§ 3.59 p.m.
I beg to move,That an humble Address be presented to His Majesty praying that the Personal Injuries (Civilians) Scheme, 1939, dated 14th September, 1939, made under Section 1 of the Personal Injuries (Emergency Provisions) Act, 1939, a copy of which Scheme was presented to this House on the 15th day of September last, be annulled.The Act was originally passed when international tension was acute and when we were all labouring under great mental strain because we feared the outbreak of war. I do not think there was so much attention directed to, or criticism of, the Measure as there otherwise would have been in ordinary circumstances. Moreover, when the Bill was introduced atten- 1254 tion was drawn to the fact that when the scheme was laid before the House it would come under the same kind of procedure as an ordinary Order in Council and that the House would either have to accept it or reject it in its entirety. Under the scheme dated 14th September, 1939, injury allowances, normally for not longer than six months, are based on incapacity for work, and pensions are based on serious and long disablement. Both, however, are restricted to persons gainfully employed. Civil Defence volunteers or certain other classes. I am a member of the Standing Joint Committee of Industrial Women's Organisations, which represents over 1,500,000 working-class women—housewives, trade unionists, industrial and professional women workers and co-operators. We are deeply concerned about this scheme, and we take strong objection to certain provisions, particularly as they affect women and children.
I shall deal with some of these points, particularly those relating to injury and pension allowances to wives, the important question of children's allowances and the position of the unmarried mother, the discrepancy between the maximum pensions payable to men and women and the omission from the scheme of large sections of the community. Let us take the position of the housewives, that vast army of the great unpaid. They perform work of the highest national importance; they run the households of this nation; they keep the home fires burning, look after the comfort of the husband, and rear healthy, happy children for the State. Who will deny that they have made a valuable contribution to the well-being of the country?
How do they fare under this scheme? In Part II wives, unless gainfully employed or Civil Defence volunteers, are not entitled to injury allowances, but under Part IV (Pensions for other classes), allowances in certain cases may be paid in respect of injured wives. If a wife has sustained an injury which has caused her serious and prolonged disablement, and the person for whom she is performing household duties is in need, the Minister may award a weekly pension to that person as long as he is employing some other person to do her duties and is maintaining the woman concerned. The payment is not to be greater than the amount paid for the substitute. So 1255 we have the position that if the wife is seriously disabled for a long time, if her husband engages a substitute and he is in need, he may get the wages of the substitute. We all know that if a mother is injured it throws a serious financial burden on any working-class family, even if her disablement lasts only a few weeks, let alone six months. If the husband can secure a housekeeper—there might be difficulty in that respect in these days —he is not likely to employ anyone unless he is definitely certain that he will receive the money to pay her. If he is unable to employ a substitute, then the family will be dependent on relatives and on friendly neighbours sharing the burden, or the eldest girl will be called in as the little mother, and her education and health will accordingly suffer; or if it is an older girl and she has to be taken away from business, then no allowances would be forthcoming for her loss of wages.
In my judgment the Minister should for this purpose have regarded unpaid household duties as gainful employment. After all, the wife does work, though it is not paid work, and her work is perhaps more important to the nation than that of the breadwinner, but the Minister has determined—and the responsibility is entirely his—that if the woman in the pursuit of her domestic duties is disabled, if the woman with a basket is bombed when out shopping, nothing whatever is to be paid on her account except in the case of the provision that I have already mentioned. It is a sound principle that no one, of whatever class, should be forced into a position of need because of an injury, and that unfair burdens should not be placed on families and friends, due to disablement. It is an injustice that the ordinary housewife should be so contemptuously treated. When the full implications of this part of the scheme are realised, Ministers and Government supporters will have a warm time in the constituencies from the womenfolk.
There are several other points to which I wish to call attention. I find that under Part III no allowance may be paid to a disabled man on account of his wife if she is under 40 and there are no dependent children, unless she is incapable of self-support. The legislation with regard to widows pensions acknowledges the fact that a woman who has been occupied in 1256 domestic duties is at a disadvantage if suddenly thrown on the labour market. I think that this principle should apply here and that some allowance should be made in these cases. Surely if a husband is totally disabled, whatever the age of the wife, it is the bounden duty of the wife to look after her husband, and she ought to be free to do so. Then there are provisions under Part III which I can describe only as an oddity. Clause 14 says that if a man dies and has been supporting a parent, an allowance may be made to the parent, but not if he has left a wife or child, so that if a bachelor has been supporting his widowed mother she will have a pension, but if a married man has been the support of his mother she will get nothing. I should be extremely grateful if the Minister would give his reasons for this quite extraordinary discrimination.
Then as to children's allowances. If a man is receiving an allowance for a temporary injury he gets in addition 3s. a week for each child, but not for more than four children; but in the case of a totally disabled man, under Part III he would receive 5s. each for the first two children, 3s. 4d. each for the third and fourth child, but nothing for any other child. But if he receives 5s. a week for his wife, then he is allowed only for three children, 5s. for the first and 3s. 4d. for the second and third. That is the same principle as is embodied in recent legislation and which is so obvious in relation to soldiers' dependants' allowances, namely, the penalisation of large families. The Government have failed to recognise the elementary fact that all children need to be fed and clothed; they cannot live on air. This scheme should be annulled until the Government can ensure a flat rate for each child in a family. I say emphatically, as a mother, that it takes more than is allowed under this scheme to maintain a child; and some people have large families. I should like also to draw attention to the position of the unmarried mother who is earning her own livelihood, and who, if she is entitled to an affiliation allowance, will receive nothing for a child for whom she is in receipt of a grant or allowance. There are cases where a mother is mainly responsible for maintaining the child but receives a small contribution from the father. In such cases it will be the child who will suffer if nothing 1257 is paid. I have no objection to the allowance paid by the father being taken into account, but, in my judgment, the regulation is too harsh. Why should there be this injustice to the unmarried mother, who may have faced up to her responsibilities, and may be an excellent mother?
Unlike Part II, which lays down definite scales of allowances, Part III leaves the amount of the pension to be paid largely at the discretion of the Minister, subject to certain maxima and limitations which are set out in the regulations. The maximum for total disability in the case of an employed man or civilian volunteer over 21 years of age is 32s. 6d., but for an employed woman of 21 or over it is only 22s. 6d. The maximum for women is far too low. It should be remembered that these scales supersede the workmen's compensation scales. A man in good employment is in no worse position under this Bill than he would have been under the Workmen's Compensation Acts, but a woman is far worse off. The Minister has full power in any case to grant less than the maximum. That being so, I see no justification for the fixing of a lower maximum for women than for men. We are dealing in this Bill with working women, many of whom are organised, and this point has already excited great resentment. I find that in this new regulation there is a seven days' waiting period before a person is entitled to draw any payment, whereas under the Workmen's Compensation Acts the waiting period is only three days, and even that period is paid for if the injury lasts for a month or more. I think that the procedure under this Bill ought to have been in harmony with existing legislation.
The scheme, in my opinion, is not comprehensive. There are large sections of the community excluded from its operations. No injury allowances are payable to children at school. No injury allowances or pensions are payable to young persons engaged in unpaid household or other duties; to non-occupied persons, such as those retired from industrial work; to those who are incapable of work, for physical or other reasons; or to that most important section, the old age pensioners. Middle-aged persons living on small pensions or meagre private incomes are also left out. Surely the young and the aged ought to be protected. A wider scheme is 1258 essential. I feel it is of the greatest importance that medical care and treatment should, in all cases, be provided free of charge to the injured person. The scheme certainly gives wide powers to the Minister. There is no right of appeal against his decision, though he may, in certain cases, refer a case to a panel nominated by the Presidents of the Royal College of Surgeons and the Royal College of Physicians. The right of appeal against the Minister's decision should be vested in the applicant.
There are many other reasons which could be submitted in support of the Motion for the annulment of this scheme. I have tried to deal with this intricate subject very briefly. I can assure the Minister that great feeling has been aroused as these regulations have become more widely known. I trust that he will withdraw the proposed scheme, and devise something more equitable and just, in order to meet the needs of the civil population.
§ 4.18 p.m.
Dr. Edith Summeskill
I beg to second the Motion.
I am sorry that this House is not full this afternoon: I believe that is simply due to the fact that very few people have taken the trouble to read this scheme; but I am glad to see on the Front Bench many responsible Ministers. I particularly want to stress two points in this scheme. One is dealt with in Article 11, which has to do with "allowances in respect of children." Here we have another instance where injured workers, who ought to have the greatest sympathy from the Government, are penalised because they have dared to produce three or four or more children. The allowances in respect of children of civilian workers who are injured in air raids certainly compare favourably with those for the children of soldiers at the front. The civilian worker who is injured will get for his third child 3s. 4d. a week, whereas the soldier's wife will get only 2s. a week. Perhaps we should be thankful that the civilian worker is getting as much as that. But it is time that this House was told who it is that has advised the Government as to the fixing of these allowances. Who decides that the large family should be penalised? Who advances the most curious theory that children, after the third or the fourth child, should be fed 1259 upon the scraps left over by the first children? Who is behind the Government and is so very ignorant of the lives of the workers that he does not know that, if there is meat left over from one joint, it is already planned for dinner the next day? I feel that behind all this is some heartless, unimaginative kind of robot creature who has no human contacts at all. I want the Government to tell the House just how they are advised, by what kind of committee, and what are the qualifications of the people who give this advice to the Government?
They also, I fear, have that curious old-fashioned notion that all children need less than adults. Time and again in the discussions on children's allowances it has been brought to the notice of the Government that it is quite impossible to keep a child on 1s. or 2s. a week, but the Government always propose that an adult should have more. The fact is that a boy of 12 needs much more food, both in quantity and quality, than a man of 50 in a sedentary occupation, and, unfortunately, the man of 50 in a sedentary occupation often eats much more than the boy of 12 to the detriment of his health. It is an absolute fact that an adolescent child ought have a much bigger allowance than an adult of 50. I make these remarks because it seems to me the Government are being advised by men who are scientifically out of date and are thinking in terms of nineteenth century medical science. In these days we have an entirely different approach to these matters, and I ask the Government, on the question of allowances to children of workers who have been injured in air raids, to revise the particular Article which deals with this matter.
I want to deal with only two points which my hon. Friend has mentioned. The other point is contained in Article 18, on page 14. If I say to the Government that the contents of this article are outrageous, I shall be making an understatement. It is so phrased and worded that, unless it is carefully examined, the full purport of it cannot be appreciated. My hon. Friend was absolutely right. When the married women and housewives of this country have this Article properly interpreted to them—to say that they will be shocked is again an under-statement—there will be a revolt. If the Article remains as it is, it will 1260 mean in effect that, if we had an air raid to-morrow and married women throughout the country were mutilated in such a way that they could not carry on their work, these regulations would be such that a housewife could not obtain one penny of compensation for herself, whereas in the same household her daughters and her sons who were working, or her husband, would be compensated. A housewife may be blinded or left without a limb and yet the Government are not going to give her one penny in compensation for herself. This may seem surprising to many people, but the answer of the Government that I know the Minister is going to give me later on, is that, in law, she is not gainfully employed. In cooking, scrubbing, washing and doing the whole of the work of the household, she is not in fact earning her livelihood, and, therefore, she is not eligible for any compensation at all.
This gives me an opportunity of raising a matter to which I have called attention in this House before, and which I remember even the Prime Minister once treated with hilarity. I remember asking the Prime Minister a question in this House showing that in the household where she is not getting a fair share of the family income, and where she feels that she cannot feed her children properly, the wife should have the right to know what her husband earns in order that she could establish a legal right to a share of the family income. The Prime Minister treated the matter with the utmost flippancy and the House roared with laughter.
§ Dr. Summerskill
It is not often that I agree with the Noble Lady, but I thoroughly agree with her on this matter. My hon. Friend the Member for Dartford (Mrs. Adamson) called the housewives the great army of the unpaid because the principle that a married woman earns her living has not been established. The principle is exactly the same, whether the family income is £2, £10 or £20 a week. I am not suggesting for a moment that the housewife should be given all the money and be able to do as she likes with it. It the principle were established, the family income would be used in exactly the same way on rent, clothes and food. The time must come—I believe it 1261 will come in my lifetime—when this House will listen without laughter and the principle will be established that the married woman is earning her livelihood and is making a useful contribution to society inside her home, and is in fact helping to earn the worker's wage just as much as he is outside the home.
The hon. Lady must also realise that the married woman is in such a position to-day that the husband may die and not leave her a penny, and she can do nothing about it.
§ Dr. Summerskill
I agree with the Noble Lady, and I am also interested in the position when the husband is alive as well as when he is dead.
§ Dr. Summerskill
A scheme of this kind, which is really nineteenth century in its attitude towards this question, could not be drawn up by the Government and their advisers if the principle is established that the married woman is engaged in gainful occupation as a wife because she is doing work in the household. I have raised this matter on many occasions in relation to National Health Insurance. Why is the married woman to-day entirely neglected as far as health is concerned? Because, the Government will answer, she is not gainfully employed. If it were established that the woman was, in fact, earning her living, this Article would be void because the housewife would be regarded as being engaged in gainful occupation.
Let me give some examples of what will happen if this Article remains as it is. If a poor housewife has her arm and leg amputated in a raid, which is a likely possibility, and if the house is not in need; if a daughter or a friend can come in and do the work, there will be no grant of aid to that household The housewife must sit in the corner, having lost her independence, feeling that she is a drag on the household and knowing that not only can she do nothing but that there is no grant made to the household out of which somebody else can be paid. If the husband is extremely poor he is subject to a means test, and if he is subject to a means test and it is decided that 1262 he may have a paid helper, the situation is rather an undignified one for the housewife, particularly, perhaps, in some homes where there may be a little friction. The husband can choose the helper, and also he is given the money with which to pay the helper, while the housewife who has been injured must sit in the corner, without one penny compensation and without even the dignity of knowing that she can at least choose and pay the helper.
If the marriage is an unhappy one, hon. Members can imagine the position of the injured woman. She is entirely dependent. She cannot say: "I will leave this and go out to work." She is so disabled that nobody will employ her. She cannot dismiss the woman helper in an unhappy household. She has to sit there and tolerate the conditions. I would ask the Minister to think carefully over this matter. I do not suppose that any threat from me will make any difference, but I shall ventilate this matter throughout the country to the best of my ability. The whole thing is absolutely inequitable. It means that the woman, because she is a housewife, is singled out from all insured workers because her work is not recognised as having a monetary value. Finally, however mutilated she may be, however much she is injured, whatever the income of the family may be, that woman cannot claim one penny compensation.
§ 4.34 p.m.
§ Mr. Dingle Foot
I hope that it will not be thought an unwarrantable intrusion if a male Member of the House says a few words. If I may do so without presumption, I should like to congratulate the two hon. Ladies on having given us the opportunity of considering this personal injuries scheme. It may be remembered that some of us objected to some of the provisions of the Act under which this scheme has been made. In particular, we raised the question of an appeal tribunal when that Act was being passed. Unfortunately, the Act was passed through the House on 3rd September, a day when we were mostly preoccupied with other matters, and it was difficult for the House to give that attention to the matter which it deserved. If we had been able to study it more closely, I do not think it would have been possible for the Minister to have produced a scheme of this kind.
