§ 4.6 p.m.
§ Mr. Rhys Davies
On a point of Order. I would like your guidance, Sir Dennis, on the question of having a discussion on the Amendment which stands in my name, to cover also the second Amendment in the names of some of my hon. Friends, which I understand you intend to call. I suggest that it would be convenient to debate these two Amendments together, as they are interlocked.
§ The Chairman
I take it that the hon. Gentleman is referring to the Amendment in his name—in page 2, line 6, to leave out Sub-section (3)—and to the Amendment which next follows it on the Order Paper—in page 2, line 16, to leave out "threepence," and insert "twopence." If the Committee generally assent, I have no objection to allowing these two Amendments to be discussed together, on the understanding that if the second Amendment is called, it will be called only for the purpose of putting the Question without debate.
§ Mr. Stephen
Why has the first Amendment on the Paper in the name of the hon. Member for East Wolverhampton (Mr. Mander)—in page 2, line 2, to leave out "sixty" and insert "fifty-five"—not been called?
§ Mr. Stephen
May I, on a point of Order, submit that no financial contribution would be required from the Treasury if the age were reduced, as the charge would be covered by the increased contributions of the employers and the employed?
§ Mr. Rhys Davies
I beg to move, in page 2, line 6, to leave out Sub-section (3).
2110 The Minister of Health and the Committee will realise at once that in this Amendment we are raising the whole question of the method to be employed by the Government in financing this scheme. The Bill is divided into two parts; Part I provides pensions for unmarried women at the age of 60 and for the wives of insured men at the same age. Part II provides supplementary pensions which are to be financed by the Treasury. This Amendment deals only with the proposed method of financing, by means of contribution income, the 10s. a week pension for unmarried women and for the wives of insured men at60. We make no apology for raising this fundamental issue. In the first place, we regard this method as a violation of what I will call the tripartite principle which has prevailed in the past in the financing of our social services. It will be remembered that when the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) stood at that Box in 1911 and propounded the first National Health Insurance scheme, the largest of its kind in this country if not in the world, he laid down the principle that three parties were to contribute to it, namely, the State, the employer and the employed. The first complaint which we have to make therefore against the provisions in this Clause is that the Government are departing from that principle and are laying the whole of the obligation of providing the revenue for this purpose on the employers and the employed only. The Committee will realise I am sure the importance of the issue which is raised by the Amendment.
Let me now proceed to analyse the Government proposal. Be it remembered that the Government do not find a penny piece for these pensions for the first two years. I submit that that is a definite and an alarming departure from the attitude of Parliament in relation to our social services, and I think we are entitled to complain on that score. We are promised that at the end of two years the Government will come to the rescue of the scheme and that they will probably return again to the tripartite principle under which the State will also contribute to this fund. But I am not so sure about the promises of the Conservative party in regard to matters of this kind. I would not trust any promise which they made about what they intended to do two years 2111 hence if they were in power. They have inserted provisions in this Bill whereby a surplus of £3,000,000 or thereabouts will be released on the health insurance account. If hon. Gentlemen opposite are in power when that surplus is released, I would not be surprised to see them utilise it in due course in order to finance the pension scheme which we are discussing this afternoon. They have done such things before.
It will be noted that there is an increase of 2d. per week in contributions in the case of insured males, 1d. from the employer and 1d. from the man; but when we come to the case of the unmarried women what do we find? I do not know what the hon. Lady the Parliamentary Secretary will have to say to this proposal unless she believes in the truth of the old adage that "the woman always pays." Certainly she pays under this Bill. We find here that in the case of the unmarried woman there is an increase of 3d. per week in contributions of which 2d. is to come from the woman, and 1d. from the employer. Why has not the right hon. Gentleman followed the usual practice in this case? If this additional 3d. is necessary, why not put 1½d. on the employer and 1½d. on the women respectively?
§ Mr. Davies
No, the Government do not give anything; and as far as this part of the Bill is concerned, the insured population can say to the Government, "Thank you for nothing." In financing this scheme the Government, as I say, will not contribute a penny addition for two years. We come, therefore, to this point, that in order to reduce the pensionable age for the wives of insured men and for unmarried women to 60, the money is to be found by the contributors themselves while the Government are to be immune from any additional financial liability. That is a new principle which is being introduced in this Bill. The right hon. Gentleman must understand what is happening in some cases in the country. These people will pay increased contribution in order to get pensions at 60. I have had a case sent to me this morning where a man at the age of 65, because he gets his pension, also gets a 2112 reduction in wages to the exact amount of that pension. I am told there are many cases of that kind. If that can happen to a man, the exploitation of women in industry will almost certainly bring to light a large number of cases of women who, working for about 30s. a week, will get their wages reduced to £1 as soon as they get their pension of 10s. at 60. In that case they would be better off if they were not included in this scheme at all.
I do not want to dwell unduly on this proposition, except to say that we object to this method of financing the scheme by contributions only. When Tory Governments have introduced Amendments for improving these schemes they have always nibbled at wages in order to save the Exchequer. What will happen to insured people who get low wages? I told the story some years ago how the depression was affecting the people of Lancashire. I then came across the case of a young man of 22 who cycled six miles, from my own constituency to Bolton, to work 58 hours a week for 12s. If you deduct 3s. 4d. from that sum, you see at once the high percentage the State is taking from wages for social services. Although there has been improvement in the textile industry in Lancashire consequent on the war, I once met a married man of 23 years of age, with a wife and child, who worked full time in that industry for 18s. 3d. a week. It has been the case for several years, in the textile industry of Lancashire that men have been employed full time for less wages than they would get from Poor Law relief. Every hon. Member from Lancashire will bear me out when I say that. To increase the contribution for social services for these low wage earners therefore is an offence. Why not a State subsidy instead? These increases will not stop there.
The Actuary's report on this scheme is excellent, but it is only excellent within the financial limits laid down for him by Government. If the Government say to the Actuary, "We are not going to find any money for the first few years," he drafts his report accordingly, and if they say, "I think we will increase the contribution at the end of a calculated period," then he puts an additional penny on. I have, therefore, no complaint to make as to what he said, but I want the Committee to understand that the 2113 Actuary's report is based on calculations which are dependent upon the policy of the Government. I say, therefore, that the White Paper is only helpful in order to show us what can be done within the limits proposed by the Government. This is a piffling Bill from beginning to end; and I think I am right in saying that there were people in this country who, in the first flush of their enthusiasm were delighted to see the provisions of this Measure, but who have helped to swell the criticism against it when they examined what it contained. I sat through the Debate on the Second Reading, and I heard hardly a single word from the supporters of the Government to show that they are satisfied with its proposals. When we come to the test of need, we shall probably have something even stronger still to say than we have already said on this Amendment.
§ 4.22 p.m.
§ The Chairman
It can be discussed on the Amendment which is before the Committee. Later on, when this Amendment has been disposed of, the hon. Member's Amendment, if he wishes, will have to be put to the Committee without discussion.
§ Mr. Leach
I understand. I have to take my opportunity of saying what I have to say on the larger Amendment now before the Committee. What I have to say concerns the case of the unmarried worker. It has always been the contention of the unmarried insured industrial worker that her pension contribution was too high for the ultimate benefit which she received. This matter was subject to a great deal of discussion by the Special Committee on Pensions for Unmarried Women which sat last year and produced its report. Before examining what that report says, I would like to look more closely at the spinster's own case. If you took a census, you would find 4,000,000 unmarried women, from the ago of 16 upwards, who are paying for their future possible old age pension. The total contribution received from that class of people is £4,500,000. By the 2114 time the pensionable age of 65 has been reached that number has been diminished to 61,000—the figure given by the Government Actuary on page 15 of the report. Marriages, deaths, lapses and misfortunes account for this reduction. The amount paid to these 61,000, who ultimately reach the age at which they can receive a pension, is £1,800,000, so that on the face of it the unmarried woman and her employer together pay, in each year, £4,500,000, under the heading of pension contributions. This seems to be a pretty strong case for the allegation of the unmarried woman worker when she says she is already paying too much for the pension she ultimately receives.
The special committee said a great deal on this point. The figures I have given are confirmed, but the argument is partly rejected. They say we have no business, in making this calculation, to include payments of those women who subsequently marry. I do not know why. The woman who marries usually goes into the class where her contributions are paid by her husband. Her departure from spinsterhood does not involve loss to the contribution fund under that heading. That remains steady by the normal influx of newcomers. The special committee, aided by Government actuaries, then proceeded to form its own estimate as to what is the correct amount to be credited to the unmarried woman, under the heading of contributions towards future pensions. I, personally, regret their methods of whittling down the figures; it is a strange kind of juggling, but let us take their conclusion, for the sake of argument. They find the total amount required from an unmarried woman to meet her ultimate pension is 3.9d. per week, and they have to admit that the woman and the employer together are actually contributing 5.5d. per week. That means, on their own quite open admission, that the spinster is out of pocket, for value received, to the extent of £1,130,000.
The other day I heard the Chancellor of the Exchequer say in the House that the State was finding 60 per cent. of the whole cost of contributory pensions as we now have them. Presumably, that State expenditure includes the pre-Act widows, where no contributions have been paid at all. But 60 per cent. or not, the State has never paid a penny piece towards the cost of the unmarried woman's pension.
