§ Considered in Committee. [Progress, 29th February.]
§ [SIR DENNIS HERBERT in the Chair.]
§ CLAUSE 9—(Administration of supplementary pensions.)
§ 11.5 a.m.
§ Mr. Woodburn
I beg to move, in page 6, line 36, after "the," to insert "Pensions and."
Now that the main principle of the Bill has been decided, I am going to take advantage of the Minister's invitation that we should do our best to improve it. I suggest to the Minister that from the psychological point of view nothing is more important than that we should get away from the idea that the supplementary pension has any charity about it. The Minister has here an opportunity of bringing to an end an approach to the old people and the poor of this country which has been in existence for exactly 106 years. After the Speenhamland experiment there was introduced a system of Poor Law which treated the poor very largely as criminals, and if the Minister would accept this Amendment, or the spirit of it, I suggest that, in conjunction with another proposal that I shall make, he might end that system of treating the poor as people to be persecuted.
The old people, as I understand them and know them, do not like this idea of being treated as paupers. I gather that the idea of separating unemployment pay and unemployment assistance was to place some deterrent in the way of those who want assistance as opposed to unemployment benefit, because otherwise there seems no reason why unemployment assistance should not have been paid through the Ministry of Labour. In the same way, why should we call the pension a "pension" and the supplementary pension "assistance"? If the old people have to go to what we call "necessity boards, "there will still be the feeling that there is some kind of charity associated with the business. Therefore, I am suggesting that we should make the name of the organisation 2416 Pensions and Assistance Board. That may seem to be a small matter, but from the point of view of the old people it makes a great difference. With this suggestion I wish to couple another, and if the Minister would grant this concession also, he would go far to meet the apprehensions and fears of this side of the Committee as to the conduct of this organisation. An Income Tax payer fills up his form and sends it to the Income Tax authorities, and they accept it as being an honest statement unless there are reasons for thinking to the contrary. I suggest that the Minister should extend the same consideration to the old age pensioners.
§ Mr. Woodburn
I submit that the purpose of my Amendment is to introduce this different spirit into the administration of pensions.
§ The Chairman
But that does not justify the hon. Member advocating other alterations or improvements. If he is interested in this other point, there will no doubt be another opportunity for him to advocate it, but he cannot do it on this Amendment.
§ Mr. Woodburn
I bow to your ruling, but I should like you to extend me a little generosity in this matter.
§ The Chairman
After what I have said I cannot allow the hon. Member to discuss something which is definitely irrelevant and out of Order on this Amendment.
§ Mr. Woodburn
I am dealing with the question of altering the spirit in which the Bill should be administered by altering the name of the Board, and I wish to support that suggestion by showing the difference there is in the treatment of Income Taxpayers. When they send in their forms these are treated as genuine unless there is any proof to the contrary. 2417 I suggest to the Minister that the statements of pensioners should be treated in exactly the same way.
§ Mr. Lawson
The point has been continually made by the Government that the investigations made by the Unemployment Assistance Board are not really different from the investigations made in the case of Income Taxpayers, and all that my hon. Friend is asking is that the spirit shown in dealing with Income Taxpayers shall be displayed in dealing with old age pensioners, and surely he ought to be in a position to point his moral by the arguments used by Ministers.
§ The Chairman
That he has done. No doubt it might be very proper to elaborate that point on some other occasion, but it is certainly not in order to do so upon this Amendment.
§ Mr. Woodburn
My reason for proposing that we should call this the Pensions and Assistance Board is to get the State to change its attitude towards these old age pensioners.
§ The Minister of Health (Mr. Elliot)
We have a suggestion to make which may possibly meet what is desired by the hon. Member I do not wish him to go on pressing a point on which we may be able to meet him.
§ Mr. Woodburn
I do not desire to go outside your Ruling, Sir Dennis, but I am anxious to conclude with a sentence. We are to spend £750,000 upon administration, and I feel that by making this change of name and change in the spirit of the administration it may be possible to avoid a great deal of that expenditure, because the Pensions and Assistance Board would then allocate the grants on the basis of the circumstances set out in the applicant's form and would investigate cases only where they felt there was evidence of fraud. That would reverse the whole process of treating the poor as criminals until they are proved to be honest. As the right hon. Member for Bow and Bromley (Mr. Lansbury) said, we should assume that the great majority of the old people are honest, decent citizens and treat them as such unless there is proof to the contrary. I 2418 am sure that in that way we should preserve the dignity of the country and probably save in the cost of administration.
§ 11.14 a.m.
§ The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Health (Miss Horsbrugh)
I think I can reply very briefly to the point put by the hon. Member for Clackmannan (Mr. Woodburn). We put in the name Assistance Board, but my right hon. Friend is anxious that all should join in finding the best name for this Board, and perhaps a conference might take place with the hon. Members opposite and others from the Opposition Liberal party to decide upon the best name. When it comes to deciding upon a name for the new Board, I think we shall find there are certain objections to different titles which have to be taken into account. With regard to the suggested title of Pensions and Assistance Board, there is the possibility that confusion may be caused to people who have service pensions. If any such confusion should arise, it might lead to delays through applicants having gone to the wrong Board. Further, we wish to avoid any confusion with the pensions committees which we were speaking about yesterday, and I think that confusion might arise there also.
Lastly, there is one point which we think has not occurred to the hon. Member. As we all know, we very soon cease to call these Boards by their full names— the Unemployment Assistance Board very soon became the U.A.B. I do not think the hon. Member, who wishes to call this Board the Pensions and Assistance Board, would like it to be known as the P.A.B. That particular name, he will agree, would bring us back too closely to Public Assistance, the very thing we all want to get away from. My right hon. Friend would like to see whether any other name can be found for this body, and for that purpose he is willing to consult with hon. Members on the subject.
§ Miss Horsbrugh
I am sorry if I did not make myself clear. The hon. Member 2419 who moved the Amendment made it clear that he wanted to consult others with regard to the name. My right hon. Friend would be very willing to hear from hon. Members, either of the Opposition or supporters of the Government, whether they can think of a better name. If a better name can be found, it will be brought forward on the Report stage. We desire to consult or confer with respect to the name of the Board.
§ Mr. Batey
Surely the hon. Lady is not suggesting that there should be a conference merely to consider a question of names. It would have been wiser if the Government, before they started with the Bill, had called a conference of the Opposition parties to agree upon the terms of the Bill, and perhaps it is not yet too late to do so; but to call a conference to consider the name seems futile.
§ 11.18 a.m.
§ Mr. Kingsley Griffith
I am very much obliged to the hon. lady for inviting us to a conference for this purpose. I should view the acceptance of the Amendment with considerable apprehension, because it would turn what I have rather regarded as a Measure brought forward in a time of emergency and with emergency considerations in the mind of the Government into a permanent arrangement, so that pensions administration would be tied up for all time to this form of machinery. I respect very much the objects which caused the hon. Member to bring forward this Amendment, but I do not think its implications would be accepted by everybody on the benches above the Gangway.
§ 11.19 a.m.
§ Mr. A. Jenkins
The Parliamentary Secretary has suggested entering into a conference to ascertain whether a more suit able name can be found. I do not think the important question is so much a matter of the name, which after all is merely a shadow. It is the substance of the change which this side of the Committee would desire more particularly to discuss. If the Parliamentary Secretary would indicate that the Government were prepared to enter into consultation, not only for the purpose of changing the name of the Bill, but for changing the whole spirit of the Bill—
§ The Chairman
Surely the hon. Member must be aware that what he is now saying does not arise on the Amendment.
§ Mr. Woodburn
In view of the statement made by the Parliamentary Secretary, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ 11.20 a.m.
§ Mr. Dingle Foot
I beg to move, in Clause 9, page 6, line 36, at the end, to insert:The Minister shall be responsible to Parliament for the administration of the Board.This Amendment raises one of the principal issues, if not the principal issue, in the Bill, in our opinion. We endeavoured to make it clear on the Second Reading that our main objection to the Bill lay in the handing over of pensions administration to the Unemployment Assistance Board and the lack of Parliamentary supervision involved in that step. This issue arose and was very fully debated in 1934, when the Unemployment Bill was before this House. We thought that it was a very dangerous departure that hundreds of thousands of unemployed households should be put under the jurisdiction of an outside body without any constant Parliamentary or democratic control, a body which had no Minister to answer for it and take responsibility for it in this House.
This is a very considerable issue. Through the method of Parliamentary control over administration, democracy in this country works. Other countries have different systems. You sometimes have, in other countries, a system in which Members of Parliament or deputies themselves endeavour to take a share in the actual government or administration. That is something which we have never attempted in this country. Instead, we hand over primary responsibility to Departments presided over by a Minister of the Crown, and the Ministers come and sit in this House or in the other place, and are answerable to us or to the members of another place for what is done in their Departments. That is the system of democratic control upon which our whole parliamentary method rests.
I do not think anyone can deny that what was done in 1934, and is sought to be done again in the Bill, is a complete 2421 departure from that principle. It is interesting that scarcely any hon. Member throughout these Debates has endeavoured to defend that aspect of the Bill, with one exception, the speech made yesterday from the benches opposite by the hon. Member for East Fife (Mr. Henderson Stewart). It seemed remarkable to me that any man brought up, at any rate, in a Liberal tradition should defend a principle of this kind. We always regard the hon. Member with considerable sympathy. We know that, like Naaman, he has to bow down in the house of Rimmon, but we think that he has been unnecessarily profound in his genuflexions. He is the only Member who has had the temerity, so far, to defend this aspect of the Bill, and I want to draw attention to the argument which he thought fit to use. He said:The objection of the hon. Member for Dundee to the Board was that it was not under Parliamentary supervision. That was the point he made in his able speech on Second Reading, but I, not being a lawyer was not impressed by his argument. We know that if this Bill becomes law and the Regulations applied by the Assistance Board are discovered to be harsh and unsympathetic the hon. Member for Dundee will be the first to raise the matter on the Floor of the House and I will gladly be with him. The hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Bevan) made the point that if the Board's actions were such as to deserve the condemnation of the old people and of this House, the will of the House would certainly be felt as it was on the last occasion."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 29th February, 1940; col. 2309, Vol. 357]Then there was an interruption by the hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Bevan) who pointed out that on the last occasion we had had riots and demonstrations all over the country. It is true that, even when you have a Board like this and no Minister to answer for it, if the administration of the Board is so outrageous as to raise universal indignation throughout the country, if people are up in arms in the industrial areas, as we had in January and in the beginning of February, 1935, and if you have a great volume of indignant public opinion suddenly rising as it rose in 1934, that opinion will make itself felt. But the fact that you have that ultimate sanction is no substitute for the ordinary methods of Parliamentary control. Many grievances are raised in the House with regard to various Ministers, arising out of the work of their Departments, grievances on which there is no great volume of public opinion, and which 2422 may only affect a small minority of the people, but which are none the less genuine and substantial grievances. It is not right to say that before you can get redress it is necessary to have an almost nation-wide movement in order to make itself felt by some body outside the House. The hon. Gentleman did not say that, but that is clearly what follows from the argument which he presented to the Committee yesterday.
The point does not need much elaboration, but we all know the value of having on the opposite bench Ministers answerable for their Departments. We can all think of examples in our own experience where some individual grievance has been raised, it may be on the Floor of the House. I remember some time ago that an hon. Member raised a question of the maltreatment of certain convicts who had received some ill usage in a prison. In that case, because he was able to raise the matter in the House, it was investigated; it was found that the wardens were to blame, and the necessary action was taken to prevent such a thing happening again. It was possible to deal with that case in that manner because there was in the House a Minister who was answerable to those in authority. If the hon. Member thinks that a member of his constituency has been ill-used by the Ministry of Pensions, he goes to the Ministry of Pensions and, if necessary, to the Minister, but he always has the redress of being able to raise the matter on the Floor of the House, and when he does so there is on the opposite bench someone who can take responsibility. We can ask questions about the administration of the Board; we can ask the Minister of Labour why a particular person has been denied unemployment assistance or has received less than he should. We can get an answer from the Minister of Labour in regard to this matter, but it is purely an answer which has been put into his mouth by the Board, and he cannot take any responsibility for what has been done. Further, however convinced he may be of the injustice of the steps that have been taken, he himself cannot promise any redress whatsoever. All he can do is to make some representation to the Board.
If the Bill passes in this form, the Minister of Health will be precisely in the same position. He will be a kind of 2423 conduit pipe to bring information from the Board to the House and to take information and protests back to the Board from the House. At the same time he may be in a position of having to defend the administration of the Board, but he himself will have no authority over the Board. We thought this was a dangerous departure in 1934; it becomes still more dangerous when, instead of the Board being a repository for the functions of one Department, it has all sorts of functions handed over to it. It has the care of unemployed, the work of administering as agent for the Minister of Pensions the civil injuries scheme, and now it is proposed that this question of jurisdiction over the old age pensioners should be handed over as well. On the Second Reading, when we were asked why we opposed this Bill, I made it clear that we were against this principle; we believe it is an unparliamentary and undemocratic principle. We were against it in 1934, and we are equally opposed to it to-day. We cannot hand over any Measure dealing with functions as important as these to a Board which is so constituted.
§ 11.31 a.m.
§ Mr. Elliot
We are concerning ourselves with a dilemma which may arise in theory but which does not arise in practice. Whatever the arrangements were in 1934, it cannot be denied that Parliament has a large measure of control over the Board. It has complete control of the regulations. Further, the Board's report is presented to Parliament, and it can be, and has in fact always been made the subject of Debate. The Board's Estimates have to come before Parliament in the usual way; they are presented by the Minister who has to accept responsibility for them just as he accepts responsibility for the Estimates in his own Department. Furthermore, the hon. Member for Dundee (Mr. Foot) himself put the case forward for the justification of the present position when he said that questions are in fact passed as a matter of course by the Table not only about the general conduct of the Board but also about its actions with regard to specific persons and cases. It is in fact the best and most immediate way of bringing the matter to the notice of the Minister responsible.
§ Mr. Elliot
He is responsible to the Table because the Table considers that there is in the House a Minister who is responsible and who can answer questions. But I will not rest myself on the general fact that questions are passed by the Table and dealt with. I will rest myself on the Ruling of the Speaker given in the Official Report. The Speaker clearly ruled:The actions of the Board, as is clearly laid down, can be criticised in this House because the Government are responsible for the Board, and through them the Board can be criticised."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 13th February, 1935; col. 1951, Vol. 297.]While it is possible to bring forward arguments to show that the procedure ought not to work, in fact the procedure does work, and we have had the Ruling of the Speaker to say that the Government are responsible for the Board. I would suggest to the hon. Member who has repeatedly brought this point to the notice of the House that he should be willing to withdraw the Amendment because the facts of the case show that the administration of the Board can be and is governed by the House, and therefore the danger does not really arise.
