§ Mr. Ness Edwards (Caerphilly)
I beg to move, in page 1, line 19, to leave out "five," and to insert "ten."
The purpose of this Amendment is to set aside the 13 weeks' limitation in respect of the 5s. under the previous Acts and 10s. under this Bill. On the Second Reading, we heard a lot about this principle of the 13 weeks' limitation, but it was never alleged that any of the parties in the negotiations had put forward a proposal for this limitation. The Trades Union Congress did not ask that this 10s. should be withheld from the men affected for 13 weeks; the Employers' Confederation did not ask for it, the Miners' Federation did not ask for it, the Coalowners' Association did not ask for it. We would like to know whether the coalowner in the Home Office insisted upon it. Where did this 13 weeks come from? The excuse that has been made is that it comes from Beveridge. If it is alleged that women have this 13 weeks' limitation, in order not to prejudice a scheme which may be brought forward next year, the year after, in two years' time, or in three years' time, or which may come forward as part of a Tory election plan, why is it being brought in now in this narrow form? I submit that the real reason behind this 13 weeks' limitation is that it denies to 92 per cent. of the people injured in industry any benefit under this Bill.
§ Mr. Edwards
It denies to 92 per cent. of the single men, to 92 per cent. of the single women, and to 92 per cent. of the married women who are injured in industry, any benefit under this Bill. Is that challenged? All this Bill is for is to confer benefits, in the first 13 weeks, upon 8 per cent. of the people who are injured in industry. The Under-Secretary again shakes his head. It should be a small amount—
§ Mr. Edwards
I tried to interrupt on Thursday when the Under-Secretary was speaking and he was not courteous enough to give way so he must not ask me to do now what he would not do then. We will have some coalowners' manners for a change. This limitation was put in so that 261 the injured people might be treated as meanly as possible. It has been typical of the coalowner in the Home Office to deny, on every possible occasion, any benefit to our people who are injured in industry. This is the third time we have played with Workmen's Compensation during this war and on each occasion every concession has been hedged around, as this is, so that as little as possible is given to the people injured in industry.
I would ask the hon. Member a question for the convenience of the Committee. Does he wish to discuss together this Amendment and the next Amendment in his name—in page 1, line 20, to leave out from the first "week" to "and," in line 23?
§ Mr. Edwards
With permission, I would like to discuss the first and the second Amendments together, because, if the first is adopted and the second is not, it will make a mess of the Clause.
§ Mr. Edwards
I want to put this to my right hon. Friend who has had his photograph published, with the nice slogan "The spearhead of humanity" over it. If the Home Office is serious about maintaining this Beveridge principle of 13 weeks, why were the married women who were included in Beveridge excluded from the Bill? Why were single women with widowed mothers who were included in Beveridge excluded from this Bill? Why are widows with children excluded? Under this Clause my right hon. Friend is flying in the face of a decision of this House and of this Government that men and women are to be treated equally. The widower with children is included but the widow with children is excluded. Even Beveridge does not do that. With all the sneers that were indulged in at the expense of Sir William Beveridge on Thursday by people who have not made 100th part of the contribution that Beveridge has made, this Beveridge principle is seized upon and then narrowed for the purpose of excluding as many people as possible. It is our view that that was done so that we might be tied down to worse principles when the big scheme, about which the Home Secretary talks, comes before us.
Why is there not equity between all these people? How does my right hon. 262 Friend's Government deal with the single man, the single woman and the married woman in a Government factory who is injured? For the first 26 weeks they get full wages. What does he do with the Civil Defence workers who come under him? A woman who is injured in Civil Defence, be she single or married, or a single man who is injured in Civil Defence gets wages for 26 weeks but the most the miner can get is 35s. We have made no progress since 1919 when this 35s. was given. In 1943, it is proposed to give the same rate of compensation as was given a quarter of a century ago. Is that being "the spearhead of humanity"? Take the soldier, the sailor or the airman. They are not to be limited to the first 13 weeks. They will get £2, they will get 10s. constant attendance money, but the miner can live in lodgings and not have enough compensation to pay for his lodgings. I have known injured miners in my constituency getting their 35s. while their sisters, working in Government factories, who had been injured came home and drew full wages. Do you wonder why miners are cynical and why they have lost faith in Members of Parliament and in the present Home Secretary whom they regard as the instrument used to deny them a decent measure of justice? This 35s. is the maximum, and there will be hundreds of them below it.
It is intended to conscript men for the mines. The youngster will be conscripted from London, he will be sent down to South Wales and put into lodgings, and, if, three months later, he is injured, the Government will say, "Although you elected to take this rotten job in the country's interest, we will treat you far worse than if you had elected to go into the Fire Brigade and kick your heels there, or into the Army or the Pioneer Corps." That is the treatment that this Bill provides for these men. Does my right hon. Friend think 35s. is enough? Consider the thing on its merit. If it is enough, why give the soldier a pension of £2; why give the naval man a pension of £2 for total disablement but to the merchant seaman only 35s.? Why give the Civil Defence worker his full wages?
I submit that this Clause is one that cannot be accepted by anyone representing industrial workers in this House. I had meetings this week-end in three mining villages and I was told very 263 plainly what the men's views were. In many villages, board and lodging costs 35s. I was told that I would not be justified in supporting a Bill which, first, provides an inadequate amount of compensation, and, secondly, treats the single man in the way it is proposed to treat him so that in the first 13 weeks he will get no addition at all. The widow who has two children and who works in a munition factory, will be in precisely the same position as the single man. If my right hon. Friend wants reasons for accepting the Amendment, will he look at the Report of the Select Committee on Equal Compensation which says:In the field of compensation the adoption of the proposal would require that the same principle be extended to all war service injuries sustained by Civil Defence volunteers and disability pensions payable to men and women in the Services and the Merchant Navy.Forget for a moment what Sir William Beveridge said. Here is the decision and declared policy of the Government and in order to deny to men in industry that which you have conferred upon everybody else, you bring in the red herring of Sir William Beveridge's limit of 13 weeks.
§ Mr. Tinker (Leigh)
The Amendment raises a very important issue of workmen's compensation and I hope that the Home Secretary will pay great attention to it. I do not agree with my hon. Friend when he says that people have lost confidence in the Home Secretary. I would not be a party to saying so on this matter, but I do urge my right hon. Friend to view the position as we see it. Workmen's compensation is one of the greatest things that can come to the mining industry. In that industry there are large numbers of single men. They are the very best of our race. Their task is probably harder than that of anybody else and perhaps more daring, and they meet with more accidents than men in ordinary occupations. In this Workmen's Compensation Bill the Home Secretary, on behalf of the Government, says that for 13 weeks they cannot give any improvement at all and these men are to remain in the same position as they have been for many years. We ask why? Is it for the purpose of saving money? Can the Home Secretary justify it on those grounds? Men will be under a grievance if during 264 the period when they ought to be assisted to recover, they are debarred from getting the benefit to which we consider they are entitled. The Home Secretary made use of remarks in his speech, such as "What about Beveridge?" We know what Beveridge has said, and I do not like being taunted with what Beveridge said. If the Home Secretary said, "We accept Beveridge in its entirety," he would have a case, but he refuses to accept Beveridge in its entirety, and comes with a portion of it which is very unfair to us. It does no credit to his debating skill when he uses that kind of argument; it lessens him, in our view. If it were argued on the grounds of equity, that these men were not entitled for the first 13 weeks and if he could justify it, a case would be made out, but he cannot justify it. Men in industry want as much as they can get to enable them to get back to industry as soon as possible and we do not want them to smart under a grievance.
This is a very sore point with us. We are supporters of the Government and many of us are making big sacrifices of our principles in supporting the Government. Men have urged me to support the Government for all I am worth, yet it is very difficult for me to go to a body of miners and urge them to give of their best in producing coal and to run risks in coalmining and then, when they are injured, to have to tell them that for the first 13 weeks the Government have not given any increase of compensation at all. I have to go to a meeting of miners on Sunday to deal with the Workmen's Compensation Bill; I shall have to defend the Government and it will be very difficult for me. If I condemn the Government, they will say, "Why not fight the Government and put them out of office, if you can?" that is the last thing I want to do during this war. We appeal to the Government on the grounds of equity to say to these men, "We think you are entitled to this right from the commencement of injury." If that were done, there would be a grand response. I urge the Home Secretary to listen to our plea. We are putting it as genuinely and honestly as we can. I am not criticising the work he has done, because I have admired him for it but in a matter like this, I have some confidence in the people who stand behind me in this great fight. If the Home Secretary says, "I think it is worth while to do this," he will not lose 265 any dignity; he will be doing honour to the House of Commons. I am satisfied that even Members on the Conservative benches would willingly support us were it not for the feeling that they might bring down the Government.
§ Mr. Foster (Wigan)
I want to make one or two points in support of this Amendment which may be a repetition of some of my arguments on the Second Reading of this Bill. I hope the Home Secretary will pay due regard to the fact that this 35s. is the maximum figure and that it is not possible for any single man to exceed it for the first 13 weeks. If you analyse the position, you will find that to obtain that amount an injured workman must have an average weekly wage of not less than £3. If he has less than £3 then the present 5s. on the 35s. is reduced by 2d. for every 1s. When you get down to £2 2s. the present 5s. is discontinued entirely.
It may be said that there will not be many cases of that kind but I can assure the Home Secretary, as one who has had considerable experience, that there are many hundreds of these cases. How can the single man or woman live on 35s. a week in these days? The Prime Minister recently stated that the cost of living had risen by 30 per cent. since 1939. At that time we were agitating for a new Compensation Act to give the workers a higher rate of pension. Despite the fact that the value of money has been depreciated in the cost of living to the extent of 30 per cent., it has been thought fit to retain 35s. in this Bill for the single man. That is grossly unfair. I would not be surprised if the single men in the mining industry revolted against this because it is adding another grievance to the already great number of grievances existing in the pits. The single man is now inquiring where he stands if the Bill becomes law and if the Minister does not accept this Amendment. One would think that the Government, in connection with their propaganda to recruit young men for the pits, would create some incentive. Mining is acknowledged to be one of the most dangerous and hazardous jobs in the country. That is not to say that there are not other jobs that are dangerous, too, but you can get people to go into other employment, while it is difficult to get people to go into the mining industry.
I am inclined to the view put forward by my hon. Friend the Member for Caer- 266 philly (Mr. Ness Edwards) that the reason for giving less payment to a person for the first period or the first few weeks of injury is the feeling that when a man is injured he might malinger, or be idle for a few weeks on the money paid to him. If anybody deserves a few weeks idleness, whether he is injured or not, it is the miner. It is a disgrace and a scandal that the 13 weeks should be applied in this way to the single man. It would not matter so much if you were giving the single man a decent standard of life and then gave him an increase later, but to penalise him in a few weeks of injury is one of the worst things it is possible to do. I hope, therefore, that the Home Secretary will see his way to do something for these single men.
§ Mr. George Griffiths (Hemsworth)
I will detain the Committee for only a few minutes, to put this point of view. There are more single men to-day working with the aid of machinery at the coalface than ever before. They are working at the most dangerous spots. When I addressed a branch meeting of miners a fortnight ago and told them the figures we had been given, there was an uproar. The majority of men at the meeting were those who worked on the pan face and were single men. When a man is 45 to 50 the management say to him, "You must come off there," and he is glad to get off. I do not want to call the Home Secretary stupid—I do not think he is—and I do not want to join in the words that my hon. Friend the Member for Caerphilly (Mr. Ness Edwards) said about the Minister. I stand with my hon. Friend the Member for Leigh (Mr. Tinker) in believing that the Home Secretary has done good work for the workers while he has been in office. But unless this position is altered, I am afraid that his stock will go down, at any rate in our branch movement. I met the secretary of this branch—a branch which has 3,000 members—the other day and he said, "We want you to come back on 7th November and explain the Compensation Bill." I have to go back whether I like it or not. I want to go back with his Bill a little better than it is. I hope the Home Secretary will at least agree to the 13 weeks being wiped out for the single man.
§ Mr. Dobbie (Rotherham)
I should like to join with those who are appealing to the Home Secretary to reconsider the 267 situation in regard to this Amendment. He has had a long and honourable association with the working-class movement, but, wherever one goes among them, they cannot understand his fathering a Bill like this and putting this unfair proposal on to the single man. For years the mineworkers and their representatives have been the spearhead in the working-class movement in pushing forward claims and legislation in regard to compensation, but this is not a mineworkers' question alone. It affects men and women in every industry in the country. The railway workers are astounded at the proposals put forward here. There has been talk about absenteeism among the miners, and there have been revolts in the coalfields, but the railroad workers have set an example of unprecedented loyalty to the Government and the country. When blitzes have occurred men have worked on the permanent way in all sorts of weather and at all times of day and night and have quickly put the railroad right, working in the most dangerous circumstances, to keep the nation's traffic going. Men in the signal boxes have carried on their work under desperate conditions. The men on the footplate have driven trains in the midst of air raids. The Government have replied to them in some instances by giving them a word of praise and patting them on the back. But in regard to wage questions they have perhaps been dealt with worse than any other section of the working-class community. In spite of the fact that they have felt aggrieved and angry, they have loyally accepted decisions when they have gone to arbitration and carried on in spite of the fact that they felt they had had a very raw deal. They have shown an absolute loyalty to the Government and the country which cannot be questioned.
There was some challenge from the Under-Secretary to the Mover of the Amendment in regard to percentages. I have the percentages given me across the Floor of the House by the Minister of War Transport, who informed us a few weeks ago that the number of men engaged on the railways to whom compensation had been paid in the previous year, up to 30th July, 1943, amounted to 35,610. Of that number, 92.7 per cent. have returned to work inside 13 weeks. I will not run into the error of saying that the whole of that 92.7 were 268 single men, but the overwhelming majority, perhaps 70 or 80 per cent., will have been single persons not entitled to benefit for the first 13 weeks. A few weeks ago there was a great commotion in Yorkshire, and I began to wonder whether I was right when I joined in it, in urging the miners to produce more coal, but I did join in it, and I said, "Do what you can. Here is the position the nation is faced with. Coal is the great motive power which will bring victory, and we ask you to do what you can in the interest of the nation, believing, as we do, that the Government will do the right thing by you." I went to another meeting a week later to endeavour to explain this compensation Bill, and they said, "Is this the Government for whom you asked us to produce extra coal, and are these the people who you said would do the right thing by us?" I must admit I was rather stopped for an answer. In fact, I have not been able to find it yet. I am hoping the Home Secretary will give us the answer to-day by accepting this Amendment. No one understands better than he how the volume of opinion grows among men when they feel that an injustice has been perpetrated upon them. Slowly but surely that feeling is growing among the men in the industrial centres. They cannot understand this unfair proposal in regard to single men.
Therefore, I ask the Home Secretary to review the situation in the light of the proof that is being produced to-day of growing unrest. No one can answer as to what the result will be if, as time goes on, unrest grows among the men in every industry. It is no use saying this is only a Bill to tide over a difficulty and to meet the immediate situation. When you ask the men and women of the working class to take a long-distant view, they say, "How long and what distance?" With the greatest desire in the world to help the Government and not to embarrass the Home Secretary in the great work he is doing, I would ask him to review this Clause. I hope he is not going to tell us he cannot take it back. The Prime Minister said not long ago that he could not nationalise the coal industry without a General Election. I hope the Home Secretary is going to tell us that the proof that we give him of the rising tide of public opinion in every industrial centre is such that on further reflection he and 269 his colleagues have decided to accept the Amendment.
§ Mr. A. Bevan (Ebbw Vale)
I was wondering whether I would try to catch your eye, Mr. Williams, after the Government reply or would intervene at this stage. It appears to me that it would be better for us to use what persuasion we can on the right hon. Gentleman now, as perhaps it would be difficult for him to retract from the position that he might take up later on. We have certain obligations in this House, and one is to tell the House how we think a certain proposal will be accepted by our constituents. If, for any ulterior reasons, we do not discharge that obligation, we are doing a grave disservice to the House and the country. I hope, therefore, the Home Secretary will not be impatient because we have thought fit to put these Amendments down and speak in the way we have done upon them. I have great admiration for him. I imagine that he has been engaged in a great struggle behind the scenes and that the proposals he is making at the moment do not represent his own wishes but are the results of a compromise into which he has been driven. In the negotiations with the British Employers' Federation, the Trades Union Congress Sub-committee and other elements in the Home Office he, like every other Minister in those circumstances must, of course, reach a compromise agreement. He may be able to tell us—and there will be a great deal of substance in it—that, even if he granted our Amendment, there would still be dissatisfaction about the rates in the mining industry. There would not be as much, but there would be some. I imagine that, if we can show the Government that the compromises which have already been reached have left out of consideration the House of Commons itself, and that in the House there is grave dissatisfaction with the terms of the Bill, it would strengthen the case for taking the Bill back and making a concession.
That is a reasonable point of view to take on the assumption that the Home Secretary has been reluctantly driven into making proposals which he himself considers to fall short of what they should be. I am going to discuss that, because I am in a quandary about it. Assuming that the right hon. Gentleman shares our sympathy with the injured worker, I am driven to ask why we have these proposals 270 before us. He paid a great tribute to my hon. Friend the Member for North Southwark (Mr. Isaacs) for his chairmanship of the commitee which met the Home Secretary upon this matter. I understand, though I am open to correction if I am wrong, that the negotiations between the Home Office and the Trades Union Congress had practically concluded on these present proposals before the British Employers' Confederation was met at all. Is that right? We are entitled to ask that. Of course, it would not be proper to ask it were it not that the Home Secretary adduced this argument in commending the Bill to us for Second Reading. I want to know, and the Committee are entitled to know, why these proposals have stopped where they are. Is it because the British Employers' Confederation resisted any further improvement, or the Trades Union Congress? There are two persons who could get us out of this difficulty. One is my hon. Friend the Member for North Southwark, because he could get up and tell us that the Trades Union Congress would be delighted if this further concession were made. So the Trades Union Congress is out of the way. The resistance of the Trades Union Congress has gone. They would be delighted if this Amendment were accepted.
