be the cost to the fund in doubling the continuity period from 10 weeks to 20 weeks. The first is that:In the absence of statutory regulation or published agreement between the employer and the workmen, it takes some time for a period to become recognised as a customary holiday. We had brought to our attention a number of cases in which employers had regularly shut their works for several days at the same time every year, announcing it as a holiday, but not until this had been going on for five, or in some cases many more, years, had the Umpire held that the holiday had become established by custom.There is the point, therefore, of the customary holiday. Secondly they point out that:In so far as the incidence of holiday depends, not upon statute, but upon express agreement between employers and workmen, the evidence given to us makes it clear that the terms of agreement in many cases have either been drawn originally, or revised later, so as to reduce the period of formal holiday to a minimum, with a view to making it possible for workpeople to obtain benefit for as many days as possible which, in practice, were days of holidays.Then the committee go on to give certain illustrations, which make it clear that this practice is not a practice which ought to be allowed under the unemployment insurance law. The third outstanding point is this:The fact that people who are really on holiday can and do endeavour to treat this as a period of unemployment either for the serving or for the avoidance of, a waiting time, or for the obtaining of benefit, has itself brought about a relaxation of administrative regulations at holiday seasons.It is those three facts, together with others, that the committee sum up in this paragraph on page 10, where they say:The position revealed by our inquiries is in many ways unsatisfactory. It is not, we are sure, in accord either with the purposes for which unemployment insurance was established, or with responsible public opinion, that unemployment benefit, directly or indirectly, should become a form of holiday payIn the last part of that paragraph, they sum up by saying: 1916The extent to which, under the present law, holiday leisure can be converted into unemployment for the purpose of insurance is already producing many anomalies and is bringing the insurance scheme into disrepute.Those are the facts that I have in mind. I am obliged to the hon. Member for Gorbals for raising the point, because it enables me to call attention to the facts as they are produced in the report. Of course the regulations will be made in the light of the experience which is gathered and 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. Since that principle is now being laid down in the law for the first time, no one can foresee precisely in what terms the regulations will need to be drawn until we have had consultations with those concerned. Just as the practice at the moment varies from industry to industry and from place to place, so the results of the new law will vary in their incidence.
§ Mr. George Griffiths
If a man is not getting holidays with pay and has to stop work at the pit—if he has no holiday pay whatever, because he has happened to be late on a few days during the 12 months, will it count as holidays with him?
§ Mr. Brown
I would not like to answer a question of that kind, but when the Bill passes, of course, a holiday will be a holiday whether it is paid for or not, and unemployment will be unemployment. On the information and evidence given at the inquiry the committee came to a double conclusion, first, that the saving to the fund by laying down a firm foundation for the holiday law would be £400,000 a year—which means that those who are now getting that amount under umpire law, would no longer get it under this law—but, on the other hand, since it is the proposition of the committee which is now in the Bill, that the interval for 1917 the waiting period now 10 weeks shall be relaxed and made 20, that, of course, will mean a very heavy additional cost to the fund the estimate of which is £600,000. Therefore, on balance, the insured workers will have under the Bill an improvement of £200,000 in their payments from the fund. That is with regard to holidays with pay and continuity.
I have already said something about suspension and I need not detain the House long about that except to point out that when the Unemployment Insurance Statutory Committee was asked to consider holidays with pay, they were also asked to consider holidays in relation to unemployment insurance and the question of the payments made by certain firms to workers during suspension or after termination of employment. A number of firms or groups of firms carry out this practice. During temporary suspension from employment, or for a period after termination of employment —during which the worker can be seeking for work elsewhere—these firms make payments sometimes to an amount which, with benefit, would bring the weekly income up to the level of the full weekly wage. In other cases the amount varies but the general rule has been that where those payments can be said to form part of the terms and conditions of service, benefit was not paid. On that the Statutory Committee have this to say:The question thus raised is one of considerable difficulty. On the one hand, it maybe argued that it is against sound policy to arrange that men when out of work shall get exactly the same as when in work, since this will discourage men from seeking work elsewhere and increase unemployment. On the other hand, unemployment benefit has never been regarded as necessarily a sufficient income during unemployment. It is contemplated that workmen shall be free to subscribe for additional benefit through trade unions and special arrangements are made with trade unions to encourage the provision of such benefit. Moreover Section 72 of the Unemployment Insurance Act, 1935, provides expressly for giving of supplementary benefit under schemes adopted for separate industries. On the whole, we believe that there is a case for amendment of the law in the direction of providing that supplementary payments during suspension made in accordance with regulations of the Minister of Labour should not be treated as wages so as to destroy a claim to benefit.Clause 2 of the Bill carries out the recommendation which is the result of that: balanced view. Clause 4 provides further benefit in respect of adult depend- 1918 ants. This is a point which has been raised many times by the hon. Member for Gorbals. I am glad to see him smile because he has said more than once that he was growing tired of making speeches on this subject, since apparently nobody listened to them and they had no effect. He will now see, however, that his words and those of other hon. Members who have raised this question—though I think he has done it oftener than anybody else —are listened to sometimes, and that effect is given to them, or at least to some of them. Clause 4 extends the provision of payment of dependants benefit to cover cases where the insured contributor has no dependent children but has residing with him and is maintaining a grown-up daughter or sister who runs the household. Under the present law, the insured contributor could not get dependant's benefit in respect of such a relative, and that has been regarded as not reasonable. I have looked into the matter in relation to the provisions of this Bill, and the Government have come to the conclusion that in such cases dependant's benefit should be payable in respect of the housekeeper who is running the contributor's house, much in the same way as the wife of a married contributor would be running her husband's house. I may add that we estimate that the annual cost to the fund will be about £100,000.
There is a further concession to the insured contributor in Clause 4. Under the existing law if the wife of an unemployed man has a lodger who lives as a member of the family and is provided with board and lodging, the fact that the wife is at work in looking after this lodger is no bar to dependant's benefit. There are, however, we have discovered cases in which only one lodger is taken and is given accommodation only and not board, and under the existing law, this is a bar to dependant's benefit in respect of the wife. It does not seem to me, and I do not think it will seem to the House, that this should be so, and the Clause makes the necessary Amendment. The next Clause which calls for comment is Clause 8 which makes certain Amendments as regards training courses. It has two main objects. First, it gives the Minister power to provide training courses for persons between the ages of 16 and 18 in special circumstances. I do not wish to pretend to the House that it will be possible to afford training to all between 16 and 18, but it 1919 is clear that in certain cases it is desirable that training should be provided. There are, for instance, lads who have been at work from the age of 14 to 16 or 17 and who then lose their jobs. It would be a great advantage to some of them, especially if they lived in areas where there were not many opportunities for employment, if they could be given courses of training in the Government training centres.
We ask the House now to give us the power to offer training in suitable cases. I do not suppose that in the early stages, at any rate, it will be possible to offer training to many lads of 16 unless they are particularly apt for the purpose, but there are some big lusty lads of 16 and 17 who might welcome the opportunity which a Government training course provides, and it is for that reason that we now ask for the power given under this Clause. I ought to say that these lads in most places are now able to take advantage of the junior instruction centres. I wish to pay a tribute to the way in which the local education authorities have responded to their duties in that respect, and to the work done at the many admirable centres run by them for unemployed boys and girls. I also wish to acknowledge the work of the National Advisory Committees for Juvenile Unemployment, whose recommendations formed the basis of the scheme administered by the local education authorities. I would like to put it on record that in the week ended 25th January, 1939, the average number of unemployed juveniles in attendance at the various courses was 30,803 and the total number of individual juveniles who attended during that week was 38,227. It is as a result of the recommendations of the National Advisory Committees that the training in those centres is not at present vocational in character although some of it is practical. I am sure that the new opportunities made available under this Clause will be welcomed by certain young men who are juveniles only in the technical phraseology of the Ministry.
§ Mr. Brown
The course is a six months' course of training in various crafts. It is 1920 the normal Government training centre course. One or two things are kept in view but there have been no formal consultations, nor have there been any requests for formal consultations. There are difficulties in many ways. One is that in the case of the engineering trade there is no regular scheme. We have to run these centres with a view always to avoiding overloading the industry, and we regulate our inflow by what we know will be the probable intake in industry of semi-skilled labour. We do not pretend to train skilled men, and it is those courses which will be available for these juveniles.
§ Mr. E. Smith
The right hon. Gentleman said it was proposed to offer this training to youths between 16 and 18. Am I correct in understanding that no pressure will be brought to bear on them?
§ Mr. Brown
I was about to make that clear. The House must understand clearly that this scheme of training is and will remain voluntary in character. It is intended to meet the case of young people in areas where there is little or no prospect of employment. They come now to the Exchange and ask, "Why cannot we be allowed to go away when lads of 18½and 19 are allowed to go? "I again warn the House, however, that we cannot expect to do much in the earlier stages until we see how the scheme works, and we cannot deal with boys unless we are sure that they are lads of the type who would do well away from home.
I need not detain the House with the other part of Clause 8, because it is formal in character. The House has given its consent to the training of soldiers in Government training centres, and that is now being carried out with great success, but at the moment the Ministry of Labour do it merely as agents for the War Office. This Clause will regularise the position and place the responsibility on the Ministry of Labour so that hon. Members will be able to deal directly with the Minister of Labour on the Ministry Vote.
Mr. W. Joseph Stewart
Can the Minister say what is the percentage of placings of those who have received this training?
§ Mr. Brown
Yes, at the moment we are placing 78 out of every 100 who complete 1921 their training course. The number of men who are taking advantage of it and the way in which they are being absorbed into industry are both very encouraging. Again I say we have regard all the time to the needs of industry. In centre after centre we alter our training courses in order to provide training in the particular industries for which we see there is a demand in the district. In south-east England, where there has been a great boom in private house building, one of our most active centres was that training semi-skilled men for the building industry. Recently, since private house building has slowed down, we have closed that centre. We do not intend to overload an industry, in the genuine interests of the craftsmen who have served their apprenticeship in it, and the prejudices which did exist, and naturally existed, in some quarters have slowly been giving way to an appreciation of our real aims, which are genuinely to provide opportunities for the unemployed to get jobs in industries in which men are needed. Sub-section (3) of this Clause is intended to remedy a minor anomaly. Under Sub-section (2) of Section 79 of the principal Act there is power to make payments to persons attending a training course if it is not a course provided only for persons who have not attained the age of 18 years. There is, however, no power to make such payments if the course is provided solely for juveniles, and since under our present practice juveniles are denned as those below 18 unless we make a new arrangement we shall not be able to provide pocket money for those under 18 attending a course provided solely for such juveniles.
The remainder of the Bill is, on the whole, concerned with what may be described as minor Amendments dealing with small points of detail, mainly of a technical character.
§ Mr. Gallacher
In Clause 10 why is it that a person required to attend an inquiry is not expected to go more than 10 miles from his place of residence without expenses? Why is it on a mileage basis? Cannot some other basis be found?
§ Mr. Brown
Up to the moment this has been the established practice, and it has worked very well, but I shall be willing to listen to any points to the contrary 1922 which may be urged, and my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary will deal further with the matter at the close of the Debate. Clause 5 amends an interpretation of the existing Acts which permits the receipt of benefits in certain cases for periods in excess of the periods mentioned in those Acts. Clause 6 provides for amendments as respects Schemes. There are at the moment two Special Schemes dealing with banking and insurance. Under the Act of 1920 arrangements were made for Special Schemes, but only two industries took advantage of them, banking and insurance. That power was afterwards taken away, so at the moment there are only those two Special Schemes and no other industry can be affected. In regard, however, to Supplementary Schemes the case for reform is urgent. There are at the moment no Supplementary Schemes, but provision is to be made so that there may be arrangements for payments to be made in respect of unemployment in addition to the payment of ordinary benefit or for periods for which ordinary benefit is not payable. On more than one occasion the possibility of making Supplementary Schemes has been discussed with certain industries. The flour milling industry has had discussions with my Department, and the National Joint Council for the Building Industry has submitted for my consideration a draft scheme for wet time. Since I am receiving objections to that scheme I must not be taken as expressing any opinion for or against it, but in the discussions both with the flour milling industry and the building industry we found that the present definition of the scope of a scheme caused difficulties, and there were other difficulties in terms of law, and in advance we are asking the House to remove those difficulties, so that if and when a decision is come to on a scheme the law may already provide for things being done which it is agreed are to be done.
§ Mr. Buchanan
You are not giving power to, say, the flour milling industry to start a Special Scheme?
§ Mr. Silverman
Does the Minister mean that there can be no similar schemes to the building trade scheme made in other industries?
§ Mr. Brown
No. There can be no schemes similar to the banking and insurance trades schemes, but there can be 100 supplementary schemes to suit the industries concerned. The building trade has special circumstances. This trouble of wet time has perplexed statesmen in politics and in the industry for half a century, and I am not making any pronouncement except to say that the law was not clear about any schemes and that is why I am looking ahead.
Clauses 9 and 10 bring the Unemployment Insurance Acts into line with the Health Insurance Acts in regard to legal proceedings for non-payment of contributions and evidence at statutory inquiries. The practice which has been found to work very well upon the health insurance side will be assimilated with our practice. We shall be glad to hear the views of hon. Members on this subject and to weigh them if evidence to the contrary is brought. Clause n makes more suitable provision for reciprocal arrangements with Northern Ireland in the matter of unemployment insurance, and Clauses 12 and 13 make certain adjustments and, in particular, bring into insurance canteen workers who are employed upon His Majesty's ships by the Army, Navy and Air Force Institutes.
There is only one more outstanding point, and that arises in Clause 15. This Clause gives effect to a recommendation made by the Statutory Committee in their latest report on the financial condition of the agricultural account of the Unemployment Insurance Fund at the end of last year. The Committee recommended that the existing provisions under which a rebate of unemployment insurance contributions can be obtained in respect of farm workers who enter into long hirings should be abolished. They pointed out that the administrative costs had been higher than the amount of the rebates. The administrative costs were £12,000 a year and the amount of the rebates £10,000. It was pointed out that the reasons for allowing this special concession have not been substantiated in practice. First it was said that agricultural insurance was an undue burden upon Scotland and 1924 the North of England because the average rate of unemployment in those areas would be lower in view of the long-hiring system operating there, but that has not turned out to be the case. Page 18 of the report shows that in farming and forestry in England and Wales the percentage of unemployment in 1938 was 5.5, and in Scotland 6.4. In market gardening and horticulture it was 7.1 in England and Wales and 15.4 in Scotland. In other gardening, excluding private gardening, it was 4.2 in England and Wales and 7 per cent. in Scotland. Therefore, all the predictions made by the experts that unemployment insurance would work out on a lower basis in Scotland have been falsified. We have once already reduced the contributions and if the House agrees to-night to pass the Order which is on the Paper to-day we shall again reduce the contributions. In the light of these facts and of the fact that the administrative cost has been higher than the amount of the rebate we propose to carry out the recommendation of the Committee and abolish that system as from July, 1940, and the new procedure will start to operate from July, 1939.
To sum up, the Bill makes a number of changes in favour of the insured contributor and also aims at affecting certain minor amendments where experience has shown that the present law is capable of improvement, and in moving this Second Reading I am, therefore, inviting the House once more to become the agents of reform.
§ Mr. Errington
Can the Minister indicate whether there is any likelihood of any scheme for casual workers being produced in the near future?
§ 5.12 p.m.
§ Mr. Lawson
In opening the Debate the right hon. Gentleman said that this Bill was varied, interesting and important. Having heard his description of the Bill the House will certainly agree that it is varied. In spite of some of the Clauses which are desirable, I should be inclined to describe it not so much as a Parliamentary Bill as a herring, and certain hon. Gentleman who have spoken to me 1925 in confidence about it have shown that with all their experience they were in very much the same difficulty as I am regarding certain sections of it. Seeing that the first three Clauses of the Bill deal with a very big subject, I think it is a pity they were not taken by themselves, so that we might have had a clear day to discuss that side of the matter. Those of us who have been acquainted for so many years with the question of holidays will remember that when the Government attempted to put a Clause into the Bill of 1934 there was a long and excited Debate, in which many Members on the Government Benches took part, and that it was kept up with such spirit that the Government felt compelled to retreat from any attempt to deal with the matter in any other way except by umpire decisions. This Bill, in the first three Clauses, makes the attempt to deal with that subject, because, as the right hon. Gentleman has said, the report upon this matter has been issued, and the committee said that the position had been altered by virtue of the fact that now there was a three days waiting period instead of six, and that the question of the waiting period and holidays with pay was developing at a great rate. While I do not object to the right hon. Gentleman giving figures of the people who are affected by holidays with pay and who have made agreements, I do not see what that had to do with the case. I rather thought it was an artful piece of camouflage on the part of the right hon. Gentleman.