§ 11.34 a.m.
§ Mr. Lawson
The right hon. Gentleman has under-estimated the value of the issue that has been raised in this Amendment. Let hon. Members understand what is being done. Here are some old age pensioners who apply for poor relief. They apply to the people appointed by the public assistance committee, which is controlled by people directly elected in the locality. That is to say, the old age pensioner can go direct to his elected representative. The matter is now to be turned over to the Unemployment Assistance Board. This Board is not the right hon. Gentleman's Department; it is not the Minister of Labour's Department; it is almost a separate Government Department. Our experience is that this Board, because it is regarded as a separate Department, gets away with something that no other Government Department would get away with. I have tried several times, for instance, to draw attention to its expenditure. The unemployed used to cost under the Ministry of Labour about £750,000 in transitional benefit. This Board costs about £4,500,000 for carrying out the work. It is one of the most 2425 expensive Departments of the State. It was put up for purposes of economy; but, as I have said before, because of the position in which it stands, because the: Minister is not directly responsible for it, it is costing the State £10 for every pound which it is supposed to have saved as a result of its investigations.
There is much more substance in this Amendment than appears on the surface, and the Minister will discover that when the rules and regulations are applied. When the Minister of Labour put through the Board's regulations here, he was supposed to be responsible; but they were the Board's regulations. It was a kind of leap in the dark. He had to make a test. I warn the right hon. Gentleman, in the light of that, that he is coming up against one of the most vivid experiences of his life when he begins to apply his rules and regulations. If he were wise, he would take a second look at this business, because he is not responsible. He will find, when he examines the powers closely, that they practically make this a Government Department, over which he and, in the long run, this House have very little control. I suggest that the right hon. Gentleman should get his officers to tell him what his relationship to the Board will be. The Board nearly broke one Minister. It is very difficult to get direct answers here with regard to unemployment assistance, and the position will be similar in regard to the old age pensioners. The right hon. Gentleman should regard this as a more serious issue than he does at present.
§ 11.39 a. m
§ Mr. K. Griffith
The Minister of Health in this matter resembles a certain young lady of Riga, who, it will be remembered, smiled as she rode on a tiger. He has failed to consult the other young ladies who rode the tiger before— which is somewhat negligent on his part. If he had had the Minister of Labour sitting constantly at his side, to inform him of his experiences, he would have had a more modest idea of the extent of the control that he is likely to have over this Board. He could not then have made such a statement as he did a few moments ago, that this House had complete control over the regulations. Everybody knows that it has not. This House is presented with some regulations, which, in the first place, are not even originated by the Minister; 2426 they are originated by the Board. It is true that if the Board does originate regulations, the Minister may amend them, but he cannot initiate them. If they are initiated and the Minister makes his amendment, let us consider how much control any one of us has, as a Member of this House.
Take the position of an hon. Member opposite, a loyal supporter of the Government, desiring to do his best for the unemployed. Suppose that there is one regulation which he regards as being completely disastrous. He cannot move to leave that regulation out, or to alter it, or to amend it. He has only one very- stark and pregnant choice. Either he has to swallow the regulation, which he believes to be against the interests of his constituents, or else he has to give the Minister the tremendous smack in the eye—if I may put it that way—of rejecting the whole of the regulations. Any Government supporter, naturally, is extremely reluctant to take such a course, and the result is that there is always an element of unreality about our debates on unemployment. It is asking too much of Government supporters to expect them to turn what for them might have been a mere attempt to alter a part of the scheme into what amounts to a vote of censure on the Government by turning down the Minister altogether. Therefore, this complete control by the House over the regulations simply does not exist, except as a figment in the Minister's imagination and it will not be in the Minister's imagination long after he tries to exercise his functions under the Bill.
In previous debates on this Bill I have heard the Minister and the Secretary of State for Scotland say what they propose to do if the regulations prove to be unsatisfactory for pensions purposes. They say it light-heartedly, as if the whole thing were in their hands, as if they had only to press a button and the thing would be done. The whole purpose of this Amendment is to turn their present ideas—false ideas, as I suggest—into something like reality, to make them really responsible. The Minister said that, whatever was the case in theory, they have, in fact, exercised control. I very much doubt that. Our questions elicit information, but they do not elicit anything else. I do not know whether the Minister was interested in the 1934 Bill. 2427 If so, he will remember that the cry at that time was "Take unemployment out of politics." That was supposed to be a great step forward. I suppose that now we are taking contributory pensions out of politics. Is that regarded as a great step forward? It was what was intended to be the object of the Bill originally, to take this subject matter out of the immediate hurly-burly of politics in this House, where everybody is able to pull at the thing a little and try and get it more according to what this House desires. The object of it was to prevent that.
We on this side of the Committee not only on these Benches, but also, I think, above the Gangway, do not agree with taking questions of this kind out of politics, because we believe in politics and that by political methods the destinies of the people can and ought to be framed, and not by bureaucratic bodies. If you go on, like this, if unemployment is taken out of politics, and contributory pensions are taken out of politics, then politics will become a vacuum. There will be nothing left worth consideration. I ventured to ask on the 1934 Bill, whether, if such large powers over the unemployed were given to an outside body, anybody greatly concerned with the welfare of the unemployed would not feel it more worth while to be a member of the Unemployment Assistance Board than to be a member of this House. I was laughed at and told that it was a gross exaggeration, but within a few weeks the then Minister of Labour had himself joined the Unemployment Assistance Board as the Chairman, and I felt that to be a considerable justification of what I had said. I am wondering whether a similar fate awaits the right hon. Gentleman opposite and whether in a short time his place will know him no more and he will be upon the Unemployment Assistance Board for the purpose of looking after the pensioners, as Lord Rushcliffe is looking after the unemployed. I suggest that this is all part of a process by which this new Estate of the Realm—the Unemployment Assistance Board—is growing and growing in its powers, and that all the time our powers are dwindling and dwindling.
§ 11.48 a.m.
§ Sir Henry Fildes
There is one question I would like to elucidate, as it has been 2428 stated in the course of this Debate that a Committee, which was set up in the interests of economy, has cost £10 for every £1 that has been saved. When the Minister comes to reply, I would like him to say, "Yes" or "No" in answer to that question, which is to me the most essential point that has been raised. I would like a definite answer to that question.
§ 11.49 a.m.
§ Mr. Silverman
There is only one point that I want to make about this matter. The hon. Gentleman the Member for West Middlesbrough (Mr. K. Griffith) said something about taking things out of politics, and on high democratic grounds he objected to that. I support him in his objection, but I think that perhaps an epilogue to his argument will not be out of place. Who are the people that the Government are so anxious to take out of politics? Always the poor, and always at the moment when the pressure of their needs becomes a political weapon of value against the National Government. That is what they mean by taking these social questions out of politics. Wait until large masses of poor people have so roused the conscience of the community that their political pressure at elections has become a dangerous weapon and the policy of the Government cannot be maintained in opposition to them by the normal, democratic, political processes—when that time comes with regard to the mass of the unemployed, there comes a great movement on the part of the supporters of the National Government, because these questions are really too dangerous to be left in what they are pleased to call party politics. They must be raised above the battle so that the battle about them would cease.
So, when the agitation for better old age pensions, for pensions that are adequate and that are such as the overwhelming mass of ordinary people in this country, irrespective of political opinion, would readily grant, and when those people, who are not actuated by parry political considerations, but by pure humanity, bring their humanity to bear by purely democratic methods, by political weapons at elections and in other ways, by pressure upon their members, local representatives and local public assistance committees, and are likely to get their way, then the Government come 2429 along and say that they must not have their way. They say, "We cannot prevent them from having their way if we leave the matter to the ordinary determination of play between political parties and political ideas. With the aid of political machinery of a highly democratic system, they will get their way if we leave them to it. We cannot afford to allow them to have their way, and we are determined not to allow them to have their way. We must take this out of politics and out of the House of Commons by means of a Board and by regulations that cannot be reviewed, and by never having a debate about it either locally or nationally." That is what they mean by taking questions out of politics. I would begin to believe in the sincerity of that endeavour if we got the Federation of British Industries out of politics too.
§ 11.52 a.m.
§ Mr. Robert Morgan
We have often listened to strange speeches in this House, but the speeches of the hon. Member for West Middlesbrough (Mr. K. Griffith) and the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. Silverman) have really mystified me altogether. The hon. Member for Nelson and Colne started by saying that he was going to agree with the hon. Member for West Middlesbrough, and yet I have not for sometime heard two speeches that have so cancelled each other out. I am rather afraid that the hon. Gentleman the Member for Nelson and Colne has given away the whole show, because the attitude of his party towards this Bill and this Amendment in particular is to make it a party issue. I confess that at one time I felt like supporting this Amendment. I am one who was hoping that this matter would be lifted out of party politics, and if the hon. Gentleman who moved this Amendment wishes to bring these assistance committees directly into the atmosphere of party politics, I am not in sympathy with him.
§ Mr. Morgan
I would like to say how unfortunate the mover of the Amendment was in his reference to the hon. Member for East Fife (Mr. Henderson Stewart). He accused him of being like Naaman. I would remind him that when Naaman left his party he was cleansed of his leprosy.
§ Mr. Morgan
Exactly, but here is the Jordan—the Floor of this House, which he crossed. What I would ask the hon. Member to consider is that if what he said is true, that we must have a Minister responsible for the administration of this Board, how complex the duties of the Minister would be. It would involve direct negotiations with the Minister of Labour, the Minister of Pensions, and the Minister of Health. The hon. Member really wants a sort of co-ordination officer. It would seem that what is required to meet all these considerations is a coordinating assistance officer responsible to this House for all queries as regards public assistance in respect of all kinds of cases.
§ Mr. K. Griffith
I do not quite understand the suggestion of the hon. Member. If he means a co-ordinating Minister with responsibility to Parliament then I will agree with him.
§ Mr. Morgan
I fully agree. I really meant to say "co-ordinating minister", not "officer." There is a great deal to be said for the view of the right hon. Gentleman when he stated that we have a chance to bring up grievances by way of Questions and Answers in this House and again when the Estimates are before us. I take it that that could be done on the Estimates of the Ministry of Labour, the Ministry of Pensions, and the Ministry of Health, and so, having regard to the speech of the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne, I shall vote with the Government on this occasion.
§ 11.55 a.m.
§ Mr. Stephen
I should not have intervened had it not been for the hon. Gentleman who preceded me. How would the hon. Member like the Board of Education to be in the same position as the Unemployment Assistance Board? I am quite sure that if the Board of Education was put into the same privileged position as the Unemployment Assistance Board is, and will be, there would be nobody more vocal than Government supporters in its defence. But I am more directly concerned with old age pensioners than, possibly, with the fate of teachers, and I 2431 think the hon. Member is doing a disservice to his constituents by leaving the old age pensioners to the tender mercies of those for whom there is no responsibility in this House.
§ Mr. Stephen
I do not think the hon. Gentleman makes the matter any better by his intervention. He has pointed out that not only have teachers the opportunity of having grievances remedied through this House, but that they are under the control of the Board of Education and also have the opportunity of going to their local authorities. Yet both the local and central old age pensioners will be put into a worse position, and he has just told us that he will vote to put them into this inferior position as compared with teachers—
§ Mr. Morgan indicated dissent
§ Mr. Stephen
The hon. Member need not shake his head. That is the effect of his speech. He may not understand it, and I intervened in the hope that he would realise that he will be doing an injustice to the old age pensioners, and would think again. If the hon. Member is going to do this to old age pensioners, some of us will have to get his constituents to make him understand what it is that he will be doing to the millions of people in whom we are particularly interested. The Amendment proposes to make the Minister responsible to Parliament for the administration of the Board, and I am not quite sure, if it were carried, how the Board would be brought into subjection by the passing of the Amendment. The Board was set up as an independent body, and its members could only be removed by redress of the machinery which puts them in the same position as the Judge of a High Court. I am not sure whether this Amendment would really bring them under the control of this House, as they ought to be.
The Minister, obviously, is not thoroughly satisfied with the present position of the Board. He said that on the 2432 whole it had not worked badly in the past, and he hoped nothing would happen to make it work badly in the future. One of the reasons why it has worked not so badly is because its functions became very much more limited owing to events in the country a short time after it was set up. The number of people for whom it became responsible became smaller than was anticipated, but now that so many more powers are being given to the Board I can see that it will become, in the political and administrative life of the country, a great danger to the people. I hope the hon. Member who moved this Amendment will carry it into the Division Lobby, because I am confident that in the future this Board will have to be abolished in favour of an administration which will be directly under the control of Parliament.
§ 12.2 p.m.
§ Mr. E. J. Williams
What we are discussing now is purely a House of Commons matter, and I am hoping that the Members who support the Government will appreciate precisely what we are doing. During the last nine or ten years we have seen the Government create a machine which has virtually disfranchised an enormous number of people in the country. When I came to Parliament in 1931 unemployment was debated every few weeks. But it has been practically impossible for us to have anything like a full-dress Debate upon all the implications underlying the unemployment problem. During the last few years agitation has been on foot in order to redress the admitted wrong suffered by old age pensioners. They have created an organisation to which about three to four hundred thousand are attached and, largely by their organised pressure, and the humanity of a large number of Members of Parliament, this Bill is before the House of Commons. It will be quite impossible, I suggest, for old age pensioners in general to obtain in the future amelioration of any condition from which they are suffering. It is true that individual cases can be placed on the Order Paper at Question time, but the Minister is quite wrong, and could not have been present during recent years, when we have questioned the Minister of Labour about the activity of the Unemployment Assistance Board's scales, grievances and things of that kind. While he is, perhaps, correct in theory, had he 2433 been present he would have found precisely what has happened in practice.
We have not been in a position to question the conduct of the Unemployment Assistance Board, neither shall we be in a position in the future to question its conduct or any machinery which may be appointed by the Minister to do its work. This contains a very important principle. I do not want to use a word which will give any offence to hon. Members opposite, but this really contains the main ingredient of the Fascist doctrine. It is divorcing from Parliament constituents whom hon. Members represent in Parliament. It is undermining all the main features of democracy. The creation of this machinery to supplant public assistance authorities means that the old age pensioner will no longer have the right as a citizen to elect someone who will represent his claims locally, and that when this Board is appointed a Member of Parliament cannot represent the claims of old age pensioners. It means that old age pensioners are disfranchised locally and nationally and that in future they will be subject to the arbitrary decisions of an autocratic body which cannot be questioned in Parliament through any Minister.