2115 The boot is entirely on the other foot. There has been a contribution of £1,130,000 each year towards widows, orphans and old age pensioners, according to the Actuary's own figures. I say that sum is £2,700,000. The special committee is quite clear on this point and goes on to say, quite frankly, that the spinster has just cause for complaint. If this Amendment to which I am speaking is carried, the spinster and her employer will still be called upon to pay an extra 2d. a week. The White Paper does not tell us how much that will bring in. Perhaps I am in error in putting it that way, but I am speaking to the Amendment to reduce the 3d. to 2d. The White Paper does not tell us how much that will bring in, but obviously it is in the neighbourhood of £1,500,000, and with that extra contribution the unmarried woman will still be able to say, "My pension is costing the State nothing at all." On these grounds I think a very powerful case exists for the refusal on the part of this Committee to countenance the extra charge which the Bill imposes upon contributors.
§ 4.31 p.m.
§ Dr. Edith Summerskill
During the whole of these Debates I have been struck by what I would call the nineteenth century flavour in the tone of hon. Members' speeches towards women. Unfortunately, only one woman has taken part in the Debates, but hon. Members opposite have approved the Bill because it will help weak and helpless women who are suffering from premature decay at the age of 60. I was much shocked when the hon. Lady the Parliamentary Secretary talked about tired women. From the Debate one would think that this Bill is introduced by a benevolent Government in order to help women who are tired out at 60. I want to say to male Members opposite that this argument is completely fallacious. If they will examine the vital statistics, they will find that a woman, once she has passed the child-bearing period, has an expectation of life much longer than that of a man. Let us dismiss from our mind the feeling that this Bill is introduced to relieve tired women. I must admit that I have digressed a little, but I wanted to explain to the Committee that this Clause is adding insult to injury. There is no fatherly 2116 treatment on the part of the Government towards weak and tired women at 60, as one would imagine from listening to the speech of the Minister of Health. What the Government are doing is to behave like a bad and exceedingly hard-headed business man towards women of 60.
§ The Chairman
The hon. Member's speech would be quite in Order on the Question, "That the Clause stand part of the Bill," but I have not heard anything she has said which refers to either of the two Amendments we are now discussing.
§ Dr. Summerskill
I want to explain how unjust it is that women should be asked to pay 3d. and men 2d., and that is more than unjust because the Government have given the impression that they are being kind and helpful towards women of 60 when, in fact, under this Clause they are heaping further financial burdens on their shoulders by asking them to pay 3d. and the men 2d. The hon. Member for Central Bradford (Mr. Leach) has explained the spinsters' case excellently from the actuarial point of view. The spinsters never approached the Government because they felt they were decrepit and old at 55 or 60, but because they felt they were being asked to contribute towards the support of the dependants of insured men, widows and children.
§ The Chairman
I think the hon. Member would find it much easier if she made her speech on the Question, "That the Clause stand part." Quite frankly, I have not discovered that she has anything to say on the limited subject of the Amendments now before the Committee.
§ Dr. Summerskill
You have ruled that the two Amendments shall be discussed together, and the second Amendment is to leave out 3d. and insert 2d. I am explaining how unjust it is for the Government to insert 3d.
§ The Chairman
If the hon. Lady likes to go on, she must do so, but at her own risk. I have made a suggestion to her, but if she proceeds on the lines she has hitherto followed, she is likely to find herself in difficulties through my being obliged to interrupt her.
§ Dr. Summerskill
May I ask the Minister of Health whether he thinks this Clause does improve the conditions of spinsters of 60?
§ The Chairman
The hon. Lady does not seem to understand my point. She must not ask questions about the Clause as a whole; she can only discuss the very limited questions which arise on the two Amendments now before the Committee. That is why I suggested to her that she would find her task very much simpler if she made her speech on the Question, "Thai the Clause stand part."
§ Dr. Summerskill
May I ask that 2d. shall be the amount which a woman shall be asked to pay instead of 3d.? That is the point I wish to stress, and I hope it is in Order. As the Clause stands it aggravates that injustice.
§ 4.39 p.m.
§ Mr. Holdsworth
I want to refer to the speech made by the hon. Member for Central Bradford (Mr. Leach), I know that I shall be out of order if I deal with the speech made by the hon. Lady opposite, and I do not intend to do so except to say that it is no use going to the textile areas and telling a woman who has to get up at 7 o'clock in the morning that she is not tired at 60. You can get all the statistics you like, but you will never convince her otherwise.
§ Mr. Holdsworth
The whole point of the hon. Lady's speech was that the Bill deals with tired women at 60. If she went into the textile areas and talked to women who had to get up early in the morning, they would very soon contradict her.
§ Mr. Holdsworth
Let me deal with a matter which is in Order. I want to ask the Minister of Health to give some attention in his reply to what was said by the hon. Member for Central Bradford. There is a feeling that women, in having to pay an increased subscription, are being asked to pay too much. I am not saying that it is too much, but I think that some 2118 adequate explanation is called for to convince them that the figure mentioned is a legitimate figure. I hope the right hon. Gentleman will say whether the hon. Member for Central Bradford is right in his calculations. I think that the figures he quoted can hardly be correct, and I hope we shall have some explanation, which has not so far been forthcoming, which will give satisfaction on this point. I beg the Minister to take particular care in answering the point.
§ Mr. Holdsworth
I should have said the figures quoted by the hon. Member from the report. I did not want to suggest that the hon. Member has been taking some fictitious figures.
§ 4.41 p.m.
Mr. Graham White
There is a good deal of feeling about this extra charge of 3d. which is being put on women contributors. Anyone who has taken part in these discussions has received many letters and communications on the point, and it is very important that for a change, which seems to reverse the normal method of contribution, there should be an adequate and full explanation. I feel that in these matters we are getting into a state of confusion, and we shall be grateful to the Minister if, in dealing with them, he will make a statement which will relate the proposals of the Bill to the general scheme and finances of the whole pension system. Are we to have some regard to actuarial considerations or not? Are we to put the whole on the State? We must proceed one way or the other; either a total State contribution or by actuarial considerations based on contributions by the employers, the employed, and the State.
If we are going to do that, I should like to know what will be the consequences of these proposals. We are proceeding now on a policy which will put another penny on both sides in 1946, and which in 1956 will bring the total contributions up to 1s. 3d. and 7½d. Anyone who enters at the age of 16 and carries through during the whole period will have paid for the whole of the benefits received, but alterations have been brought into the scheme, and the situation is not now so 2119 favourable. To what extent the proposals of the Bill will alter the scheme further as against the State I do not know, but I think the Committee should bear in mind the fact that the State underwrites the whole transaction and that if there is a shortage for any reason, the State will risk the burden. That is a very relevant fact in considering the importance of the Amendment. I hope that in our anxiety to consider and sympathise with tired women, and with other people who may be tired, we shall not get away from the sound principles of finance.
§ 4.45 p.m.
§ Mr. Aneurin Bevan
I hope I shall not be misunderstood when I say that such is the anxiety of the poor people in this country to get some security in their old age that it would be difficult to find any insuperable objection to the payment of increased contributions. That is something which has been pointed out by hon. Members in all parts of the Committee, and it is one of the reasons we on this side were prepared to pay much larger contributions in order to secure adequate pensions. Therefore, on the narrow question of whether people are prepared to pay increased contributions, there is no division between us. But if the Government always had the intention to finance increased pensions, or a lowering of the age at which the pensions are given, in this manner, I do not see why the Bill could not have been introduced some years ago. Why need the Government have waited all this time?
We had always understood that the reason the Government were chary of improving the old age and widows' pensions scheme was that any such proposals would be certain to increase the charge falling upon the Treasury. Indeed, it would have been impossible for the Government to have brought forward this scheme in peace time without the Treasury having to pay a share of the contributions, for the principle of tripartite contributions is so deeply embedded in the National Health Insurance scheme that the House and the country would not have tolerated a departure from it in peace time. The hon. Member for East Birkenhead (Mr. White) said that the scheme must be on a sound actuarial basis. We are not attempting to violate that principle; our contention is that the contributions of the employers 2120 and the workers would be less if the State found more. That would not affect the actuarial soundness of the scheme, but it would affect the apportionment of the contributions. There is all the difference in the world between the State underwriting any possible loss—which already the Government have sought to avoid—and the State bearing from the beginning a proper share of the burden. I am certain that if ultimately it is found in 1946, or before 1946, that the increase in the contributions will be inadequate to support any increased expenditure, the Treasury will come to the House for an increased contribution; I am certain of that for the reason that if they did not do so, they would then have accepted the principle that they ought to make a contribution towards the increase. If they are ready to accept that principle, why not do so now, and pay their share of the contributions?
§ The Minister of Health (Mr. Elliot)
We are doing so, as I shall have no difficulty in showing the hon. Member.
§ Mr. Bevan
I shall be delighted to hear the Minister. We all recognise the right hon. Gentleman's virtuosity, but we are sometimes suspicious of his facts. There is another side of the matter to which hon. Members ought to give some attention. It is assumed that the employer finds one contribution and that the workman finds another, but the fact is that in many cases the employer does not find the contribution. In the coal-mining industry, for instance, 85 per cent. of the increased contributions will be found by the miners. Whenever the cost of production goes up in the mining industry, the ascertainments upon what the wages are based are affected. I have no doubt that the coalowners have presented no great objection to this increase because they will not have to find it; the miner will have to find his share of the contribution and the coalowner's share, or most of it; and what the miner does not find, the consumer of domestic coal will find, because the coalowner will pass on the charge.