1263 This document relating to the scheme bears a strange resemblance to the Royal Warrant which we discussed a week ago, and I want to make it clear that we who sit in this part of the House regard that Royal Warrant as a mean and discreditable document, and we hold the same opinion of this Order. I do not propose to follow quite in the footsteps of the two hon. Ladies, but I entirely agree with them in the plea they have made for the domestic worker, the housewife, because I am unable to see by what principle of logic the Government draw a dividing line between the woman who has a housekeeper and the woman who is not able to keep a housekeeper, and who may be injured in the same way. With regard to the children's allowances it has been pointed out that there are two sets of allowances in this Order. In the first place, the allowance payable where the parent, the father or the mother, has sustained a temporary injury, the scale is 3s. per child, but not more than 12s. is payable in all, so that there is a limitation of allowance to four children. The question of limiting the number of children in respect of whom allowance is payable was dealt with very fully by a great many speakers last week, and I think the Minister will remember that, apart from himself and the Financial Secretary to the Treasury, not a single speaker was found in any part of the House to offer a defence of that provision.
Under this scheme in case of temporary injury the allowance is to be 3s. per child. I wonder how that figure was arrived at? This question of children's allowances is not new. After many years of controversy, in the last Parliament and in this Parliament a scale of allowances was drawn up by the Unemployment Assistance Board. In that case the scale begins at 3s. for the youngest child and it goes up progressively according to the age of the child. How is it that a much meaner standard has been adopted by the Ministry of Pensions? Reference has been made to the children of pensioners, those who are drawing permanent pensions under the scheme. It has been pointed out that here again, as under the Royal Warrant, there is no provision for any child, after the third child, where the man is living with the wife and no provision for any child after the fourth child where the man is a widower or the wife is away.
1264 It is unnecessary to recall all that was said last week on this subject. The House will remember the very moving appeal made by the right hon. Member for Sparkbrook (Mr. Amery) in a speech which commended itself to hon. Members on this side as much as to hon. Members on his own side. It seems to me that all the arguments the right hon. Gentleman adduced then are equally applicable to the arrangements under this document. There is one further matter in regard to children that I do not think has been mentioned yet, and that is the case of the allowance to orphans. That is dealt with on page 13 of the Order. In paragraph 15 provision is made for pensions to the orphan brothers or sisters of someone who has been killed in an air raid or in similar circumstances, and it is provided that in these circumstances:the Minister may, after taking into consideration the financial resources of the brother or sister, award him or her, as the case may be, a pension under this Article at such a weekly rate (not exceeding five shillings) as may appear to him to be appropriate in the circumstances of the case.There are two provisos, the second one of which provides that:pensions shall not be awarded under this Article in respect of the same death and at the same time at weekly rates exceeding in the aggregate the rate of ten shillings.That is a singularly badly drafted provision. One wonders what kind of draftsmen are employed by the Ministry of Pensions, because it is difficult to understand what is meant by the term "at the same time." I think the intention of the paragraph is tolerably clear, and that is that at no time is more than 10s. to be paid in respect of the same death. Suppose there are three dependent orphans who were supported by the relative who has been killed, only 10s. is to be payable in respect of the three of them. Even if there are four or five, the total amount that can be paid under this proviso is 10s. It may be only a matter of 2s. or less per head per week. It will be interesting to hear whether the Minister will attempt any justification of these figures.
Let me make one observation with regard to injury allowances. It is not going to be too easy in the case where the injured person is the wife to get children's allowances at all. On page 7, paragraph 8, provision is made for the payment of 3s. in respect of a dependent 1265 child of an injured person, but then it is provided in sub-paragraph (5):Where a woman becomes entitled to be awarded an injury allowance, the rate of that allowance shall not be increased in respect of a, dependent child of hers…unless the Minister is satisfied that one of the following conditions is fulfilled.Three conditions are set out. One is that she is a widow; the second is, that she is unmarried, and then the third condition, to which I want to draw attention—that her husband is permanently incapable of self-support.Take the case of a lawfully married woman with a dependent child. She is injured in her capacity as an air raid warden or some other civil duty. She becomes entitled to injury allowance under this scheme. Her husband, although he may be incapacitated for a time—he may be ill or has received some injury—is not permanently incapable of self-support. In that case under this scheme the wife is going to lose the allowance for the dependent child. Again I ask the Minister what justification he can bring forward for a provision of that kind? It is true that in a later part of the scheme the corresponding provision is slightly relaxed, to the effect that the allowance shall not be payable unless the husband is suffering from some prolonged injury which will make it unlikely that he will be able to support himself for a long time. I do not know why there should be this difference as between one part of the scheme and another, but, in either case, it is difficult to see how the provision can be justified.
I want to compare the provisions of this scheme with the provisions of the Workmen's Compensation Act. We are dealing here with persons who will be injured in the service of the State, and, therefore, the comparison is a fair one. If hon. Members will look at the allowances set out in paragraph 7 they will see the comparison which may be made with the Workmen's Compensation Act. Paragraph 7 begins by sayinginjury allowances shall be payable only in respect of periods of seven consecutive days.That means that it may not be paid in respect of any period of less than a week. Under the Workmen's Compensation Act the period is three days. It is only a small matter, but it may affect quite a 1266 large number of people. Is there any reason why this arrangement should be meaner than the arrangement made under the Workmen's Compensation Act? I come next to the scale of allowances on page 8. Under the Workmen's Compensation Act a workman who is wholly incapacitated receives 50 per cent. of his average weekly earnings provided that the whole amount does not exceed 30s. That is to say, if he is earning a reasonable wage he may expect to receive 30s. per week under the Workmen's Compensation Act. But under this scheme if he is wholly incapacitated as an air-raid warden or observer, or in some other civil capacity, provided he is not a married man, he will receive, not 30s. per week but 18s. per week. Again, it will be interesting to know how the Minister of Pensions justifies this disparity. But the difference becomes even greater if you take the case of a young man or woman under 21. The words which follow the scale say:In the case of unmarried persons who have not attained the age of 21 years the scales of payments shall be half the above rates.If he is a young man of 20 who has been accustomed to earning his own living, he will be entitled to full compensation under the Workmen's Compensation Act, but he is to get 9s. under this scheme and the girl 8s. a week. It is rather interesting to recall that when we were discussing the Bill under which this scheme is drawn there was a good deal of argument as to whether a man should lose his workmen's compensation rights. There is a provision which says that if a man is able to recover under this scheme he is to have no rights at common law or under the Workmen's Compensation Act. There was a long argument, and the Minister of Pensions said what a good arrangement it was and how a man would be no worse off by accepting this scheme. I am not arguing that point to-day, because the cases I have given, and there are bound to be many similar cases, show that people will be definitely worse off than if they are under the Workmen's Compensation Act. Perhaps we shall have some explanation as to why a man who is injured in the service of the State should be treated less generously than a man who is injured in the service of his employer. Now I want to draw the attention of the House to paragraph 9 1267 which deals with double payments, It says:Where such a person is in receipt of a pension or allowance payable wholly or partly out of public funds in respect of the death of any person a pension may be awarded him under this article at a rate not exceeding the following rate.Then there is a provision which says that these pensions shall be scaled down. If he is receiving a pension in respect of the death of somebody, then the amount which he is to receive under this warrant is to be less than the full rate. Let me visualise the sort of case which may arise. Suppose you have the case of a war widow or a widow who is drawing a widow's pension. She receives some injury in the course of her Civil Defence duties. The amount she is to get under this scheme is to be scaled down because she is drawing a war widow's pension or a widow's pension. I cannot conceive what logic or justice there is in that. The war widow's pension was given to her as compensation for what she lost in the last war and the widow's pension is given in consideration of the contributions which have been paid by her husband, and yet these things are to be taken into account in order to cut down the none too generous scale of pensions under this scheme.
Finally, on the question of machinery, I hope the Minister will deal with paragraph 12 where it is a question of giving compensation to the widow or children because of deathas the direct result of a qualifying injury.I am rather unhappy about the words "direct result," which I think are narrower even than the words that have been used in the past. It may very well happen that there will be a case where the war injury is not the only cause of a man's death. The man may have had some chronic weakness, or some tendency to disease, before his war service, which may have been aggravated and accentuated by his war service. In such circumstances, under the Royal Warrant applying to the last war, some provision could be made and it had not to be shown in every case that the man's death was a direct result of war injury, if it could be shown that it was partially so or that his condition had been aggravated by war injury. There is no provision of that sort in this scheme. On page 16, there is what 1268 I regard as a very dangerous form of words. It deals with the machinery for making awards, and reads as follows:The Minister may at any time review any award made by him under this Scheme, and, if it appears to him that by reason of any mistake of fact, any change in the condition or circumstances of the person to whom the award was made, or for any other reason whatsoever, it is expedient so to do, he may increase or reduce the rate of any pension or allowance…I think we should all be willing to take a chance on the increases if we could get rid of the prospect of reductions. This is what may happen. A man may have a claim for a pension, and all the conditions set out in the document may be satisfied, and yet he may still be deprived of his pension, the widow or children may still be deprived of their rights under the document, because of some reason in the mind of the Minister, or some rule which Parliament has never seen and has never had a chance of approving or disapproving. It seems to me to be thoroughly bad that in this matter —this does not apply throughout the document—-we should leave this entirely unfettered discretion to the Minister to disqualify a man on any grounds that may seem fit to him. I look forward with some interest to the speech which the Minister of Pensions is to make, because I have a very clear recollection of the speech which he made a week ago. I think it is fair to say that on that occasion he did not attempt to answer the principal criticisms that were brought against the Royal Warrant. He made a very interesting speech, he told us how sympathetic he personally was to men injured in the course of their military duties, and he assured us that what mattered was sympathetic administration. He referred also to the reply given by the Prime Minister a few days before to the effect that if the scheme was shown to work unreasonably in any minor respect it might perhaps be modified.
After I had heard that, I went home, and that night I had a dream. I dreamed I was back 2,000 years in history at the court of King Herod. There I found, to my surprise, that the Minister of Pensions, then as now, occupied a high ministerial position. I dreamed that when King Herod, alarmed by the prophecies he had heard, issued his famous decree for the massacre of the young children, the Minister of Pen- 1269 sions had the somewhat difficult task of carrying it out. Then, as now, the Minister was much criticised by factious Members of the Opposition and others, but he defended himself vigorously, and explained that he himself had always been very fond of children, and that the massacre would, he assured them, be administered as sympathetically as possible. When the critics pressed their criticisms a little further, the Minister referred them to an answer given by King Herod only a week before, in which he said that modifications might be considered if the Measure was found in any minor respect to occasion any undue hardship.
§ 4.55 p.m.
§ Sir Francis Fremantle
I do not want to stand between my Noble Friend the Member for the Sutton Division of Plymouth (Viscountess Astor) and the House, but I would like to support my sex in order to level up the Debate. I do not want to go into the details of the scheme, but it seems to me that hon. Members have forgotten the main lines on which this very great advance is being made. So far, hon. Members have criticised the scheme as though the Government were bound to supply the needs for a healthy living in all cases where people are injured or suffer as a result of the war. If that were the case, I should agree with most of the speeches that have been made, for obviously, if that were the case, the provisions that are made would be quite insufficient; but let us consider the matter from another point of view, namely, the necessity—which is agreed by every hon. Member—of limiting the enormous expenditure to which we are committed as a result of this emergency. The point is that this scheme makes provision which, I believe, has never before been made on any such comprehensive basis. Is it conceivable that in the great and appalling sufferings in Spain any provision should have been made for civilians who suffered? I think also of Poland and Czecho-Slovakia. Never before has provision been made in such a comprehensive scheme to include the sufferings of the whole country, which might be raided.
We are constantly asking the Government to keep down expenditure, and we say that we do not know how we shall be able to meet the expenditure; yet hon. Members make different proposals to in- 1270 crease that expenditure, without having any regard to what the total amount would be. If it were only a question of a few thousand pounds, or one or two million pounds, I should agree with the criticisms that have been made, but I believe that, if the Government were to meet these criticisms, it might involve a cost of tens of millions of pounds. Therefore, what we have to do is to consider how much the Government can do and whether they have got the proportions right.
The hon. Lady the Member for West Fulham (Dr. Summerskill), with whom I do not always agree, made a speech with most of the points of which I agree, subject to the proviso which I have already mentioned; but the hon. Lady was wrong when she said that the Government are being advised by out-of-date medical advisers. She was wrong from two points of view. With regard to medical advice, she ought to know, as I think the House knows, that the Medical Research Council is as up to date, as comprehensive, as deeply responsible for up-to-date scientific work, as anybody could be. If the hon. Lady has any alternative to suggest and will forward it to the Government, I am certain they will consider it.
§ Dr. Summerskill
Surely the hon. Gentleman does not suggest that the Medical Research Council spend their time advising the Government what the advances should be? I did not attack the Medical Research Council in any way.
§ Sir F. Fremantle
The hon. Lady did not know who was advising the Government on medical matters, and she made a general statement attacking—
§ Sir F. Fremantle
In any case, that is a minor point. There is one thing which I want strongly to endorse in the criticisms which have been made regarding the proportions in this scheme, and that is the limitation of the number of children for whom allowance is to be made. I cannot conceive on what principle that is done, and I cannot think of any reason except that not one of the advisers of the Government can have had as many as three children. I believe that must be the state of those who draw up these rules. This is a most serious matter, and it arises again and again every time the Government have anything to do with 1271 the recruitment of the nation. I am not dealing with the matter from the point of view of morals, for they do not come into it. The Government are doing everything they can to discourage the recruitment of the nation. On two or three occasions, Lord Baldwin has referred to the grisly spectre which everyone sees behind the whole future of the nation. From every point of view, that peril is before us.
Again and again, where the Government have any chance of dealing with these matters, we find the same thing. Here they are, blessing the unmarried mother as though she were the equal of the wife. I do not say that there is not a case for dealing separately with the unmarried mothers. But the Government act without any suggestion that marriage is the basis of the structure of this country. We must keep that institution intact and sacrosanct, whatever point of view we may take, having regard to the future of the nation. The Government do nothing in order to support that principle and I do not think I have heard much from Members of the Opposition in support of it. Wherever we see that principle attacked, we ought to defend it, and when we see the fourth and fifth children practically treated as if they were dirt, and when we know that the bearers of some of the greatest names in our history have been fourth and fifth children then I feel we ought to protest in the strongest words that we can use.
§ 5.2 p.m.
§ Major Milner
One is glad to know that the hon. Member for St. Albans (Sir F. Fremantle) is in general agreement, at any rate, with those who have very usefully raised this Debate. He agrees that the provision made in this scheme for the fourth and additional children is inadequate and ought to be increased, and I hope we shall hear from the Minister of Pensions that the Government intend to provide for every child, both under this scheme and under the Royal Warrant. But I was interested to note that the hon. Member for St. Albans seemed to put the financial aspect before the human aspect. He spoke of waste as if there was waste in making adequate provision for those who are injured in air raids. In these days we are often told that the whole population is in the front line, just as 1272 much as the soldiers in the trenches. Surely then it is as necessary to make provision for those on the home front as for those on the fronts in France and elsewhere. That is particularly so, when we remember that the Government have already accepted, in principle and subject to a saving clause, responsibility for 100 per cent. of damage done to property in accordance with the recommendations of the Weir Committee. If the Government can undertake such a liability in respect of property, is it not reasonable that they should also accept full responsibility in respect of a man and all his dependent relatives in cases of personal injury due to war?