§ Mr. E. Brown
I had not that in mind at all. What I had in mind was that the more millions there are affected by holidays the more indefensible it becomes to leave the unemployment insurance scheme without a definite holiday law.
§ Mr. Lawson
What struck me was that the right hon. Gentleman gave far more time to the number of agreements that have been made than to an interpretation of the three Clauses in this Bill which are so important. What does the right hon. Gentleman ask? Here is a subject which touches the men and women in industry so vitally and at so many points that for long years it has been the subject of a multitude of decisions by the Umpires. It is difficult for those decisions to be applied rigidly in the same way to all cases, so that from time to time new 1926 cases with new aspects have to be considered afresh by the Umpire. There is a Biblical saying that there is no new thing under the sun. I should say that the Umpire under unemployment insurance would deny that as far as holidays and waiting are concerned. The right hon. Gentleman is asking the House, on the advice of this report, to give him the right to take all that over from the Umpire. Regulations will be made and people will no longer have the right 1o plead their case before the Umpire. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman is right about the Regulations. I take it that he is, but the drafting of this Bill makes no reference to the 1934 Act, under which, it will be remembered, it was decided after long Debate that the Regulations were to come before the House. I hope the right hon. Gentleman is right upon that point and I take his word for it. These Regulations will have to come before the House and be considered once. I hope they will come at the proper time, for often there is not time for the proper consideration of Regulations. Having been considered by the House, they will pass out of our ken altogether.
§ Mr. E. Brown
Not necessarily. It is the normal procedure of the House. If there is any real grievance about the Regulations there is no difficulty about getting them discussed.
§ Mr. Lawson
The House now sees how much bigger this question is than it appeared to be at first. Here is one of the questions which arouses most controversy outside. It gave rise to one of the biggest Debates on a Bill on which there were many important Debates, and in that Debate Members behind the Government practically refused to give the Government the right for which the Minister is asking to-night. That is a very important matter and I submit that the House will have to give serious consideration to the matter before we pass a Bill of this kind. It should be remembered, too, that this kind of thing concerns great 1927 masses of people. Involved in it is not only the question of benefit for holidays. I am not going to argue that question. The Committee considered it at great length and they did more than the right hon. Gentleman has done in the way of defining holidays. He has not attempted a definition of holidays in the Bill and he did not attempt any explanation during his speech. The Committee did, at least, attempt to deal with that subject. They mentioned general holidays, local holidays, holidays resting on agreements, and holidays of other kinds, but the right hon. Gentleman does not attempt any definition. Does the first Clause apply only to people who are employed and on holidays, or does it apply also to the unemployed who have been continuously unemployed? I ask that because Subsection (4) says: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.I am wondering where the question of availability is coming in on the part of the people who are really unemployed and have been unemployed long before the date of the holiday. It is clear that the intention is that where certain holidays have been paid for in the past they will not be paid for in future, and the right hon. Gentleman said that is going to be the essence of his regulations. The question will be argued to-night whether those payments are to be made, rightly or wrongly, as the report says. The House, however, ought to understand that the right hon. Gentleman is taking power to stop those payments.
There is also the question of the waiting period. Those who have had the holidays counted as waiting period cannot now call them waiting days. That is an important point. In some respects it is in a different category from the benefit period. It wants seriously examining from the point of view of the right hon. Gentleman having the power to interfere with it. The question of waiting is of profound importance to great masses of workers. A member of my trade union organisation wrote to me about this matter and said:When all the pits are closed on Good Friday and Easter Saturday and Monday, the 1928 men would not be able to claim this as a waiting period, and would not be entitled to benefit for any three days in any six days of unemployment within a period of six weeks.It is 20 weeks under the Bill. I am pleased that the period of continuity has been increased, but I would rather have the 10 weeks and the holidays counted as waiting days than have the 20 weeks period. The three days waiting period for holidays will be lost to the workers. I ask the House to remember that the bulk of the people who are subject to this are those who are subject in the main to intermittent work nearly all through the year, and they are in a category which is almost always temporarily unemployed. This month there are 350,000 who are among the temporarily unemployed. That is not all of them, for there are others who are not counted because they are now back among the regulars and are wholly unemployed.
The large industries, particularly the export industries, are subject to loss of work for a day or two continuously over the year. I do not know the proportion of such classes of workers to the salaried workers, but I know that if there is any section of workers which need sympathetic consideration from the House it is the section of intermittent workers. I know very well that the House has always given sympathy, even though it has not been extended to proper payments, to the long-term unemployed. I have always thought that the intermittent worker was as much entitled to our consideration as the long-term worker, in the sense that the intermittent workers are those who get the small wages. To lose a day's wages means to them the difference between getting and not getting the things that are absolutely necessary.
In regard to the three days, take the Easter holidays. It is true that the man is idle but if he is a cotton worker, he is in a much worse position even than if he is a miner. Suppose he is idle for the next three days at Easter time. It may just be possible that the mine or the mill is working off certain orders and that they finish on the Thursday. It may be that the employers have certain orders. They finish on the Thursday and the company and the men know that they will probably be idle. The men are to lose the benefit which they have had in the past of those three days as waiting period. That is a very serious suggestion for the 1929 Minister to make, and I should think it would touch the temporarily-unemployed standard of approximately a million souls in this country. Is it the intention of the Government to carry out that section of the report which altogether rules out the possibility of carrying on the practice which has prevailed in the past? It may be true to say that men have received the benefit of the holiday in those periods, but it also is true that they are penalised to that extent and their position is made worse for the future. When one considers the exporting industries, one realises the hardships to which the mass of the people are put from year to year. This House should consider very seriously indeed before it gives the Minister any such power as is proposed. The report states, on page 14:It is, perhaps, not irrelevant to observe that, in interpreting the same statutory words, the Umpire in Northern Ireland has taken a different view from the Umpire in Great Britain. Recognised holidays in Northern Ireland do not count either for benefit or for continuity of unemployment. We think that the opposite view taken by the Umpire in Great Britain, and the resulting distinction whereby holidays may count for continuity of unemployment though not for benefit, should now be negatived by Statute.The argument is not that it is sound, but that the Northern Ireland umpire has decided against it and therefore, in order to make the matter uniform, the power should be taken away from the umpire in this country. Mark that the committee felt that this was so serious that they said; "As we have taken something away we had better give something back," so they gave the extra 10 weeks. Important as that is, immediately this thing comes into operation tens of thousands of workers will be directly penalised as a result. Speaking generally upon the first Clause dealing with these matters, I hope that we shall have an answer upon the point as to whether this concerns the unemployed who are out of work before the holiday period begins. It seems to me that there may be some tension behind this matter which does not he upon the surface, and I should like to be assured about it.
Then there is the Clause about suspensions. The right hon. Gentleman has explained it, and the House must be very pleased that there is to be an attempt to regularise that matter. That is put forward in order to give workers who have had certain advantages the benefit of 1930 those advantages without penalising them, and that is an improvement. The regulations under the Clause will be very important, but they need to be made with very great care in order that the intention of the Statutory Committee is carried out. The Clause also extends the classes of dependants in respect of which increase of benefit may be paid. The right hon. Gentleman quite rightly made a great deal of that. We welcome that Clause; I should like to have seen the right hon. Gentleman dealing even more roundly with the matter. By the practice of the umpire, and by certain methods of calculation, it works out that dependants in many cases do not have the advantage of the operation of the dependants Clause. The Trades Union Congress has seen the Minister on this matter.
I understand that what takes place is illustrated by a case which came before the umpire, in which a man was working for 41s., his wife was earning about 39s. and the mother had an income of 10s. That was 90s. I understand that the practice of the umpire is to divide that sum by three and to say that 30s. is the average amount to maintain each person in that house. As that man, who was the claimant, had only an income of 41s., or us. over the 30s., he could not be maintaining the mother. That may seem a good arrangement but it is bad logic and it is quite apparent —
§ Mr. Buchanan
The man could not claim for his mother if he were living with his wife. I think the facts of the case were slightly different, as far as I can gather, and that it was a daughter with the man.
§ Mr. Lawson
I would not at this moment be absolutely sure about the particular persons. I have the case here as given to me, and the facts set down there are as I have stated.
§ Mr. Lawson
It works out in actual fact that although the dependant is being maintained by the man, on the method of calculation the umpire decides against that person. The Trades Union Congress 1931 met the right hon. Gentleman and gave him a number of cases. When they met him he said: "I cannot do anything with this matter. I cannot interfere with the umpire. It will be necessary to alter the law before I can deal with this matter." In view of that statement I should have thought that the right hon. Gentleman would have taken the opportunity to make the point clear. While there is some virtue in extending the number of dependants for whom a claim can be made, it is clear at the same time that many people will be penalised, as they are at the present time, unless there is an alteration in the law. I was wondering whether it would be possible so to amend the Clause as to deal with a matter of this kind.
On the question of training, the Minister has explained to us how he is simply extending the Clauses relating to those who are over 18 in the principal Act, and applying them to those of 16 years of age. In spite of all the good things that have been said about training there has been a good deal of criticism about the training system. Could the Minister really get down to an investigation of the after-history of the people who have been trained? There has been criticism to the effect that training does no good, does not get jobs and does not get wages. The trade unions have rightly made the criticism that some of those who are trained, or are only half trained, take the jobs of people who have been apprenticed, and in that way tend to lower the wages of the craft or trade. It would be good if the Minister could make an inquiry into that matter in order to know exactly what is taking place. From time to time the Trades Union Congress has asked the Minister to carry on the training under proper conditions. If you are going to train boys between the ages of 16 and 18 years of age it has to be remembered that 16 is the apprenticeship age and that boys at 18 are past that age. Is it not possible to carry out a system of apprenticeship in a proper way? At the very least, the unions concerned ought to be consulted upon this matter, particularly as this is an extension of the principle of training.
It is well known that for many years there has been a good deal of antagonism in this House. I have supported generally the principle of training, but unless 1932 proper steps are taken to cover this matter of the boys between 16 and 18 years of age this will be just an extension of the danger. Now there is an opportunity of taking counsel with representative trade union organisations and of allaying their just suspicions that these trained or semi-trained men tend to undermine the standards and wages of those who are working. In the best interests of proper and efficient training, the organisations ought to be consulted very closely on this important matter.
Clause 11 of the Bill deals with the provisions relating to Northern Ireland, and provides for the making of certain arrangements by the Minister. That is very useful, but the question arises why nothing is done to bring about reciprocal arrangements with Southern Ireland. Arrangements were in operation, but broke down about 1924, and no serious effort appears to have been made since to put the matter right, although repeated representations have been made to the Minister of Labour. There is great need for reconsideration of this matter. On the borders between Northern Ireland and Southern Ireland, people working on one side of the border and living on the other side can never get any benefit for their insurance stamps; and persons going from this country to Ireland find that their stamps are of no use to them when they return here. That is particularly hard in the case of seamen working on a ship in Ireland and domiciled in this country. It seems to me that this opportunity might be taken to improve the Clause in order to make reciprocal arrangements with the South of Ireland as well as with the North.
The Bill, as I have said, is a very important one. It is not a small Bill, though some impression to that effect has been given during the past few weeks. We welcome some of the Clauses, but we must await answers to many questions which I have put before we are prepared to give a decision in favour of the Bill, and I must say, in view of the first two or three Clauses, that the answers will have to be extremely satisfactory before we can agree to give our vote for a Bill of this kind.
§ 5.49 p.m.
§ Mr. Graham White
It is some time since we had the opportunity of considering an Unemployment Insurance Bill in 1933 this House. Prior to 1934, we used to have a frequent succession of such Bills; they appeared before us every month or two, and made some important changes in the structure of the scheme. The Bill to-day is undoubtedly an important Measure. Its importance lies in the fact that every person within the ambit of the scheme may find himself affected by it at some time or other, and it is particularly important because it appears to affect, so far as one can judge, the great body of those who are intermittently employed. There is much that is uncertain in the Bill, because it is an enabling Bill, and will proceed in the main by regulations, which will be more important than the Bill itself and will require to be scrutinised with the greatest possible care. I hope the Minister will be able to make it clear in the course of the Debate that Parliament will have an effective opportunity of expressing its opinion with regard to the regulations.
I should like to refer to Sub-section (2) of Clause 2, which says:The Minister may by regulations prescribe. …I take it that, in the case of regulations prescribed by the Minister, Parliament has no say whatever with regard to the regulations. Although, so far as I can understand it, I approve of Clause 2 and regard it as a beneficent Clause, I do not think it should be within the power of the Minister to prescribe any regulation with regard to unemployed people without reference to Parliament, and I hope that the word may be withdrawn in that context and some other word substituted for it.
I and my hon. Friends regret very much that an Unemployment Insurance Bill should be brought before the House without including, among the many categories in the Bill, the long-deferred provision with regard to non-manual workers. That is a very ancient matter now. Its history has been a triumph of Parliamentary procrastination. It was recommended by the Royal Commission of 1931 or 1932, and in 1934, when the Bill of that year was before us, we had long discussions on it, and the proposal to include them in that Bill was only withdrawn because the Minister of the day said he would refer the matter for consideration to the Statutory Committee to be set up under the Bill. On that, those who were sponsoring the proposal in the 1934 House and outside it withdrew their proposals and decided to await the result of the Statutory Committee's consideration.
In March, 1934, the Minister of the day, in accordance with his promise, referred the matter to the Statutory Committee, and a year later, in February, 1935, the Statutory Committee proposed by a majority that the income limit should be raised to £400. The employers' representatives on the Committee, although they did not dissent from the proposal that the limit should be raised, suggested a somewhat lower level. At all stages, both outside and inside the House, there has been unanimity on the matter, but the Government, so far as I know, have never yet revealed their intentions with regard to it. From that day to this, both outside and inside the House, questions have been insistently asked as to the attitude of the Government on this matter and when they proposed to act. Some 30 or 40 questions have been put by Members of the House on this subject, and, if anyone wishes to make a study of the art of Parliamentary reply, and to become a master of that subject, I suggest that, if he takes those questions and studies them, he will not require to look at very much more. They were, in fact, the subject of a special article in one of the papers, entitled "Stonewall Brown." They are a most interesting study in Parliamentary procrastination. We wish to record a protest that an Unemployment Insurance Bill should come to this House without including this long-asked-for provision on behalf of the non-manual workers.
Clause 1 of the Bill, which relates to holidays, is probably one of the most important Clauses, and it requires the closest consideration of Members of the House. It is quite clear that the Bill as drafted is merely an enabling Measure, and we cannot be sure what exactly are the intentions behind it. I would associate myself with the question which was put by the hon. Member for Chester-le-Street (Mr. Lawson) with regard to Subsection (4), which says: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.As far as I can understand the Clause, it will act to the detriment of a large 1935 number of casual workers. They will lose the payment to which they have been entitled in the past if they are employed on Christmas Day and Boxing Day and have been unemployed in addition for 12 days. Clearly that must be the intention, because it is suggested in the explanatory Memorandum, and reference was made to it by the Minister, that in this connection a sum of £400,000 is to be saved. I would refer to the further statement by the Statutory Committee, which also was referred to by the Minister and apparently was accepted by the House, that, in connection with the extension of the period of continuous employment which will not require a waiting period from 10 weeks to 20 weeks, there will be paid out a corresponding amount of £600,000 in additional benefit. That might be a very satisfactory bargain if there were any certainty or guarantee that the people who were going to lose the £400,000 were going to get the £600,000. But there is nothing to show that they will be the same persons; in fact, I think there is a strong balance of probability that they will not be the same persons, and it is misleading to suggest that, because on the one hand a certain class of contributors are going to lose £400,000, and someone is going to gain £600,000, the people are the same, and that it will not mean, as I believe it will, a further hardship upon casual and individual workers.
Attention has been drawn to the fact that proposals of this kind were made during the discussions on the Bill of 1934, and the Statutory Committee said in their report that the proposal was withdrawn as the result of criticism in the House of Commons directed to showing that a change of law under the provisions then in force as to continuity and length of waiting period might cause hardship in particular cases by restricting unduly the drawing of benefit. I submit with some confidence to the House that those conditions of hardship will prevail under the present arrangement, in spite of the fact that there has been some alteration with regard to the waiting period. While one does not know what the consequences of Clause 1 may be when it is put into practice by regulation, I am very much afraid that it will place a further burden and hardship on a number of people who have already consistently suffered for many years under the operation of the existing 1936 Act. It is right to say that it is desirable that these matters should be put on such a footing that they will be clearly understood by everyone, and that the amount of work laid upon the courts of referees and the Umpire should be reduced; but I am by no means certain that the procedure here indicated will not in its turn mean a great deal of anomaly and a great deal of work for the courts of referees.