§ Mr. Isaacs (Southwark, North)
I cannot speak for the Trades Union Congress. I have no authority to speak for them. I only said that whatever improvements we could get in the Bill we should be glad to accept, but I spoke then as an ordinary Parliamentary representative.
§ Mr. Bevan
That is very satisfactory, because there was an inference in many speeches that if there were any change in these proposals in some way the dignity or prestige of the Trades Union Congress would be affected, by the fact that improvements were obtained. Now we have it from a responsible spokesman, who has been praised by the Home Secretary, that the Trades Union Congress would be delighted if this Amendment were accepted, so we can say we have the Trades Union Congress behind us. If the Trades Union Congress would be delighted with the Amendment they would be disappointed if we did not get it. Who else is resisting? I understand that the British Employers' Confederation have made no observations upon this point at all. They were not asked to 271 make any. I should like hon. Members opposite to listen carefully to this, because when this matter comes to be discussed in the constituencies they will be charged with being the villians of the piece. There are present hon. Members, not as many as there should be for such a Debate, who have made enlightened speeches on these subjects recently. Will they favour us with their views? Would they also like to see the Amendment accepted; and if not will they tell us why, because to give a silent vote would be serious thing? I am particularly concerned about those who are termed the "Forward by the right committee." Here is an opportunity for them to do their cause great service by showing that they do not merely speak words. It is a good opportunity, and I invite them, in no spirit of malice, to speak. I should be delighted if we could get this Amendment accepted, and I will praise them if they do support us, but I am bound to say that I have no great expectations of their support. The reformists in the Conservative Party have always been progressive young men walking backwards with their faces to the future. They always say to us, "Look where we are looking," and we should say to them, "Look where you are going."
I sincerely suggest these things, because I have watched with surprise the gnarled old oak sprouting and budding with considerable promise, but the leaves have been blighted and have in the past fallen from the tree long before it came to full fruition. Let us see whether it will come to fruition on this occasion. The hon. Member for Oxford (Mr. Hogg) made a good speech on the Second Reading. I was delighted with it. He rebuked the Government for being so backward and laggard. Here we are. If he votes with us on this occasion—if we are driven to vote, as I hope we shall not be, because I hope the Amendment will be accepted—he will not bring the Government down. The National Government, which was formed to wage the war, will not fall because the House of Commons insists upon giving 5s. extra to an injured workman. Is it so fragile as that? Everyone knows that to say so is complete poppycock. The reason why the right hon. Gentleman is putting on the Whips is because, un- 272 fortunately, he thinks he has taken part in a bargain.
What other reason is there? The Trades Union Congress is out of the way. The British Employers' Confederation never got in the way. The young, enlightened minds in the Conservative Party are straining at the leash to do this. I would like therefore to know what stands in the way. [An HON. MEMBER: "Ellen."] No. I am sure that is not true. I have too much respect for her to believe that. I am sure that she is a secret ally of mine in the Government. I am going to suggest that there is a reason which is extremely serious and which was, in fact, contained in the Home Secretary's own speech. The reason is that it is intended—[An HON. MEMBER: "Speak up."] I am sorry. I have a very heavy cold—that this principle of 13 weeks shall be embodied in permanent legislation. My authority for saying that is in the statement of the Under-Secretary of State in winding up the Second Reading Debate. It is true that he did not put it in those exact words, but he did say:I think the point raised by the hon. Member for Ebbw Vale will be discussed further on the Committee stage. Broadly speaking, our attitude has been not to increase the single man's rate in an upward direction when the Beveridge proposals involve its coming down because that would be to prejudice the Beveridge proposals and to make them forever impossible of adoption."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 21st October, 1943; col. 1614, Vol. 392.]What does he mean by those words? Does it not mean that by accepting the principle of the increases starting immediately, the Government would feel themselves prejudiced if they were not to include that principle in whatever permanent proposals they are going to make? If it does not mean that, it means nothing.
It means, in fact, that the Government are refusing to put the single man up now because they do not want to bring him down then, so that his low rates are going to be perpetuated. Therefore, we are not discussing merely an Amendment to the Bill but a principle of first-class importance, and the Government, instead of bringing it in as part of the larger Measure, are introducing it, in the words of the Prime Minister, by a side wind. If we accepted this 13 weeks principle now, when the permanent proposals came before the House we should be taunted with the fact that we had accepted this principle in the present Bill. The only way 273 in which we can keep our position secure when we come to discuss the permanent proposals is to insist upon the abolition of this 13 weeks principle now. I submit to hon. Members that this is a very serious position. I have tried to show the Home Secretary how serious it is. I do not know whether he is going to reply to the Debate, but I hope he is, and I hope that he is not going to talk to us about Beveridge. The right hon. Gentleman has the reputation of being extremely agile in Debate.
§ Mr. Bevan
I have envied the right hon. Gentleman on many occasions. The fact is that when the right hon. Gentleman uses the Beveridge Report as a reason for this Bill, we all know that he is twisting. He is tricking. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] Oh, yes, and I can tell the Committee why. It is because he is not in the position to say that the Government are accepting the Beveridge Report. I challenge him. Furthermore, I challenge him on another matter. He is not in a position to say that the Government are in a position to bring in a permanent Compensation Bill before the General Election. I challenge him on that. When he says to us, "Accept these proposals now, and wait until I can realise my ambition in bringing in a permanent Measure," he knows very well that he is telling us something he cannot implement, because the Government have not agreed to it. Indeed, does anybody suggest that a Workmen's Compensation Bill of a permanent kind is likely to be non-controversial?
§ Mr. Bevan
Exactly. Therefore, the Prime Minister's formula has already debarred the Home Secretary from bringing in a permanent Bill. That is just a piece of simple reasoning. If a Workmen's Compensation Bill of a permanent kind is to be brought into this House before the General Election, it would have to be satisfactory to a majority of Conservatives. Can we see a Workmen's Compensation Bill which is satisfactory to the majority of Conservatives being satisfactory to us? In other words, the formula laid down by the Prime Minister means that the Bill 274 which we are discussing now contains the proposals until the General Election is held. We are obliged to advise the Committee in that way, and the Minister knows very well that he is unable to give those assurances.
I am going to say just one thing more before I sit down. I hope that hon. Members will agree with it. It is that it requires a great deal of effort to bring our people to take the stand that we are making now. Let me warn the Committee—and this is not a threat at all—that the situation in the mining industry is very serious. The House of Commons will not believe us. They keep on going on from one silly position to another. We could easily have all the single men out on strike on this issue. I think it would be best if the Home Secretary would listen for a moment. I assure him that he ought to listen. We have advised the Government on this mining situation for the last two and a half years, but they have always ignored us, and now we are in the middle of a tragic situation. Do hon. Members know what would get the miners out on strike? It would be if the miners believed that Parliament is no longer any good, if they believed that matters are rigged up before they come here. The Home Secretary has already been responsible for giving them the impression that there has been a bargain outside the House and that nothing we say here can alter that bargain, that he himself is fixed by it. The conclusion drawn by the miners is obvious: if the miners' political representatives are helpless to redress their grievances, they have the right to strike against the terms of the bargain.
§ Mr. Lewis Jones (Swansea, West)
Will the hon. Member allow me to make this clear? I am not concerned about the merit of the amount for the moment, but on the question of bargaining was not the bargain already made with the T.U.C., and the British Employers Confederation were informed of the discussions?
§ Mr. Bevan
The hon. Member has not answered my question. We already understand that the T.U.C. would be delighted if this Amendment were accepted, but he is not in a position to tell us how far that would create enthusiasm among the employers. I hope the right hon. Gentleman will give us the opportunity of doing one very simple thing, and that is to be able to go down and to say that as a consequence of Parliament's examination of these proposals Parliament obtained improvements for workers injured in industry. Nothing would consolidate Parliamentary institutions in the eyes of the workers more than that, and nothing would increase our authority more when we speak to workers' meetings on these matters.
§ The Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. Peake)
I think it would be convenient if at this stage I gave the Committee the facts as the Government see them. I think it must be obvious to hon. Members opposite from the remarks of my right hon. Friend during the Second Reading Debate that it is not possible to accede to this Amendment. As I understand it, there are two Amendments before the Committee. The first one is directed to the fact that there is no increase on the 35s. rate in respect of single persons during the first 13 weeks, and the second Amendment is directed to the principle of the 13 weeks' period during which benefits are at a lower rate than they are during the later period. Both these matters were the subject of prolonged discussions with the representatives of the Trades Union Congress during the months of May and June, and my right hon. Friend stated the position, I think, with great accuracy in his Second Reading speech, when he said:The proposals in the Bill have … been the subject of very long negotiations and consultation with the Trades Union Congress and the British Employers' Confederation. I want to be quite frank. The Bill in some respects does not go so far as the Trades Union Congress would have wished, but they accepted it without prejudice to any other demands that they may make."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 21st October, 1943; col. 1549, Vol. 392.]I think that states the position as far as the discussions are concerned with great clarity. Of course, before the discussion reached the point with the Trades Union Congress at which definite figures were put forward on behalf of the Government 276 these figures had been given careful and prolonged consideration by the Government as a whole. These are not decisions taken by myself or even decisions taken by my right hon. Friend. They are decisions of the Government as a whole. The results of the discussions and of the consideration of the Government are embodied in the Bill. I should like to correct one point upon which I think there is some misunderstanding. It has been said that 92 per cent. of all cases of industrial injury lasts for less than 13 weeks and that consequently 92 per cent. of all those injured in industry are to derive no benefit from the Bill.
§ Mr. Peake
No, I was referring to the statement of the hon. Member who moved the Amendment. The facts are—and I do not think there is any dispute about them—that all old cases of long-term disability will benefit from the moment that the Bill comes into operation. As regards future cases, in the case of a married man he will benefit from the moment of disability—
§ Mr. Peake
—by five shillings a week. So far as single persons are concerned, they will get no increase in the present rate until their disability has lasted 13 weeks or more. That is the position, and the reason why the Government have felt unable to make any advance in the present rate of 35s. for the single person is simply this: The Beveridge Report came out last December. It propounded a completely new scheme for workmen's compensation and the incorporation of workmen's compensation in the social security scheme. For that purpose the Report proposes that industrial disability shall be treated on the same footing as disability arising either through sickness or from unemployment for a period of 13 weeks and that the rates—
Certainly not, but several Members have referred to it for illustration, and I see no reason why 277 the right hon. Member should not be allowed to do so.
Obviously, if the right hon. Gentleman carried his observations so far as to discuss the whole of the Beveridge Report, I should be obliged to call him to Order, but I think that in fairness to the right hon. Gentleman and the Committee as a whole that—this discussion has been wide—if it is wide on one side it should be wide on both sides. That is no reason why anyone, whether for the Government or otherwise, should discuss the Beveridge Report in detail. I have only allowed it to be referred to as an illustration and not as the Beveridge Report as a whole.
§ Mr. Stephen (Glasgow, Camlachie)
Has the right hon Gentleman not said that he could not accept the Amendment because the Government had adopted the principles of the Beveridge Report in connection with workmen's compensation, and did he not then proceed to discuss the principle of the Report?
That may be, but at the same time I think I am perfectly right in reminding the Committee that other speeches have also been wide.
§ Mr. Bowles (Nuneaton)
The Beveridge Report even as proposed by Sir Beveridge is not intended to come into operation until after the war. The Measure we are discussing is a Workmen's Compensation (Temporary Increases) Bill, presumably for the duration of the war. Can what is to be done afterwards have any relation to what is being done in the war?
I think that illustrates what I have been trying to say, that we should not take it too far. Quotations have been made from the Beveridge Report, and I do not think I should confine them to one side.
§ Mr. Peake
I was trying to put the point—and I hope I shall be able to keep in Order, and not provoke anybody by what I say—that the reason why the Government feel unable to increase the rate 278 for single persons during the first 13 weeks of disability is that the Beveridge proposals have two cardinal features as regards workmen's compensation. One is that the rate of benefit shall be the same in cases of industrial disability and in cases of other disability during the first 13 weeks. That is in fact the basis of the Beveridge proposals.
§ Mr. Peake
The Beveridge proposals are before the country and under consideration at present. The fact that we are not able to make an increase in the single man's rate under this Bill and the fact that we adopt the 13 weeks laid down by Beveridge does not in any way commit us so far as the long-term scheme is concerned—[Interruption]. May I finish my sentence?—but we adopt these things for the purposes of the Bill, in order that the door may be kept open.
§ Mr. Peake
We are not rejecting anything. We are keeping the door open to the adoption of the Beveridge proposals if they should meet with the approval of the House. The whole question of the long-term scheme is now under consideration. It will not be long before we lay that long-term scheme before the House. In the meantime, we must keep the door open so far as the Beveridge proposals are concerned. That is why we cannot at the present stage either deal with the rate of benefit for single persons or depart from the 13-weeks limit. We are not taking up this attitude through any lack of sympathy with disabled persons, but, so long as the Beveridge proposals are before the country, we must hold this Government free to implement them if this House desires.
§ Mr. Bowles
Were not the figures in the Beveridge Report purely provisional, and related to the cost of living?
That is really going too far. I do not see how the Minister can answer that question.
§ Mr. Bowles
He has turned down this proposal because of something which is purely provisional, namely, the figures of the Beveridge Report.
§ Mr. David Grenfell (Gower)
The circumstances which we now face are most unusual. I do not think any Member can recollect an occasion when the House refrained so long from debating a subject—because nothing has been said against the proposal now before the Committee. The right hon. Gentleman himself, with the authority of his office behind him, said not one word against the merits of the Amendment. All he says is that, because the Government are involved in the consideration of something quite extraneous for the moment, they are going to withhold their judgment on this matter, and they are not going to trust the Committee to exercise its judgment, but are going to use the Whips to force the rejection of an Amendment of which the Committee apparently approves, as no speeches are made against it. I would like to discuss the real merits of this Amendment. It does not matter very much what we say if we do not make an honest attempt to achieve justice.
People are injured in very large numbers in the course of their employment. We have a responsibility towards them. The House has for 45 years made provision for persons injured in the course of their employment. I would like to compare what is being done by the Government in this Bill with what was done 45 years ago, when the first Workmen's Compensation Act was passed, in 1898, by a Conservative Government. I remember the agitation, because I worked underground when there was no provision at all for workmen's compensation. In 1898 a modest beginning was made, with provision for 50 per cent. of earnings, up to a maximum of 20s. a week. That sum was not satisfactory, and there was complaint in those days because the figure was so low. But let us recall the value of the compensation which was paid 45 years ago, and compare it with the compensation which is proposed by the Government in this Bill. In 1898 20s. was worth £2 6s. 6d. to-day. The cost of living rose 16 per cent. between 1898 and 1914, and we are going on the 280 assumption that the cost of living is 100 per cent. higher now than it was in 1914. So the cost of living stands at a level of 232 compared with the 100 of 1898. That 20s. in 1898 purchased for the injured person so much in lodging accommodation, so much in food, and so much in clothing. To provide him with the same tangible compensation to-day a man would need £2 6s. 6d. But the Bill leaves the maximum at 35s. a week, 11s. 6d. short of the level of what was done by this House 45 years ago.
I have spent a long life in the industry, trying to improve conditions. I have never willingly taken a step backward. I am not going to do it to-day. There are responsibilities which are borne by every Member of this House, but we have a special responsibility; we are the mouthpieces of men who have become the victims of industrial accidents in larger numbers than other people. I shall decide this case on its merits. If the demerits can be proved, I shall fall in, but until I hear someone make a case having relation to the actual facts, the amount paid and the things which can be bought, and unless I can be satisfied that the limit of 45 years ago is at least maintained, I shall vote for the Amendment. Hon. Members on that side are under no more obligation than we are to vote for something in which they do not believe. If they believe in this Government proposal, let them rise and speak. If not, let them not vote for something in which they do not believe. My right hon. Friend has no right to ask the Committee to forfeit its rights. No Government has that right. My right hon. Friend has no right to ask the House of Commons, in any circumstances, to vote against its convictions, to vote against the rights of the people it represents, unless a case is made for doing so. The right hon. Member said nothing to justify the limitation of this Bill.
I am not sure that anybody on this side of the Committee quoted from Beveridge, Reference was made to the Beveridge argument, but nobody quoted the Report, and I do not propose to do so now. I would say to the Government that I do not think that Sir William Beveridge has all the wisdom of the world on his side. He has presented a scheme which is equal to anything that has been put forward by anyone else, but do the Government accept that scheme? Will the right hon. 281 Gentleman say now that the Government regard Sir William Beveridge's authority so high as to accept his Report? We insist upon the right of examining the Beveridge Report clause by clause and word by word. We have not finished our examination. It will take a long time before we give our opinion of the Beveridge Report. This is not a judgment on the Beveridge Report but upon a particular provision.
I ask the Home Secretary to address himself to this point. He will not deny that what he proposes is that a man shall get into an industry in which large numbers are employed, and if he is injured he will not, under the Government's proposals, have enough to pay his board for the first 13 weeks. He will have to beg, borrow or steal. As opportunities are very limited even for borrowing or stealing, the public assistance committee or somebody else must come to his aid unless the Government are more generous in their proposals. I feel sure that if the right hon. Gentleman can make a case now and say, "I am giving this man, in the course of his disability during the first 13 weeks, enough to live on," he will get us to agree with him. But in approving that case he must rise above the 35s. and give us the amount for which we are asking.