That brings me to another very important aspect of the increased contributions. In the past, when industry was of an entirely different character, it was much more difficult to persuade the employers to pay increased contributions 2121 than it is now. In the past, the employers often had to find the increase out of their revenue, but in recent years there has been such a change in the character of industry, and the employers have got so much more control over the prices of their products, that if there is any increase in the cost of production on account of the social services, they can at once pass on the increase. If the costs of the railways are affected, the railway companies either come to the House or go to the Railway Rates Tribunal and get an increase in railway fares. The same thing is true of a vast number of monopolistic or semi-monopolistic concerns in the country which now have a legal or semi-legal power over the prices of their products, and are able to get back from the poor people, in their capacity of consumers, any increase in the cost of production resulting from a rise in the contributions towards the social services. Either as original contributors or as consumers of the products, the poor people have to find the overwhelming proportion of the burden of meeting these social services.
What the whole thing amounts to, therefore, is merely a redistribution among the working classes of the same amount of money, but of course, the redistribution has the intrinsic advantage, which we do not deny—and that, indeed, is why we are so enthusiastically in favour of the schemes—of providing to members of the working classes who are sick or aged sustenance which otherwise they would not get. But it would be a mistake to suppose that the increased amenity is not being provided out of the earnings of the working classes. I ask hon. Members who intend to take part in the Debate whether they can challenge those conclusions on the basis of facts. That is one of the reasons the Government are making these proposals at the present time. They hope to be able to introduce into the social services in war-time a revolutionary principle which would have been repugnant in peace-time. They hope to be able to use the emergency of the war as an excuse for not putting an immediate charge upon the Treasury. By so doing, they are preparing the way so that if any further increase in pensions is made, it will be made entirely at the expense of the working classes. I submit that it will not be enough for the Minister to say that by this means and that means 2122 the Treasury will find some proportion of the increase. The point is that the amount which the Treasury will find will be unknown.
What the right hon. Gentleman will have to do is justify a departure from the existing practice of tripartite contributions. The principle of tripartite contributions has this merit, that whereas the original contributions by the workmen and the employers almost wholly fall upon the workmen in one way or another, that part of the revenue which is found by the State contributions can be recruited from the tax-paying population. It can be a charge upon the rich; it can in many ways effect a redistribution of wealth. That is the reason we have always demanded it. It is no credit to the Government that an insurance scheme is brought forward which mobilises the resources of the poor in order to pay 10s. a week to some workers.
§ Mr. Radford
On a point of Order, Sir Dennis. Is not the hon. Member going outside the terms of the Amendments and making a Second Reading speech?
§ The Chairman
I have been listening vary carefully to the hon. Member, and although he has made occasional remarks which were a little wide of the Amendments, I think his main argument has been in Order.
§ Mr. Bevan
I was simply pointing out that the hon. Member need not have raised the point of Order. When it comes to the financing of social insurance schemes, strict regard should always be had to the fact that the necessity for those schemes, in the first instance, arises out of the impoverishment of the working classes. If the people were not too poor to provide for their own old age, they would not need these schemes. Millionaires do not come to the House to ask for insurance schemes. When poor people ask for the payment of increased pensions, or the lowering of the age at which pensions are given, they do so because 2123 they have no resources. The proposals of the Government diminish the resources which these people already possess. That is why hon. Members on this side always insist that the Budget should be used as a means of financing an improvement in the social services out of the taxation of the well-to-do members of the community in order to redress the inequalities that exist.
It is for this reason that we object, not to the fact that the contributions have to be paid—although I object to any contributory scheme because I consider that it violates a first principle to which I think attention ought to be given—but to the fact that the proposals make a profound departure from the traditional history of our social services and the reason the people of this country want an extension of the social services. It is true that if contributions are taken from some members of the working class and distributed in the form of pensions to others, the same amount of income is spread out more thinly over the whole line. That brings about a greater equality between the people, but it is an equality which takes everybody downwards, whereas if there were increased revenue from the State at the disposal of the scheme, it would raise the general level of the working class. That is why I say to the Minister that we are not grateful for the Measure. We have to find the money for it. It is a Measure which, in its present form, could have been brought forward years ago, and now it has been brought forward, the Government are using the psychology of war conditions in order to introduce principles which are repugnant to all of us. Unless we resist them now, later on any further improvement in the social services will have to be financed entirely out of the incomes of the poor, and we shall then lose the leverage which the social services give us in bringing about a more effective redistribution of the wealth of the community.
§ 5.0 p.m.
§ Mr. Radford
The few remarks that I wish to make on these Amendments refer to the contribution that insured women are to pay. I cannot see, unless my right hon. Friend can give us chapter and verse with regard to actuarial calculations, why a woman should be called upon to pay 2124 2d. a week while a man only pays 1d. I am excluding in both cases the employer's contribution. The women are to pay 2d. out of probably much smaller wage levels than those that the men enjoy. Before the Bill was introduced unmarried women were most dissatisfied with the fact that, after all their contributions, their pension was not payable till 65, and they strongly felt that they were not getting the same pro rata benefit from their contributions that the married people were getting, and now when their pensionable age is being dropped from 65 to 60, the married women's pensionable age is similarly dropped, and they see themselves being called upon to pay twice the rate that the men pay. I know that there is a strong feeling of dissatisfaction among them. I have a strong feeling of uneasiness, and I hope the Minister will be able to give us statistics which may reconcile us to this charge of 2d. a week out of the women's own pockets as compared with 1d. out of the men's pockets.
§ 5.2 p.m.
§ Mrs. Hardie
I am not so much concerned with the fact that the men are called upon only to pay 2d. and the women 3d. What I am concerned with is the fact that the Government told the women, "We are giving you a pension at 60," and they are not giving it at all. They are calling upon the women to pay the whole cost of the pension. That is the injustice and the grievance that we feel. It does not seem a very serious matter to argue about 1d. a week and, as a matter of fact, I am quite prepared to advocate increased contributions if we get a reasonable and proper pension scheme, but this scheme is so small that we feel that women are being cheated and deluded by being told that they are getting a pension when they have to pay the whole cost themselves. Not only are the Government paying none of the cost, but, in the division between the women and the employers also, women are being treated on a worse basis because they have to pay two-thirds of the cost and the employer only pays a third, while, where the men are concerned, the employers are paying a half. Why should there be this discrimination?
But I want to deal with the case of the younger women. There is another grievance here. A very large proportion of young women will pay into this for 2125 years and never draw anything. The Government are doing their best to remedy that grievance, because, if the war goes on and another two or three million young men of marriageable age are killed, the women can look forward to qualifying for this old age pension, but we will hope that that will not take place and that a sufficient number of men will be saved to prevent them from the need of drawing the pension. The extra 2d. a week may not appear very much for them to pay, but it is like the last straw that breaks the camel's back. They are already paying contributions, and, with the low wages that many women earn, particularly in trades such as the Parliamentary Secretary knows about in Dundee, they will find it a fairly heavy contribution. Those are the points I wished to make. The women are being deluded because the Government are not giving them pensions—they are giving themselves the pensions—and also that the proportion between the employer and the worker is unequal in the case of the women.
§ 5.6 p.m.
§ Mr. Collindridge
I want to stress the point that my hon. Friends have made that we are not opposing increased contributions at this juncture if we get in return adequate pensions for our people. We have 150,000 miners in Yorkshire. The 2d. a week contribution will amount to £1,250. It has gone forth that this is going to be equally shared between the miners and the mineowners. I heard it put at one meeting that, because the owners were so few and the miners so many, it was a good thing on the side of the mineowners. My reply was that the owners may be few and the miners many, but at the end of life the mine-owner has generally left about £500,000. Let us see how this £1,250 a week is going to be shared out. Under the miners' wage ascertainment, all the costs other than wages are first deducted from the proceeds of the industry. That permits this £1,250 to be deducted before the miners have a penny of wage consideration. In effect we are to have this £1,250 shared out in this manner—£1,080 to the workers and £170 to the owners. Further, the fact that the Government are bearing no share of this in the early years makes the levy upon the miners much greater. The right hon. Gentleman said he hoped to show that the Govern- 2126 ment were going to make their contribution. It would be wrong for me to anticipate, but, if the suggestion is that the Government by way of supplementation are to have a financial burden imposed upon them, we say that they are very belated in taking on that burden. Too long have the industrial districts borne the burden for the Government, and I feel that they ought to be ready to do it and not impose this levy upon the industry, and particularly the workers. We are in favour perhaps, in the circumstances that we have at present, of meeting our share of contributions if we can get adequate pensions, but we are dubious whether these pensions will go to the people who want them, and that is why we support the Amendment.
§ 5.10 p.m.
§ Mr. Elliot
It was my intention to allow everyone who wished to do so to speak. I have no desire whatever to avoid the argument and Debate which will be necessary if we are to bring the Bill through Committee with the assent of all Members instead of one or other section feeling that they have been voted down by a majority which has not fully appreciated the arguments that they have put forward. [Interruption.] It is from that side that I hope to draw my majority, not this side.
§ Mr. Mander
Does the right hon. Gentleman seriously think that his friends will have an opportunity of appreciating his arguments if they are not here?