A number of questions have already been raised, and I do not propose to cover the same ground again, but it seems to me that this scheme, like the Royal Warrant, is a typical product of the Ministry of Pensions. Like the Royal Warrant it has been designed after an experience of 20 years, with a view, apparently, of putting every obstacle, restriction and difficulty in the way of any man, woman or child who suffers injury as a result of the war. We know the present Minister of Pensions to be personally sympathetic, and I had hoped that when he became Minister he would himself go through the Royal Warrant and this scheme and cut out some of the restrictions, conditions and objections which are placed in the way of applicants by both documents. In almost every paragraph of this scheme one finds some restriction or else some condition precedent which has to be fulfilled before a successful claim can be made. In every direction the ordinary straightforward case is beset with difficulties. There is a restriction in point of time. We find, for instance, in paragraph 7 that allowances are to be payable only in respect of periods of seven consecutive days, and that no payment is to be made in respect of any period not falling within six months, beginning with the date of the receipt of injury. That, presumably, means that no payment will be made for the first seven days during which a person suffers and that there will be no payment after this period of six months. Why six months? Why any limitation at all? Is not the person who is incapacitated entitled to compensation during the whole period of incapacity? In paragraph 10 of the scheme we find that where a pen- 1273 sion is awarded to a married man, there may also be awarded a weekly allowance in respect of his wife. This is to be of an amountnot exceeding the sum which bears to the sum of five shillings the same proportion as the degree of disablement by reference to which his pension was assessed bears to 100 per cent.Apparently, if a man has a 50 per cent. disability he may be granted an additional half-crown in respect of his wife, and the maximum allowance in respect of a wife is only 5s. I do not propose to deal again with the question of dependent children in excess of three, further than to say that I can only imagine such a decision as this being made on the basis that someone in the Ministry thinks of this matter in the terms of some form of mass production and imagines that costs are proportionately reduced the larger the number of children. We all know that that is not so and that four children cost more than three and five children cost more than four. There is no justification for this ridiculous limitation. The hon. Member for Dundee (Mr. Foot) has referred to the condition that a pension can only be awarded to a widow in cases where the husband has died as the direct result of a qualifying injury. I prophesy that in years to come Members of Parliament will get letters from the Minister or his successors expressing regret that pensions cannot be awarded under the terms of the scheme in particular cases because the injury from which a man died was not a direct result of a qualifying injury—just as we receive scores of letters of that kind in similar cases under the former Royal Warrant. That condition will be used, not to help a widow to get a pension, but to prevent her getting one.
Then, in paragraph 14, it is provided that a pension is only to be granted to the parents of a deceased person, if the deceased person had been regularly contributing to the support of that parent during the year immediately preceding his death. There is also to be a means test. The financial resources of the parent are to be taken into consideration. The pension is not to exceed 10s. and where there are two parents is not to exceed 12s. 6d. If I should, unfortunately, be killed and if I have been in the habit of contributing to the support of one parent, that one parent may, with the Minister's kind permission—because he is the authority here, and there is no court of appeal 1274 —be awarded 10s. If I have been in the habit of contributing to the support of both father and mother, however, the total amount which they can receive is only 12s. 6d.—an additional half-crown in respect of the second parent. What justification can there be for that?
Take the case of a pension to a brother or sister of a deceased person. That brother or sister may be wholly in need, and yet the maximum weekly amount which can be paid is 5s.; and there again you are left entirely in the hands of the Minister to grant what sum may appear to him to be appropriate in the circumstances of the case. Later in the document further conditions are laid down. In paragraph 26, on page 17, it states that the application for an award must be made within three months from the date on which the injury was received or, if the injury necessitated immediate treatment in hospital, within three months from the date of the first discharge from the hospital. Why should there be any limitation at all, if an injury is in fact received, under the terms of the scheme; why should there be three months or any other limit? Here again is a paragraph which states that no award may be made under the scheme in respect of the death of any person who died as the result of an injury sustained by him more than seven years before the date of his death. The loss to the relatives or the dependants is just the same if it was six months, a year, or seven years from the date of the injury, and what particular virtue is there in seven years under this scheme any more than under the Royal Warrant?
In my view, and, I believe, in the view of all impartial Members of the House, this is a disgraceful piece of legislation which is being passed through this House hastily and without thought. There is no provision here for any appeal, just as there is no provision for any appeal under the Royal Warrant. The unfortunate applicant under the Royal Warrant and under this scheme is entirely in the hands of the Minister, and I am bound to say, quite frankly, that although I have a great deal of confidence in the Minister, I have not that confidence in the Ministry of Pensions having seen its operations over the last 20 years to believe that that Ministry ought to be left to administer either this scheme or the Royal Warrant without having some independent tribunal 1275 to which an injured person can appeal. If we had such an independent tribunal, I should be a good deal more reconciled to the scheme than I am.
There is a further point. I am told that instructions have been issued to certain civilian workers and volunteers, and that those instructions have hitherto resulted, in London, at any rate—in the cases which have been brought to my notice, which are cases of those engaged on auxiliary fire services—in the applicants being sent to the Unemployment Assistance Board. I have not appreciated from the scheme where a man or a woman ought to apply, whether to a post office, or to the Board, or to any other body. At present it appears to be clear that applicants or those injured are being sent, in London, at any rate, to the Unemployment Assistance Board, and that actually instructions have been issued by some of the councils, no doubt on Home Office advice or instruction, to applicants to go to the Board. There is one case of a fireman who was injured and who had to make six journeys to the Board, and he was sent to an Employment Exchange and to a number of offices before he got any satisfaction. Surely it is not necessary that these applicants should be sent to the Unemployment Assistance Board; surely they could draw through a post office or some other Government Department. Obviously many men do not care to go to the Board, and hesitate to do so if they are injured, because probably they return to work before they are fit; and, of course, the Board offices are frequently some distance from the home of an applicant, and travelling expenses have to be incurred.
From the cases, which I will not quote in detail, which I have in my hand, cases of the auxiliary fire service, it is clear that the procedure is not generally known, and I hope the Minister of Pensions or the Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department will see that full instructions and particulars are issued to all civilian volunteers and to the public generally as to the persons to whom they should apply for pensions or compensation under this scheme. I hope those Members of the House who have taken the trouble to read this very difficult and ill-drawn document, hedged in and fenced round in every 1276 direction as it is, will take steps to put pressure on the Government and to bring public opinion to bear on the iniquitous provisions of the scheme. I do not believe that the people of this country would be willing to submit to a scheme of this sort, if they knew the full facts and appreciated what might be the consequences, any more than they would submit or agree to the scheme of the Royal Warrant which was criticised so severely the other day.
§ 5.17 p.m.
I do not agree with the last speaker in regard to the Ministry of Pensions. It is one of the most extraordinary things that I have watched since 1919. I have watched Ministers of Pension from that side and from this side, and the remarkable thing about it is that we have never had any political bias in this matter. I happened to be born in a country where this became a political question, and the State had to pay pensions to men who had not even heard of the Civil War. Their pension scheme was one of the great scandals of the day, so I want to pay every respect to the Ministry of Pensions in this country. I think they have done very well indeed. Everyone knows how difficult it is. I do not think anything is more difficult than to get the right rewards for the right men, and there have been some very unfortunate cases, but on the whole I think the Ministry deserve well of the country. I wish more Members had been on our Front Bench and that more Members of the House as a whole had heard the speeches of the Mover and Seconder of this Prayer, because they went fully into the matter and made convincing speeches. I wish they had heard the hon. Member for Dundee (Mr. Foot), who said he had had a dream. I, too, have had a dream. I dreamed that I woke up 25 years from now, and I was in the House of Commons. There were 600 women Members and 15 men Members, and there was not a single man on the Front Government Bench. There was one Under-Secretary tucked away in a corner, but nobody else and the 15 men were pleading with the Prime Minister of that day to do justice to the married men. They said, "There was a time when we did not treat you fairly, but we implore you to treat us fairly." It was really very interesting.
No, it was not a nightmare, but it all seemed to me just as unfair, and just as ridiculous, then as it does now. This great mass of women in the House would go out and appeal to the men for justice and so on and to put them into Parliament because they wanted to do what was right for the country. The extraordinary position of the married women under this Order was stressed by the hon. Member for West Fulham (Dr. Summerskill). I cannot understand why they should be so completely ignored. I am not going into it now, because the House does not want long speeches and long sittings, but one could go on all night telling about the injustices to the married woman. I am convinced that sooner or later she will be considered a person as important to the community as the married man.
Another point that was raised was with regard to large families. I have heard Ministers making appeals in which they said how the future of England depended on the children—on families of three children, but never on families of six. They all deal with families of three children when making their appeals. These orders are drawn up by civil servants who never have more than two children if they can help it. It may be said that they cannot afford to have more, but that is a poor excuse. If my parents had said they could not afford it I should not be here now. Most parents of large families do not consider whether they can afford it—they go on having children. It is extraordinary that provision is always made in such orders as this for three children, and after that number there is no provision at all. I hope the Minister will explain that anomaly. Only last week some of us were getting at the Minister, not for ignoring the married woman, but for making too much of the unmarried mother. Now we are pleading with him to put the married mother in a better position than this order puts her.
After the Government said they were going to give compensation for property, they had naturally to say that they would do it for human beings. I hope that after the speeches to-night they will give fair treatment to the wife, for otherwise she will be in an appalling position under this order. The picture which the hon. Member for West Fulham drew of the injured wife was a horrible one. It may be said 1278 that it will not happen very often, but it ought never to happen at all. I do not believe the Minister was born with a silver spoon in his mouth. He knows what he is talking about when he speaks about working women. I know that he wants to do the best he can for them, and I hope that he will take up the three points that have been made by women Members in this Debate.
§ 5.25 p.m.
§ Mr. Stephen
I would like to congratulate the hon. Member for Dartford (Mrs. Adamson) on raising this question. When the Bill on which this Order is based was before the House, the Minister assured us that he would see that the scheme was a very generous one. I do not think that anyone looking at the Order can say that the scheme is very generous. I would ask the Minister of Pensions to go over the speeches in this Debate very carefully. The analysis that was made by the hon. and gallant Member for South-East Leeds (Major Milner) showed up many of the weaknesses of the scheme. I want to make a protest about the treatment of women as compared with that of men under the scheme. The Second Schedule provides that if the degree of disablement is 100 per cent. a man receives 32s. 6d. and the woman 22s. 6d. The time has gone for making these distinctions between men and women that work adversely to the interests of women. I am a bachelor and I cannot see why the bachelor should be treated more favourably than the spinster with regard to these allowances. I would also like to draw attention to paragraph 29, on page 18, which lays down provisions as to awards in respect of wives and widows. Sub-section (1) carries out what happened under the pension scheme of the last war for widows of soldiers and sailors. It states:No award to the widow, or in respect of the wife, of a person may be made in a case where the widow or wife had married the person after he received the qualifying injury in respect of which the application for the award is made.Hon. Members will have had the same experience as I have had of cases of ex-soldiers in the last war who married after they had been wounded. Possibly a man went back into service after he had been wounded, and when he came home he got married, possibly to a young woman with whom he had been keeping company for a long time. After the man returned to 1279 civilian life his wound rendered him unfit for work. When it was sought to get a pension for his wife, she could not get it because the marriage had taken place after he had received the wound which was responsible for his disability. Experience showed that this provision worked most unfairly. I wonder what the people who made it were thinking about. Was it their idea that if a man was wounded he should not get married afterwards and that if he did he would do so at his own risk so far as the effects of the wound were concerned? I should not be surprised if the present Minister of Pensions had taken cases such as this to his predecessors in office and had felt wrath at the way in which wives and men who had been married after the men had been wounded were being treated with reference to pensions. It is quite wrong that that provision should be included, and the Minister of Pensions would be acting very wisely if he got rid of it altogether.
I am also amazed at the attitude of this Government in favouring apparently small families. At one time there was a great appeal to parents to have larger families; much excitement over the declining population, and figures given showing that, if the present state of affairs continued, by 1950 the population would have fallen to something like 30,000,000. Then the Government come forward with an Order like this, in which they seem to be looking forward to a big decrease in the population, because they refuse to make provision for larger families. If the Government are of that opinion they would be better advised to make it a criminal matter for parents to have more than three in the family, rather than to subject the child to hardship by making no provision for it in the case of the parent being injured in this way. I think the Minister would be acting wisely if he told the House that he was seized of the difficulties in connection with his scheme and was prepared to bring forward a new one. The tendency of recent years has been to do these things by Order rather than by Statute. I am convinced that if this had been a Bill instead of an Order the pressure exerted by Members would have been sufficient to secure the acceptance of a number of Amendments alleviating the position. We cannot do that in the case of an Order, however, and I think the 1280 Minister ought, in view of the criticisms from all sides of the House, to bring in a new Order.
§ Sir Patrick Hannon
The hon. Member has been speaking about the Government desiring to limit families, but I would point out that some little consideration is, in fact, being extended to the fourth child.
§ Mr. Stephen
I know there is a sort of qualification in the case of the fourth child, that if there are four in the family and there are special circumstances we may make extra provision for the fourth. In the family to which I belong there were six children, and it was quite a good family, and I do not think anyone is acting wrongly in having a family of six instead of three or four. It is absolutely wrong for the Government to act as they are doing. The need of the child ought to be the chief consideration. But, in fact, the background to this Order is the financial position. In any decent country the first consideration ought to be the children, and there ought to be no subterfuges such as are found in this Order, trying by backdoor methods to clamp down families. I am also very much in agreement with the hon. and gallant Member for South-East Leeds in drawing attention to the difficulties that will arise from the adjective "direct" as applied to the disability from which the soldier is suffering. I am sure that the Minister, from his experience of cases arising out of the last War, will see the possibilities of difficulties occurring, and I hope that when he makes his new Order, which I am assuming he will make, he will get rid of the adjective "direct," and that if the injury is the cause in any way of the poverty that is threatening the household he will see that proper provision is made for those affected. Again I would thank the hon. Member who raised this matter, and again I express the hope that the Minister will pay attention to the criticisms put forward in the House.
§ 5.37 p.m.
§ Mr. Amery
I think the two hon. Ladies who raised this Debate have done well to draw attention to the unsatisfactory position in which this Order 1281 leaves the married woman. I quite realise that some attempt is made to meet her case where an actual substitute to do her work is brought into the house, but I doubt whether that really meets the situation, or whether, on any general principle, it is a reasonable recognition of the position of the woman who is a partner with her husband in the enterprise of life. On what general principle are we dealing with this problem? As the Noble Lady the Member for Plymouth (Viscountess Astor) did well to remind us, when it comes to property the view taken by the Government, and I think rightly, is that in circumstances which ordinary insurance cannot meet, and which arc due to national action, the accidental suffering of the individual should be compensated, so far as the national means allow, from the common purse. I should have thought that that principle ought to be applied, as far as possible, to personal injuries suffered by individuals, and that these should be measured, not merely by the amount of money they were earning at the time or merely take into account whether they were actually employed and earning money. I am not so much concerned, however, with that aspect of the question as with the extraordinary position in which children are left under this and the various other war Measures that are now before us. The hon. Member who spoke last did well to suggest that the Government should review the whole situation and ask themselves how much is required to keep a child, not only alive but in a condition to enable it to grow and become a fit citizen in the future. That is the only question that matters, but it seems to be the last question which was considered by the various individuals who have concocted the variety of scales under which children are to be maintained.