§ Mr. Beverley Baxter (Wood Green)
I do not think that the party opposite have any desire to benefit technically from what is going on at the moment. They have spoken with sincerity. It is more important that we should consider one thing and one thing only, and that is, that workmen who suffer disability are going to have insufficient justice done to them. I realise that the Home Secretary is now in an awkward position. His Under-Secretary has rejected the Amendment, and for the Home Secretary to throw over his second-in-command as if he were a Foreign Secretary does not quite meet the situation. I probably speak for my hon. Friends around me here when I say that, in our opinion, the Government have not answered the case. I feel very strongly about the single man who has not a home. In some ways it is easier for a married man to go through a difficult period of 13 weeks than for a single man, and, much as I dislike it, because I admire the humanitarianism and the great abilities of the Home Secretary, I must say that, unless the Home Secretary can agree to con- 282 sider the Amendment and bring the matter back on the Report Stage or something like that, or if he refuses to accept the Amendment, then, even at the expense of finding some rather strange bedfellows, I shall have to vote for the Amendment.
§ Mr. Vernon Bartlett (Bridgwater)
I would also like to follow my hon. Friend the Member for Wood Green (Mr. Baxter) and ask the Home Secretary whether he cannot reconsider the matter. It is truly the fact that throughout the whole country there is wide distress because no decision has yet been taken on the Beveridge Report. I would ask the Home Secretary to bear in mind the effect it would have in the country if it were widely believed that not only have the Government so far refused to express an opinion on the Beveridge Report but are actually using the Beveridge Report as an excuse for objecting to a purely wartime temporary social measure. It is because of the effect on the general opinion of the country and the war effort as a whole that I beg of the Home Secretary to reconsider this matter.
§ Mr. Butcher (Holland with Boston)
I would like to associate myself with the appeal made to the Home Secretary by my hon. Friend the Member for Wood Green (Mr. Baxter). I cannot help feeling that there must be some better reasons for rejecting the Amendment than we have yet had from the Under-Secretary. As far as I could follow his argument—and he dealt with it admirably—there were two reasons: first, that Beveridge was to be used as a ceiling in all cases, and the other argument was that certain negotiations have taken place between the Trades Union Congress and the British Employers' Confederation. That may very well be, and the Home Secretary may feel himself in honour bound to introduce such proposals. But I am equally bound to say that that creates no responsive chord in my heart, because I have no connection with the Trades Union Congress and equally no connection with the British Employers' Confederation. I regard this matter simply and solely on the merits of the case viewed at the present time and without any relation whatever to such adjustments as may be necessary either upwards or downwards, and I stress both those words. I have been very impressed by the arguments 283 made by Members representing mining constituencies. Those of us in the rural areas and in towns know what a lot we owe to the miners, and a gesture of encouragement from this House would do far more good than making promises. The arguments have been far more in support of the Amendment than the arguments of my right hon. Friend for rejecting it. If the matter goes to a Division, though I shall find myself in strange company, I shall vote for the Amendment.
§ Mr. Rhys Davies (Westhoughton)
I would not intervene in the Debate were it not for two factors that weigh with me in this issue. I know, as hon. Members are aware, a little of the negotiations that have transpired between the Trades Union Congress and the Home Office. On that point I would appeal to hon. Members, especially on the Conservative side—and I am sure my history is correct—to have regard to the statement made by that famous Conservative statesman, Burke, who, I think, was a Member for Bristol at the time. The Tory caucus in Bristol demanded that he should vote in Parliament according to their decision locally. He laid down a principle that is very applicable to our position here to-day when he told them he was not their delegate but was a public representative. Every hon. Member in this House, irrespective of the Trades Union Congress or any other outside body has his responsibility to his constituents as a political representative.
As hon. Members know, I have been in this House for a fairly long time and I have lived more or less in the administration of the social insurance world for the last 35 years. This is the first time so far as I remember that Parliament has made a legalised discrimination against the single man and woman in the social services. There is no such discrimination in other schemes. This 5s. increase is, in part, designed to meet the extra cost of living. Does the Home Office think that the increased cost of living does not affect the single person? Of course it does. As an old miner I am delighted at the efforts which my colleagues have made to persuade the Government to alter their views on this matter. If the money for this purpose came out of State funds, I guarantee that the Government would 284 readily admit the principle of this Amendment. Why have they refused? Because the increase comes out of the funds of the private insurance companies. [An HON. MEMBER: "No."] Yes, it does. I do not want to criticise the Home Secretary unduly because I know he has a very difficult task in dealing with these companies, but I want to say to him that in our experience during this war, when we have asked for increases for the social services, especially in relation to civilian injuries, there has never been any such discrimination when the State has been responsible for finding the money.
My miner colleagues have been pleading for those injured in the mining industry, but I would like to point out that millions of people outside that industry are also affected. I do not know how many Members have seen the recent report of the Chief Factories Inspector. It states there that there were 313,000-odd accidents in 1942, apart from coal mining. The Inspector himself suggests that there were many thousands involved who were single persons, so that apart from the mining and railway services, there will be thousands of single persons employed in factories in this country affected by this Measure. I hope, therefore, that a way can be found out of this difficulty. I represent what is paramountly a mining division. There is no more tragic figure in my division than the derelict old miner who has been incapacitated for years and left almost forgotten by the community. Therefore, I hope the Government will change their minds for the better on this Amendment.
§ Mr. Quintin Hogg (Oxford)
; The hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Bevan) invited me to express an opinion on this matter, and I want to tell him frankly that at the time he made that invitation I was prepared to tell him, without qualification, that I should support the Government in resisting this Amendment. But since then I feel that the sense of the Committee has been rather changed as the result of the Debate. The Government cannot expect unqualified support if they do not argue a case. If a case were put now by the Home Secretary in an intelligible form I should not hesitate to support it, but to ask a large Government majority to obey the voices of the Whips, on an unargued case, is straining political loyalty rather high.
285 There are one or two observations I would like to make about this matter. I think the hon. Member for Ebbw Vale rather unwittingly misrepresented the attitude of those who agree with me. The discussion which has taken place to-day has illustrated very neatly two points we have been consistently making. The first is that you will not get any good in a Bill of this kind in the long run because it does not give you a new deal in workmen's compensation. We are committed by the terms of this Amendment to discussing a measure of tinkering, and further measures of tinkering within that measure of tinkering. I find it difficult to say that, if we are committed to tinkering of some kind, the Home Secretary is not as good a tinker as the hon. Member for Ebbw Vale. My withers are completely unwrung, either by the Home Secretary, who has committed us to tinkering, or by the hon. Member for Ebbw Vale, who asks me to prefer his version of tinkering to that of the Home Secretary's.
The other point which is neatly illustrated by this discussion arises out of the reply by the Under-Secretary. In a speech in my constituency, of which he had not previously informed me, the right hon. Gentleman thought it right to make some general observations about the Beveridge Report. We have always maintained that if the Government would not accept the principles of that Report as an uncontroversial measure of progress you would get the sort of disorderly problem you are getting to-day. If the Under-Secretary had known of the trouble he would get into to-day, before he made that speech in my constituency, I think he would probably have expressed himself a little differently. He now asks me to vote on the Government Whip for the consequences of a failure of which I predicted the result. The hon. Member for Ebbw Vale, in the course of his conciliatory remarks towards a group of Conservative Members on this side, suggested that this sort of thing would not bring down the Government. I am not so sure. This Government is based on agreement and collaboration between the two political parties. Although nobody has a greater respect or liking for the Home Secretary personally than I have, the main feature which attracts me to him in his support of the Government, is that he is an official and accredited representative of the Labour party.
§ The Chairman (Major Milner)
I do not think the hon. Member can discuss the bringing down of the Government. It does not arise on the Amendment at all. If hon. Members will forgive me for saying so, I think that they are straying somewhat from the point. We must get back to the Amendment.
§ Mr. Hogg
The argument put to me was that to vote on the Amendment did not have any wider implications and I am anxious to put forward a political argument which I think carries a certain amount of weight. It is that we on this side of the House are bound much more strongly than hon. Members on the opposite side to support Labour Ministers when they speak on behalf of the Government. Those who sit around me did so on the Catering Bill without any question, for that reason. We did so because of the value of collaboration between the parties. But the moment it appears that Members of the Government cannot command the support of their own party, I believe that will be the end of collaboration. We should be anxious, therefore, to support the Government, especially Labour Ministers in the Government, as much as we possibly can. Nevertheless, it is an urgent necessity, in view of the speeches that have been made from below the Gangway in particular, that some reconsideration should be given to the matter and that the Home Secretary should put the case a little more forcibly than it has been put.
§ Mr. Arthur Greenwood (Wakefield)
I think the Committee of the Whole House to-day, so far as I have listened to the speeches, has been shown at its best. This is a proposal, I have no doubt, which has been discussed between my right hon. Friend and other agencies outside. It is true that, rather regretfully, a compromise was accepted and I would put this to my right hon. Friend, who is a very experienced Parliamentarian and a very shrewd politician. He must feel, after the speeches that have been made, that this question is one for further consideration. I do not complain that he stands firmly by the undertakings and arrangements which have been reached between him and the Trades Union Congress and bodies outside. I think it would have been unfair to himself and the Government if he had departed from them. But, having heard what I have heard to-day—and I 287 should like to thank hon. Members for the tributes they have paid to my hon. Friends for the way they have stated their case—if it be, as it appears to be, the general wish of the Committee, as far as they have spoken—leaving out some of the trimmings, including some by my hon. Friend for which he was called to Order—I should have thought it would be a course of wisdom for the Government to say, "We will look at this problem again." I am not saying this in any kind of party spirit. From what I have heard from five or six Members, whom we do not always expect to see eye to eye with us, and who will not make a habit of doing so, it is, undoubtedly, the case that the majority of Members feel that here is a proposal which requires re-examination and reconsideration by the Government. I should be sorry to see the Bill withdrawn, and I should be sorry to see it sunk but I should have thought, in view of the expressions of opinion that have been offered, that my right hon. Friend might agree to take the matter back for some further consideration. I am certain that, if he gave the undertaking, the vast majority of Members would be quite satisfied.
§ Mr. Lipson (Cheltenham)
I hope the Home Secretary realises the strength of the feeling on all sides of the Committee for this Amendment. No one has spoken but Ministers in support of the attitude taken up by the Government. I hope, therefore, that he will follow the example, in similar circumstances, of the Chancellor of the Exchequer who, when he found over the pay-as-you-go proposals that the feeling of the House on all sides was against the Government scheme, agreed to take the matter back for further consideration. I suggest that this is a matter on which the Home Secretary might adopt the same policy. The feeling of the Committee is very strong that in a temporary Measure there should be a generous rather than a mean attitude. The feeling is that the House of Commons, while it welcomes negotiations with all kinds of bodies outside, refuses to hive its rights and privileges curtailed because of decisions arrived at outside the House. This attitude of saying, "We have agreed with outside bodies" strikes at the very roots of Parliamentary Government. I hope we shall show that we have had more than enough of it and are determined to resist it. If the Home Secretary digs his toes 288 in and refuses to give way, and we have a Division, I shall vote for the Amendment.
§ Mr. Tom Brown (Ince)
I want to follow the thought expressed by the hon. Member for Boston (Mr. Butcher) who touched the very important point that it would be a great gesture on the part of the Home Secretary if he accepted this Amendment in order that the men in the coalfields would appreciate that the Government were at least trying to give them something in return for what they have done. A few days ago the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Fuel and Power, the hon. Member for Normanton (Mr. T. Smith) said, "Let us cease talking down the mining industry. Let us try in every conceivable way to put the mining industry on a much higher plane." Previous to that, hon. Members on both sides in Parliament had said, "Let us make the mining industry attractive, so that it will attract the young men who are so badly needed." I have been asking myself during this Debate, "Are we really sincere in wishing to make the mining industry attractive?" When the Home Secretary puts before Parliament a Measure which will penalise for 13 weeks single men who sustain an accident in the pits or anywhere else, but particularly in the pits, where we have a tremendous number of accidents happening every day. I have a great admiration for the Home Secretary, for his shrewdness and for his progressive mind. If I may use a Lancashire term regarding his shrewdness, I would say that he has the "fause as two men and a lad," but I would tell him that, from the point of view of its application to single men, this is the most reactionary Measure ever brought before Parliament.
Under the Workmen's Compensation Act, 1906, when the men were injured they had to "play them" three weeks before they could claim one week's compensation. Under the Act of 1925 when they were injured they had to "play them" four days, compensation becoming 289 payable on the fourth day, but if they were away from work for more than four weeks they received compensation as and from the date of the accident. How in heaven's name a man with the progressive mind of the Home Secretary can ask men to "play them" 13 weeks before they have any improvement in their compensation beats me down to the ground. Looking back for 23 years, we find that the Holman-Gregory Committee expressed the opinion, after receiving volumes of evidence, that compensation should be payable from the date of the accident. Surely the Home Secretary ought not to go back on that by putting forward this reactionary Measure. We have been asked to plead with our men in the coalfields to give of their best and to sacrifice here and there concessions which had been won by long years of negotiation and agitation, and the hon. Member for Leigh (Mr. Tinker), the hon. Member for Wigan (Mr. Foster) and myself and other mining Members have done so, and now we are presented with a Measure that does not give one iota in return for what the men have done. I put it to the Home Secretary that this is a vital question. I can foresee, although I do not like to dwell upon it, the far-reaching effects which it will have when we go back to our men this week-end and tell them that we could not persuade the Home Secretary to give justice at least to the single men. I beg the Home Secretary, with all the emphasis that I can command, to concede the Amendment or at any rate to take the matter back, and come forward with a more generous Clause for the single men.
§ Earl Winterton (Horsham and Worthing)
I desire to call attention to a Parliamentary situation of which I think we should take notice. I do not do so out of any hostility to my right hon. Friend or to his Department. The mere fact that there is no ordinary Opposition, that the House is almost united in support of the Government, should not cause the Government—and this would apply to the Prime Minister—to take action which is plainly against the wishes of everyone in the Chamber and which can only be carried by the votes of those outside. I do not want to get off the Amendment, but may I call attention to another fact? I do so, I hope, without any sort of discourtesy to the Home Secretary or any reflection upon him. We have had a 290 very weighty, and, if I may say so, a very tactful and statesmanlike speech from my right hon. Friend the Member for Wakefield (Mr. Greenwood). It is usual when the Leader of any great party, whether an Opposition party or not, makes a particular appeal, that Progress should be reported in order that it may be considered by the Leader of the House or by the Home Secretary. I do not profess to express an opinion on the matter before us, but I have heard the last four or five speeches, and they were unanimously against the Government, and I suggest to my right hon. Friend that he should move to report Progress and tell us that he will reconsider this matter. Unless he is prepared to do so, I shall ask permission to move to report Progress.
§ The Chairman
No. I understand the Noble Lord desires to have a reply, and it is for the right hon. Gentleman to say whether he moves to report Progress or not.
§ Mr. H. Morrison
I beg to move, "That the Chairman do report Progress, and ask leave to sit again."
I think it is best that I should move to report Progress because, if my memory serves me right from the days when I sat on the other side, I think on this Motion I can go a little bit wider, as I must do in considering this general situation. I have listened with great care to a discussion which has interested me very much indeed. I have listened to speeches from both sides of the Committee. Fundamentally the position is this: The country knows that the Government have under consideration wide and comprehensive proposals as to social insurance of one kind and another. I am very much interested in them myself and am anxious that things shall be done about them favourably, and I put it to the Committee, as did my right hon. Friend the Under-Secretary, that it is not in the least unreasonable when the Government have under consideration and in fairly advanced stages a White Paper declaring their attitude on these comprehensive proposals, 291 that the Government should be careful in the handling of this not permanent but interim Measure not to do things which will prejudice one way or the other the fair consideration of those proposals. That fundamentally is where we are on this point. Moreover, there are various other repercussions on other provisions of one sort and another that now exist, and it seems to the Government that if we get into a field where we are in conflict with these wider proposals to which Parliament attaches great importance and upon which the House had a Division because the Government were not clear-cut enough in their support of them—in these circumstances I think it is a bit thick for hon. Members to come along in this Debate on an admittedly interim Measure and charge the Government with irrelevance when they are taking pains not to prejudice those considerations one way or the other.
§ Mr. Morrison
With great respect, it does prejudice them. This Bill proposes that the maximum rate of compensation for a single man for the first 13 weeks should be 35s. In the Report on Social Security and Allied Subjects it was recommended that the amount for the first 13 weeks should be 24s.
§ Mr. Morrison
Of course, everything is subject to heaven knows what when you come to the point. In this Bill the figure is 35s. against 24s. But that is not unreasonable in one direction, because that is the existing figure, and it compares with a maximum of 30s. before the war. That is the first difference. The second difference is that for a married man under the Report on Social Security the figure, I think, was 40s., and this Amendment would give the married man 45s. Therefore, in two respects, we walk right into this Report, with consequences not only to workmen's compensation but with repercussions and complications on various other proposals affecting other social services covered in that Report.
I put it to the Committee that any Government which allowed itself, on this temporary, interim Measure, to be pulled all over the show in such a way that its 292 decision on this very big scheme, on which it is almost due to report to the House in a White Paper, is materially prejudiced in a number of directions, would be an exceedingly foolish and irresponsible Government. With great respect, and as one who took part in that famous Debate followed by a Division, the Debate in which I was attacked for not "standing pat" enough on the Beveridge Report, I say that this is not playing the game, and it is not playing the game in more senses than one, as some hon. Members opposite know.