With regard to Clause 2, I am glad the Minister has taken the opportunity to regularise those schemes, which have been adopted by some important industrial organisations, and have for their purpose an increase of security for their employés. There were anomalies there, as the law stood, between one employé and another and one firm and another within the same industry. It always seemed to me that where employés and employers have paid insurance benefits, the employé was entitled to receive his benefit, even if the employer decided to increase the man's security by paying him something in addition. I hope Clause 2 will clear up any uncertainty that may remain in anybody's mind on that point. I should like to express the hope again that the word "prescribed" in connection with the Regulation may be withdrawn and some other word substituted.
This Bill is interesting also because it seems to carry a stage further the game of badminton which is being played between the Minister of Labour and the chairman of the Unemployment Assistance Board. It is proposed that the Unemployment Insurance Fund shall save £400,000, which would have been paid to insured persons in respect of holidays—Christmas Day, Easter and the like—but the effect will simply be that those persons will go to the Unemployment Assistance Board and invite them to pay for the holidays, as they now pay for the waiting period. The effect will be that, whereas there will be a saving to the fund, there will be a corresponding debit to the Board, which ought to be taken into account. I hope that some day we shall have some body whose duty it will be to supervise all these strange developments of our social services, with all the compartmentalism—if that is the word—which goes on to-day. A better way would have been to tell Parliament that here was a saving of £400,000 which would be transferred to the Unemployment Assistance Board account.
1937 But when we come to Clause 3 we find that the Board are going to get their whack, because they pay allowances to some thousands of people every month in respect of the waiting period only. The whole thing is an amazing example of inept administration. I am not blaming the Minister of Labour for it in any way, because he is not responsible for the operations of the Board, although he has to answer for them in this House. We welcome the provision in Clause 4 in respect of dependants for whom benefit may be paid. We have no objection to Clause 5, but I hope the House is fully seized of the meaning of paragraph (b). It will be observed thatfor the purpose of paragraph (b) of Subsection (r) of Section thirty-two of the principal Act, the last day in that year in respect of which he received benefit shall be taken to be the day in that year on which he would have exhausted his benefit rights if the claim in respect of each period had been finally determined before the claim in respect of any subsequent period was made.I hope the House is fully seized of the importance of that. The law being as it is, it is as well that it should be kept, and the practice, which has become quite general, of failing to draw benefit on the last day of any benefit year, in order to carry forward the claim and obviate the necessity of getting another 10 stamps before benefit can be drawn, is one which should be discouraged. The law may be right or wrong, but it ought to be kept.
§ Mr. White
I do not want to be drawn into a discussion about Income Tax, which I should probably be quite incapable of sustaining. A practice has grown up which has put the Court of Referees in a difficult position. With regard to Clause 8, I always regard such a Clause with sympathy, and I am anxious to give it support. There is an increasing interest in training, and I hope that it will continue. Many younger people who started in blind-alley occupations have before them the example of their relatives, whose position gets worse in every succeeding year if they have had no training and no skill. Therefore, I hope the facilities will be availed of, and that they will be made readily available. I would like to know whether the extension of these facilities means that the Unemployment Assistance Board 1938 have now finally abandoned the field of training. I would like to think that it had been abandoned by the Board and taken over by the Minister, who has obviously greater experience in these matters than the Board can have.
If it were desired to give some compensation to those who, we must presume, will lose payment of benefit for holidays under Clause 1, I wish some consideration could be given to the possibility of giving benefit for odd days of unemployment. I cannot say what that would cost. It is clear that no certain compensation will be given to them under the Clause which deals with the extension of the waiting period.
We shall await with interest the statement which will be made in reply to the questions put with regard to the regulations. These are matters to which we attach great importance. What the Bill is going to do under Clauses 1 and 2 we cannot tell. It is at this stage a matter for speculation. But we feel very strongly that whatever regulations are made on these matters which are going to affect not only the unemployed people in general but that section which is intermittently and casually employed, the regulations should not be made without those who represent those people in Parliament having a full opportunity of considering them.
§ 6.12 p.m.
§ Mr. Buchanan
These matters are terribly important, yet the fact that the House is so very sparsely attended indicates that very few Members are interested in them. I have no doubt that if on another day we were discussing the utilisation of these men for purposes of war this House would be packed. When we criticise people outside for not taking such an interest in social affairs as they should, the House of Commons should set an example. Issues which are very important ought to be decided in an intelligent way, with discussion, and it seems to me a terrible thing that the House of Commons should take so little interest in them.
I congratulate all the three speakers who have preceded me to-day on the fact that none of them has used the phrase which I read in a paper the other day. I think it is the phrase of a snob. I read it in a publication of the National Labour party. As far as I can remember, it ran something like this: "The Bill is all right 1939 —or at least part of it is all right—but it does not grip the fundamentals. You are increasing benefits, but what does that matter? You ought to grasp the subject in a fundamental manner." I do not know the National Labour party's point of view, other than that they have representatives in the Cabinet. If they want to grasp fundamentals, it is through their representatives in the Cabinet that they should do so. In any case, while you are waiting to grasp fundamentals there is no excuse for this House not seeing that the victims of the situation are decently dealt with. The phrase is a snobbish one, and carries little weight.
This Bill proposes to do a number of things which are in themselves an improvement, but one thing is a backward step. I frankly confess that I have now stopped dividing the House with two or three Members, but if I had been in command of larger numbers I should have had a reasoned Amendment down, and should have divided against the Bill. I look on the holiday provision, apart from its loss of £400,000, as being, in view of all the modern thought and progress, a terribly retrograde step in dealing with the unemployed. I would have marked my detestation of that by voting in the Division Lobby, even allowing for the other improvements. The Bill proposes to make certain improvements. I suppose that as the right hon. Gentleman is granting benefit to the daughter and the sister, I ought to do what hon. Members did at Question Time in respect to another matter and tumble over myself in expressing my gratitude. I am indeed grateful for anything that I get now, because, with the international situation as it is, I seldom get anything else but kicks.
I agree fully with the hon. Gentleman the Member for Chester-le-Street (Mr. Lawson) in his attitude to dependants benefit. I would like the Minister to look at this point again. Why should not a housekeeper be included in respect of dependants benefit? If a man who has a housekeeper is thrown out of work, why should he not be allowed dependants benefit for the housekeeper. What can be the objection? I have heard of one objection, which is, that it might throw open the door for an unemployed man to introduce a woman. If he has children, the law allows him to bring in such a woman. I think that this sort of thing 1940 would so seldom occur that it would not be worth bothering about. Is there no way in which Parliament can safeguard the position? If the unemployed man can show that his housekeeper has been in his employ before he makes his claim, surely that should be a sufficient safeguard. The man with a housekeeper is in a worse position than any other unemployed insured person. Although he is unemployed he has to pay Health Insurance for his housekeeper,
I think that the case made by the hon. Member for Chester-le-Street with regard to dependants is the correct one. Take the case of a son living with his mother. The son contributes to the household 28s. a week, and the mother receives a pension of 10s., making the total income 38s. That man does not receive dependant's benefit in respect of his mother. It is not the 10s. a week that maintains the woman, but mainly the 28s. contributed by the son, yet because of the peculiar form of calculation that is adopted the son does not receive dependant's benefit. I appeal to the Minister, apart from the merits of the case, to try and make unemployment insurance simple so that the insured can understand it. I have great respect for the unbounded capacity of Ministry of Labour officials, who have the capacity to understand and to try and make them selves easy of approach. Surely the unemployed man is entitled to know the method of working. It has never been laid down in the Act. All that it says is that you must mainly maintain, and the umpire, by the processes of case law, has laid down some kind of regulations. I plead with the Minister to make this simple. I have sat in the court of referees. The court often wishes to ensure proposer maintenance but it is bound by the umpire's decision and calculation. Let the Minister sweep away the calculation; allow the court of referees the right of examining the issue without this fancy calculation. I ask the right hon. Gentleman to reconsider the whole question of the housekeeper. If a man does not receive benefit in respect of his housekeeper when he is thrown out of work, he often has to dismiss her.
The arrangement with regard to the boarder brings about an improvement, but I want to pass on to say a few words about training. The Minister was very adamant on the point that he was not going to overcrowd any particular trade. 1941 He said that we must take the circumstances into account, and I would ask him to re-examine training from this point of view. Hitherto it has been carried out almost entirely for men intended for manual occupations, and he has not thought of tackling it in respect of training men for professional types of employment. Why should he not extend the training so as to include university courses? We always talk of men being trained as joiners and for other trades, but why not consider the desirability of men going into training not for six months, but for much longer periods for professional courses. Why should they not throw open the universities to the unemployed. If a young man of 16, 17 or 18 years of age has the knowledge and intelligence to go in for and to master one of the professions, why should not the Minister of Labour throw open the whole of the resources to that man? At the moment he actually penalises him.
I ask the right hon. Gentleman to look at the matter again. A relative of mine who was employed at Boots, the chemists, for four or five years, suddenly decided that he would like to study with the object of becoming a doctor. He became eligible for unemployment benefit. He went to Glasgow University to study medicine, but the Minister came along and stopped his benefit because he was not available for work. If such a man went to a training centre he would not be available for work, but in that case he would receive unemployment benefit. I ask the Minister to try to enlarge the scope of the Act in this particular matter.
The holiday issue is really the kernel of the Bill, and I look upon it as deplorably reactionary from many points of view. The hon. Member for East Birkenhead (Mr. White) said that many of the people who will get this £600,000 will not be the same people who will lose the £400,000, and he is right. Everybody seems to think that the law should be evenly applied in the country, that there should be no distinction between locality and locality, and that the law should be no respecter of persons. What is the holiday practice in this country? The holiday practice in Britain varies in every district. On this holiday question Scotland is going to suffer by far the worst. London is largely not affected by it because the practice is that you 1942 have Christmas and Boxing Day, then Easter—Good Friday and the Monday after—the August Bank Holiday and Whitsuntide—altogether eight days of recognised holiday. A firm does not post a notice that it will shut down for 10 days. The men say, "We have arranged that we will take our holidays at such a time," and it is a mutual arrangement between them and the firm.
On the Clyde, and on the North-East Coast to some extent, our practice is a much more serious one. We have undefined holidays and under this Bill no man can get benefit for a day of holiday. That is laid down in the Bill and regulations cannot modify it. The average holiday at the New Year is seven days and the average summer holiday is 12—that is 19 days. Then there are two days equivalent to what we call our Autumn holidays. That is 21, then there is one day at Easter, which brings the total up to 22 days in the year for which no benefit can be paid. That means that our holiday period, because of local conditions, becomes a circumstance far out-weighing any other part of the country. What we call the Scotch Summer holiday is a fortnight and, in addition to that, the firm says, "You have not got to come back at the end of 12 days, as we usually bring you. You can go on for another 10 days after that." The present position is that he gets no benefit.
Under this proposal it is going to be worse. The umpire has decided that the holidays can be treated as unemployment provided that the man is out and receives no payment for 12 days plus his normal holiday. In other words, if he gets, say, 12 days in the summer, he has to be out for 24 days before the first 12 days can count. What is the position now? He got 12 days payment, because his 12 days holiday counted as a waiting period and allowed him to qualify for the additional days. Under the new Bill these days cannot count for continuity or for waiting period purposes, and the consequence is that this man, before he can be paid, must be out for at least 24 days. It is said that he can draw unemployment assistance, but he cannot claim it unless he has a claim to benefit and qualifies by signing.
A casual worker who is unemployed is entitled to see the sea as much as any other man in the country. I was 19 1943 before I saw the seashore and knew what a cockle or a mussel was. I do not want unemployed men to be denied the right of access to the sea. I trust that the Minister will aid people to get holidays. What happens to us? Has anyone walked a Glasgow street at the holiday period when the works are shut down? It. is a terrible time to be in the city. Always in my mind I knew that when we got holidays with pay someone would suffer, and it would be the unemployed man. If a man who has 50 weeks work in the year needs a week or two weeks holiday, surely the man who has intermittent employment, who really qualifies for payment from his employer because of his intervals of unemployment, is entitled to be paid during the holiday period. I trust that the Minister will cast his mind back to 1934 when the right hon. Gentleman who is now travelling Europe took charge of this matter. The Government wanted to abolish payment for holidays and the House did not let him.
It is a good thing to be away from Glasgow during the holidays. If a man is at home he cannot get work, because there is not a place open for him. Why should he not get to the sea or visit his relatives? Why should he be penalised if he does? I am sick and tired of reports which fling accusations at the unemployed without a bit of proof. Who is Sir William Beveridge, any more than the hon. Member for Gorbals (Mr. Buchanan) that he has the right to say things without proof? He talks about bringing the scheme into disrepute. Whoever heard such a charge made, that a man paid for a day or two at holiday time was bringing the scheme into disrepute? Who is he to throw charges about? Judges lay down that you ought never to make charges against groups of men without adducing proof. The hon. Member for Chester-le-Street, the hon. Member for West Nottingham (Mr. Hayday) and the hon. Member for Birkenhead, East, know the unemployed and know the conditions just as well as the Beveridge Committee.
I remember the Chancellor of the Exchequer, I believe in this seat, with piles of books showing how the Unemployment Insurance Act had been amended. I was not impressed as most other Members were. I do not blame the Government 1944 for amending the Act and I trust the Opposition will keep on and make them amend it, and amend it, and amend it. Unemployment insurance, in the nature of things, can never remain a stationary matter that cannot be amended. The Bill represents two or three changes since the main Act was passed. I welcome the vertical abolition of the waiting period for those who follow casual employment. I have always taken the view that there was no need for a waiting period. It arose out of a total misconception of the facts. In so far as this marks an improvement, I welcome it, but I wish the Minister had tackled unemployment insurance in a bigger and bolder way. I cannot understand why large numbers of people who are outside now should still remain outside the Act. My view is that, if you are running unemployment insurance, everyone should be inside it—Members of Parliament and professional men—and we all ought to be contributing to it in something like an equitable fashion. The Bill, like most of the things which the present Government have done, is a clever Bill. It gives a little and takes a little away; perhaps on balance it gives a little more to the unemployed than it takes away. But the holiday proposals mark a retrograde step, and to my mind take away much that is good in the Bill. I trust that the House will take an enlightened view of the holiday question, will not inflict penalties but will treat the people who come under the Bill as human beings whom they wish to encourage in enjoying life with an abundance which they have never had the privilege of experiencing before.
§ 6.46 p.m.
§ Mr. H. G. Williams
The House always listens with care and attention to the hon. Member for Gorbals (Mr. Buchanan), because hon. Members recognise that he has a mastery of the details of unemployment insurance denied apparently to all except those who have ministerial responsibility. For that reason I always listen very carefully to him and hesitate to argue with him on questions of unemployment insurance. On the other hand, I think he is a little sentimental in his outlook and therefore forgets sometimes that the fund has to be protected. If you do not protect the fund the ultimate result will be a reduction in benefits. There is not an inexhaustible sum available for the provision of benefits. I must 1945 say that the hon. Member made a most powerful appeal for a careful examination of the holiday provisions. It is clearly wrong that a person should be paid wages and unemployment benefit, but that, of course, is not what concerns the hon. Member. He is perturbed about the great difficulty of defining holidays. He made a vigorous appeal that unemployment insurance should be simpler. We would all like to see it simpler, as we would all like to see the Income Tax law simpler. It is difficult to define income, and a great many people get busy in trying to represent that what is income is something else, and that is why the Chancellor of the Exchequer produces every year a variety of complicated Clauses in order to prevent evasions. There is a section of the community which will drive a coach and four through the Unemployment Insurance Acts, and these various checks are designed 1o deal with a fraudulent minority. If you allow this small minority to get away with it then the demoralisation spreads, and ultimately the whole financial structure falls. That is an aspect of the matter which the hon. Member for Gorbals in his kindness of heart sometimes overlooks.
I think the hon. Member for Chester-le-Street (Mr. Lawson) was a little unfair in discussing Clause I when he quoted from the report of the Statutory Committee. He left out these words, which I will quote:Whatever the justification for the rule adopted by the Umpire in the past, the position in regard to possible hardship has been changed radically by the reduction of the waiting time from six days to three days. With that reduction the rule, as explained above, produces indefensible anomalies and inconveniences.For once the hon. Member was unfair in making a partial quotation because a complete quotation would have destroyed his argument. The hon. Member for East Birkenhead (Mr. White) raised a point which I did not quite understand, and I hope I do not misinterpret him. In regard to Sub-section (2) of Clause 2, he said that "the Minister may by regulations prescribe," and then implied that the House would have no control over these regulations. The hon. Member, I think, must have overlooked Clause 17, which lays it down that:This Act may be cited as the Unemployment Insurance Act, 1939, and this Act and the Unemployment Insurance Acts, 1935 to 1946 1938, shall be construed as one and may be cited together as the Unemployment Insurance Acts, 1935 to I939.That is to say, the provisions of the principal Act and this Bill must be read together, and I think it is Section 105 of the principal Act which lays down the procedure in respect of the regulations which may be prescribed. Those regulations have to be laid on the Table of the House and call for an affirmative Resolution. At any rate Parliament if it wishes has control.