We have first the scale for the soldier's children. According to this scale, the first child is supposed to be adequately fed on 5s. a week, the second child on 3s. and the third child on 2s. Any other child which has the insolence to be born is to be kept down to is.—and serve it darned well right, too. That is 2d. a day, or less. In that same Measure, there is a pensions scheme by which no child after the fourth is supposed to have the right to exist. Then there is the evacuation scale which, even making allowance for the discomfort caused, is 1282 quite disproportionate to the other, as it provides either 8s. 6d. or 6s. on taking a quantity. Now we have this Measure which includes a number of different scales. I have previously pointed out to the House how unjust the downward tapering scale is, in view of the fact that when you have a larger family you normally have a larger proportion of older children, who cost more to clothe, feed and all the rest of it. Whoever has devised the scale on page 7 of this document has realised that fact and, instead of having a tapering scale, thinks that 3s. is the right figure, and good enough, for all children up to the fourth, at which point children are not supposed to exist or, if they do, they must scrounge what they can off the allowances given to the others.
When we turn over a page or two we come to page 10, and there we find two scales in regard to other children, who still have the same human needs of life and growth. One scale begins at 5s. and goes down to 3s. 4d., refusing to admit the existence of any child after the third. The other scale also tapers down to 3s. 4d., but admits the existence of the fourth child while denying the right of any children to exist after the fourth. Later on, on page 12, we see that children who are with their mothers get 5s., and if not, 7s. 6d., but subject to a subsequent qualification the full meaning of which I have not been able to work out but which is, no doubt, intended to cut down that scale somewhat further. Surely each of these incongruous scales cannot be right. The needs of the ordinary human child are the same, whatever the circumstances that may have brought about its suffering and its dependence upon the nation. It is time that all these scales were recast, and that upon one principle only, namely, what is a reasonably sufficient allowance to meet the needs of health and growth of all children however many there may be in the family?
Those who have concocted these scales must, I fancy, belong either to households that have taken great care, as my noble Friend has said, not to have more than two children, or to those that are so wealthy that a few additional children in the day and night nursery do not make much difference; or else they genuinely believe that it is a crime to have more than three children. None of those classes of people ought to have a say in 1283 settling these scales. We are concerned about the future of our nation. That is the one thing we ought to make sure of preserving at a time like this, when so much of the present, of the flower of the nation, may be sacrificed. If we can guarantee that future, we can make good whatever losses there may be in property, and even whatever losses in life we sustain during this time of sacrifice. The one thing which we cannot afford to sacrifice is the health and upbringing of our children. Once again, I would endorse the plea which has come from every quarter of the House that the whole business of children's allowances, and not only for those who may suffer directly from the war—for I would include the children of the unemployed and those who are on public assistance—should be reconsidered from one point of view, and one point of view only, the future needs of the nation.
§ 5.47 p.m.
§ Mr. Viant
The extraordinary thing about this Debate is its striking similarity to the Debate which took place last week. With one exception to-day this Government scheme has met with nothing but criticism and opposition. The only support has come from the hon. Member for St. Albans (Sir F. Fremantle)—[An HON. MEMBER: "As usual"]. I suggest to him that there is a gathering feeling throughout the country that the Government are anxious to run the war as cheaply as possible, in matters affecting the working people and the members of the Services. I would entreat the Government not at any time to allow that opinion to gain strength in the country. No one who listened to the Debate last week and that to-day could help feeling that even this House is convinced that the Government are not doing justice in respect of these allowances, more especially as they affect married women and the children.
I cannot persuade myself that the Minister of Pensions has given all the consideration that is necessary to the position of the mother in the home. An appeal was made by my hon. Friend the Member for Dartford (Mrs. Adamson), as well as by other hon. Members, that the Government should remember that the mother in the home is doing work and rendering service equally good and necessary with anyone taking part in Civil Defence. I 1284 put it no higher than that, but if I were to express my own opinion in that regard I should say that the mother in the home is performing a function greater than any other function that can be rendered. We are at least entitled to ask the Government to give the mother in the home equal treatment with those who might be injured in following the pursuits of Civil Defence, and I hope that the Government will give this point especial consideration.
Let us take the position of the working class home. Suppose the mother is injured; the man is put in a very difficult position, no matter what woman he may get in to look after the home. She can in no sense of the word play the part of the mother. The least we can do is to see that the mother receives compensation equal to that given to other people who are injured in the performance of Civil Defence. Then we come to the question of children. I am waiting to hear a Minister for the Crown—we have not heard him yet—define the reasons why the third or fourth child can be kept cheaper than the first. The Government know that it is an utter impossibility. On the grounds of equity, why are we asked to pass these draft regulations when there are such inequities between the first, second, third and four children? Each child should receive the same allowance, and on no grounds are we justified in passing these draft regulations that permit such gross inequalities.
I desire to draw the attention of the Ministers present to the position that is operating to-day in respect of members of the Auxiliary Fire Service. In my own division the men who were recruited were given a form to sign which stated that in the event of death in following their occupation a sum of £1,000 compensation would be paid, in the event of certain injuries and disabilities a sum of £500, and in the event of total disability a pension of £3 per week would be paid to them. I am given to understand that not only did this happen in my own division, but that it has happened throughout the country. These men signed that contract. A week or so ago the following notice was exhibited at the headquarters of the Fire Brigade:Will all members of the A.F.S. please note that the original insurance scheme which covered them against injury or death during peace time training periods is cancelled? Action on any claims in respect of 1285 war service injuries incurred by members of the A.F.S. personnel on or since the 3rd September should be taken to the Unemployent Assistance Board. It should be noted that in the case of disablement arising from war service injury application for injury allowance should be made to the local office of the Unemployment Assistance Board.The address of the office is given, and then the notice goes on to state that particulars will be furnished to the applicantby the Unemployment Assistance Board or the Ministry of Pensions, together with the form of application for injury allowance or pension. Any injury or sickness to be reported to headquarters station, as must the fact of return to duty after sickness or accident of a member of the Auxiliary Fire Service.Since that notice was displayed two or three members of the Auxiliary Fire Service have been sick. In the case of one man who was injured while at his station, he was referred to the Unemployment Assistance Board, who applied the means test, sending an inspector to his home and demanding to see his wife's marriage certificate. When he had returned to duty he received the sum of 33s. per week for the sick period. The Unemployment Assistance Board form for this case is in the hands of the Fire Brigade Union. Those who joined the Auxiliary Fire Service were given the schedule of insurance which told them they would get the benefits to which I have already referred. These men were in no way informed that their former contract was terminated. It is rather interesting, I presume, from the legal standpoint. The former conditions of contract should at least have been terminated and should have been replaced by these entirely new terms, but nothing of that kind has occurred. This is not going to help us in our recruiting for the Auxiliary Fire Service.
I am connected with a section of industries to whom appeals have been made for the purpose of organising demolition squads. These demolition squads, in every sense of the word, must be composed of skilled men—men with a knowledge of building construction and with sufficient knowledge to know exactly how to shore up a house or a building after a raid when damage has been done, in order that further damage and injury shall not result. If there were no volunteers for this demolition squad the local authority would be compelled to employ a local builder or contractor to shore up 1286 those houses. In the event of injury the men engaged by that contractor would be able to avail themselves of the advantages of the Workmen's Compensation Act, but these conditions supersede the Workmen's Compensation Act, and I hope that this House will be fully seized of the ramifications of these proposals. If we are not prepared to compensate them somewhat in keeping with the compensation which they would receive under the Workmen's Compensation Act, the least that we can do is to provide something approximate to it and not put forward proposals such as are laid down in these regulations. It is unreasonable to ask skilled men to join a demolition squad, as it is equally unfair to ask men to join the Auxiliary Fire Service and to forego their rights under the Workmen's Compensation Act in return for the benefits that are offered in these proposals. I hope the Government will face up to this position and will appreciate the fact that these conditions are in no way good enough for the services that are being asked of these men who are prepared to render service in Civil Defence.
The whole scheme needs remodelling and redrafting, and the conditions that are offered should be made more in keeping with that to which these volunteers would be entitled under existing Acts of Parliament. This House should under no consideration be prepared to allow regulations of this kind to supersede the Workmen's Compensation Act. It is unfair. Furthermore, it is far too dangerous. Having raised those points, I hope the Minister will be able to reply and let me know the position of local authorities who have not terminated the old contract but simply posted up the notice that I have read out. Are they legally entitled to do that, and from whence is their power derived? I await a reply to these points.
§ 6.1 p.m.
§ Mr. Aneurin Bevan
We have had an interesting Debate and most of the points that have been made have been made very clearly, particularly by the Mover and Seconder. I think, perhaps, some injustice has been done to the Minister in some of the speeches because he warned us of what was to come on 2nd September. I quote from his speech of that date:A different position arises when dealing with war injuries which may only last a week or a fortnight. It might be something very 1287 slight or something rather severe, and, if it is severe, the applicant is entitled to be dealt with under the pensions scheme. We have framed the scheme with regard to war injuries partly on war pensions rates, partly on workmen's compensation rates, and partly on the Ministry of Health insurance scheme rates. That may seem to be rather a muddle, but we have tried to frame the rates of pay along the lines of those in respect of injuries sustained in other connections.So, if the scheme is a muddle, the hon. Gentleman warned us that it would be a muddle. He has seized on some of the principles which apply to all these different schemes and brought them together in this document without, as far as we can see, any coherence running through them at all. But I thought he was pulling our leg when he went on to say:We feel that the Treasury should be as generous to those who are injured as they are in the provisions made under any other Act of Parliament, and I believe hon. Members will be satisfied with the rates which will appear in the scheme when it is laid before the House. I do not expect any difficulty about that."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 2nd September, 1939; cols. 265–6, Vol. 351.]Does the hon. Gentleman suggest that the rates of compensation under the scheme bear any relationship to those in any other Act of Parliament? They are lower than the Unemployment Assistance Board and they are lower than workmen's compensation. They are lower than all these other schemes. It is clear that in the tug-of-war that has occurred between the hon. Gentleman and the Treasury, the Treasury has again won and he has lost. It is time that Ministers ceased to be messenger boys bearing unpleasant messages to the House of Commons from the Treasury. The hon. Gentleman smiles but, obviously, if what he said on 2nd September was correct—if he believed what he said—then he must believe that these scales are generous. If they are not generous, it is because his anticipations have not been realised and he has succumbed to pressure from the Treasury. I think it is rather unfortunate that you have a Minister now in charge of this very important Department, very much swollen of recent years, who has no Cabinet rank. It is desirable that, if these matters are to be administered under one Department, the Minister in charge of them should have Cabinet rank. It is impossible to expect the hon. Gentleman to win a tug-of-war with the Treasury 1288 when he is the head of a subordinate Ministry.
I sympathise very much with the point of view that was put by the Mover and Seconder with respect to wives. I cannot understand why there should be any difficulty about this, because in working-class households the wife is in a very real sense of the term a part earner of the husband's wages—not in law, but in fact. Indeed, one of the reasons why the marriage relationship in working-class families is more wholesome than in other classes of family is because it is based on the economic condition of labour. To suggest that in a miner's or steelworker's house the wife is not a part earner of the husband's income is regarded as nonsense, as the work could not be carried on. You only have to think of a collier's house, where men are working on different shifts, coming home all through the night and all through the day, where the whole economy of the house turns on the skill, industry and devotion of the housewife, to see that, if it were not for her participation in the work, the whole of industry would completely break down.
Therefore, it is a proper principle that the State should recognise the independent citizenship of the housewife as such, and she ought not to be a second-class citizen. She is made a second-class citizen because she is allowed only to live as a citizen through the husband. That has always been regarded as a fundamental principle of the party to which I do not for the moment belong, that every citizen in the State should possess full citizen rights, and it was one of the most deplorable features of society that the wife was made economically dependent on her husband, and it was a source of the emotional maladjustment of many homes. Hon. Members on these benches who follow manual occupations know that to be perfectly true. When I and my brothers worked in the pit and there were five of us working up till the time when we were 25, we did not handle any money. It went to our mother. That is normal in thousands of homes. It is an outrage to suggest that you should ignore the economic identity of the housewife in this way. A point has been made in defence of the wife. I should like to make a defence of the husband, too. It is not proper that, if the wife is injured, the domestic felicity of the household should be impaired by the knowledge on 1289 the part of the husband that the wife has a legitimate grievance. That also gives rise to difficulties in the house. If you are going to have a decent scheme you must in it enfranchise the housewife, who is not enfranchised at present.
The hon. Member for Dundee (Mr. Foot) touched upon a point which has not, perhaps, been given sufficient subsequent attention. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Sparkbrook (Mr. Amery) said these rates varied in different classes, and even between different people in the same class. As a matter of fact, the House is discussing no rates at all. For the first time in any legislation, as far as I know, the rates of compensation are at the caprice of the Minister. I am really astonished that hon. Members on that side should tolerate this piece of legislation. If they will look at page 15 they will see thatany pension or allowance under Part III or Part IV of this scheme may be awarded provisionally or upon any other basis, and for such period and at such rate (not exceeding the appropriate rate specified in the relevant Article) as the Minister may think fit.That is for the initial claim. Then, overleaf, it is provided:The Minister may at any time review any award made by him under this scheme, and, if it appears to him—not to the House of Commons or any judicial tribunal—that by reason of any mistake of fact, any change in the condition or circumstances of the person to whom the award was made, or for any other reason whatsoever, it is expedient so to do, he may increase or reduce the rate of any pension or allowance awarded, cancel an award, or make a fresh award, so, however, that no pension or allowance shall be increased to a rate exceeding the appropriate rate specified in the Article under which it was awarded.I believe that this is a point of very great constitutional importance. It goes, indeed, to the very root of the British Parliamentary system. I know of no Act of Parliament which makes the disbursal of public money subject to the caprice of a Minister. Even where the Minister is appealed to, it is usually in a judicial sense, as in the Transport Act. But here the Minister is disbursing public money. I am not suggesting that the Minister would be corrupt, but it is the duty of the House of Commons to protect a Minister from the importunity of citizens, and from the importunity of Members of 1290 this House. Why should the Minister be in a position to award a sum of money to the constituents of one hon. Member and withhold it from the constituents of another? It may be that the Minister himself is an incorruptible person, but we have in the past protected ourselves from the possibility of corruption by protecting the Minister by putting him behind the judiciary, but here the Minister is fully exposed to all the pressure that can be brought upon him.
I suggest that if that power be in the hands of the Minister, every hon. Member to whose constituents the Minister has not awarded pensions will have a grievance against the Minister. It will not be a grievance against the Act any longer. The Minister will not be able to say, "The Act of Parliament does not permit me to do this." He cannot quote a Clause in an Act or a decision of a referee or umpire. It seems to me that we ought at all costs to insist upon this Order being amended, in order to protect the Minister from circumstances like that. There ought to be some means of appeal beyond the Minister that would settle the matter on the factual basis of the Order itself, and not on what might be the caprice of the particular Minister in power. I implore hon. Members in all parts of the House to stamp at once on this change in legislation, which might have the most serious consequences, not only on the control of the House over the expenditure of public money, but on the tradition of incorruptibility that we have so largely built up.
