HC Deb 03 July 1940 vol 362 cc861-907

Order for Second Reading read.

4.0 p.m.

The Minister of Labour (Mr. Ernest Bevan)

I beg to move, "That the Bill be now read a Second time."

The Bill which I now submit to the House, proposes to make changes in the law relating to unemployment insurance and unemployment assistance. The changes which I propose to make fall into two parts. The first is an increase of benefits and the second is bringing in a new class of insured persons into the insurance scheme. I made a review of the position of the unemployed soon after I took office. I dealt first with the subject in relation to the cost of living. It will be remembered that the cost of living figure at the outbreak of war in September was 155. It is now 181 or an increase from September to date of 17 per cent. Increases have already been given in benefit since the outbreak of the war over the original figure. The original statutory rule provided for an adult dependant allowance of 7s. That was increased by statutory rules and orders in 1939 by 2s., making it 9s. The figure for children was 3s., and by statutory rules and orders that was increased to 4s. for the first two children. I came to the conclusion embodied in the proposals which I now submit, that the right way to deal with this question is to increase the adult rate. We have fixed the figure for people who are evacuated—civil servants and others—on a purely lodging basis, at roughly £1 or £1 1s. a week. Many of the people who are unemployed are single men who have to pay for lodgings and everyone knows that the cost of lodgings has increased considerably. I felt, therefore, as I say, that the right way to deal with the matter was to increase the adult rate. That works out I think fairly between the adult person, man or woman and the family.

The House has to face another situation at this moment. In certain branches, unemployment is being created deliberately and of sheer national necessity. Restrictions imposed by the Board of Trade on non-essential industries, the limitation of exports and curtailment of luxury industries are producing unemployment. There is a danger of that unemployment being created in what I might describe as pockets or in districts, which makes it rather difficult to deal with from the point of view of the transference of the unemployed persons to munition work. When you deliberately, and in the interest of the State, create unemployment, as it were, you cannot then take advantage of rates that were fixed for an entirely different purpose. We are trying to transfer these unemployed as fast as we can to munition industries but, inevitably, there must be a time lag between closing a works and securing those who have been thrown out of employment, for the purpose of training them and transferring them to an entirely new occupation. I am happy to say, however, and I think it well to mention the fact, that we have worked out a co-ordinated plan with the Board of Trade, in order to minimise the difficulty, by giving previous notice and then examining very carefully in what places works are likely to be closed, so that preliminary steps may be taken to begin the early treatment of the subject, even before the stoppage actually takes place. In spite of that measure, there is still a very large residue of this created unemployment and those unemployed must be maintained.

In addition to creating increases for the actual insured population, there is the second part of these proposals which I have indicated. We are bringing a new class into insurance. It is the class of those who are sometimes called the black-coated workers, though judging from their usual dress I think that designation should be changed, because they generally wear flannels. There is not much of the black coat to be seen nowadays. It is a relic of the old days. Now the insurance of this new class, up to the figure which we are now proposing, was justified apart from the war altogether. In fact I feel that they have been kept out of unemployment insurance, not on the merits of the question at all but for entirely separate considerations, not the least of which, I venture to suggest, was the influence of a far more powerful trade union than I ever had the good fortune to belong to, and one not associated with unemployment but rather with national health. Having regard to the fact that the Statutory Committee, after careful inquiry, recommended that this class should be brought into insurance and also having regard to the justification which existed before the war, we felt that the position was being accentuated at the present time and might become even more intensified at the end of the war.

Many of the occupations in which people of this class are engaged have been completely disturbed as a result of the war. Many concerns have closed down and these people have had to find employment in other industries, such as munition industries either in their own occupation or in some other occupation. When the time comes and this war is won, and people have to find their places again in industry, I think it very undesirable to leave the position as it was at the end of the last war in regard to non-insured persons. It will be remembered that at that time there was a sudden decision to pay a figure of, I think, 29s. a week out of the Exchequer. That went on for a considerable period and was then suddenly stopped. Nothing contributed more to the disastrous industrial consequences of 1921 onwards than that act. I felt that it was better at this stage to make proper provision so that, at least as a right and not as a charity, these people should be able to draw their insurance benefits.

The position in this respect has been further accentuated during the war by the change in money values. People who were in insurance have had to meet cost of living increases and many people at this moment, just about the £5 a week stage, are being put out of insurance. I think that is a very bad thing especially at a time when that change is not due to any improvement in the standard of living, but merely to the change in money values arising out of the war. We recognise that the previous Parliament passed a Measure for the prevention and relief of distress but that, I submit, is not enough. Persons of this class will go through untold suffering before they will ask anybody for anything, and even if their position did not mean actual physical suffering it would contribute to the steady demoralisation of character. Waiting for something to turn up is bad. May I submit that when we have to deal with the demobilisation of millions of men, when we have to get them resettled in industry, to have people in that position is positively dangerous. It is explosive material that might lead to disastrous results.

I want to submit two other considerations. If a person is insured, the State knows when he is unemployed. The Exchanges have to register him. The problem that presents itself in the State is revealed and this does assist the House in proposing schemes to grapple with a problem, the intensity and size of which have never been clearly revealed in the past. After 30 stamps have been paid for, these people will come into benefit. They will also come under the assistance scheme, but this proposal keeps the U.A.B. away for at least 180 days. Speaking for myself, I have always followed that line, knowing the character of my own people with whom I have always lived and associated. They would rather have an extension of insurance in order to keep away, to the last possible moment, the revelation of their need. I think that is characteristic of our people. Those who, as a result of economic causes, are compelled in the end to go for assistance, will give you the greatest thanks if you can keep off that day as long as possible and give them benefit as a right. I feel sure that the House will welcome this change in our insurance law. Now as to benefit. We propose to raise the adult rate by 3s.—

Mr. George Griffiths (Hemsworth)

Do not mind the clock.

Mr. Bevin

The hon. Member will realise that I have been accustomed to speaking at assemblies where I have had to watch the clock. As I say, the increase of benefits proposed is 3s. for men and women, that is, persons aged 21 and over, and 2s. for young men and young women aged 18 to 20. The present man's rate will become £1, and the present woman's rate will become 18s. The young man will get 16s. instead of 14s. and the young woman 14s. instead of 12s. For the reasons I have mentioned we have left untouched the rates for boys and girls. We propose similar increases, however, for the agricultural scheme, and these rates will be raised by 3s. for men, but for women and young men and young women they will be raised by 2s. The reason for the different treatment for women under the agricultural scheme and under the general scheme is this: It has been agreed between all parties that the rate for women and young men should be kept equal, and in view of that arrangement, I thought it unwise to disturb it. But the agricultural section will have a corresponding increase from 35s. to 38s. as a maximum weekly allowance. It will be recognised that the period of benefit under the agricultural scheme is not so long as it is under the general scheme.

Another change we propose to make is in what is called the "continuity rule." The continuity rule at present provides that no continuous period can be less than three days. I gave consideration to this question, not merely from the point of view of the right to benefit of the man, butt also from the point of view of the use of man-power itself. It is no use denying the fact that the present rule operates in such a way that if a man has completed three days' work and has two days' unemployment he is very often put in the unenviable position of being offered work on the third day and thus having to deprive himself of benefit altogether for the other two days. The result is that many casual workers—I believe it operates very often in the case of short-time work in mines and other occupations—are put almost into a position of having to act dishonestly. I believe that any law which places a man in that position ought to be remedied. I am convinced—although calculated on the present basis I am told it is very costly—that when the scheme is working, and the actual result is shown, the cost, in fact, will be negligible. By removing the temptation which exists at the present, it will mean, often for men on casual work in docks and other occupations, a fourth or even a fifth day's employment.

My third change is in regard to the contributions. The money has to be found for these purposes. I have given consideration to the state of the Fund, and whether this should go hack to the Statutory Committee, whose duty it is to see that the balance of the Fund is correctly maintained. With memories of the last war, I expected, and, indeed, I endorse the conclusions arrived at by the Statutory Committee, that this Fund should be held at the highest level possible as a reserve to assist in meeting the contingencies which will arise at the end of the war. The readjustments which will have to take place in national and export trade will present far greater difficulties at the end of this war than was the case at the end of the last war. At the end of the last war they were met to some extent by a sudden inflation and the creation of a temporary boom which led everybody into a false paradise. That, I think, is impossible at the end of this war, and we have to face the situation very carefully, having regard to all our obligations—pensions and everything else—and to see that we have not to borrow for these purposes.

In view of the rate of wages and conditions operating at this moment I felt it was preferable to increase the contributions at this stage. We propose, therefore, that the contributions from age 18 shall be increased by one penny for the three parties—the State, the employer and the worker—on the general scheme, and a halfpenny for those under the agricultural scheme. Again, I would remind the House that the agricultural scheme is on an entirely different basis. I am sometimes tempted, when dealing with these questions, to hope that some day we may have one universal scheme, with no exceptions good and bad lives, all taken in We propose that the benefits should operate from 1st August. The increased contributions will be payable from 5th August, and the new class will be brought into insurance on 2nd September. There is a good deal of preparation to be done—stamps, books and registration—in order that the scheme may operate, and I am assured that by 2nd September it will go through smoothly. Even Hitler will not be sufficiently far forward to stop us.