§ Mr. Buchanan
These regulations may be placed on the Table in July and the House may rise until October, and all the time they can operate until the House meets again.
§ Mr. Williams
I agree that there is always that difficulty, but we have to assume that the game is played fairly and that tricks of that kind are not customary, unless some abnormal emergency calls for action at a time when Parliament is not sitting. In the ordinary way there is ample opportunity for Parliament to examine regulations, and then if they are found to be objectionable the Prayer would be widely supported. In actual practice before regulations are laid on the Table of the House it is almost certain that they will be submitted in draft to all sorts of people whose advice is obtained.
§ Mr. Williams
I am certain that the hon. Member sees all that he wants to see I think the case for regulations is very strong. Take the question of holidays. It is a difficult thing to define holidays, and if hon. Members will look at paragraph (a) of Clause 1 they will see that the regulations will prescribe what is to be deemed a holiday. In fact, the definition of a holiday is to be prescribed by regulations, and that has the great advantage that if the prescription first adopted turns out to be unfortunate it can be modified by a simple procedure, much simpler than the procedure of introducing a fresh Bill. That is a case where regulations are justified. I want to congratulate the Minister on extending the continuity rule from 10 weeks to 20 weeks. I am a little interested in this because in 1927 I pestered the late Sir Arthur Steel-Maitland for many weeks when the Bill of that year was before Parliament to extend the 1947 period from six weeks to ten weeks. The six weeks inflicted great injustice on many parts of the country on account of its effect between Easter and Whitsuntide, and ultimately I found satisfaction when I moved an Amendment and it was accepted, because I knew that I was rescuing tens of thousands of people from a difficulty which afflicted them periodically. I rejoice that the fund can now stand a further extension to 20 weeks. I am sure it is going to help a very great deal.
I think that some waiting period is necessary; otherwise you are going to impose on the Fund a colossal charge which would greatly prejudice real benefits. If you are going to treat every single day's unemployment the charge on the Fund might well run into several million pounds a year, and in the long run the standard rate of benefit would have to be reduced. The waiting period was not the invention of the Liberal or Conservative party but of the trade unions, who in their own schemes of insurance invariably had a waiting period. I think it should be reasonably short, and that three days is a fair compromise when the Fund can stand it. I should be opposed to its complete abolition. The Minister is entitled to be congratulated on the Bill, and I hope he will give the utmost attention to the remarks of the hon. Member for Gorbals, who made out a weighty case for some re-examination of the precise terms of what should ultimately be inserted in the regulations.
§ 6.57 p.m.
§ Mr. E. Smith
I have sat here since the beginning of the Debate and the speeches which have been made have only increased my concern with regard to some of the Clauses of the Bill. The Minister used a phrase which caused me grave anxiety. He said that "holidays should be treated as an incident of employment." If that is the principle on which the regulations will be issued, then there is some reason for my apprehension. The Memorandum to the Bill says in regard to Clause 1 that it:enables regulations to be made for the purpose of deciding when a person is on holiday.I wish to address my remarks to that point in particular. First of all, I should like to put one or two questions to the Minister. The question of what are holi- 1948 days is bound to give rise to a great deal of differences of interpretation. For example, various payments are made throughout the country, at holiday periods, but there is no uniformity; and I want to ask whether there should not be uniformity in the administration of this Bill? Secondly, "availability for employment" will affect applicants for benefit in this way. At the present time when men desire to obtain a waiting period all they need do at holiday time is to leave their name and address, and their benefit is paid. Will that be altered as a result of the Bill? If it is, I want to suggest that it is most unfair to put applicants for benefit in the position that simply because they are applying for benefit they cannot go on holiday because of the new interpretation which may be placed upon it under the Bill. I hope the Minister will bear in mind what I am saying when he is considering the framing of the regulations.
In the first place, I think we ought to remind the Minister and the House that the unemployment insurance scheme is an insurance scheme, that it is not a lottery, and that people who are contributing regularly to it ought to be in no doubt as to their right to benefit when they apply for it. I say that because of the experience we have had in areas like Lancashire, North Staffordshire and part of Nottingham. The Anomalies Act gave the Minister the right to draw up regulations, and those affecting married women in particular are a shame to this House and a shame to those responsible for them. I hope that the regulations to be made under this Bill will not be drawn in the same way as those under the Anomalies Act were. According to this report, and the articles I have read on the ideas contained in it, a big factor when the Minister is considering the regulations will be the method of payment during holiday periods in the various industries. In one case—and I hope the Minister will bear this in mind—where persons are supposed to receive payment for holidays it is not a payment for holidays at all; it is a timekeeping process, and in other cases agreed credits are paid in lieu of advances in wages. In the case of an application by engineering workers, the reply given by the employers' spokesman was that this method of payment was in lieu of an advance in wages. It 1949 is not fair now to use that as an instrument for denying applicants the right to benefit.
Many of these schemes are not really holidays with pay. Here is another example. In one large area—this applies to miners—the bonus is paid to trade unionists only for attendance at work. It is agreed that the bonus payment should be made at the last pay day in July. The cost is charged to the ascertainments. The payment coincides with the holiday period, and, in my view, when the Minister frames the regulations, he should bear this in mind, and the persons who apply for benefit should not be affected in respect of the payments they receive during the last week in July. When insured contributors have been on short time for weeks or months prior to the holiday they may be suddenly put on full time a week or two before the holiday. I hope the Minister will frame the regulations in such a way as to provide for those cases. I hope there is to be no national uniformity in the drawing up of these regulations. Just as the hon. Member for Gorbals (Mr. Buchanan) contrasted the position in London with that on the Clyde, so a contrast could be drawn in respect of areas like the North-East Coast, North Staffordshire and Lancashire. If the Minister is to be fair to the court of referees, who will have the difficulty of interpreting these regulations in the light of local circumstances, it will be necessary for him to take into account the whole background and the historical development of the areas. Otherwise these regulations are bound to cause a good deal of friction and misunderstanding.
The next point with which I want to deal is in connection with training. In the Ministry of Labour Gazette for January, I find that in the iron and steel trades there were unemployed at that time 24.5 per cent; in the tinplate industry, 37.5 per cent.; in engineering, despite rearmament, 6.9 per cent.; in shipbuilding, 22.5 per cent.; in the boot and shoe industry, 10.9 per cent.; in the pottery industry, 23 per cent.; and in the building industry, 18.6 per cent. Is it intended that training should take place for each of these industries? I suggest that it is most unfair to buoy up the hearts of young men to look forward to training, and to give of their best to it, when we know that in many cases we are building 1950 up false hopes while these percentages exist. I hope that no pressure will be brought to bear on these young men in any way, and I was pleased when the Minister stated definitely to-day that as far as he was concerned there would be no pressure on any young man invited to accept this training. I want to ask him also to give an undertaking that no official acting on behalf of the Ministry will exercise any pressure.
Having said that, I want to contrast our position with that in New Zealand.. There is no difficulty there about training.. The trade unions negotiate with the Government in carrying out training, and the reason there is such a great contrast is that in New Zealand, where they have a people's Government, there is no fear of the effects of training on those who are already in industry. In this country, especially if training is carried too far, this is what happens. All the professions are organised to defend their own interests. I am not finding any fault with that, I think it is a good principle. We find that people in the professional organisations are well catered for, and their interests well defended. But if training is carried too far it is the men, and particularly the young men who have given six to eight years in equipping themselves manually and technically to become fully qualified craftsmen, who are affected. After all that effort, in many cases after the sacrifices made by their parents, at the end of the 26 weeks' period they see on the horizon the means test. One can fully understand the suspicion when proposals of this kind are made. I ask the Minister to reconsider the question of the means test, and to consider whether the time had not now arrived when it should be abolished.
I want to join with the hon. Member for East Birkenhead (Mr. White) and the hon. Member for Gorbals in reminding the Minister of the unanimous recommendation made in 1932 that black-coated workers should be included in the unemployment scheme. When the Minister is introducing a Bill enabling him to deal with a number of questions that he acknowledges should be dealt with, one would have thought that he would have included also the unanimous recommendation of the Royal Commission. My final point is in connection with Clause 11, which states that the Minister may, with 1951 the consent of the Treasury, make reciprocal arrangements with the Ministry of Labour for Northern Ireland. Can it be stated what is the state of finance in regard to Northern Ireland? Is it a fact that this country has had to finance unemployment insurance there? If it is right to make reciprocal arrangements for Northern Ireland, surely the principle is equally correct that we should make reciprocal arrangements with Southern Ireland? We all know the need for improving the relationship between the whole of Ireland and this country, and this would be one step forward to show that we will not differentiate in the treatment of Northern Ireland against Southern Ireland. Surely we should adopt reciprocal arrangements covering the whole of Ireland in order to improve the relations with this country.
§ 7.13 p.m.
§ Sir Arnold Wilson
I want to add to the plea put forward by the hon. Member for South Croydon (Mr. H. G. Williams) that the views of the hon. Member for Gorbals (Mr. Buchanan) as regards holidays may receive indulgent consideration from the Minister. I listened with great interest to the plea of the hon. Member for Chester-le-Street (Mr. Lawson) that there should be an inquiry, and I am confident that such an inquiry, if it could be made reasonably comprehensive, would be in all respects satisfactory. But I do not see any reason why the trade unions should not endeavour to make some inquiry themselves. I would not be surprised if it was proved that one trainee in three was to be found in the ranks of the trade unions. There are about six million trade unionists and 18 million employed persons. I fancy that at least 30,000, and possibly 50,000, of these men are by this time in the trade unions. I have met a great many of them, good craftsmen, coming in as improvers after their training, and gradually working up. I wish the trade unions would make their own inquiries; and if they cannot do so, I hope the Minister will do so. I welcome the extension of the training from 16 to 18 years, but I hope the Minister will agree that it is desirable to have boys of 16 to 18 at a limited number of centres, and not at all 14 centres, for I am not sure that it is possible at some centres to do justice to such boys. I fully recognize 1952 that the period from 16 to 18 years is the apprenticeship period, and I would like boys of 16 to 18 to spend as much as nine months in training, if need be, instead of merely six months.
At the present time, the Ministry of Labour are training craftsmen. In my constituency, at Letchworth and elsewhere, they are giving a clear nine months training, and they produce men who are taken on, after training, at the Government aircraft factory at Farnborough, at fully skilled men's rates of wages. Last week, at Letchworth I saw ex-colliers, youths who had been out of the pits for some time, doing delicate instrument-making, and doing it very well. I listened to the lectures, which were difficult to follow, and the sort of lectures that are given to boys of 18 and 19 at a public school. They were followed intelligently. I looked at the notebooks of a dozen men; they were well-written, well-spelt, and well-phrased. The pressure to which an hon. Member referred, if it has been applied, has been applied to very good purpose, for clearly they have got the pick of those who are available, and they are making very good use of them. If the time is extended, it will be possible to give youths of 16 better training than is now possible. At the present time, at the half-dozen centres I have visited during the year, the placings have been from 90 to 100 per cent., and the various inquiries that were made in a sporadic manner by the Minister a year or two ago indicated that something like 60 per cent. were in the same job a year later, and that nearly 80 per cent. were in the same trade after a year.
The hon. Member for Stoke (Mr. E. Smith) inquired what were the trades. I have watched men learning oxy-acetylene-welding and electrical-welding. They leave and go straight on to 1s. 3d., for the most part; a few go on to 1s., and within four weeks they are on is. 3d. There are men learning carpentry, which is a full six months' course, and there is room for them; instrument-making and draftsmanship and metal-beating. For a certain type of man who is not capable of heavy trades, there is hairdressing and glass bending and armature winding, which is delicate; bricklaying and bricklayer's labourer, fitting and general garage hands. I do not think the hon. Member or the Minister need fear in this connection coming somewhat closer to some of the trade unions. That is something 1953 which I should welcome. I have watched the centres grow during the past five years. One of the weakest features of the Spens Report is the failure of that report to realise that in these training centres, through which 20,000 men are passing, there is the very best form of adult education yet developed. They are the type of men who are not able to take advantage of the technical schools, for various reasons, and who will not go to the continuation schools, for various reasons. The instructors are all ex-foremen. The men are put through the shops, clocked on and clocked off; they are taught office routine and management; they have to go to the store to get their stuff on indent and account for it; everything is done on sound lines, and I do not think anybody need fear the result of a careful and scientific inquiry.
§ Mr. Kirkwood
Does the hon. Member say that under this system of training they can produce draftsmen and scentific instrument-makers in nine months?
§ Sir A. Wilson
No, I do not suggest that. They are men who are capable of being taken on and earning improvers' wages from the very beginning. They are sufficiently good to be welcome junior members of any workshop. That is all one could ask and all that one would wish. There is one point that I put to the Minister. There are 40,000 men every year passing through vocational training centres and Ministry of Labour training centres. They are employed in handling tools in factories or in doing some form of work. They are not at present covered by the Workmen's Compensation Act or by any scheme under Section 31 of that Act. There are 135,000 men in the Government dockyards working as Government employés, who are, of course, covered by a contracting-out scheme under Section 31. Although these men are employed, clocking in and out, under workshop discipline, they are not eligible for compensation, except purely ex gratia payments, under no particular scheme, by the Treasury. I should much prefer to see a statutory scheme, and I should like the Minister to take power to bring in a statutory scheme and to make regulations for compensation to persons who may be injured in the course of their employment while undergoing training by the Ministry of Labour. They 1954 are doing a great deal of Government work, such as the making of spare parts. Not long ago, a man was killed by the explosion of a cylinder, a pure accident, and I understand that the Treasury paid compensation to his dependants.
But if we are to extend the training, I feel sure that everybody would prefer that the Minister should bring in a scheme. Clearly he cannot simply say that he will extend to them the contracting-out scheme of Government employés, because it is extremely hard to know what are their normal wages. There must be a general schedule, and I should have no difficulty in giving the Minister, at 24 hours' notice, half a dozen model schedules which would give a general indication as to what compensation should be paid. There should be some provision for regulating the circumstances in which an injured youth should be given compensation and rehabilitated if he suffers injury in the course of his employment. It is the responsibility of the Minister—a responsibility that is admirably fulfilledto— take these boys and to say, "You will do best as a bricklayer—you are likely to be a good carpenter—you have good hands, it is worth your while to try as an instrument maker—you will do best if you go into panel-beating or oxy-acetylene welding." Each of these trades has a certain risk attached to it—
§ Mr. Kirkwood
I am sorry to interrupt the hon. Gentleman again, but there is all the difference in the world between welding and panel-beating. Panel-beating is a natural art. There is no comparison whatever between the two. It takes a man years and years to become proficient as a panel-beater.
§ Sir A. Wilson
I am quite aware of that fact, but I have mentioned panel-beating as a contrast to oxy-acetylene welding. They are as different as chalk from cheese. A man is kept busy for four or five years learning the art of panel-beating. It is true that there is no such thing as unskilled labour. All work has its art, and unskilled labour, such as it is—and it is a technical term—is becoming less and less in demand. Organised training under the Ministry of Labour, away from the man's home, is desirable and inevitable. I would like to quote a few figures in case some hon. Members may not be aware of them. 1955 There is some talk about people being compelled to go to these centres and of there being over-persuasion. Twenty thousand persons went to courses last year, and 16,000 completed the courses. The 4,000 who failed to complete the courses were not penalised for not doing so; they simply went home for one reason or another. I believe that 300 or 400 were investigated for the purpose of trying to find out why they did not complete the courses. Some went to join the Armed Forces of the Crown—God bless them. A few went back for reasons of ill health; and fewer still for misconduct—a negligible number, and although I will not say from what district they came, they were all from one district.
The remainder went home for two main reasons. First, because of trouble at home—the young married man felt that he could not leave his wife any longer, and the wife begged him to return, and perhaps over-persuaded him. There was no ill-feeling on the part of the management of the centre; they said, "It is a pity, but if you must go, you must"; and they allowed him to go. Some of these young men left after three months' or four months' training. Secondly, a certain number said that they did not like being at the centres, and preferred to go back to the very distant part of the United Kingdom from which they came, and to stay there. But the great majority, after the first fortnight, settled down to do a good job of work. My son treasures at home a coin cabinet, not an easy thing to make, made by an ex-collier, a boy who had never before handled tools. It is a pretty good piece of work. I have seen many such pieces of work done by youths at these centres. Hon. Members opposite may rest assured that if they will go to these centres and see for themselves, any apprehensions which they may have will be allayed. I want to see this training extended, but I think that if it is to be extended, there ought to be some provision with regard to accidents, other than these ex gratia payments by the Treasury, which are in all ways rather unsatisfactory. For the rest, I welcome the Bill, and I hope that it will not be long before it reaches the Statute Book.