§ Mr. Elliot
I am sure the hon. Member will appreciate my arguments if he will listen to them. The Debate, of course, has placed us in a slight difficulty, since it is nominally on a Motion that all contributions whatever should be remitted, though during the Debate the argument is also carried on that a certain type of contribution, that in respect of women, should be reduced by a penny. Therefore we sometimes find rather contradictory arguments advanced from the other side, sometimes in the same speech.
§ Mr. Elliot
I hope to show from the hon. Member's own speech that he is in error in that. He advanced the argument that the contributions should be lower, saying at the same time that he himself was opposed to any contributory scheme at all, and subsequently arguing that the contributions were all paid by the workers anyhow, so that it did not really matter whether they were found on one side of industry or the other. [Interruption.]I do not think so. If he reads his own speech, he will find that to be true. We want to consider, first of all whether there should be an improved pension or not, because the hon. Member for Westhoughton (Mr. Rhys Davies) seemed rather doubtful about it. He said, "You will find that wages will come down by the amount of the pension in the case of certain people. How much more so in the case of women?" The Committee can dispose of that argument, because time and again during the Second Reading Debate on all sides of the House it was said, "We welcome Part I of the Bill." Can we take it, first of all, that the Committee is agreed that it is a good thing that the pension should be paid and that it should be paid at a lower age than at present? [Hon. Members: "Agreed."] Proceeding from that, we come to the question whether there should be contributions or not, and, if so, by whom—employer, employed, and the State. I take it that the Committee generally is agreed that the principle of contributions should be accepted. We now proceed to the question, first of all, Are the contributions which are being asked for fair in themselves and, secondly, are they properly distributed? That I conceive to be the real purpose of the two Amendments and the discussion that we have had. I hope I have carried the Committee with me so far. The question, first of all, as everybody, I think, agrees, is whether there should be contributions from employers, employed, and the State. Hon. Members opposite have said that the State is not making here any contribution, but it is stated in the Government Actuary's report, which is in no way a party report, of course, that the State is making a contribution.
§ Mr. Rhys Davies
Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman will forgive me, but on page 9 it will be seen in the Actuary's re- 2128 port that in the scheme as enlarged by the Bill the excess of expenditure over income falling on the Exchequer for the next two years is £50,200,000 and £52,500,000. If we turn to page 7, we find that the figures given for the existing scheme are £50,500,000 and £52,600,000. So that in the enlarged scheme the figures are very nearly the same. What we charge the Minister with is that the State is not contributing anything additional in the next two years to meet the additional financing of the scheme.
§ Mr. Elliot
That is, indeed, a point to which the Committee must address itself, and it was raised in some detail by the hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Bevan). I would refer the Committee to page 6 of the report, where it is pointed out quite clearly:The actual machinery of the Exchequer grants for pension purposes under the existing scheme is as follows:(a) An annual grant is made to the Treasury Pensions Account out of which pensions up to age 70 are paid…The Exchequer contributions to the Treasury Pensions Account are intended to make good the excess of estimated expenditure over estimated contribution income over a series of years…That, I submit to the Committee, is a justification for my contention that the Government here are making no departure in the practice of previous years—the practice which has been followed all through the contributory scheme. We are financing this scheme, as on previous occasions, by moneys paid into the account over a series of years.
§ Mr. Elliot
No, I think the hon. Member is under a misapprehension. If the increased contributions were not now paid, the increased expenditure would fall entirely upon the balances at present to the credit of the fund. Obviously the balances would thereby be more quickly exhausted—the balances representing moneys from all three partners. These would, as I say, be more quickly exhausted. In that event the Government would either have to allow the scheme to go bankrupt—and it could hardly do that—or to come back to the House for authority to raise contributions. I think that we are agreed on that point.
§ Mr. Rhys Davies
This is really important. During the next two years, when the Government are extending the pensions to unmarried women at 60, and to the wives of insured men at 60, the Government, according to this report, are not adding a penny piece more to the total sum they are paying. True, they are paying towards the scheme, but our complaint is that the contributions in this case have to meet an additional expense embodied in this scheme.
§ Mr. Elliot
Certainly, that can only be true if the finances of the insurance scheme were to balance year by year. The Government Actuary's report indicates that that is not so, and it never has been so. It is really most important that the Committee should grasp this point. I repeat that the scheme has been financed in blocks of years, and within those blocks of years it is not worked out on the narrow outgoings and incomings, but on an average. Later on the Government's, liability increases—no one denies that the Government's liability exists. The Government's liability matures and then the Exchequer's contributions will undoubtedly have to be paid. I hope I carry the Committee with me on that.
§ Mr. Elliot
I have already said that the Government do not contribute year by year. I think it would be unnecessary for the Committee to go into the actuarial refinements, but in the earlier stages of the scheme it will, speaking broadly, be financed by drawing on the existing balances, and in later years by a combination of increased contributions which will have to be made and made also by the Government. My justification is in a report, not a party statement, or a report of my own, but a report from the Government Actuary. It is a completely non-party document. It is a singularly clear document, and I think we have to take the opinion of experts on this matter. It brings out most clearly the fact that there will be a very considerable increase in the Government's contributions and that the Government's share of the pensions scheme will be carried out. It has been said that this is a departure from the tripartite arrangement. Not at all. The State is paying 6s. out of every 10s. of 2130 contributory pensions to-day, and it will have to pay in the same proportion in the future. The employers and the workers are being asked for an additional contribution of 2d. for men, and 3d. for women. But the State is undertaking a large liability also in these new pensions, and it will clearly be a substantial contributor. These facts are clearly stated in the Government Actuary's report.
§ Mr. Buchanan
Can the Minister tell me why, assuming the Government do take on a liability, the Government do not make a contribution in an equal arrangement? From the Minister's own point of view then it would lessen the future liability he is talking about. It would merely lessen the burden which in any way they will carry in the future.
§ Mr. Elliot
No. The hon. Member will agree with me that nothing can be more irritating to the poor people than continually coming back for small additional contributions—say, ½d. this year, and 1d. or 1½d. the year after—instead of the contributions remaining steady over a long period. The employers' and workers' contributions will now remain steady, but the contributions from the State will rise. The Committee will agree that there is nothing more aggravating to hon. Members than they should have continually to explain small increases to their constituents.
§ Mr. Bevan
The Minister seems to be in slight disagreement with the Chancellor of the Exchequer, who, during the Second Reading Debate, took great care to impress on the House how impossible it would be to consider any budgetary expenditure at the present time. He said:if pensions were to be improved, it must be done by increased contributions, and that with my responsibilities as Chancellor I could not agree to substantial sums being paid by the Exchequer for this purpose."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 21st February, 1940; col. 1488, Vol. 357.]The whole speech was that the Bill had been so designed as to prevent any substantial increase from the Exchequer and the speech of the Minister is designed to convince the Committee that the Chancellor of the Exchequer was wrong.
§ Mr. Elliot
I think we find ourselves in a little difficulty if we go back again to the Second Reading. [Interruption.] I think the hon. Member for Ebbw Vale, does both himself and me less than justice 2131 in this matter. On the Second Reading we were discussing, as everybody knows, the great scheme involving heavy increases in contributions, admittedly brought forward by the party opposite and by the trade unions in their original plans. Clearly the Chancellor brought forward these arguments in discussing this general question. I am now debating what we admit to be a much smaller scheme than the scheme brought forward and turned down. I am discussing the scheme of Part I of this Bill, and I am doing my utmost to address myself to it. I hope I have carried the Committee with me in these three things—first that we should have a lowering of the pensions age, secondly, that we should do that by a contributory scheme, and, thirdly, that the contributions to the scheme should be shared. The three parties to the scheme, I think we also agree, should be employers, employed, and the State.
I have addressed myself at some length, but not without certain co-operation by the Committee, to the question whether the State is, indeed, finding a contribution to the scheme. I hope I have been able to make it clear why I believe the State is finding a substantial contribution. For the people who are immediately concerned, the sums which they are receiving are sums which have been derived from contributions over a much shorter time than the contributions payable by a person who has been contributing right through from entry into employment at the age of 16. There is no beneficiary who will not be in debt to the State and to the scheme, because the scheme is carrying all the people who have entered insurance in later years, and for whom the scheme has not received any of the contributions in the earlier years which are really required to make it balance. I hope I have dealt with the point put to me. It may well be that I have not fully succeeded in convincing the Committee, but within my powers, I have tried to face up to the important problem which the Committee has laid before us.
I now come to the question put by the hon. Member for South Bradford (Mr. Holdsworth) and the hon. Member for Central Bradford (Mr. Leach), which are not unrelated to the vigorous campaign undertaken by Miss White, who has seen a great amount of her ambition realised in a relatively short period of campaign- 2132 ing, a thing which comes to very few people. For that we should certainly give her recognition to-day. The hon. Member for Rusholme (Mr. Radford) brought up the same point, which was roughly this: Is it fair that the contributions in respect of the woman insured in her own right—and that applies to married as well as unmarried women—should be put at 3d. and that the contributions for the man should be put at 2d.? The question of the contribution by the woman insured in her own right has been the subject of debate in the House and outside. The discussions ended with the appointment of the Le Quesne Committee, and the question was settled by the committee's report. What we have to discuss now, therefore, is whether, granted that these contributions were reasonably fair at the introduction of this Bill, the practice of insurance has been disturbed and whether it has been departed from by the admitted fact that the woman insured in her own right is being asked for a contribution of 3d. whereas the man is being asked for a contribution of 2d. The argument has been brought forward that a fair deal has not been given to the unmarried woman because a 3d. contribution is being asked from her, while only 2d. is being asked from the man.