This is really very serious so far as Members of Parliament are concerned. It means that the prestige of Parliament is going and that we are creating Boards to do the work which Parliament should do. There are interests on the other side which would at once rebel if this concerned agriculture or big businesses. If hon. Members who are directors of big businesses found that it was impossible for them to represent their business claims in this House, they would be disturbed, but it seems that the only people who are to be directly affected are the poorest people, the unemployed and old age pensioners. One can see that very shortly this means test will be extended to injured men who suffer accidents in collieries and in industry generally, and one can easily perceive how it can be extended to the soldier and his dependants. In fact, the reduction of the means test in all these forms of services, and the creation of machinery allied to the means test, means that millions of people whom hon. Members should endeavour to represent in this House when their claims and grievances come forward are being literally 2434 divorced from Parliament entirely. The two features, the means test and the introduction of the principle contained in this machinery, to set up outside Parliament persons who cannot be questioned by hon. Members, are two vicious matters which will concern every hon. Member as the months go by, and particularly as soldiers are being wounded and their claims in regard to their dependants arise.
I hope that hon. Members opposite will not look on this matter as purely a party matter. It is, of course, a matter of economics, but I hope that every hon. Member opposite will stand up for the House of Commons against any kind of bureaucratic machinery created by the Executive which will divorce his constituents from Parliament. I hope hon. Members will do that if only for the purpose of maintaining the prestige of the House of Commons, the very thing for which we are fighting, as hon. Members have said on many platforms—the maintenance of democracy, the opportunity for persons to think and express their thoughts freely, and the opportunity for old age pensioners to express their thoughts in the only possible way, and that is through their Member of Parliament. If they have a grievance, they should have an opportunity of voicing it in the House of Commons. In future any grievance cannot be voiced in general; it may be voiced in the particular by a question, because the Board will have done its work. If the Minister does not introduce new regulations, the scales will not be debated at all. No hon. Member will have the right to question the scales which will be contained in the regulations unless new regulations are made. If the old regulations apply, the House of Commons is done. If the Minister should create new regulations, we shall have an opportunity of discussing them, but we cannot amend them. We shall have to move to accept or reject them. To the extent that we cannot amend anything which is submitted to this House, it means that the House of Commons is really losing its functions.
The Money Resolution itself is unique. We have never had a Money Resolution like it. There are no figures. Complete scope is given to the Executive to do precisely what it likes; and the Board can do precisely what it likes. No one can question the conduct of the Board. It is a 2435 really serious matter for every hon. Member, and I hope they will reflect upon it. I am sure that the Minister, if he would obtain some information as to how the Unemployment Assistance Board has functioned and realise our inability to question its conduct in the past, would be convinced that once this piece of machinery is created and applied, this House has virtually lost its authority to represent the constituencies of the country.
§ 12.15 p.m.
§ Mr. Jenkins
I want to add one word on this matter, as it is of considerable importance. Let me assume that the Govt. changed their attitude and began to deal with other services in this manner. If they were to decide to make the Secretary of State for War not responsible to this House for the administration of the Army, that would be Fascism, and, as a matter of fact, that is the way in which Fascism began. I know it will be said that this is another matter, but it is a departure from our Parliamentary system of governing the country. We hear it said that we have entered into this war for the purpose of maintaining democracy, but hon. Members will go into the Lobby in order to prevent this House operating democracy. It is a complete contradiction, and I hope the Minister will take heed of the appeals which have been made. It has been said that this applies only to the poorest people in the country. That is true. Since 1934 the Unemployment Assistance Board has been operating, and a great outcry has been raised against it. Since then there has been a tendency, particularly recently, to extend this policy considerably. Hon. Members say that the right thing is to have a Board of this kind to operate the whole of our social services. It would mean that you would take the whole of our social services outside Parliament, except for a discussion
§ once a year upon regulations, and it would mean quite definitely that Parliament had no control over the social services. I think there is real danger in the sacrifice of this principle. I shall go into the Lobby in favour of the Amendment, and I hope hon. Members opposite will do the same in order to protect democracy and thus act logically on the principles for which we are supposed to be fighting.
§ 12.18 p.m.
§ Mr. Gordon Macdonald
It has been said that the terms of the Measure are due to the fact that we are at war. What I object to is the fact that the Government are using the war to introduce this kind of system to deal with old age pensioners. I never like attributing motives to anyone, but I feel that the Government are using the war in order to treat the aged people in this fashion. This is a new principle in regard to old age pensions. It is being operated already in relation to the unemployed, and it is not operating satisfactorily. I put it to the right hon. Gentleman that, between now and the Report stage, he should talk over this matter with the Minister of Labour. I am satisfied that what has been going on in the case of the unemployed ought not to be allowed to go on in the case of these aged people. The Minister tells us that our apprehensions are ill-founded, but we do not think so. My object in rising is to enter my protest against the introduction of legislation of this kind during the war, with the excuse that, had it not been for the war, this would have been a different and a better Measure.
§ Question put, "That those words be there inserted."
§ The Committee divided: Ayes, 101; Noes, 140.2437
|Division No. 35.]||AYES.||[12.20 p.m.|
|Adams, D. (Consett)||Burke, W. A.||Dunn, E. (Rother Valley)|
|Adams, D. M. (Poplar, S.)||Cape, T.||Ede, J. C.|
|Adamson, Jennie L. (Dartford)||Chater, D.||Edwards, Sir C. (Bedwellty)|
|Adamson, W. M.||Cluse, W. S.||Edwards, N. (Caerphilly)|
|Alexander, Rt. Hon. A. V. (H"lsbr.)||Clynes, Rt. Hon. J. R.||Evans, E. (Univ. of Wales)|
|Anderson, F. (Whitehaven)||Cocks, F. S.||Gallacher, W.|
|Attlee, Rt. Hon. C. R.||Collindridge, F.||Gardner, B. W.|
|Banfield, J. W.||Cove, W. G.||George, Megan Lloyd (Anglesey)|
|Barnes, A. J.||Daggar, G.||Gibson, R. (Greenock)|
|Batey, J.||Dalton, H.||Green, W. H. (Deptford)|
|Beaumont, H. (Batley)||Davidson, J. J. (Maryhill)||Greenwood, Rt. Hon. A.|
|Bromfield, W.||Davies, R. J. (Westhoughton)||Griffith, F. Kingsley (M'ddl'sbro, W.)|
|Brown, C. (Mansfield)||Davies, S. O. (Merthyr)||Griffiths, J. (Llanelly)|
|Buchanan, G.||Dobbie, W.||Hall, G. H. (Aberdare)|
|Hall, J. H. (Whitechapel)||Mathers, G.||Stewart, W. J. (H'ght'n-le-Sp'ng)|
|Hardie, Agnes||Montague. F.||Taylor, R. J. (Morpeth)|
|Hayday, A.||Mort, D. L.||Thorne, W.|
|Henderson, J. (Ardwick)||Muff, G.||Tinker, J. J.|
|Henderson, T. (Tradeston)||Naylor, T. E.||Tomlinson. G.|
|Hills, A. (Pontefract)||Noel-Baker, P. J.||Viant, S. P.|
|Horabin, T. L||Paling, W.||Walker, J.|
|Hollins, J. H. Silvertown)||Parkinson, J. A.||Watkins, F. C.|
|Jackson, W. F.||Pearson, A.||Westwood, J.|
|Jagger, J.||Pethick-Lawrence, Rt. Hon. F. W.||Whiteley, W. (Blaydon)|
|Jenkins, A. (Pontypool)||Poole, C. C.||Williams, E. J. (Ogmore)|
|Jenkins, Sir W. (Neath)||Pritt, D. N.||Williams, T. (Don Valley)|
|John, W.||Ridley, G.||Wilson, C. H. (Attereliffe)|
|Kennedy, Rt. Hon. T.||Ritson, J.||Windsor, W. (Hull, C.)|
|Lathan, G.||Robinson, W. A. (St. Helens)||Woods, G. S. (Finsbury)|
|Lawson, J. J.||Shinwell, E.||Woodburn, A.|
|Leslie, J. R.||Silverman, S. S.||Young, Sir R. (Newton)|
|Lunn, W.||Smith, E. (Stoke)|
|Macdonald, G. (Ince)||Smith, T. (Normanton)||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Marshall, F.||Sorensen, R. W.||Sir Percy Harris and Mr. Dingle|
|Martin, J. H.||Stephen, C.||Foot|
|Acland-Troyte, Lt.-Col. G. J.||Goldie, N. B.||Rawson, Sir Cooper|
|Allen, Lt.-Col. Sir W. J. (Armagh)||Graham, Captain A. C. (Wirral)||Reed, Sir H. S. (Aylesbury)|
|Astor, Major Hon. J. J. (Dover)||Gretton, Col. Rt. Hon. J.||Rickards, G. W. (Skipton)|
|Baxter, A. Beverley||Gridley, Sir A. B.||Robinson, J. R. (Blackpool)|
|Beamish, Rear-Admiral T. P. H.||Grimston, R. V.||Ross Taylor, W. (Woodbridge)|
|Beauchamp, Sir B. C.||Gritten, W. G. Howard||Rowlands, G.|
|Beaumont, Hon. R. E. B. (Portsm'h)||Hacking, Rt. Hon. Sir D. H.||Royds, Admiral Sir P. M. R.|
|Bennett, Sir E. N.||Hambro, A. V.||Ruggles-Brise, Colonel Sir E. A.|
|Blair, Sir R.||Hannah, I. C.||Russell, Sir Alexander|
|Boles, Lt.-Col. D. C.||Haslam, Henry (Horncastle)||Samuel, M. R. A.|
|Brass, Sir W.||Hely-Hutchinson, M. R.||Sandeman, Sir N. S.|
|Briscoe, Capt. R. G.||Heneage, Lieut.-Colonel A. P.||Selley, H. R.|
|Brocklebank, Sir Edmund||Hepburn, P. G. T. Buchan||Shaw, Major P. S. (Wavertree)|
|Brooke, H. (Lewisham, W.)||Holmes, J. S.||Shaw, Captain W. T. (Forfar)|
|Brown, Brig.-Gen. H. C. (Newbury)||Horsbrugh, Florence||Shepperson, Sir E. W.|
|Butcher, H. W.||Howitt, Dr. A. B.||Sinclair, Col. T. (Queen's U. B'lf'st)|
|Butler, Rt. Hon. R. A.||Hudson, Capt. A. U. M. (Hack., N.)||Smiles, Lieut.-Colonel Sir W. D.|
|Campbell, Sir E. T.||Hudson, Rt. Hon. R. S. (Southport)||Smith, Bracewell (Dulwich)|
|Cary, R. A.||Hume, Sir G. H.||Smithers, Sir W.|
|Channon, H.||Jarvis, Sir J. J.||Somervell, Rt. Hon. Sir Donald|
|Chapman, A. (Rutherglen)||Joel, D. J. B.||Southby, Commander Sir A. R. J.|
|Chapman, Sir S. (Edinburgh, S.)||Kerr, Colonel C. I. (Mentrose)||Spears, Brigadier-General E. L.|
|Chorlton, A. E. L.||Keyes, Admiral of the Fleet Sir R.||Stewart, J. Henderson (Fife, E.)|
|Christie, J. A,||King-Hall, Commander W. S. R.||Storey, S.|
|Clarry, Sir Reginald||Lewis, O.||Strauss, H. G. (Norwich)|
|Cobb, Captain E. C. (Preston)||Lipson, D. L.||Strickland, Captain W. F.|
|Colville, Rt. Hon. John||Loftus. P. C.||Stuart, Rt. Hon. J. (Moray and Nairn)|
|Cooke, J. D. (Hammersmith, S.)||Lucas, Major Sir J. M.||Tate, Mavis C.|
|Croft, Brig.-Gen. Sir H. Page||MacDonald, Rt. Hon. M. (Ross)||Thomas, J. P. L.|
|Crooke, Sir J. Smedley||McKie, J. H.||Tree, A. R. L. F.|
|Crookshank, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. F. C.||Manningham-Buller, Sir M.||Tryon, Major Rt. Hon G. C.|
|Cruddas, Col. B.||Margesson, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. D. R.||Tufnell, Lieut.-Commander R. L.|
|Davidson, Viscountess||Mayhew, Lt.-Col. J.||Ward, Lieut.-Col. Sir A. L. (Hull)|
|Duckworth, W. R. (Moss Side)||Meller, Sir R. J. (Mitcham)||Ward, Irene M. B. (Wallsend)|
|Duncan, J. A. L. (Kensington, N.)||Mills, Sir F. (Leyton, E.)||Wardlaw-Milne, Sir J. S.|
|Dunglass, Lord.||Morgan, R. H. (Worcester, Stourbridge)||Warrender, Sir V.|
|Eckersley, P. T.||Morrison, G. A. (Scottish Univ's.)||Waterhouse. Captain C.|
|Edmondson, Major Sir J.||Neven-Spence, Major B. H. H.||Wayland, Sir W. A.|
|Elliot, Rt. Hon. W. E.||Nicolson, Hon. H. G.||Webbe, Sir W. Harold|
|Ellis Sir G.||O'Connor, Sir Terence J.||White, Sir Dymoke (Fareham)|
|Elliston, Capt. G. S.||O'Neill, Rt. Hon. Sir Hugh||Wickham, Lt.-Col. E. T. R.|
|Entwistle, Sir C. F.||Orr-Ewing, I. L.||Winterton, Rt. Hon. Earl|
|Everard, Sir William Lindsay||Palmer, G. E. H.||Womersley, Sir W. J.|
|Fildes, Sir H.||Ponsonby, Col. C. E.||Young, A. S. L. (Partick)|
|Findlay, Sir E.||Pownall, Lt.-Col. Sir Assheton|
|Fox, Sir G. W. G.||Pym, L, R.||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|George, Major G. Lloyd (Pembroke)||Raikes, H. V. A. M.||Mr. Munro and Mr. Boulton.|
|Gledhill, G.||Ramsbotham, Rt. Hon. H.|
§ 12.28 p.m.
§ Mr. Ede
I beg to move, in page 7, line 6, to leave out "specified in the first column of," and to insert "as set forth with modifications in."
