HC Deb 27 January 1944 vol 396 cc877-903

Amendment proposed [18th January], in page 3, line 19, to leave out from "prescribing," to the first "the," in line 21, and to insert "the manner in which".—[Major Lloyd.]

Question again proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Clause."

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

In the light of the discussion which took place previously, on the Amendment standing in the name of the hon. and gallant Member for East Renfrew (Major Lloyd), perhaps the Amendment that has been put down since by the Minister, to Clause 7, page 3, line 22, will meet the position, and, if it is agreeable to the Committee, I would be prepared to move that Amendment in substitution for the one we were discussing when the Committee adjourned.

Major Lloyd (Renfrew, Eastern)

Apart from the Amendment which my hon. Friend has asked permission to move, and the Amendment under discussion, you will notice, Major Milner, that there is also an Amendment to the Minister's Amendment. May we be allowed to discuss the Amendment to the Minister's Amendment, at the same time?

Major Milner

Do I understand that the hon. and gallant Member asks leave to withdraw his Amendment?

Major Lloyd

I have not done so yet. I preferred to ask your guidance, Major Milner. In the circumstances, I appre- ciate the fact that the Minister has endeavoured to meet the point of view which we tried to put forward last week. The object of our Amendment was to emasculate as far as possible the overwhelming powers which the Minister was taking under the first part of Clause 7. We did not feel that we could tolerate them. I realise that my right hon. Friend has been conciliatory to a very large extent, has at any rate met our extreme point of view, and we in turn have realised, as a result of the discussion last week, that the Minister must have some powers of regulation. As to the methods to be adopted in exercising those powers, discussion will arise later in the Bill, and important Amendments on that point are on the Order Paper. In view of the fact that the Minister has put down this Amendment, which will again raise a discussion on whether it will sufficiently limit his powers or does still give him too many powers, I am prepared to withdraw my Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Mr. Lionel Berry (Buckingham)

I beg to move, in page 3, line 21, after "any," to insert "disabled."

The point of this Amendment concerns the powers of the Minister. It seems to me that not only might he make regulations which affect disabled persons but also regulations for people who are not disabled. The marginal heading at the side of the Clause includes the word "disabled," and I suggest that it might as well be included in the Clause itself. It is a point of drafting and does not require any emphasis from me, but I feel that the word should be included.

The Attorney-General (Sir Donald Somervell)

I hope that I shall be able to satisfy my hon. Friend that the inclusion of this word is unnecessary. By Clause 6 the register is confined to a register of disabled persons, and therefore to include this word would be Unnecessary. It is always a pity to put in unnecessary words, because people wonder why they have been inserted.

Mr. Berry

In view of that very satisfactory explanation I beg leave to withdraw my Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Mr. Tomlinson

I beg to move, in page 3, line 22, at the end, to insert: The matters which may be prescribed under this subsection shall be such as must in the opinion of the Minister be so prescribed in order to secure that the fact that a person's name is in the register will afford reasonable assurance of his being a person capable of entering into and keeping employment, or of undertaking work on his own account, under the conditions under which in accordance with the provisions of this Act employment may be offered to him or such work may be available for him and the said matters shall, without prejudice to the generality of this provision, include—

  1. (a) the fact that a person is under a prescribed age;
  2. (b) unreasonable refusal of failure to attend a vocational training or industrial rehabilitation course;
  3. (c) except in the case of a person who has served whole-time in the armed forces of the Crown, in the merchant navy or the mercantile marine, or in any of the capacities mentioned in the Schedule (Women's Services) to this Act, the fact that a person is not ordinarily resident in Great Britain;
  4. (d) habitual bad character."
The discussion on this subject on the last occasion showed, and with some justification, complaints as to the width of the powers given to the Minister under this Clause, and this Amendment has been put down in order to restrict those powers, or restrict the exercise of them to the directions in which everybody felt it was right and proper that they should be exercised. Therefore, I think the four paragraphs in the Amendment setting out the matters which may be prescribed will find favour with the Committee. I do not think we need argue them in detail, to go into a long discussion, for instance, on what is or is not "habitual bad character." We might spend the rest of the day discussing that without advantage either to ourselves or the character concerned. All will agree, I think, that if he cannot be defined at least he can be picked out, and that having been picked out he would not be a person whom we should desire to have on a register and submitted continuously to an employer as a person who, under a compulsory quota, should be taken into employment. If a person is under a prescribed age—well, I think there need be more argument about him than about the habitual character. Paragraph (b) deals with unreasonable refusal or failure to attend a vocational training or industrial rehabilitation course. Obviously if an individual wants to take advantage of a register to obtain employment he must take the necessary steps to qualify himself to carry out the duties he will be expected to do when his name is submitted for employment. The third heading, which might give rise to some discussion, concerns service people who are not ordinarily resident in Great Britain. That would meet what I would call an "inverse cat and mouse procedure," the case of persons slipping over to this country and obtaining advantages of this kind without being desirous of living in the country. It is not aimed at the aliens referred to in our last discussion, but aimed at preventing a situation which might arise because of our close proximity to other countries from which it would be easy to slip in and obtain advantages and then slip out whenever it suited a person's convenience.

Mr. Bowles (Nuneaton)

What is the prescribed age?

Mr. Tomlinson

The school-leaving age, or the age at which employment was permissible.

Mr. Turton (Thirsk and Malton)

The hon. Gentleman has not made it clear whether this Amendment deals with a point which was raised by myself and another hon. Member with respect to Clause 20, Sub-section (3). If it does not I take it we shall have an opportunity later of discussing the point on that Amendment.