§ Mr. Elliot
In this extremely complicated matter it is simpler to take one question at a time. I am now considering whether a fair contribution is being asked for a fair benefit. I am willing to discuss the question whether there should be a lower age for women than for men, but not at the moment. We have the uninsured woman who gets a pension in virtue of her husband's insurance and the insured woman who gets a pension in virtue of her own contributions. The answer to the question why the contributions are different is not difficult, and I think it will carry conviction to every Member. It is simply this, that the insured woman gets her pension at the age of 60 in virtue of her contributions, and the married woman gets it in respect of her husband's insurance at an age which averages not 60, but 62 to 62½. Clearly it is a fair thing to say that a pension at 60 should be paid for by a higher contribution than a pension at 62½.
§ Mr. Elliot
I have, but I do not think the Committee will dissent when I say that by and large the Le Quesne Report said that the argument into which they had inquired in respect of spinsters did not bring out that they had a grievance.
§ Mr. Leach
May I contradict the right hon. Gentleman? Paragraph 42 says:A majority of us are also of opinion that, if the 17 per cent. method of allocation is accepted, the spinster who does not marry has a just cause of complaint in respect of the amount of her contribution towards the cost of the pensions under Item (d).
§ Mr. Elliot
That was the complaint of the spinsters as against the married women, and the hon. Member must read that passage in conjunction with paragraph 44 of the report and take into consideration also the considerable benefits and increases which are given to unmarried women. The fact is that if the actuarial charge were made upon spinsters for the pension at 60 they would have to pay a further 2½d. beyond the 8½d. In fact, the pension is being given on a reduced contribution rate. What I am asked is whether, starting from the basis of the Le Quesne Report, this change is justifiable and why should one set of women have to pay 3d. and another set—through their husbands—have to pay 2d.? The answer is that the first set of women are getting the benefit of a pension at 60 and the other set get the pension at 62 plus. An increased contribution has, therefore, been charged for an increased benefit, and I think the whole Committee will agree that that is fair. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] At any rate, that is the reason for the increased contribution.
§ Mr. Watkins
Ought not the right hon. Gentleman to take into account the number of spinsters who live and become 60 in comparison with the other groups of insured people? If that is taken into consideration, 3d. is unfair.
§ Mr. Elliot
I think on that point the hon. Member would find himself at loggerheads with the hon. Member for West Fulham (Dr. Summerskill). I am willing to go into the argument as to the respective lengths of life of married women and single women, but I do not think it is necessary to do that.
§ Mr. Watkins
I am afraid the right hon. Gentleman has missed my point. I was not talking about expectation of life. I was talking about the number of contributors who remain in insurance for a sufficient number of years to reach 60 and to receive a pension. So many for one reason or another drop out of insurance, and that ought to be taken into consideration.
§ Mr. Elliot
I have no doubt that that factor has to be taken into consideration, but I would ask the hon. Member to realise what a great difference is made to it by the shortening of the period of insurance by five years, as we are doing. I do not think anybody will deny that fewer people will drop out of insurance if they can qualify at an earlier age.
§ Dr. Summerskill
I do not understand why the right hon. Gentleman has now adopted the principle of putting the sexes into two pools. He says that the spinster has to contribute 3d. because she is getting her pension at 60, and that a man contributes 2d. because his wife will not get her pension until 62 plus. That principle has never been adopted before. Spinsters have always contributed to the insurance pool, and they have had to pay for the man's widow and dependent children. Why has the principle now been changed so that there are two pools, instead of letting the man help the woman as the spinster has helped the man?
§ Mr. Elliot
I am not sure that the hon. Lady has given full attention to the pamphlet of her own party on this subject. The principle of lower age for wives of insured persons was brought forward in that pamphlet, but a lower age for spinsters was left out altogether. The fact of the matter is that it so happens that by reducing the age of the married woman to 60 you do somehow or other hit on a group which brings in the largest number of wives. I have stated before, in the Debate on the Second Reading, that the proportion of cases in which husbands and wives both qualify for pension when the husband reaches 65 will, if this Bill is passed, be brought up from 28 per cent. to 63 per cent. For many years the question of lowering the age of the wives of insured men has been the subject of debate, and it has been generally agreed that if a way could be found to do that it would be a convenient thing to do. It was always recognised that if the age was 2135 lowered you would not give a pension to a woman at 60, but at 62 plus because the difference between the ages of men and their wives is a variable and not a fixed one.
I hope that I have now dealt with most of the arguments advanced. We are bringing forward an improvement in the pensions scheme, of the financial burden of which I hope I have been able to prove the State is bearing a new share, according to the rules of insurance schemes which have worked for many years. I hope I have proved also that the difference between the contributions exacted for uninsured wives and for women insured in their own right is reasonable and just having regard to the improved benefit which the women insured in their own
§ right are to get. I hope it will be possible now to pass from this important and interesting aspect of the Bill. There are a great many subjects to discuss, and I hope we shall be able to discuss them in the same reasonable manner as we have been able to discuss this important point.
§ 5.45 p.m.
§ Question put, "That the word 'threepence' stand part of the Clause."
§ The Committee divided: Ayes, 201; Noes, 142.2137
|Division No. 28.]||AYES.||[5.7 p.m.|
|Acland-Troyte, Lt.-Col. G. J.||Elliot, Rt. Hon. W. E.||Loftus, P. C.|
|Align, Lt.-Col. Sir W. J. (Armagh)||Ellis, Sir G.||Mabane, W. (Huddersfield)|
|Amery, Rt. Hon. L. C. M. S.||Elliston, Capt. G. S.||MacAndrew, Colonel Sir C. G.|
|Anderson, Rt. Hn. Sir J. (Sc'h Univ's)||Emery, J. F.||McCorquadale, M. S.|
|Anstruther-Gray, W. J.||Emrys-Evans, P. V.||MacDonald, Rt. Hon. M. (Ross)|
|Aske, Sir R. W.||Entwistle, Sir C. F.||McKie, J. H.|
|Astor, Viscountess (Plymouth, Sutton)||Erskine-Hill, A. G.||Margesson, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. D. R.|
|Baxter, A. Beverley||Etherton, Ralph||Markham, S. F.|
|Beauchamp, Sir B. C.||Everard, Sir William Lindsay||Mason, Lt.-Col. Hon. G. K. M.|
|Beechman, N. A.||Fildes, Sir H.||Mayhew, Lt.-Col. J.|