§ 7.30 p.m.
§ Mr. T. Smith
I want to emphasise the point made by the hon. Member for 1956 Hitchin (Sir A. Wilson) with regard to some scheme of compensation for boys in training centres. On Friday night last I had, at Pontefract, the parent of one of these boys to see me. He was proud of the work that the lad was doing, but he was very much perturbed about what would happen if the lad met with any accident, and I had to tell him that the matter was in the hands of the Treasury. That is not an entirely satisfactory position, and the sooner it is placed on a proper basis the better it will be for all concerned.
I rise to deal with one point only with regard to this Bill, and that is with the position as laid down in Clause 1. Since the principal Act was passed in 1920 I and others, over a period of years in different parts of the Yorkshire coalfield, have had to attend courts of referees to try and deal with the position with regard to holidays. The position has never been entirely satisfactory, although we have established what are regarded as customary holidays, and the men have automatically regarded that as being the law on the point. We have had another development since then. We have had for the first time in the long history of the mining industry, a so-called holidays-with-pay agreement in each district. I say "so-called," because it is far from being an ideal scheme, and when the Minister boasts about, or rather expresses admiration at, the fact that we have now more than 9,000,000 wage earners covered in some shape or form with regard to holidays with pay, he had better remember that, so far as the coalfields are concerned, we do not regard these holidays as being holidays with pay at all. They are nothing more nor less than bonuses for good time worked.
Last year we had half a week's holiday with pay, and when the men had the three days' holiday application was made to the court of referees for unemployment pay. Of course, the case had to go before the Umpire, who, so far as Yorkshire went, declared definitely that if a workman at any colliery received payment from the colliery company for the three days' holiday, that person could not receive unemployment insurance pay. While we were not surprised at the decision, we were quite entitled to make the application and to test it out in accordance with the machinery laid down in the Act 1957 of Parliament. Having had that decision, there arose the question of the men who had a holiday without pay, and I had the privilege of meeting the Umpire, on behalf of most of the collieries in Yorkshire, to deal with the application for unemployment insurance pay for those men who had holidays, but received nothing. We had not only a very interesting but a prolonged argument, and I think I am right in saying that we succeeded in establishing our claim to benefit. The Umpire allowed the appeal in our favour. Under this Bill we are going to say to that class of workman, "You will get nothing, whether you receive anything from the colliery company or not." That is my reading of Clause 1, and if I am not right, perhaps the right hon. Gentleman will make it clear.
I want to bring out the kind of case that receives no pay when the general body of workmen receive their holiday with pay. First, you have what may be termed the bad timekeeper. It is very easy to say that a man is not a good workman, but one has to remember that the mining industry is a fairly hard industry, and all of us who have spent years underground know that there are occasions when one does not feel ill, but when one does not feel quite fit enough to get up to work at five in the morning, and when one feels that one wants a "late day," as we call it. If you have more than a given number of "late days" in a given month, you lose so much of your £3 holiday money, with the result that if you have lost so many days for so many months, and the time comes when the general body of men get their holiday week, you are out of work, but you get nothing. I want the Minister to remember that case.
There are two other kinds of cases which ought to be quoted. If a man leaves one pit during the year and goes to work at another pit, that does not disqualify him for a holiday with pay, because he is within the same county, but in these days we have a good deal of industrial transference. We have a number of people who go from one county to another in the hope of getting a job. We have, for example, a number of men who will come from Durham into Yorkshire on the off chance of getting a job, when they see in the paper that the Doncaster pits are working more regularly. We have men coming out of 1958 the Nottinghamshire or Derbyshire coal-field into Yorkshire, and if these men have not worked the requisite time in the county, then, when the holiday week comes, they are out of work and get nothing. I think that is a penalty which those men ought not to have to carry. Another case that I have in mind is a case that I had to put before the umpire, of a man who had been discharged from the Regular Army. He had come back to work in the coalfield and had started work, but because he had not worked sufficiently long, when the holiday week came he was out of work and got nothing. I contend that these men who receive nothing are not really on holiday, but are out of work because the others are out of work.
If the hon. Member for South Croydon (Mr. H. G. Williams) had been in the House, I would have answered his query about what a holiday is. I never had the slightest difficulty in defining what a holiday was. If I did not want to go to the pit because I did not feel well enough, I did not regard that as a holiday, but as a "late day." If I had a day examining the pit for the workmen, the lads used to say that that was a "bobby's job." Work is so hard in the pit that if you had a day's work underground lighter than you usually had, the men would say, "Hallo, another money-for-nowt job." What I meant by a holiday was when I was able to stop away from the pit and stay at home or go away with something in my pocket, and enjoy myself. It needed no question of fine definition, and I contend that these men who have to be out of work when the other people are making holiday are not really holidaying, but are out of work because the others are out of work.
My next point is on the question of availability. That had to be argued before the umpire, and I contended then, and I contend now, that if anybody is available for work, it is those men who are out of work without any money. They are not only able, but they are willing and anxious to get work. I had to quote this case. During crisis week last autumn, which happened to coincide with the time when a number of our pits were having their three days' holiday, a good many men who had drawn their 30s. had gone away, but the men who drew nothing stopped at home. There came a call from the local authority for labour to start dig- 1959 ging trenches and other A.R.P. work. Who were more available than those men who had received nothing? They were available, and they were ready, and willing, and anxious to do it. Here we have, in Clause 1, a declaration thatan insured contributor shall not be deemed to be unemployed … on any day on which he is on holiday.It goes on to say that the Minister shall have power to make regulations, among other things, as to whether an insured contributor is or is not to be deemed to be on holiday. Does that give the Minister power, in an industry where there is a holiday-with-pay agreement, with certain penalty clauses where employés can be out of work in the holiday week, but draw nothing, to make regulations so as to certify either that those persons are or are not on holiday within the meaning of the Act? If the Minister will make that clear, a good many of my hon. Friends and I will be very much obliged. These very vexed questions of holidays with pay and of unemployment insurance are far from being settled when we have passed this Bill into law. I will conclude by saying that there are in the Bill one or two other things of a minor character which, personally, I welcome.
§ 7.41 p.m.
§ Mr. Foot
I should like to support what was said earlier by my hon. Friend the Member for East Birkenhead (Mr. White) about the form of this Bill. It seems to me that in this Bill we have reached the high water mark of government by regulation. I did not hear his speech, but I know that the hon. Member for South Croydon (Mr. H. G. Williams) excused this on the ground that it was necessary to have flexibility, but it would take a great deal of flexibility to justify a Bill being presented in this form. If one looks through the first two or three Clauses of the Bill, a number of questions are bound to present themselves, to which the Bill contains no answer, and it is impossible to tell what shape ultimately these regulations will take. May I give an example or two? The hon. Member for Normanton (Mr. T. Smith) drew attention to certain words in Sub-section (1) of Clause 1 and to paragraph (a) of Sub-section (2), which lays it down thatthe Minister may make regulations for determining … whether an insured contributor … is or is not to be deemed to be on holiday for the purposes of the principal Act.1960 It is impossible to know what are holidays or what will be deemed to be periods of unemployment. We have not the facts to know what the effect of the Bill will be in that respect.
To take another example, there is Subsection (3), which deals with the question of contributions that may be made for the purpose of national health insurance and widows', orphans', and old age contributory pensions. It is obvious that where you have a week in respect of which payment is made, you have to decide whether contributions shall be payable in respect of that week, and surely it would be a very simple thing to lay down a principle, one way or another, in the Bill so that we should know what the prospect is. But nobody can tell, from looking at the Sub-section, whether or not it is the intention of the Government that these contributions shall be made in respect of a holiday week. I think that is a most unsatisfactory way in which to present legislation to this House.
The whole criticism of these early Clauses of the Bill is that the House does not and cannot know what it is doing when it gives the Bill a Second Reading. This goes much farther than any question of mere flexibility. It is simply another example of the practice, of which we have had so many examples from the Department in recent years, of the deliberate evasion, by this method, of Parliamentary control. It is repeating in fact the practice that we had on the Unemployment Bill in 1934. I remember that during the three years from 1931 to 1934 the burning question in politics was the means test, and every Member for an industrial constituency had an enormous post-bag on that subject alone during those years. We were all waiting to express our views; we hoped to bring about considerable changes but when the Bill came before the House we found that we were powerless to reshape the administration of the means test, because everything was to be done by regulation and not by Statute. In a minor form that procedure is being repeated in this Bill. I wish to ask the Parliamentary Secretary a question about the date of the regulations. It is stated in Clause 1 (6):This Section shall come into operation on the fifth day of October, nineteen hundred and thirty-nine.1961 It follows that the regulations will have to be made some time before then. Is it intended that these regulations shall be made and shall be open to the examination of the House before we rise for the Recess at the end of July, or will they be made, and possibly brought into operation, before the House has had an opportunity of seeing them? We ought to have some information on this point. Unless we get an undertaking upon it, the regulations may come into force before there is any opportunity of examination by this House.
I would also like a definite statement on the Parliamentary procedure to be adopted with regard to these regulations. As hon. Members know, there are several forms of procedure which can be adopted. There is the procedure which was adopted under the Unemployment Act, 1934, which means that the regulations must have the affirmative assent of both Houses. There is the more common procedure under which the regulations must be laid upon the Table and can be annulled, if the House so wishes, within 21 days of being laid. Nothing is said in the Bill about the procedure to be adopted in this case. True, Clause 17 provides:This Act may be cited as the Unemployment Insurance Act, 1939, and this Act and the Unemployment Insurance Acts of 1935 to 1938, shall be construed as one.Is it the opinion of the Ministry that that Clause imports into this Measure the same procedure as that contained in Sections 104 and 105 of the 1935 Act? If that be so, then, of course, the regulations will be laid and there will be 21 days within which a Prayer for their annulment can be moved. Personally, I would rather see the Government under the obligation to place the regulations before the House and get the affirmative assent of the House. There is a great difference between regulations which are brought in at a reasonable hour and form part of the Government business and the moving of a Prayer, probably in the small hours of the morning, when it is difficult to get the attention of the House. But whichever procedure may be adopted, this still means the same derogation from the authority of Parliament as that which was borne in upon the House on the two occasions when we discussed the regulations governing the U.A.B. means test.
The feature of all these regulations is that although the House can accept or 1962 reject them as a whole, it is powerless to alter a word or comma of them. It often happens that hon. Members in all parts of the House are reluctant to reject a whole set of regulations or a whole order, because the regulations or the order may contain many things of which they approve. Yet there are often details to which Members take strong exception, but they are unable to give any effect to their objection because no Amendment can be moved. Of course when we are dealing with comparatively small and petty matters like minor traffic regulations, it would be impossible as a matter of convenience, for this House to shape and draft them all. But I think that in matters of this importance intimately affecting the livelihood of many thousands of people, we ought to have a different procedure on regulations of this kind, and it ought to be possible for the House to amend them.
This Bill, the Minister said, is designed to carry out the recommendations of the Unemployment Insurance Statutory Committee. The principal change intended is that unpaid holidays shall not count as waiting days. I am not sure that I do not regard that provision with a certain amount of alarm. In my constituency the principal industry is the jute industry in which, unfortunately, wages are very low. We are accustomed to have the annual public holiday in Dundee at the end of July. We have a week's holiday then, and as yet we have no arrangements for holidays with pay. That means that a man who is not taken back at the end of the week's holiday—as sometimes happens—will have to commence his waiting days then. That is to say, from the time he leaves work until he is in a position to draw benefit, there will be an interval of 10 days. That is a considerable hardship. I know that the Beveridge Committee specifically dealt with this point in their report in which they say:In so far as holidays with loss of wages are, for poorly paid workpeople, a hardship rather than a means of recreation, the cases of hardship will be reduced in proportion as paid holidays become general.That is so, but it seems very cold comfort to people who find that they have the long period of 10 days to wait, to be told that gradually this thing will iron itself out as arrangements for holidays with pay become more general. The Minister said that we had to draw a distinction between 1963 a period of holiday and a period of unemployment. It often happens that where there is a low-wage industry, where it is not possible for people to put aside much from their wages, and where there is also a holiday week without pay, there is really no distinction between a week's holiday and a week's unemployment. The hon. Member for Chester-le-Street (Mr. Lawson) regretted that the Bill was not confined to its first three Clauses and that various other matters had been tacked on to its main provisions. I regard the Bill rather differently. It is a kind of miscellaneous provisions Bill in which all the various reforms to which the Ministry has been converted in the last year or two have been embodied. That being so, I am rather surprised at one or two omissions. My hon. Friend the Member for East Birkenhead and my hon. Friend the Member for Stoke (Mr. E. Smith) have already referred to the omission of any increase in the salary limit and any provisions for bringing in black-coated workers.
I may remind the Parliamentary Secretary of another point which I have endeavoured to raise on other occasions in this House. Personally, I regret the absence of any enlargement of the right of appeal of men who are struck off benefit by courts of referees. At present there is no right of appeal from decisions of the court of referees where the court is unanimous and the chairman refuses leave to appeal. True, if the applicant is a member of an association of employed persons, they can appeal on his behalf. I know that hon. Members above the Gangway do not agree with me in this, but it has always seemed to me an in-defensible provision in our law that we should give a right of appeal to one section of contributors to the fund which we deny to other sections of contributors to the fund. I wish that some provision had been included in the Bill whereby men refused benefit and refused leave to appeal by the court of referees, could apply, at any rate in writing, to the umpire for leave to appeal and also a provision giving the umpire power to grant leave.
There is one other comparatively minor matter, but one to which considerable importance attaches, and which I wish had been dealt with in the Bill. That is the position of pregnant women who are within a week or two of childbirth 1964 and are unemployed and have to go to the Employment Exchange. If they can get a doctor's certificate to the effect that they are within three or four weeks of childbirth, it ought to be possible to absolve them from the necessity of attendance at the exchange. All hon. Members who represent constituencies where there is heavy unemployment know that this is a genuine grievance, and I hope it will be possible to deal with it before we are finished with this Bill. Finally, I would refer to another matter arising out of the Statutory Committee's report. In paragraph 23 the committee say:Nor have we failed to consider the suggestion that formal provision of such an income might be made, in part at least, for everybody from the Unemployment Fund, that is to say, that Unemployment Insurance might become Unemployment and Holiday Insurance. This suggestion, in our view, is wrong in principle.They go on to give their reasons and conclude with this sentence:Unemployment insurance should be confined to unemployment.The committee, of course, has to work within certain limits and, having regard to the present structure of unemployment insurance, it cannot be doubted that their reasoning is correct. But this is one of the misfortunes which arises from our system of having our Insurance Fund in two categories, one for health and the other for unemployment. It is, of course, a very much larger question than any dealt with in the Bill, but I would conclude by expressing the hope that the Government will consider the consolidation of the social services in the near future and whether the time has not come to have an all-in insurance scheme, embracing a much larger section of the population than is now included. It would be possible to expand such a scheme, as time went on, to take in one social service after another, and I think it is on those lines that we are most likely to advance in future years.
§ 8.0 p.m.
§ Mr. Viant
I think all who listened to the appeal of the hon. Member for Dundee (Mr. Foot) respecting pregnant women having to attend at Employment Exchanges would desire to reinforce that appeal, and I hope that the Parliamentary Secretary will take note of that feeling and, if possible, give a favourable reply about it this evening. It may be that it is 1965 a matter for the Committee stage, but in any case if that appeal can be met I am sure the concession will be appreciated throughout the country. I have listened to the bulk of this Debate and have heard various views expressed regarding the apprehensions which are prevalent as to how Clause 1 is likely to operate. I would follow that up by submitting to the Parliamentary Secretary concrete illustrations of what will happen on the Thursday night preceding Good Friday. For years I have been associated with the building industry, in which labour is in the main casual and employment intermittent. It is a common experience on the day preceding an ordinary Bank Holiday or the Christmas or Easter holidays for a large number of men to be dismissed. A number will undoubtedly be dismissed on the Thursday preceding Good Friday. The probability is that some of them will have been in employment for only a week or a couple of weeks, and according to my reading of Clause 1 they will be unable to get unemployment benefit for the Friday, Saturday and Monday. As most of the firms lock their employés out until the Wednesday morning they will miss at least four days pay. On Wednesday morning they will sign at the Employment Exchange, but then comes in the three days waiting period.