Mr. Tomlinson

No, it is not intended to deal with that point.

Major Lloyd

I beg to move, as an Amendment to the proposed Amendment, to leave out from "as" in line 1 to "to" in line 2.

I realise that the Minister thought his Amendment would meet the points which I and many other hon. Members made last week, and the Parliamentary Secretary has expressed the belief that it will find favour with the Committee, but I am afraid he is over optimistic. We feel that the Amendment does not meet the point which we tried to rub in but, possibly, did not make clear enough. It is true that the Minister's powers are to be limited, and his Amendment is satisfactory to that extent. The original powers, which were carte blanche, have been to some degree limited. Surely this particular Amendment is, in fact, an explanatory Clause trying to define what is meant. The examples (a), (b), (c) and (d) are merely examples, of which doubtless there will be others, of exceptional cases which would disqualify. I daresay hon. Members will not disagree that these cases should naturally be disqualified, but they are, in fact, explanatory examples.

The Minister's powers still remain, in suggest, very strong indeed, especially in line 2 where we have the words: The matters which may be prescribed under this Sub-section shall be such as must in the opinion of the Minister be so prescribed … I have put down an Amendment, and some of my hon. Friends have supported it, to omit must in the opinion of the Minister be so prescribed. There, I suggest, is the real meat of the Amendment. The Minister is still all-powerful. He has told us in the Amendment that there will be certain disqualifications, and we certainly know more than we did when the Bill was first drafted. To that extent it is satisfactory, but it seems to me that as long as the words "in the opinion of the Minister" remain the Minister is all-powerful and can make whatever decision he likes. There is no appeal to the courts, as I see it. Possibly, the Minister may allow his advisory tribunals or councils to be consulted, but even there, under the Bill, the Minister is all-powerful, and can, if he likes, ignore even the advisory council. So long as we have this expression "in the opinion of the Minister," which runs through the whole Bill, until we come to the all-powerful powers which are given under Clause 19, I cannot feel that the Amendment is sufficiently satisfactory.

I do appreciate the Minister's conciliatory attitude in the matter, but I would ask him seriously to consider whether he will not accept my Amendment to omit "in the opinion of the Minister." The rest of the Amendment simply gives examples of decisions that the Minister might make. The Minister has complete powers of decision and nobody can appeal against them. The courts have no say whatever. It is on that point but in complete support of the whole principle of the Bill that we are venturing to dispute the wording of the Clause.

Mr. Quintin Hogg (Oxford)

I sincerely trust that my hon. Friends will not pursue this point. I have given my hon. Friends support on the other Amendments which they proposed, but this one raises questions of constitutional principle which really cannot be supported. It is a peculiar attitude. Modern life makes the administration of the country so complicated that delegated legislation is necessary and desirable. Some years ago the then Lord Chief Justice, Lord Hewart, complained of it, drawing attention to the new constitutional principles which it involved, and since then, from time to time, Amendments of this character have been put forward. Each time they have been put forward as a novel point to be raised, but each time the same wording crops up, and it is, I submit to the Committee, time that we recognised that the form is a bad one. Nobody, I think, likes delegated legislation for its own sake, but if we are to have it at all we must lay down certain constitutional principles. I think we all recognise that we have got to have it in some form or other.

Lieut.-Colonel Dower (Penrith and Cockermouth)

Is the hon. Member referring to the war or afterwards?

Mr. Hogg

If my hon. and gallant Friend will go to the Library and look at the Statutory Rules and Orders he will see what I am referring to.

Mr. J. J. Lawson (Chester-le-Street)

Lord Chief Justice Hewart was responsible for drafting some of them when he was in this House.

Mr. Hogg

I think we had better leave that distinguished lawyer and pursue the point. To my mind the important facts to recognise are these. First of all, if we are to have delegated legislation, it must be legislation. The character which is essential to legislation is that the courts should not question the policy behind it. We should determine policy in this House. Let us pursue what would be the consequence of passing an Amendment of this character. The matters which may be prescribed, says the right hon. Gentleman's Amendment under this Subsection, shall be such as must in the opinion of the Minister be so prescribed in order to secure that the fact that a person's name is in the register will afford reasonable assurance, and so on. The object of the Amendment is to take out the words "in the opinion of the Minister" and that means that the courts would be able to question the policy lying behind the prescription of the Regulations. The courts would be clogged up with persons who dislike the Regulations in some form or another, and questions would be raised by some persons not as to the meaning of the Regulations but whether the Minister was right or wrong in issuing Regulations, and whether they were necessary. That is a question for this House and not for the courts. It is the same with all these problems. Policy must be kept for this House and out of the courts. It is a totally false view to which, I am sorry to say, currency was given by the late Lord Chief Justice, that policy was a proper matter for the courts and not for this House. That is a false view of the constitution of this country. The effect of passing Amendments of this character, would be destructive of the power of the Minister to prescribe policy. That would be to erect the courts into a sort of Supreme Court of the United States, which is not their proper function in this country.

I want to add the following as a word of warning. I am perfectly sure that the courts would be the first to object to this practice. The judges do not want to go into questions of policy. It would only be necessary for them to have experience of trying to interfere with administration on a large scale for the whole administration of justice under delegated administration to become impossible. Therefore, I sincerely hope that my hon. and gallant Friend will not press his Amendment and I ask the Minister to resist it.