I come to a more general point. We had a discussion last week on soldiers' allowances; we have a discussion this week on pensions for civilians who are injured. Last week there was no defender of the Government to be found in any part of the House; to-night there has been the qualified support of the hon. Member for St. Albans (Sir F. Fremantle). I submit that a very serious condition of affairs arises. There may be a Division after this Debate is over —I do not know; that may depend to some extent on what the Minister says in reply. How are we going to divide? Are we going to divide on normal party lines? Are the Whips to be on? Are we to have Divisions in which we, on this side, will be the permanent victims of the artificial majority on that side? [Interruption.] I say "artificial" 1291 now, because there is no way of testing opinion in the country. The views of the electors are concealed from us. We have no constitutional expedient for testing them. There was elected, three or four years ago, on a policy which was directly opposite from the policy being followed now, a vast majority, which may or may not represent the views of the country.
In the country as a whole the circumstances of the war and the party truce are preventing the political parties from testing public opinion. That has, to a certain extent, disfranchised the electorate. If the electorate is disfranchised, we become the electorate; and we should be able to have divisions in this House the result of which will not involve the fate of the whole Administration. On these particular matters we ought to have a series of free votes, so that we on this side can collect support from that side of the House if it is forthcoming. Such support ought to be available without involving the ordinary consequences of party discipline, and we ought to be able to dismiss incompetent Ministers without bringing the fate of the whole Government into question. Only in that way can the House of Commons discharge its duties in war time; otherwise we are going to be the permanent victims of artificial political divisions. I am not in favour of the dispersal or immobilisation of parties, but I am against this party being the permanent victims of that majority on every issue.
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Sir Dennis Herbert)
I think I have already allowed the hon. Member to continue that subject too long.
§ Mr. Bevan
We are meeting in very unusual circumstances, and it is time that hon. Members faced up to the implications of their own decisions. They have not faced up to the fact. If we are to bring the executive under effective control and prevent this nonsense—because it is real nonsense—the Minister ought to be sacked for bringing such rubbish before the House, and his advisers should be dismissed if they are responsible. Everybody knows that there is not an hon. Member here who dare go to his own constituency and defend this incoherent rubbish. There is not an hon. Member in this House who would take the responsibility of defending it. Hon. 1292 Members should face up to their responsibilities in the Division Lobby. We ought to be allowed to vote upon these things, which do not affect the fundamental issues of peace or war, but which affect the direction and conduct of the war and the morale of our people, in order that we may bring the whip of the House of Commons censure on incompetent Ministers who at the moment are appointed for party considerations.
§ 6.22 p.m.
§ Sir P. Hannon
I do not propose to follow the eloquent discourse of the hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Bevan), which was in many respects very far removed from the subject before the House. As long as we have in this House Departmental legislation and Orders made under the powers conferred by Act of Parliament upon Ministers, we shall have Orders of this kind. It will be remembered that a short time ago a Noble Lord in another place wrote a very remarkable book in which he dealt with Departmental legislation in all its aspects. It was an exposition of many of the defects and anomalies by which Orders had conferred very great powers upon Ministers of this House.
The point I wish to make is that the Minister ought to give more attention to the question of encouraging larger families in this country. It is a great pity, as my right hon. Friend the Member for Spark-brook (Mr. Amery) said, that we should limit these scales or awards in cases of accident to four members of the family. In this country for several years past continuous attention has been drawn to the limitation of families and the danger to the future vitality and strength of our people by small families. Everybody must have been struck by the statement made by the Noble Lady of the importance of a large family in maintaining a strong and wholesome outlook on domestic life. I hope that the Government will consider whether, in adjusting these scales of payment to be made either to soldiers, sailors or airmen, or to persons who sustain injuries in civil life due to air raids or otherwise, more consideration cannot be given to the allowances in respect of four, five, six or any number of children in the family.
Personally, I have great confidence in the Minister of Pensions. I think he is the ideal person in the position he stands as Minister. Of his human qualities every 1293 Member of this House is aware, and if anybody can be entrusted to discharge his duties with all humane consideration, it is the Minister who now sits on the Front Bench dealing with pensions. I hope very much that he will, in the exercise of his duties and powers under the Act, and in giving effect to this Order, have due regard to the possibilities of the encouragement of the family and the enlargement of the opportunities of family life.
§ Sir P. Hannon
I am obliged to the hon. Member for his interruption. I suggest that it is just possible to amend an Order of this kind, and if my hon. Friend on the Front Bench could find an opportunity and means of amending the Order and extending the schedule of payments in respect of injuries incurred in Civil Defence to a larger number of children, I am sure it would give the House great gratification. I have great confidence in the Minister to do the best he can and give consideration to the encouragement of that part of our national life which at present needs consideration.
§ 6.27 p.m.
§ Miss Wilkinson
I want to make only two points which have not been made in this extraordinarily interesting Debate. Everybody is agreed that the particular scheme before us is highly unsatisfactory. We were all agreed that the soldiers' and sailors' allowances were unsatisfactory, and we have to look forward in the immediate future to a number of Orders like this which nobody can consider satisfactory, and we doubt very much whether the Minister himself can consider them satisfactory. We are not looking at the problem from the point of view either of the injured person or of the children, but from the point of view of what will be the state of the national finances. If the war goes on for any length of time, we shall have the most complicated conditions with regard to pensions and compensation of all kinds. The days of the comparative simplicity of the pensions for the Army, Navy and Air Force are over. There can now be every conceivable kind of injury, and people engaged in all sorts 1294 of employment have to be compensated. There are air-raid wardens, members of the Auxiliary Fire Services, ambulance drivers and A.R.P. workers generally. There will be gradation after gradation in which nobody really can say, in any number of shillings, what it will be at the end of the week. You cannot form any equitable basis for dealing with the situation.
The Minister should not look at this from the point of view of how many shillings, or pence even, we can afford to dole out to any number of casualties we can now envisage, bearing in mind the fact that the whole actuarial basis may be swept away in a week if we had, for example, a mass attack on this country. Would it not be better to say that this country has now admitted the right of the citizen born into it to have a reasonable standard of maintenance, the word "reasonable" being qualified by what the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Sparkbrook (Mr. Amery) said, whether the injury is actually mutilation or whether it is the economic injury of being unable to find work under the economic conditions that exist? In the long run, I am convinced that that would be a much better way than what is proposed. I am afraid that we are going to have such an army of officials deciding what is due to people and whether this particular shade of liability of the Government shall be compensated with 6d. more or 9d. less that we shall be in a state of inexplicable confusion. One is only putting forward general ideas, but it seems to me that in the long run the course that I suggest would be the best way of dealing with the problem.
May I deal with a point that was raised in regard to: the compensation of the married working-class mother? It is extraordinary that the whole tendency of legislation to-day is to penalise the married woman. Only the unmarried woman or the widow is a person who is regarded in her own right. When a woman marries, you take away from her the right to, her own nationality. The Noble Lady the Member for the Sutton Division of Plymouth (Viscountess Astor), myself, and others have been on a large number of deputations to various Home Secretaries, but we have found always a stone wall on this question, and I am afraid that we shall not convince the Home Secretary and the Minister for 1295 Home Security on this point. The single woman has the right to her own nationality. Nobody can deprive her of her nationality. But the married woman loses her nationality on marriage, and now under this Order we have a situation where the married woman loses the right to compensation for her own bodily injury. There is an interesting point in the Order, where the Minister gives the highest concession that he possibly can give to the married woman, where he says that in certain circumstances she may even have the offer of being treated as if she were unmarried. He cannot do better than that under this Order. I am speaking for my unfortunate sisters who have placed themselves in this position of inferiority in the sight of the law by marriage. Seeing that so many of them are citizens and voters they will have something to say to the Government on this matter. It is a very dangerous precedent that the Minister is creating.
§ 6.33 p.m.
§ Mr. Ernest Evans
I am sure that the Minister under this scheme has no desire except to act in such a way as to gain the satisfaction of the public. I should, however, like to refer to one or two matters in particular. Paragraph 21 of the Order, in effect, gives the Minister the right to make awards just as he thinks fit. It seems to me that that paragraph gives him power to take into consideration many elements which Members of this House would not wish to be taken into consideration in deciding the amount to be awarded to an injured person. I have in mind a particular case which seems to show that when a person is injured and he makes an application for compensation he has to go through what is really a means test, and I believe I am sensing the opinion of the whole House when I say that that is the last thing that the House would wish to impose upon a civilian and a Civil Defence officer with regard to injuries at this time.
I have in my hand the particulars of a certain case. It is the case of an auxiliary fireman who was injured in the course of his duties as an auxiliary fireman on Thursday, 21st September of this year. His doctor certified that he was unfit for duty. On Saturday, 23rd September, he attended at the office where he was paid 1296 his wages and was told to apply to the Unemployment Assistance Board at Walthamstow. He did this and was asked whether his wife was at home, how many children he had and many other questions which really had a very close relationship to what I have called the means test, as applied in other directions with which we are familiar. He completed the form on the Saturday. By the following Thursday he had heard nothing from the Unemployment Assistance Board office, and on inquiry he was told that they could do nothing until they had heard from the Home Office. The man returned to his home, where he received a letter from his wife, who had been evacuated from London, saying that she had no money and asking him to send her some.
He then went back to the Unemployment Assistance Board office at Waltham-stow and, after some discussion, he was given a notice which said that he was entitled to 27s., but in order to get the 27s. he would have to go to Ponders End. He went to Ponders End, and when he got there and handed in-the notice he was told that before he could receive the money he would have to sign the unemployment register. He told them that he could not do that because he was not unemployed. He was engaged for a considerable time in argument and was finally told that unless he signed the unemployment register he could not get the money. The poor man in the end signed the unemployment register, because he wanted the money. He was kept at that Employment Exchange from 3.15 until 5.45 that afternoon. On the following day he attended at the Employment Exchange and received his 27s. The man was, however, feeling anxious, because he had signed the unemployment register when he was not unemployed and he thought he had better put matters right. He went to the Unemployment Assistance Board office at Walthamstow and told them what he had done. Then he went to the fire station and informed his superintendent of the whole affair, and the superintendent told him that he would have to go to an address in Bridport Road. He could not go that night but he went the following day. That was the Saturday, a week after his accident. The office was shut. On making inquiries he was told to go to the divisional officer at High 1297 Road, Tottenham. He went there, but no help could be given him there. So he went to Edmonton Town Hall. From there he was sent to a day nursery. At the day nursery he was told that the Unemployment Assistance Board were the proper people to deal with him. They were the people to whom he had been orginally. It was too late to do anything more that day. The matter was left over until the following Tuesday, 3rd October. He again went to the Unemployment Assistance Board office, and they again gave no help.
He went to his doctor on 7th October, and the doctor told him that he would have to stay off for another week or 10 days. The poor man explained his trouble to the doctor and asked him how he was to live in the meantime, begging the doctor to allow him to go back to work. In the result, the doctor allowed him to go back, and he resumed work on Monday, 9th October. On 16th October, after being on duty 12 hours, he went to the Unemployment Assistance Board office and was kept waiting from 10.15 till 12 noon. That visit was not fruitless, because he then received the sum of 37s. 6d. The facts are that from 21st September, when the injury occurred, to 9th October, the man received the total sum of 64s. 6d. for himself, his wife and two children, and that involved journeys to Walthamstow six times and journeys to Tottenham, Ponders End and other places.
This is the history of one particular case, and I am told that it is not the only case that could be brought forward. I mention the case because the facts deserve inquiry. I also mention it for a larger reason, and that is that if what I am told is true the questions put to this man, who was engaged patriotically in doing voluntary service in a dangerous occupation, were questions which really went in the direction of what I call the means test. I do not think that is what the House of Commons wants. If a man sustains an injury in an occupation of this kind, surely he is entitled to fair compensation for his injuries. I think that the Minister, who is taking to himself powers which he himself cannot exercise, but which we will have to exercise through agencies, should make sure when appointing these other agencies that they are people who will consider very sympathetically these matters, more sympa- 1298 thetically than the Minister of Pensions has been doing of late. His duty, and the duty of these officials, is not to look for reasons for refusing an application but to look for reasons for granting them.
§ 6.41 p.m.
§ Mr. Tomlinson
After listening to the Debate and also to the Debate of last week I am wondering how the Government get the assurance which they so often display that this House is behind them in what they are proposing to do. On the previous occasion the Minister suggested that nobody had called attention to the defects in the scheme and objected to their being pointed out afterwards. I am referring to the Financial Secretary to the Treasury in the Debate on the question of allowances. In regard to this scheme, however, it can be said that the defects were foreseen and hints were given to the Minister as to what should be avoided. Yet the very things which it was pointed out on this side of the House should be avoided have been included in this Order. I have not had the privilege of being in the House very long but I believe that when the Government receive a Prayer which is worth answering, an answer is given, and, therefore, I hope that this Order will be withdrawn and a better one substituted.
Yesterday, having a day to myself for the first time for a long while, I read, out of curiosity more than anything else, a contract which had been entered into by my wife while I was away with a certain newspaper. She was to take the newspaper week by week and there was an insurance scheme involved in it. That document, from the standpoint of clarity, was better than the Order which we are discussing. You had to meet with an accident and to prove the accident up to the hilt before you could get the money, but the individual who does meet with an accident and is insured with that particular newspaper—I will not mention it —has a better chance of receiving payment than the individual who meets with an accident does under this Order. In the first place, I must object strongly to the fact that an injury is not looked upon as being an injury until it has lasted for seven days. I have always wondered upon what basis schemes of insurance relating to the workers are based. I have never been able to understand why a worker had to be ill for three days before the Ministry of Health said he was ill.
1299 He might die before the three days are out, yet, according to the Ministry of Health, he has not been ill. Under this scheme a man can meet with an accident which leads to his death, but that cannot be proved until he has been off work for seven days. Why the seven days? Are they intended to give the Minister an opportunity of dodging his responsibilities, or is it to prevent the individual being in a position to scrounge? Is it suggested that the individual who will be affected is in such an occupation that he will have saved sufficient out of his wages to be able to manage for seven days without any trouble? The case mentioned by the hon. Member for the Welsh University (Mr. E. Evans) proves that they are not in that category.
Again, I want to protest that a married woman is treated as though she is not engaged in a gainful occupation. I cannot understand how the work of a mother in the home can be looked upon as anything but gainful. If it is suggested that she does not get paid for it, I want to say to the hon. Member for West Fulham (Dr. Summerskill), who pleaded for equality, that I think there should be equality before the law as there is in practice equality in all decent households. I have never had the privilege of spending my own wages. I never wanted it. I have recognised from the first that as chancellor of the exchequer my wife had me beaten to a cocked hat; and all other hon. Members would say the same if they were honest. The carrying on of a home is the most gainful occupation I know. We have had speeches which have proved that if there is one thing which will need to be repaired after the tragedy of this war it is the thing which only the mothers of the land can do; they are the only individuals who are capable of it. Yet the Minister falls into the strange anomaly of admitting that a wife is engaged in gainful occupation. If there are four children and the wife is there, they get 11s. 8d., but if there are four children and the wife is not there the family get 16s. 8d. The Minister, therefore, belies the suggestion in the scheme that a woman is not engaged in a gainful occupation because, apparently, she is worth more if she is not there. I think she is entitled to be considered as having earned the difference.