This Amendment and the Amendment which next follows it on the Order Paper hang together, because it may be taken 2438 that the carrying of the first, would lead to the carrying of the second, and perhaps we may live in hope that it will be carried, as I understand that the Attorney-General instead of the Minister of Health is to deal with this matter. A year or two ago, I joined with hon. Members of all parties in supporting the hon. Member 2439 for Twickenham (Mr. Keeling) in a Memorandum which he submitted on the evils of legislation by reference. That Memorandum received general support, and, apart from the Treasury Bench and possibly the draftsmen's office, I think it was regarded as setting forth a very desirable improvement in our method of legislation. But if hon. Members turn to the first part of the Second Schedule to this Bill, they will find that we have reached a stage in legislation by reference which calls for the attention of the Committee. The alterations which it is proposed to make in the Unemployment Assistance Act, 1934, are so numerous and so involved that any ordinary man trying to find out from the terms of this Bill—if it is passed in its present form—the exact powers, duties and functions of the Unemployment Assistance Board in this matter will find himself faced with great difficulty.
I notice, however, that when we come to the latter part of the Second Schedule, dealing with the Eighth Schedule to the original Act, the draftsman has given up in despair the task of legislating by reference and has set out a proposed new Eighth Schedule to the original Act in the form in which it is to be read in connection with this Measure. It would appear to be but reasonable and logical that if he adopts that procedure in regard to the Eighth Schedule to the earlier Act, the same procedure should be adopted with regard to the remaining alterations and modifications which are to be made in that Act by this Measure. I defy anyone, without spending a great deal of time in collating the terms of this Bill with those of the Unemployment Assistance Act, to find out exactly what the duties of the Board will be under this new Measure. I have had experience trying to understand the Education Acts. They were codified in 1921, and for about six months there was a single Measure to which one could refer, but since then in all sorts of Acts, various changes have been made by reference and it is exceedingly difficult for the ordinary layman to follow exactly what either the old Measure or the new Measures mean.
The Measure which we are now considering is one which will have to be used by all sorts of lay people, such as secretaries of trade unions and people to whom old age pensioners and others 2440 come for advice and who will have to consider various points arising out of the Bill when it becomes an Act. It will be well nigh impossible for anybody except a trained lawyer to follow the various alterations in the earlier acts which are being made by this Second Schedule. I have no desire to take business away from the lawyers, but I suggest that no lawyer will gain by the preservation of this intricate method of legislation. Indeed, I have known some lawyers who have been tripped up on occasion by the more abstruse references in legislation of this kind. I suggest that when we are legislating in a matter of this kind, we ought to make the law plain and simple for the ordinary man who has to study it. I can think of no better case in which the Government could set about reform, by departing from legislation by reference, than this, and I suggest that the whole of the Second Schedule should be framed on the same lines as that part which sets out the proposed new Eighth Schedule to the earlier Act.
This Amendment does not alter any proposal in the Bill. Its only effect will be that people reading the Bill when it becomes an Act will have before them the exact words with which they are dealing instead of being compelled to have at least two documents before them and to read one into the other. There can be no real reason for rejecting the Amendment except the innate love of Government Departments for making it as difficult as possible to follow what they mean when they are amending an Act of Parliament.
§ 12.35 p.m.
§ The Attorney-General (Sir Donald Somervell)
I can assure the hon. Gentleman who moved this Amendment that on the general point I agree entirely with its importance and that legislation by reference should be avoided as far as possible where there is real obscurity. But the Amendments made in the Second Schedule to this Bill, with one exception, are simply adaptations. On the left hand side are set out quite clearly the Sections of the Act of 1934 which are to be made applicable. I have gone carefully through them, and with one exception they are all adaptations. Obviously, you have to put in "supplementary pensions" where it is "allowances" and where there is 2441 "Minister" to substitute the "Minister of Health" and in certain cases the "Secretary of State for Scotland." Also, where the age of 16 appears, you have to substitute the age of 60. Broadly speaking although I do not say that they are all as simple as that—the words are sometimes a little more complicated—they are all adaptations. It seems to us that, once that explanation has been given, and in particular in view of the importance of saving printing paper in these days this was a case in which we were justified in using legislation by reference, rather than setting out in full the whole of the Clauses.
I referred to one exception. That is on page 21, where existing regulations in force are dealt with. That is not an adaptation, but it is in fact like a new Sub-section, and the words are set out in full. Nobody has to look back at the earlier Act to see what that Amendment does. When we came to Schedule 8 we felt that if we had adopted the method of legislation by reference, it would have been very difficult for anyone to understand the changes which were being made. Therefore we thought it right to set out the new provisions in full, so that anyone could read them. But, in the case of mechanical or drafting adaptations, we thought that the procedure adopted was justified, and I hope the Committee will take that view. One can reinforce it to some extent by the importance of economising paper. I very much appreciate what the hon. Gentleman said in regard to the importance of many people being able to know what is being done, but if they read the Clause set out on the left hand side, they will see what is being done. I do not think that the inconvenience which sometimes arises will arise in this case, and, therefore, I hope, the hon. Gentleman will not press his Amendment, after that explanation.
§ 12.40 p.m.
§ we can all appreciate. But I feel that he has not entirely met the case made by the hon. Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede) in moving this Amendment. We referred to this question on the Second Reading. It is comparatively simple for us when we only have to go to the Library and take down the volume of the Statute, spend half an hour or so going through the 1934 Act, and substitute one set of words for another. It takes a certain amount of time and is a task which is not a great hardship for Members of Parliament and members of the legal profession. It is quite impossible, however, for the vast majority of people who will be affected by this Bill, because in the first place many of them will find it very difficult, even if they have the necessary books at hand. In many cases it will, of course, be impossible for some to obtain a copy of the 1934 Act.
§ When dealing with a Bill which is of the most close and intimate concern to a very large number of poor people, there is, I suggest, an even stronger case than usual for setting out the intentions of the Bill in plain language so that anybody can understand it. This is a case where it is absolutely impossible for anyone to read the Bill and gathers what are its intentions if left with the Bill itself. One can read through Clauses 8 and 9 without having the slightest idea of what is to happen to the old age pensioners after the Bill becomes an Act. We realise that it is necessary to economise paper, but when dealing with a Measure brought in after many years of political controversy in this country, discussed and considered by every political party, and of the greatest interest to a very large number of people, ought we to weigh in the scales the comparatively trifling cost of printing against setting the Bill out in greater length so that the people affected will at least be able to understand it?
§ Question put, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Clause."
§ The Committee divided: Ayes, 140; Noes, 97.2443
|Division No. 36.]||AYES.||12.44 p.m.|
|Acland-Troyte, Lt.-Col. G. J.||Beamish, Rear-Admiral T. P. H.||Blair, Sir R.|
|Allen, Lt.-Col. Sir W. J. (Armagh)||Beauchamp, Sir B. C.||Boles, Lt.-Col. D. C.|
|Astor, Major Hon. J. (Dover)||Beaumont, Hon. R. E. B. (Portsm'h)||Boulton, W. W.|
|Balfour, Capt. H. H. (Isle of Thanet)||Bennett, Sir E. N.||Brass, Sir W.|
|Baxter, A. Beverley||Bernays, R. H.||Briscoe, Capt. R. G.|
|Brocklebank, Sir Edmund||Hannah, I. C.||Robertson, D.|
|Brooke. H. (Lewisham, W.)||Hannon, Sir P. J. H.||Robinson, J. R. (Blackpool)|
|Brown, Brig.-Gen. H. C. (Newbury)||Haslam, Henry (Horncastle)||Ross Taylor, W. (Woodbridge)|
|Burton, Col. H. W.||Hely-Hutchinson, M. R.||Rowlands, G.|
|Butcher, H. W.||Holmes, J. S.||Royds, Admiral Sir P. M. R.|
|Butler, Rt. Hon. R. A.||Horsbrugh, Florence||Russell, Sir Alexander|
|Cary, R. A.||Howitt, Dr. A. B.||Samuel, M. R. A.|
|Channon, H.||Hudson, Capt. A. U. M. (Hack., N.)||Sandeman, Sir N. S.|
|Chapman, A. (Rutherglen)||Hume, Sir G. H.||Selley, H. R.|
|Chapman, Sir S. (Edinburgh, S.)||Jarvis, Sir J. J.||Shaw, Major P. S. (Wavertree)|
|Chorlton, A. E. L.||Joel, D. J. B.||Shaw, Captain W. T. (Forfar)|
|Christie, J. A.||Kerr, Colonel C. I. (Montrose)||Shepperson, Sir E. W.|
|Clarry, Sir Reginald||Keyes, Admiral of the Fleet Sir R.||Sinclair, Col. T. (Queen's U. B'lf'st|
|Cobb, Captain E. C. (Preston)||King-Hall, Commander W. S. R.||Smiles, Lieut.-Colonel Sir W. D.|
|Colville, Rt. Hon. John||Lewis, O.||Smith, Bracewell (Dulwich)|
|Cooke, J. D. (Hammersmith, S.)||Lipson, D. L.||Smithers, Sir W.|
|Croft, Brig.-Gen. Sir H. Page||Locker-Lampson, Comdr. O. S.||Somervell, Rt. Hon. Sir Donald|
|Crooke, Sir J. Smedley||Loftus, P. C.||Southby, Commander Sir A R. J.|
|Crookshank, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. F. C.||Lucas, Major Sir J. M.||Stewart, J. Henderson (Fife, E.)|
|Cruddas, Col. B.||McCorquodale, M. S.||Storey, S.|
|Denville, Alfred||MacDonald, Rt. Hon. M. (Ross)||Strauss, H. G. (Norwich)|
|Duckworth, W. R. (Moss Side)||McKie, J. H.||Strickland, Captain W. F|
|Duncan, J. A. L. (Kensington, N.)||Manningham-Buller, Sir M.||Stuart, Rt. Hon. J. (Moray and Nairn)|
|Dunglass, Lord||Margesson, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. D. R.||Tate, Mavis C.|
|Eckersley, P. T.||Mayhew, Lt.-Col. J.||Thomas, J. P. L.|
|Edmondson, Major Sir J.||Meller, Sir R. J. (Mitcham)||Tree, A. R. L. F.|
|Elliot, Rt. Hon. W. E.||Mills, Sir F. (Leyton, E.)||Tryon, Major Rt. Hon G. C.|
|Ellis, Sir G.||Morgan, R. H. (Worcester, Stourbridge)||Tufnell, Lieut.-Commander R. L.|
|Elliston, Capt. G. S.||Morrison, G. A. (Scottish Univ's.)||Walker-Smith, Sir J.|
|Entwistle, Sir C. F.||Neven-Spence, Major B. H. H.||Ward, Lieut.-Col. Sir A. L. (Hull)|
|Everard, Sir William Lindsay||Nicolson, Hon. H. G.||Ward, Irene M. B. (Wallsend)|
|Findlay, Sir E.||O'Connor, Sir Terence J.||Wardlaw-Milne, Sir J. S.|
|Fox, Sir G. W. G.||O'Neill, Rt. Hon. Sir Hugh||Warrender, Sir V.|
|Fremantle, Sir F. E.||Orr-Ewing, I. L.||Waterhouse, Captain C.|
|George. Major G. Lloyd (Pembroke)||Palmer, G. E. H.||Wayland, Sir W. A|
|Gledhill, G.||Ponsonby, Col. C. E.||Webbe, Sir W. Harold|
|Goldie, N. B.||Pym, L. R.||Winterton, Rt. Hon. Earl|
|Graham, Captain A. C. (Wirral)||Raikes, H. V. A. M.||Womersley, Sir W. J.|
|Gretton, Col. Rt Hon. J.||Ramsbotham, Rt. Hon. H.||Young, A. S. L. (Partick)|
|Gridley, Sir A. B.||Hacking, Rt. Hon. Sir D. H.|
|Grimston, R. V.||Rawson, Sir Cooper||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Gritten, W. G. Howard||Reed, Sir H. S. (Aylesbury)||Mr. Munro and Mr. Buchan-|
|Hambro, A. V.||Rickards, G. W. (Skipton)||Hepburn.|
|Adams, D. (Consett)||George, Megan Lloyd (Anglesey)||Parker, J.|
|Adams, D. M. (Poplar, S.)||Gibson, R. (Greenock)||Parkinson, J. A.|
|Adamson, Jennie L. (Dartford)||Green, W. H. (Deptford)||Pearson, A.|
|Alexander, Rt. Hon. A. V. (H'lsbr.)||Griffiths, J. (Llanelly)||Pethick-Lawrence, Rt. Hon. F. W.|
|Anderson, F. (Whitehaven)||Groves, T. E.||Poole, C. C.|
|Attlee, Rt. Hon. C. R.||Hall, G. H. (Aberdare)||Price, M. P.|
|Banfield, J. W.||Hall, J. H. (Whitechapel)||Pritt, D. N.|
|Barnes, A. J.||Hall, W. G. (Colne Valley)||Ridley, G.|
|Beaumont, H. (Batley)||Hardie, Agnes||Robinson, W. A. (St. Helens)|
|Bromfield, W.||Harris, Sir P. A.||Shinwell, E.|
|Brown, C. (Mansfield)||Hayday, A.||Silverman, S. S.|
|Buchanan, G.||Henderson, J. (Ardwick)||Smith, E. (Stoke)|
|Burke, W. A.||Henderson, T, (Tradeston)||Smith, T. (Normanton)|
|Cape, T.||Horabin, T. L.||Sorensen, R. W.|
|Chater, D.||Hollins, J. H. (Silvertown)||Stephen, C.|
|Cluse, W. S.||Jackson, W. F.||Stewart, W. J. (H'ght'n-le-Sp'ng)|
|Clynes, Rt. Hon. J. R.||Jagger, J.||Taylor, R. J. (Morpeth)|
|Cocks, F. S.||Jenkins, A. (Pontypool)||Thorne, W.|
|Collindridge, F.||Kennedy, Rt. Hon. T.||Tinker, J. J.|
|Cove, W. G.||Lathan, G.||Tomlinson, G.|
|Daggar, G.||Lawson, J. J.||Viant, S. P.|
|Dalton, H.||Leslie, J. R.||Walker, J.|
|Davidson, J. J. (Maryhill)||Macdonald, G. (Ince)||Watkins, F. C.|
|Davies, R. J. (Westhoughton)||McEntee, V. La T.||Westwood, J.|
|Davies, S. O. (Merthyr)||Marshall, F.||Williams, E. J. (Ogmore)|
|Dobbie, W.||Martin, J. H.||Williams, T. (Dan Valley)|
|Dunn, E. (Rother Valley)||Mathers, G.||Wilson, C. H. (Attercliffe)|
|Ede, J. C.||Montague, F.||Windsor, W. (Hull, C.)|
|Edwards, Sir C. (Bedwellty)||Morrison, R. C. (Tottenham, N.)||Wood burn, A.|
|Edwards, N. (Caerphilly)||Mort, D. L.||Woods, G. S (Finsbury)|
|Evans, E. (Univ. of Wales)||Naylor, T. E.||Young, Sir R. (Newton)|
|Foot, D. M.||Noel-Baker, P. J.||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Gardner, B. W.||Paling, W.||Mr. Whiteley and Mr. Adamson.|
§ 12.51 p.m.