Lieut.-Colonel Dower

Before the hon. Member sits down I would like to ask him whether he is stating that the judges take exception to this? I was talking to one judge this morning, and he said that one of the evils was that there was no appeal to the courts.

Mr. Hogg

I think it would be very unsatisfactory to enter into the individual opinions of men who hold official office. I say that experience of that sort would make them the greatest opponents of it, and, whoever they were, whether barristers, solicitors or anyone connected with the administration of justice, they would turn against Amendments of this kind.

Mr. Bellenger (Bassetlaw)

I do not think that what hon. members have done in forcing the Minister to make the definitions as he has done in (a), (b), (c) and (d) is going to carry us much further. The Bill is largely in the nature of a useful experiment, of which the Minister and his Department have only a limited knowledge so far. After all, rehabilitation has only been introduced in a very limited way during the war. Therefore, the Minister has made provision that he shall be advised by a Central Advisory Council and by district committees. If the Minister and his Department, in working the Bill when it becomes an Act, utilise those organisations fully and those organisations are really representative of all the different interests, I believe we can safely leave it to the Minister to make the Regulations. We have to take a certain amount on trust. It does not apply only to this Bill. It looks to me as if the trend of the social legislation that the House is passing will make it inevitable that a certain amount will have to be left to the Minister, or organisations set up by the Minister, and this House will have to take a good deal on trust. I am prepared, with the guarantee of the Central Advisory Council and the district committees, to place my trust in the Minister and his Department and I hope the hon. and gallant Gentleman will withdraw his Amendment and let us get on to issues which will deal much more closely with principle.

Lieut.-Colonel Dower

You are not trusting a particular Minister. You are trusting this Minister and his successors.

Mr. Bellenger

I am prepared to take the risk.

Sir Percy Harris (Bethnal Green, South West)

I entirely agree that this power must be vested in the Minister, but it would be an unfortunate interpretation to suggest that the late Lord Chief Justice was asking merely that powers should be vested in the courts. On the contrary, what is wanted, what the House wants and what my hon. Friend wants, is that, where practicable, these powers should be defined in the Bill. I think it would be unfortunate if the impression got about that we were departing from the general tradition of the House and that we wanted to vest powers in the Minister except where it was absolutely necessary, but we want to go on pressing that wherever possible those powers should be defined, either in the Clause or in the Schedule.

Major Manningham-Buller (Daventry)

I welcome the Minister's Amendment, because it clarifies the purpose for which Regulations can be made without limiting the power to make such Regulations as may be necessary. I think it is necessary that the Minister should have wide powers to make Regulations to carry the Bill into effect. My hon. Friend the Member for Oxford City (Mr. Hogg) seemed to me to misconceive entirely the purpose, object and effect of my hon. and gallant Friend's Amendment. In my view its effect would not be in the least to cast upon the Courts the duty of considering questions of policy or anything of that sort. The only effect would be that it would be for the court to say, if the validity of a Regulation was challenged, whether or not the particular Regulation was within the powers delegated to the Minister by Parliament. They would not consider any question of policy. They would merely have to consider whether the Regulation was intra vires or ultra vires.

Mr. Hogg

Does not my hon. and gallant Friend agree that the effect of passing the Amendment would be that, in order to ascertain whether the Regulation was ultra vires or intra vires, the court would have to enter into the question whether the fact that a person's name is in the Register would afford reasonable assurance of certain things? Would not the courts have to enter into that question and, if so, is not that essentially a question of policy?

Major Manningham-Buller

No doubt the Attorney-General will deal specifically with that point but, as far as I can see, what the courts would be concerned with is not a question of policy but the validity of the Regulation. The effect of the Minister's Amendment is to remove from the court the power of testing the validity of Regulations. If someone sought to challenge a Regulation, all that the court would be concerned with is whether or not the Minister had expressed the opinion that it was necessary. If he had, that would be an end of the matter. My hon. and gallant Friend's Amendment does not seek in any shape or form to embarrass or to attack the Minister, but merely to preserve the power of the court to see that delegated legislation is not in fact exceeded.

Commander Sir Archibald Southby (Epsom)

My hon. Friend the Member for Oxford (Mr. Hogg) has argued the legal position with his usual skill and lucidity and I think he and others have put their fingers on what is the real trouble. It is true that the tendency in legislation at present is to give the Minister unlimited powers, and it is true that the proper place to argue policy is here and not in the courts. What my hon. and gallant Friend seeks to do is to preserve to the individual some right to go to the courts to ascertain whether the Minister has used his powers properly. I cannot see that it is wrong for hon. Members to try to stop the present tendency to give unlimited and not very clearly defined power to the Minister. It may be right that the Minister should have very wide powers indeed. In this Bill he must have them, but I think we should preserve, for the individual who will be affected by the Bill, some right to go to the court and ascertain whether the Minister's powers have been properly exercised. As I see it, that is all that the Amendment seeks to do.

Mr. Messer (Tottenham, South)

I cannot see this being workable unless we have an instrument which will give a decision. It has either to be the Minister or someone else. If it is the Minister, both the person concerned and this House must have a safeguard. We can always question what the Minister does, but once the matter goes to the Court it is decided once and for all. I am concerned to see, in all matters where we delegate to the Minister immense power, that the House itself should be in a position to call into question any action the Minister takes. If we in the Bill are going to provide some other means of making a decision, we shall lose the power that we now possess.