§ Mr. Morrison
Well, the hon. Member would not know. I say that the Committee would be contradicting that earlier Debate and would be putting itself into an impossible situation when the time comes to report on these other and wider proposals. Let us get the Bill in its true perspective. It is a temporary, interim Measure. If I may be so indiscreet as to quote an absolutely relevant extract from this Report on Social Insurance and Allied Services, relevant to the Bill, I will do so. This is what it says:To deal piecemeal with particular defects of the present system and above all to deal piecemeal with deficiencies in the amount of benefit or compensation now provided, in advance of a general decision on the whole plan, involves a risk amounting to a certainty of the continuance of the anomalous treatment of like cases by different methods.I am bound to say that the gentleman who wrote that report was absolutely right on that point. [HON. MEMBERS: "The right hon. Gentleman is doing it."] I know I am. Of all foolish people, I am the person, who is jumping in and doing something for the injured workman, without prejudice to the bigger proposals. Far better if I had said: "Do nothing. Keep out of it. Do nothing till the big proposals come." That is the moral of this Debate. I put it to the Committee that any future Home Secretary faced with a Parliamentary situation like this and with pressures and auctions and what-not, will be inclined to say: "I have seen the present Chancellor of the Exchequer bringing forward a Compensation Bill. I have seen the present Under-Secretary of State handle legislation of this kind and I have seen the right hon. Gentleman—the present Secretary of State—handle 293 it; do you think I am going to walk into this subject? Not I." That is the moral of this situation, in which I entered the lists.
I was perfectly entitled to say that the problem had been dealt with on a temporary basis in 1940, that the cost of living since 1940 had gone up only by eight points or 8 per cent., and so I would "stand pat" until the Beveridge Report was settled. I did not. I said: "I will look at what outstanding grievances there are, and see what are the principal points that I can touch up, modify and alter temporarily until the big thing is considered." I added to the bill of Workmen's Compensation round about £4,000,000, with, on the whole, an increase of benefits that average about 22½ per cent., so far as I can make out. But I am treated to-day by my own comrades, not as a man who is adding £4,000,000 and about 22½ per cent. to their benefits, but as though I were attacking the injured workman and taking things away from him. That was the spirit of the speech of the Mover of the Amendment. I say nothing about that speech because it was not worthy of an answer. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh!"] It was not, and I think that the personal attack that my hon. Friend made on me and on the Under-Secretary of State was not worthy of it: I prefer the tone and the persuasive and effective character of the speech of the hon. Member for Leigh (Mr. Tinker) to that sort of thing. I come now to the next point.
§ Mr. Bartlett
Before the right hon. Gentleman leaves that point, would he be good enough to let me ask him whether he is not using an argument which, in the long run, he will regret? Surely there is nothing to be ashamed of and no loss of prestige or greatness involved if a Minister does give way to the obvious wish of the Committee or does his best to meet it.
§ Mr. Morrison
I never said there was. I will tell the Committee what will happen to a Minister who gives way knowing that he is going to get into a mess when he has done so and knowing that when he is in that mess for giving way under temporary pressure this House of Commons will have no mercy on him.
May I come back to the constitutional point, which is being flung all over the 294 place, to the discussions which took place outside the House, because it is very relevant. We went through the ordinary course. We had ideas of our own. I had ideas. My right hon. Friend had ideas and the Government Department and the Government had ideas. Then there were the ideas of the Trades Union Congress and the Employers' Confederation. We had discussions. We had our own mind on the subject, and they had theirs. At the end of the day, concessions and acceptances were given by all sides, this way and that way, and finally a deal was done. There is nothing wrong about that. [An HON. MEMBER: "A deal?"] There is nothing wrong about that, because I had to come to Parliament, and Parliament can upset it, if it wishes to.
What my hon. Friend the Member for North Southwark (Mr. Isaacs) was asked to do to-day by the hon. Member for Ebbw Vale was typical of the state of mind, attitude and ethical codes of the two men. My hon. Friend was asked to take up this attitude: "You have negotiated with the Home Secretary as leader of the Trades Union Congress Delegation, on which the miners were represented. The Miners' Executive have acquiesced in this arrangement. You headed the deputation and at the end you came to an agreement with the Secretary of State. That is to say, at the end of the day you said, 'All right, I would like some more, but I take it. I call quits, and reserve the right another day and on another Bill and in a new situation to urge further improvements.'" That was the position of my hon. Friend. He can correct me if I am wrong. What is he asked to do when he comes to this Committee? He is asked to say: "It is true that I made an agreement with the Home Secretary and that I came to a deal outside, but now as a Member of Parliament, and as distinct from a member of the General Council of the Trades Union Congress, I repudiate the arrangement and start it all over again." My hon. Friend is not going to do that. He is not that sort of man and I am not going to be a victim of this kind of argument in any case.
Let us see where we are. The Committee will forgive me for speaking frankly, but I have put up with a lot of this, and I am not in the habit of being walked oh, without making some observa- 295 tions. Let us see where the Labour Party is. After all, this has been a bonny afternoon between Labour Members and a Labour Minister and I hope everybody has enjoyed the adventure. Some others joined in, I agree—I wonder they had not joined in before. Where are we? Would you believe it, although this Bill is an improvement, it is being denounced almost as if it were an attack upon the injured workman and was hurting him. Although that is so, would you believe it, this Bill has been endorsed as an interim settlement, without prejudice to the future by all the representative Labour bodies outside and inside Parliament. Does my right hon. Friend the Member for Wakefield (Mr. Greenwood) deny that? No. I thank him for that admission. It is the case that this Bill, an interim compromise Measure, without prejudice to the future, has been endorsed by all the representative Labour organisations outside and inside Parliament. It has been accepted, and my hon. Friends have been recommended to facilitate its passage. Why should I be on the spot? What have I done wrong? I do not follow it. There are these representative labour bodies including the Executive Committee of the Mineworkers' Federation of Great Britain. I wonder why I am on the spot. I ought not to be in the dock. There ought to be a whole crowd of people in the dock for having endorsed it. The fact is that these trade union representatives have not the advantage which Members of Parliament have, of being a bit elastic about things. Trade union leaders have to conduct responsible negotiations, come to agreements and stand by them. That is what I have done.
I stand by this Bill. There will be a Division, I suppose, notwithstanding all these Labour declarations. So be it, but let us face what the consequences must inevitably be. I have told the Committee why His Majesty's Government cannot accept this Amendment, We have not refused to accept the Amendment out of amour propre or false dignity or anything like that, but because we will be in great difficulties in a number of directions if we accept it, and it affects the balance and structure of the Bill. We cannot accept it. I want to tell the Committee, not in any mood of defiance, threat or otherwise, but as a matter of fact that the 296 effect, if this Amendment were carried, would, in my judgment, be to bring this Bill to an end. The Bill could not go on. With great respect, I am taking my responsibility. Hon. Members must take theirs. This Bill could have been on the Statute Book in August and possibly £1,000,000 have been lost to the injured workers of the country because it was not on the Statute Book in August. We have only a little while to the end of the Session. The Bill has to go to another place. It is perfectly clear that the Bill will lapse if we are in a situation where the Government has to consider remodelling and rebalancing it. Therefore, I must resist the Amendment and must intimate to the Committee that if the Amendment were carried—which I do not think it will be—in my view the situation would be such that the Bill would drop. That situation must be faced.
In all the circumstances I ask the Committee to take this view. It may be that this Bill does not give everybody what everybody wants. If it gave a lot more my hon. Friends would have enough ingenuity to think of other needs that they would like met as well. I do not complain of that in the least, but I do suggest that the Bill is a big advance. I have told the Committee that I wish to clean up the structure of workmen's compensation from top to bottom. This Bill is the best I can do for the Committee. It is a temporary Measure, but it is a substantial move forward. I beg the Committee to accept that situation and to reject the Amendment. Let us complete the Bill and get these benefits for the injured workmen as soon as possible.
§ Mr. Bevan
I thick my hon. Friends on this side of the Committee are entitled after the Debate we have had to resent the tone of the Home Secretary's speech because the right hon. Gentleman has imported into this Debate much more than we did in our Amendment. May I say to the Committee that, in point of fact, in two-thirds of his speech, the right hon. Gentleman was wallowing in self-pity for the difficulties which he himself 297 had created. [An HON. MEMBER: "Nonsense."] Certainly. A very great portion of his speech was asking the Committee to sympathise with the difficulty he is in as a consequence of negotiations and arrangements made elsewhere. We are not primarily concerned with the Home Secretary's difficulties. We are primarily concerned with the difficulties of the injured men. Therefore—
§ Mr. Buchanan
On a point of Order. The Home Secretary dealt with the merits of the Bill, with trade union negotiations, and with everything in it. Are you, Major Milner, giving a Ruling which gives to a Cabinet Minister something that you do not give to a private Member?
§ The Chairman
The right hon. Gentleman replied to the Debate, which he was perfectly entitled to do, and he then moved to report Progress.
§ Mr. Bevan
The Home Secretary moved to report Progress at the very beginning and made some very general observations, some of them exceedingly tart and we must have the opportunity of replying. The difficulty as I see it is that if the Committee accepts the logic of the right hon. Gentleman's contention, then there is no need for Parliament to do any other than rubber-stamp decisions, which the right hon. Gentleman reaches with outside bodies. That is exactly what he says, and by some astonishing method of logic he accuses Members of Parliament of being dishonest because they do not endorse the decisions of cliques outside. I am astonished by that. The hon. Member for North Southwark (Mr. Isaacs), in the course of a reply to the right hon. Gentleman—if the Home Secretary will give me his attention—in answer to an intervention said that the position of the Trades Union Congress was that they would be delighted—
§ The Chairman
The hon. Gentleman cannot go into that. I proposed the Question that I do report Progress, and that is the Question before the Committee and is the only Question which the hon. Member or any other Member can discuss.
§ Mr. Bevan
On a point of Order. The Home Secretary has made a long speech 298 concerning the merits of the Bill and the Beveridge Report, which is not before the Committee, and made an attack on hon. Members for the attitude they took up I submit that the Ruling from the Chair is quite unreasonable.
§ The Chairman
I am sure that on consideration the hon. Member will recognise that the Question "That I do report Progress and ask leave to sit again" was not before the Committee until I proposed it, and that it is now the Question before the Committee.
§ Mr. Cocks (Broxtowe)
It will be within your recollection, Major Milner, that the Home Secretary in his first sentence said that he wished to move to report Progress in order to widen the Debate.
§ The Chairman
I was not clear that the right hon. Gentleman did in fact move it until I asked him whether he was doing so or not, at the end of the speech. He then moved it.
§ Mr. Butcher
May I ask your Ruling, Major Milner, whether it is competent for a Minister to move to report Progress without adducing any reasons why he should do so?
§ Mr. Buchanan (Glasgow, Gorbals)
May I put this point, in fairness to the Committee? During the speech, if I had thought that the Motion to report Progress was not before the Committee I would have put a whole series of points of Order, because the negotiations that have gone on outside were not relevant to the Amendment. I assumed that the Minister was moving to report Progress, and, therefore, I thought that a wider speech was bound to be allowed. We were under that impression the whole time. The speech of the right hon. Gentleman was miles out of Order if it were not on a Motion to report Progress.
§ The Chairman
Let me make it clear. If the general sense of the Committee is to return to the Amendment then it is open to the right hon. Gentleman to ask for leave to withdraw the Motion.
§ Mr. Stephen
I wish to recall to your memory, Major Milner, that the right hon. 299 Gentleman the Member for Horsham and Worthing (Earl Winterton) moved to report Progress but withdrew the Motion, because he understood that the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary said that he would move it. The Home Secretary moved it immediately thereafter. I put it to you that this Motion to report Progress was moved at the beginning of the Home Secretary's speech, and I submit to you that that Motion was before the Committee during the speech. I submit that it would be intolerable if the Home Secretary, after his accusation against Members of his own Party, should now try to run away.
§ The Chairman
The question does not arise until I have in fact proposed it from the Chair. Does the right hon. Gentleman ask for leave?
§ Mr. H. Morrison
May I say that I am exceedingly sorry that I have caused this trouble? If I have the leave of the House to do so, I beg to withdraw the Motion.
§ The Chairman
No. I understand that the hon. Member for Camlachie (Mr. Stephen) has refused his consent to the Motion being withdrawn.
§ Mr. Maxton (Glasgow, Bridgeton)
I wish to speak on the Motion to report Progress. I submit that it would be most indecent and out of keeping with the practice of Parliament for the Home Secretary, of his own volition, to deliver a tirade—because that is the only way I can describe it; though I was fortunate in hearing only a portion of it, I thought everybody seemed to be out of step except our little Herbert—on the Motion to report Progress, and that then, on the suggestion of the same Home Secretary, that Motion should be withdrawn, and we should pass back to the more limited scope of the Amendment. I could not see myself in any of the various classes that the Home Secretary was condemning, but I think that, if the hon. Gentlemen who have been castigated are prepared to agree, as tempers are frayed and we have reached this 300 hour of the clock, the wisest thing is now to accept the Motion to report Progress.
§ The Chairman
Leave to withdraw the Motion to report Progress has been refused, and, therefore, the proper course, if the Committee wish to adopt it, is to negative the Motion when we can resume discussion on the Amendment.
§ Question, "That the Chairman do report Progress and ask leave to sit again," put, and negatived.
§ Original Question again proposed, "That the word 'five' stand part of the Clause."
§ Mr. Bevan
I understand that the Debate is now resumed on the Amendment. Having got out of that tangle, we may now speak on the Amendment itself. The right hon. Gentleman made a speech—is the Home Secretary now leaving?—which in its full implications is exceedingly serious for the practice of the House of Commons. Almost every passage was cheered by hon. Members opposite. I notice that it was cheered by the hon. Member for Oxford (Mr. Hogg). Does the right hon. Gentleman suggest that the Members of this House are bound in this House by decisions reached by the Trades Union Congress? That is what he said. He accused us of being false to our pledged word because in the House of Commons we claim the right to examine an agreement made outside. That is a very serious state of affairs. If it is known in the constituencies that that is the line which is being taken by the Government, by the Home Secretary, and by the members of the Conservative Party, that that is the line that Parliament is asked to take, it will be said that we are two-thirds on the road to totalitarianism. If we adopt that line, we shall be destroying Parliamentary democracy in the House of Commons to a far greater extent than our troops can restore it on the battlefield. I am not bound in the least by decisions made by outside bodies. We are entitled to examine those decisions, and the Government must justify them on their merits. The right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary, who I see has run away, made his statement about the relations of the T.U.C. to Members of this House.
The facts are these. We have been pressing for many years for an improved Workmen's Compensation Bill. We have asked the Government over and over again 301 in all, the interim Bills brought into the House of Commons. Miners' branches pressed for the Bill increasing the rates, and they have always been promised that they would be brought in. So incensed did the miners of the country become over the delay that at a South Wales miners' conference at which I was present the President had to give a guarantee that unless a Workmen's Compensation Bill was put in hand immediately another conference would be called and strike action put into operation. That is why the Home Secretary moved. He did not move because of his humanitarianism. He moved because he was kicked. The Government did not move because they were concerned about miners or injured workmen but because the injured men had the sympathy of all their comrades and a stoppage was imminent. Is not that the fact that disposed of the wallowing self-pity of the politician who got into difficulty and asked us to sympathise with him because he had done a deal outside? When I heard that language falling from the lips of the Home Secretary I wondered how low Parliament had sunk and why the Home Secretary had done a deal outside and had asked us to support him in the House of Commons. It is the line of a petty auctioneer and not of a statesman. The whole attitude was that of a squalid backstairs Tammany Hall politician. He said that the Trades Union Congress endorsed it. I challenge the Trades Union Congress. They could not get the trade unionists of this country to endorse this Bill if they were asked to do so. All they asked were the upper bureaucracy of the trade unions. You did not ask the trade unions; you asked the £1,000 a year men at the top.
§ Captain Strickland (Coventry)
Do I understand the hon. Member to say that trade union leaders no longer represent the trade unions?
§ Mr. Bevan
I contend that in this matter of the Workmen's Compensation Bill we represent the rank and file of the industrial workers of Great Britain far more than do the trade union leaders. The workers of this country do not listen to the leaders of trade unions. They go on strike after they have heard them. Free British workers are not controlled.
§ Commander Agnew (Camborne)
On a point of Order. Can the Committee be informed what Amendment is before it, as it is not clear from the hon. Member's speech?
§ The Deputy-Chairman (Mr. Charles Williams)
That is not a point of Order. The discussion has already been very wide, and no doubt the hon. Member may not have been keeping strictly to it.
§ Mr. Bevan
I attach the most relevant thing to the Amendment. The Home Secretary said he could not accept the Amendment because if he accepted it it would prejudice the structure of workmen's compensation on which the Government are engaged. He is introducing an entirely different principle into the Measure; 13 weeks without any increase of rates is an entirely new principle in workmen's compensation. There is no reason why a permanent scheme should be prejudiced by altering the structure of the existing Workmen's Compensation Act and increasing the rates immediately. All the other rates come into operation at once. It is not fair that in an interim Measure of this sort, dealing primarily with rates of compensation to relieve immediate rates of compensation, the Home Secretary should introduce an entirely new principle on the grounds that in the consideration of the permanent scheme that new principle is to be included.
The Home Secretary said that if this Amendment were carried, the Bill would be withdrawn. I will answer that by this: If that cowardly thing were ever done, if the Home Secretary sank to such despicable depths as to withhold the increase from the married men, I would stump the coalfields and get the men out on strike in a fortnight. [HON. MEMBERS: "Shame."] The Committee is being bullied and blackmailed by the Home Secretary. He is not asking us to vote on the merits of the Amendment. He is not asking us to discuss the merits of the Amendment. He is telling us that if we, as a House of Commons, dare insist upon this Amendment, which is declared reasonable by many on the other side, the whole benefit will be withdrawn. If that is the 303 attitude, what is the redress of the workers? If you use a majority, most of whom have not heard the Debate at all, what have the workers got? The only answer I can make is threat for threat. Act like that, and we will act in the way I have described, and we will see who will get out of it best.