|Bennett, Sir E. N.||Findlay, Sir E.||Meller, Sir R. J. (Mitcham)|
|Bernays, R. H.||Fox, Sir G. W. G.||Mills, Sir F. (Leyton, E.)|
|Blair, Sir R.||Fremantle, Sir F. E.||Mitchell, Col. H. (Brentf'd & Chisw'k)|
|Boles, Lt.-Col. D. C.||George, Major G. Lloyd (Pembroke)||Moore-Brabazon, Lt.-Col. J. T. C.|
|Boom, A. C.||Gibson, Sir C. G. (Pudsey and Otley)||Morgan, R. H. (Worcester, Stourbridge)|
|Boulton, W. W.||Gilmour, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir J.||Morris, J. P. (Salford, N.)|
|Braithwaite, Major A. N. (Buckrose)||Gledhill, G.||Morris-Jones, Sir Henry|
|Briscoe, Capt. R. G.||Goldie, N. B.||Morrison, G. A. (Scottish Univ's.)|
|Broadbridge, Sir G. T.||Gower, Sir R. V.||Morrison, Rt. Hon. W. S. (Cirencester)|
|Brocklebank, Sir Edmund||Graham, Captain A. C. (Wirral)||Nall, Sir J.|
|Brown, Rt. Hon. E. (Leith)||Gridley, Sir A. B.||Neven-Spence, Major B. H. H.|
|Brown, Brig.-Gen H. C. (Newbury)||Grigg, Sir E. W. M.||Nicolson, Hon. H. G.|
|Bull, B. B.||Gritten, W. G. Howard||O'Neill, Rt. Hon. Sir Hugh|
|Butcher, H. W.||Hacking, Rt. Hon. Sir D. H.||Orr-Ewing, I. L.|
|Campbell, Sir E. T.||Hambro, A. V.||Palmer, G. E. H.|
|Carver, Major W. H.||Hammersley, S. S.||Peters, Dr. S. J.|
|Cary, R. A.||Harbord, Sir A.||Pickthorn, K. W. M.|
|Cazalet, Thelma (Islington, E.)||Harland, H. P.||Ponsonby, Col. C. E.|
|Cazalet, Major V. A. (Chippenham)||Haslam, Henry (Horncastle)||Pownall, Lt.-Col. Sir Assheton|
|Channon, H.||Hely-Hutchinson, M. R.||Pym, L. R.|
|Chapman, A. (Rutherglen)||Heneage, Lieut.-Colonel A. P.||Raikes, H. V. A. M.|
|Chorlton, A. E. L.||Hepburn, P. G. T. Buchan-||Ramsbotham, Rt. Hon. H.|
|Christie, J. A||Hill, Dr. A. V. (Cambridge U.)||Rawson, Sir Cooper|
|Clarry, Sir Reginald||Holmes, J. S.||Reed, Sir H. S. (Aylesbury)|
|Colfox, Major Sir W. P.||Harsbrugh, Florence||Reid, J. S. C. (Hillhead)|
|Colman, N. C. D.||Howitt, Dr. A. B.||Rickards, G. W. (Skipton)|
|Colville, Rt. Hon. John||Hudson, Capt. A. U. M. (Hack., N.)||Robertson, D.|
|Courtauld, Major J. S.||Hudson, Rt. Hon. R. S. (Southport)||Robinson, J. R. (Blackpool)|
|Courthope, Col. Rt. Hon. Sir G. L.||Hume, Sir G. H.||Ross Taylor, W. (Woodbridge)|
|Craven-Ellis, W.||Jarvis, Sir J. J.||Royds, Admiral Sir P. M. R.|
|Croft, Brig.-Gen. Sir H. Page||Kerr, Colonel C. I. (Montrose)||Ruggles-Brise, Colonel Sir E. A.|
|Crooke, Sir J. Smedley||Kerr, H. W. (Oldham)||Russell, Sir Alexander|
|Crookshank, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. F. C.||Kerr, Sir John Graham (Sco'sh Univs.)||Salt, E. W.|
|Cross, R. H.||Keyes, Admiral of the Fleet Sir R.||Salter, Sir J. Arthur (Oxford U.)|
|Cruddas, Col. B.||Knox, Major-General Sir A. W. F.||Samuel, M. R. A.|
|Culverwell, C. T.||Lamb, Sir J. Q.||Sandeman, Sir N. S.|
|Davies, Major Sir G. F. (Yeovil)||Lambert. Rt. Hon. G.||Schuster, Sir G. E.|
|De la Bère, R.||Leech, Sir J. W.||Scott, Lord William|
|Denman, Hon. R. D.||Leighton, Major B. E. P.||Selley, H. R.|
|Denville, Alfred||Levy, T.||Shaw, Major P. S. (Wavertree)|
|Doland, G. F.||Lewis, O.||Shaw, Captain W. T. (Forfar)|
|Duckworth, W. R. (Moss Side)||Liddall, W. S.||Shepperson, Sir E. W.|
|Duncan, Rt. Hon. Sir A. R.||Lipson, D. L.||Simmonds, O. E.|
|Edmondson, Major Sir J.||Llewellin, Colonel J. J.||Simon, Rt. Hon. Sir J. A.|
|Sinclair, Col. T. (Queen's U. B'lf'st)||Taylor, Vice-Adm. E. A. (Padd., S.)||Wayland, Sir W. A.|
|Smiles, Lieut.-Colonel Sir W. D.||Thomas, J. P. L.||Webbe, Sir W. Harold|
|Smithers, Sir W.||Thomson, Sir J. D. W.||Wells, Sir Sydney|
|Somervell, Rt. Hon. Sir Donald||Touche, G. C.||White, Sir Dymoke (Fareham)|
|Somerville, Sir A. A. (Windsor)||Train, Sir J.||Williams, C. (Torquay)|
|Southby, Commander Sir A. R. J.||Tree, A. R. L. F.||Williams, Sir H. G. (Croydon, S.)|
|Spears, Brigadier-General E. L.||Tryon, Major Rt. Hon. G. C.||Wolmer, Rt. Hon. Viscount|
|Spent, W. P.||Tufnell, Lieut.-Commander R. L.||Womersley, Sir W. J.|
|Storey, S.||Walker-Smith, Sir J.||Wragg, H.|
|Strauss, H. G. (Norwich)||Wallace, Capt. Rt. Hon. Euan||Wright, Wing-Commander J. A. C.|
|Strickland, Captain W. F.||Ward, Irene M. B. (Wallsend)||Young, A. S. L. (Partick)|
|Stuart, Rt. Hon. J. (Moray and Nairn)||Wardlaw-Milne, Sir J. S.|
|Sueter, Rear-Admiral Sir M. F.||Warrender, Sir V.||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Tasker, Sir R. I.||Waterhouse, Captain C.||Mr. Grimston and Mr. Munro.|
|Acland, Sir R. T. D.||Harris, Sir P. A.||Pearson, A.|
|Adams, D. (Consett)||Harvey, T. E.||Pethick-Lawrence, Rt. Hon. F. W.|
|Adams, D. M. (Poplar, S.)||Hayday, A.||Price, M. P.|
|Adamson, Jennie L. (Dartford)||Henderson, J. (Ardwick)||Pritt, D. N.|
|Adamson, W. M.||Henderson, T. (Tradeston)||Quibell, D. J. K.|
|Alexander, Rt. Hon. A. V. (H'lsbr.)||Hicks, E. G.||Richards, R. (Wrexham)|
|Ammon, C. G.||Hills, A. (Pontefract)||Ridley, G.|
|Anderson, F. (Whitehaven)||Hollins, A. (Hanley)||Riley, B.|
|Attlee, Rt. Hon. C. R.||Hollins, J. H. (Silvertown)||Ritson, J.|
|Banfield, J. W.||Horabin, T. L.||Robinson, W. A. (St. Helens)|
|Barnes, A. J.||Isaacs, G. A.||Sexton, T. M.|
|Barr, J.||Jackson, W. F.||Shinwell, E.|
|Batey, J.||Jenkins, A. (Pontypool)||Silkin, L.|
|Beaumont, H. (Batley)||Jenkins, Sir W. (Neath)||Silverman, S. S.|
|Bevan, A.||Jones, A. C. (Shipley)||Sloan, A.|
|Broad, F. A.||Jowitt, Rt. Hon. Sir W. A.||Smith, Ben (Rotherhithe)|
|Buchanan, G.||Kennedy, Rt. Hon. T.||Smith, E. (Stoke)|
|Burke, W. A.||Lansbury, Rt. Hon. G.||Smith, Rt. Hon. H. B. Lees- (K'ly)|
|Cape, T.||Lathan, G.||Smith, T. (Normanton)|
|Charleton, H. C.||Lawson, J. J.||Sorensen, R. W.|
|Chater, D.||Leach, W.||Stephen, C.|
|Cluse, W. S.||Leonard, W.||Stewart, W. J. (H'ght'n-le-Sp'ng)|
|Cocks, F. S.||Leslie, J. R.||Stokes, R. R.|
|Collindridge, F.||Lunn, W.||Strauss, G. R. (Lambeth, N.)|
|Cove, W. G.||Macdonald, G. (Ince)||Summerskill, Dr. Edith|
|Daggar, G.||McEntee, V. La T.||Taylor, R. J. (Morpeth)|
|Davidson, J. J. (Maryhill)||McGhee, H. G.||Thorne, W.|
|Davies, R. J. (Westhoughton)||MacLaren, A.||Thurtle, E.|
|Davies, S. O. (Merthyr)||Maclean, N.||Tinker, J. J.|
|Dobbie, W.||Mander, G. le M.||Tomlinson, G.|
|Dunn, E. (Rother Valley)||Marshall, F.||Viant, S. P.|
|Ede, J. C.||Mathers, G.||Walkden, A. G.|
|Edwards, A. (Middlesbrough E.)||Maxton, J.||Watkins, F. C.|
|Edwards, Sir C. (Bedwellty)||Messer, F.||Watson, W. McL.|
|Edwards, N. (Caerphilly)||Milner, Major J.||Wedgwood, Rt. Hon. J. C.|
|Evans, D. O. (Cardigan)||Montague, F.||Welsh, J. C.|
|Foot, D. M.||Morgan, J. (York, W.R., Doncaster)||White, H. Graham|
|Frankel, D.||Morrison, R. C. (Tottenham, N.)||Whiteley, W. (Blaydon)|
|Gardner, B. W.||Mort, D. L.||Wilkinson, Ellen|
|George, Megan Lloyd (Anglesey)||Muff, G.||Williams, E. J. (Ogmore)|
|Gibson, R. (Greenock)||Nathan, Colonel H. L.||Williams, T. (Don Valley)|
|Green, W. H. (Deptford)||Naylor, T. E.||Wilson, C. H. (Attercliffe)|
|Griffith, F. Kingsley (M'ddl'sbro, W.)||Noel-Baker, P. J.||Windsor, W. (Hull, C.)|
|Griffiths, J. (Llanelly)||Oliver, G. H.||Woodburn, A.|
|Hall, G. H. (Aberdare)||Owen, Major G.||Woods, G. S. (Finsbury)|
|Hall, J. H. (Whitechapel)||Paling, W.||Young, Sir R. (Newton)|
|Hall, W. G. (Colne Valley)||Parker, J.|
|Hardie, Agnes||Parkinson, J. A.||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Mr. Groves and Mr. John.|
Question, "That the Clause stand part of the Bill," put, and agreed to.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Clause stand part of the Bill;"
§ 5.55 p.m.