The Attorney-General

On this matter my legal home is at Oxford and not at Daventry. May I begin by reminding the Committee quite shortly of what happened in the other discussion and the purpose for which my right hon. Friend put down this Amendment. The Bill, as originally drafted, contained words which seemed to give the widest powers, irrespective of any signposts or guideposts and there seemed to be no limit, as to whom the Minister might or might not disqualify. It was in response to expressions of opinion of that kind that my right hon. Friend put down this Amendment, which makes it clear that the Regulations are to be restricted. The matters are those which, in the opinion of the Minister, are designed to secure that his being on the Register gives a reasonable assurance of the man being capable of entering into and keeping work. My hon. and gallant Friend thinks that this matter ought to be taken to the court. I would like to congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Oxford (Mr. Hogg) who, though he was not allowed to go too wide, did put before the Committee a real principle which makes this an inappropriate matter for the court for a constitutional reason. I will not repeat what he said, because he stated it extremely clearly, and I think all Members of the Committee have it in mind. I would only like to add one other reason, which is also important, though it is not so much constitutional as practical. The Minister, in considering whether some particular provision should be made imposing a condition, or excluding people, and so on, within the general limits of this Clause, so as to see that the Register is a real Register of people capable and ready to take employment, will, of course, act on a vast mass of information which he will get from all sorts of sources, some coming through his Department, some possibly from personal investigation by himself. If there are any points of difficulty arising his decision will be reached after getting the facts from all sources—expert opinion and from people who have had the practical working of the scheme. He then decides that this is designed to secure that the fact of a person being on the Register will give "reasonable assurance," etc. That is a question of policy—it must be—and if you are going to give resort to the Courts, the Courts would have to decide whether this particular provision was such as to secure that the fact of the man's name being on the Register gave a reasonable assurance. The material which must necessarily be considered to come to that conclusion is a mass of stuff which the Minister has got from all sources, and if you take this type of case to the Court you will have to contemplate putting before them all the variety of facts and expert opinion and material which the Minister will probably have before him in coming to his conclusion. It is really outside practical politics altogether. For those reasons I hope that my hon. and gallant Friend who has raised this point, and who has had a partial victory, will see his way not to press this Amendment and will realise that there is a considerable amount of opinion, supported on other issues, which is against him. I hope, therefore, that he will see his way to withdraw his Amendment so that we can get on to other matters.

Major Lloyd

I have no apologies to make for having raised the point, because it is very important, and it is just as well that it should have been completely clarified. I am obliged to my right hon. and learned Friend for his explanation and, under the circumstances, I beg leave to withdraw.

Amendment to the proposed Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Question again proposed, "That these words be there inserted".

Mr. Turton

Before we leave this Amendment may I thank the Minister for having concluded the case of the catburglar which I have raised before. Having said that word of thanks I would ask one other question which was really implied in my question to the Parliamentary Secretary.

Mr. J. J. Lawson

Is this in Order, Mr. Speaker?

Mr. Speaker

The hon. Gentleman is speaking on the Amendment proper.

Mt. Turton

The other point I wished to raise deals with paragraph (c). If, as the Parliamentary Secretary says, it does not cover the question arising on Clause 20 of aliens being included in this Bill, we shall get the extraordinary position of a man who fought against us and was disabled enjoying the provisions of this Bill. I hope the Government will reconsider this matter on the Report stage, when they see what has happened on Clause 20. At the moment it looks very contradictory that here in paragraph (c) you are giving the Minister power to exclude persons who are not ordinarily resident in Great Britain, except people who have served in His Majesty's Forces, and then in Clause 20, Sub-section (3) you are saying that this Act shall apply to aliens. I hope, therefore, that if the Minister will not cut out Sub-section (3) of Clause 20 he will further amend this Amendment on the Report stage.

Mr. Bellenger

On that point, surely the hon. Gentleman does not wish to exclude enemy aliens serving in the Pioneer Corps and other regiments of this country? Of course, it may be conceivable that a man will come up for registration who has been fighting against us, but is not the safeguard in the Regulations Which the Minister will still be able to prescribe under this Clause?

Mr. Turton

That is the point. I asked the Parliamentary Secretary whether para. (c) was designed to cover cases included in Clause 20, Sub-section (3), and he said, no. For that reason I suggest that on the Report stage it will be desirable to include those cases. I heartily agree with my hon. Friend opposite that aliens serving with His Majesty's Forces in the Pioneer, or any other Corps should be included in all the provisions and the benefits of this Bill.

Amendment agreed to.

Mr. Douglas (Battersea, North)

I beg to move, in page 3, line 24, after "register," to insert: or an employer of any person entitled to have his name entered in the register. The object of this Amendment is to try to secure that the Register shall be as complete as possible. The consequences of entry upon the Register are very important, because they determine how many people in total will be upon the Register, and therefore they will determine what the quota is which employers will be obliged to employ. More than that, entry upon the Register gives to the person so registered a safeguard against dismissal by his employer, and a priority of employment by other employers if, for some reason he should lose his employment, because a registered person is given a preference and priority in employment. A common experience is that where people are required to register they do not do so. In this instance, there may be many disabled persons who will not feel any incentive to register, especially where it is the practice of employers to engage persons, who have become disabled in their service, in some suitable employment. Notably is this the case with local authorities, where employment is regarded by the workmen as having a high degree of security and certainty and it is likely that many people in that position will not take the trouble to enter their names upon the register.