§ Mr. Isaacs
So much has been said in the language of statesmen as to what is the attitude of the Trades Union Congress that perhaps I may be permitted to say what it is. I am not authorised to speak for the T.U.C.; I speak here as a Member of Parliament, but I happen to know what the T.U.C. wants and, to put it in a few words, it is this: "With all its defects, we want this Bill." I have been twitted and taunted, attempts have been made to get me to make a statement, and when I have done so it has been immediately twisted. I led the T.U.C. delegation in the negotiations with the Government on this Bill, and I want to say at once that we were met with every courtesy and as far as they found it possible to go. I have been connected with wage negotiations many times. When we pleaded for 10s. and came out with 5s. I recommended that acceptance because it was all we could get. [An HON. MEMBER: "By all your members?"] Yes, let me make my own speech. I do not want to bring heat into the discussion, although enough has been slung at me. If the Government like to accept the Amendment to improve this Bill, the T.U.C. will not say, "You must not do it," and if they say they cannot accept the Amendment, the T.U.C. will say, "Well, let us have it." It was not the £1,000 a year men and the demagogues at the top who were consulted; they were T.U.C. delegates, representing all the trade unions.
§ Mr. Isaacs
Arthur Horner helped with the negotiations with the Home Office on this Bill and came to the conclusion that we should accept it because we could not get anything better. He induced the Miners' Federation to support the Bill and stood on the floor of the Congress and said, "With all its defects, we want this Bill." He put all those points. Like others of my colleagues, I do not like that 13 weeks—I said so on the Second Read- 304 ing, and I have said so all along—but we are prepared to take what we can get. With all its faults, we want this Bill, and I hope the Committee will let us have it.
§ Mr. Shinwell (Seaham)
My hon. Friend has told us what is the precise position of the Trades Union Congress. He is a member of the General Council and is, therefore, in a position to report accurately on the stand taken by it. It is perfectly true, as he has represented, that the Trades Union Congress wanted this Bill, but at the same time they expressed the desire that an attempt should be made to secure improvements, and that is the process in which we are at present engaged and to which surely no one in any part of the Committee can take exception. That is the prerogative of every Member. I hope that is quite clear. What is the point at issue as far as procedure is concerned, not discussing the merits of the case at all? It is that, if in the opinion of the Trades Union Congress and of this party without exception it is desirable to secure improvements in the Bill, and this improvement in particular, we are entitled, if we so desire, to vote in support of a specific Amendment, and no one will take exception to that. The Home Secretary says, "If you press this Amendment, which you have a perfect right to do—and the T.U.C. in virtue of their decision cannot take exception to it so it is all above board and quite constitutional—if in short you act within your rights—and no one can take exception to that—and you carry it, we shall withdraw the Bill." What does that mean? This is a matter surely not for this side alone. It means that, in any Measure that comes before us, if a large section of Members support an Amendment, which is carried, the Government can withdraw the Measure, which in effect means that there is not a single Measure that comes before the House which is not in jeopardy if Members take exception to any part of it.
I am not desirous of imparting any heat into the proceedings—there has been sufficient already—but there is not a Member on this side or in any quarter of the Committee who can complain of the action taken by Members on this side. They are constitutionally correct, indeed impeccable. There is no dispute about it. The thing, I imagine, that most of us are concerned with is not procedure, not even the T.U.C., and certainly not the 305 Employers' Federation. What we are concerned with is, Can we get such an improvement in this Measure as will satisfy all the interests concerned? The Home Secretary says "No." Then what course do we adopt? It is a simple course. If we feel strongly about it, we vote against the Government on this issue, in other words, we support our Amendment.
Who is to support the Amendment? Naturally my hon. Friend the Member for North Southwark (Mr. Isaacs) will support it, because he believes it is a good Amendment. He accepts the principle of the Amendment, just as my hon. Friend the Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. A. Bevan) has placed on record his cordial support for the Amendment. Indeed, every hon. Member on this side must in the very nature of the case support this Amendment, because he believes in it. Now the Home Secretary has provided a means of escape for hon. Members on this side who may be disposed to be a little squeamish about supporting the Amendment. He has told us there is no danger of this Amendment being accepted, has told us it will be defeated; so why worry? The only people who will worry are those who will be deprived of adequate compensation. Let us give them some measure of consolation in the knowledge that if the Government are not prepared to go the whole way we at least desire to go the whole way. Surely we can ask for that. I believe that is the best way out of the difficulty.
We are going to be defeated, so the Home Secretary tells us. I presume that is the position. Hon. Members on the other side do not believe in the Amendment. [Interruption.] On which leg do they stand? They believe in the Amendment, the principle underlying the Amendment. They think it is good, but they cannot support it. Why? Because they are afraid the Bill would be lost.
§ Mr. Shinwell
Every hon. Member has a right to take his own decision. It seems 306 to me that, without any further heat being engendered, our course is clear—that in all the circumstances we are bound to support the Amendment. If it is defeated it cannot be helped. If it is carried I doubt very much—this is my final point, and I want hon. Members on this side to take note of it—whether the Government would withdraw the Bill. Would they go to the Trades Union Congress and say, "We are sorry we must withdraw the Bill because Parliament has decided that this Amendment is sound"? Of course not. I cannot imagine the Home Secretary asking Sir Walter Citrine to meet him to-morrow and saying, "I am sorry, but we must withdraw this Bill because we know that you are not prepared to accept the improvement." What nonsense. It is gibberish. And I cannot understand my right hon. Friend feeling that it would be necessary to go to the British Employers' Confederation and say, "We must withdraw the Bill, because we know you will not accept it," when we have, in fact, been told that they are not very much concerned about the issue at all. In any event, who decides? Not the T.U.C. and not the British Employers' Confederation, but Parliament. Therefore, I doubt whether my right hon. Friend really meant what he said.
§ Mr. Shinwell
I have known my right hon. Friend for many years and have had a regard, perhaps not an affection, for him, but a regard for him. I am perhaps more truthful than some hon. Members who have talked about their high affection, their undying affection, for the right hon. Gentleman. I only wish he heard what they say behind his back, but never mind about that. The issue is this: The right hon. Gentleman many a time has said, "If you don't agree to this, I shall do so and so." He is a past master in the art of intimidation. Somebody asked whether it was necessary to reply to the right hon. Gentleman. I felt it was necessary, because he was so familiar with that kind of thing. I say to my hon. Friends that if the Amendment should be carried, I am as certain as that I am standing at this Box that there will be an improvement in the Bill. Then we are quite prepared to go as far as to give my right hon. Friend the credit for having provided the im- 307 provement. We cannot go further than that. I am satisfied that that is the proper way out. We want now to go to a Division and to record our opinion on the issue concerned and take the consequences.
§ Mr. Hogg
I believe—[HON. MEMBERS: "Divide."] I believe that the most important thing which has been said in the discussion following the Home Secretary's speech was the remark of the hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Bevan) that if the Home Secretary took a particular course which he is constitutionally entitled to do, the hon. Member for Ebbw Vale would stump the coalfields and get the men out in a fortnight.
§ Mr. Hogg
A deliberate threat has been made by a Member on the opposite side of the Committee to take extra-constitutional action in the middle of a war to bring out the miners on strike at a time when the troops need—[Interruption.] For him to say that, means that the hon. Member for Ebbw Vale has shown himself in his true colours, as an enemy of democracy, an enemy of his country, an enemy of the organised working-class movements of this country. The hon. Gentleman has asked me what his remedy will be. I will tell him. If this House does not approve of the action of the Home Secretary, the remedy is to see that there is another Home Secretary and not to stump the coalfields.
§ Mr. Hogg
I hope the Home Secretary is supported, and I shall certainly give him support. All I can say is that that is the constitutional position. If the hon. Gentleman is a friend of this country and of the Constitution, he must accept it. What has seemed to me, as a person—and I scarcely hope to be believed—who really does wish the party opposite well, to arise out of this Debate is. How can we on this side of the Committee regard that party seriously when we are presented with a spectacle such as we have seen to-day? [Interruption.]
§ The Deputy-Chairman
It would be well when the Committee is showing some inclination to go to a Division that we should have one speaker at a time, and that he should be allowed to finish his speech.
§ Mr. Hogg
Whenever the Labour Party get a little criticism, I notice they try to stop the discussion. There are times when there must be plain speaking, and the spectacle to which we have been treated to-day is one of them. We heard the hon. Member for Ebbw Vale calling the Home Secretary, one of his leaders, a squalid backstairs, Tammany Hall politician. That being so, we on this side of the Committee are asked to treat that party seriously. We are presented with an agreement on the Bill in which the Trades Union Congress have admittedly said that they will accept this as an interim Measure, exactly what we have said on Second Reading, but we are told that—
§ Mr. Ellis Smith (Stoke)
I have kept out of this, but I have got the whole of the facts documented here, so that if they were challenged they could be given. The only point I want to make to get it on record is that the trade unions of this country have made it quite clear that they accepted this temporary Measure without prejudice and without prejudicing the Parliamentary rights of my hon. Friends.
§ Mr. Hogg
I hope that nobody would prejudice the rights of my hon. Friend or anybody else, nor would I attempt to do so, but if we are to collaborate with the parties of the Left, it must be clearly understood—[Interruption]—we are collaborating in supporting a Government, at least some of us are, and if we are to continue in this way, it must be clearly understood that the tail does not always wag the dog. It is a characteristic of those parties over there sometimes to repudiate the agreements made by their leaders and to betray them from time to time. I believe myself that the Labour Party would have been in power in this country before now if it had not been for that abiding 309 characteristic. During the war we do want to work with them, but we cannot work with them if they are always repudiating their own leaders. I shall support the Home Secretary, whom I regard as a courageous statesman and a lover of his country against the hon. Member for Ebbw Vale, the enemy of democracy and the enemy of this country.
§ Mr. Woodburn (Stirling and Clackmannan, Eastern)
The Amendment that has been moved to-day is one which no one in the Committee can say is unreasonable in so far as nobody is prepared to say that a young man who has to pay 35s. for lodgings does not need at least that amount and something beyond it, and the Members who have moved it and argued it in reasonable fashion are carrying out their duties in this Committee in a reasonable way. The speeches we have listened to from the hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Bevan) and the hon. Member for Seaham (Mr. Shinwell) are both invitations to anarchy in the conduct of affairs. Whenever a fight develops in the House of Commons or dissension develops in, the party to which I belong, the hon. Member for Seaham (Mr. Shinwell) can be relied upon to take part, whether it is a private fight or not. When we are going to conduct the government of the country in this House, we have the choice of doing it in an orderly fashion, or by anarchy, and I prefer to accept the position of working through orderly channels.
In the midst of war it has been accepted by my party, as well as by the party opposite, that so far as possible we should proceed with agreed legislation. Because there is not time in the House for the ordinary party controversy, and for dealing with Bills in detail, the principle has been accepted that, so far as possible, agreement should be come to on Bills before Parliament discusses them. This party, and its component parts, agreed to accept this Bill as an interim Measure. While the miners that I represent do not regard 35s. as enough, they regard it as necessary that they shall conduct their negotiations through their organisations, and abide by the decisions made by those organisations. It is possible to argue that we should double the amount given to the married man. It is possible to 310 argue anything, and to make a fight about it. What we want is the maximum of progress in the minimum of time. As I understand it, our movement has accepted this Bill as an interim Measure, as a compromise for the bigger Bill which is coming along. I am not prepared to accept the anarchy lead of the hon. Member for Seaham, who never seems to stand even by his own decisions, or the anarchy of the hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Bevan). I support the movement to which I belong, fully and faithfuly.
§ Mr. Baxter
I am very sorry to intrude upon this party truce, but for those who were not here for part of this Debate, I merely want to explain why I am going to vote against the Government. Considering the friends I am leaving behind me and the friends I am going to acquire, I think I am entitled to say a word of explanation. This Debate took place with one speech after another in favour of the Amendment, and not one speech against it, until at a certain point the Under-Secretary, quite sincerely but in a perfunctory four or five sentences—[Interruption]. I am sorry, because I admire him so much; but it was a short speech—indicated that this was done so as not to cut across the principles of the Beveridge Report. Then he sat down. I, with one or two of my hon. Friends, said that the Government had not adequately answered the case for the Amendment. No attention was paid, and not until the acting Leader of the Opposition pressed him did the Home Secretary rise to his feet. An agreed Measure has come to this Committee, and if the Government have an agreement, this Committee is expected to put its rubber stamp to it. The dignity of the House has been affronted to-day. I do not claim anything for the speeches of Members of the Opposition but I claim that the Home Secretary's speech was in no way a reply to what was said, and when he indicated that we were bullying him, the truth was that all we asked him to do, in view of the sense of the Committee, was to consider this matter for the Report stage. There is not a Member here who would deny that, and yet the Home Secretary chose to speak in terms of resentment and anger. It is because I would like extra money for these men and because I wish to support the waning dignity and power of the House of Commons that I am going to vote for the Amendment.
§ Question put, "That the word 'five' stand part of the Clause."
|Division No. 27.||AYES.|
|Adamson, Jennie L. (Dartford)||Gibson, Sir C. G.||Peake, Rt. Hon. O.|
|Adamson, W. M. (Cannock)||Gledhill, G.||Perkins, W. R. D.|
|Agnew, Comdr. P. G.||Gower, Sir R. V.||Petherick, Major M.|
|Ammon, C. G.||Greenwell, Colonel T. G.||Pickthorn, K. W. M.|
|Astor, Hon. W. W. (Fulham, E.)||Greenwood, Rt. Hon. A.||Ponsonby, Col. C. E.|
|Balfour, Capt. Rt. Hn. H. H.||Gretton, J. F.||Procter, Major H. A.|
|Barnes, A. J.||Grimston, R. V. (Westbury)||Quibell, D. J. K.|
|Beamish, Rear-Admiral T. P.||Guy, W. H.||Raikes, Flight-Lieut. H. V. A. M.|
|Beaumont, Hubert (Batley)||Hall, W. G. (Colne Valley)||Reed, A. C. (Exeter)|
|Beechman, N. A.||Hammersley, S. S.||Ridley, G.|
|Beit, Sir A. L.||Hannah, I. C.||Ritson, J.|
|Bennett, Sir P. F. B. (Edgbaston)||Harris, Rt. Hon. Sir P. A.||Salt, E. W.|
|Blair, Sir R.||Henderson, A. (Kingswinford)||Scott, Donald (Wansbeck)|
|Boles, Lt.-Col. D. C.||Heneage, Lt.-Col. A. P.||Shaw, Capt. W. T. (Forfar)|
|Bower, Norman (Harrow)||Higgs, W. F.||Silkin, L.|
|Boyce, H. Leslie||Hinchingbrooke, Viscount||Smiles, Lt.-Col. Sir W. D.|
|Briscoe, Capt. R. G.||Hogg, Hon. Q. McG.||Smith, Ben (Rotherhithe)|
|Broadbridge, Sir G. T.||Hughes, R. Moelwyn||Smith, E. P. (Ashford)|
|Brocklebank, Sir C. E. R.||Hulbert, Wing-Commander N. J.||Smith, T. (Ncrmanton)|
|Bull, B. B.||Hutchison, Lt.-Com. G. I. C. (E'burgh)||Southby, Comdr. Sir A. R. J.|
|Campbell, Dermot (Antrim)||Isaacs, G. A.||Spearman, A. C. M.|
|Carver, Colonel W. H.||Jeffreys, General Sir G. D.||Stourton, Major Hon. J. J.|
|Cary, R. A.||Jenkins, A. (Pontypool)||Strickland, Capt. W. F.|
|Charleton, H. C.||Jennings, R.||Stuart, Rt. Hon. J. (Moray and Nairn)|
|Clarry, Sir Reginald||Jewson, P. W.||Suirdale, Viscount|
|Conant, Major R. J. E.||John, W.||Sutcliffe, H.|
|Cooke, J. D. (Hammersmith, S.)||Johnston, Rt. Hn. T. (St'l'g & C'km'n)||Sykes, Maj.-Gen. Rt. Hon. Sir F. H.|
|Courthope, Col. Rt. Hon. Sir G. L.||Jones, L. (Swansea, W.)||Tate, Mavis C.|
|Critchley, A.||Kerr, H. W. (Oldham)||Taylor, R. J. (Morpeth)|
|Crookshank, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. F. C.||Lakin, C. H. A.||Thomas, I. (Keighley)|
|Culverwell, C. T.||Lancaster, Lieut.-Col. C. C.||Thorneycroft, Major G. E. P. (Stafford)|
|Davies, Major Sir G. F. (Yeovil)||Lawson, J. J.||Tufnell, Lieut.-Comdr. R. L.|
|Denman, Hon. R. D.||Leach, W.||Ward, Col. Sir A. L. (Hull)|
|Denville, Alfred||Linstead, H. N.||Watkins, F. C.|
|Drewe, C.||Lloyd, C. E. (Dudley)||Watt, Lt.-Col. G. S. H. (Richmond)|
|Duckworth, W. R. (Moss Side)||Loftus, P. C.||Wedderburn, H. J. S.|
|Dugdale, John (W. Bromwich)||Mabane, W.||Westwood, Rt. Hon. J.|
|Dugdale, Major T. L. (Richmond)||McEwen, Capt. J. H. F.||Whiteley, Rt. Hon. W. (Blaydon)|
|Eccles, D. M.||McKie, J. H.||Wilkinson, Ellen|
|Edmondson, Major Sir J.||Mander, G. le M.||Williams, Sir H. G. (Croydon, S.)|
|Edwards, Walter J. (Whitechapel)||Manningham-Buller, Major R. E.||Winterton, Rt. Hon. Earl|
|Emmott, C. E. G. C.||Marlowe, Lt.-Col. A.||Womersley, Rt. Hon. Sir W.|
|Erskine-Hill, A. G.||Mathers, G.||Woodburn, A.|
|Etherton, Ralph||Mayhew, Lt.-Col. J.||Woods, G. S. (Finsbury)|
|Evans, Colonel A. (Cardiff, S.)||Mellor, Sir J. S. P.||Woolley, Major W. E.|
|Fermoy, Lord||Mills, Colonel J. D. (New Forest)||Wootton-Davies, J. H.|
|Fyfe, Major Sir D. P. M.||Molson, A. H. E.||Wright, Group-Capt. J. (Erdington)|
|Galbraith, Comdr. T. D.||Morgan, Dr. H. B. W. (Rochdale)||York, Major C.|
|Gammans, Capt. L. D.||Morgan, R. H. (Stourbridge)||Young, A. S. L. (Partick)|
|Gates, Major E. E.||Morrison, Rt. Hon. H. (Hackney, S.)|
|George, Maj. Rt. Hn. G. Lloyd (P'broke)||Morrison, Major J. G. (Salisbury)||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Gibbins, J.||Nicholson, Captain G. (Farnham)||Mr. Boulton and Mr. Pym.|
|Anderson, F. (Whitehaven)||Davidson, J. J. (Maryhill)||Naylor, T. E.|
|Barr, J.||Davies, R. J. (Westhoughton)||Oldfield, W. H.|
|Barstow, P. G.||Edwards, Rt. Hon. Sir C. (Bedwellty)||Price, M. P.|
|Bartlett, C. V. O.||Edwards, N. (Caerphilly)||Pritt, D. N.|
|Baxter, A. Beverley||Grenfell, D. R.||Shinwell, E.|
|Bevan, A. (Ebbw Vale)||Griffiths, G. A. (Hemsworth)||Sloan, A.|
|Bowles, F. G.||Henderson, J. (Ardwick)||Stephen, C.|
|Brown, T. J. (Ince)||Kirkwood, D.||Stokes, R. R.|
|Buchanan, G.||Lipson, D. L.||Thorneycroft, H. (Clayton)|
|Burke, W. A.||McGhee, H. G.||Tinker, J. J.|
|Butcher, H. W.||MacLaren, A.||Walkden, E. (Doncaster)|
|Cape, T.||Maclean, N. (Govan)||White, H. (Derby, N. E.)|
|Cocks, F. S.||Mainwaring, W. H.|
|Cove, W. G.||Maxton, J.||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Daggar, G.||Mort, D. L.||Mr. Bernard Taylor and|
§ Mr. Foster
I beg to move, in page 2, line 1, to leave out:who was married to him at the time of the accident.