1300 I want, as a fourth child myself, to protest against being treated as if I were worth nothing. It may be that this new doctrine has been evolved by some Government Department; it is the law of diminishing returns. I do not know by what sense or logic these scales or any other scales should differentiate between children. I hope that these anomalies will be rectified. I heard the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Sparkbrook (Mr. Amery) and what he said about the Minister. I have no fault to find with the Minister's humanitarian feelings or with the wonderful qualities about which the right hon. Gentleman spoke. I know that he addresses letters to hon. Members pointing out that under certain Acts of Parliament he is powerless to do this, that and the other. His heart may bleed for the cases put before him, yet having laid down the regulations he is unable to move, and is powerless to do anything. The power to do it or not to do it is contained in this document, but only within certain limits that are laid down. It may be very difficult for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of Heaven, but in my judgment, it will be just as difficult for an individual who suffers an injury to receive an award under this scheme. In paragraph 28, it is stated that:No award may be made under this Scheme in respect of the death of any person who died as the result of an injury sustained by him more than seven years before the date of his death.Again, there is brought into the scheme what everybody, even the Government, has recognised to be a very unfair condition. In paragraph 27, it is stated that:No award may be made under this Scheme in respect of any injury which was sustained by reason of the serious negligence or misconduct of the person injured.Would it be possible, particularly in the case of men and women engaged in Civil Defence, to prove, under that provision, that the individual who had suffered injury had not been neglectful in some way or another? What is to be regarded as neglect? Would it be neglect if a person had failed to carry out some particular order? In the case of workmen's compensation, in connection with which this question often arises, we know that there is a court of appeal where these things can be argued, but in this case the only appeal is to be 1301 to the Minister, and not to the Minister's human feelings, but to the Minister on the lines laid down in the scheme. I hope that the Prayer will not only be answered, but that having answered the Prayer to annul the Order, the Government will prepare a better scheme.
§ 6.53 p.m.
§ Mr. George Hall
The House is indebted to the two hon. Ladies who brought this Prayer before us. It is fitting that this Debate should follow so closely the Debate which took place last week on the allowances to soldiers' wives and dependants and to war pensioners. The two Debates have been very similar in the sense that the Government have not had a single friend on either side of the House. There has been nothing but condemnation of the scheme, and the allowances under the Royal Warrant, and certain of the allowances to soldiers' wives and dependants. This is an indication that the Government are lacking in imagination in dealing with these vital human problems, and I hope that, not only with regard to this scheme, the withdrawal of which I trust the Minister will announce when he speaks, but with regard to other schemes for dealing with the abnormal conditions that have arisen, the Government will give serious consideration to the matter. One Sunday newspaper describes these allowances as being shabby. All that the Minister has been able to plead is that the allowances were most carefully considered before the war began, that is to say, before its human aspects had acquired the vividness which they now possess; and this indicates, on the part of the Government, a complete lack of understanding of the difficulties with which the wives and dependants of the men who are called upon to sacrifice their lives will be faced in the very near future.
My right hon. Friend the Member for Keighley (Mr. Lees-Smith) described the Bill giving power for the setting up of this scheme as a skeleton. It is the scheme that matters. Now we have the scheme before us, and I do not think even the Minister is surprised at the criticism that has been levelled against it. It is a good thing for the Minister that the provisions of the scheme were not contained in the Bill, for it they had been it would have taken much longer to pass the Bill through the House. I recollect the pas-;
1302 sage of the Unemployment Insurance Act, and certain provisions of this scheme are infinitely worse than the provisions of that Act. There is nothing original in the scheme. As my hon. Friend the Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. A. Bevan) pointed out, the Minister himself admitted that it had been based partly on the war pensions rates, partly on the workmen's compensation rates, and partly on National Health Insurance rates. With such a mixture, what could one expect but a scheme of this kind? As my hon. Friend rightly said, the Minister has not even taken the best out of the three schemes to which he referred in his speech on the introduction of the Bill; and even if he had taken the best out of those schemes, he must know that there is not a part of them which has not been condemned, either from the point of view of the rates or the conditions under which the schemes operate, the rates because they are inadequate and the conditions because they are obnoxious.
The criticisms that have been levelled against the scheme have covered almost every point. I cannot understand why the Minister should want to divide a scheme of this sort into two parts. Part II deals with allowances, and then, if the injury is a very serious one, the provisions in Part III are brought into operation for the purpose of dealing with exactly the same accident. The scheme is not giving, but is taking away. It supersedes all claims under workmen's compensation, employers' liability, common law and health insurance benefit during the period of an award under the scheme. In making a comparison between workmen's compensation and this scheme, some of my hon. Friends have referred to the fact that under workmen's compensation there are three waiting days for which there is no payment in respect of an injury, whereas under this scheme there are seven days. I would point out that under workmen's compensation, if the incapacity lasts for a month, payment is made from the very first day. I cannot understand why, in a scheme of this sort, if the injury or incapacity is proved, the compensation or allowances cannot be paid from the first day.
In Part II of the scheme there is something which is contrary to the practice under workmen's compensation. Workmen's compensation is based on earnings, and no distinction is made between men 1303 and women. Compare the position under the workmen's compensation law with the position under this scheme of allowances. Under the scheme, it is true, a married man, irrespective of earnings, is entitled to 30s. a week if he proves that his injury is the result of the eventualities provided for under the scheme. But if he is single, irrespective of age, he is entitled only to 18s. a week, which is 12s. less than the allowance paid to the married man. A woman is entitled to 16s. If a man is under 21 and unmarried the amount of compensation which he will receive will be 9s. and a woman will receive 8s. a week. These rates, alone, condemn the scheme of allowances root and branch. There is a marked difference between the rates of pay under workmen's compensation and the rates of pay under this scheme, and the Minister cannot claim any generosity for the scheme from that point of view.
Then, compare the payments under Part II with those under Part III of the scheme. If the Minister in the exercise of his powers under the scheme decides that an injury is such that the income of the affected person should be transferred from allowance to pension, there is a considerable increase in the amount paid. A person who, as the result of medical examination, has been held to be entitled to a pension based upon 100 per cent. disablement will receive 32s. 6d. a week, or an increase of 2s. 6d. a week. In the pension scheme there are provisions whereby his wife will be entitled to an extra 5s., making a total for husband and wife of 37s. 6d. a week. In the case of a single man over 21, if it is proved that his incapacity is likely to be prolonged, the amount which he receives at once jumps from 18s. to 32s. 6d. In the pension rate there is an intermediate stage at which the single man or woman between 18 and 21 will receive something more than they would get under the system of allowances. As I say, I cannot see why it has been considered necessary to divide schemes into parts. If it is proved to the satisfaction of the Minister that a person is suffering incapacity as a result of the circumstances indicated here, there is no reason why the rates provided for under Part III should not operate as and from the first day of incapacity. If the Minister wishes to do the right thing by those who come 1304 within the scope of this scheme he should, at once, withdraw Part II.
I do not propose to take up much time in dealing with Part III, which, as the Minister said, is largely based on the Royal Warrant dealing with pensions. I think it has been clearly shown that neither hon. Members on this side of the House nor hon. Members opposite are satisfied with the Royal Warrant as it exists, and I hope that as a result of last week's Debate the Government are seriously considering amending the Royal Warrant. But let it be formed in mind that before a person can receive the amount of compensation to which I have referred, he must be certified as suffering from 100 per cent. disablement. Once the degree of disablement is brought below 100 per cent. down comes the amount of compensation payable in respect of the interest. Hon. Members who have had the handling of war pension cases know that before a person can receive the full 100 per cent. of compensation he must have met with an injury which has completely disabled him, such as the amputation of two legs or two arms, or complete blindness. The loss of one leg or one arm is assessed, not at 100 per cent. but at 50 per cent. of disablement.
The Minister and the Government must know that if men engaged in industry suffer disability entitling them to a pension of only 50 per cent. under this scheme, it will be impossible for those men to get work in many industries. Take my own industry of coal-mining. I doubt whether a person who had met with an injury such as the loss of an eye outside that industry would be considered for employment in the coal mines. The same statement applies to many other industries. Take the case of employment on the railways as another example. I should say that in 60 per cent. of the industries of the country a person classified under the Royal Warrant or under this scheme as suffering from 50 per cent., or even 40 per cent. or 30 per cent., of disability would be deprived of the chance of employment. Even under Part III the amount of compensation based upon 50 per cent. disability is only 16s. 3d. instead of 32s. 6d., for the man, with an equivalent reduction in the wife's allowance, which would be 2s. 6d. instead of 5s., and in the children's allowance. Nothing can commend a scheme of this kind to the acceptance of the House and the country.
1305 If such a scheme were offered as a basis of compensation in industry, no industry would put up with it. I am sure the mining industry would take steps to see that such a scheme was not applied to it. Our scheme of compensation is bad enough, but this is infinitely worse, and I beg the Minister of Pensions to withdraw the scheme and bring in one which will be more in keeping with the desires of hon. Members of this House.
With all that I have said, I think it is true to say, as we have heard this afternoon, that it is the women who have the real grievance under this scheme, and, as I expected, my hon. Friend the Member for Dartford (Mrs. Adamson) and other hon. Members have dealt fully with the difficulty which must arise as a result of the operation of this scheme with regard, not only to women, but to children as well. I will not say anything more about the question of the womenfolk, because I could not add a single word to the very eloquent pleas which have been put from all sides of the House in connection with them, but I want to add a word or two to what has been said in connection with the children's allowances. The right hon. Member for Sparkbrook (Mr. Amery) today, as last Wednesday, made a very powerful plea for increased allowances for the children, and he referred to this scheme in which there are four different scales for the children. First, under the allowances, there is a scale of 3s.; then, under pensions, there is a scale of 5s., and two at 3s. 4d.; then, under the pensions, where the father has lost his life or has been fatally injured through an accident for which we are providing in this scheme, there is 5s. per week; and for an orphan, which we can quite understand, there is 7s. 6d. a week.
It is very interesting to note that, with five Departments in the State concerned, there are no fewer than 11 different scales dealing with children's allowances. The Ministry of Health has three, the Ministry of Labour two, the Army, Navy, and Air Force have others, and now we come to the hon. Member the Minister for Pensions, and he has in this scheme alone four different scales. Is it beyond the comprehension of Ministers to understand what it actually costs to maintain a child? Why is it that the Departments cannot get together and devise some scheme? A child is a child, whether he is the child of a soldier, a 1306 third child getting 2s. a week or a fourth child getting 1s., whether his or her father has been injured under this scheme, or whether the incapacity is for a long or a short period. There ought not to be any difference in the amount of allowances paid in respect of children, and it shows that those who are responsible for arranging these schemes of payments or allowances—call them what you like—have absolutely no understanding of the difficulties with which the working people of this country are faced. Different hon. Members have referred to the fact that they were a fourth, a fifth, or a sixth child. I was one of eight.
§ Mr. Hall
I get nothing, but in the home I would get something, and I would get it only as the result of a sacrifice, the sacrifice of the mother or the older children. I do beg of the Minister and those who are acting with him to see that it is not the dead hand of the Treasury that is always going to lead, not only this Government, but this House and the country, into muddle after muddle such as we have been led into in fixing these allowances, not only during the course of the last year, but for some considerable time past. Is it beyond the wit of the Treasury, or the Departments, or even the Prime Minister, to get together a committee representative of this House, if they cannot decide for themselves, to fix a scale for children and also for widows and elderly people who have to be brought under Government schemes through no fault of their own?
Section 5 of the Act gives the Minister power to obtain information as to earnings and other financial matters in connection with an injured person for any period before he has sustained the injury, and I must say that I have been a little alarmed at the information which was given by my hon. Friend the Member for the Welsh University (Mr. E. Evans) in reciting certain circumstances connected with a case which he put before the House. I do hope that the Minister himself will see that this scheme is administered in quite a different manner from the way in which it was administered in the case referred to. I want him to give an assurance to this House that there is to be no means test. I cannot understand why we have this provision in Section 5, 1307 unless it is the intention of the Minister to apply a means test. Let me repeat what has been said on so many occasions during this Debate. We do not like this limitation which is given to the term "gainfully employed." It is true that under our insurance schemes in this country we have something like 18,000,000 to 20,000,000 people. Under our health insurance and unemployment insurance there is a good deal of duplication, but they are people who are gainfully employed in accordance with the scheme. I would reiterate what has been said from all sides, and in particular by my hon. Friend the Member for Farn-worth (Mr. Tomlinson). The most valuable member of our household is my wife. If I were to tell her that she was not gainfully employed in what may be regarded as the common term, there would be a row in the house in a very short time.
I must say that not only children, but womenfolk also, are very badly treated under this scheme. There are no pensions for young persons engaged in unpaid household or other duties, there are no pensions or allowances for non-occupied men, such as old age pensioners, men incapable of work for physical or other reasons, or elderly and retired men, and, as has already been pointed out, there are no allowances for women engaged in unpaid household duties, except for the miserable amount which has been referred to on so many occasions. This scheme indicates that there are grave errors both in principle and in administration. These errors are being committed by the Government in almost everything which they bring before the House, and there are few more grave than in their treatment of men who have suffered incapacity or fatal injury as a result of the war, and of their dependants. We think these errors are unpardonable at a time like this, for they shake any confidence which the people may have placed in the Government, and they create, with justification, suspicion and dissension among all the people. We think the scales of payment under this scheme, if used, must plunge the homes of men and women who are wounded or killed into such a frightening poverty that it will make the people of this country ashamed of the Government that is responsible. It must be remembered 1308 that the men coming under this scheme, are those men who are fighting in the trenches, on the sea, or in the air, are fighting the nation's battle with great courage and sacrifice and should not be rewarded by poverty for those whom they leave behind. This is not how the nation wishes to pay its debt of honour, and it will insist that the Government must replace these and other rates by proposals which are far more reasonable and consistent with one another. That is the only way to get the people to respond to the call made on the thousands of posters up and down this country in these words:It is your courage, your cheerfulness, your resolution, which will bring us to victory.It will be but an empty victory unless the Government do something more than is contained in this scheme to alleviate the poverty and the suffering of the people. That is why this Prayer was placed upon the Order Paper, and that is why we shall ask the House, unless the Minister gives us satisfaction, to join with us in deciding that the Order shall be annulled.
§ 7.20 p.m.
§ The Minister of Pensions (Sir Walter Womersley)
May I join in the chorus of congratulation to the hon. Lady who put down this Prayer, and say how indebted I am to her for her criticism of this scheme? No wise Minister considers any scheme which he brings forward as perfect, particularly a scheme on such a unique subject. The hon. Lady and I, and all those who have taken part in the Debate, can congratulate themselves on one thing, at any rate, that this scheme is unique in any legislative assembly in the world. This is the first time in history that a scheme has been brought forward to give compensation to civilian sufferers from war. It is true that in the last war and in many other wars funds have been raised from charitable sources to alleviate the difficulties and sufferings of unfortunate civilian victims of war. We can say, however, that whether this scheme is good, bad or indifferent, it is the first scheme under which the Government have taken the sole responsibility for dealing with those among the civilian population who suffer from enemy action. The Debate is unique in another direction. Those who have taken part mostly belong to the feminine sex, and it has given an opportunity for the Lady Members of the House 1309 to voice their opinions in unity. I am bound to say that they have been pretty well united on this issue.