The purpose of the Amendment is to enable the employer to make application to have the name of a disabled person entered upon the register. That will be for the protection of the disabled person himself. It will prevent the employer dismissing him without reason and will give him a priority of employment if, for some unforeseen reason, he ceases to be employed. It is for the protection of the employer because only registered persons are calculated in the quota which the employer is bound to employ. If the employer is employing people who are disabled and who have not registered themselves, he will be obliged to employ a larger number of disabled persons because his quota will only be calculated on those who are registered. Therefore, the employer who has been in the habit of treating his work-people in this fashion and giving them continued employment in some other capacity when they become disabled, ought not to be penalised by being obliged to employ a larger number. The consequence might be that if the quota were high he would be driven to discharge some of those who were already in his employment and were disabled but who were not registered.

Mr. Tomlinson

The Amendment cannot be accepted, for a good and sufficient reason. One of the arguments against the compulsory registration which has had some weight with me, and the only argument which has disturbed me at all, is that if a disabled person had overcome his disability and rehabilitated himself in employment and was then compelled to register, it would have a psychological effect on him which it would be unwise from a medical point of view to impose. Even if the principle were accepted, the Amendment could not be accepted as it is, because no person is entitled to have his name entered on the register. A person is entitled to apply for his name to be entered, but he has to meet qualifying conditions. If this right were granted in the cases suggested by my hon. Friend and on the other hand a man was not compelled to register because of the psychological effect of compelling him, then it would hand to the employer something which we are not giving to the man himself. It is within the rights of the employer to convince a disabled man who, he feels, should be on the register, to make application, and I cannot think that a local authority would find difficulty in persuading a man who was so disabled that he could qualify to come on to the register. It would be a dangerous principle if we invited employers, whether local authorities or otherwise, to make applications for individuals who had overcome their disability and were no longer handicapped from obtaining and retaining employment. I hope that the hon. Member will see the wisdom of withdrawing the Amendment because of the detrimental effect upon the individuals we are seeking to help.

Mr. Douglas

I want to repudiate strongly that there is any idea in the Amendment of doing injury to a disabled person. The Minister is taking powers under this Bill to make regulations as to the manner in which people shall be entered upon the register. In those powers I have not the slightest doubt that he will make sure that no person is entered on the register if it would be detrimental to his health or prospects or otherwise be injurious to him. If he does not take those steps, what is the use of the powers which he is taking? I strongly object to the way in which this argument has been presented. I admit that the Amendment is defective in its drafting because the words ought to be "any person entitled to apply to have his name entered on the register." I accept the correction on the technical point, but I would ask the Minister once more to look at the substance of the case which I have put forward.

Mr. Messer

I do not know whether my hon. Friend the Member for North Battersea (Mr. Douglas) really sees the full implications of his Amendment. It means that somebody who is in ordinary employment and who can be classified as disabled will have his name put on the register without his consent.

Mr. Douglas


Mr. Messer

As the Amendment reads, the employer could apply for the name of a member of his staff to be put on the register. There is nothing to provide that the man should object. One realises that there are a large number of employers who are prepared to take injured workmen back and that over a period of time they will attain a degree of skill which enables them to regard themselves as no longer disabled. I can see the possibility, to make the Bill workable, that it may be necessary to have an adjustment of wages so that disablement would justify an arrangement that a workman should get less wages than the recognised standard rate. The implications of the present proposals are too wide, the first principle being that no person ought to be put on the register unless he himself applies for it to be done.

Lieut.-Colonel Dower

There seems to be another defect in the Amendment. It would force an employer to make application for a person's name to be entered on the register whether that person desired it or not. I do not think that would really carry out what the hon. Gentleman wishes to do.

Amendment negatived.

The Attorney-General

I beg to move, in page 3, line 35, to leave out from beginning, to "shall," in line 36, and to insert "in any other case the Minister."

This and a later Amendment in line 38 are clarifying Amendments which make it clear that if the Minister refuses in the first instance an application to go on the register, it must go to the advisory committee. This is not clear on the original drafting and these Amendments put it right.


On a point of Order. Will this Amendment exclude consideration of the Amendment standing in the name of my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Preston (Captain Cobb), in page 3, line 35, leave out paragraph (b), and insert: (b) A person who desires his name to be entered in the register and is aggrieved by the Minister's determination, shall have a right of appeal to a pensions appeal tribunal on the issue whether his claim was rightly rejected by the Minister and the decision of the tribunal shall be final and conclusive as to such person's condition and right to be placed on the register at that time.

The Chairman

No, I do not think so.

The Attorney-General

It does not cover quite the same point. Perhaps it ought to be moved first, but that is a matter for you, Major Milner.

The Chairman

I think that the two Amendments might be discussed together.

Major Manningham-Buller

If the Minister's Amendment is carried it will be difficult to insert my hon. and gallant Friend's Amendment.

The Chairman

We might take the discussion on the two Amendments together and then see how far they are related.

Captain Cobb (Preston)

The Amendment in my name is repeated in essence in an Amendment covering the same point in Clause 8, page 5, line 8, at the end, to insert: (3) Any person aggrieved by the removal of his name from the register shall have a right of appeal to a pensions appeal tribunal on the issues whether he is still a disabled person within the meaning of section one hereof and whether his disablement is likely to continue for six months or more, and if the tribunal determines that he is a disabled person whose disability is likely to continue for such period, his name shall forthwith be reinserted in the register, unless the tribunal also determine that his disability is permanent and such as to render him unsuitable for any employment. It might be convenient to discuss that Amendment as well.

The Chairman

I am obliged to the hon. and gallant Member. It will be convenient to discuss that Amendment also.