§ The Committee divided: Ayes, 153; Noes, 42.
§ The object of this Amendment will be obvious. It deals with the principle of post-injury marriages. This principle has been debated from time to time. In the 313 Debate on the setting up of war pensions tribunals both sides agreed to the principle of post-war marriages in regard to war pensions and the Minister accepted it. A new principle has been introduced into this Bill with respect to weekly payments for the wife of a married man. That was not embodied in the Act of 1940. The conditions governing the children's allowance, that the children must be born within nine months after the injury, has been carried forward into this Clause. I should like to ask the Home Secretary, without using any further arguments, to agree to the principle, and I hope we shall not have the protracted discussion that we had on the previous Amendment.
§ Mr. Peake
This Amendment would import into the Bill the principle of recognising post-accident marriage. That is, a man who married after the date of an accident, would become entitled to the wife's allowance in whole, if he was suffering from total disability, or to a proportion of the wife's allowance if he was suffering from partial disability. This matter was discussed in 1940 when the Supplementary Allowances Act was before Parliament, and I had to point out then, that it was not possible or reasonable, in the view of the Government, to place upon employers a greater degree of liability than the State itself accepts in regard to persons disabled in the service of the State. It is true, as the hon. Member said, that an inroad upon that principle of not recognising post-accident marriage has been made, but it is in one case only. It was announced in the Debate on 20th July by the Lord President of the Council when we debated the new Royal Warrant for Service pensions. That concession was made as I say, in only one case, that of the disabled ex-Service man, and it applied only where the disabled person was wholly unemployable. This Amendment would apply generally to all cases of industrial disability, whether total or partial, and at whatever time they occurred, whether before the passing of this Act or after it. That is going far beyond what has been undertaken in the case of the wholly disabled and wholly unemployable ex-Service man, and I cannot ask the Committee to accept the Amendment
This is a temporary Bill. It is limited in duration to three years, by which time we shall have, I hope, a more permanent scheme in operation. This is a perfectly 314 proper point to be taken into account when the long-term scheme comes to be framed, and of course it will not be overlooked, but I do not think it would be reasonable to import this liability into this Measure, especially as it covers partial incapacity as well as total incapacity. Moreover, it would add very greatly to the difficulties of the insurance companies in setting aside the appropriate reserves to meet the old cases, because they could not possibly tell what it was proper to set aside when their liabilities might be increased at any moment through the marriage of a man in receipt of workmen's compensation. I hope, as I have made that explanation of the Government's attitude, and also promised that this point will be looked at very carefully in framing the long-term scheme, that my hon. Friend will not press his Amendment.
§ Mr. Ness Edwards
In the now still waters of the Debate we have had the first conciliatory speech from the other side, but I submit that the Under-Secretary has made out no case against this Amendment. He spoke of the difficulties of insurance companies, saying they could not put by enough money to meet unspecified liabilities. What would it amount to—£500,000? I do not think there is any great substance in that point. The next reason was that the Amendment would be retrospective, going back to 1924. A third point was that it applied to wholly disabled men and partially disabled men. I wonder whether the right hon. Gentleman would accept the Amendment in the case of men who are wholly disabled. A time is usually reached when those men become partially disabled and if he accepted one he would automatically accept both things.
We have to look at this problem in the same way as it has been looked at in the Royal Warrant, which has said that, if a citizen of this country is totally disabled in the Services he shall not be debarred from a normal life, if possible, but shall be entitled to have his own home and family. What the hon. Gentleman says is that the man who is totally disabled by injury, is not entitled to a normal life; that, in addition to his injuries there shall be a denial to him of a normal life. We have had a row about the addition of a new principle. How new is it in the case of fatal accidents? A man may have, 315 say, pneumoconiosis, and after he has come on compensation for total disablement, he marries. If he dies his wife is entitled to a lump sum in workmen's compensation. It is not altogether a new principle. This unspecified liability is already accepted in fatal cases; why can it not be accepted in cases of disablement?
I submit that this has a relationship to what has been said before in this Debate. The right hon. Gentleman pinned himself to the Beveridge Report in regard to the inclusion of the 13 weeks. Surely the same argument can be used for accepting the Amendment. I hope that the Under-Secretary will give further consideration to this important point. Men are being conscripted for industry and for work in the mines. Are we to tell them that if they are permanently disabled by their patriotic effort, they will be denied a normal life thereafter? That is something different to what is done for the Forces and for Civil Defence workers. The Royal Warrant covers not only those categories but also the women's Services, yet men in industry, outside Government employment, are to be treated differently. I press that the Amendment be accepted.
§ Mr. Bowles
One of the important facts about the Debates of the House of Commons is that they are reported. I am certain that the public to-morrow will not be convinced by the Government's replies and arguments on either of these Amendments. First, the right hon. Gentleman refused to accept the Amendment because he refused in 1940, saying that he then told us that there was no case for an improvement of this kind. That argument does not apply to-day because an exception has been made in the case of Service people. Is there any logical distinction between men and women conscripted into the Forces and those conscripted into industry? I can see no difference whatever. This refusal is obviously a completely irrational one. It will not hold water at all, and I hope my hon. Friend the Member for Caerphilly (Mr. Ness Edwards) will show the Committee again that we are only going to be persuaded by argument and not by overwhelming numbers. I hope therefore that on this occasion those Members who associated with us in the previous vote will show that they are unsatisfied with the Government's refusal on this particular issue as well.
§ Mr. Tinker
I wish to press this Amendment for certain reasons of my own. I am on what is called the Advisory Committee of the Ministry of Pensions. We advocated there recognition of the soldier who left the Service disabled and then married. I did not get all I wanted. We came to the Floor of the House, and the House agreed that a man permanently disabled, unable to work, who married afterwards should have the same rights as a soldier who was married before he left the Service. The whole position has changed so far as industry is concerned. We have what is called "opting" into the mines, that is, sending into the mines young men who have the choice between the Services or the mines. The same principle should apply to a young man who goes into industry as an alternative to going into the Services, who gets maimed, and who marries afterwards, because he is serving the State by going into industry. Why should he not have the same rights as the man in the Army? A man permanently disabled—
§ Mr. Tinker
The term is "totally unemployable," but he is allowed to earn a living. All we are asking, for the time being, is that the same principle be admitted here. I do not like the Government saying "This has not happened before and we cannot do it now." After what has been done for the soldier, our case is much stronger, and I would ask for reconsideration of this matter because it does bear hardly on these young men who are going into the mines. We are asking for more children. We are telling men and women to get married and have children. Is this the way to encourage them? They should be encouraged to marry, because the children are the assets of the State. This is an indication of what might be done, and I hope that the Home Secretary will adopt it.
§ Mr. Sloan (Ayrshire, South)
One of the arguments of the right hon. Gentleman was that insurance companies would not know how to make their assessments. I do not think we need legislate for insurance companies to-day. The people who are responsible are the employers, and, as is very often the case, all the money paid in compensation comes out of industry. In our own industry we have it in the ascertainment. The cost 317 for compensation of all kinds is 5d. per ton. We sometimes fight law cases in the courts. The result is that we pay the law expenses as the owners and of the insurance companies, and we pay our own. Surely the amount that would be required would be a bagatelle compared to that which is paid in compensation—and that is very little, after all. The Home Secretary has said that up to the present we have been paying £12,000,000 and that this new legislation is going to bring it up to £17,500,000 in compensation—out of a national income of £5,000,000,000 or £6,000,000,000. The Prime Minister should look at those figures. In our industry one out of every four boys between the ages of 14 and 16 is killed or injured. Many lads between 14 and 20 who are injured are never able to work again; but they are able to live, and it is important that they should enjoy the normal life of human beings. Why the right hon. Gentleman should shut his mind to a reasonable proposal like this, I cannot understand. It seems terrible that a Bill should be brought in, and that there should be no opportunity for improvement, because the last word has been said by the promoters when the Bill is laid on the Table. If the right hon. Gentleman says that this very slight benefit cannot be introduced into this Bill because instructions have been given, we have reached the end of Parliamentary Government, and it is hardly worth while carrying on, I ask my right hon. Friend to consider whether it is not possible to accept this Amendment.
§ Mr. Evelyn Walkden (Doncaster)
I want to make a plea that the Debate on this Amendment should be removed slightly from the coalmines. I could argue the case for the miners, for about one-tenth of the nation's coal is obtained within a few miles of the centre of my division, but I want to make the Government realise, from an entirely different angle, that there is a danger here. A few months ago young men were glorified, and indeed decorated, because they were what the nation knew as back-room boys. They were taken from technical schools. Some of them would have liked to have gone into some branch of His Majesty's Forces, but, because they were skilled in some branch of industry, they were told that they would serve the Ministry of Supply, or Ministry of Production, in one 318 of our arsenals and became back-room boys. At least three of them were blinded. Their fellow students were able to join the Royal Engineers or the Royal Air Force, yet these young men, searching for some formula for a new explosive, were blinded. It is not just compensation for coalminers that we are discussing. You say to the lads who are in the Fighting Services that if they are totally incapacitated and marry afterwards you will recognise the fact that they are married and will at least pay a pension. That is exactly what this House has done in the last six months. What of the men who were sent to Woolwich Arsenal whose names appeared in the newspapers? We were glad to read the story, which had been held up for over 18 months, and were proud of the fact that these men had sacrificed themselves for Britain and for science. But to the men directed into industry and not to the Air Force, you say that, if they marry, you cannot recognise any compensation rights. I have given an illustration of something of which I know.
The Under-Secretary knows that we have a large number of members in the union with which we have been associated. Men employed in search of formulas needed at the present time have been blinded, and I would ask the Under-Secretary whether he wants to drive men like myself into this frame of mind, that, come what may, we will challenge and denounce the Government for their stupidity and their resolute resistance to all forms of reasonableness. Reasonableness from this side of the Committee has repeatedly been resisted by the Government to-day. On the question of soldiers' pensions, may I remind the Under-Secretary that there was a sort of tornado in this House against His Majesty's Government on the question of pensions for the Armed Forces? It crystallised into hostility and resulted in a challenge to the Government, and they had to respond to the challenge. We cannot understand why, if they only accepted part of the formula in the pensions Debate, they cannot accept that particular part of the formula in this Bill. Cannot we make further representations at this late hour and see that, in dealing with the young men in the Armed Forces and in coalmines and in other industries, they are treated alike?
§ Mr. Grenfell
I do not know whether it is much use asking the right hon. Gentleman to consider the arguments that have been put forward. I have been painfully surprised at the trend of the discussion during the whole of the day. We have not discussed the Bill in the House of Commons spirit and in accordance with Parliamentary practice. The right hon. Gentleman has said something which should have been emphasised earlier in the Debate. He said that this is the one and only Bill that is likely to come before the House in the next three years.
§ Mr. Peake indicated dissent.
§ Mr. Grenfell
There is no likelihood of any substitute Bill being brought in during that period. Is there any likelihood of a Bill being brought in during the next 12 months or before a General Election? We ought to know. The conditions put down by the Government vary so much. On the present Amendment the Government say that they cannot have innovations. I remember the difficult position in which Members found themselves 21 years ago. The Minister of Pensions will remember that it was impossible to effect any compromise or to get any concession from the then Minister of Pensions in the case of a man who married, after his removal from the Services to hospital for treatment for wounds. A person who was not married before he was removed from duty, could not claim in respect of his wife, and the wife could not get any pension after his death. That has been changed and, it is very proper that it should have been changed. That is the line which Parliament in its wisdom has followed in the last few years. It was decided that the question of the equality of the sexes should be referred to a Select Committee of the House. I was a member of that Select Committee. There were 15 persons on it and we had no difficulty in making recommendations to the House, and the House had no difficulty in accepting the recommendation of equality between the sexes.
Here is a point which is very unfair indeed. It is not enough for a Minister to say that you disturb the insurance computations in these matters. They have no means of knowing whether a man is married or not, or what number of children are born during the marriage. But compensation is payable to children 320 under the Bill. Insurance is not a question of computing each case but of spreading the burden over a number of cases. There are many good reasons why a man should get married after he has received injuries. Such a man often needs a helpmeet and someone to live with him very much more than the man who is not disabled, and in ordinary circumstances a man who is disabled will seek a wife because he needs a companion. In this Bill we propose not to pay the wife of a person who was not married at the date of the accident but if she was married a week before she will be paid.
Let me put this case. Supposing a person was about to be married, that there was no doubt at all about it and that just before the marriage the man receives an injury, perhaps loses the use of both legs and is unable to move about. Nine times out of ten the girl wants to marry the man. But the Minister says, "You cannot do anything for that case, because the insurance company finds it impossible to compute that kind of risk." Is the right hon. Gentleman pleading for the insurance companies? Does he not recognise that they always cover themselves? The Holman Gregory Committee investigated this matter in 1919 and I am sorry to say that, so far, the provisions they have recommended have not been introduced. I have made hundreds of optimistic speeches on the prospects of implementing that Committee's Report, which was progressive and conduced to a higher standard of comfort for men who are disabled. But no, we meet this kind of argument. It was stated that insurance companies keep for themselves 8s. 6d. out of every £1 they receive and return to workmen, in all kinds of benefits, no more than 11s. 6d. Do not be too considerate for the interests of the insurance companies. They can manage for themselves all right. In the mining industry workmen pay 85 per cent. of the total cost of compensation.
§ The Deputy-Chairman (Mr. Charles Williams)
I do not want to interrupt the hon. Member but this is a rather narrow point and if on every one of these Amendments we are to go into the whole history of insurance we shall not make much progress.
§ Mr. Grenfell
I do not wish to go into the history of insurance. I have played my part in honest agitation to create a 321 public conscience on this matter and we are trying to convince the Government of the day that this country, which is fighting for its life now, is neglecting the interests of the men who are crippled. I am entitled to express my sincere regret that the Under-Secretary should bring forward the sort of argument I have indicated. Some way must be found of doing justice to these people. We are not doing it now. If we are not to discuss these points and have replies to them then let us take the Amendments, one by one, and vote on them in the way we wish to vote.
§ Dr. Morgan (Rochdale)
I am anxious that this Bill should be passed as early as possible and I do not intend to indulge in any attacks on the Under-Secretary because I know that the whole matter of compensation is undergoing review in the Home Office. I do, however, plead with him to look at this point again and see whether he cannot meet it on the Report stage. The Royal Warrant with regard to Service compensation has changed the whole aspect of compensation in this regard, but from the medical point of view you can land yourself in considerable difficulties, if you make a division between the partially and totally incapacitated. Take, for instance, asbestosis or even ordinary silicosis. An invalid may, at one time, be only partially incapacitated but at any moment he may have superimposed the infection of tuberculosis. If he passes from being partially incapacitated to being totally incapacitated, and you say you will give that man, who is married, no compensation at one moment and then give compensation later when the medical board is satisfied, you will find yourself in endless difficulty. The point about the difficulty for the actuaries of insurance companies has no substance because they can do it quite easily. I ask the Under-Secretary, with particular reference to this question of post-invalidity marriage, to look at this matter again and see whether he can do the clean, honest and decent thing. I know of a man in my constituency, working in an asbestos factory, who is engaged to be married. His work is a dangerous occupation; he is liable to asbestosis at any time. Supposing he suddenly developed the symptoms of this industrial disease, are you to tell him that because he has this disability, he must postpone his marriage, because when he gets worse and is totally 322 incapacitated he will not get any compensation? I do ask the Government, once more to look into this matter and see whether they cannot bring forward some proposal for the Report stage.