§ Mr. Elliot
I beg to move, in page 7, line 11, at the end, to add:(4) The administration of supplementary pensions shall be conducted in such manner as may best promote the welfare of pensioners.This Amendment meets a point which was expressed both by the local authorities and by hon. Members in the Debates. There was an apprehension in case welfare should not be looked after. It is true that welfare was not specifically referred to in the Poor Law Acts, under which, nevertheless, an enormous amount of welfare work was done; but in order to give an earnest of our intention to have regard to the welfare of the pensioners, we decided to move the insertion of these words.
§ 12.52 p.m.
§ Mr. Foot
I do not rise to criticise the Amendment, but I should be grateful if the Minister would give a little more explanation about the word "welfare." My hon. Friend the Member for East Birkenhead (Mr. White) had on the Paper an Amendment to page 6, line 36, to make it one of the duties of the Board "to promote the welfare of pensioners." The Government have not seen fit to adopt that form of words. What we had in mind was to lay upon the Board the same duty with regard to old age pensioners as is laid upon them by the 1934 Act with regard to the unemployed. In that Act, it is laid down that the functions of the Board shall be to assist the persons to whom the Act applies and to promote their welfare; that is to say, the Board are definitely charged with looking after the promotion of the welfare of the persons with whom they are concerned. The Amendment which the Minister has moved does not go as far as that. It does not state that the promotion of the welfare of old age pensioners is a matter to which the Board must have regard as one of their duties, but merely says that the Board shall administer supplementary pensions "in such manner as may best promote the welfare of pensioners." It is obvious that the two forms of words do not mean the same thing, and I think it might set the minds of some hon. Members at rest if the Minister would explain why the Government have adopted that particular form of words.
§ 12.54 p.m.
§ Mr. Ellis Smith
Our attitude towards this Amendment will depend a great deal upon the Minister's interpretation of the word "welfare," but before I say anything on this matter, I should like to ask for your advice, Sir Dennis. I have sat through two days of debates waiting for an opportunity to be in Order in dealing with the regulations. It seems to me that I should be in Order in raising that matter on Clause 9, and therefore, as this Amendment deals with the welfare of pensioners and would appear to make it in Order for me to raise the whole question of welfare, I should like to ask whether you would prefer us to debate that matter on this Amendment or on the Question "That the Clause stand part of the Bill."
§ The Chairman
I am not sure whether I could allow such a debate as the hon. Member wishes on the Question "That the Clause stand part of the Bill." I am not quite sure whether I fully understood the hon. Member, but all that would be in Order on this Amendment would be matters not extending beyond the words of the Amendment dealing with the welfare of the pensioners.
§ Mr. Smith
I had doubts on the matter, and I did not want to proceed before asking for your advice. I want to raise the whole question with a view to obtaining the Minister's interpretation of what is meant by "the welfare of pensioners." I want to ask him to be good enough to look at some words that he used in the Committee yesterday, and I want to base my case on them. I hope the Committee will give the attention to this aspect of the Bill that it deserves: otherwise, there may be repercussions to an extent that none of us desire. The Minister has used similar words throughout the discussions on the Bill, and I could give several examples of it. I will, however, confine myself to reminding the Committee of the words which the right hon. Gentleman used yesterday when he said:The determination once having been made will run throughout its whole period, and a person with a little acquisition to their income during that period will not thereby fall under the ban of the law, or be subject to any pettifogging inquisition. That is what I have in mind. I hope to be able to draft these rules according to that. I want to give the utmost possible latitude and consideration to pensioners and treat the supplementation 2447 as a supplementary pension rather than as a temporary award of assistance."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 29th February, 1940; col. 2349, Vol. 357]I was pleased to hear the Minister use those words, and I read them this morning in order to make sure that I understood him correctly when I heard him.
§ The Chairman
In case the hon. Gentleman has misunderstood my Ruling, I would point out that "welfare" is a word which may mean a great deal, but I cannot because of the literal meaning of that word allow the hon. Member to go into a discussion on a subject which has been debated or may properly at a later stage be debated, such as the question of the regulations to which he has referred.
§ Mr. Smith
We have, then, to ask the Minister what his interpretation of "welfare" is. It is a word that can mean very little or a great deal. Much of the success of this Bill and the spirit of its administration will depend upon the interpretation of this word. For that reason I would like to ask a large number of questions, but if you, Sir Dennis, think I am not in Order, I will leave it until later.
§ The Chairman
I am sure that the hon. Member will understand that this debate is not merely on the meaning of the word "welfare," but on a proposal that the administration of certain pensions should be conducted in such a manner as will best promote the welfare of the pensioners. That is something which has very definite limits.
§ 1 p.m
Mr. J. J. Davidson
It will be generally agreed that the Committee would like from the Minister a clear definition and some evidence to show why he is asking the Committee to accept the Amendment. I should like to know whether the Minister has made extensive inquiries into the welfare administration of the public assistance authorities and whether he intends to follow the lines of their administration. For instance, in Scotland and, I think, also in England there are cases of public assistance authorities which, in granting relief to old age pensioners, recognise the age or physical condition of the pensioner and have posted the relief on to him or have sent it by some other method. In Glasgow the public assistance committee have promoted the welfare of the pensioners in their area by instituting homes for them away from the crowded tenements, with a bit of ground to work on and with an allowance which they wrung out of the Government after much argument. Does the Minister contemplate the meaning of his Amendment to be that the administration of the supplementary pensions will be along those lines?
It is all very well to insert these words in the Bill, but they are only a sentiment with which we can all agree. What we desire from the Minister, particularly after the experience we have had of him, of the Parliamentary Secretary, and of the Secretary of State for Scotland, who have shown a decided lack of sympathy in all their actions with regard to old age pensioners, is a complete statement of what he means by this Amendment. Many of the public assistance authorities have spent all their time in introducing little measures of assistance for the welfare of the pensioners. Have those measures been considered by the Minister, and is he to act on what has taken place in the past and even improve on many of the things that have been done by the local authorities?
§ 1.5 p.m.
§ Mr. McEntee
When first I read this Amendment I thought it gave wide powers to the committees concerned to deal with welfare, but the more carefully I read it the more convinced I have become that it means practically nothing. I now take it to mean—though I hope 2449 I am wrong and that it has a wider meaning—that the administration of these supplementary pensions shall promote the welfare of the pensioners. But what is it that can be done? What is it intended to do? Will the Minister place it on record that they can really do the things which we associate with the work of the care of the blind or after-care committees? Does it mean something in the nature of after-care work, or does it mean that they shall be courteous and civil to these old age pensioners when they call upon them, that they shall help them to get in and out of the room, or, if they are ill, send the pension to them, and little things like that? Those little things are useful, but they are not what was in our minds when the matter was raised in the first place. The Minister has told us in so many words that he is not giving all that was hoped for but is meeting us to some extent. Cannot he tell us to what extent? Everybody who has spoken up to now fails to understand what this care or welfare work really means. If there are limits, tell us what the limits are to be, so that those who in future will have to interpret these words may have some guide to what was in the mind of the Minister. I suggest that nobody in the Committee knows what these words mean. They appear to have been phrased so that they can mean anything or nothing. If in the future we could refer to the Official Report and say. "Here is what the Minister said about their meaning," that would at any rate be a guide to those who will ultimately have to interpret the words.
§ 1.8 p.m.
§ Mr. Ness Edwards
I feel that the wording of this Amendment is very obscure. It says that:The administration of supplementary pensions shall be conducted in such manner as may best promote the welfare of the pensioners.Does it suggest that there shall be a welfare scheme in connection with this new assistance, or does it mean that when the regulations are made they shall be interpreted in a way that will give the best advantage to the pensioners? Let me take a concrete case, that of the winter allowances. Do I take it that the pensions will not be regarded as being more than 50 per cent. of the resources which will disqualify for winter allowances? 2450 Does it mean that in all cases where the regulations are applied the best interpretation irrespective of any reservations now in the regulations, shall be put upon them in the interests of pensioners?
§ 1.10 p.m.
§ Mr. Tinker
I should like the Minister to explain this matter more fully, because we shall have to let our constituents know exactly what it is that is intended. This is the first time I have come across the word "welfare" in a Bill of this kind. It may be that it will prove to be very beneficial to the old pensioners, but I feel that we ought to be enlightened about what is really intended. In the mining industry there are welfare schemes which cover various activities. In Durham homes for aged miners are provided. What is going to be done in this case? Is there to be an extension of the supplementary pensions, or does it mean that where families are in need the Board will be empowered to give them something in the nature of health insurance benefits? Now that the Bill has to pass I want the best possible use to be made of it. I do not want there to be any further obstruction, but would like the Measure to come into operation as quickly as possible. If the Minister wants to carry this side with him, he ought to tell us exactly what he has in mind in connection with welfare work.
§ 1.12 p.m.
Mr. David Adams
I think we are indebted to the hon. Member who has suggested that the Minister may be responsible for the welfare of this large and increasing community over which he will have some control. "Welfare" is a very indefinite word. When we were young our welfare was often promoted by a sound flogging, but when we reached adolescence that stern interpretation of the word "welfare" was discarded. I am not sure that those early methods of promoting our welfare were altogether beneficial, because one has heard of the youth who was well flogged for telling the truth and said that it had forever cured him of doing so. The majority of the pensioners are extremely poor people. Their poverty is the outstanding feature of their lives. If the Minister is able to tell us that it is his intention to aid them to maintain and improve their standards of life, then welfare will 2451 be assuming a meaning which we believe it ought to possess. Will the Minister see to it that his reserves will permit him to make, say, gifts of clothing to these old people, or provide them with amenities of one sort or another which will give the word "welfare" a new interpretation in connection with this legislation? While we may at times have our suspicions of the sincerity of the Minister regarding his desire not to assume too much authority, it is possible that this new assumption of authority may prove to be a beneficent dictatorship with a great influence for good and the larger prosperity of the community over which he will exercise so much control.
§ 1.15 p.m.
§ Mr. Pearson
The words of the Amendment cover many improvements in the well-being of old age pensioners. I want to put shortly the question whether the administration of supplementary pensions can be so arranged as to cover the convalescence of old age pensioners. Large sections of people over 60 years of age are at present on public assistance and are sent to various convalescent homes. In the case of two particular rest homes, the cost is 25s. or 28s. per week for maintenance; is it the Minister's intention in the Amendment so to increase the supplementary pension as to enable old age pensioners to visit for a week or a fortnight one of such convalescent homes?
§ 1.17 p.m.
§ Mr. Jenkins
Like my hon. Friend the Member for Consett (Mr. David Adams), I am obliged to the Government for proposing to put in these words, because they carry us some distance in the direction in which local authorities desire to go. Apart from these words, there was no possibility in the Bill, I understood, for the Board to take any action for the welfare of pensioners, and some local authorities were very concerned about that aspect of the matter. Could the Minister tell us what type of welfare is to be accorded to pensioners? There are types of welfare that can become interfering and busybody, and which are a nuisance to everybody concerned. On the other hand, there is a need for a considerable amount of welfare work among pensioners. My hon. Friend the 2452 Member for Pontypridd (Mr. Pearson) has called attention to the need of giving old people a change for a week once or twice each year. It might add considerably to the comfort of their lives.
In many convalescent homes there may be old people who are almost incapable of doing the things that are necessary for themselves, and there ought to be somebody who can go into the homes to help them. I see no provision in the Bill for doing so. I do not know whether money can be provided for welfare of that kind, which has been carried out by some local authorities. As far as I understand, there is no legal authority for local authorities to undertake welfare work on behalf of old age pensioners, but, notwithstanding that fact, some of the better authorities have carried out substantial schemes. Could the Minister indicate the types of welfare he envisages? I am sorry I was not here to hear the Minister speak, but I gather that he did not give any clear indication of what was to happen. If the Bill contains the words as they now stand, very little may be done, and it is important that we should have a clearer statement from the Minister than we have yet had.
In some cases we have had a kind of official appointed. We must be very careful that this welfare work is not left to the means-test man. There is a real danger here. You may have a means-test officer going around, and he may be called upon to report upon the condition of the homes. As a result, there may be an attempt on the part of the Board to remove old age pensioners from their homes and to put them into some institution. I want to avoid, in this welfare work, old people being allowed to get into such a condition that they can be reported upon in that manner. The welfare must operate in such a way that the homes will be maintained at a reasonable standard. We want a good, friendly, and homely type of person, a nurse, if you like, who is prepared to go into each of these homes and help on occasions with the domestic work. Some authorities carefully select persons for that purpose, and I want to impress it upon the Minister that people who will carry out this welfare work will need to be carefully selected. They will need to have the right type of temperament and to go into the homes without any officialdom at all, becoming 2453 the friends of the old people, if they are to be effective welfare workers.
§ 1.22 p.m.
§ Mr. Woodburn
There is one point that the representative of the public authorities, who has been seeing me, wanted me to impress upon the right hon. Gentleman in this regard. He brought me the circular of the Secretary of State that was sent to local authorities relating to these old people, and I should like to read two relevant passages:Where for instance pensioners of infirm health are living alone and apart from relatives and friends, the parish council and their officer will recognise that, although there is no legal obligation upon them to attend to such pensioners, it is necessary to keep them under observation to ensure that they do not suffer from neglect.Further down, it says:An inspector of the poor should always be ready to intervene and to render assistance in the event of pensioners being stricken by illness and requiring medical attention and nursing.The public authorities feel, of course, that there has been a considerable amount of reflection cast upon their administration by the talk about taking the poor away from public assistance. I am sure that this Committee wants to make no reflection on the administration by local authorities in recent years in this matter.
§ Mr. Woodburn
The fact is that the public authorities, like Parliament, have suffered from history in this respect. We want the Minister to assure us that, in regard to the welfare of pensioners, there will be some organisation that will attend to such cases and will give them sympathy equal to that which has been given them in this respect by the best local authorities. I would reinforce the suggestion which has been made from this side of the Committee in regard to sickness, that use should be made of the great district nursing organisation. District nurses are recognised throughout Scotland as the friends of the people, and they go in and help people in all kinds of distress. If that is done, there will be no feeling of bitterness at all, and that institution could and should be supported and extended, if necessary, until it develops into one of our great public institutions.