Captain Cobb

I am sure that no Member of the Committee needs to be reminded of the continuous agitation which went on about this time last year, and continued for many months, which was aimed at the setting up of appeal tribunals to enable dissatisfied applicants for pensions, whose claims had been rejected by the Minister, to submit their claims to an independent appeal tribunal. Hon. Members who supported that demand came from all sections of the House, and we who have put our names down to these Amendments are entitled to expect support not only from this side, but from the other side of the Committee. The same principle is involved in these Amendments. It the Bill is to be as valuable as we hope it will be, the employment which will become available to disabled men will be every bit as valuable to him as a pension would be to a war disabled man. I go further and say that the ability to obtain employment will be more important to a disabled man than a pension. It is ludicrous to imagine that the Minister of Labour, whoever he may be, will have the task of giving personal attention to every claim to have a name inserted on the register. The present Minister of Labour, since he has been in office during the last three and a half years, has made his Department one of the most important in the State, and I believe it will continue to be so for many years after the war.

We know that although under the Bill the Minister will decide whether a man's name is to go on the register and whether it is removed, these decisions will, in fact, be made by a Government official. I shall not make any attack on the Civil Service, but we often hear hon. Members say in this House that the country feels this or that, when their claim to speak for the country is very slight; but I believe that I can speak for the country when I say that it is the general opinion among all sections that the sooner we are able to do away with official control and interference with our lives, the better. It is for that reason that I am anxious that such an important decision, affecting the lives and employment of the people concerned, should not be in the hands of an official to decide finally. The person who makes the application should have the right to have his case heard before an independent tribunal. It is often said that you must not only do justice but make people feel that justice has been done, and I believe there will be a real sense of bitterness and grievance among large numbers of the population unless the Minister agrees that a dissatisfied applicant for entry on the register shall have such a right of appeal, and the right to have his case conducted for him by a trade union official or some other friend.

The Chairman

It is now clear that if the Amendment in the name of the Minister is carried, that in the name of the hon. and gallant Member for Preston (Captain Cobb) will fall.

Commander Galbraith (Glasgow, Pollok)

I beg to support my hon. and gallant Friend's Amendment. The Bill proposes that if the. Minister refuses to put a name on the register the matter must come before one of these district committees. That only means that it goes there after recommendation and it does not at all alter the real sense of paragraph (b). It leaves the matter entirely to the Minister to be finally determined. I suggest that there will arise exactly the same dissatisfaction as arose in regard to pensions. If the Amendment is carried, the Minister will be saved a good deal of trouble in the future and great satisfaction will be given to those who have, or feel they have, reason for complaint and who will have some tribunal to which their complaint can be referred.

Major Lloyd

I should have thought that, in the light of the experience of the Minister of Pensions, the Minister would welcome this Amendment. There is no doubt that ex-Servicemen will do so, as they would prefer to have an independent tribunal. I endorse the opinion of my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Preston (Captain Cobb) as to what public opinion would desire, and I am surprised that the Minister should not see that he is laying up for himself, quite deliberately, in spite of the experience of other Ministers, infinite trouble, as well as risking a considerable amount of discontent in the country. I trust that he will consider this matter sympathetically and so avoid discontent and agitation in the future, as well as save himself and his Department a great deal of trouble.

Mr. McLean Watson (Dunfermline)

I hope that the Attorney-General, who will no doubt reply for the Government, will not accept the Amendment, because it would reverse the decision that we recently arrived at with regard to the power of the Minister. It was agreed that the Minister should have very wide powers, but if he unreasonably withholds the entry of a name upon the register the matter can be raised on the Floor of the House in a much more effective way than by reference to a pensions appeal tribunal.

Captain Cobb

I do not agree with the hon. Member. How many of those dissatisfied people would have a chance of their grievance being brought up here? In the case of the Ministry of Pensions, hundreds of cases were never heard.

Mr. Watson

I still maintain that the power of raising such matters here is much more effective than raising it in a pensions appeal tribunal. I do not know whether the hon. and gallant Member proposes that the present pensions appeal tribunals should deal with these matters, but if so, I am of the opinion that those tribunals should be confined to the matters with which they are already dealing, which is assessing the disability of ex-Servicemen and awarding the pension that is appropriate to the disability. We should not ask them to undertake a duty of this kind. Surely the Minister can be trusted to deal fairly, especially when he is advised by regional and district councils, always keeping in mind that any unreasonable withholding can be raised in this House. If these matters were decided by an appeal tribunal there would be no appeal at all afterwards, and the matter could not even be raised here. It would be better to leave the matter in the hands of the Minister and keep him answerable for whatever defects we may discover in the operation of this Measure.

The Attorney-General

I am sure that it would be impracticable to put this task on the pensions appeal tribunals, because they already have enough to do, and also because they are not the tribunals, according to their constitution, which would be appropriate for a matter of this kind, assuming that the principle of appeal were accepted. However, having said that, I address myself to the question of principle, which is whether this is a case for an appeal. The supporters of the Amendment said that they expected that the Minister would keep a benevolent eye on these matters and that the Amendment would save him a lot of trouble. That makes fairly clear the point which was made by my hon. Friend who has just spoken, that the setting up of a tribunal to some extent diminishes and encroaches upon the responsibility of a Minister to this House, when he can say: "I have decided that there is a right of appeal, and, the tribunal having dealt with the matter, I have no control over it. You may think it is a hard case, but Parliament has set up a tribunal to have the last word, and that is the end of it. It has nothing to do with me." There is something in that argument.