A number of Members have taken pride in the fact that they belonged to large families and they have regarded their wives as the household chancellors of the exchequer. I want to join with them in that. I am the sixth of a family of seven, and I am pleased to say that all of them grew up and that my mother reared the whole family. [An HON. MEMBER: "On a shilling a week?"1 My first earnings were 2s. 6d. a week and they were a very welcome addition to the household. If I went into what some of us had to suffer in those days it would be a little illuminating to some hon. Members. I have been through this, and I know and understand what it means for a working-class woman to have to carry on on a meagre sum. My sympathies are all with these women. I remember that in my younger days my mother used to say that any household which had a pound a week regular was fortunate. We would not say that to-day, but that was the position of the working-class in those days. I am going to show that I have taken that into account in dealing with this Order. I believe that I had the finest mother in the world and that my wife is the finest lady in the world. She is the chancellor of the exchequer of our household. I hope she gets that message before I arrive home at the week-end. We are all proud of our wives, of course.
May I make a few general remarks about this scheme? [Interruption.] If hon. Members will permit me to proceed —this is not a branch meeting of a union. It is due to me that I should be allowed to give a proper explanation of this scheme in view of its unique character. We have to realise that the home front is a very different thing from the home front in former wars. We are all in the front line now, whether we are on the home front or on the front across the seas. An old friend with whom I served said to me that when the chaps went away in the last war they went under the impression that their own people at home would be safe, and it was some satisfaction to them. Those who go to the front in this war, he said, will feel that possibly they have the safest place. It depends, of course, on the action of the enemy. At any rate, under modem war conditions those who stay at home to do their 1310 job are in the front line trenches so far as air attack is concerned. A good deal of pressure was brought on the Government because of the fact that those who are responsible for insurance under workmen's compensation refused to include a Clause that would embrace war risks, and it was felt it would not be fair to expect employers of labour to assume the responsibility of enemy action.
On 31st January last the Chancellor made a promise to the House, and said that the loss ought not to be left where it happened to fall, that is, on the people who were injured. The Government decided that that promise must be implemented, and the question was as to the best form a scheme should take. I would point out to the hon. Lady who moved the Prayer that if it were accepted there would be difficulty in dealing with the claims that are now coming in. If there are defects in the scheme they can be dealt with, but it would not be wise to withdraw the scheme until we had another ready. Without this scheme, good, bad, or indifferent as we may view it, loss through enemy action would fall upon the injured persons, or the dependants of those killed, or on some agency made liable by Statute for injuries sustained in civil life and not safeguarded against war risks. Even in the scheme of national health insurance there is no provision to deal with war injuries. Of course, those injured could have claimed under the Insurance Act for the payment of sick allowances, but it would have put an intolerable burden on the funds of approved societies and of the health insurance scheme. It was thought to be essential that we should have a scheme whereby the Government, without charging any premiums to anybody, assumed the liability for injuries to the civil population by enemy action.
I believe that the scheme is an essential part of the arrangements for the relief of war distress. I am glad to say that existing means for the relief of distress are very much better than those we had in 1914. At that time many of those who, unfortunately, were thrown out of employment by the outbreak of war found themselves absolutely dependent upon either Poor Law assistance or private charity. Now, of course, we have the unemployment assistance scheme, and so on, and, whether the scales are ade- 1311 quate or not, at any rate that is better than nothing. That is as far as I go with that point. In fixing the scales under this new scheme our decisions have to be governed by the overriding consideration that the resources of the Government to provide compensation for injury to persons, equally with damage to property, are not unlimited. There is a general request for compensation for damage to property, but I agree with many hon. Members who have spoken that it is only fair that we should deal first with the damage to human life. The hon. and gallant Member for South-East Leeds (Major Milner) asked, "Why are the Government going to grant 100 per cent. compensation for property and yet give these very moderate allowances to human beings who may suffer disability?" As a matter of fact, there is no such proposal about property. Proeprty is to be dealt with when the war is over, when the nation will be able to reckon up its liabilities and its assets in order to see what it can do.
§ Major Milner
Did not the Weir Committee recommend that liability should be accepted up to 100 per cent. in the case of property, and have not the Government accepted that report?
§ Sir W. Womersley
No. I will deal with that point when I come to the remarks made by the hon. and gallant Member. I refer to it now only in passing because it fits in. Whatever the Weir Committee recommended that is not the policy of the Government. We are dealing with the human element now, immediately, not leaving their case till the war is over. I have made this very clear in my former speech. What did the hon. Member say?
§ Sir W. Womersley
If the hon. Member had the experience of Parliament that I have, and that his father had, he would not have made such a remark. Some people think that theirs are the only points that matter, but a number of hon. Members have made points and they are going to be answered. After that little interlude I will go on with my speech as I was proposing to make it. I was asking hon. Members to consider whether the resources 1312 of the Government are limited or unlimited. As I said when I spoke on the question of pensions, this is not the last word. This scheme has been brought forward so that we can get on with the business. When the war is over I cannot imagine a British House of Commons not doing what I am going to suggest now. Then we shall be able to calculate what our liabilities will be. I could not give a calculation to the Treasury now. I was asked whether I could give any idea of what the liabilities might be under this scheme, and I was bound to admit that I could not. I could mention colossal figures, but it all depends upon Herr-Hitler and the success of those machines of war of which he boasts. I hope that the liabilities will be very small, and I am sure that every Member of the House hopes so. When it is over, however, we shall know what our liabilities are and know also what our resources are. In 1919, after the last war had ended, this House insisted upon a thorough investigation and upon a new Royal Warrant being introduced, and unless I am mistaken, whatever House of Commons is in existence when this war is over it will insist upon a review of the whole position.
The basis of this scheme of compensation is, first, to give priority to Civil Defence undertakings, because of their definite risk and then we go on to deal with businesses engaged in essential work. In the national interest the people remain at work in spite of being in a risky area. Some people have fled from what they thought would be dangerous areas, but there are many others who have remained in the dangerous areas to carry on their employment in the national interest, and we think they ought to receive the first consideration, along with those who are National Service volunteers. There are some other classes, but that is because they cannot be counted out of industry altogether, though to base a system of compensation on those people would be very difficult. Let me point out that the compensation scheme is designed on what my fisherman who served in the last war used to describe as "blood money." It is not a question of reward; it is a question of compensation for loss sustained by reason of an injury and is based on a scale which is commensurate with that for a private soldier in the British Army.
1313 There has been no attempt to adjust the payments to the amount of economic loss, because we felt that if we began to differentiate between the various classes of the community we should not only find many difficulties but come up against that very old problem of making a close investigation into the earnings of those who were claimants. We thought it was better to have a flat rate which we could regard as fair. This has some relation to the average scales of existing civil schemes. When I mentioned this previously exception was taken to it because I mentioned that we had taken the rates already in existence. That does not mean that we regard it as a model scale, but in getting out figures we wanted to be as near as possible to the scales of workmen's compensation and other forms of compensation granted for disability. If the rates are examined, it will be seen that in most cases they are higher than the rates under workmen's compensation and only lower in a very few cases. I suggest that this scheme ought not to be dropped. We ought to go on with it, and if we can improve it so much the better. It does relieve employers of their obligations and it does provide that at any rate something shall be paid to those who are injured by enemy action and have no right to claim under the Workmen's Compensation Acts.
Having given the broad details of the scheme and the considerations which we had to take into account, I will now say a word or two on some of the questions which have been raised. If I deal with questions raised by several hon. Members at the same time, perhaps it will save time and we may get away earlier. The position of wives has been brought up— I think that was the chief criticism against the scheme on the part of the hon. Member for Dartford (Mrs. Adamson)—injured wives who are not gainfully occupied persons or volunteers. The Government have clearly laid down the principle that there can be no inherent right in the general population to compensation in the fact of injury, and that any liability accepted by the State towards those who are injured in the performance of public service must be in respect of actual loss resulting from the injury. Moreover, it is regarded as reasonable to limit compensation, in respect of injury to persons who are not themselves gain- 1314 fully occupied, to those cases in which the family circumstances give evidence of actual need. Within the limits thus defined, the scheme provides for grants within the normal women's pensions scale of the rate of remuneration paid in these matters. An hon. Member wanted to know about what he called the means test. I tried to make it clear on the Second Reading of the Bill that there would be no means test.
§ Miss Wilkinson
Is the piece of typewriting which the hon. Gentleman has just read out all that he proposes to say on the subject of women's allowances?
§ Sir W. Womersley
No, Sir. I do not want the hon. Lady to talk like that. I was just going on to speak about needs. As regards the case brought forward by the hon. and learned Member for the University of Wales (Mr. E. Evans), I want to go into it. I will certainly make full inquiries into it, if the hon. Member will give me the details. If the facts are as stated, the case is wholly contrary to our instructions.
§ Sir W. Womersley
I will have the case investigated at once. An hon. Member raised the question of giving the allowance to the wife and not to the husband. That question is exercising the minds of not only hon. Ladies in this House, but of hon. Gentlemen also. There may be a good deal to be said for granting a pension to a woman apart from the earnings of her husband, but we wanted, in this scheme, to be fair to the wife. I would not class her altogether in the same light as a spinster or a widow, because she has her husband, if he is not injured, to support her as he promised to do in sickness and in health.
§ Sir W. Womersley
No, Sir. The spinster has not a husband to keep her, and she has not quite the same support. A man may be in a good position to support his wife, even though she happens to be injured. You must stick to the basic principle that this is a question of compensation to meet loss sustained, and not one of compensation for injury. A pension given to that kind of wife might 1315 be one that she could very well do without.
A good deal has been said about the working-class household. You cannot expect a man who is doing a full day's work to be able to give his wife any assistance in the house, and the compensation given under this scheme would be for the assistance required for that house. A case where there was actual need would be dealt with by compensation. We have to provide for the working-class woman, and that is what I am concerned about. We are now being told that we are not doing the right thing because we are not extending this compensation to all and sundry. In the working out of the scheme it will be found that the working-class housewife will not suffer, as some hon. Members believe. If, on further examination, I am convinced that the working-class housewife is not getting a square deal, I shall be prepared to recommend alterations.
Speaking of the whole scheme, I am very desirous that we should have a perfectly good one that will work. Hon. Members have said a lot about it not being as good as it ought to be, but no one can produce a scheme of this magnitude entirely new and original, having no precedents from which to quote or anything in the way of a similar scheme before it, to be looked at, and yet avoid all defects. Anyone who could do that would be a wonderful person. I am prepared to consider very carefully the statements and representations that have been made. The main structure of the scheme is sound, and it is possible to fill in the little gaps and to put things right. I am prepared to give such matters full consideration. In regard to children's allowances—
§ Dr. Summerskill
I dealt in my speech with the question of the working housewife. Would the hon. Gentleman make a concession? It is admitted that the obstacle to giving proper compensation to those people is one of finance and cost. Would the hon. Gentleman make a concession that would not cost more than the postage? He said that the compensation which the working housewife would receive would be the cost of the woman who would come in and work for her and be her substitute; would the hon. Gentleman agree to pay the cost of that 1316 substitute to the wife to distribute as she thinks fit? After all, it is her compensation. In this scheme you are allowing the husband to introduce the substitute into the home and to have the wife's compensation in his hands.
§ Sir W. Womersley
I have heard a few arguments in my time from ladies who have tried to provoke me—
§ Dr. Summerskill
I am asking the Minister my question as a Member of Parliament, and not as a woman who wants to provoke him. I am asking him for a sensible answer. I do not know what kind of women do provoke him in this way. I have put a proposition to him which will not cost the Treasury a penny and which will give at least some kind of a square deal to the housewife.
§ Sir W. Womersley
All I can say is this: I have an advisory committee dealing with war pension warrants, and I intend to be guided by it a great deal in dealing with this and other pension schemes. Most of them follow along the lines of the Royal Warrant. I will make a note of the hon. Lady's suggestion and put it before the committee.
§ Sir W. Womersley
I was being cross-examined about these matters and I spoke of the advisory committee which will have to advise me. I have to take the responsibility and face the House of Commons. As I wish to seek the advice of hon. Members from that side of the House I asked the Chief Whip of the Opposition to nominate two hon. Members; as I feel it desirable to have some advice from hon. Members on this side or from the Liberal benches or from people of experience from outside this House—
§ Sir W. Womersley
I repeat that this committee will advise me. The advisory committee will be helpful; I am not one of those persons who think they know everything and cannot take advice from other people. I now want to deal with the question of children's allowances, a question which has been mentioned, I think, by every hon. Member who has spoken in this Debate. Hon. Members will probably remember that the Prime Minister, in answer to a question, said that as far as pensions were concerned the Minister would go very carefully into the matter. Realising, as my hon. Friend said, that we have so many different scales, there has been an inter-departmental committee set up. The various Departments have these scales to deal with, with the assistance, of course, of a representative of the Treasury. [Interruption.] I am sure that hon. Members would be very sorry if the Treasury were not represented there. After all, they have a function to perform. This inter-departmental committee is sitting not just at this moment, but is in active session day by day, and I am hopeful that a scheme will be brought forward in relation to children's allowances which will wipe away the anomalies of having so many different scales and, I hope, will be acceptable in all parts of the House. I do not know what sort of scheme they will bring forward, but they will deal with the matters to which I have referred.
§ Sir W. Womersley
I am sure that the hon. Member after his long experience knows that that is not usually done; in fact, it is never done.
§ Mr. Bevan
Before the Minister continues, are we to understand that he has already come to the conclusion that the scheme in connection with children's allowances is unsatisfactory, that the inter-departmental committee has actually been asked to advise him on certain alterations, and that he will bring those alterations to the notice of the House?
§ Sir W. Womersley
The Prime Minister said that he had been impressed by the representations made and that is why the inquiry was instituted. That is as far as I can go.
§ Sir W. Womersley
Will the hon. Member realise that many hon. Members in this House have put questions to me, but have had the kindness to sit down and wait until they have had a reply?
§ Sir W. Womersley
I have told the hon. Member that there is an interdepartmental committee sitting on this matter, and their report will be given in due course and this House will be informed of it.
§ Mr. G. Hall
Could we know whether this inter-departmental committee will deal with all the Departments which are concerned with the payment of children's allowances, or will it confine itself to Service Departments?
§ Sir W. Womersley
It is for my Department to deal with it. I will now deal with other matters. The question of injury allowances has been referred to and reference has also been made to the question of the seven days waiting period. We have had to employ the Unemployment Assistance Board as our agents and the scheme has had to be devised and put into operation quickly. As far as we knew, we might have had many claims in the first week and we had to look around to find the best means for dealing with this matter. I think it will be agreed that we could not have had a better body than the Unemployment Assistance Board, because they have got offices in all parts of the country. Payment will be made by special postal drafts; in the case of pensions, they will be dealt with as other pensions are, namely, by the issue of a pensions book. We feel that those who have to receive these injury allowances should not be made to stand in a queue at the Unemployment Assistance Board offices or at Employment Exchanges, but they should receive their allowances by post in the ordinary way.