This Bill involves certain Amendments of the principal Act. It may seem a little curious, especially under the agricultural section. For example, Clause 1(3) states that the maximum agricultural benefit shall be 38s. First, the figure was changed to 33s. as a maximum, and later to 35s. and now it will be fixed at 38s. I think that the House should be made acquainted with the intentions we have in mind, in relation to two other aspects of the Unemployment Insurance scheme, which I propose to deal with by regulation under my existing powers. This House carried a Bill imposing a duty upon me to carry out certain orders directing people to employment. While I am averse to introducing anything of a penal character in association with any of our social services, I would point out that we are placed in a difficulty when a person is convicted of not carrying out an order, and we have then to continue to pay him unemployment benefit. I propose to remedy that by limiting any right of receiving unemployment benefit on conviction by a court of summary jurisdiction. The man will still have a right of appeal, however, to the court of referees. The benefit which will be lost will not exceed six weeks although there may be some considerations, such as a technical breach or something of that kind, which would merit a lower period.

In order to protect ourselves, I feel it is necessary to make this change by regulation and it will be for the period of the war only. The other change proposed is in regard to a person following his occupation in his own district, who is offered a job at the standard rate although he is receiving a rate above the standard. On the umpire's decision, that person could go on for nearly four months. During the war period that creates an impossible situation. The House has imposed on me powers to send people to work on work of national importance. Therefore I propose to take this power—that if I can offer a man a job at the normal trade union rate, notwithstanding the fact that he may have a higher rate on the job he left, I shall be entitled to put him on work of national importance in conformity with the Orders passed by the House the other day. I must have this regulation, otherwise the present operation of the umpire's decision is inconsistent with the transference of labour, which is imposed upon me.

If I may summarise the position, there is first the increase of benefit; secondly, the new class in insurance; thirdly, the increase in contributions, and, fourthly, the regulations which I propose to make in order to carry out those other duties imposed upon me. I feel that I have said sufficient to make this Bill clear and plain to the House and I therefore ask that it shall be given a Second Reading.

4.30 p.m.

Mr. Lawson (Chester-le-Street)

I am sure that the House will like me to express its high appreciation of the right hon. Gentleman's maiden speech. It is usually said that a maiden speech in this House is a nerve-racking experience. On this occasion the right hon. Gentleman seems actually to have enjoyed it. It is not very often that we have a maiden speech from that Box, and it is not often that we hear a maiden speech marked with such distinction. The right hon. Gentleman has rather surprised us by giving us an outline of the Regulations which he intends to lay down and which will be of a somewhat disciplinary character. I do not suppose the House will be in a position to discuss them today, but I would like to ask the right hon. Gentleman whether they will be so laid that the House will have an opportunity of discussing them. Regulations as a rule are debated when notice is given in a proper way, and these are of such an unusual nature that it will be necessary for the House to have a proper opportunity to discuss them.

I congratulate the right hon. Gentleman on the introduction of a Bill which reveals some courage and vision. His experience of a lifetime in the trade union movement has enabled him to understand the position of men and women who are subject to unemployment, and not least to intermittent unemployment, which is not in its effect so obvious to the average person. For that reason we welcome the increase of 3s. weekly, which brings a man and his wife up to 30s. We have been so used to receiving 1s. that we can express our gratitude for 3s. The right hon. Gentleman will not consider it ungrateful if we express a wonder why he has kept the limit upon the amount that the agricultural worker may receive in benefit. The limit is 38s. The right hon. Gentleman has been active in fostering the idea of putting the agricultural worker on approximately the same status as the industrial worker. He has rightly said that the man who follows the plough, who does the sowing and all the work of a farm, in winter and summer, is as skilled in his way as the average skilled man in industry. He has also been largely responsible for fixing wages somewhat approximating industrial standards.

I should like to ask him whether, in the light of the new standards set up for agricultural workers and the recognition of the fact that they are not only as necessary as the industrial workers, but as skilled in their own way, it is not worth while having a second look at the agricultural section, even if it is necessary to deal with the contributions, in order to put the agricultural section of Unemployment Insurance into line with the general section. The raised standard is not unappreciated, but I am sure that very soon the right hon. Gentleman will come up against that problem in the agricultural industry and it is almost inevitable that sooner or later he will have to take stock of the situation. Is it not worth while in the further stages of the Bill to reconsider the limitation of the agricultural workers' benefit? The right hon. Gentleman rightly paid a good deal of attention to the improvement he has made in respect of the intermittent unemployed. We appreciate that he has reduced the three days' waiting period to two.

Mr. Bevin

The continuity rule, not the waiting rule.

Mr. Lawson

I made a mistake in phraseology. I do not think the public realise how harsh this rule has worked on great masses of workers, mainly, in normal times, in the heavy industries, because they are involved more than other people in the export trades. In the mining industry particularly they are very appreciative of the change. It still leaves the two days, however. We have always held that any unemployed day should be paid for. We sometimes hear people talk about the daily wages of men in certain industries, but they never tell us what the annual income of the workers is. Over the year it is almost certain that most of the workers in the heavy industries get small annual incomes. We are not unappreciative of the improvement that has been made, but, in spite of his courage and vision, the right hon. Gentleman will hear more of the two days in the future.

We share with him his satisfaction in at last extending unemployment insurance to what is known as the black-coated worker, although I do not know whether we should not call him the flannels or plus-fours worker nowadays. As far back as 1934, when the first big Act was passed, the House insisted that the Minister should give some consideration to the condition of the black-coated workers. At that time there was heavy unemployment among this class and instead of getting payment by right, for which they had contributed, they were, as the right hon. Gentleman put it, the subjects of charity. The Press was full of lamentable cases. Since the war broke out most of us have come into contact with men who have had from £500 to £1,000 a year being reduced to very sad circumstances. I remember a man telling me that he had been earning something like £1,600 a year, and when I met him after he had been unemployed for some time he was pleased to grab a job at £3 10s. a week, which he thought was a boon.

We congratulate the right hon. Gentleman upon at last taking advantage of the report into the investigation which was made at that time, which viewed with favour the insurance of the black-coated workers but which has held fire for years. I know that there will be those on this side of the House, and it may be on the other, who will applaud this decision. I am not sure, however, that all the black-coated workers will give the right hon. Gentleman thanks for it. The great body will, but there will be critics of it. I am glad that the amount has been increased to £420. The amount fixed by the Trades Union Congress, which was purely arbitrary, was £500. I was glad to hear the right hon. Gentleman say that he looked forward to the time when all workers in the professions, irrespective of income, will be within the ambit of the unemployment insurance scheme and when the good lives will pay for the bad. I have never been satisfied, as I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman could not have been, with the outlook that you only got insured when you wanted something from the fund and that only people who were in need should be included in the unemployment insurance.

Sir Ernest Shepperson (Leominster)

Would the hon. Gentleman include Members of Parliament who become unemployed because they are not returned to the House?

Mr. Lawson

I was coming to that point. I had them in mind when I said that the time would come when the House would not accept any limitation of income. It has been my experience in the 20 years I have been here that Members of Parliament are from time to time reduced to lamentable circumstances, which the House has had to consider.

It is a sign of the strength of this great Parliament that at such a critical time we can pause in the midst of graver discussions to consider the social future of our people. We were led to believe that the right hon. Gentleman's task was so overwhelming that it might get him down. I am sure he has been abounding in energy today. He looks well on it. I think it says a lot for his courage and vision that, in view of the great duties which have fallen upon him, he can pause in the midst of those tasks and introduce a Bill which concerns the future of our people. I think everyone agrees that they are worthy of that consideration. The right hon. Gentleman has so worked at his task with others that he has got 100 per cent. of their energy out of them. I have seen the workers recently under conditions when the enemy has visited them under very grievous circumstances. If the House could see them as I have seen them, exhibiting a morale which has to be seen to be believed, it would be agreed that they are people whose futures are worth consideration. The world can take this message from these proceedings to-day, that the right hon. Gentleman has such concern for the workers that we can look forward to a future which will be better for them than it has ever been before.

4.47 p.m.

Mr. Graham White (Birkenhead, East)

I should like at once to associate myself with what the last speaker has said as to the pleasure with which we heard the right hon. Gentleman introduce the Bill. I should not in any way diminish what I have just said by saying that the House expected nothing less. He speaks, of course, with peculiar and long knowledge of the problem, with some small aspect of which he has been dealing, and naturally he spoke with authority. If Bills of this kind are to be introduced, I hope he will never introduce one which meets with less general acceptance. If he can do that, he will be able to look back upon his period as a Minister, whether short or long, with unalloyed satisfaction. I find myself in a position of some little embarrassment, because in the course of my Parliamentary experience I have had to watch through this House, sometimes taking part, some 25 or 30 Bills on Unemployment Insurance, and subsequently watch their effect on the fortunes and in the homes of the people. In the majority of cases I have found myself in active opposition to the Measures which were proposed. In other cases I have met them with qualified approval and in some with modified disapproval. There have been very few—this is one—which one has been able to approach without a word of hostile criticism. There are some aspects of this Bill which give me and my friends great pleasure.

I thought the right hon. Gentleman dealt in a very benevolent way with the history of insurance for the black-coated worker in this House since 1931, when it was approved first of all by a Royal Commission. It was only upon the assurance that the matter would be urgently considered after consultation with the Statutory Committee that the House did not insist on this provision being put into the Bill of 1934. In 1935 it was sent to the Statutory Committee, and they approved it by a majority. There was no difference in principle. The only difference was as to whether the rate of income should be £420 or some other rate. Those who had been advocating the inclusion of this class of worker thought the job was as good as done, but there followed one of the most prolonged, persistent and pestilential pieces of Parliamentary procrastination that have ever been witnessed. No fewer than 40 Questions were addressed to successive Ministers of Labour, and they must have taxed the ingenuity of those whose job it was to draft the replies. They excited my great admiration. Every gradation, every nuance, every shade of attention was given to the matter within the Ministry. No suitable Parliamentary occasion has been missed when the matter has not been raised. As lately as March of last year, when we were called upon to consider an Unemployment Insurance Bill, there were protests in all quarters of the House against the passage of a Bill without this class of worker being included. However, that period has passed, and I am glad to say that in the smallest possible time the benefits of the Bill will begin to accrue.