§ 1.24 p.m.
§ Mr. Elliot
The interesting Debate that we have had shows the way in which the Committee is addressing its mind to the new set of problems which will arise if the Bill becomes an Act. The type of question which has been asked shows some of the difficulties that we shall have to avoid on one side or the other. The hon. Member for Caerphilly (Mr. Ness Edwards) pointed out the danger of a busybody or fussy type of interference. We all know very well that this is a danger in such cases. He said that one of the reasons why the country desired some reform was that these old people should not be subjected to a fussy kind of interference. I believe that payment through the Post Office is welcomed on that account, although on the other hand local authorities have said that there are some old people who do not regard the Post Office as an advantage, but a disadvantage, because it removes them from the ambit of social services which are so useful to them. There was an example of the local authority, the London County Council, which has so many millions of people in its care.
I recognise that that is an important point, and it was with that point in mind that I put down the Amendment as it stands on the Paper. Other hon. Members say that the words should be more precise and defined. I did, in fact, adopt the words from suggestions made by hon. Members below the Gangway. They have not the same connotation nor the same context, but there is a definite reason for that, because the words which suggest that the Board should promote the welfare of the people under its care do not mean exactly the same thing as "the Board shall so administer the welfare of the people." We do not want to set up some huge overlapping machine between the county organisations and the Unemployment Assistance Board offices.
§ Mr. Elliot
I am obliged to the hon. Member for correcting me. I meant to say, between the public health committees and the U.A.B. The public health authority will work, not only hand in glove, but finger by finger with the new organisation which we are setting up. One hon. Member said that the local authorities reacted somewhat unfavourably to 2455 the suggestion of what has been called the stigma of the Poor Law. I agree that progressive local authorities have done much to remove the feeling that there is any such stigma, and are operating on humanitarian lines. It is my desire not to set up a new organisation, but to cooperate with local authorities which are working along those lines.
Another organisation mentioned was the District Nursing organisation. Clearly that would be an organisation with which it would be most desirable that the new Board should co-operate. It was also suggested that the words should be more defined. I think not, because the very danger of definition is that it acts as a limitation. The hon. Member for Pontypool (Mr. Jenkins) said that there were many cases of local authorities doing things which they had no legal power to do. The fact is that the word "welfare" does not occur anywhere in the Poor Law Acts, and yet by the proper development of administration this great field of social work has been developed. There is power in the Committee to spend money to the best advantage of those to whom the money should be given. I have put the words in in order to leave no doubt that function of that kind fall within the ambit of the Board. I do not wish to suggest at the outset, at any rate, that I desire to go too far in this matter—
§ Mr. Jenkins
I understand that some local authorities are operating these welfare schemes and others are not. The right hon. Gentleman, as I understand him, says that he will co-operate with those who are operating these welfare schemes. I would like to know whether it is his intention to see that the schemes are operated everywhere.
§ Mr. Elliot
That is a growth of the administration which will go on over a period of years when the organisation which the Committee is considering is actually in motion. I was asked simple questions like these: Would the Board be able to make extra grants in cases of sickness, age or infirmity and in cases where an old person has to get somebody into the house to help? Certainly, the Board will be able to and in fact will make grants in such cases.
§ Mr. E. J. Williams
Would they also make allowances for providing the 2456 amenities, etc., referred to by the Minister?
§ Mr. Elliot
Certainly. In cases where such things are desirable, the Board will regard it as their duty to make such allowances. These, I think, are the main points upon which hon. Members wished to be reassured. Hon. Members also referred to clothing and asked whether that would fall within these powers. That would fall within these powers or, at any rate within the more general powers of the Board. There would certainly be a grant to cover things of that kind. I was asked whether a grant would cover the sending of an old age pensioner to a convalescent home. My view is that it would not. I do not wish to hold out false hopes to the Committee, and, therefore, I say I do not think it would extend to that. I think the Committee wished to know what is in my mind with regard to the general lines which I desire to follow, and I hope that I have satisfied them.
§ Mr. McEntee
If the Board desire to make a grant to an organisation for doing welfare work, such as district nursing, would they have the power to do so?
§ Mr. Elliot
I do not think that the Board would have the power to give public money to an institution such as the district nurses. The Board is drawing money from public sources, and there would have to be negotiations between the different bodies before that could be done. There would be power to have co-operation between the district nurses and the people under the Board's control, and there would be power to make grants in cases where people, not district nurses but others, would have to be brought in to give a certain amount of assistance in a house in the case of old age or infirmity.
§ Mr. Elliot
Certainly. I think that the discussion has been of value, and with these assurances I hope that the Committee will find it possible to accept this Amendment.
§ Mr. E. J. Williams
Will the Minister bring in new regulations in order to incorporate the suggestion which has been made?
§ Mr. Williams
Will the Minister bring in new regulations which will incorporate what is implied in the term "welfare"?
§ Mr. Elliot
If it is necessary to introduce new regulations, I shall do so. I understand that these powers are already covered as a matter of administration; if not, power can be given in writing.
§ 1.36 p.m.
§ Mr. Lawson
I appreciate that the right hon. Gentleman desires to be as human as possible. But I do not like this kind of thing. This is where we have arrived as a result of the line that the Government are taking. This is where their supplementation and U.A.B. principles have brought us. All the time, it is a case of the kindly Tories smiling on the poor people. For independence and power of character, we are substituting a condition under which the poor people will merely feed out of the hands of the wealthy. I was at the funeral yesterday of a man I knew—a strong and independent character. I have gone into that man's house and found that the light was out. He said it was because he liked to sit in the dark, but I know that it was because, as an old age pensioner, he could not afford light. Instead of giving those men some increase in pensions, the Government gives them this.
§ Mr. Lawson
I have made my protest. This is an evil thing, and I hope that none of my friends will be compromised by this kind of spirit.
§ 1.38 p.m.
§ Mr. Hubert Beaumont
For the last few days I have been endeavouring to take part in these Debates, but I have been unable to do so—which is perhaps to the advantage of the Committee. I now realise the truth of the statement:They also serve who only stand and wait.With all due deference, I must say that the words of this Amendment seem to me to savour of window-dressing. I want to know whether the Minister of Health can reveal something more tangible. I gather from his speech—I hope I did not misunderstand him—that the Assistance Board would be asked to encourage local authorities to give help and guidance to people who needed it. But 2458 in what manner can the Assistance Board bring any pressure to bear on the local authorities which are not already doing that? The good authorities can be allowed to look after themselves. As my hon. Friend the Member for Pontypool (Mr. Jenkins) was, no doubt, thinking, there are some authorities which are at present doing things that they are not legally entitled to do. Will the Minister have any jurisdiction over the schemes and the development of the schemes and the actual carrying into the practice of those schemes?
§ The Chairman
If he has, it must be not only outside the Clause with which we are now dealing, but entirely outside this Bill. The question of schemes by local authorities does not come under the Bill at all.
§ Mr. Beaumont
I am sorry if I have in any way gone outside the limits of Order; but what I wanted to say was that I cannot see how it is possible to promote the welfare of the pensioners without having schemes. There must be a general scheme for the country. Assuming that the Assistance Board does not render, or induce the local authorities to render, such services, will the Minister have any power—
§ The Chairman
I am afraid that the hon. Member has missed the words at the beginning of the Amendment, to which I called particular attention. The question of welfare can be discussed only in so far as it arises in connection with the administration of supplementary pensions.
§ Mr. Beaumont
Of course, I bow to your Ruling, Sir Dennis, and I hope that I shall not contravene again. If the Government desire to secure the approval of the country for this Bill, they must be much more positive in their statements, and not run away upon mere words.
§ 1.42 p.m.
§ Mr. Ridley
I respect the Ruling that you have just given to my hon. Friend, Sir Dennis, and I should not like to draw you into the area of debate, but it is obvious from your Ruling that what the Minister said had no relation to the Clause, and can never be called as evidence. If I do not transgress Parliamentary law, I would call the Minister's statement a piece of platitudinous bunk. 2459 His language, in fact, was so general as to have no precision at all, to carry with it neither meaning nor intention. There is a great satirical novel called "Babbitt". I think Babbitt must have found a temporary job on the staff of the Ministry of Health. This platitudinous Amendment almost rivals Emerson in its meaninglessness. The Amendment seeks to insert a provision which surely should be implicit in the Bill itself. It should surely be implicit in the Bill that the purpose of the Bill is the welfare of pensioners. This is like a dirty little public-house in a London suburb constantly announcing the fact that it is "under new management." In support of the Amendment, the right hon. Gentleman made a statement which I think he has no authority to make. He gave an undertaking that the Board will do something. What power has the right hon. Gentleman, either under the Bill or otherwise, to give an undertaking that the Board will do something, when he cannot control it or compel it? This provision stamps the Bill for what it is. It seeks to persuade hon. Members that the Bill has within it intentions which it does not contain, because if such intentions were implicit there, it would be unnecessary for the right hon. Gentleman to ask us to accept this Amendment.
§ 1.44 p.m.
§ Mr. Woods
I failed to be convinced by the Minister's argument, and I cannot help feeling that my hon. Friend the Member for Clay Cross (Mr. Ridley) has put his finger on the truth of the whole business. I could conceive of nothing more criminal than to encourage the aged poor to believe that at long last the Government, in response to pressure from all over the country, as well as from these Benches, are going to do something, and then to say, "We are going to feed them on promises." An instance was pointed out by my hon. Friend the Member for West Walthamstow (Mr. McEntee). Those who are in constant contact with the aged poor know their plight, and know that, if they are to have help, it should include help in the form of nursing assistance. The Minister gave a hint in his reply that there would be some aid in the way of nursing assistance, but in reply to the question as to whether there is to be direct 2460 assistance to the existing nursing associations, he could give no assurance that it would not be in order for them to use these funds to bring to the assistance of the aged poor the nursing of which they may be in need. I would ask him definitely whether he means anything by restricting the whole point to the aged poor, who are actually in need of nursing assistance when that assistance is not available outside. Is he prepared to guarantee to this class that the Unemployment Assistance Board will organise an efficient satisfactory and adequate nursing staff to safeguard and care for the welfare of these aged people? If not, what is the use of this Committee wasting its time passing an Amendment of this kind, when from the discussions on previous Motions this House has no power to see that such an Amendment is enforced, even if it is passed?
§ 1.46 p.m.
§ Colonel Burton
I would like to ask my right hon. Friend the Minister of Health whether the administration of the supplementary pension, which is to be conducted in such a manner as will best promote the welfare of the pensioners, will meet such a case as that contained in a letter that I have received this morning. A lady writes to me to say that she has three sons, two of who served in the last war, in Australia and that they are unable to assist her. She is a widow. She has a house which she is unable to maintain. She has been to the relieving officer, a man whom I know very well indeed. He is a kindly soul who would do all he could for her. She receives 5s. a week on a ticket, and she has to go through the ignoble business of sneaking round the corner to a shop with this 5s. ticket. At last, on representations, she has been able to get 6s. a week, and half-a-crown for fuel. I want to know who is to say that that relieving officer, who, as I say, is very human, is giving all that he can at the present time, and that he is doing the best he can for that pensioner? We know that these officers will be able to do all they can under the regulations, but are the regulations to be generously drawn?
§ The Chairman
I am afraid that the hon. and gallant Member is getting outside this Amendment. I have already ruled that the regulations cannot be discussed now.
§ Mr. Lawson
On a point of Order. Did not the right hon. Gentleman himself explain to the Committee exactly the meaning of the regulations and was rather explicit on some points in respect of them, and would not that imply that other Members could discuss the regulations also?
§ The Chairman
It may be that I did not quite appreciate the point then; I may have omitted to interrupt the right hon. Gentleman when I ought to have done, but I must do the best I can. I would remind the hon. Member that two wrongs do not make a right.
§ Mr. Lawson
My only object was to see that Members on the backbenches opposite, when they do speak, should be given the opportunity of having justice done to them, at any rate.
§ Colonel Burton
I hope that nobody on this side of the Committee needs any protection from you, Sir Dennis, and we know that you are fair and impartial at all times. But I would like to know whether such a state of affairs as is envisaged in this letter will come within the Amendment to promote the welfare of the pensioner, and if it does not, to whom are we to apply in order to get such welfare promoted. It seems to me that by our last vote we have—I do not want to transgress your ruling. Sir Dennis—decided that these regulations should not be under the control of Parliament. Once we have departed from that, we have departed from a very important principle, and I am perfectly certain that we shall rue the day before many years are out. This woman, as I say, has only this scanty provision. She gets 6s. a week, and half-a-crown for coal. She is living in a house, which, though it is lightly rated, unfortunately, brings her in no income. Is she being fully dealt with to the utmost capacity of the welfare officer? I would like the Minister to tell us who 2462 is to be the judge of what one might call the standard of the welfare of the pensioner?
§ 1.51 p.m.
§ Mr. Silverman
I confess that I cannot understand why this Amendment has been put down. I presume that the Minister put it down because he thought it was necessary, and I am led to inquire why it should be thought to be necessary to put into this Bill that:The administration of supplementary pensions shall be conducted in such manner as may best promote the welfare of pensioners.I can only assume that, in the opinion of the right hon. Gentleman, if he passed this Bill without this Amendment, the welfare of the pensioners would not be secured. That is what we have been trying to do during the best part of a week's debate on the Second Reading, the Money Resolution, and the Committee stage of the Bill, as far as it has gone. If, as the result of the expenditure of so much parliamentary time, we have got even as far as to persuade the Minister that it is necessary to amend the Bill which he drafted, and for which he secured the approval of this House on Second Reading, in order to make certain, by these words put into the middle of the Bill that the welfare of the pensioners is; to be secured, perhaps, after all, we have done some good by the debates that we have had.
Does it mean not merely that the Bill without this Amendment would be ineffective to secure the welfare of pensioners, but also that the welfare of pensioners until this moment has been neglected? I do not know why the right hon. Gentleman is smiling. Old age pensioners in this country are not amused at the way they have been treated, and are still being treated, and the reasons which have led to the introduction even of this measly proposal. The right hon. Gentleman in this Amendment is confessing that up to now the welfare of pensioners has been neglected, and that his Bill will not secure the welfare of pensioners unless this Amendment is added to it. Why did he not think of it before? Why has the Amendment been put down now? Did he not have the welfare of pensioners in mind when he asked the Parliamentary draftsmen to draft the Bill? Why has he only at this stage discovered that the 2463 Bill is ineffective and is of no use and cannot fulfil its functions unless he puts into the middle of it, "Do not forget the welfare of the pensioners"? This is really the most cynical thing that we have had even from this Government for a very long time.