My hon. Friends say, and until you look at the argument it is attractive: "What about the pensions cases and the great demand on all sides of the House for appeal tribunals there?" There were two points in connection with that matter. First, a great many pensions cases turn on difficult medical questions as to whether a certain condition is attributable to certain causes. On those matters, as we all know, apart from the appeal tribunals, the Minister has to be guided both in substance and in fact, under the Warrant, by the advice of medical advisers. One of the reasons urged for pension appeal tribunals was that in many cases the reasoning which led to a decision one way or the other was not a thing about which we, as laymen can argue and show that the decision was absurd, on what I may call commonsense grounds. It was a technical question. The Minister would say: "My advisers have gone into this matter and have advised me." There was a strong feeling that these cases should be reviewed by a tribunal with medical members, with power to bring fresh medical opinion and all the rest of it.

So far as I can see, this Clause will not raise that sort of technical medical question. The question whether a man is or is not disabled is pretty simple. No reason for the cause of his disablement will come in. My right hon. Friend does not expect either a demand or a grievance such as my hon. Friends have suggested. He will have the advantage of the advice of his advisory committee. We expect that everybody will take a reasonable and generous view of borderline cases, and my right hon. Friend does not expect that there will be, as I agree there were in the pensions area, a demand likely to arise, as my hon. Friends have suggested. He has provided for this committee and we hope that is the best way to deal with it and that it will work. It does not in law bind him and it would be wrong that it should do so. He must take the responsibility. It is inconceivable that he should disregard a clear opinion come to by the committee that a man's name should be on the Register, but we want to preserve his final responsibility, and not shuffle it off on to an appeal tribunal. We think that is the best way. I am sure that the whole Committee will agree that we do not want to start multiplying procedure in the way of appeal tribunals all over the country unless there are a real demand and a necessity for them.

We believe that the committee system and the responsibility of the Minister to this Iouse will work to the general satisfaction of those affected under this Scheme. My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Preston (Captain Cobb) asked how many cases would be raised in this House. Well, a great many pensions cases were raised, and all hon. Members were in touch with the British Legion and other bodies and knew of the general opinion there upon many individual cases. I do not think that there is any reason to suppose that, if there is a slip up or a case turned down which ought to be put forward that it will not be taken up by a trade union, or the British Legion or somebody, even if the man himself does not communicate with his Member, and that there will be a chance of the matter being brought to the attention of the Minister. We do not believe that the proposed tribunals will be necessary and I therefore hope that my hon. and gallant Friend will not press his Amendment.

Dr. Russell Thomas (Southampton)

I support what the Attorney-General has said. He was quite right in saying that pensions tribunals were not the right bodies for cases of this kind. Fine points very often arise in the tribunals that are difficult to describe and I am sure that these tribunals would be impracticable for that reason. When the Bill talks of disabled people it does not mean, I would point out, only people who have been disabled as a result of the war. It includes the mentally deficient, tubercular people, cripples and people with many forms of disease, and so on, and I think it would be quite impossible for pensions tribunals to have constantly to give attention to cases of that kind. There would have to be a vast system of pensions tribunals in order to cope with the work. Though I have a good deal of sympathy with my hon. and gallant Friend I must support the learned Attorney-General.

Mr. Woodburn (Stirling and Clackmannan, Eastern)

It appears to me that as the thing stands just now it is possible for the Minister, if new circumstances or points are brought to his notice, to change his decision even. If it once goes before a pensions tribunal that tends to give it a finality. I think there is flexibility about the system proposed in the Bill which is worth retaining.

Mr. J. Lawson

The Attorney-General has fallen back upon the Advisory Committee and I think that is very important, because it seems to me that a pensions tribunal is out of the question. The whole of the pensions tribunals would have to be revised. I ask at what stage would the Minister or my hon. Friend tell the House what is to be the nature of this Advisory Committee, because that is rather important.

The Minister of Labour (Mr. Ernest Bevin)

It is in the Schedule.

Mr. Lawson

I mean the representation. That is rather important.

Mr. Tomlinson

The two classes who are definitely assured of places on the Advisory Committee are the employers and the workers, and there will also be others who have been in the different types of organisations for the disabled and people who have come into the administration. [AN HON. MEMBER: "That does not mean officials?"] No.

Captain Cobb

The hon. Member was rather premature in his suggestion that I would ask leave to withdraw the Amendment. I have not yet moved it. In view of the fact that an hon. Member opposite made a suggestion that this Amendment suggested a lack of trust in the Minister I would like to deny that suggestion as strongly as I possibly can. No one has more faith in the Minister than I have or wishes him more good than I do. It is because of my friendly feelings for him that I want to try and save him from being hounded and harried like his right hon. Friend the Minister of Pensions. The Attorney-General tells us that my right hon. Friend is quite confident that there will be no fuss over an appeal against his decision to include or exclude from the register. I think that if such a demand should arise my right hon. Friend should have something in the Bill or some means of satisfying the grievance if it should become something of the same scale as that experienced last year about pension appeal tribunals. I do not wish to delay the Committee any longer, and while I will not say that I am completely satisfied with the answer I have had I will not move my proposed Amendment.

Amendment agreed to.

Further Amendment made: In page 3, line 38, leave out "that question," and insert "the issue as to which he is not satisfied."—[Mr. Tomlinson].