§ Mr. Butcher
I hope the Under-Secretary will endeavour to see whether he can meet us on this point although I am bound to say that, from the language which the Home Secretary used earlier, it appears that this is also a case which has been covered by the deal with other interests outside this House and that all that is required of us is that we should talk and talk and be out-voted by the pressure of the Whips. I do not think the question of the convenience of insurance companies is a material point, because in the case of tariff companies, as the Minister will be aware, there is an agreement for the return of excessive premiums secured and not required to cover the working expenses, plus profits, of the offices concerned. Should he see his way clear, despite the deal which has been done, to meet the wishes expressed in all parts of the Committee, the burden would not fall on the insurance companies but upon the insured themselves and the employers. Therefore, I hope that the Under-Secretary will say that he is prepared to reconsider the matter and bring forward some Amendment on the Report Stage.
§ Mr. Peake
I gave what I thought was a not unsympathetic reply when I spoke earlier on this Amendment. The hon. Member for Gower (Mr. Grenfell) and several other Members have made eloquent pleas for the sort of case, which is a very hard case. That is the case of the man who is totally and permanently incapacitated—a long-term case—who desires to get married after the accident. But I must remind hon. Members that what we are dealing with is the Amendment on the Paper, and that covers not only long-term but short-term cases, and we know that 90 per cent. of workmen's compensation cases last for less than 13 weeks. The average duration of a case is about four weeks. Moreover, of long-term cases quite a good proportion are cases of only partial incapacity. The precedent which has been quoted is that of the Amendment to the Royal Warrant in July, which covers the case of the man who as a result of injury in war service is wholly unemployable. I entirely agree that you could 323 not make a logical division between cases of total and partial incapacity under the Workmen's Compensation Act. The only test, if you are going to draw a line anywhere, is that of total unemployability.
The Amendment goes a long way beyond the precedent set by the Royal Warrant, and, quite clearly, it is unacceptable. Many employers contend, with a great deal of force, that it is not the employer's function to provide an allowance in respect of wife or children at all. I do not think it a proper provision, even in the more limited form of total unemployability, to import into a temporary Measure of this character for which the employer is responsible and, moreover, a Measure which is applied retrospectively to all the old cases as well as those arising in the future. I promised the hon. Member that a more limited application of the principle introduced into the Royal Warrant will be carefully examined in connection with any future permanent scheme of workmen's compensation, but I cannot undertake to introduce it into this Bill.
§ Mr. Bevan
I think the Committee is undergoing an unnecessary humiliation in arguing this and similar Amendments any further. It is hard enough to argue a case to a packed Committee, especially when the Whips get to work and bring the supporters of the Government in, but it is infinitely worse when you not only have to argue with a packed jury but with a jury which has already made up its mind before hearing the case. I therefore suggest that the best course we can follow is to divide on our Amendments and not expose ourselves to the humiliation of trying to convince people who are not going to be convinced. The Under-Secretary made a very conciliatory speech, but it was only the form that changed. The words are the same. He says that in the examination of the permanent Measure he will give consideration to this principle. We know that he will. He is bound to consider it, because you cannot have it accepted in the Royal Warrant and refused in other forms of social insurance. There is something sickeningly humiliating in arguing to a Committee which intends anyhow to support the Government, a Government which has made a bargain and does not intend to give way on it or make any 324 modification. The issue has now shifted from the House to outside the House. Therefore I seriously suggest that the best thing we can do is to vote on these Amendments and allow the Government and the House of Commons to accept the consequences of their conduct in the constituencies and in the industries.
§ Mr. Foster
The Amendment has given us an opportunity of making out our case, which has been partially accepted by the Under-Secretary. In view of that, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Mr. Sloan
I beg to move, in page 2, line 2, after "accident," to insert:or a female workman who has a husband wholly dependent upon her at the time of the accident.Here is an Amendment which I think the right hon. Gentleman can accept without making any concession to principle at all, that in circumstances where a female workman has a husband wholly dependent on her at the time of the accident she should be in the same position as a male worker who has a wife dependent on him. It is very difficult to make any discrimination. If a husband is entitled to payment because of his wife who is dependent upon him, the wife should surely be equally entitled to payment for a husband who is totally dependent on her.
§ Mr. Peake
I think the hon. Member may be reassured as far as the definition is concerned but, when we look at the Amendment, it provides that a female workman with a husband wholly dependent on her shall qualify for the supplement provided by the Bill. We have sought all through this temporary legislation, beginning in 1940, to exclude any question of dependency or any inquiries by employers or insurance companies as to dependency, and for that reason we grant the allowances in respect of a wife quite irrespective of whether there is any dependency or not, and exactly the same thing, of course, applies in regard to children. All the workman has to do is to complete a form saying that he has a wife and so many children. Those are 325 facts which are ascertainable if the insurance company or the employer wishes to make an inquiry by reference to the Registrar of Births, Marriages and Deaths. That is perfectly simple and broad and clear. Of course it will result in a certain number of men getting allowances in respect of wives whom they are not living with and possibly not maintaining. On the other hand, it does have the great advantage of avoiding inquiries by employers into the domestic circumstances of workmen.
The drawback to this Amendment is that it introduces the words "wholly dependent," and that opens up a vista of inquiries by insurance companies and employers into the extent of the dependence of the husband upon the earnings of the wife. There may be a few hard cases where a man is wholly dependent upon the earnings of his wife, but I think that at the present time they are cases of extraordinary rarity. There must be very few cases where a man is in receipt of no sickness benefit, no unemployment benefit, no pension of any sort, and is entirely dependent upon the earnings of his wife. In order to pick out such cases we should open up this question of dependency, with all the inquiries that it involves, and the natural result would be that we should have to provide for similar inquiries as to dependency in the case of wives and children. That I am anxious to avoid, and for that reason I think it would be a mistake to introduce this Amendment. I hope that hon. Members opposite are not all like the hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. A. Bevan), who seems to think that the whole of our discussion is a waste of time. That is not so. If he looks a little further down the Order paper, he will find that as a result of inquiries made since the Bill was introduced the Government have found a flaw in it and have put down an Amendment.
§ Mr. Foster
The right hon. Gentleman has spoken of the trouble it will be to find out the degree of the dependency. I can assure him there would be no more trouble or difficulty than there is at present in the case of a male. In Lancashire we have married women working on the pit bank, married women with children, and if one of them met with an accident she would have to fill in a form just as a man does. Forms are 326 provided by the colliery company. It is a questionnaire, and they fill it in and send it along with the claim. Then the company communicate either with the insurance company or the indemnity company and the compensation is determined. There would be no difficulty in that connection.
§ Amendment negatived.
§ Mr. Ness Edwards
I beg to move, in page 2, line 8, to leave out "male."
This Sub-section of the Clause provides that in the case of a male workman who has children under the age of 15 a supplementary allowance shall be granted not exceeding 5s. a week. The purpose of the Amendment is to strike out the word "male," so that the provision shall apply to male and female workers. Under this Bill a widower with children will, if injured in his employment, get an allowance in respect of those children, but a widow with children who is in employment and suffers an injury will receive no allowance for her children. I cannot understand why the Home Secretary, assisted by the hon. Lady the Parliamentary Secretary, should perpetrate such an injustice against the woman. The Select Committee on equal compensation laid it down as a principle that men and women should be treated alike. There can be no argument against accepting this Amendment. None of the arguments the Under-Secretary has raised on previous Amendments apply here. There is no question of proving dependency, no investigations; there is no more trouble in the case of the widow with children than there would be in the case of the widower. The human need is the same, if not greater, and as a matter of equity the widow and the widower should be treated alike.
I recall the furore that was created by the lady Members of Parliament some time ago, but not one of them is present now except the Parliamentary Secretary, although this is a vital question for women engaged in industry. Industry is absorbing more and more women, and obviously more widows with children, and women who are likely to become widows, and yet we are saying that none of those women shall be entitled to what is to be given to the men. You may call a large conference in the Albert Hall to thank the women for all that they have done; it may cost £17,000; but you refuse to give to those 327 women who are injured in industry allowances for their children, because they are widows. To accept this Amendment would not upset the balance of the Bill. It would not be in conflict with the Beveridge scheme or in conflict with any principle laid down by Parliament. It is not in conflict with the agitation conducted by the hon. Lady the Parliamentary Secretary who, I should have imagined, would have been of some considerable assistance in this matter in the Home Office. This is an issue of principle, and if the Under-Secretary cannot give us a satisfactory reply we propose to divide the Committee.
§ Mr. Peake
I can put the Government point of view on this Amendment quite shortly, because it was the subject of corespondence in "The Times" not long ago, and in reply to somebody who raised exactly this point in "The Times" I wrote:Shortly, the reason for the exclusion of the children of female workmen"—that is a technical term in workmen's compensation—is that it is undesirable to provide more than one set of children's allowances in respect of the same children. For example, if the husband is serving in His Majesty's Forces children's allowances are provided. If be has been disabled as a result of industrial accident, war service or enemy action he will himself be in receipt of children's allowances. Alternatively, if he is a wage earner he is responsible for their maintenance; and if unemployed his children will already be provided for under the insurance or assistance schemes.The hon. Gentleman called in aid, in respect of his argument in favour of this Amendment, the Report of the Select Committee on Equal Compensation. That Committee examined the supplementary allowances Act, 1940, which provided these allowances for children in respect of male workmen. That Committee, which included three vigilant women Members of this House, the hon. Member for Anglesey (Miss Lloyd George), the hon. Member for Frome (Mrs. Tate) and the hon. Member for East Islington (Mrs. Cazalet Keir), came to the following conclusions which were stated twice in the body of their Report. My hon. Friend will find them in paragraphs 13 and 32. In paragraph 13 they say in respect of sex differentiation:The principle is not to be found in the Workmen's Compensation Act, under which compensation is based on a scale related to the previous earnings of the injured worker328 In paragraph 32 they say:It has already been shown that no principle of sex discrimination can be found in the Workmen's Compensation Acts.If those ladies had felt there was a grievance here from which women suffered, they would have observed it and drawn attention to it in the Report of their Select Committee.
§ Mr. Peake
I have given the answer that it is undesirable to provide two sets of children's allowances in respect of the same child, and in each of those cases where a woman worker claims children's allowances you would have to inquire to find out whether there was a second set of children's allowances or whether those children had been provided for by their father in some other way.
There has been correspondence on this very point between the hon. Member for Frome and my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary. The hon. Member for Frome took the point up with a great deal of zeal. She thought that she was on a good wicket, but after receiving the explanation of my right hon. Friend she dropped her claim; so I hardly think that, the hon. Lady having been satisfied on this point—and hon. Members know how persistent she can be—other hon. Members need press the matter. It would mean inquiries into individual circumstances and proof of maintenance, in order to pick out a very few cases of hardship which may arise.
§ Mr. G. Griffiths
The Under-Secretary has just stated that the hon. Member for Frome (Mrs. Tate) was batting on a bad wicket. He never batted on a worse wicket in his life. I am satisfied that the Trades Union Congress and the deputation that met the Home Secretary have not gone into this matter at all but have missed it entirely. The Under-Secretary states that they cannot have a child receiving allowances from two sources. He has been a Private Member, and I know that we used to fight like Kilkenny cats, he and myself, in the other Chamber, before the war, on compensation and other questions. Nobody knows better than he that the children of a father who was fatally injured in industry get both N.H.I., which is 5s. for the first child and 3s. for the second, and compensation 329 when they go to the county courts, The county court judge does not say to the widow and the trades union secretary, "Are you getting N.H.I.?" The judge gives the amount that is necessary for the children. Suppose a single man is killed who has dependants or a married man with no children. The maximum amount was £300, but if they have children the amount can be extended to £600., The judge does not say to the widow, "Was your husband National Health insured?" The compensation case is not set for the next day after the man is killed, but in a couple of weeks the widow draws her National Health Insurance pension and her 5s. and 3s. for the children. The judge does not say, "Are you getting your pension and the allowance for the children? If so, I must take them into account." The Under-Secretary says that that is his chief reason. He does not want it from two sources, but I say that they have been giving it from two sources for 30 years.
§ Mr. Griffiths
The Under-Secretary of State is not far-seeing enough. It is not a matter of having another on top of them. The Minister of Labour has been asking women up to 55 to go into industry. How many of those women may be widows with no N.H.I. pension? Thousands of women do not draw pension, as their husband was not State-insured, but you ask them to go into industry. There are thousands of widows in Lancashire on the pit brow at present and in factories. The Inspector of Factories says that 330,000 people met with accidents, and he states that the majority were women. I will guarantee that there are hundreds of widows among them who have children and are injured, but because they happen to have the misfortune of being born women instead of men the Under-Secretary says that their children cannot receive the 5s. I say that it is unjust. I also say that I am satisfied that the Home Secretary himself and the Trades Union Congress deputation, of which my hon. Friend the Member for North Southwark (Mr. Isaacs) was a member, had not seen this thing, or else my hon. Friend would not have sat down quietly to it.
330 Up to now the Government have given us nothing. They have brushed the single man on one side—the single man who may want to get married and enjoy the sweets of life as well as to increase the population about which folks on the other side have been grousing, because the population is down. And yet this thing says that if a man gets hurt we are not going to give him anything if he marries. I am leaving that, because I know I am out of Order. Now it is being said, "We will not give to the widow." I say this is unjust. I am asking the Under-Secretary not just to put this thing down and say, "We are not going to do it because it is a bit intricate. We should have to make inquiries." You would not have to make inquiries. You know whether the widow has any children or not. I ask the Under-Secretary to get up and say, "I did not see it like this before, and I will grant it."
§ Mr. F. Anderson (Whitehaven)
Is it not possible for a widow, in the event of a fatality taking place, to be not entitled to any benefit for the children under the National Health Insurance Act, and not to qualify either for the widow's pension or any other allowances? Surely there should be some provision made in those circumstances. As I understand it, she would not be getting two sets of allowances in these cases; there would be only one set.
§ Mr. Peake
The hon. Gentleman the Member for Hemsworth (Mr. G. Griffiths) and the hon. Gentleman the Member for Whitehaven (Mr. F. Anderson) have addressed themselves to the question of the widow, but of course the Amendment is much wider than that. It covers the children of all female workmen. That is to say, all the married women would come in under the Amendment. So far as widows are concerned, however—
§ Mr. Griffiths
The right hon. Gentleman has spoken of a married woman. If she has her husband he, not the woman, claims for the child.
§ Mr. Peake
That is exactly what I have been pointing out. If you give children's allowances to every married woman under the Act, you will be doing what is in many cases quite unnecessary and duplicating a set of children's allowances. The hon. Member for Whitehaven asks whether it is not possible that there may 331 be a widow not provided for at all. That is possible, but the vast majority of widows are provided for under the Widows, Orphans and Old Age Pensions Acts from 1924 to 1929, or under one of the Royal Warrants or other schemes for providing pensions for persons suffering misfortune and widowhood. In order to pick out cases, we should have to empower employers and insurance companies to make far-reaching inquiries, and as we hope that this scheme is to be swept away in two or three years, it does not seem to be worth while embarking on that.
§ Mr. G. Griffiths
May I put this point? We are not claiming two sets of allowances. We are only claiming if the woman herself has the child, not the husband. I suppose that is the reason the right hon. Gentleman has refused it. If that is the reason, accept it now.
§ Mr. Edmund Harvey (Combined English Universities)
I hope the right hon. Gentleman having shown himself so conciliatory will reconsider this point. There is not only the case of a widow which he admits will be a hard case. There is also the case of the unmarried mother. There are a number of unmarried mothers who are workmen and would not be provided for, as a I understand it.
§ Mr. Harvey
In many cases those rights have not been exercised, and the mother has the whole responsibility for the children. That is a human fact which has to be considered. As this Bill is only temporary, if the real objection is to double allowances, it should be possible to provide that this will not apply where an allowance is already being paid in respect of such children. I do not think this would involve any elaborate inquiries to find out whether or not an allowance was being paid in respect of a child. A statement might be signed to that effect and if it was a false statement, penalties could 332 be exacted. The statement to be signed could be extremely simple and a requirement could be made that it must be signed before the allowance is paid. If the Home Secretary were willing to reconsider that, he would meet a very real case of hardship. I hope there are not a great number but there will certainly be a number of very real cases of hardship.
§ Mr. R. J. Taylor (Morpeth)
I want to put one point in regard to the widows, and to ask whether the question of the widows could be considered before the Bill comes back from another place. It is true that we have a considerable number of widows who are not insured by right of the husband's insurance at all, and the fact remains that these widows are, of necessity, increasingly forced into industry. I know a case of a young man and wife with two or three children, who came home from Australia. They are very industrious energetic people. He worked for 105 weeks but unfortunately there were two weeks sickness on which there was no stamp available. The result is that there were only 103 stamps on his card when he died. This widow was forced into employment because she had no right in respect of her husband's insurance. I think one can appreciate that where such circumstances arise and there are children there is necessity for the woman to go into industry to help to maintain the children. With regard to widows I put this point: The Under-Secretary has had a long experience of the coal trade, and if it comes to the point of making inquiries into compensation, I can assure him that it has never been any trouble to insurance companies to inquire into family details should there be a fatal accident. I can assure him when it comes to the question of dependency of the wife upon the husband, when there are other members of the family in the house, such as a son or a daughter who is working, the insurance companies can go into the most minute details. It is no trouble to them at all.
§ Mr. Taylor
I do not want to extend it either. All I am saying is that, so far as the insurance companies have been concerned, they have never worried. It has been a matter of saving what they would otherwise have had to pay to the widow in a fatal accident case. I am sure that 333 if the right hon. Gentleman is willing to consider this point there would be no hesitation on the part of the insurance companies and we would be doing something in legislation. While I know it is not the rule to legislate for hard cases, yet, at the same time, while that may not be the practice, it is our duty as far as possible to legislate for deserving cases.