I want to ask another question. We were debating a short time ago the removal of Parliamentary control, and I want to ask whether the effect of this Amendment is to substitute judicial control for Parliamentary control? I do not know whether the right hon. Gentleman has considered it, but it seems to me to be important. We are to give the Board power to make regulations. These regulations, if they are to follow the dictum and machinery of the Unemployment Assistance Board, must be accepted or rejected by this House. They cannot be amended and are not subject to any other control, but there is not in the Act under which that Board was established any passage, as far as I know, which provides that the regulations must take account of the welfare of the unemployed, and for that reason the regulations are not subject to any control at all. Indeed, they have not taken account of the welfare of the unemployed, and none of us can do anything about it. But now it is proposed that we should put those words in, and I want to ask the Minister: Supposing these regulations can be put forward and supposing we try to get them rejected in this House on the ground of their inadequacy, or that they do not promote the welfare of the pensioners, and supposing the regulations are then in operation, will they be open to question in the courts?—
§ The Chairman
The hon. Member is quite irrelevant. I have already ruled out discussion of the regulations.
§ Mr. Silverman
I am not discussing them. I am only asking whether the effect of putting these words in will enable the regulations to be open to question.
§ The Chairman
If the hon. Member is only asking that, I have no objection whatever, but he said a great deal more.
§ Mr. Silverman
I am only trying to make my question clear. I am putting a purely hypothetical case and not discussing the rights or wrongs in any way. 2464 I am supposing that somebody, some day, supposes that the regulations do not, in fact, promote the welfare of the pensioners under this Amendment, and I am asking what his rights will be. Can he go to the courts and ask them to say that the regulations were ultra vires and not law because they did not comply with the Act under which the regulations were made. The right hon. Gentleman knows that where Parliament gives to a Minister power to make regulations for specific purposes his power is limited to make regulations for that purpose, and if he makes regulations purporting to be within that power, his regulations may be wrong. This is a very important question, and I do not think we ought to part from this Amendment before we have a qualified legal answer to it.
§ 1.57 p.m.
§ Mr. Gallacher
I am prompted by the speech of the hon. Member for Chester-le-Street (Mr. Lawson) to say to the Minister that if he gives the old folk what they deserve, they will look after their own welfare. This Amendment is a piece of sheer presumption.
§ Amendment agreed to.
§ 1.58 p.m.
§ Sir William Wayland
I beg to move, in page 7, line 11, at the end, to add:(4) Any staff required by the Assistance Board consequent upon the provisions contained in this Part of this Act shall in the first instance be recruited from the staffs of the public assistance committees of the local authorities who are performing duties similar to those which will be undertaken by the Board by virtue of this Part of this Act.During the first twelve months following the period of the present emergency any staff required by the Board shall in the first instance be recruited from the staffs of the public assistance committees of the local authorities preference being given to those members of those staffs who are serving in the armed forces of the Crown and who immediately prior to such service were performing duties similar to those to be undertaken by the Assistance Board by virtue of this Part of this Act.I do not move this Amendment in the interest of public assistance officers only but also in the interest of the efficient working of the Board. It is a rather extraordinary thing that the Bill does not contain any provisions relating to officers, which, I think, is most important with regard to the duties which the Board have to undertake. Many of these 2465 officers will be redundant, and in another part of the Bill compensation is granted to those who suffer through redundancy. Why not absorb all these experienced officers for the work which the new Board will have to undertake, because its duties will be very similar to those of the old Assistance Board? I have had a good many years' experience of local council life, and I have always looked upon the relieving officer and his staff as being men who have the interests of the poor at heart. Things are very different now from what they used to be many years ago. These are the men who come into close contact with the old age pensioners; they have that human and friendly touch which is so appreciated by the old people. I had an instance a short time ago in the constituency which I represent when the relieving officer took a great amount of trouble to ask me whether I could help a certain old pensioner in a particularly difficult case. These are the men who would be most helpful to the new Board in its initial difficulties. I understand that the new Board will engage rather young staff, possibly with the idea of economy, but I think it might lead to difficulties. In conclusion, I want to ask the Minister to be very sympathetic towards the young officers who are now serving abroad. Many have been through examinations and are capable, and when they come back they might find their situations filled, or be redundant, and perhaps get a small amount of compensation. I trust they will not be forgotten when the new Board is employing the staff which must carry out its work
§ 2.4 p.m.
§ Miss Horsbrugh
I can assure my hon. Friend that when he asks that these people will be taken into consideration the answer is in the affirmative. But if these words were put into the Statute, it would mean that every single official from a local authority had to be given a job under the Board before anybody else could be taken on. That is going too far. What we have in mind is that opportunity should be given to these people who have experience of dealing with this particular type of work. I am informed that the Board will afford officers, who were, on 1st February, 1940, in the permanent employment of public assistance committees of local authorities, an opportunity to make application for 2466 appointment under the Board and that their experience and qualifications will be taken into account. In the case of temporary staff it is thought that a large number may be required, and, again, consideration will be given to the employment of this temporary staff.
The second part of the Amendment deals with preference for staff who are serving with the forces of the Crown. I am sure the hon. Member will agree that it is impossible to tie the Board now as to what will be their requirements at the end of the war. Hon. Members are aware that there is an obligation on local authorities to take back their permanent staff who return from His Majesty's Forces after the war. If the Board have other posts to be filled at that time these people will get every consideration. I hope with this explanation that the hon. Member will withdraw the Amendment.
§ Mr. Gallacher
There are many old pensioners who have had a long experience as district secretaries of friendly societies and trade unions. Would it not be possible to bring some of them on to the Board in view of the fact that there is no old age pensioner on the Board?
§ 2.8 p.m.
§ Mr. Lawson
I am pleased that the hon. lady has agreed with the Amendment in principle. The fact is that many Poor Law officers are running the risk of losing their posts. In Durham County there are 11,000 pensioners receiving Poor Law assistance, and that means a large number of officers. But, in fact, I do not think there will be any increase in the work of the Unemployment Assistance Board as a result of this supplementation. The simple reason is that the number of unemployed is falling, and it may be that after the war it will fall still further. In fact, I look on this Bill rather as a method of giving the Unemployment Assistance Board something to do. There will not be any increase in the work of the Board for some years as a result of this Bill, but it is a good thing to know that in case more officers are wanted the staff of the public assistance committees, who have been doing this work in the past, will have the first consideration.
§ Miss Horsbrugh
I did not say "first consideration," but that all their qualifications will be taken into account.
§ Miss Horsbrugh
I think I made it clear that their qualifications and experience will be taken into account.
§ Sir. W. Wayland
I thank the hon. lady for her statement and beg to ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ 2.10 p.m.
§ Mr. Stephen
I beg to move, in page 7, line 11, at the end, to add:(4) The Assistance Board within one month of the passing of this Act shall present for the approval of the Commons House of Parliament regulations setting forth the scales in accordance with which supplementary pensions will be granted to applicants.The Committee will realise the importance of this Amendment in view of the discussions which have taken place. Some of us have grave misgivings about the working of the means test in connection with old age pensioners, and we have no guarantee that the scales under which the Board will operate will ever come before the House. They will only come before the House if new regulations are framed by the Minister. It is imperative that when the scheme is working the House should get an opportunity of approving the scales which may be decided upon by the Board. The need for such approval has already been expressed so strongly that I will not spend any time in pressing it upon the Committee. I am not wedded to the period of one month, but I put it in as a suitable period of time. What I want to secure by the Amendment is that the scales under which pensions are to be supplemented must come before the House for approval, and I hope the Minister will be able to give an assurance on that matter.
§ 2.12 p.m.
§ Mr. Elliot
I think I can meet the hon. Member. His desire is that this matter should come before the House after the Bill has reached the Statute Book. I think it will prove that amendments of the regulations will be desirable and necessary. I am in constant discussion on these matters with the Board, and I have gone this length to meet the hon. Member, 2468 that on a previous Clause I moved out of the Bill the date 31st May and put in the date, 2nd August. Therefore Part II of the Bill does not come into force before 2nd August. If we get the Bill on the Statute Book in good time, I shall, of course, in consultation with the Board, consider the regulations which have to be framed, and any alterations which have to be made will come before the House. The fact that we have postponed the coming into operation of this Part of the Bill until 2nd August makes it practically certain that these regulations will be laid before the supplementary pensions come into force.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Clause, as amended, stand part of the Bill."
§ 2.15 p.m.
§ Mr. Dalton
My hon. Friends and I propose to vote against this Clause standing part of the Bill, and at this stage it is desirable to state once more the fundamental objections which we take to this Clause, as it is the pivot on which Part II of the Bill revolves. Our view is that the Unemployment Assistance Board should never have been created for dealing with the unemployed, and that it should not now be used for dealing with these aged people. The Government propose in this Clause to change the name of the Board. It has been said that:a rose By any other name would smell as sweet.and a stinking vegetable by any other name would smell as evil. Therefore, the change of name is a men; window-dressing device, which does not impress us in any way. It would not be in Order, I suppose, on this occasion to offer observations and suggestions as to what might have been done by the Government instead of following the policy which is embodied in this Bill, and unless you, Sir Dennis, rule that it would be possible now to reopen that question—and I have no confidence that you will do so—I shall not develop the argument that what ought to have been done was to have made a straightforward and honest increase in the rate of pension.
§ The Chairman
I am sure the hon. Member realises that he must now address himself exclusively to what is in the Clause.
§ Mr. Dalton
That is what I supposed would be the case. For that reason I shall not develop that argument. I shall content myself with making these observations on the Clause, which I think will be in Order. The number of persons who will come within its operation is evidently dependent upon the decision of the Government regarding the rate of pension. The Government having decided not to increase the pension, there will be a very large number of aged people who, when this Bill becomes an Act, will be subjected to this inquisition. It would have been possible by other means, which you, Sir Dennis, have ruled that we cannot now discuss, to reduce very considerably the number of persons who would be affected by this or any alternative procedure. The fact remains that the Government have chosen the course which will raise to the maximum the number of aged people who will be put through the mangle of the means test under this Clause. Against that we have protested on many occasions, but it would be wrong not to repeat our protest now that the Clause comes before us at this stage.
As I have said, my hon. Friends will certainly wish to vote against it, and, no doubt, some of them will desire to emphasise once more their fundamental objections to this procedure. Those of us who, like myself, represent constituencies in which there is a great mass of continuing unemployment and great poverty know that many old people and many who are in the middle years of life feel deep resentment at this procedure which is imposed upon them. I suppose there are few subjects on which many of my hon. Friends and I receive more communications, both orally and by letter, than this question of the administration of the Unemployment Assistance Board. It is now proposed to extend that administration to yet another class of defenceless people who will be subjected to the same humiliations, disabilities, and inquisitions as those from which so many of our constituents have suffered for years past. Therefore, we most emphatically ask the Committee to reject the Clause. We hope the time will soon come when we will be able to remodel the whole 2470 scheme which is set out in this Bill. At this stage of the proceedings we wish to register our unqualified objection to this procedure, and we shall do so in the Division Lobby.
§ 2.19 p.m.
§ Mr. E. Smith
The Committee has accepted an Amendment proposed by the Minister which introduces words to the effect that the administration of these provisions shall be conducted in a manner which will best promote the welfare of the pensioner. We are now discussing the administration of the supplementary pension, and before we part with this Clause, I wish to get certain assurances from the Minister. In big industrial centres a substantial part of the old age pensioners" difficulties has arisen from the question of rent. Therefore, I plead with the Minister for a generous administration of these proposals as they affect the question of rents. I hope that not too many questions will be put to the old age pensioners in regard to the rents which they pay. Many of these aged people have living with them young couples who occupy one or two rooms, and we find by experience that when they are being questioned about the rent which they pay they are asked, "Cannot something be done to get cheaper accommodation? "This inflicts a deep wound upon our people. It is like rubbing salt into a sore. Now that we have decided that the administration shall be directed to promoting the welfare of the pensioners, we are entitled to an assurance from the Minister that he will inquire into this matter to which I have referred, with a view to ensuring that old people will not be wounded by having too many questions put to them concerning those whom they may have living with them.
I hope also that in interpreting these words about promoting the welfare of the pensioners, the Minister will have regard to exceptional needs in special cases of aged people. Greater consideration should be given to exceptional need than is given at present under the Board's administration. For example, a few weeks ago I had a cold, and my wife went out and in a very short time spent 5s. or 6s. on medicine. These old people cannot afford to do that, and in a special case of that kind, whoever is responsible for the administration of the Measure should take such exceptional needs into consideration. 2471 Many of these people suffer from infirmities and sickness which arise from old age. People who have been well-clad and well-shod all their lives do not suffer so much in this respect, but many of our people have had to go about all their lives badly clad and wearing thin shoes, with the result that their constitutions become undermined and they are liable to ill-health when they grow old. Therefore, I hope that the term "promoting the welfare of the pensioner" will be interpreted as broadly and as generously as possible in these respects.
I wish to speak on these points as briefly as possible because I know the difficulty in which the Committee is placed. We are not responsible for that difficulty. Some of us have sat here for three days and have hardly said a word. We have now reached what we with our experience of working-class centres, consider to be the most important part of the Bill, and we are entitled to ask for those assurances which I have mentioned. I plead with the Minister not to refer these questions to busy-bodies or charity organisations. I have just read the report of the Assistance Board, and I find there is a growing tendency to refer questions to charity organisations. Charity is undignified, from our point of view, and in promoting the welfare of the pensioner we say it is not consistent and it is not dignified for the Board to refer people to charity organisations. Our people want rights. They do not want to be referred to charity organisations or to have to go, cap in hand, and under humiliating conditions to ask that their lives shall be dealt with on certain lines.
With regard to intermittent employment, old people obtaining employment such as charing work, selling newspapers and helping in various ways, there will be a danger, unless a broad interpretation is put upon "promoting the welfare of the pensioners," of this being interpreted in the way the Assistance Board interprets it now. I want an assurance that intermittent employment will not be taken into consideration in the way it is at present. My next point is this: The Board is supposed to have due regard to the personal requirements of members of the family whose resources are taken into account. I know of nothing that creates more domestic friction than this question. I 2472 speak feelingly because one of my best friends was driven to suicide because of the way in which this was interpreted.
§ The Chairman
I must warn the hon. Member that he must not repeat what was said in last night's Debate. He cannot now discuss the means test again.