Major Manningham-Buller

On a point of Order. I do not quite know, Mr. Williams, where we have got to. I do not know whether you are calling the Amendment standing in my name and in the names of other hon. Members in page 3, line 42.

The Deputy-Chairman (Mr. Charles Williams)

I understood that this Amendment was not very far away from the one we were discussing, though it does involve a separate point. I will call it so that the hon. and gallant Member can explain his suggestion.

Major Manningham-Buller

I beg to move, in page 3, line 42, to leave out: being a 1914–18 disablement pensioner and to insert: in receipt of a disablement pension from the Ministry of Pensions. I am afraid it is an entirely different point, absolutely removed from the point which has recently been under discussion. It might be convenient if we took all the Amendments to Clause 7 standing in my name and the names of some of my hon. Friends and the Amendment to Clause 8, in page 4, line 37, together, because all these Amendments cover the same points. Under the Bill it is specifically approved that the 1914 disablement pensioner shall automatically be placed upon the register, It is also provided under the Bill that everyone else has to contract in. The object of this Amendment is simply to provide that those whose names are recorded in the Ministry of Pensions are handed over straight away to the Ministry of Labour and entered by the Ministry of Labour upon their files, so relieving all the persons entitled to disability pensions as a result of this war from the burden of contracting in. The object of the Amendment is to ensure that no one who is entitled to be registered under this Bill who is disabled in this war shall be excluded through his ignorance of the regulations and ignorance of his rights.

I appreciate that the point may be made against me that many people who are entitled to disability pensions are not disabled within the meaning of this Bill. I appreciate that perfectly well, but I would point out that under a Clause of this Bill the Minister is entitled to remove from the register. What I am in fact urging is that this Amendment should be accepted so that the names will go across in blocks from the Ministry of Pensions, so that the Minister of Labour can go through them, ticking off those who ought not to be on the register, but inserting all the others, so that one should make quite sure there is not a single man disabled in this war, whether he be civilian or in the Services, who through ignorance of his own position or his rights, or ignorance of how to apply to be placed on the register, fails to be placed on it. If these Amendments are adopted it should lead to a great deal of simplification as well as security in the sense that those entitled to get on the register will be assured that they are there.

Mr. Tomlinson

I think the mover of the Amendment, in one portion of his speech at any rate, told the Committee why the Amendment could not be accepted. I realised when these Amendments were put down that we had acted illogically in one instance. But I did not think that an illogical action on our part in meeting the requirements of the 1914–18 pensioners—which is based on the fact that they have hitherto been safeguarded under the King's Roll Council—would be used to bring in the pensioners of this war into it unless they satisfy the definition in Clause 1. The position is, that in order to make that provision for the 1914–18 pensioner it is possible under the Bill as now drafted that pensioners will be entered upon the register who are not disabled in the sense set out in Clause 1, because many who are receiving pensions have to-day overcome their disability, have rehabilitated themselves, are in employment and their disability is no bar to obtaining and retaining employment.

Major Manningham-Buller

Will not these be removed from the register straight away?

Mr. Tomlinson

No. Under the King's Roll they have received during all the years at any rate some measure of protection because of the fact that they were originally disabled, and the employer qualified for the benefits which came to him through being on the King's Roll. I am sure this Committee would not desire that any individual who obtained any protection as a consequence of that King's Roll should lose it because we are seeking to make additional provision for the disabled now. That is the reason why the whole of the 1914–18 pensioners are brought in. But Clause 1 lays it down that the pensioner must be disabled, and his disablement must be a handicap to his obtaining and retaining his employment. An individual may lose a little finger on his left hand. I can think of one occupation for which that would be a serious disability, that is a pianist. I cannot think of another at the moment. [An HON. MEMBER: "A typist."] No, I type myself with two fingers, so it can scarcely be a disability in that sense. But a man could receive a pension for a missing portion of a finger, yet it would not be a handicap to his obtaining and retaining employment. I think my hon. and gallant Friend can be assured that the disabled of this war will receive all the information they need in order to find themselves on the register. But because this provision has been made, and is included under this Bill, I do beg that because of the fact that we are seeking to put someone else in the same category—illogical as that may be—no one will press that illogicality in order to prevent some benefit being given.

Lieut.-Commander Hutchison (Edinburgh, West)

May I put this point to the Minister, that the Clause as it stands at present is restrictive in scope and excludes a class of men not very large in numbers but who should not be lost sight of—those disabled in campaigns between the two wars? There are a certain number of such men who have served on the North-West frontier of India, in China and so on. If this Amendment is accepted it would bring them in.

Mr. Bevin

I think the Amendment which we shall discuss later, containing the words "who have served," covers the point.

Lieut.-Colonel Sir Ian Fraser (Lonsdale)

Will they be on the register? If they are, the Minister's new Clause, which we welcome so much, will be of use to them, but I think I am right in saying they will not be on the register.

Mr. Tomlinson

That is true, but there is nothing to prevent their being put on the register. My hon. and gallant Friend asked that if the Amendment is accepted these people should also be included, but I am going to ask that the Amendment should be withdrawn, in the interest of the 1914–18 pensioners.

Major Manningham-Buller

It is obvious from what the Parliamentary Secretary has said that the Amendment will achieve something quite different from what we intended. I assure the Committee that I, for one, was not trying to restrict what has been granted to the 1914–18 disabled pensioner, but to make it clear that no one who was entitled to be on the register should be excluded. In view of the information which the hon. Gentleman has given, which has quite satisfied me, I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause as amended, ordered to stand part of the Bill.