I should like the Parliamentary Secretary to tell us how the Clause will affect men in that position. I am of the opinion that they will be deprived of pay over the holidays and, with the three days' waiting period, it will mean they will get nothing for that week. The same thing will occur at Christmas, and it is also the common practice for men to be shut out on every Bank Holiday and the day following. The Minister will probably say that he is going to draw up Regulations to deal with these contingencies. Apprehensions have already been expressed about the procedure of laying Regulations upon the table. Most of us feel that we shall not have an adequate opportunity of discussing them because it is impossible to discuss Regulations after 11 o'clock at night. I hope the House will be given a reply this evening which will remove our justifiable apprehensions and that we shall be given adequate facilities to review the Regulations and, if necessary, to oppose them if they do not deal leniently and not harshly 1966 with those who will be affected by the Bill.
There are many Clauses in the Bill which most of us welcome, but we feel perturbed about the one dealing with the Regulations. We welcome Clause 3, which provides for the continuous period of employment being extended from 10 to 12 weeks. The extension of dependants' benefits is also welcomed, but we rather wish that the manner in which the assessments are to be arrived at by the Umpire was more generous than it is, because instance after instance can be quoted to show that nothing in the nature of justice or equity obtains as between one case and another. There seems to be a hard-and-fast rule and every consideration of justice and equity goes by the board. Each case is not considered on its merits, and until a different spirit prevails justice and equity will not be done. We are apprehensive about the generosity which appears to be expressed in the new Clause. While it appears generous on the surface, generosity would seem to be ruled out in its administration.
I pass to Clause 8. The hon. Member for Hitchin (Sir A. Wilson) extolled the benefits of the present training system, and I feel sure that quite a number of Members must have been convinced that six months' training could turn a casual labourer into a mechanic. We were told that instrument makers are being trained in that way. I know of no more complicated work than the instrument maker's, and many who have served an apprenticeship of seven years have found that even after that they have had to go as improvers in order to secure the finesse which is required in such a trade. While the Minister was speaking I asked him whether trade unions had been approached in regard to the proposals to train lads between 16 and 18 years of age. I am all for training. Training is quite a good thing. Even if a man does not follow the occupation for which he has been trained he is none the less a better citizen for it. He is able to appreciate craftsmanship and art.
The point I am making is, What does the Minister expect from such short periods of training? I am a mechanic myself. My apprenticeship lasted for seven years, and at the end of it I was 1967 still painfully aware of my shortcomings. We are to take these young lads and in six months try to teach them the use of tools either in carpentry, bricklaying or some section of the engineering trade. The plea is made that it will keep them from going into blind-alley occupations, but six months' training will not accomplish that. If training is worth while why not get into touch with the industrial unions and endeavour to revive the apprenticeship system? By giving the lads six months' training only and then turning them out we are going to sour them, and they will still go into blind-alley occupations. Already we have been taking them into training centres for six or nine months' training in carpentering and in bricklaying. On coming, out from the training centres they have probably found employment with a speculative builder at 10d. an hour, whereas the ordinary craftsman's rate is 1s. 8d. an hour. Probably they are being concentrated on the use of the hammer and the saw, fit for nothing else. For three or four months their employers will probably have exploited them in every sense of the word, and then they have been turned adrift and have probably gone back to their home towns to lapse into casual employment as labourers and all the value of that training has been lost.
If training is worth while let us give them an adequate training. The Bill suggests taking them in at the age of 16, that is, the apprenticeship age. Let us have a proper scheme and make apprentices of them, so that they will be taught the practical side and the technical side. Let them receive their training in the workshop and attend the evening classes. The trade unions have often been criticised harshly in this House by people who really do not understand their position because they have not been prepared to take into the unions the men who have six or nine months' training. During the period I was out of this House, 1931–35, I went back to my trade. In some places, when they found out who I was, I was dismissed. We on this side are supposed to preach the class war, but some of the employers practise it with a vengeance. Fortunately, I soon regained my position and became responsible to a West-End firm for the employment and selection of men. Two or three of these trainees were sent to me and I tried them 1968 out. They were all right, where it was simply a question of using a hammer and saw on a rough kind of work. No trade union, however, could afford to take these men into its ranks. When employers apply to trade unions for mechanics, they expect the union to supply mechanics capable of doing work in keeping with the trade. The kind of men who are being trained cannot be expected to meet with these requirements.
I appeal to the Minister to appreciate what is happening to-day and to let us have men thoroughly trained so that the trade unions will be able to take them into their membership. What is more important, if these men receive thorough training, not only are they improved as craftsmen, but improved in their spirit of independence and helped to become the men we desire as thorough-going citizens. I appeal to the Parliamentary Secretary to reconsider the proposals for taking lads at the age of 16 and giving them six or nine months training. If you are going to train them at all, give them a thorough training, and you can then rest assured that you will get the support of the employers and the trade unions. In the building industry, with which I have been associated all my life, we have in London and in many towns throughout the country a first-class apprenticeship system worked by the operatives and the employers. A real apprenticeship system will meet with their approbation and obtain their co-operation. Therefore, I hope we shall hear that these channels are to be explored and that, in the spirit of co-operation, we shall embark on a system of training which will revive the spirit of craftsmanship and remove the misrepresentations that are brought against the trade unions because they are not prepared to take into their ranks men who have not had a proper training.
§ 8.19 p.m.
§ Mr. Leslie
The hon. Member for Hitchin (Sir A. Wilson) dealt with training centres and, among other trades, mentioned hairdressing. A strong objection is taken in the hairdressing profession to the training system. That is one reason for the registration Bill which was submitted to-day for the protection of the tonsorial artists. We do not object to training, but care must be exercised not to train lads for occupations where the prospects of continuous employment is not very good. We 1969 ought to know something about the regulations with respect to training. The statutory committee have on several occasions submitted certain recommendations which were subsequently translated into legislation. There was a recommendation for the inclusion of agricultural workers, a very desirable section, and further proposals were made to improve the benefits for that section. Then there was a recommendation for the inclusion of gamekeepers, horse-keepers, etc. We do not object to these workers being included.
I think that every worker ought to be ensured for unemployment, but I cannot understand why one class that was recommended for inclusion long before the game-keepers and agricultural workers still remains outside. I refer to the non-manual workers. The Statutory Committee gave a good deal of consideration to that question. They sat for no fewer than 11 days taking evidence from employers' and workers' representatives. I had the honour to give evidence before the Committee on behalf of large sections employed in the distributive trades, men who are in and out, at times earning over £250 a year, and at other times earning less, with the result that when they find themselves unemployed they are very often not entitled to benefit. I have known some hard cases of men who, as the result of amalgamation of firms, were thrown out of employment after 20 or 30 years, and there was no unemployment benefit for them. Some of them had houses heavily mortgaged, of which they had to dispose, and within a short time all their savings had gone and they were driven to ask for relief from public assistance.
The Statutory Committee reported that the evidence was in favour of the extension of unemployment insurance above the £250 limit. That evidence came from journalists, architects, correctors of the Press, textile managers, coke oven managers, colliery under-managers, navigating officers, marine engineers, chemists, shop assistants, actors, musicians, theatrical employés, and life insurance workers. The distinction between the non-manual and manual worker is, as the Committee pointed out, very unreal. For instance, a typist who strikes the keys of a typewriter is held to be a non-manual worker, while the compositor who strikes the keys of a linotype machine is held to be a manual worker. The Committee 1970 came to the conclusion, as the Royal Commission of 1932 did, that the existing remuneration limit for non-manual workers was unsuitable and ought to be raised. The Committee recommended raising it to £400, although admitting it was lower than the sum urged by witnesses representing the workers.
The Committee concluded that by raising the sum to £400 it would bring in about 400,000 persons, and finally—and this is the important thing—the Committee stated that the inclusion of these persons would strengthen rather than weaken the Unemployment Fund. If that be the finding of the Statutory Committee, why in the name of common sense have the Government not yet brought in the non-manual workers? I know managers of distributive stores and of branch shops of multiple firms who are in and out; they are like the unfortunate seasonal workers who pay contributions for a time, but when the need arises they are not entitled to benefit. I hope that at long last the Government will see their way to improve the non-manual workers in unemployment insurance.
§ 8.25 p.m.
§ Mr. Gallacher
When the Minister concluded his speech he patted himself on the back, as is his custom, by saying that he invited the House to become an agent in a further measure of reform. I do not accept this Bill at all in any real sense as a reform, although there are one or two points that can be welcomed. This is actually a Bill designed to take advantage of reforms and to save money for the Unemployment Fund. Reference has been made to the character of Clause 1 and to doubts that exist as to the character of the regulations that may be drawn up. I hazard the prophecy that when the regulations are drawn up they will be found to be, for many people, holidays without pay as distinct from holidays with pay.
I want to take a particular case. An hon. Member who spoke from this side referred to the situation of the miners and said that holidays with pay were only a bonus to the miners for their constant appearance during the year at the mines. That is not putting the matter fully in the sense of what is happening. I represent a mining constituency and I know that the miners of this country are paying for that bonus which they get at holiday 1971 time. All this so-called holiday with pay goes into the ascertainment and therefore the miner is actually contributing week by week and month by month for his holiday pay. I would ask the Minister to consider this. No matter what any of us may say or know to the contrary, I am certain that the Minister of Labour would make the claim to be an honest man. The miners were persuaded or forced to come into National Health Insurance, and week by week they have to contribute their quota for benefit when they are unemployed.
In the past when they have been laid off during the so-called holidays—which have not been holidays at all—they have been enabled, because of the contributions they have made and because they were insured at that period, to make a claim at the Employment Exchanges, and in certain circumstances were able to obtain unemployment benefit. The miners have now been persuaded to participate in a new reform, in a scheme for so-called holidays with pay. They contribute week by week towards the fund that provides the money for those holidays with pay, but they have already been providing the money for insurance benefit when they are out of work; so, the Minister takes advantage of the fact that the miners are now contributing towards the holidays-with-pay fund to deprive them of their rights under the insurance scheme. That is not a reform; that is a swindle. Unless this House can get an opportunity of discussing and considering and altering, where necessary, any Regulations that may be prepared between now and October, that swindle will be perpetrated on a large scale throughout this country, and many people will suffer as a consequence. I want to make the demand in connection with this Clause that, in view of the serious character of this proposal, no attempt should be made to force a situation where the Regulations must be accepted or rejected as a whole. On this occasion, because of their serious character and their wide ramifications, these Regulations should be brought before this House for discussion and alteration wherever that may be necessary.
I was going to speak at some length on the remarks made by the hon. Member for Hitchin (Sir A. Wilson), who was talking on a subject of which he appeared to 1972 be completely ignorant. The matter has been dealt with however, very well, by the hon. Member for West Willesden (Mr. Viant). These training centres are all so much humbug and the whole question comes down to one of apprenticeship. Six months at the training centres may produce improvers, but that procoess tends to destroy the apprenticeship system and to intensify the problem that we seek to solve. Improvers provide cheap labour for employers. Instead of employing a tradesman the employer can, for some of the more rough and ready operations, employ the improver at low wages. This House should not approve this makeshift effort to overcome a serious problem. Let the Minister come to an understanding with the trade unions and ensure that these lads shall be employed in industry in such a way that they will understand the industry, be properly trained, and get trade union rates of wages. That is the only real solution for the problem.
Another point I wish to touch upon is the extension of benefit to dependants. There is an anomaly in connection with this question of dependants to which it is worth while making a reference. It is the married man, the insured person, who presumably has dependants such as wife, sisters, and all the rest of it, but we have a situation very often where the insured person is a spinster. She may be earning a wage that maintains a home. There are districts in the country where more women than men are employed. I have a case in mind in which a sister goes out to work while a sister, whom she maintains, looks after the home. If she is unemployed, she gets unemployment benefit for herself, but there is no allowance for the one who has been dependent upon her. This new Clause deals with the husband as the insured person, and extends the benefit to those who are dependent upon him, but I would ask the Minister during the Committee stage to consider doing something for these other insured persons who are faced with very great difficulties when unemployment comes upon them.
I want to refer to a point regarding which I made an interjection during the Minister's speech. In cases in which an inquiry is to be held and an unemployed man has to attend, it is provided that no person shall be required, in obedience to such a summons, to go more than 10 1973 miles from his place of residence unless his expenses are paid. Why 10 miles? Why any mileage at all? There are areas where the bus fare from one part of the district to another is double what it is in other areas, and, if mileage is taken as a basis, the man or woman who is travelling in one part of the country may be paying, say, 1s., while people travelling in another part of the country are paying 2s. I maintain that, wherever an unemployed man is invited to attend an inquiry, he should get whatever expenses are necessary for his attendance. We find, however, an attitude of the utmost contempt adopted towards these unemployed people. The idea seems to be that, if they live four, or five, or six miles away from a particular centre where an inquiry is going to take place, they are unemployed and, therefore, they can walk; and we very often find, in cases of this kind, men and women having to trudge mile after mile along bad roads, sometimes in bad weather, and having to suffer very much as a consequence. I maintain that, no matter how far or how near it may be, if their attendance at an inquiry is needed, their legitimate expenses should be met, and that this idea of mileage should be dispensed with altogether.
In the mining areas and in other country districts it is sometimes necessary to travel seven, eight or nine miles. In some of these cases you can only get a bus at a particular hour, and then, when you have got to your destination and finished with the inquiry, you may have an hour, or perhaps two hours, to wait before you can get a bus back. There is all that inconvenience to be considered. It may be necessary, when an unemployed man comes to an inquiry, that, as a result of his having to wait, he has to get something to eat. He has to spend money in food which could be used to good purpose at home if he had not had to attend the inquiry. It is a costly business having to buy food away from home, even if it is only tea and a bit of bread. I would like to see the mileage condition done away with and consideration shown towards unemployed men and women.
I have been to Employment Exchanges to see managers about the position of unemployed men who have to go considerable distances, and I have found that, if an unemployed man has to walk three miles to get to an Exchange, that 1974 is supposed to be nothing at all. But many of these people who talk so lightly about the unemployed, when they have finished their own jobs, have a car waiting to take them wherever they want to go. People associated with the administration of the Employment Exchanges and the Unemployment Assistance Board talk in the most careless and unfeeling manner about the unemployed, as though it were nothing at all to walk two, three and four miles, it may be on the worst of roads and in the worst of weather. I must say that, despite the Minister's lavish praises for his own handiwork, I cannot express any admiration at all for this Bill. I consider that the one or two advantages which are associated with it are accompanied by very dangerous features, and that it is in fact a Bill to take advantage of the reform that is now developing in the direction of holidays with pay, to save money for the Unemployment Fund at the expense of those who are insured.
§ 8.42 p.m.
§ Mr. Sexton
It has been well said two or three times during the Debate that this Bill is legislation by regulation, and, of all forms of legislation, that is the worst. I have glanced through the Bill, and find as many references to regulations to be made by the Minister as there are Clauses in the Bill. We on this side realise the difficulties of finding a sound, clear, and concise definition of holidays, but there are other parts of the Bill where no regulations are needed, and where the necessary provisions ought to have been placed in the Bill itself. As regards Clause 1, much has been said, and much more could have been said, about the ill effect on the waiting period. I remember that not very long ago in this House we were talking about statutory holidays with pay, but I think that Clause 1 is a statutory Clause for holidays without pay, because it marks out certain days which have been paid for in the past and which now will no longer be paid for under the Unemployment Assistance Board. Those works which close down at Easter and Christmas do not close down for the benefit of the workers. Many of them close down for a longer period than the actual holiday, for the benefit of the owner of the works. On page 13 of their report, the committee say:Even when a firm regularly declares a 'holiday' each year, e.g., by stopping for 1975 all days from Christmas to New Year, or for a week or more in summer, this may be essentially a convenience to the firm (for stock-taking or repairs) and a time of distasteful idleness and loss of wages to the employees. To accept a unilateral declaration of a 'holiday' by the employer is to incur the risk of letting unemployment go without benefit.If the Minister can make a regulation which will obviate this risk of genuine unemployment going without benefit, I am sure he will have the support of all Members of the House. Then there is the loss to the worker under Clause 1 which has been emphasised by my hon. Friend the Member for Chester-le-Street (Mr. Lawson) and by many other Members, in connection with the waiting period. The worker is also debarred from counting those same days in his waiting period. If the works are closed for six days, and three of those are classified as holidays, and do not count as waiting days, it is possible for that worker to go the whole six days without getting any benefit. Something ought to be done in Committee to make Clause 1 less harsh for the worker. Clause 4 has been welcomed by practically every Member. The hon. Member for Gorbals (Mr. Buchanan) and others have criticised, time and again, the wickedness of excluding from benefit all dependants except the wife. Under the Clause, that is remedied.