There is another small thing which makes this an appropriate moment for the introduction of this class of worker to Unemployment Insurance. Multitudes of black-coated workers have within recent months made their first acquaintance with Employment Exchanges through the Military Service Act, and it has not been an unsatisfactory introduction. They have found that Employment Exchanges are human institutions in the overwhelming majority of cases. It is a long road which has no ending or turning—I forget which—but this is a memorable occasion and the final episode in this long-fought contest. I would emphasise the importance of this Bill as evidence of the energy and the humanity of the country in devoting the time and resources of Parliament to the development of social services even in war time. It is only a month or two since we provided some amelioration in the condition of the old age pensioner. I would invite the right hon. Gentleman to see that due weight is given to this aspect of the matter by the Ministry of Information. We are being decried in America, Central America and South America as a decadent democracy which cares nothing about these matters. In these countries, and especially in North America, there is great interest in the British social services. I suggest that the right hon. Gentleman should invite his colleagues in the Ministry of Information to see that the full weight and value of this piece of legislation is put across for the benefit of the British people. The only note of criticism I have heard raised against the Measure is the question why, at a time when the policy should be work for every able-bodied man, it is necessary to introduce a Measure of this kind. The right hon. Gentleman has given us adequate reasons. We in the House know what they are, but others may not be so fortunate. We know that the cost of living, if there were no other reason, compels the change.

The Ministry of Labour for 15 years has been a Ministry of unemployment and of conciliation, and wider and more constructive measures have not been given the same weight, with the result that there is lacking the statistical information and surveys on which it is possible to build up a wider policy. It is inevitable that there is in the Ministry a fixity of purpose and of atmosphere and an inertia which have to be overcome. It is inevitable in a Ministry which has been orientated as the Ministry has been for the last 20 years. The right hon. Gentleman will forgive me if I appear to be presumptuous in saying that. With regard to the continuity rule, I gather that the Bill does not affect what is known as the 12-day rule, but it will bring about better conditions. Attempts have been made to deal with the 12-day rule in its relation to the customary holidays. This is a step which may go a good deal further, I understand. I hope it does. We shall have an opportunity of watching it.

There is one other purely negative virtue about the Bill which has not distinguished Bills on social security which we have had in the last few years. It does nothing whatever to increase the confusion and disorder into which the social services have fallen because there is no single individual or body of persons charged with the duty of surveying their operation as a whole. This is a Bill which it has given us pleasure to receive. We look forward to the benefits which will accrue under it, and we realise that it does nothing to throw anything else out of gear. We realise also that the most urgent question of all in connection with the security services, the overhaul and review in the interests of the recipients and the taxpayer alike, must be left until after the war.

4.59 p.m.

Mr. Denman (Leeds, Central)

The right hon. Gentleman will not mistake the brevity of speeches, or even poverty of attendance on the benches, for lack of appreciation of the Measure that he has introduced. We feel on all sides of the House that in these days of vast administrative problems no unnecessary minute of Ministers' time must be taken when they have such important tasks to perform outside. But I feel bound to say a few words of thanks to the Minister, as I am, I suppose, the only surviving Member present who was in at the birth of the original Unemployment Insurance Bill before the last war. Having seen the steady growth of this important structure, I should like to congratulate the right hon. Gentleman on putting this additional stone into a splendid building. The only point I want to make, which was referred to by the hon. Member towards the end of his speech, concerns the misfortune that we have not got a statutory committee surveying the social services as a whole. The benefits of this Bill are obvious to all, and I welcome especially the fact that we have at last made this concession to the black-coated workers to whom promises were made so many years ago. But the real problem in the social services is this, that we have to raise this fresh money from three parties, and in doing so we add to the burdens of industry—both the burdens of the employers and the burdens of the workers—not to mention the contribution which the State itself makes. Are we satisfied that the money is being used to the best possible advantage? I suppose we all agree that there is a practical limit to the contributions that can be got from the workers, at any rate, however much further we can go in taxing the employers.

We all know there are branches of the social services in urgent need of improvement. There are notorious gaps in health insurance. There is the workmen's compensation question, in regard to which we are going to get some improvement, though not a very satisfactory scheme. There is the scheme of family allowances which many of us in this House have advocated for some time and which we believe will make the most effective attack on poverty. All these things have to be financed out of industry in one way or another, and every time we take an extra contribution from the worker we limit the amount available for other things, and much as I welcome this Bill I do not feel convinced that these contributions are being put to the best possible use. If we were fortified by the knowledge that there was a statutory body in charge of the social services as a whole, surveying them continually and making expert recommendations as to the best methods of using the available money, I believe many of us would feel more satisfied with the piecemeal efforts towards improvement which we make from time to time. We recognise that this Bill marks a real advance, and I do not want to lessen the gratitude I feel to the right hon. Gentleman for introducing it, but I would take the opportunity of enforcing the point that we must survey the social services as a whole and that we ought to have a permanent body charged with that duty.

5.5 p.m.

Mr. Leslie (Sedgefield)

I want to congratulate the Minister of Labour on doing what his predecessor ought to have done long ago. I could never understand why non-manual workers earning over £250 a year should be treated differently from manual workers, nor why the Government failed to carry out the recommendation of the Statutory Committee to include these black-coated workers in insurance. The Committee gave a good deal of consideration to the inclusion of non-manual workers. They sat for 11 days, taking evidence from employers and workers, and I had the honour of giving evidence on behalf of large sections of the distributive workers, men who were constantly in and out of insurance. There are, for example, the managers of branch shops of multiple firms, who may be earning £250 or less at one time and at another time considerably more. If a slump comes, or there is severe competition from a rival firm, their pay may be reduced below £250, and they have to be insured again. Those men were seldom entitled to benefit when thrown out of work, although they had contributed considerable sums to the Unemployment Fund.

The Minister spoke about the hardships inflicted upon a number of these non-manual workers. I had experience of that after the last war, in a large drapery establishment. Men who had been in charge of departments, shopwalkers and others, men who had contributed largely to the prosperity of their firm, found that after 20 to 30 years' service they were thrown on to the scrap-heap. I know that some of those men had purchased their own houses and that the houses had been heavily mortgaged. They had to dispose of them, their savings were gone in a very short time, and ultimately they were driven to seek relief from public assistance, and, as the Minister well said, that is the very last step taken by men of that class. The evidence submitted to the Statutory Committee related to a variety of occupations—journalists, architects, correctors of the press, textile managers, colliery under-managers, navigation officers, chemists, actors, musicians, theatrical employés, life insurance workers and shop workers.

The distinction between the manual and non-manual workers is, as the Committee rightly pointed out, very unreal, and that is why I could never understand why a differentiation was made, not only for unemployment insurance, but for national health insurance, and I hope that the Minister of Health will take the hint, now that black-coated workers are to be included in unemployment insurance. The Committee came to the conclusion, as did the Royal Commission of 1932, that the existing remuneration limit for non-manual workers was unsuitable and ought to be raised, and recommended raising it to £400, although admitting that that was lower than the limit which had been urged by witnesses representing the workers. In my evidence I urged that it should be raised to £500. At any rate it is good to know that the present Minister has raised it to £420. The Statutory Committee made the very important statement that the inclusion of non-manual workers would strengthen rather than weaken the Unemployment Fund, and it is good to know that at last the long-delayed claims of these workers are to be acknowledged, and I heartily congratulate the Minister of Labour upon doing the right thing even at this hour.

5.10 p.m.

Mr. Lathan (Sheffield, Park)

It is the desire of all hon. Members to economise time, but I am sure we should all like to express our appreciation of the substance and the matter of the speech made by the Minister of Labour. There is whole-hearted approval for the Bill which he is now submitting to the House. In that respect his position is an unusual one. I find myself in sympathy with the sentiments so adequately expressed by the hon. Member for East Birkenhead (Mr. White). All of us can join in welcoming what is being done now for our unfortunate fellow citizens who are deprived of the opportunity of earning their own livelihood. The addition to their meagre resources which we are now asked to approve will, in many cases, make the difference between privation and at any rate a reasonable measure of support. Over wide areas there will be sincere gratitude to the Minister for what he has done, and I am confident that no difficulty will arise in regard to the increased contributions which are now to be called for.

That is the position in a general sense, but among a particular group of workers there is a special feeling of gratitude to the Minister for what he has done for the black-coated or non-manual workers. This section of workers have in their working lives contributed in full measure to the maintenance of our social resources. I make bold to say that if inquiry were made we should find that the men who in Northern France and else where have accepted the heaviest responsibility that any citizen can accept in the defence of his country were to a very large extent non-manual workers. In that and many other directions they have shouldered their responsibilities. To many of us in this House it has always seemed an anomalous and unfair thing that they should be deprived of their share of the facilities which have been provided for others, and that the discrimination should have been made not on the basis of the amount of their earnings, but on the nature of the services they have rendered.

We have been seeking their release from those disabilities. Over and over again in this House and elsewhere attention has been drawn to this unfair discrimination. A Royal Commission has approved of the extension of these facilities to them, and the Statutory Committee recommended it, but successive Ministers of Labour were deaf to the appeal, and never at any time has there been an adequate answer to the appeals made on their behalf or a sound reason given for their continued exclusion. All the time, behind the neat curtains of many a little suburban villa, with its facade of respectability, non-manual workers have been suffering real tragedies arising from the difficulties with which they have been confronted. At long last this injustice is to be removed, largely if not wholly.

