§ (1) Where any allowance is paid under the provisions of this Act or under the Workmen's Compensation (Supplementary Allowances) Act, 1940, in respect of the wife or child of an injured workman, it shall be lawful for the wife of such workman to apply to the Court for an order that the said allowance should be paid to her, and where the Court is satisfied that such payment is reasonably necessary in order to give the wife and child respectively the benefit of such payment, the Court shall make an order accordingly.
§ (2) In proceedings under the above subsection the following provisions shall apply:
- (a) The "court" shall mean the county court in which any proceedings in relation to the accident have been commenced or, where no proceedings have been commenced, the county court in which the workman resided.
- (b) Where no proceedings have been commenced, an application may be made under subsection (1) of this section where any payment by way of settlement to the injured workman has been made, and in such event, it shall be presumed until the contrary is proved, that such payment included an element in respect of the employer's liability under this Act or the Workmen's Compensation (Supplementary Allowances) Act, 1940, and it shall be lawful for the court to apportion such element as between husband and wife, but not so as to affect the position of the employer.—[Mr. Hogg.]
§ Brought up, and read the First time.
§ Mr. Hogg
I beg to move, "That the Clause be read a Second time."
This Clause is designed to meet what is admitted to be an injustice under the present law. The right of compensation, including the right a wife's allowance, is the right of the male worker, notwithstanding that he does not pay the allow- 1003 ance over to his wife. My hon. Friend the Member for Frome (Mrs. Tate) thought that this was one of the many injustices to her sex which ought to be remedied, and I think so too. The difficulty, which was mentioned by the Home Secretary on the Second Reading, was that it put too great an onus on the employer, and both of us appreciated that difficulty. On the other hand, we thought we had discovered a way out of the difficulty. We have, by this new Clause, made it a question simply between husband and wife as to whether the allowance should be paid to the wife and not to the husband and not one which necessarily affects the right of the employer at all. We think the Clause will not affect the employer disadvantageously in any respect. He only needs to be told on the court order, and then he sends the money to the wife instead of the husband. If he is not told by the court order, he is not affected and goes on paying to the husband. We do not feel that the Clause is administratively impossible to work.
§ Mr. Peake
My hon. Friend's Clause proposes that, where any allowance is paid under the provisions of either this Act or the 1940 Act, it shall be lawful for the wife of a workman to apply to the court for an order that the allowance shall be paid to her, and the court can, in those circumstances, make an Order that the payment shall be so made. I think my hon. Friend will admit that there is no precedent in any of our social insurance schemes for procedure of this kind. Then is no provision for a wife's or child's allowance, for example, in the case of a Service pension, to be paid over to the wife on behalf of herself or the child, nor is there such provision under the Unemployment Insurance Act. Hitherto, the broad view has been that you pay a sum, including the wife's and children's allowances, to the husband and that the question of how it is divided between them, and spent, must be a domestic one. I think there would be an objection for that reason to inserting this Clause in the Bill, which is only intended to be a temporary stop-gap. There is also a probable objection in principle to allocating, as it were, a small sum out of the total compensation payable and saying that that may be drawn by the wife. For instance, in short-term cases the married Man will get 5s. more than the single man. 1004 I think that to assess the interest of the wife in the sum of 40s. at a figure of only 5s. is putting too low a figure upon the services which the wife renders to the home. I think it would be a mistake to say—and it might lead people to believe—that 5s. out of 40s. was the figure at which the state assessed a wife's services. It is clear that if she went to a court for a maintenance order because her husband was not supporting her, she would be allocated a substantially larger sum. Subsection (2, b) states:… where any payment by way of settlement to the injured workman has been made … it shall be presumed … that such payment included an element in respect of the employers liability … for supplementary allowances … and it shall be lawful for the court to apportion such element as between husband and wife …We have inserted in the Bill a provision that, before a weekly payment is redeemed by means of a lump sum, the court must have regard to the interests of the wife as well as to the interests of the child or children. This is an extension of the existing provision under the 1940 Act, and, therefore, before weekly payments, which include supplementary allowances, can be redeemed, the court is to have regard to the interest of the wife and child. So there is a safeguard against family allowances under this Act being redeemed for a lump sum and the husband, being a ne'er-do-well, spending the money. There is provision to compel the court to look at the circumstances of the family, and I think that perhaps with that explanation my hon. Friend will not press his Clause.
§ Mr. Hogg
It was not my intention to press this Clause on this occasion, and I shall, in fact, seek leave to withdraw it. My right hon. Friend's explanation is not altogether satisfactory, but it will be accepted in these circumstances. It is no objection to an Amendment to say that there is no precedent for it. It is a fact that Service pensions and allowances have given rise to similar injustices, but there is no reason for increasing the number of injustices. There is no doubt whatever that there are men who take the money they get for their wives and do not hand it over, and this is true of some children as well. [An HON. MEMBER: "Not many."] There may not be many, but it is surprising how many have come my way since I have become a lawyer. There must be a high 1005 proportion of them living in my constituency. This Clause was designed to protect the wife and children against such a man.
It is said there is a danger that the wife's services might be rated too low if this Clause were included. I do not altogether agree with that. Where a wife and husband are living together with children an order such as is contemplated by this Clause would be a very great rarity. This Clause is not designed for that at all, nor is it designed to take the place of a maintenance order from a police court, but it is designed to see that a husband who is not living with his wife and children should not commit fraud on the public and on his wife and children. The limited order we set up was simply confined to the money he received in respect of his wife and children. The other part of the Clause did not refer only to lump-sum payments, because it referred equally to settlement by way of weekly payments. It would be possible under the existing law for a workman to enter into an agreement with his employer for, say, 30s. a week, to take the lot himself and give nothing to his wife and children. The object of paragraph (b) was to prevent that by presuming against him, but not against the employer, that part of the 30s. was designed for his wife and children. In the circumstances and with that explanation, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Clause.
§ Motion and Clause, by leave, withdrawn.