Many hon. Members have asked about Article 7, Sub-section (1), which says that 1319 incapacity for less than seven days will not be compensated. The question has been asked why we should not start paying right away. I have been a secretary to a friendly society and I know that we had to have that waiting period. We have asked the House to agree to the seven days waiting period, because otherwise we shall be dealing with many thousands of very trifling injuries which do not develop into disabilities at all. When the incapacity does come payment will be made fully. The seven days will not be lost. The period of seven days is required to show that it is really an incapacity. It will, no doubt, save a good deal of trouble.
§ Mr. G. Hall
I do not know whether this is quite clear, but if a man is injured for seven days will the payment commence from the first day? Do I understand that if he is injured for seven days there is no waiting period at all?
§ Sir W. Womersley
No, it only means a seven days period before the compensation begins, and if the injury has not lasted seven days the man will not get any compensation.
I will now deal with the question of the right of appeal. This was raised on the Second Reading of the Bill by the hon. Member for Dundee (Mr. Foot) and our attention has also been called to it since. It is true that the right of appeal to tribunals was only introduced in the 1919 Act after the last war. As I have already indicated, there is not the slightest doubt that when it comes to a settlement at the end of this war, whatever Government is in power, there will be the right of appeal. I realise that it is a right which is very much cherished; it has not always worked out to the advantage of those who have appealed, but it is, nevertheless very valuable. During a period of war the setting up of tribunals up and down the country is an impossible task for any Minister to face. I have gone into this very carefully since the speeches which were made by the hon. Member, because I felt that he was in deadly earnest about the matter and felt that a great principle was at stake.
If it had been a question of laying down rules and regulations for all time, I should have been definitely in favour of a right of appeal, but I want hon. Members to visualise the position that I should be 1320 in in dealing with these matters if I had not the power to give a final decision. I should have to set up these tribunals. First of all, it would be necessary to have medical men on them available to give evidence. I can assure the House that every medical man in the country has a job assigned to him. It would be almost impossible to get the machine working with any rapidity and to be able to get a settlement. It is better that the Minister should have the right to settle the question who is to receive disability pay or pensions, as the case may be. Can anyone say that since I took over the office I have not given favourable consideration to every case that has been brought to me? Many people can testify as to that. I agree that there should be a right of appeal when it is possible, but with the questions that we shall have to dea1 with now, with the responsibilities of war pensions for merchant seamen, fishermen and civilians injured by enemy action, it would be absolutely impossible to set up these tribunals and get through the work successfully. I think I have dealt fairly well with the points that have been raised.
Will the hon. Gentleman deal with the point with regard to Clause 14 (3)? It says that, if a man dies who has been supporting a parent, an allowance shall be made to the parent, but not if he leaves a wife or child. So that, if a bachelor has been supporting a widowed mother, she would have a pension, but if a married man has been supporting his mother she would get nothing. I shall be grateful if the hon. Gentleman will give a reason for this extraordinary discrimination.
§ Sir W. Womersley
The answer is this: It is the wife and children of the married man who will have to be compensated. If he has been making an allowance to his parents it seems fair on the surface that that allowance should continue, but we are dealing here with compensation for loss with limited resources. Where a single man has nothing to pay for a widow or children it goes to his father, mother or dependants. I will look further into the point, but the idea of making the discrimination was on the lines that I have described. I am going into many questions which have been raised to-day. I welcome the Debate because it has enabled me to sense the feeling of Members who represent the people in the country, and has given me some idea 1321 what they consider are the features in the scheme that ought to be amended. With that promise I hope that I shall satisfy the hon. Lady and that she will withdraw the Motion, if only for the sake of those who are receiving compensation under the scheme. [An HON. MEMBER: "How many are there?"] Quite a number already. Not because there have been bombs dropped, but because of injuries received in the course of their employment.
With regard to the scheme for peacetime compensation for air-raid precautions volunteers, there has been some misunderstanding somewhere because I have an Order issued by the Home Office on 5th May last stating that the scheme would come to an end when war was declared and a new war scheme would be put into operation after that. The arrangement of £3 a week was one made by certain local authorities. I am informed that it was clearly stated that the new war-time scheme of compensation would come into operation for firemen as for other A.R.P. workers. It will, however, be inquired into to see if there has been any false information given or any misapprehension. I give the hon. Lady the assurance that I will go carefully into all these matters. I have made copious notes and I shall have the pleasure and profit of reading the OFFICIAL REPORT to-morrow. I shall give the points most sympathetic consideration.
§ George pension because her husband had paid in for 25 years, but because you have given her this pension you have taken away the other altogether. If a man gets killed in a coal mine to-day his wife draws compensation up to a maximum of £600 if she has two or three children. She also receives a pension from the Ministry of Health. She receives 10s. plus 5s., no matter how many children there are. This woman was receiving 15s. from Lloyd George, as we term it in the mining industry, but immediately you gave her the 22s. 6d. plus the 5s. you have taken the other away. I ask that you shall also consider that. Why not make this scheme as good as the Compensation Act? You would not touch the widow's pension if the husband was killed on the railway or in a mine or factory, but under this you say, "No. Although you have paid for 25 years for a widow's pension, you are not having a penny of it." I ask the Minister and the Minister of Health to take a matter of that kind into consideration and let the woman at least have what the husband has paid for for a quarter of a century.
That an humble Address be presented to His Majesty praying that the Personal Injuries (Civilians) Scheme, 1939, dated 14th September, 1939, made under Section 1 of the Personal Injuries (Emergency Provisions) Act, 1939, a copy of which Scheme was presented to this House on the 15th day of September last, be annulled.
§ The House divided: Ayes, 113, Noes, 137.1323
|Division No. 306.]||AYES.||[8.11 p.m.|
|Adams, D. (Consett)||Fletcher, Lt.-Comdr. R. T. H.||Jenkins, A. (Pontypool)|
|Adams, D. M. (Poplar, S.)||Foot, D. M.||Jenkins, Sir W. (Neath)|
|Adamson, Jennie L. (Dartford)||Frankel, D.||John, W.|
|Amnion, C. G.||Gallasher, W.||Kirkwood, D.|
|Anderson, F. (Whitehaven)||Gardner, B. W.||Lansbury, Rt. Han. G.|
|Attles, Rt. Hon. C. R.||Garro Jones, G. M.||Lathan, G.|
|Barnes, A. J.||Groan, W. H. (Deptford)||Lawson. J. J.|
|Beaumont, H. (Batley)||Greenwood, Rt. Hon. A.||Leach, W.|
|Benn, Rt. Hon. W. W.||Grenfell, D. R.||Lea, F.|
|Bavan, A.||Griffith, F. Kingsley (M'ddl'sbro, W.)||Leslie, J. R.|
|Buchanan, G.||Griffiths, G. A. (Hemsworth)||Lagan, D. G.|
|Burke, W. A.||Griffiths, J. (Lunelly)||Lunn, W.|
|Charleston, H. C.||Graves, T. E.||Macdonald, G. (Ince)|
|Cluse, W. S.||Hall, G. H. (Aberdare)||McEntee, V. La T.|
|Cooks, F. S.||Hall, J. H. (Whlteshapel)||Maclean, N.|
|Collindridge, F.||Hall, W. G. (Colne Valley)||Mainwaring, W. H.|
|Daggar, G.||Harris, Sir P. A.||Mander, G. le M.|
|Dalton, H.||Harvey, T. E. (Eng. Unlv's.)||Marshall, F.|
|Davies, R. J. (Westhoughton)||Henderson, J. (Ardwick)||Maxton, J.|
|Dobbie, W.||Hills. A. (Pontefract)||Milner, Major J.|
|Dunn, E. (Rother Valley)||Hollins, A.||Montague, F.|
|Ede, J. C.||Hopkin, D.||Morrison, Rt. Hon. H. (Haskney, S.)|
|Edwards, A. (Middlesbrough E.)||Isaacs, G. A.||Naylor, T. E.|
|Edwards, Sir C. (Bedwellty)||Jackson, W. F.||Noel-Baker, P. J.|
|Evans, E. (Univ of Wales)||Jagger, J.||Oliver, G. H.|
|Paling, W.||Smith, E. (Stoke)||Watson, W. McL.|
|Parker, J.||Smith, Rt. Hon. H. B. Lees- (K'ly)||Whiteley, W. (Blayden)|
|Pearson, A.||Smith, T. (Normanton)||Wilkinson, Ellen|
|Pethick-Lawrencs, Rt. Hon. F. W.||Sorensen, R. W.||Williams, E. J. (Ogmore)|
|Poole, C. C.||Stephen, C.||Williams, T. (Dan Valley)|
|Price, M. P.||Stewart, W. J. (H'ght'n-le-Sp'ng)||Wilmot, John|
|Quibell, D. J. K.||Stokes, R. R.||Windsor, W. (Hall, C.)|
|Rathbone, Eleanor (English Univ's.)||Slrauss. G. R. (Lambeth, N.)||Woodburn, A.|
|Ritson, J.||Summerskill, Dr. Edith||Woods, G. S. (Finsbury)|
|Roberta, W. (Cumberland, N.)||Thurtle, E.||Young, Sir R. (Newton)|
|Robinson, W. A. (St. Helens)||Tinker, J. J.|
|Shinwell, E.||Tomlinson, G.||TELLERS FOR THE AYES|
|Silkin, L.||Viant, S. P.||Mr. Mathers and Mr. Adamson.|
|Sloan, A.||Watkins, F. C.|
|Aoland-Troyte, Lt.-Col. G. J.||Grimston, R. V.||O'Neill, Rt. Hon. Sir Hugh|
|Albery, Sir Irving||Guest, Lieut.-Colonel H. (Drake)||Orr-Ewing, I. L.|
|Allen, Col. J. Sandeman (B'knhead)||Hammersley, Captain S. S.||Procter, Major H. A.|
|Anderson, Rt. Hn. Sir J. (So'h Univ's)||Hannah, I. C.||Pym, L. R.|
|Aske, Sir R. W.||Hannon, Sir P. J. H.||Radford, E. A.|
|Balfour, G. (Hampstead)||Harbord, Sir A.||Raikes, H. V. A. M.|
|Baxter, A. Beverley||Haly-Hutchinson, M. R.||Ramsbotham, Rt. Hon. H.|
|Beamish, Rear-Admiral T. P. H.||Heneage, Lieut.-Colonel A. P.||Ramsden, Sir E.|
|Beauohamp, Sir B. C.||Hepburn, P. G. T. Buehan-||Reed, A. C. (Exeter)|
|Bird, Sir R. B.||Hoare, Rt. Hon. Sir S.||Reed, Sir H. S. (Aylesbury)|
|Blair, Sir R.||Horsbrugh, Florence||Reid, J. S. C. (Hillhead)|
|Boothby, R. J. G.||Howitt, Dr. A. B.||Rickards, G. W- (Skipton)|
|Beulten, W. W.||Hudson, Capt. A. U. M. (Hack., N.)||Rowlands, G.|
|Boyce, H. Leslie||Hume, Sir G. H.||Royds, Admiral Sir P. M. R.|
|Brabner, R. A.||Jennings, R.||Ruggles-Brise, Colonel Sir E. A.|
|Braithwaite, Major A. N. (Buckrose)||Jones, Sir G. W. H. (S'k N'w'gt'n)||Samuel, M. R. A.|
|Briscoe, Capt. R. G.||Kerr, Colonel C. I. (Montrose)||Shaw, Captain W. T. (Forfar)|
|Brocklebank, Sir Edmund||Kayes, Admiral of the Fleet Sir R.||Shepperson, Sir E. W.|
|Brooke, H. (Lewisham, W.)||Kimball, L.||Smiles, Lieut.-Colonel Sir W. D.|
|Brown, Brig.-Gen. H. C. (Newbury)||Lamb, Sir J. Q.||Somervell, Rt. Hon. Sir Donald|
|Browne, A. C. (Belfast, W.)||Leighton, Major B. E. P.||Southby, Commander Sir A. R, J.|
|Burgin, Rt. Hon. E. L.||Liddall, W. S.||Spens, W. P.|
|Butcher, H. W.||Lipson, D. L.||Stanley, Rt. Hon. Oliver (W'm'ld)|
|Christie, J. A.||Little, J.||Stewart, J. Henderson (Fife, E.)|
|Cobb, Captain E. C. (Preston)||Llewellin, Colonel J. J.||Strauss, H. G. (Norwich)|
|Colman, N. C. D.||Lucas, Major Sir J. M.||Strickland, Captain W. F.|
|Colville, Rt. Hon. John||McConnell, Sir J.||Stuart, Lord C. Crichton- (N'thw'h)|
|Courthope, Col. Rt. Hon. Sir G. L.||McCorquodale, M. S.||Stuart, Rt. Hon. J. (Moray and Nairn)|
|Craven-Ellis, W.||Macdonald. Capt. P. (Isle of Wight)||Thomson, Sir J. D. W.|
|Creft, Brig.-Gen. Sir H. Page||McEwen, Capt. J. H. F.||Touche, G. C.|
|Crookshank, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. F. C.||Magnay, T.||Tufnell, Lieut.-Commander R. L.|
|Crowder, J. F. E.||Makins, Brigadier-General Sir Ernest||Wakefield, W. W.|
|Cruddas, Col. B.||Manningham-Buller, Sir M.||Ward, Lieut.-Col. Sir A. L. (Huff)|
|Culverwell, C. T.||Margesson, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. D. R.||Warrender, Sir V.|
|Davidson, Viscountess||Markham, S. F.||Waterhouse, Captain C.|
|Davies, Major Sir G. F. (Yeovil)||Mason, Lt.-Col. Hon. G. K. M.||Webbe, Sir W. Harold|
|Denman, Hon. R. D.||Maxwell, Hon. S. A.||Wells, Sir Sydney|
|Dugdale, Captain T. L.||Mayhew, Lt.-Col. J.||White, Sir R. D. (Fareham)|
|Duncan, J. A. L.||Mitchell, H. (Brentford and Chiswick)||Wickham, Lt.-Col. E. T. R.|
|Dunglass, Lord||Moore, Lieut.-Col. Sir T. C. R.||Williams, H. G. (Croydon, S.)|
|Elliot, Rt. Hon. W. E.||Moore-Brabazon, Lt.-Col. J. T. C.||Windsor-Clive, Lieut.-Colenel G.|
|Emery, J. F.||Moreing, A. C.||Womerslsy, Sir W. J.|
|Erskine-Hill, A. G.||Morgan, R. H. (Worcester, Stourbridge)||Young, A. S. L. (Partick)|
|Fyfe, D. P. M.||Morrison, G. A. (Scottish Univ's.)|
|George, Major G. Lloyd (Pembroke)||Morrison, Rt. Hon. W. S. (Cirencester)||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Gibson, Sir C. G. (Pudsey and Otley)||Nall, Sir J.||Major Sir James Edmondson|
|Gower, Sir R. V.||O'Connor, Sir Terence J.||and Mr. Munro.|
Question, "That this House do now adjourn," put, and agreed to.