Like my hon. Friend the Member for Sedgefield (Mr. Leslie) I wish that the recommendations of the Professional Workers Federation or of the Trades Union Congress to raise the salary limit to £500 had been accepted by the Minister; but we are not cavilling at the step, a step in the right direction, which he has taken. We are not unmindful of the difficulties there are in his path, and not ungrateful for what he has done, but we hope and trust that at an early date the excellent example which he has set will be followed by the Minister of Health, and that the discrimination against the non-manual workers in regard to health insurance will be removed. My own view—and I have been associated for a good many years with questions relating to the position of the non-manual workers—is that while, in particular areas of employment, dangers and difficulties arise from conditions which now exist and from the incidence of modern industrial and commercial developments, on the whole the non-manual worker will be an asset rather than a liability, so far as Unemployment Insurance is concerned. I believe that a similar situation obtains in National Health Insurance. I hope that these considerations will be borne in mind.

One or two questions arise with which I believe the Minister has already been made acquainted, regarding what is looked upon as the faulty drafting of the original Act, in relation to the fixing of standards for determining the income of the non-manual worker. There is a wider variation of standards of remuneration among non-manual workers than exists, perhaps, among manual workers. You can say that the rate of pay per hour, day or week shall determine whether or not a manual worker comes within the range of the salary or wages limitation, but somewhat different conditions exist for the non-manual workers. A considerable number of them render their service, or make their contribution of employment, not upon a basis of weekly or even of daily rate of pay, but rather in a more limited sense. I have in mind at the moment people such as musicians. Musicians may be engaged to contribute orchestral music for only an hour or two hours a day, and be paid what would be regarded as a fairly substantial sum, if it were reckoned on the hourly basis, for their musical contribution; but regard has to be paid to the necessary practice, rehearsals, provision of music, and a number of other things which are not always apparent.

The Minister would be well advised in connection with the position of such workers, of whom there is a considerable number—the tendency is now to multiply the number rather than to reduce it—to take into account their annual earnings rather than their hourly rates, and, in connection with this matter, he would find trade unions, professional associations and the Trades Union Congress able to assist him with the fund of experience which is at their disposal, in order that his intentions may be completely and satisfactorily discharged and the wording of the Act altered in such a way as to meet the situation. Having said that, I wish to join again with other hon. Members in congratulating the Minister on the steps which he has taken and the nature of the legislation submitted, which, I am sure will meet with universal approval.

5.20 p.m.

Mr. Batey (Spennymoor)

I join with other hon. Members in congratulations to the Minister upon his maiden speech. I was delighted when he came to the House of Commons, and I was more delighted when he went to the Ministry of Labour. Perhaps I expected too much. I thought when he got to the Ministry that he would revolutionise it, because he would not run it on the same lines as those on which it has been run for so many years. Perhaps because I expected so much I am disappointed with the Bill. One of my friends, speaking this afternoon, said that the Minister had displayed vision in introducing the Bill; well, I cannot find the vision in the Bill. The Minister did not make out a case for the increase of contributions. He omitted something which I hope the Parliamentary Secretary will make good: he did not tell us what he expected to get by the increase of contributions. We were left completely in the dark as to why the contributions were being increased and what that increase would mean.

Then, there is an increase of benefits. Some of my friends have said: "Look at the Bill. It increases benefits by 3s. per week"; but that is just what we might have expected from the old Minister of Labour, who was continually coming here with small increases of benefits. As a matter of fact, the increase means 20s. for a man, but the cost of living has increased during the last eight weeks, and there is a prospect of it increasing still further in the next few weeks. There is no prospect of the Minister bringing in another Bill, yet he proposes to increase benefits by 3s. per week, a sum which is not as good as the public assistance committees are paying in the county of Durham.

When I decided to speak I made up my mind to talk to the Minister and give him a little good advice. He seems to need a little bit of good advice in starting in this new office. I am sorry that he is not in his place. What he needs to do is to go to some of the local authorities which are run by Labour men. As a matter of fact, in the county of Durham he will find the committees paying 30s. 6d. to a man and wife, in contrast to the 29s. which will be paid after the Bill comes into operation. The right hon. Gentleman is increasing the benefit for a man by 3s. to 20s., and the wife's benefit is to stay at 9s. We can go through the list and see that, in the county of Durham, some of the younger members of families are receiving more than the Minister proposes to pay. There is nothing in the Bill about which the Minister may throw up his hat and feel that he has done something wonderful. In my opinion it is disgraceful. With the huge fund which is at the disposal of the Minister and the big balance that he has in the Unemployment Insurance Fund, it is not fair of him to say: "I am giving you 3s. more. I am giving you something wonderful. You ought to jump at it with both hands, and get down on your knees and thank God."

I wish the Minister had told us the balance in the Unemployment Insurance Fund at the moment. One remembers not very long ago when £40,000,000 was taken out of the Fund. One would like to know what the balance is at the moment. I am glad that the Minister of Labour has now come back to his place; I will inform him that I was saying that there is nothing in the Bill about which he needs to throw up his hat. Apart from the entrance into the Fund of the £420 people, the big thing in the Bill is the 3s. increase in benefit, and the other benefits that follow. Durham public assistance committees pay more to those who are receiving Poor Law relief than the Minister proposes to pay under the Bill. The Minister is paying 20s. to a man and to the wife 9s. He is allowing that position to stand, which means that a man and wife receive 29s. In Durham County last week the public assistance committees increased their scales to meet the increased cost of living, and they are paying to a man and wife 30s. 6d. per week; so that there is nothing in the Bill.

The Minister ought to have looked forward. The cost of living not only has increased but will increase more in the next few weeks. The Minister will not be able to come to the House of Commons with a Bill every week to increase benefits. I would like the right hon. Gentleman to tell us why he agreed to such a small figure as 3s. per week. We had the figure of 20s. for a man in 1924. When Labour came into office in 1924 it made the benefit for a man 20s. a week, but the hard, bad times through which we have passed since 1924 have prevented the fund ever getting back to that figure. What is the condition of the Fund? That is the question which should settle a matter of this kind. What is the balance in the Fund? The Minister did not tell us today, and he did not justify so small a figure as 3s. I have mentioned this 3s., but I could deal with all the benefits which the Minister is proposing in the Bill and could compare them with what is given by the public assistance committees in Durham. I could prove that they are paying more to everybody than the Minister now proposes.

I have dealt with three of the questions with which the Minister deals in the Bill, and that leaves us with only the item of the continuity rule. I say, in the Minister's presence, that when he came to this House and agreed to take on the Ministry of Labour I was hopeful. I thought that we had got a really strong and forceful man at last into the Ministry, and I expected big things from the Minister. I still expect big things; I believe that he is the right man in the right place. There is no question of that, and that is the reason why I am talking to him and trying to get him to see that he does not need to go on the old lines of the Ministry of Labour. I have been 18 years in this House, and I have seen a lot of Ministers of Labour stand at that Box. What happens is that Ministers come and go. They change, but the Ministry of Labour never changes. It is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow.

Mr. Buchanan (Glasgow, Gorbals)

What about when Maggie was there?

Mr. Batey

It was worse. I want the Minister of Labour to change the policy of the Ministry. Unless he does so, he will not be the success in that office that we expect him to be. There is another point that I should mention. The Minister comes forward and says, "In addition to that 3s. I am going to take another day off the man under the continuity rule."

I remember some of the Northern Members of Parliament meeting the late Minister of Labour not many weeks ago, and putting before him a request that we had from the Durham Miners' Association that the three days should be swept away. The Minister of Labour promised to consult with the advisory committee and see whether he could use any influence with that committee. When it appears that only one day has been taken away instead of the three days, the Minister does not seem to have been very successful with that advisory committee. Will the Minister tell us why the time has not come—if it has not come now it will never come—for sweeping away these three days? We believe that those three days cannot be justified.

I want to deal with two problems which are not in the Bill. One of the beauties of the Second Reading of a Bill is that one may talk not only about what is in the Bill but also about what should be in the Bill. When the Minister came here with an Unemployment Bill I should have thought that he would have dealt first of all with the unemployment problem. Among the thousands of unemployed men there are a large number who suffer from partial disablement contracted in industry, and who are on the Unemployment Insurance with no hope of getting work. I should have thought that the Minister would have dealt with that problem. He should remember that there is still a huge army of unemployed in this country, in spite of all his efforts. I was not altogether satisfied when I heard the Minister of Labour answer a question which was put to him by an hon. Member. He was asked whether he would appeal to the mayors of the various corporations to get people to work during weekends and nights, digging trenches to prepare for defence. The Minister did not turn down the question, as I should have thought he would do. He led me to believe that he thought there was something in the suggestion. Can there be anything in a suggestion that men should take spades and dig trenches for nothing at a time like this, when there is a huge army of unemployed? If trenches have to be dug, the Minister of Labour should see that the unemployed do it. We have in Durham 6,000 men unemployed, and he could find no better men for digging trenches. If trenches have to be dug he should get these men to do it and pay them, instead of encouraging other folk to dig trenches for nothing. That is stupid.

I should also have thought that, when the Minister came to the House with an Unemployment Bill, he would have faced the means test problem. I would have liked him to have told us about this. There cannot be many people being paid under the Unemployment Assistance Board, yet the cost of administration still runs into £5,000,000 a year, as it does with the Unemployment Insurance Fund. A sum of £10,000,000 a year is being paid out of the two Funds, and the means test is still being applied to the poorest in this country. I should have expected the Minister to consider the abolition of the means test. Until he abolishes the means test we shall not be able to look forward to the future with any more hope than we have done up to the present. In conclusion, I would like to say in the Minister's presence that I enjoyed his maiden speech this afternoon. I am glad that he is Minister of Labour, but I want the Ministry of Labour to get a move on and try to solve the problem of unemployment.