§ Mr. Pethick-Lawrence
I understand that an Amendment which I had put down—in page 3, line 6, to leave out from "Act" to the end of the Clause—is out of Order, and on this Motion "That the Clause stand part," I wish to raise one or two questions which I had hoped to discuss on my Amendment. Sub-section (6) of the Clause rules out from the provisions of Part I of the Bill the special contribu- 2138 tors who were dealt with in the Act of 1937. This Clause deals solely with Part I of the Bill, and all that I can read into the words which appear at the end of Clause 1 is that these special contributors are excluded from Part I; but the Financial Memorandum to the Bill says:Clause 1 (6) provides that the special contract embodied in the Widows', Orphans' and Old Age Contributory Pensions (Voluntary-Contributors) Act, 1937, with the special class of so-called 'black-coated workers' is not to be affected by the provisions of the Bill.2139 I wish to ask the Minister of Health whether the Financial Memorandum is correct in its entirety or whether my reading of the words is correct, and that it is only from Part I of the Bill that these special contributors are to be excluded? It is a very important point. I appreciate the point that as the Bill stands, the special contributors do not get the advantage of the lowering of the pension age for women from 65 to 60 which is given to ordinary contributors. Whether they are spinsters or the wives of men contributors, they remain precisely as they were, with the understanding, of course, that if they themselves are ordinary contributors and their husbands are special contributors that then they do get the benefits of Part I of the Bill. Part II of the Bill deals with supplementary pensions, and I have not discovered anything in the Bill itself which shows that these people are to be excluded from getting supplementary pensions. If the Financial Memorandum is correct they are excluded not only from Part I but from Part II. Perhaps the Minister will make clear which position is correct.
The second point I wish to raise is also one upon which, I imagine, there is a certain amount of confusion in the country. The Minister has really answered the point in a reply to a Question which I put on Thursday, 15th February, but I think it will be for the benefit of voluntary contributors if he will tell us precisely which of the voluntary contributors do get the benefit of Part I and which do not, because in spite of his answer to my Question I think there is still a certain amount of confusion. Although I have studied the matter a little more closely, perhaps, than some other people I myself am not quite clear exactly how things stand.
A third point which I put is one of substance. Why has the Minister taken this course? I appreciate that the fact that the special voluntary contributors who are brought into a scheme of insurance by the Act of 1937 are on a different footing from the ordinary contributors, but I thought the object of the Act of 1937 was to enable persons who were not insurable under the terms of the principal Act to get the same effective benefits. It would be rather a retrograde step to place them outside the advanages of Part I of the Bill, which is being brought forward 2140 to assist other contributors. I realise that contributions paid by the special voluntary contributors are of a much more complicated character than those which are being paid by the contributors under the principal Act. They are taken by the age of entry, and the additional contributions are paid at varying rates; but still the object of that Act, I thought, was to arrange contributions so that in effect entrants paid at one and the same time not only their own and the employers' contribution but to a large extent the State contribution. That may not be wholly the case, but I thought that in part that was the intention which was to be carried out by the Schedule to that Act.
It would be a degree of hardship it there were two women contributors—I will take the case of spinsters, as I suppose they will appear most commonly in this category, possibly two voluntary contributing spinsters—who for many years had been contributing and both thinking that they would be on the same footing when they reached a certain age. One of them finds that she is included and the other that she is excluded under this provision that pension will begin at 60 years of age. I want to know whether it is the intention of the Government permanently to exclude these special voluntary contributors or whether these contributors are left out of the Bill merely because it is a rather complicated matter. Is it the intention of the Government to introduce subsequently a small Bill dealing with them in particular and bringing them in on special terms? If the latter is the case, I do not quite see why it should not have been done at one and the same time in this Bill. If it is not to be done at all, I cannot help thinking that it is a blot on the Bill.
This Part I has a very large amount of support on all sides of the Committee; and the omission of this category of women will create a certain amount of dissatisfaction among spinsters whose agitation was partly responsible for the Bill appearing before us at all. I do not know how far those who were responsible for the spinsters' agitation have been consulted, and I do not know what sort of numbers are involved, but no doubt the Ministry of Health will have the information and will be able to tell us how large is the number of women voluntary contributors under this special 2141 scheme. Even though the number were small, I should have thought it was unwise to create a differentiation that might give rise to a great deal of trouble in future years. It is not necessary for me to go any further with the matter. After other points have been put I shall no doubt receive a reply from the hon. Lady. I shall be glad if she will elucidate this matter, not only for the benefit of this Committee, but in order to put on record a statement of the facts which will be remembered and referred to on future occasions.
§ 6.6 p.m.
§ Mr. Mander
As I have not had an opportunity of saying anything on the Bill so far, I would like to contribute a word or two upon the matters covered by Clause 1. I heartily welcome the action of the Government in bringing forward the proposal in the Clause in response to an overwhelming demand which has arisen in the country over a considerable period. It will be very greatly appreciated indeed, as I well know and as my own constituents have so often said to me. My only regret about it is that it has not been possible to reduce the age to 55. That would have been well worth while, and a much more satisfactory solution. Something is being done not only for married women but for spinsters too. While much has been said about the success of the spinsters' agitation, it is only fair to say that a comparatively limited number of spinsters will benefit by the Bill, which does not go a very long way in meeting the demands of the National Spinsters' Association. This body has been carrying on an active agitation. At any rate this is a beginning, and for that reason I am sure that the Bill is heartily welcomed.
I would call attention to one point and ask the Minister whether anything can be done about it. It has been put to me that a woman of 60 years of age dislikes very much the idea of being called an old age pensioner. Is it seriously suggested that people are in their old age when they are 60? If so, that is untrue and is a misuse of the expression, which was all right when the system was first started and you were dealing with people of 70 years of age and over. You then had, properly speaking, old age pensioners, but we have gone down to 65, and now we are getting down to 60. The 2142 Government should consider some other words to give a truer description of the real position and not hurt the feelings of people who are really in middle life and who do not merit the other description.
Another point is that some women who are now working in industry fear they may suffer in their employment, because it will become known to their employers when they have reached pension status by the discontinuance of their health and unemployment insurance. This point has been put to me, in particular connection with the jute industry in Dundee, which the hon. Lady who will reply to this discussion helps to represent so effectively. The matter should be taken into serious consideration. One can quite understand that women may suffer whose age is not realised, when it is discovered that their age is more than was actually believed. I call attention to these points in order to see whether anything can be done about them. The principles of the Clause are to be heartily welcomed. I hope they are only a step to a further move in due course in the same direction.
§ 6.10 p.m.
§ Dr. Summerskill
I would endorse the contribution which the hon. Member for East Wolverhampton (Mr. Mander) has just made. It emphasises my point that women are neither worn out nor decrepit at 60 years of age. The hon. Member for South Bradford (Mr. Holdsworth) said that I was doing women a disservice; I have spent quite a lot of time in this House trying to promote the interests of women, and I would like to make it clear that all I am concerned about in this Bill is that men should also be regarded as worthy of a pension.
I want to say a word about the voluntary contributors. I am very concerned about their lot, because I feel that there is one category of woman who may suffer hardship. I am not thinking particularly of the spinster but of the married woman who is, let us say, the wife of a greengrocer in a little corner shop in a poverty-stricken road that has been evacuated. She may have become a voluntary contributor under the 1937 Act. It is a little hard on that woman, because discrimination is being made against her. I am not an actuary, but surely that special voluntary contributor might be asked to make an extra contribution on an actuarial basis now. The oldest of the women 2143 under the 1937 Act will not be 60 years of age for more than three years yet. I think I am right in that statement, and if so, there would still be three years of the extra contribution towards this pension. I ask the Government to consider, even at this late hour, this special category of woman who will not be brought under this scheme.
§ 6.12 p.m.
§ The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Health (Miss Horsbrugh)
Perhaps I might reply now to the points that have just been raised by the hon. Member for West Fulham (Dr. Summerskill). I was interested when she pointed out that she was hoping to get the age reduced to 60 for some women. I had thought before that she was thinking that women should not have the pension before the men.
§ Miss Horsbrugh
She wants it for all. She has raised the case of the woman in the greengrocer's shop. This woman is a special voluntary contributor and the hon. Lady asks whether she should not be brought into the scheme. She asks also the number of women in the special voluntary scheme. The reason for not bringing these people in is that a special scheme was set up with a special contract and a special arrangement for contributions. There are 150,000 women in the special voluntary scheme. It is interesting to note that 85 per cent. of them are over 40 years of age. If additional contributions were to be asked from these women in order that they might get a pension at 60 years of age, the cost, I find, would be about 1s. 7d. a week, or an increase of more than three times the present contribution.
§ Mr. Tomlinson
Can the hon. Lady give us any idea of the percentage of these women who have previously been in insurance?
§ Miss Horsbrugh
These are in a different category and are special voluntary contributors. The ordinary voluntary contributors are those who have been in compulsory insurance and have gone into ordinary insurance as voluntary contributors.
§ Mr. Tomlinson
The married woman was never able to become a voluntary 2144 contributor until 1937. How many of the 150,000 women have previously been in insurance?
§ Miss Horsbrugh
I cannot tell the hon. Gentleman without notice, but I will try to get the answer for him. Under this Bill women who have gone into ordinary voluntary insurance enjoy the extended rights, but those about whom I am talking are in a special voluntary scheme and, as 85 per cent. came in over the age of 40, it would mean an enormous increase in the contributions because as the hon. Lady has suggested some of them would only have three years to run. To bring them in it would require a very much larger contribution.
§ Miss Horsbrugh
The difficulty here is that this is a voluntary insurance scheme. It is not because they are segregated. It is an extremely good bargain for people to come into it in later life, but if they were to get a pension at 60 instead of 65 the contribution would have to be increased to such an extent that I do not think they would feel they were getting a good bargain. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for East Edinburgh (Mr. Pethick-Lawrence) then asked whether the exclusion of these special voluntary people would be permanent. I do not think that we can say anything here is permanent. Even the present pensions scheme with the age limit of 65 is not permanent, because we are reducing the age to 60. We hope to introduce improvements but for the time being I do not think we can bring in these special voluntary contributors.