§ Mr. Smith
I am not doing that. You, Sir Dennis, know that I ask for advice, and I am the very first to take notice of the Ruling of the Chair, but before we part with this, no matter what anyone else thinks, I think it is our duty to get an assurance from the Minister with regard to the way in which he is going to interpret this Clause. They take into account at present the first 5s. of any sick pay and the first £ of any wound or disability pension. That is disregarded. I want to ask that that 5s. should be considerably increased.
§ The Chairman
The hon. Member is now getting on to something which is not only outside this Clause, but entirely outside anything which is dealt with by the Bill.
§ Mr. Smith
I hope there is going to be a more generous administration than there has been up to now by the Board. I hope the Minister will give an assurance that the questions that have been asked up to now will not be asked when this Bill is being administered. It leads to unnecessary domestic friction, and I hope the Minister will place on record what is to be his attitude with regard to the questions that I have raised. I intended debating this further, but I know that several of my hon. Friends wish to raise another important issue. I want them to remember that some of us are not responsible for this position. I will content myself with what I have said up to now, but I want to ask the Minister if he remembers the Stafford by-election. I was at an open air meeting listening to him speaking. He was asked what was his attitude with regards to the means test, and he answered that it would be abolished as soon as possible.
§ The Chairman
I must call the hon. Member's attention to the fact that I have given a definite ruling, which I hope none of the Committee will misunderstand, that the means test, or other subjects, which have already been fully debated cannot be debated again.
§ Mr. Smith
I respect your ruling, Sir Dennis, and I can understand you being irritated at the matter being raised in this way. The Minister went on to say that, even if it could not be abolished at present, he would use his influence to bring about a more generous interpretation of it. I hope that he will reinforce the answer that he gave to that question and give me an assurance on the points that I have raised.
§ Mr. Ridley
On a point of Order. I had supposed that on this Clause we should be able to debate the details of the household means test. I understood your Ruling yesterday to be that we could not debate the comparative merits or demerits of various means tests. May I ask where in the Bill it will be possible to have a debate of this kind?
§ The Chairman
I cannot tell the hon. Member now exactly when he can debate something which is in his mind. The hon. Member has made his question appear to relate to the Ruling that I have just given. I referred to a very lengthy and full debate which had taken place on the principle of the means test. What I ruled was that that could not be repeated now.
§ Mr. Lawson
Sub-section (3) definitely says:The functions of the Assistance Board shall include the functions of granting supplementary pensions.Do you rule that on this Clause the Committee cannot deal with items of administration under the Unemployment Assistance Board?
§ The Chairman
The hon. Gentleman does not seem to have followed my Ruling. The Debate that took place yesterday on the previous Clause cannot be repeated to-day on this Clause.
§ The Chairman
That is a matter which we can deal with as we come to it. There is a number of Amendments on the Order Paper to the Second Schedule. No Ruling I have given now will interfere with that discussion and these Amendments, in due course, but we cannot discuss the Second Schedule now. Matters which have been put off to the Second Schedule are not proper matters to Debate at this stage. 2474 There were certain Amendments down to this Clause which I ruled—and Members responsible for them were good enough to accept my Ruling—would come better on Second Schedule. It would obviously be out of Order to discuss on this Clause the details of the Second Schedule. This is a very short Clause, and Sub-section (3) is the really effective part of the Clause.
§ 2.34 p.m.
§ Mr. Elliot
The hon. Gentleman the Member for Bishop Auckland (Mr. Dalton) stated the general objections which he and his friends feel towards the principle of this Clause, and on that I fear the two sides of the Committee are at variance. I am sure that, in the long arguments that we have had, we have each stated our position very clearly. I do not think it would be to the advantage of the Committee to go all over that general question again. I am sure that in this the proof will be the humanity of the administration of the Act when it is placed on the Statute Book, and we shall be judged by that. That is the test which will have to be applied. I am sure the right hon. Gentleman will excuse me if I do not go into the general grounds which make us think that the Board is suitable for the task which is imposed upon it, or the principle of the national charge, which seems to find far more general acceptance than the machinery by which that charge is to be administered. I think on the principle at least of the national charge we should find a great deal of agreement in all parts of the Committee.
On the question of administration the hon. Member for Stoke (Mr. E. Smith) made several points which I shall certainly have to take into account in the administration of the Statute in the future. He was very anxious, first of all, that a long catechism should not be imposed upon the older people. He was anxious also that the questions should be limited in number and should be asked at the longest possible intervals. On that I am certainly in hearty agreement with him. I think it ought to be possible for the Board's procedure to differ somewhat from its procedure for the under-65"s because, as the hon. Member knows, the 65"s will present a special problem of their own which must not be mixed up with the unemployed man under unemployment assistance. He gave several instances.
§ Mr. Lawson
Upon that point, is it the intention—it has been the general assumption during the Debate on this matter—of the Assistance Board when dealing with old age pensioners to take into consideration the same items as they do when dealing with unemployment?
§ Mr. Elliot
The hon. Member will remember that I tried yesterday to give a certain indication of the Government's attitude on this point, but the Chair indicated to me and to the Committee that it would be out of Order on the particular Clause we were debating. The fundamental point of administration raised by the hon. Member for Stoke was that as people reach three score years and ten it is a matter of general knowledge that their circumstances and, indeed their bodily constitutions change—I will not say infirmity; but a certain degree of lack of robustness is normal as people approach that age and for that reason it is necessary that the administration
§ should take account of these special circumstances. I can give the assurance in the fullest sense that I have that in mind, and from consultations with the Board I think that they have it in mind also. As regards intermittent employment, it is very desirable that these small sums should not be brought under review when dealing with the old people, and the personal requirements of the members of the families must be taken into account. On all these points I would say that I think they are covered by the general assurance I have given that the over-65"s are quite different from the under-65"s. They must be dealt with specially by the Board by a special technique and by a special degree of sympathy—and it will be my object to administer the regulations along those lines.
§ Question put, "That the Clause, as amended, stand part of the Bill:"
§ The Committee divided: Ayes, 138; Noes, 90.2477
|Division No. 37.]||AYES.||[2.40 p.m.|
|Albery, Sir Irving||Findlay, Sir E.||Orr-Ewing, I. L|
|Allen, Lt.-Col. Sir W. J. (Armagh)||Fox, Sir G. W. G.||Palmer, G. E. H.|
|Anderson, Rt. Hn. Sir J. (Sc'h Univ's)||Fremantle, Sir F. E.||Peake, O.|
|Balfour, Capt. H. H. (Isle of Thanet||George, Major G. Lloyd (Pembroke)||Pym, L. R.|
|Baxter, A. Beverley||Gledhill, G.||Raikes, H. V. A. M.|
|Beamish, Rear-Admiral T. P. H.||Goldie, N. B.||Ramsbotham, Rt. Hon. H.|
|Beauchamp, Sir B. C.||Graham, Captain A. C. (Wirral)||Reed, Sir H. S. (Aylesbury)|
|Beaumont, Hon. R. E. B. (Portsm'h)||Greene, W. P. C. (Worcester)||Rickards, G. W. (Skipton)|
|Bennett, Sir E. N.||Gretton, Col. Rt Hon. J.||Robertson, D.|
|Blair, Sir R.||Gridley, Sir A. B.||Ross Taylor, W. (Woodbridge)|
|Boles, Lt.-Col. D. C.||Gritten, W. G. Howard||Rowlands, G.|
|Bossom, A. C.||Hacking, Rt. Hon. Sir D. H.||Royds, Admiral Sir P. M. R.|
|Boulton, W. W.||Hammersley, S. S.||Russell, Sir Alexander|
|Briscoe, Capt. R. G.||Hannah, I. C.||Samuel, M. R. A.|
|Brocklebank, Sir Edmund||Hannon, Sir P. J. H.||Sandeman, Sir N. S|
|Brooke, H. (Lewisham, W.)||Haslam, Henry (Horncastle)||Schuster, Sir G. E.|
|Brown, Brig.-Gen. H. C. (Newbury)||Hely-Hutchinson, M. R.||Selley, H. R.|
|Bull, B. B.||Heneage, Lieut.-Colonel A. P||Shepperson, Sir E. W.|
|Butcher, H. W.||Hepburn, P. G. T. Buchan-||Sinclair, Col. T. (Queen's U. B'lf' st)|
|Campbell, Sir E. T.||Horsbrugh, Florence||Smiles, Lieut.-Colonel Sir W. D.|
|Cary, R. A.||Howitt, Dr. A. B.||Smithers, Sir W.|
|Chapman, A. (Ruthterglen)||Hudson, Capt. A. U. M. (Hack., N.)||Somervell, Rt. Hon. Sir Donald|
|Chorlton, A. E. L.||Hudson, Rt. Hon. R. S. (Southport)||Southby, Commander Sir A. R. J.|
|Christie, J. A.||Jarvis, Sir J. J.||Spears, Brigadier-General E. L.|
|Clarry, Sir Reginald||Joel, D. J. B.||Stewart, J. Henderson (Fife, E.)|
|Cobb, Captain E. C. (Preston)||Kerr, Colonel C. I. (Montrose)||Storey, S.|
|Colville, Rt. Hon. John||Keyes, Admiral of the Fleet Sir R.||Strauss, H. G. (Norwich)|
|Cooke, J. D. (Hammersmith, S.)||Lipson, D. L.||Strickland, Captain W. F.|
|Croft, Brig.-Gen. Sir H. Page||Llewellin, Colonel J. J.||Stuart, Rt. Hon. J. (Moray and Nairn)|
|Crooke, Sir J. Smedley||Lloyd, G. W.||Tate, Mavis C.|
|Crookshank, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. F. C.||Loftus, P. C.||Thomas, J. P. L.|
|Cross, R. H.||Lucas, Major Sir J. M.||Touche, G. C.|
|Cruddas, Col. B.||Lyons, A. M.||Tryon, Major Rt. Hon. G. C.|
|Davidson, Viscountess||McCorquodale, M. S.||Tufnell, Lieut.-Commander R. L.|
|Denville. Alfred||McKie, J. H.||Walker-Smith, Sir J.|
|Dorman-Smith, Col. Rt. Hon. Sir R. H.||Manningham-Buller, Sir M.||Ward, Lieut.-Col. Sir A. L. (Hull)|
|Duckworth, W. R. (Moss Side)||Margesson, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. D. R.||Ward, Irene M. B. (Wallsend)|
|Duncan, Rt. Hon. Sir A. R.||Mayhew, Lt.-Col. J.||Waterhouse, Captain C.|
|Duncan, J. A. L. (Kensington, N.)||Meller, Sir R. J. (Mitcham)||Webbe, Sir W. Harold|
|Dunglass, Lord||Mills, Sir F. (Leyton, E.)||Wickham, Lt.-Col. E. T. R.|
|Eckersley, P. T.||Mitcheson, Sir G. G.||Williams, Sir H. G. (Croydon, S.)|
|Edmondson, Major Sir J.||Morgan, R. H. (Worcester, Stourbridge)||Winterton, Rt. Hon. Earl|
|Elliot, Rt. Hon. W. E.||Morrison, G. A. (Scottish Univ's.)||Womersley, Sir W. J.|
|Ellis, Sir G.||Neven-Spence, Major B. H. H.||Young, A. S. L. (Partick)|
|Elliston, Capt. G. S.||Nicolson, Hon. H. G.|
|Entwistle, Sir C. F.||O'Connor, Sir Terence J.||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Fildes, Sir H.||O'Neill, Rt. Hon. Sir Hugh||Mr. Munro and Mr. Grimston.|
|Adams, D. (Consett)||Gibson, R. (Greenock)||Parkinson, J. A.|
|Adams, D. M. (Poplar, S.)||Green, W. H. (Deptford)||Pearson, A.|
|Adamson, Jennie L. (Dartford)||Griffiths, J. (Llanelly)||Pethick-Lawrence, Rt. Hon. F. W.|
|Alexander, Rt. Hon. A. V. (H"lsbr.)||Groves, T. E.||Pritt, D. N.|
|Attlee, Rt. Hon. C. R.||Hall, G. H. (Aberdare)||Ridley, G.|
|Banfield, J. W.||Hall, W. G. (Colne Valley)||Shinwell, E.|
|Barnes, A. J.||Hardie, Agnes||Silkin, L.|
|Beaumont, H. (Batley)||Hayday, A.||Silverman, S. S.|
|Bromfield, W.||Henderson, J. (Ardwick)||Smith, E. (Stoke)|
|Brown, C. (Mansfield)||Henderson, T. (Tradeston)||Sorensen, R. W.|
|Buchanan, G.||Horabin, T. L.||Stephen, C.|
|Burke, W. A.||Hollins, J. H. (Silvertown)||Stewart, W. J. (H'ght'n-le-Sp'ng)|
|Cape, T||Jagger, J.||Taylor, R. J. (Morpeth)|
|Chater, D.||Jenkins, A. (Pontypool)||Thorne, W.|
|Cluse, W. S.||Jones, A. C. (Shipley)||Thurtle, E.|
|Clynes, Rt. Hon. J. R.||Kennedy, Rt. Hon. T.||Tinker, J. J.|
|Cocks, F. S.||Lathan, G.||Tomlinson, G.|
|Collindridge, F.||Lawson, J. J.||Viant, S. P.|
|Cove, W. G.||Leslie, J. R.||Walker, J.|
|Daggar, G.||Macdonald, G. (Ince)||Watkins, F. C.|
|Dalton, H.||McEntee, V. La T.||Westwood, J.|
|Davidson, J. J. (Maryhill)||MacLaren, A.||Wilkinson, Ellen|
|Davies, R. J. (Westhoughton)||Mathers, G.||Williams, E. J. (Ogmore)|
|Davies, S. O. (Merthyr)||Montague, F.||Wilson, C. H. (Attercliffe)|
|Dunn, E. (Rother Valley)||Morrison, R. C. (Tottenham, N.)||Windsor, W. (Hull, C.)|
|Ede, J. C||Mort, D. L.||Woodburn, A.|
|Edwards, Sir C. (Bedwellty)||Naylor, T. E.||Woods, G. S. (Finsbury)|
|Edwards, N. (Caerphilly)||Noel-Baker, P. J.||Young, Sir R. (Newton)|
|Foot, D. M.||Oliver, G. H.|
|Gallacher, W.||Paling. W.||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Gardner, B. W.||Parker, J.||Mr. Whiteley and Mr. Adamson.|
Bill read a Second time.
That the Chairman do report Progress, and ask leave to sit again."—[Captain Margesson.]
§ Committee report Progress; to sit again upon Monday next.