§ Mr. Ness Edwards
Before asking permission to withdraw the Amendment, I would like to point out that we have drafted it so widely that the same children will have two claims, one in respect of the father, and another in respect of the mother. That is a serious argument against our Amendment. But it does not diminish the justice of our claim for a widow or a spinster, and I would ask the Under-Secretary to give attention to that question before the Report stage, to see whether anything can be done for that narrow section. In the circumstances, I ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ The following Amendment stood on the Order Paper, in the name of Mr. SLOAN:
In page 2, line 9, after "years," insert:
or a child over 15 years attending a secondary or technical school.
§ The Chairman
It might be for the convenience of the Committee if this Amendment and that in the name of the Home Secretary—in page 2, line II at the end to insert:Provided that a child who—were discussed together, so that we do not duplicate discussion.
shall be treated for the purposes of paragraph (c) of this sub-section as if he did not attain that age until the date on which he ceases to be a child receiving full-time instruction as aforesaid or the thirty-first day of July next following the day on which he attains the age of sixteen years, whichever is the earlier date."—
- (i) has attained the age of fifteen years, and
- (ii) was, when he attained that age, a child receiving full-time instruction in a school,
§ Mr. Ness Edwards
I beg to move, in page 2, line 10, after "child," to insert:whether born before or after the accident.
§ The Chairman
The hon. Member's new Clause would appear to be much wider. Perhaps some discussion might take place on the present Amendment which ought not to be repeated on the hon. Member's new Clause.
§ Mr. Ness Edwards
I submit that this is a narrower point, and there ought not to be a wide discussion on points very much outside it, which might prejudice its chances of being accepted. I hoped that you would rule, as a matter of expediency, Major Miner, that we should discuss the Amendment now, and come to the wider point later.
§ The Chairman
I think that the hon. Member had better deal with the Amendment now, but some of the arguments may be the same as those advanced by the hon. Member for Oxford (Mr. Hogg), and I hope that it will not be necessary for the hon. Member for Oxford to repeat the arguments of the hon. Member for Caerphilly (Mr. Ness Edwards).
§ Mr. Edwards
The short point is this. Is a man who is married to terminate his normal family life when he sustains an accident? The Royal Warrant again, is in our favour on this point, in the case of a totally disabled man. It seems to me that the Under-Secretary has little argument to put against this. I cannot see any reason why the Amendment should not be accepted. Suppose that a man contracts pneumoconiosis, for instance. He may live for 10 or 20 years. Is it suggested that if his wife has a child more than nine months after he has been certified, he ought to be denied an allowance in respect of that child? It is treating men who become totally disabled as if they were criminals, as if they had incurred the displeasure of society. Where the children are born after the accident but the man dies subsequently, 335 the child ranks for an allowance; and if that applies when a man dies, surely it should apply when he does not die. This is one of the narrower points on which the Under-Secretary ought to give way.
§ Mr. Hogg
I should like to support the principle of this Amendment. The exact method by which it is appropriate to put in the principle may be a matter of dispute between my hon. Friend and me, but a very important moral principle is involved. Under the law as it stands, the expression "child," for the purposes of the children's allowances, includes only children conceived before the accident—that is, born before or less than nine months after the accident. That puts an intolerable burden upon the workman. It is not to be desired that he should cease to live with his wife, or that he should limit his parenthood in any way. It is true that the birth of a child after the accident, or at any rate after proceedings have arisen as a result of an accident, gives rise to administrative difficulties, which I have sought to cover in my own new Clause. But it seems to me intolerable that this Bill should say that a man who has children after an accident should know that he has them at his own expense. There are occasions when human principles must take precedence over administrative difficulties. As a Christian, I could not tolerate the Bill in its present form. I think it raises a very important religious and moral issue.
§ Mr. Tinker
I want to support this Amendment, because I have felt for some time that recognition should be given to the rights of disabled men. If children come along, it is very hard to say that they should have no allowances. The Bill would prevent all marital relationships, or would say that if a child comes there is no allowance for it. I say again that if we want children, more ought to be done to encourage people to have them. A man should not be made to feel that if he brings children into the world, his wife will have to go out to work, or something of that kind. On the broad moral issue, the Under-Secretary of State ought to consider the proposal.
§ Mr. Peake
The arguments in regard to this Amendment are almost exactly the same as the arguments in the previous Amendment relating to post-accident 336 marriage. Marriage and children go very well together, and it therefore falls into the same class of case as the question of marriage after the date of the accident. Hon. Members drew attention on the previous Amendment to the new condition imported into the Royal Warrant where the old rule that marriage after the injury, and children born more than nine months after the injury, were not recognised by the State for pension purposes, has been bridged in the one case of the man who is wholly disabled and virtually unemployable.
I promised on the previous Amendment that in connection with the long-term scheme the question of that class of case would be considered, and clearly I must give the same undertaking in respect of the matter of the children born more than nine months after the event of the accident. I think, however, that I should add this: Perhaps it is in the nature of repetition, but we are dealing with a temporary matter. We are going to have a long-term scheme very shortly, and the employers have always argued with great force that domestic circumstances of workmen are not their concern and they ought not to be asked to make payments varying according to domestic needs. The Government's view is that provision of allowances for children born before the accident might be justified in present circumstances in a temporary Measure and containing the national provision of children's allowances and a revised scheme of workmen's compensation. It would, however, be going too far to extend the provision at this moment to children born after the accident. I hope that with that explanation hon. Members will not press this Amendment but will be content with the assurance that, in connection with the long-term scheme, this point will be considered.
§ Mr. Tom Brown
Is not the right hon. Gentleman creating greater troubles for himself for the time when comprehensive measures come before the House?
§ Mr. Ness Edwards
We started off the Debate in a very fiery way, and since we disposed of the first Amendment everything that could reasonably be done has been done. All the time we on this side are having the best of the Debate, and the Under-Secretary is making no effort 337 at all to answer the arguments. We are met with a stone wall. I feel in these circumstances that the Committee ought to exert itself against the attitude adopted by the Under-Secretary. Here is an Amendment from both sides of the Committee which is eminently reasonable and on the principle of which the Government have given a decision. The Committee ought to assert itself and divide on this Amendment unless we are given a better answer than the Under-Secretary has yet given. All the time he evades the argument and the challenge and says in effect, "Wait until the sweet by-and-by, and we will consider it." There is a limit to our patience, and I hope that the Committee will divide on this Amendment.
§ Mr. Hogg
I share the view of the hon. Member for Caerphilly (Mr. Ness Edwards) that the answer that has been given to the Amendment is not satisfactory. I do not think that it would serve any useful purpose to divide the Committee in its present state. I cannot accept the argument that there is necessarily relationship between post-accident marriage and post-accident children. I have always favoured compensation in the case of post-accident marriage, but the case in relation to post-accident children is infinitely more strong. A man could reasonably, if totally disabled, postpone a marriage, but if he is already married you are in effect saying to him in terms that the wife he has (already married shall no longer be a wife to him and no longer a mother to his children. I shall join the hon. Member in carrying the matter to a division if he decides to do so.
§ Dr. Morgan
Although I want this Bill very badly and have worked very hard for it, I shall vote against the Government on this Amendment. It is practically a declaration that the wife of a man disabled or injured by accident should be made sterile and should not have children. Why have the Government taken up such a bureaucratic and inhuman attitude, and why do they say that no matter what the arguments are they will make any excuse, that this is a temporary measure, rather than give a little concession which would at any rate show that they accepted the human point in the Bill?
§ Mr. Peake
I must say one more word, because the hon. Member seems to think that our attitude in resisting the Amend- 338 ment is unreasonable. For 25 years the State in all pensions schemes in respect of the last war and all Service pension schemes has refused to recognise the eligibility of children born more than nine months after the Warrant or injury for pension. It has been adopted by Governments of all political complexions ever since the last war. Hon. Members now desire to import this principle into a workmen's compensation scheme where the cost is not borne by the State but by the employers—
§ Mr. Peake
—and where the scheme itself is only going to last for another year or two at the outside and when a general State scheme of children's allowances is well known to be in contemplation. I really think that in these circumstances it would be unreasonable to import this new principle, which the State has not adopted to any general extent at all, into a workmen's compensation scheme when that scheme as we know it to-day will have disappeared for good and all in two or three years' time.
§ Mr. Tom Brown
I understood the Parliamentary Secretary to say that he was prepared to accept the principle when the comprehensive Measure came before the House.
§ Mr. Bowles
I have sat through the whole of the Debate except the last ten minutes. I was not in the House of Commons in the old days when party struggles were on, but I can understand, having read carefully all the Debates, the great struggle the workers had to obtain any concession from the Conservative Party of the day. Now we have a coalition Government of Conservatives and Labour and I have come to the conclusion that such a coalition is more Conservative than a Government of Conservatives alone. Against this issue and the other issues which have been put forward, no reasonable argument whatsoever has been advanced and I welcome the spirit of some of my hon. Friends in wishing to divide the Committee on every possible occasion because that will at least give some publicity to the attitude adopted by the Government on this series of human matters.
§ Mr. Foster
I would like to support the Amendment. I remember some time ago a Debate on the trend of the population 339 in which speakers put forward suggestions, such as better feeding of children, family allowances and so on, which it was argued would lead to an increase in the birth rate. Here you have two men, one of whom may be injured a little late in life when he has four or five children. He will get the full benefit of the children's allowance because his children were born within nine months of the date of the accident. The other man may be injured the week, or even the day, following his marriage. In that case, if no children are born within nine months of the date of his accident no allowance is paid. What a paradoxical situation! The Under-Secretary gave as his reason for not accepting the Amendment the fact that the principle has not been accepted by the Government.
§ Mr. Foster
To-day the Government can make history by accepting the principle. What is wrong with accepting the principle? Are we always to act on the assumption that because previous Governments have not accepted a principle we desire to see adopted, now we cannot make progress? The Under-Secretary's answer may be a good Civil Service or Home Office reply, but it is not in keeping with humanitarian ideas. All the arguments which were put forward for family allowances could be put forward for this Amendment. I hope the Under-Secretary will reconsider the matter.
§ Mrs. Tate (Frome)
I am appalled to think that the Government should refuse to accept this Amendment. No matter what compensation is paid to an injured man, he is never really compensated for the injury he receives. Is it to be seriously laid down that, if the man is injured, in addition to suffering for the rest of his life he is also to be deprived of having any more children?
§ Mrs. Tate
The Under-Secretary may say there is nothing to stop them having children but if they do they must have them at their own expense, when the man is unable any longer to earn a living. It is easy to say in a light and airy way that there is nothing to stop anybody having children. Expense stops them.
§ Mr. Peake
The hon. Lady does not seem to have borne in mind the fact that out of the total number of cases for workmen's compensation 92 per cent. are back at work during the first 13 weeks and that a large number of other cases are only partially disabled. If she was confining her argument to the man incapacitated for a long term, there would be something to be said for it.
§ Mrs. Tate
I thought we were legislating for hard cases. I know we cannot build legislation on hard cases but we want to protect such cases, in thinking of a Bill of this nature. While I was having a little sustenance a short while ago the Under-Secretary said, I think, that he had managed to satisfy me, as regards the position of women in this Bill. Well, I am not satisfied but, as this is an interim Measure, I am prepared to accept it. I am not prepared, however, to accept the position that the wife of an injured workman, whose child is born, say, two weeks after the nine months' period, after marriage, should receive no benefit. Nine months is an arbitrary period. It is possible for the period to be nine months and two weeks. I shall support the Amendment and divide against the Government if necessary.
§ Mr. Godfrey Nicholson
I think the Committee is being rather hard on the Under-Secretary in view of the position which it has itself created. The Committee expects the whole structure of workmen's compensation to be so designed as to work in with the other social services. If that is the case, I do not see why hon. Members cannot understand the plea that it is cutting across all other services and pensions to make exceptions, however fair they may seem. The moral the Committee ought to draw from this incident and from the first Amendment, about which there was so much fuss, is that it is impossible to plan the workmen's compensation code so that it is interlocked with the other social services. Let us learn the lesson of this Debate, namely, that industrial accidents must be treated separately from other accidents, ordinary illness, unemployment and war pensions. Once the Committee admits that the code for industrial accidents is to be related to the code for other social services, there is no limit to the number of anomalies that will arise.
§ Mr. Buchanan
Two pleas are constantly put forward in this House. To one of them the Under-Secretary has just said, "This principle has never been accepted before and, therefore, we cannot accept it now." The hon. Lady the Member for Frome (Mrs. Tate) has given an example of the answer to that. We had a claim for equal compensation. It was resisted in every way. Unemployment and health insurance, everything differentiated against the woman. The hon. Lady fought and the House passed equal compensation. Did the structure of the Government alter? No. All this talk about it not having been done before is nonsense. Every reform that has been asked for here to-day has been met with the answer that it must be worked in connection with a complete scheme. But the facts are that the Government have been forced, although maybe that is too harsh a word to use, to bring in a temporary Bill dealing with the worst class of cases. We on this side have not attempted to remodel workmen's compensation. All we have done is to select half-a-dozen of the harshest type of cases which call out for remedy. The Minister of Pensions was compelled to accept this principle, although it had never been done before. Previous Ministers had said it could not be done yet this Government accepted it. The Minister of Labour is going to direct men into the mines and to refuse them admittance to the Army. A man injured in the Army is going to get this. The poor man who, the Government say, must be a miner would be fortunate to be directed into the Army and injured, because he would come into this improvement. There is no answer to the case on humane or business grounds. The business ground calls out for it. A man does not want to be chargeable to the Poor Law. He wants this done on a businesslike footing. I trust that the Under-Secretary will accept this, the most meagre Amendment of all.
§ Mr. Peake
I beg to move, "That the Chairman do report Progress, and ask leave to sit again."
It is clear that we cannot finish the Bill to-day. My right hon. Friend is not able to be here at this moment, but I think I should report to him what has taken place, though I cannot hold out any hope that the Amendment will be met, and we shall have to try to find 342 same time on another day to complete the passage of the Bill.
§ Mr. Ness Edwards
Here we are in the middle of discussing a certain Clause. The Debate has reached its end. The Committee is ready to take a Division and, in order to avoid a Division, the Under-Secretary moves to report Progress. I think it is not playing cricket with the Committee. Does it mean that the next time we meet we shall go through this whole procedure again? Is the time of the Committee to be wasted in this way? I ask that the Motion should be withdrawn and that we may finish at least this part of the discussion.
§ Mr. Tinker
I understand that the Under-Secretary is going to report to his chief the Debate that has taken place, and there may be a possibility of getting some concession. If we divide, we shall get defeated just the same.
§ Mr. Buchanan
If I thought the Under-Secretary was sincere, I think we ought to look at it again. If he really means what he has said, the best thing is to accept the Motion, but if it only means that he is breaking off because Members are not here in large numbers and he does not know how they will vote, that is not fair. I hope he is not meaning this as a method of getting over a difficult Parliamentary situation. I should like to be reassured on that.
§ Mr. Peake
Of course, it is clear that I am not using this as a device. If the Committee goes to a Division it will result in one side or the other winning. If the Government win, the matter is concluded. We have still many matters to deal with, and we cannot finish the Bill to-day. If, on the other hand, the Amendment is carried, it is clear from what the Home Secretary said earlier that the Bill itself is in peril. In the circumstances it is to everyone's advantage that the Debate shall be adjourned at this stage, so that my right hon. Friend may be apprised of the situation and, though I have no authority to make any concession—I would not, nor can I in view of the arguments which I have furnished, and which to me are very convincing—my right hon. Friend will have a chance of dealing with it when the Committee resumes on another day. In those circumstances I do not think there is any question of a device. It would be for the general advantage that 343 the Debate should now be adjourned and that we should resume on another occasion.
§ Mrs. Tate (Frome)
With due respect to the Under-Secretary, I consider that the Committee is not being treated fairly. This is a tiny Amendment. When the structure of the Bill was under consideration we were told that it was impossible to accept a major Amendment. It is playing with the House of Commons to say that if this minute Amendment is accepted the Bill will be lost. It is beneath contempt to use an argument of that kind. We are being absolutely and utterly flouted. It is true that we cannot sit here all night, but do you mean to tell me that we cannot divide on this Amendment, or that the right hon. Gentleman intends to go to the Minister and come back and say the Amendment is going to be accepted? Of course not. If we adjourn now, it is certain that the Amendment will be defeated at a later date, and the Committee will have been fooled.
§ Mr. Hogg
I agree with a great part of what the hon. Lady has said. Certainly if this Amendment goes to a Division at a later stage I shall not hesitate to vote against the Government, but I think what the Under-Secretary has said is fair, that he wants to confer with his right hon. Friend, and it would be unfair to deny him the chance. I fully agree with the hon. Lady that it is deplorable that the 344 Under-Secretary should pretend that the Bill is in peril because of the Amendment.
The Amendment would give compensation to children born more than nine months after an accident. He himself in resisting it has said that it represented a minute proportion of cases. I was prepared to accept the right hon. Gentleman's statement earlier when he said the Bill was in peril upon a major issue, but to ask me to believe that this Amendment puts the Bill in peril puts a great strain upon my credulity, which has been strained sufficiently once or twice to-day.
§ Mr. Maxton
I want to support the Motion that the Committee should adjourn, but I should like an assurance from the Under-Secretary that if I do that I am not imperilling the Bill.
§ Question, "That the Chairman do report Progress, and ask leave to sit again," put, and agreed to.
§ Committee report Progress; to sit again upon the next Sitting Day.
§ The remaining Orders were read, and postponed.
§ It being after the hour appointed for the Adjournment of the House, Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER adjourned the House, without Question put, pursuant to the Standing Order.