I will now come to the points raised by the hon. Gentleman the Member for East Wolverhampton (Mr. Mander). He said that he did not like the expression "old age."
§ Miss Horsbrugh
The hon. Gentleman thought that if it was reduced to 60 it should have another name.
§ Miss Horsbrugh
I do not think it really matters; we must deal with age rather 2145 than status. Perhaps the hon. Gentleman will make some suggestions, but we must make it clear that from now on we are having a new type of pension, whatever the hon. Gentleman may like to call it. I think that whatever it is called the majority of the people will still look upon it as an old age pension.
§ Miss Horsbrugh
The next point which was brought up by the hon. Gentleman was that many people would dislike the pension at 60 because it would show that they had reached the age limit. I was particularly interested because he referred to a letter from Dundee, my own constituency, in which letter it was said that the jute workers in Dundee are very interested in this matter. I think the probability is that the letter was sent by the Spinsters' Association. I have received a number of letters from Dundee—naturally, as my constituents have never been reluctant to express their opinion. I have noticed that the majority of them are in favour of this Bill. There was only one letter which differed from all the others, and that is the letter to which the hon. Gentleman referred; there was only one letter dealing with this point where the writer did not agree with the age of 60. I would add that it is the only letter which is anonymous; every other one was signed.
§ Miss Horsbrugh
Not one of those great many dared put his or her name. I know the jute workers better. A great many individual jute workers have written to me and continue to write, but the only time that they have written in that strain they do not seem to have been able to put their names.
A point raised by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for East Edinburgh was in connection with the special voluntary scheme; he asked whether we realised that these people were excluded from Part I of the Bill and whether they were excluded from Part II also. The answer is that they are not excluded from Part II. If the right hon. Gentleman will turn to Clause 18, he will see the definition of "old age pension." The right hon. Gentleman knows that at the begin- 2146 ning of Part II anyone who has received an old age pension other than a blind pension will qualify for supplementation. In Clause 18 the definition of "old age pension" includes the 1937 Act, but it comes under the Pensions Acts, 1936 to 1939. So the answer is that they are included in Part II although they are excluded from Part I. Another point which the right hon. Gentleman raised was that he thought there was a misunderstanding as to the voluntary contributors. I can explain the scheme on which I have been asked one or two questions broadly like this. If a man or woman comes to the stage in insurance when he or she does not continue in insurable occupation, as we all know, there is a certain term during which they continue in insurance. If you have 104 contributions there is a free period up to 18 months or two years.
§ Miss Horsbrugh
At any rate, you can get over 18 months. Having reached that stage, the individual may enter voluntarily into the ordinary insurance scheme and pay the full contribution, but he must do that before his free period is finished. He is given notice that his free period will end on a certain date, and before that date he must give notice if he wishes to become a voluntary contributor. He then enters the scheme as a voluntary contributor.
§ Mr. Pethick-Lawrence
Is it not also the fact that there is another class of person in this original scheme under the principal Act who fall out of the scheme by virtue of the fact that their wages exceed the maximum for non-manual workers? Those people, I gather, are in the voluntary scheme and not in the special voluntary scheme. Is that right?
§ Miss Horsbrugh
Yes. If they have been in an insurable industry and either go out of the industry or out of the area of the wages limit they can then go into the ordinary insurance scheme. If they have not that qualification the only other insurance scheme is the special voluntary insurance scheme.
§ Mr. Tomlinson
I agree entirely with the hon. Lady as regards the male member, but could she explain the position with regard to the female member, whether married or unmarried?
§ Miss Horsbrugh
The only difference with regard to a female member is that a married woman cannot go into voluntary insurance for health rights but only for pension rights.
§ Mr. Tomlinson
Is it not the fact that she has only been able to go into voluntary insurance for pension purposes since 1937?
§ Miss Horsbrugh
I thought the hon. Gentleman's question was addressed to the law as it is now. That is as it is at the present time. The only difference is that a married woman can go into voluntary insurance for pensions rights but not for health rights.
§ Mr. Tomlinson
If I may follow this point for a moment, the hon. Lady said that it was based upon an actuarial computation and that it would cost too much. What I want to know is this: A number of people who are in this special scheme and who have come in since 1937 were previously insured but fell out of insurance as married women because they were unable to become voluntary contributors as married women. I would like to know how many had previously been in insurance.
§ Miss Horsbrugh
I do not think it would be possible to give a definite answer to that, because some of these people have had nothing to do with previous insurance, and have come into this scheme as new contributors. If it is possible to trace their history with regard to insurance, I will go into the matter, and if I can obtain any figures I will give them. I hope I have now answered the questions which were put and that I have made them clear.
§ 6.27 p.m.
§ Mr. T. Smith
One Clause in this Bill with which I agree is Clause 1. The reduction in the age for receiving a pension from 65 to 60 is, in my opinion, a step in the right direction. The only complaint I have is that it does not give a higher pension than 10s. a week. However, the Clause has removed an anomaly which has caused a good deal of hard- 2148 ship during the last few years. It is more in accordance with some of the Old Age Pensions Acts which are in operation in the various Dominions. In Australia a man receives the pension at 65 and the woman at 60. As to this part of the Bill, there is not much complaint from this side. I hope the hon. Lady will be able to get out the figures which have been asked for by the hon. Gentleman the Member for Farnworth (Mr. Tomlinson), because it has an interesting bearing on what we term the special section of voluntary contributors.
I can foresee the time when there will be a demand for extending the benefits of this Clause to the special voluntary contributors. I can quote a case. In my case I paid from the inception of the National Health Insurance Act and I am pleased to say that for many years, in an industry where the work was hard, I never needed to draw any national health benefit, and I did not complain. I have always believed in national health insurance and friendly societies, and I think it is better to be able to pay and not draw benefit because by drawing benefit one does not have better health than one otherwise would. Many people did not realise that attached to the National Health Insurance Act there would be a pensions scheme. Although sometimes we are known as shrewd Yorkshiremen, some of us neglected to become voluntary contributors, and many people who were similarly fixed were wise enough to come into this special scheme. There must be in the country a large number of married women, and I can also visualise unmarried women, who in the early days of the Act had continually paid contributions, and then found they were handicapped because they were married to or subsequently married men who were not in insured occupations. There must be thousands of such cases. It would be interesting to have the information that has been asked for. Additional weight is given to that request by the fact that it will be necessary, sooner or later, to amend the special contracts scheme. A good many who came into that scheme were contributors; and they, to some extent, built up the financial structure of the scheme. Whatever criticism we may have to offer on this part of the Bill, I, personally, welcome Clause 1, and I think a good word should be said for it.
§ Mr. S. O. Davies
I have sat through most of the Debates on this Bill, and this afternoon's discussion has certainly not added to my satisfaction. The right hon. Gentleman's answer to the question as to why the Government have gone away from the old tripartite arrangement with regard to contributions has been far from satisfactory. At one moment I was prompted to ask the right hon. Gentleman why he could not be as frank with the Committee as the Chancellor of the Exchequer was when, with a frankness which was almost unique in the House of Commons, he told us that the Exchequer would not incur any additional liabilities. I feel that the whole Bill, and particularly Part I, is a mean, miserly contribution towards the solution of a great social problem. The hon. Lady the Parliamentary Secretary smiles at my description of the Bill, and particularly of Part I. She will perhaps forgive me for saying that I noticed that she was far less lyrical about it to-day than she was when she spoke at that Box last week. There may be an explanation.
The hon. Lady has told us, more than once, how pleased and proud the women of Dundee, in particular, will be when Part I becomes law. They may be pleased, but they cannot be proud. Nor has the Parliamentary Secretary much reason to be proud of a mean, pettifogging contribution of this kind. She knows that Part I will exclude tens of thousands of women who ought to be helped, and who would have been helped if the Government had had sufficient courage and sufficient interest in the well being of the elderly women of our country, and had produced a Bill that would mitigate a little the horrible difficulties with which so many of them are confronted to-day. What a miserable explanation was given with regard to these special voluntary contributors. Is it beyond the wit of even this Government to produce a Bill which would offer some help to these 150,000 women, 85 per cent. of whom are already over 45 years of age, and who are completely excluded from the effects of the Bill? I felt last week that the excessive enthusiasm of the hon. Lady was almost a wicked insult to the womenfolk of this country. I am satisfied, from my experience as an old trade union official, that of the considerable number of women 2150 in employment comparatively few will be covered by this Clause. Many will find that this 10s. a week will be regarded by their employers as a subsidy for wages.
The hon. Lady should not attempt to make capital out of the fact that any correspondence that any hon. Member receives on this subject from working men and women is anonymous. To divulge a worker's name in a case of this kind would mean certain victimisation. I have seen too much of it. The hon. Lady smiles, in her complete ignorance of matters of this kind. No amount of rhetoric, no vast rhetorical pretensions about "these poor tired women," will bluff hon. Members on this side. This Bill is a mean Measure which will disappoint tens of thousands of women. In all that we have heard this afternoon, there is very little hope that those women will be assisted in the near future. The Bill is a reflection of the absence of any desire on the part of the Government to do anything for the womenfolk of this country. I am certain that when this Measure has been in operation for a few months, the hon. Lady will discover that, if the womenfolk of Dundee have not yet been disillusioned, they will be then.