With regard to Clause 8, I am not going over the ground so well covered by my hon. Friend the Member for West Willesden (Mr. Viant) and my hon. Friend the Member for West Fife (Mr. Gallacher) about apprenticeship. This country has turned out the finest craftsmen in the world. That was done on an apprenticeship basis. There is now a great shortage of craftsmen. It is due to the shortage of apprentices, and this nine months' training which is proposed is simply playing with the business. The Government ought to get down to a serious system of apprenticeship. Not only will they have to do that, but they will have to guarantee jobs for those men after the long years of apprenticeship. To-day, in the engineering world, men who have served seven years' apprenticeship will not go back to the industry. They are engaged as drivers and conductors on buses. These are regular jobs. They remember what happened after the War, when engineers were thrown out of work by thousands, and, 1976 although they have been asked to go back, they will not do so. In Clause 9 mention is made of employers defaulting in connection with the stamping of cards. Where the workers have contributed their share for the stamps and the employers have failed to stamp the cards, the workers should be entitled to benefit just as though the cards had been stamped. Otherwise, the workers are penalised through the fault of the employer. I have had examples of that happening.
In connection with Clause 10, the hon. Member for West Fife has pointed out the disgrace of men having to travel 10 miles or more each way before they get any travelling expenses. I understand that, as the Minister said, this difference is the same as is mentioned in the National Health Insurance Act, but there is no reason why an injustice which is perpetrated under that Act should be repeated in this Bill. The worker may travel 18 miles in all, and receive no remuneration for travelling or subsistence. In the rural areas where I live it would be almost impossible for a man to travel that distance unless he had some expenses allowance. In some of those districts buses run only twice a week, and then the fare is 2s. return for a journey of nine miles each way. At times, it is impossible for the buses to get along, owing to the weather. It is manifestly unfair to expect a man to travel 18 miles without remuneration, especially a man who has been under the Unemployment Assistance Board. He has got low in health, and has hardly any clothing. The position is the same in regard to the sub-stations at the Employment Exchanges. I have had several complaints about men having to walk long distances to these sub-stations.
There is one great omission in this Bill. I had looked forward to something being done for those workers who are sometimes under the general scheme and sometimes under the agricultural scheme. They suffer a great hardship. In my district, where the coal-producing areas are idle in the summer time, the men turn to agricultural work, to limestone quarrying or to hay-making. If they put in so many weeks mining and so many weeks farming, they are not allowed to add together the stamps which they get under the general scheme and the stamps which they get under the agricultural scheme, and the result is that, although 1977 they may have acquired enough stamps in the aggregate to entitle them to benefit under either of the schemes, they do not receive any benefit. I hope something will be done to enable men who have paid their contributions and whose employers have also paid theirs, to total up their stamps under the two schemes, so that they will be able to get benefit. Suggestions have been made from this side, and from the other side, too, that the Minister should take closely into consideration especially the matters dealt with in Clauses I and 10 and the matter of the dual kind of workers, agricultural and non-agricultural. I hope that by so doing he will make a better job of the unemployment benefit system.
§ 8.53 p.m.
§ Mr. Dunn
I want to make one or two observations with regard to this Bill, and to draw upon my own experience somewhat. During the last 15 months I have seen, particularly in my own constituency and my own miners' branch, a more lively interest in the matter of holidays with pay, and the question of how it was going to be treated in legislation, than in any other question. The people in my part of the world are very eager to see how the proposal is to be treated in this House. I have read the report of the committee, and I have a tremendous amount of sympathy with the criticism levelled against the Bill by the hon. Member for Chester-le-Street (Mr. Lawson). I must also confess that I found my mind running very largely in the same direction as that of the hon. Member for Gorbals (Mr. Buchanan). I could not help reflecting, as he did, that when there was something to be given away, when there were huge subsidies to be handed out to industry—on this occasion it was to the shipping industry—when the bone was thrown into the centre of the House the dogs from every part were after it.
§ Mr. Dunn
And no means test whatever. This Bill not only deals with legislation for the unemployed, but Clauses 1, 2 1978 and 3 deal with people in employment equally as much as with people who are not in employment. When it becomes a question of dealing with the people who are unemployed and part-time workers we do not find the same degree of charity and generosity exercised towards them as we found earlier to-day exercised towards industry. People in my division, and particularly in my own local miners' branch, whose meetings I attend from time to time, are more critical and more concerned with regard to the question of holidays with pay and how it is to be treated in subsequent legislation than they are with regard to many things which they discuss from time to time. I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Barnard Castle (Mr. Sexton) that it is not merely a question of holidays with pay but rather of making provision for holidays without pay. Under past procedure, it has been possible, year in and year out, during holiday periods, and without any computation in respect of the wages system or wages agreement whatever, to make arrangements in various parts of the coalfield for workers to look forward to some measure of payment during such times.
As I understand Clause 1 of the Bill, unless some drastic alterations are made and some more humane regulations are laid down, workers will not be entitled either to claim, or to be paid, any benefits whatever from the unemployment scheme, and also no customary holidays. Not only Good Friday, Easter Monday, Whitsuntide Bank Holidays or Christmas time, but other holidays in the year, in many cases periods of ten days, will not in any way be entitled to be computed for the purposes of holiday payments. That is not the worst feature of the position. They will not be holidays which can be regarded as continuation days.
I am intrigued with regard to the effective saving of £400,000 a year. We in the mining industry who have an opportunity of examining from time to time the ascertainment schemes and the figures relating thereto realise that, taking only the month of January, over £26,000 is laid on one side or is a credit within the scheme for the purpose of holidays with pay. That, multiplied by 12, gives the amazing figure of approximately £300,000 for the year. I believe that the actual estimated figure is £360,000 for one year in one county. The right 1979 hon. Gentleman was once Secretary for Mines and will know the workings of these schemes. We in the mining industry do not look upon this as holidays with pay at all. It is regarded in all districts as something which is taken from the workpeople week by week and month by month. There is a possibility that Clause 1 may not be nearly as watertight as it appears at the present time. It may be examined in the light of how far an effective arrangement may be made which will not make the holiday period coincide with the time when the money is actually paid over to the workpeople. In these circumstances I wonder how Clause 1 can be made effective.
The real point I want to put is this: Usually the sting of a Bill or a statement is to be found in the tail, but in this Bill the real sting to which we on this side of the House object very strongly is to be found in the fact that the Minister himself is really making an effective saving to the Fund at the expense of the wages ticket of the workers in every part of the country. The right hon. Gentleman may disagree with that. I wonder what will happen in some of the coalfields where agreements have been made and are in process of revision dealing with holidays with pay, to a man, for instance, suffering from a temporary period of illness in respect of which it may not be possible for him to secure even a doctor's certificate. How will he be affected by the proposed penalty clauses that the employers are seeking to insert in their agreements for holidays with pay? I have in mind workers particularly in the deep, hot mines of this country, the best type of people, those who are anxious and willing to make the most effective time they can at their work and industry. I will take the Doncaster coalfield as a case in point. The best statistics, before anything like this came along, have shown that the actual effective working time that a man could possibly put in was not more than an average of four days and a quarter per week per year.
In those circumstances, while the penalty clause applies it will really mean, taking the coalfields as a whole, that very few men will be entitled to receive holidays with pay at all. Assuming that the works shut down for a week or seven or eight days, as the case may be, I am wondering whether a man who, because 1980 of the penalty, is not entitled to receive his holiday with pay money, and draws no money whatever, will be entitled co receive benefits under Clause 1 when it becomes law. As I see it, he will not, and therefore the penalty clause will operate against him. He will be called upon to take his holiday week without pay in the recognised period, and he will be entitled neither to unemployment benefit nor to anything else. He will be thrown back again on to public assistance funds. The part-time worker seems to be affected by this very materially. I beg the Minister, when he is drafting his regulations, to have particular regard to the part-time workers and to the penalty clauses which may be operating in the coalfields.
§ 9.8 p.m.
The Minister claimed that practically 9,000,000 workers were covered by agreements and by other obligations for payment for a holiday. It indicated to me that he was probably claiming some little credit for the Measure that he introduced 12 months ago. Actually that was only an enabling Bill which gave powers to certain statutory bodies. Holidays vary in different districts. In some parts of the country they are in the wakes week, in others at the goose fair week and in others at different times and for different periods. There are many industries in which there is no defined period of holidays. I want to raise one or two of those exceptions. I do not envy the Minister's task in drafting his regulations. I would ask the Parliamentary Secretary if he can elucidate these regulations before even they are submitted to the organisations for consideration, and prior to their being placed on the Table of the House, how they are going to define the periods of holidays in varying conditions and what they are going to do about some essential sections of workers who have no period of holiday whatever? I have been seeking information and have been able to get an opinion as to two sections, seasonal and casual workers. I fail to understand how they can be included within the Measure. It is very difficult to understand, for instance, how dock workers can have effective agreements with their employers as to the allocation of holidays.
The information that I have received with regard to this is that, while the Bill 1981 is not specific on the point, it is possible that the proposal to define holidays which shall be treated as Sundays will result in the position of some Members being less satisfactory, as days which at present can be counted as waiting days will no longer be so treated. The six-day week will be recognised in the main for administrative purposes and now the holidays are coming in the same category. But there is this difference that Sunday is a fixed day in the week, and the period of holidays cannot be determined as a fixed statutory period for any particular occupation or any number of occupations. Consequently the difficulties are going to be enormous. It is almost impossible to understand how regulations can be drafted to deal with the case of seasonal workers. The difficulties already in regard to unemployment insurance are very numerous, and this is going to add another anomaly in the case of this particular section of workers.
There has been some discussion as to the definition of holidays. I am not going to enter into that, but this Measure will not clarify the situation very much. There is one aspect of it which I want to raise, because I notice that this Clause is to come into operation on 31st October, 1939. That immediately raises the assumption that it will not operate for the greater part of the holiday season this year, and consequently we are to have a repetition of what took place after the last holiday period when boards of referees in some cases allowed a claim for unemployment benefit for certain days, because in some districts, even in the Bank-holiday week the recognised holiday was the Saturday and the Monday, and in some cases the Tuesday, and if in the circumstances workers had the qualifications they could have payment for the period of days if they were unemployed for the remainder of the week. But Sub-section (5) when applied will complicate matters. There have been considerable diversities in the decisions arrived at, not only by courts of referees, but by the Umpire.
I have two specific cases in connection with two important trades, as typical of what has happened. In the tinplate trade the general practice is that male employés are given £2 in lieu of wages for the holiday week and female workers are given £1. In the galvanising trades, an 1982 analogous occupation, the employers give an ex gratia payment. In the one case the umpire upheld that benefit was legitimate, but in the other case it was refused. That of course, may be one of the reasons why the Statutory Committee have the responsibility placed upon them of defining what is the practice. There is some little difficulty in understanding how they are going to define holidays and where there is to be payment for the holiday. Instances have been given as to its application in the mining industry. In my own division the Can nock Chase Miners' Association entered into an agreement which provided not holidays with pay, but attendance bonus. The court of referees upheld the claim that they were entitled to benefit for the period of the holiday which was not the customary holiday in that district, but the payments were made according to their attendance and the persons who had recently come into the mines, of course, did not qualify. That, in the opinion of the majority of people was recognised as payment for holidays, although the payment actually coincided for a period of six months on the eve of the holiday week. In this particular case an appeal was made by the insurance officer to the umpire and was upheld by the umpire, but fortunately for the miners they had received their pay for last year.
Nevertheless, I think in Sub-section (5) you are actually reversing the position which has been established under the major Act, and that an appeal to the umpire will not be made in the same way as it has been. In fact, from my reading of the Sub-section the umpire will in all cases determine that where they have had a period of holidays they will not receive unemployment benefit. That is going to cut across cases where persons have had no payment whatever, who have had probably very intermittent employment and happen to come to a period of the usual holidays so that they will not be entitled to any claim on the Insurance Fund. That Sub-section, in my opinion, is giving very drastic power to the umpire in that direction. After all, there should be a consideration of the merits of the individual case; we should not legislate in general terms. In the main the administration must be carried out according to the circumstances of each individual case. Probably there will be difficulties in this direction.
1983 With regard to the final application of the regulations, the point I want to put is: Are they to be applied to the industrial organisation in specific industries or are they to be of a general character? If they are really to be of a general character, then the interpretation must ultimately be very varied. I cannot see how that will apply unless they can be applicable to practically every section of the industry according to variations as to the number of days of employment and the various parts of the year in which the holidays are in operation, and the particular industries to which they apply. If there is an assurance that the regulations can be so framed that they are going to meet the varying conditions, then it might be somewhat more satisfactory, but we will wait to see what those regulations are before we pass any verdict upon them.
Now with regard to the various other portions of the Bill. I will deal only with one or two points. There is a point with regard to Clause 8 in connection with the training which is being extended to juveniles between 16 and 18. I notice that in Sub-section (1, b) the question of seamen, marines, soldiers and airmen arises, and I want to know why these are specifically mentioned in this Bill. My impression, and the impression of the hon. Member for Chester-le-Street (Mr. Lawson) is that training has been in operation for members of the Defence or armed Forces hitherto, and that the 1935 Consolidating Act includes them. Why are they specifically mentioned here? Will the Parliamentary Secretary also explain why in the Memorandum there is an indication that there will be an extra cost to the Exchequer under the new provisions which will not be considerable, but the Vote for the Ministry of Labour will bear as a final charge the cost of training members of the armed Forces which is now recovered from the Defence Departments.
The only point I want to make is as to whether there is any change in the payment from the Defence Forces to the Unemployment Insurance Fund for the training of the men from the Forces. I think that is very essential. It may be clear in the mind of the right hon. Gentleman, but he only specifies in the Memorandum that it is now a charge on the Defence Funds. Secondly, why should these persons be included in this 1984 section if under normal circumstances they have hitherto received training? Is there any change in the procedure, or is it merely the re-allocation of the method with the payments coming out of the Unemployment Insurance and then coming under the Ministry of Labour Board for discussion? Then with regard to the latter portion concerning the repeal of the provisions as respects periodical hirings in agriculture. That, I understand, is mostly in Scotland and probably the north. However, the figures that the right hon. Gentleman gave indicated that the numbers of unemployed in that particular section of agriculture had been more than was anticipated. I wonder if the Parliamentary Secretary could give us any impression as to whether there has been any great degree of discontinuance of the long-period hirings, and what has been the effect of the application of the Unemployment Insurance to that section. In any case it would be interesting to know just what is the position.
There are two other points I want to raise. At various times representations have been made to the Insurance Statutory Committee with regard to the position of married women who have a good record in industry as to why the anomalies should still apply to them and also to seasonal workers. Those are two factors that have been placed before the Insurance Statutory Committee and they thought they were purely for Parliament to deal with. That should give an opportunity for the Minister to have in this Measure some method of overcoming that great problem of the anomalies. I know it is the general opinion that there ought to be some revision with regard to married women in industry who have good industrial recrds. Seasonal workers are another section who ought not to have been omitted from the Bill. We can hardly expect that the Minister of Labour is to get an ultra-share of legislation in the near future. This should have been an opportunity of bringing about such changes.
We on this side of the House accept some parts of the revision in this Measure. We take it as a sign of some little progress, although from the actuarial side of it I agree with hon. Members behind me that while you are giving a little with one hand the Minister is taking a great deal 1985 more with the other. The Insurance Fund ultimately has to be the benefactor when the operation of this Measure is in full swing. Whatever the savings are, they are certainly higher than the expenditure which will take place in the various sections. However, we will await the Committee stage, when there will be further clarification of many of these sections, particularly in regard to how they are going to apply, and we will probably take the opportunity of putting down Amendments to strengthen the operation of the Bill, and, if possible, try to extend it within the scope of the Title.
§ 9.34 p.m.
§ The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Labour (Mr. Lennox-Boyd)
I shall endeavour to copy the hon. Member who has just sat down not only in the reasonableness with which he has spoken, but also in response to requests from both sides about the speed with which I deliver my speeches. I understand that I have spoken at such a speed on previous occasions that Members have been left in doubt as to what I have been intending to convey and have even thought that I might have done it deliberately. I do welcome what the hon. Member has said, and I can assure him that my right hon. Friend will welcome his collaboration in any effort to make this Bill a better Bill in the Committee stage. I assure the hon. Member that all that he and other Members, on both sides of the House, have said will be read with interest to-morrow, and that all the suggestions that have been made will be borne in mind when we come to draft the regulations. I join with the hon. Member in agreeing that it is no enviable task to compose regulations adequate to problems of this kind; but we shall do all that we can to produce regulations that will command me widest possible measure of agreement, and I have little doubt that those regulations, when they appear, will be regarded as just and equitable by most people.