5.36 p.m.

Mr. Buchanan (Glasgow, Gorbals)

First of all, I desire to express my regret that I did not hear the Minister's speech this afternoon. I have been engaged all the afternoon in a task in which he used to be engaged more than I, with employers, trying to get a wage standard for my men, and he knows how difficult that is. I wish he had come to this House years ago and under different circumstances. It is a great pity that the only excuse we had for bringing him here was the war. I wish a man of his capacity could have entered this House without, as it were, being almost forced upon us, instead of coming here in the ordinary way.

I do not wish to be unfair about the Bill. I remember, as the Minister must remember, back in the old days when the Trades Union Congress gave evidence to the Blanesburgh Committee. The plea we then made was for some of the things which we have now secured. We asked for £1 a week for the man, 10s. for the wife and 5s. for each child. We were then turned down, and, in fact, subsequent Parliaments turned us down, including the Labour Government then in office. We were then told that the country could not afford it. It seems a terrible state of affairs when we are spending millions a day on armaments that we can now afford to raise the allowance for the man to £1 a week, when we could not afford it back in those days under different conditions.

I would say to the Minister that I welcome the continuity rule in so far as it marks an improvement in the conditions of many men who work two days a week fairly regularly. I know the case that the Minister or his Department makes for the continuation of the waiting period. They say, in effect, that there is a large number of men who go from job to job and are unemployed only for a day in a week, and that if such men were paid unemployment benefit, it would add a huge cost to the administration of the Fund. I think that that case could be met. It should be noted that the waiting period is not altered; it still remains at three days. A man may be out two days, and it is true that over a period of some years you can link up his "two in six," but if he is out two days in a fortnight, he gets nothing. I would point out that the great mass of people who are affected are the ordinary simple folk, and there is a likelihood of terrible confusion being created among them. My experience is that there are many things that I myself do not understand, and I think that Unemployment Insurance should be made simple to understand. If the Minister cannot concede the abolition of the waiting period, then I would suggest it should be reduced to two days. The three-day waiting period will arouse a conflict of view in people's minds. I spoke to the hon. Member for East Birkenhead (Mr. White), and he did not follow the point about the two days and the three days as clearly as he should. If that can be said of a capable Member such as he is, the Minister should look into the matter; he should bring the two things into one and make a two-day waiting period instead of the three.

With regard to the figure of £420, I make no criticism against raising it to that amount. I have always thought it should be raised, and that large categories of workers who have been excluded, including railwaymen, should be brought into the Unemployment Insurance Fund. People such as Members of Parliament, policemen and railwaymen are liable to be dismissed; they do get dismissed. When that happens they become a charge on unemployment assistance. If they are not below a certain limit, they are a charge on the Poor Law. If I was increasing the amount to £420, I would have brought within range large numbers who are now outside the Fund. The Minister of Labour should speak to the Minister of Health, because I do not think the position can remain tenable with a figure of £420 for Unemployment Insurance and not for Health Insurance.

I now come to a matter for raising which I must apologise to the House, because it must have become almost an obsession with me. I raise it again in the hope that with a new Minister I may have more success than with other Ministers. It is a problem which I never forget. I remember the hon. Member for Spennymoor (Mr. Batey) and I, with one or two other hon. Members, occupying seats on these benches in 1931. We were small in numbers, but we can remember, possibly more clearly than other hon. Members, the force of the economy cuts. It has been said that those economy cuts have been restored, but they have never been restored, and I desire to make a plea for their full restoration. The biggest cut of all and the greatest saving was in benefit. The greatest saving of all was that a man or a woman was entitled to a standard benefit for 30 stamps in two years. They were, roughly speaking, entitled to a standard benefit of a year and four months. The economy measure reduced the standard period from one year and four months to six months. That cut has never been restored, although every other economy cut that was made has been restored. I shall never forget that the most serious cut that was made at that time was that which threw men on to the means test 10 months earlier than had been the case before. I would have restored that cut even before I increased the benefit, because I have looked upon it as a holy covenant that all the economies made should be restored. I earnestly ask the Minister to see to that.

There is another cut which has occurred since the war. Until the war a man with, say, five years' stamps was entitled to, roughly, 12 months' standard benefit. Since the war, for reasons I have never been able to follow, really without the consent of the House of Commons—I know it was put through one night when we were passing Bills by the dozen, and nobody said a word—that period of standard benefit has been reduced to six months. Take the case of the printing trade. It is suffering terrible unemployment because of forces over which none of us has any control. Men with long periods of employment are coming out now, and they do not know anything about the new law. To be frank, there are many Members of this House who do not know it. Some time ago I raised the matter with the hon. Member for Spennymoor, and he knew about it for the first time only that night. The Government told us that it was a question of administration, and of difficulty about looking up books; but if that cut had taken place in connection with any well-to-do section of the community, if it had concerned Income Tax or Super-tax, there would have been a row in this House, and people would not have been put off with some flimsy excuse about the difficulty of looking up books. The Minister, of course, has no responsibility for that, as he was not in the House. I put it to him that the economy cut should be restored, and, even if he will not do that, that men should be brought back to the position that existed before the war.

Then there is the question of children's allowances. Some time ago we increased the allowance for the fourth child by 1s. I suggest that there should be another increase in children's allowances. It is impossible to maintain a child on the standard benefit rates. Whatever our views, there is one thing which the war will teach all of us—it is something we should have learned long ago—and that is to try to raise the children above the battle of our economic system. I ask the Minister to study the standards of the child life of this country. Personally, I have little hopes for human life in the future: most of what I believed in has gone; but one thing that I have seen in my native City of Glasgow has been a greater care of the children by their parents. Today I see men taking their children off to the Employment Exchange, leaving them at the door while they sign on, and then taking them to the park. That is creditable. I ask the Minister to see that the standard of life for the unemployed man's child is raised at least to the standard which he and I used to advocate at the Trades Union Congress, of which he was perhaps the most prominent member.

It is often said that we have no means test in connection with standard benefit. That is not true. We have a means test in connection with standard benefit, but it is not easily understood. It operates when a man claims, sometimes, even for his wife, but much more often when he claims for his mother. That is what happens. A man claims benefit for himself and then for his mother, who usually has a widow's pension or old age pension of 10s. a week. He says: "I pay into the house 30s. a week." Add 30s. and 10s., and you get 40s. That is divided by two, which allows each £1. The man gets his unemployment benefit. But suppose the man gives his mother only 295. a week. That makes a total of 39s., or 19s. 6d. each. It is then held that he contributes less to the mother than the amount of her pension and consequently does not maintain her. What maintains the mother? Surely it is not the 10s. pension; it is the 39s. But that is how the reckoning is made. It is worse when there are three or four sons in the household, all of whom contribute something. Perhaps the youngest son makes a claim, but it is said that he does not maintain her. The next son makes a claim, and it is said that he does not maintain her either. So it goes on. None of the sons, it is held, maintains her; but the fact is that she is maintained. There are not many Members in this House who can go through the calculations which would be necessary to make a claim for the mother. The fact is, first, that she is the mother. That is never in dispute. Secondly, it should be said that the man does maintain her. I ask the Minister to stop this juggling with mathematical calculations, which does not do any individual credit.

Finally, I want to express again my regret at not having heard the Minister. I trust that in this office he will take advantage of his great opportunities. I am not an optimistic man. Although I am a younger man than the hon. Member for Spennymoor, he has retained an optimism which I have not. We hear from every Government that it is planning, and that it has constructive ideas. It reminds me of a fellow to whom I was talking at an Employment Exchange. He said, "You say 2.5 plus 1.5 makes four, and everybody says that you are intelligent. But because I say that two and two make four, they say that I am a mutt." There is a great deal in that. When you screw up your brows and do involved calculations, people think you are clever. It is the same with Governments, which talk about planning, and are able to get away with it. The Minister has started in what I consider one of the biggest offices a man can hold. He is privileged to hold that office, and I am certain that he will fill it with great capacity, because, while I differ from him in many ways, I have never concealed my regard for his abilities. I say, frankly, that in my view a great man is not one who goes out to tackle big things which he cannot master. A man who cannot do the small things will never succeed in the big things. If he tackles the small things, he will, when his time comes, finish with a record of which he need not be ashamed.

5.57 p.m.

Mr. Tomlinson (Farnworth)

I would like to add a word of congratulation to the Minister on his maiden speech. I would particularly like to say how much I think it is of value that when most people are thinking in terms of destruction he is thinking in terms of construction. When most of us are thinking in terms of war, it is good to find that he has the vision to think in terms of postwar. The necessity for thinking in terms of post-war and unemployment insurance is apparent to everyone who went through the last war and experienced the problems which befell those who lived at that time. Whether or not the criticisms that we have heard from the hon. Member for Spennymoor (Mr. Batey) and the hints that have been given by the hon. Member for Gorbals (Mr. Buchanan) may be considered to be in too narrow a spirit or out of place at this time, the fact that they are made should indicate to the Minister the need for accomplishing something over and above what he regards as necessary for the moment. I was interested in the suggestions which he made regarding the clarification which was necessary, and I hope that in that respect he will give thought to the criticisms of the hon. Member for Gorbals in connection with maintenance and the proof of maintenance by the applicant.

Questions of dependency in connection with the Employment Exchange are the most peculiar thing in the world. As a trade union secretary, who had to deal with these things regularly before coming to this House, I was always amused, after getting over my amazement, to find that the more an applicant contributed, the better chance he had of getting an allowance. I had thought that if an individual was lowly paid and was keeping a widowed mother, his low wage would entitle him to an allowance from the Employment Exchange. That was how I, in my innocence, imagined it, but you can judge of my surprise when, after having conducted and lost two or three cases, I discovered that the more an individual earned the better chance he had of getting it. The average wage of weavers in Lancashire went up immediately and was sufficient to enable them to come in, and I make no apology for saying that, because I believe it was the intention of Parliament to bring them in.