On this side of the House, we have little to quarrel with in the Debate that has taken place, and it is only on the one subject of holidays and insurance problems that there has been a certain measure of disagreement. The hon. Member for Cannock (Mr. Adamson) referred to the great number of variations in this problem and in particular to the variations in the decisions of various courts of 1986 referees. I would remind him that it is in part because of those variations that it is thought necessary now to have statutory provisions. The hon. Member asked me one or two questions which I shall do my best to answer before coming to the main Debate and dealing with the points which he raised, in common with hon. Members who spoke before him.
In regard to Clause 8, Sub-section (1) (b), which deals with the training of seamen, marines, soldiers and airmen, the position is as follows: This Clause will give the Minister express authority to train serving soldiers. At present, although in fact we have that authority, we have ourselves no power to do so legally. Last year we took over the training of soldiers, but we did so as the agent of the War Office, and the result has been that we have had to recover the cost from the War Office. Now we can transfer this to the Ministry of Labour Vote, although the War Office will continue to be responsible for the pay and allowances of the soldiers concerned. The hon. Member also referred to the question of long hirings in Scotland and the North of England. We have no information to suggest that there has been a decline in the practice of long hirings, but we have information which shows that this scheme has not brought about the result for which it was designed, that is to say, an increase in the security of occupations in that part of the country, and the cost, when compared with the results, has been too considerable to justify a continuance of the scheme. I hope a little later on, when we get to the agricultural draft order, to answer any detailed questions which hon. Members may wish to put on this subject.
When I said that on this side of the House there was little in the Debate with which we could quarrel, I forgot one particular phrase used by the hon. Member for Gorbals (Mr. Buchanan), and I hope he will pardon me for reminding him of it. No one—least of all somebody as new to the problems of unemployment insurance as I am—could listen to what the hon. Member has to say without realising that the hon. Member is a mine of information on this subject which he has made particularly his own, and that his knowledge is not only knowledge that comes from a study of Acts and regulations, but from the very human contacts 1987 which he is privileged to enjoy. Nevertheless, when the hon. Member said—waving the report as he did so—that the report of the Statutory Committee hurled out attacks and charges against the unemployed, I think he was carrying words a little too far. There is in this report no attack, either express or implied, against those contributors to the Unemployment Fund with whom we are dealing now. The overwhelming majority of them are decent people who want to get out of the insurance system only what everybody who is insured wishes to get, that to which they have proper legal rights. They are as anxious as we in this House are that the scheme should be well and properly run. They are no more anxious to get advantages to which they are not entitled than, I feel, are the employers who may, perhaps because of the haziness of the law in the past, have been enabled to unload on to the Unemployment Fund their own proper responsibility of providing holidays with pay. I would point out that one result of this Bill may well be still further to stimulate that highly desirable movement. The hon. Member for Normanton (Mr. T. Smith) referred to the conditions that constitute a holiday. I may perhaps have misunderstood the exact connection in which he made his remarks, and if I did, I apologise to him; but my impression was that he suggested that if a man who is going away for what is, in effect, a holiday, is not paid, it is not a real holiday, and that therefore, a special procedure should be applied.
§ Mr. T. Smith
I think the hon. Member misunderstood me. The hon. Member for South Croydon (Mr. H. G. Williams) asked what was a holiday, in a kind of rhetorical way, and I said that if the hon. Member had been present, I would have given him what I believed to be a holiday.
§ Mr. Lennox-Boyd
Then I misunderstood the hon. Member, but I take this opportunity of pointing out that it would encourage employers not to give holidays with pay if the sort of provision which I thought he had in mind were inserted in the Bill. Reference has been made to the Debate which took place in this House in May, 1934, when this subject was under discussion. I think that 1988 perhaps the hon. Member for Gorbals may have had in his possession a copy of the OFFICIAL REPORT of that day.
§ Mr. T. Smith
I hope the hon. Gentleman's reference to holidays is not going to be the last word on the subject. What I pointed out was that there are many cases where a man is transferred from one district to another and because he has not had the requisite length of service with his employer and is out of work, it is a holiday without any pay at all. What would be the position in law?
§ Mr. Lennox-Boyd
Certainly, I will take careful note of that observation. That is one of the problems that we shall have to consider when drafting the regulations. In regard to the Debate which took place on 3rd May, 1934, the suggestion has been made that the Minister of Labour of that time was obliged to withdraw a proposal similar to the one in this Bill because of the same arguments that have been advanced in the House this afternoon. I may perhaps refresh the memory of those hon. Members who have forgotten the exact form which that Debate took by reminding them that the Minister of Labour, in withdrawing that proposal, said:The conclusion that I have come to after listening to the Debate is that this Clause, if passed into law, would act unequally throughout the country for the reason that there are different customs in different localities." — [OFFICIAL REPORT, 3rd May, 1934; col. 532, Vol. 289.]It is because of that very difficulty that we are taking power in this Bill to apply a different procedure, if need be, to different localities and trades.
§ Mr. Buchanan
May I point out that it is not proposed to do that? The Bill says that nobody can receive payment for a holiday. The Bill does not allow for this difference.
§ Mr. Lennox-Boyd
That is the point to which I was coming. The Bill does not define a holiday; that will be left to the regulations. What the Bill says, in Clause 1, Sub-section (4) is: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.1989 This is the Clause to which the hon. Member for East Birkenhead (Mr. White) took some exception, rather because of a misapprehension as to the use to which it would be put. Of course, the words which I have quoted can be geographical in application, and they can also vary in application according to different groups of persons. There is a further reason why the arguments that were advanced in the Debate in May, 1934, are no longer applicable to-day. Here I must once more return to that paragraph in the report of the Statutory Committee to which my hon. Friend the Member for South Croydon (Mr. H. G. Williams) referred:Whatever the justification for the rule adopted by the Umpire in the past, the position in regard to possible hardship has been changed radically by the reduction of the waiting time from six days to three days. With that reduction the rule, as explained above, produces indefensible anomalies and inconveniences.''The hon. Member for Gorbals described these proposals in regard to holidays and insurance as being retrograde in the extreme, but I venture to think that if the present confusion between unemployment and holidays is allowed to continue without steps being taken to check it, then the hon. Member will find that disadvantages will result for that very insured population whose welfare he has at heart. We believe that the only sound and healthy basis for holidays is holidays with pay, and that wages should be adjusted to enable people to enjoy a holiday, and also if possible, that the wages during the weeks preceding the holiday should allow something to be put by in order to provide more adequately for the holiday itself. Permanently to continue the present confusion would hold up that very development of paid holidays which the whole House has accepted in principle and on which we are now actively working. The ideas of the hon. Member would undermine what we regard as the only healthy basis of holidays with pay, and I do not believe that in the end the people for whose interests he battles so thoroughly would find that they had more money than under the procedure which we have devised. Everybody who has examined this problem, from the Amulree Committee to the Statutory Committee, has come to the definite conclusion that the provisions in the Unemployment Insurance Act permitting unemployment benefit payments during the period of paid 1990 holidays must be reconsidered, and it is because of that agreement, to which both those bodies have come, that we are introducing this Bill.
The hon. Member for Gorbals, in common with a large number of other hon. Members opposite, referred to the continuity rule, and here I would like to make one reference to the speech of the hon. Member for the Rother Valley (Mr. Dunn), which I was glad to be able to hear and in which I feel that a great deal of useful information will be found for those on whose shoulders will fall the task of devising the regulations. The hon. Member for Gorbals, in dealing with the customary days of holiday in his part of Scotland, gave the impression, I feel unintentionally, that under the Bill people now enjoying customary holidays will lose benefits which they at present receive. There is in fact only the possibility of those customary holidays ranking for continuity of unemployment, and I hope this answer will give the hon. Member some reassurance, though I am uncertain as to whether it will be sufficient. If the extent of time off work was under 12 days, it is true that the contributors would lose the three days' waiting period, unless, of course, they got that advantage of the extension under Clause 3 from 10 to 20 weeks, but otherwise the 12-day rule would bring in the whole period, including the holiday, and so they would be exactly as they are now. Perhaps the hon. Member would like me to follow up that reference to the 12-day rule. The object of the rule, as he knows, so far as regards holidays, is to help to define the cases in which, owing to an extension of what otherwise would have been a period of holiday, the whole period, including the holiday, is to be counted as unemployment. The regulations to be made under this Bill must lay down a rule for this purpose, and there is no reason to suppose that it would differ substantially from the rule that is now in operation.
There is one further remark that fell from the hon. Member—and the hon. Member for Chester-le-Street (Mr. Lawson) made the same observation—drawing attention to the differences between Scotland and London and other localities but I think I have sufficiently dealt with that matter in what I have already said. The hon. Member for Chester-le-Street also made a reference to Southern Ireland. I can assure him 1991 that a number of efforts have been made since 1924 to bring this difficulty to a satisfactory conclusion, but, of course, there are two countries involved, and for the last 14 years there has been an inevitable tendency for our two systems to diverge. With regard to training it is not expected that reducing the age at which the Ministry has power to offer training will lead to an increase in the establishment at the centres or that there would be any new threat, if indeed, as I cannot admit, there ever has been a threat, to the position of the skilled men in trade unions for whose welfare we must always be on the look out.
§ Mr. Lawson
Will steps be taken to consult the trade unions or the Trades Union Congress in reference to this?
§ Mr. Lennox-Boyd
If there is any point that they are anxious to raise on that subject, I hope we shall have one of those very friendly contacts which we have had on other questions. With regard to Clause 5, I think the hon. Member for East Birkenhead was a little disturbed, but I think he misunderstood the purpose of the Clause, because he thought it dealt with cases of men who stopped short deliberately just before they received their maximum benefit. It does not deal with that case at all. It is a very complicated case, but with the good will of the House I would like to try and explain it. A man with 30 contributions and entitled to 156 days' benefit in a benefit year might draw for 136 days and then go to work. Assume that this happens in the month of August and then he loses his employment and claims unemployment benefit. The court of referees disallows the claim, and an appeal goes to the Umpire. He still at this stage has 20 days to count. Then comes the month of September, and he becomes unemployed again, having had work mean-while. This time the claim is allowed, and he draws his 20 days' benefit. Then in the month of October the Umpire decides in favour of the August claim, declaring that the applicant is entitled to the 20 days' benefit to which he should have been entitled in August. If this was conceded, the applicant would receive 176 days' benefit payment instead of 156. We do not think that it is desirable, because of the inevitable delay in the Umpire coming to a decision, that an 1992 anomaly of that kind should be allowed. It is only a small point, but as the hon. Member for East Birkenhead raised it, I thought it desirable to deal with it in some detail.
The hon. Member for East Birkenhead, the hon. Member for Dundee (Mr. Foot), the hon. Member for West Willesden (Mr. Viant), and the hon. Member for Can-nock also referred to the way in which these regulations would be brought before the House of Commons, and asked what safeguards there were for ensuring adequate Parliamentary discussion and control. The position is this. The draft regulations would go to the Statutory Committee, which would advertise them, and the widest possible collaboration would be invited. I can assure the hon. Member for Cannock that any interested parties or individuals would be able to tender such advice as they might wish to give. The Statutory Committee would report to the Minister, who would consider the report, and make regulations. They would come into force and be laid on the Table of the House of Commons, and if within 20 days a Prayer were asked for, a discussion would take place. I may perhaps point out that if there is in fact a feeling that this is a set of regulations on which further discussion is desirable, there is no doubt whatever that that discussion will be arranged. The hon. Member for Dundee asked what would be the position in the case of this publication if the House had already risen. He knows that the date for coming into force is 5th October, and we shall do our utmost to produce the regulations before the House rises. I cannot go farther than that, but I quite appreciate the force of the point that he made.
§ Mr. Gallacher
Can the hon. Gentleman leave the date indefinite until the Committee stage, in order that if he cannot produce the Regulations before the House rises, there will be an opportunity for the House to consider them before they come into operation?
§ Mr. Lennox-Boyd
I do not think that that would wholly meet the situation, but we are conscious of the difficulties, and the points that have been made will not be lost sight of. In regard to other points, I can reassure the hon. Member for East Birkenhead on another subject that he mentioned. On Clause 2, Subsection (2), he appeared to be disturbed 1993 about the use of the word "prescribe." He appeared to think that there might be two sets of Regulations, one which the Minister usually devises to lay before Parliament, and one that he was entitled to prescribe on his own account. This Clause, however, refers to Regulations of the normal kind, and there is no sinister intention at all. In regard to the question of the non-manual workers raised by the hon. Member for East Birkenhead and by the hon. Member for Chester-le-Street, both hon. Members are conscious of the amount of time that has been devoted to the consideration of this subject and the correspondence and meetings that have taken place. I assure them that what they have said will be given attention.
The hon. Member for East Birkenhead also raised the question of the saving of £400,000 and the further charge of £600,000 and suggested the possibility that the contributors who would be deprived of the £400,000 would not be the same as those who would receive the £600,000. It is impossible to say that in every case they will be the same, but in a great number of cases they will be the same people and I do not think there is any reason to be unduly disturbed by fears of that kind. There was another suggestion by the hon. Member which hardly squared with what he said about a large sum of money being available for disposal which would not go to the people who were entitled to it. He referred to the possibility of persons who were not receiving benefit because of this Bill going to the Unemployment Assistance Board and receiving assistance instead. That hardly squares with the argument which he used previously, but I pass over that and merely remind him of the fact that, of course, the Unemployment Assistance Board has a statutory duty to relieve need, if need is proved.
The hon. Member for Gorbals, leaving for a moment the subject of holidays and insurance, took up the question of the calculation of dependant's benefit. He was a little in error when he said that in the case of a wife, it would be necessary for the applicant to prove that he either wholly or mainly maintained her. He is not required to prove this if they are living together. The argument which he used in favour of extending the Clause to deal with housekeepers raised the very 1994 difficulties which reformers always find before them. The Minister when first considering whether it would be possible to extend this advantage of dependant's benefit to daughters, realised that it might well happen that this would be used as an argument in favour of extending the privilege still further. But he realised that there is here a close relationship and that arguments could be advanced in favour of this extension which could not be advanced in favour of any wider extension. There is as well this argument. As benefit involves a flat rate of pay, it is important to confine the dependants to close relations otherwise very complicated and difficult questions of differential rates might be raised.
§ Mr. G. Griffiths
Does the Minister suggest that there are no cases in which a husband has had the wife's dependants' allowance stopped because there was more money coming into the house. If he says that there are no such cases, I will bring him some.
§ Mr. Lennox-Boyd
I think the hon. Member is confusing this with unemployment assistance. I must stick to the argument which I have advanced in the case of benefit.
§ Mr. Griffiths
I am referring to statutory benefit. The wife's allowance has been taken away from the husband in the case of statutory benefit, because the sons have brought more money into the house than he has.
§ Mr. Lennox-Boyd
Finally I would like to meet the argument advanced by the hon. Member for West Willesden (Mr. Viant). No one could have listened to his speech on the apprenticeship system without being impressed and I assure him that what he said impressed hon. Members on this side very much indeed. Nobody can deny the value to an industrial country of the apprenticeship system and neither my right hon. Friend nor any Member of the Government would wish to propose measures likely to interfere with its proper growth. May I say that although, I am sure, it was a certain hardship on the hon. Member himself, I could not help thinking what a good thing it was that during the years 1931 to 1935 he was obliged to return to his old occupation because he has now come back to the House with the advantages gained by a renewal of contact with his trade enabling him to give us 1995 such speeches as that which we heard to-day I assure him that we value the apprenticeship system but we believe that the Government training centres are excellent institutions serving an excellent purpose. No one is going to say that they are solving the problem of the younger unemployed but no one who has visited these Government training centres as I have done can fail to come away deeply impressed by the work which is being done in them. The difficulties of limiting the number who are taken in, to the absorptive capacity of the industrial market, are well-known to Members on both sides of the House but no one can say that young men of 17 or even younger who wish to take advantage of training should be precluded by statute from doing so. In what we have done, I assure hon. Members that there is no threat whatever to the apprenticeship system or the trade unions both of which have a great part to play in the future of the country.
§ Mr. Lennox-Boyd
I would like in conclusion to assure the House that when this Bill goes on to the Statute Book the unemployment insurance system will be improved and strengthened and I think that with the removal of one or two existing anomalies better opportunities will be provided for all the contributors to the Fund. I am sure that this will prove an excellent piece of legislation.
§ Mr. Sexton
Will the hon. Gentleman answer the question which I put in reference to Clause 10, about the travelling expenses of those who have to go as far as 18 miles.