I believe that it is this silly system of proving dependency which is responsible for it. If the mother is contributing 10s. and if the main support of the household does not contribute more than 30s., it means in most instances that there has to be something almost approaching dodging of the law. I was glad to hear the Minister say that if there was anything which led to dodging, it proved that the law was a bad law, and I believe that that is true. Perhaps it would interest some hon. Members to know that if a widowed mother happens to be paying 1s. a week insurance on her own life or on the life of someone else her contribution to the family income is only 9s. That means that, if the combined wage comes to less than 36s., she is entitled because she has only contributed one-half. That certainly requires looking into, and if the Minister could find time for nothing else except the clarification of that matter it would certainly be worth while. I could not quite follow him when he argued for a continuance of the scheme, although he expressed a desire that some day it would be possible to bring agricultural and industrial insurance under one scheme.

I am glad that we have taken a step forward with regard to the black-coated worker. I never wore a black coat at work, although I had the unfortunate experience of being left out of insurance just before I came to this House. Owing to the Insurance Act, my wage had come down to just under £5, when I had the good fortune to be elected to this House. On the week that I came to this House, I could have been insured under the National Health Insurance Act had I not been elected, because I was earning under £5 a week. I had suffered a reduction in salary, and yet I felt it was worth while because it was bringing me into unemployment and health insurance at that time. I failed, however, because of the fact that I came to the House of Commons, and my tenure of security is much less here than it was in the job that I then had. I am debarred from being in the insurance scheme because I am paid £600 a year. National insurance should surely mean the insurance of all. If the insurance companies ran their schemes on the same basis as national insurance is being run, they would not get anywhere, because we take in those who are least able to pay while we cut out those best able to pay and least likely to draw upon insurance. Why are teachers not in the scheme? It is because they have security of tenure and a superannuation scheme. Members of Parliament have been mentioned. If they can prove that they are workers, they ought to come in—though that might be the biggest difficulty, particularly if the definition is as well drawn as that of dependency. I could never understand how and why so many sections were excluded from insurance. Now we have increased the scale to £420, I hope that before very long we shall do something to make the insurance scheme really universal.

I am glad that the three days' waiting period has been reduced to two. I believe it will be an improvement. Perhaps it is not much of an improvement, in my own trade, but I am glad there is to be an improvement in a number of trades in my district. Miners particularly have suffered severely in this respect. I have never been able to understand why there should be a waiting period at all. This is the kind of case that I have put in this House before and I will do it again. A man insures against fire. When a fire takes place he receives the insurance payment provided he has an English-sounding name and can convince the insurance company that he is not accustomed to doing that sort of thing. A man has a plate-glass shop window and he insures it against breakage. Immediately it is broken he makes his claim. It has not to be broken three times before he can do so. But if a man is claiming unemployment insurance benefit he has to be out of work three days. Why is this? Because it is workers' insurance. We have to get down to this matter. If the scheme, as it is now run, cannot provide benefit from the first day, the matter ought to be inquired into. The position is similar under National Health Insurance. I submit that a case has been made out for the abolition of waiting days altogether.

I welcome this Measure very much. One of the things from which Lancashire has suffered for years but from which, fortunately, it is not suffering today, owing to the war and the demands of the Services, is that of underemployment. There is nothing in this Bill which in postwar years will touch the fringe of the problem of underemployment which we have experienced in Lancashire for many years. I hope that the new Minister, when times are nearer normal and he has sufficient time, will look at the problem of under-employment. Successive Ministers have suggested that it has baffled them. I hope he will do something in order to alleviate the lot of those people who are called upon, through no fault of their own, to suffer from underemployment. I was interested to hear the Minister say that some of the new powers would make it impossible for case law in Unemployment Insurance to be operated. Everybody interested in the subject who has anything to do with administration, knows that it is not so much the regulations on Unemployment Insurance that appear in the Act of Parliament as the case law established by umpires' decisions, which has to guide those people who are attempting to help unfortunate members of societies. Time and again, when cases have come before courts of referees, one finds an umpire's decision covering such cases. It is within the purview of the chairman of the court of referees to obtain these decisions for his assistance, and trade union secretaries can obtain them also by paying for them. Many cases have been decided and precedents established. The Minister suggested that it would be necessary for him to make new regulations which might cut across the decisions of the umpire. Would it not be possible either now or at as early a date as possible, to introduce a consolidating Bill to bring the case law and the umpires' decisions together so as to simplify unemployment administration? It is not easy at any time.

I am glad of the increases in benefit. The one thing that the unemployed understand is the benefit, and they also realise that it is not sufficient. They are always concerned as to what disqualifies them from obtaining benefit, and the simpler the position can be made, the better it will be, not only for the Minister and those who advise him, but for those whose difficult duty it is to administer the Act. After the war we shall be faced with an unemployment question. That is inevitable. We are faced with it now. It unemployment schemes can be administered simply, it will assist not only this House but the Minister himself to get the best out of the people as far as confidence in his administration and in those who are administering the law is concerned.

6.13 p.m.

Mr. Lewis (Colchester)

As I listened this afternoon to the Minister moving the Second Reading of this Bill I felt that he was indeed to be congratulated on having for his first Bill a Measure the subject matter of which must have been so congenial to him. If, as we all hope may be the case, he has a long Parliamentary career in front of him, I trust he may always be equally fortunate in the Bills which he has to introduce. As to the wisdom of introducing the present Bill at this moment, I have always thought it most unfortunate that the question of the rates to be paid for unemployment benefit should be, as it is, the sport of party politics. It means that from time to time all parties in turn lay themselves open to charges of mass bribery at Election times. If any Government is to tackle this question there cannot be a more suitable Government than one which, like the present, enjoys the support of all the principal parties in the State. For my part, I only wish it had been possible for the Minister to evolve some permanent scheme which would take the question of the appropriate rates out of party politics altogether. With regard to the particular rates in this Bill I heard the hon. Member for Gorbals (Mr. Buchanan) suggest that some of the rates were too low, but if he were sitting where the Minister sits and had to introduce a Bill himself, containing the rates which he has in his mind, it would be for some other Member to get up and object to those rates as insufficient.

Mr. Buchanan

If I were the Minister I would be pleased at that, because it would give me the opportunity of stating my reason for increasing the rates.

Mr. Lewis

Whether the hon. Gentleman was pleased or sorry, it would occur. That is one of the inescapable difficulties of legislation of this kind. As regards the proposed benefits I am sure everyone in the House will agree that the increases will be very welcome to those who are to receive them. On the question of black-coated workers, I confess I felt considerable sympathy with the speech made earlier this afternoon by the hon. Member for East Birkenhead (Mr. White), in which he laid stress on the fact that this extension of insurance was long overdue. I believe that to be true and I hope very much that whatever may happen in the future to these particular rates, this extension of insurance to workers with a higher rate of wage or salary will, at any rate, remain a permanent feature of our Unemployment Insurance system.

There is one other point on which I would like to touch, and one which we have not heard much about this afternoon, although the Minister alluded to it. It is the question of the solvency of the Fund. It is always much easier and more agreeable to spend than to save and there is always the risk that when employment is good, the resulting accumulations in the Fund should be the cause of increased benefit beyond what may be justified having regard to the uncertainty of the future. I think we are all agreed that when this war is over we are likely to be faced with a period of great difficulty as far as employment is concerned—

Mr. Silverman (Nelson and Colne)


Mr. Lewis

—owing to the dislocation of trade and industry as a result of the war and the fact that when the war ends there will probably be dislocation in getting men back to normal work. It has been experienced in the past and will be experienced in the future.

Mr. Silverman

I always try to follow this argument but I have the utmost difficulty in understanding what it means. The longer the war goes on and the more destruction it brings with it, the more its ravages will have to be repaired. Will that not be sufficient to absorb the energies of our returning men? They will have to add to the wealth of the world which has been lost.

Mr. Lewis

I should have thought there were two obvious illustrations of the difficulty. One is that a vast machine is being created for making instruments of destruction which will no longer be required when the war is over. The other is that no man can foresee what impediments, difficulties and changes there may be in the channels of international trade after the war. It is no doubt true that in an ideally organised society there should be work for all, at all times, but I am not dealing with anything of that kind; I am dealing with practical politics and I should have thought that after the war there was bound to be a period when the problems connected with unemployment would be very difficult. If the war goes on, as I fear it may, for some considerable time, there should be a low level of unemployment during those years. If so, I hope opportunity will be taken to allow the Fund to accumulate and strengthen so that when difficult days do come there may be a large and strong Fund on which to draw in the years ahead.

6.22 p.m.

Mr. Sexton (Barnard Castle)

May I add my appreciation of the Minister, who has been almost overwhelmed by congratulations today? In future, he may receive "more kicks than ha'pence" so he had better take these words to-day and enjoy them as long as he can. It is notable that in a time of total war we, in a democratic country, can spend these hours in considering social problems and debating matters of unemployment. This Bill has been appreciated by most Members and will, I believe, be appreciated still more by those outside who are to benefit. Some will receive increased benefits and all will receive benefit by the reduction of the waiting period from three days to two. The inclusion of non-manual workers ought to have the effect of bringing them closer to the manual workers of this country. Just as we believe that the addition of agricultural workers to the unemployment scheme some time ago will bring agricultural and industrial workers more closely together so we believe that there will now be greater unity among all members of this society of ours.

I want to say a few words in connection with the agricultural side of unemployment because I feel a little ashamed that it has hardly been referred to by the various speakers who have taken part in the Debate so far. I seem to be the lone agricultural representative to-day. I know that the right hon. Gentleman has always been sympathetic to agricultural workers. He has shown his interest by increasing their wages lately, for which we are profoundly grateful. The increase is not enough yet, but it is a step in the right direction towards smoothing out the differences between industrial and agricultural districts. No longer will there exist the great gulf which has hitherto existed between the agricultural and industrial sections of the community. By the increase of wages in the agricultural world, the standard of life there will be improved. Yet when agricultural workers come on to unemployment benefit they will receive something less than those who are in the general scheme. There is not, and never has been, any justification for less unemployment benefit for the agricultural worker than for other workers in society. The limit which is placed upon the amount paid weekly to agricultural workers has been increased from 35s. to 38s. a week for which they will be glad, but they would be still more glad to see that limit abolished altogether.

With regard to non-manual workers, their case has been overwhelmingly made out in this House on many occasions. We are all glad to see them included in the new Measure. At one time there was an inclination among non-manual workers to fancy they would never need unemployment insurance. Twenty-five to 30 years ago they rather disdained the idea of being brought into the scheme at all. They were what was called the lower middleclass society of this country, but the last 20 years of depression in trade have changed all that. Many businesses have been shattered and many workers, who felt secure for life, have been thrown out of employment. Now, however, those workers will be included in a scheme which will bring them benefit at a time when it is most needed. The right hon. Gentleman said this afternoon that he hoped to see the day when there would be an all-comprehensive unemployment insurance scheme, linked up, if possible, with our health insurance scheme. When we look into the question of the administration of these various schemes, the situation is rather alarming. In connection with the Unemployment Insurance scheme, we find that for the year ended 31st December, 1939, there was paid in benefit £40,690,000 and that to pay that amount £5,608,262, or slightly over 14 per cent. was required for administrative expenses. When we look at the agricultural scheme it is still more appalling. During the year mentioned, men were paid benefits amounting to £831,000 while administrative expenses accounted for no less than £196,802, or over 23 per cent. There is a job for the Minister. He must get down to the task of consolidating all schemes into one comprehensive scheme and have an exhaustive inquiry into administrative expenses to see whether he cannot bring forward in the near future, an even better Bill than this.

6.29 p.m.

Mr. Ammon (Camberwell, North)

I also would like to join in congratulating the right hon. Gentleman on introducing this Bill today and if I might I would recall to him the fact that during the last war, he and I had the privilege and opportunity of touring the United States to put the case for the British workers, in connection with the last war. I congratulate him therefore especially on the fact that on his first appearance in the House to introduce a Bill, the Measure of which he has charge should be so successful. I have intervened chiefly to deal with one point which I put to the Minister at the request of the London County Council and some of the larger local authorities in the country, and in connection with which I should like to have an assurance from him. It arises out of Clause 4 of the Bill, which proposes to bring within the scope of Unemployment Insurance all non-manual workers whose rate of remuneration is between £250 per annum and £420 per annum. In asking that consideration should be given to this matter, I am not unappreciative of the point raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Farnworth (Mr. Tomlinson). I agree with him that all non-manual workers should be brought within the scheme, if possible, and that there should be no exceptions, but we have to deal with facts as they are.

Under the Unemployment Insurance Act, 1935, the Minister has power to grant exceptions to certain persons, first, if the employment is permanent in character; secondly, if the employed person had completed three years' service in the employment; and, thirdly, if, in the Minister's opinion, it is unnecessary that he should be insured under the Act. Under these provisions, the Minister excepted all employés of the London County Council over 21 years of age and with three years' continuous full-time employment. That was the position at the outbreak of the war, but under the Unemployment Insurance (Emergency Provisions) Regulations, 1939, it was provided that, as from 6th September, 1939, and during the operation of the Regulations, the power of the Minister to grant a certificate of exception to identified persons should not be exercised. Therefore, since 6th September, 1939, it has not been possible to identify further members of the council's staff under the certificate of exception granted to the council, and the number of employés who remain insured under the scheme, but who would have been excepted but for the operation of the Emergency Regulations, is about 2,000 per annum. With the increase in the income limit for insurability from £250 to £420 per annum, a very large number of the council's whole-time permanent employés will be brought within the Unemployment Insurance Scheme. The Minister will see that a very anomalous position will arise if the provision in the Bill remains as it is. Employés receiving less than £250 per annum who were identified under the certificate of exception before 6th September last remain, and will remain, excepted, while employés who receive between £250 and £420 per annum will not be excepted.

Mr. Buchanan

Could not this be put right by the local authorities themselves by bringing in all those below £250?

Mr. Ammon

I want to make clear again that, while I agree with the point made by my hon. Friend, we have to deal with facts as they are. Agreements have been made which have to be carried out. I ask the Minister to give consideration to this point. It seems desirable that the Emergency Regulations to which I have referred should be amended so as to enable employés of local authorities with more than three years' service who are receiving less than £420 per annum to be identified under the certificate of exception and thus excepted from the scheme. I make this suggestion at the request of the local authorities, headed by the London County Council. Having regard to the position which I have described, I should be glad if the Minister could give an assurance that the Emergency Regulations will be amended so as to enable the system of certification and identification which was in force up to the outbreak of the war to apply in the case of all permanent employés of local authorities.

6.36 p.m.

Mr. Kenneth Lindsay (Kilmarnock)

I intervene in the Debate to say a word or two about the new Minister of Labour. The hon. Member for Gorbals (Mr. Buchanan) said that it is rather a pity that it has taken a war to get the right hon. Gentleman into this House. I believe it is true to say that the right hon. Gentleman has resisted entering political life for some time, and no doubt he has been doing very valuable work outside; but I regard his appointment as Minister of Labour as something quite different from any of the other new appointments in the Government. It is different, for instance, from the appointment even of the new Minister of Supply, because it is—I know that some hon. Members may resent the phrase—a step in the right direction towards the right conception of a corporate organisation in this House. I know that some hon. Members will not agree with that, and will say that it is possible to have a political head, who has got a good head, and he can tackle any job. I do not believe that. I believe that political life today has become so complicated that, if we are to get efficiency in every Department of State, it is necessary for Ministers to have that lifelong knowledge which, for instance, in this case the right hon. Gentleman quite clearly has.

Mr. Ellis Smith (Stoke)

Many changes will have to be made.

Mr. Lindsay

That may be so, but there is strong feeling on the matter outside the House. It was a refreshing moment this afternoon to hear the right hon. Gentleman making his maiden speech, which sounded very little like a maiden speech, because of his knowledge of the subject. I do not want to say anything about what seems to me to be a perfectly straight-forward problem of raising benefits and raising contributions because the cost of living has also risen. As a matter of fact, it is a slightly profit-making policy as far as unemployment insurance is concerned.

The other point which has been referred to by many hon. Members—the inclusion of a new group of men and women erroneously called the black-coated workers—raises a whole series of questions which certainly I shall not go into, and to which the hon. Member for North Camberwell (Mr. Ammon) referred with regard to the London County Council. But I think the time has come—the middle of a war may not be the moment to do it—for somebody at the Ministry of Labour to be thinking out, from within the Ministry of Labour, the policy of that Department. In my limited experience—it is a long way back to 1934, when we fought for the 3s. for a child, and things have moved on a bit—the Ministry of Labour has never kept to its word with regard to the Unemployment Assistance Board. That Board has been a paying-out body. The Employment Exchanges are excellent in paying out the required sums of money, they are excellent in transferring people from one occupation to another; but they fail—and they fail because of the organisation of the Ministry—in helping to find jobs. I do not mean the creation of new employment, for obviously that is not their task; but the right hon. Gentleman did say, in introducing the Bill, that in the case of factories and industries where the Board of Trade instructions have caused a cutting down of labour, and in many cases almost a closing down of factories, there would be very great difficulties in transferring the labour to munitions factories and other factories. That is true, and there are a good many other things that will become true before very long with regard to pockets of unemployment, especially in places like London.

There is one question I want to ask the Minister. I suppose there is some reason for introducing the amount of £420 at this moment, but I should be glad if the Minister could tell us what that reason is. All hon. Members are interested in what is going to happen after the war, but they are still more interested at this time in getting the maximum employment in this country. I hope that before very long, if it will not waste the Minister's time, we shall have a Debate on the Ministry of Labour in order to see how far, under the new régime, the right hon. Gentleman is making it possible to transform the Ministry of Labour into a Ministry of Employment, and what changes he regards as possible. I welcome his appointment as the most significant—indeed it is a portent—of all the new appointments, and like every other hon. Member, I wish him good luck in his new office.

6.41 p.m.

Mr. Silverman (Nelson and Colne)

I do not wish to prolong the Debate or unduly to widen its scope, but the speech of the hon. Member for Kilmarnock (Mr. Lindsay) has made it easier for me to raise the point to which I want to refer. Speeches made by hon. Members opposite seem to contemplate—and they are justified in doing so by that part of the Minister's speech which referred to the importance of building up a reserve in the Unemployment Insurance Fund against possible postwar developments—that when the war comes to an end, there may be a situation similar to that which existed for a year or two after the end of the Great War. I hope that hon. Members, and especially Ministers, will not allow their minds to be too greatly dominated by any such ideas. It has been said by one hon. Member that in an ideally run society there would always be work for everybody, but that we must not contemplate an ideally run society. Why not? We may not very quickly achieve it, but if we do not contemplate it, we shall never get near to achieving it, or improving things. If anyone imagines that when the war comes to an end, whoever may win, the world and this country will go back to those bad old days when millions of able-bodied citizens, skilled, semi-skilled and unskilled, were content to stand at street corners for the best years of their life, their energies and skill unused, contemplating in idleness the unrepaired ravages of war, I think they are making a very great mistake. That system is dead. The bottle-necks of capitalism are being broken by the very force of circumstances, and I suppose that the Minister himself would be the first to admit that what brought us to the present pass was not the fault of this, that or the other individual, but the faults of a system that had to be broken down.

I implore the Minister to remember what no other Minister occupying that office has ever tried to remember, that he is not merely the Minister of Labour, that certainly he is not a Minister of Unemployment, but that he is the Minister of Labour and National Service. I hope he does not think that when the war is over there will be millions of people to be paid out of the reserves of the Unemployment Insurance Fund built up in these days. All that has gone, and it will be the task of the community, once we get out of the difficulties in which we find ourselves, to build up some kind of system which will not allow the ravages of war to remain unrepaired or the labours of our returning people to remain unused. We may not get an ideal society, but I hope that it will be one that is better than we have ever known, and I hope that the faults in our economic and social organisation which have produced poverty and unemployment, which poverty and unemployment were the prime causes of the present tragic situation of the world, will never be allowed to return.

My final word is to congratulate the Minister on his election to this House. I share the view of others in wishing that he could have come here earlier. It might be said that it took a world war to bring him here, but I hope and believe that he will be able to approach these new problems in a broader and wider spirit. I believe that if there is anyone in the movement with which he and I are associated who is capable of taking that wider view, it is the right hon. Gentleman, and I hope that he will do it.

6.47 p.m.

Mr. Gallacher (Fife, West)

I did not have the opportunity of hearing the Minister make his maiden speech, because I was an interested listener at a meeting in another part of the building which was discussing the question of the removal of the men of Munich. I am reminded that in the earlier days of the war the then Prime Minister informed us that when the war was over we were to have a new world, and the then Leader of the Labour party, now the Lord Privy Seal, asked him to give us some details of that new world. The then Prime Minister was unable to provide us with any details, but now we are having them from the Minister of Labour. There was a time, many years ago, when I liked to hear the Minister of Labour, but that is quite a long time ago. I cannot say so much for recent years; it is quite possible that there was a time when the Minister of Labour liked to hear me, but he certainly does not care to do so in these days.

Mr. Bevin

The hon. Member is just as amusing.

Mr. Gallacher

That was not the sort of cynical remark I might have heard 25 or 30 years ago; but changes have taken place. The Minister of Labour is now giving us an idea of the new world. He says we shall have mass unemployment, and, according to him, the operation of the means test. I ask him in all seriousness whether he believes for one moment that the working classes of this country will tolerate these things when this affair is over—on the one hand, big landowners and millionaire bankers and industrialists, and, on the other, mass unemployment. Is that the new world? I tell the Minister he is making a mistake in moving this Bill. The proposals were obviously prepared before he came along. How is it possible for the present Minister to contemplate the continuance of the old system when the war is over? At the last election there was scarcely a representative on the Government benches who did not repudiate the family means test, although they were in favour of a personal means test. Not a single supporter of the Government could be found to support it, and yet the Minister, with all his past record, comes here with a Bill, and the means test operates and will operate when the war is over. I tell him it will not work out that way. There will be something very much more different, and the Minister had better think that over.

6.50 p.m.

The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Labour (Mr. Assheton)

There has been so much support for this Bill that there is really no need for a winding-up speech, and I do not propose to do more than answer one or two of the points which have been raised. The hon. Member for Chester-le-Street (Mr. Lawson) welcomed the Bill, and, as has every other speaker, welcomed also my right hon. Friend to the Front Bench. On behalf of my right hon. Friend, I wish to thank them all for the kind words they have said about him. The hon. Member went on to ask one or two questions, one of which was whether the Regulations which were to be laid would be debated. The position with all Regulations made under the Emergency Powers Act is that they are laid, and if it is desired to debate them, a Prayer has to be made. I was also asked whether in the case of an agricultural worker it was possible to consider removing the ceiling, that is to say, the maximum amount of benefit which could be received, which under the new Bill is 38s., as against 35s. under the old Act. My right hon. Friend has considered that matter, and, although he does not make any promise at the present time, he will see whether it can be done. He will perhaps say something about it at a later stage on the Bill. Almost all Members who have spoken have welcomed the inclusion of the black-coated worker, although, as many Members have pointed out, he no longer wears a black coat. The hon. Member for Kilmarnock (Mr. Lindsay) asked why the figure had been fixed at £420. The only answer to that question is that the Minister had very much in mind bringing the amount up to a level to include the worker receiving £8 a week.

The hon. Member for East Birkenhead (Mr. White) complained that there had been a great delay in bringing about this reform, and said it was one of the most pestilential pieces of Parliamentary procrastination. If I may also reply with an alliteration, I hope that "Bevin's Better Benefit Bill" will satisfy him. I was very glad to hear what the hon. Member said about the Employment Exchanges. In past years there has been a certain amount of misapprehension on the part of the public, and a large number of what might be called black-coated workers, have for one reason or another thought it better not to go to the Exchanges. To-day it is more generally known that the Employment Exchanges do a most splendid service, and I hope there will be no more feeling in the country that there is anything at all to be deprecated in having to go to them. The fact that registration for military service has been carried out through the Employment Exchanges has, I think, been a very good thing. It has brought some people into contact with the machinery of the Ministry of Labour, and, I hope, they will continue to maintain contact with them. The hon. Member for Central Leeds (Mr. Denman) spoke of the lack of a coordinated survey of social services, and some hon. Members have expected my right hon. Friend to do more than, indeed, is possible in such a short time.

The hon. Member for Gorbals (Mr. Buchanan) was one of those who said it was a great thing to accomplish small things, because he had found from his experience that these added up to a large amount. I feel sure the House will recognise that the Minister of Labour could not possibly have brought in a general Measure dealing with the Unemployment Acts in the short time he has been in office. He has brought some very valuable new Measures into this short Bill, and there is every reason to suppose that this is not his last word on the question of unemployment insurance. The hon. Member for Spennymoor (Mr. Batey) hoped the Minister would revolutionise the Ministry of Labour. He has done so already, so there is no need to discuss that any further. He also complained of the increased contributions under this new Bill in spite of the fact that there was a large surplus in the Fund. I am quite ready to discuss the financial aspects of this matter with the hon. Member at some future date, although I must put it on record that the Fund is still in debt. He complained that the amount of benefit was inadequate, but he overlooked the fact that it has never been laid down that the amount of benefit under the Act was sufficient to keep a contributor in every circumstance. The House knows that supplementary benefit is available from the Unemployment Assistance Board where needed. The hon. Member for Gorbals made a good many points, and it is not possible to answer them all now. He did say that he hoped for success with the new Minister because he had never had any success with the others. I can only assure him that he has had more success than any other Member of the House. He asked about the question of the emergency legislation, and how it was that the number of days' benefit was reduced. This is a difficult matter, and I should like to explain it briefly to the House.

Before the war, under the general scheme, a man had 156 days of benefit if he had 30 stamps in the last two years, and if a man had a good employment record, the benefit might go up to as many as 312 days. During the war the 30 stamps gives 180 days' benefit, and a good record does not extend the period. I agree that there is a small minority of persons who have lost, but there is a great majority who have gained 24 days. The rule was changed because Kew had to be closed when war broke out. It was only through the records at Kew that it was possible to work that system, but if the hon. Member for Gorbals has any suggestions to remedy this state of affairs, no doubt he will write to me on the subject.

Mr. Buchanan

Can the hon. Member say something about the waiting period?

Mr. Assheton

That is one of those matters which the Minister has not dealt with in this Bill. I do not know whether my right hon. Friend's views on this matter are the same as those of the hon. Member for Gorbals, but again I would make it clear that this Bill does not represent the Minister's final view. The great many changes hon. Members have proposed would have necessitated considerable delay, because in many cases it would have been necessary to consult the Statutory Committee. The Minister was anxious to make certain changes which he thought of importance, and I hope the House will give the Bill a Second Reading. The hon. Member for Farnworth (Mr. Tomlinson) spoke of dependency benefit rules, as did the hon. Member for Gorbals. That is a matter which the Minister is considering at the present time, and it is a matter about which he knows a great deal. He also made it quite clear in his opening statement that he would prefer one comprehensive scheme, and hon. Members who have suggested that it would be possible to bring in a comprehensive scheme in this Bill, certainly do not know the difficulties. I am sure that that is not a thing that can be done without a tremendous amount of consultation. My hon. Friend the Member for Colchester (Mr. Lewis) wanted to have the question of Unemployment Insurance taken out of politics. As long as the Government are paying one-third of the cost, I do not see how that is possible.

My hon. Friend the Member for North Camberwell (Mr. Ammon) raised a point on behalf of the local authorities. I cannot give a definite answer to it now, and my right hon. Friend will look into it. The general view of the Ministry of Labour is that there should be fewer exceptions rather than more, and my right hon. Friend will examine it with that point clearly in mind. There will be opportunities on the Committee stage of raising other points with which I have not dealt. I feel sure the House will agree that to bring in a Measure of this sort at this time shows great confidence in the future. The very fact that many millions of people throughout the country are putting by extra pennies every week to be spent after the war is a sign that we shall get back to better times one day. We say, and I hope the House will recognise, that this is a Measure, not a big one but nevertheless one of importance, which will not only add to the security of the large class of black-coated workers who are brought into the scope of unemployment insurance for the first time, but will provide additional benefits to those already in the scheme.

Question, "That the Bill be now read a Second time," put, and agreed to.

Bill read a Second time.

Bill committed to a Committee of the Whole House for Tomorrow.—[Mr. Boulton.]