§ Sir H. Williams
I beg to move, in page 3, line 7, leave out from "1941," to end of paragraph.
The words proposed to be left out are:other than powers or duties conferred or imposed under Sections thirty-five to forty- three of the National Health Insurance Act, 1936 (which relates to the administration of medical benefit)This Amendment is of importance. I am not certain whether it is a desirable Amendment or not, but it raises the very important question, "Are you going to separate entirely the responsibility for medical benefit from that of cash benefit?" Before a man is entitled to sick pay, the doctor has to come into the picture. There has to be certification that he is qualified for a weekly cash payment, or any payments that may be authorised under the existing Acts or any future Acts. This Committee should think before it decides that the right place for medical benefit is outside the scope of the authority of the Minister of National Insurance. I should have thought that, on many grounds of administration, he should have taken with him the administration of medical benefit. The fact that the Minister of Health has a general responsibility for health, does not really mean that the Minister of Health should be concerned with the administration of medical 1894 benefit. His is the sphere of preventive medicine, and of seeing that a town has good sewers, a pure water supply, and that nuisances are abated—all the requirements of the Disraeli Public Health Act, 1875.
That work is not very closely connected with the organisation of a lot of doctors not engaged in public health services at all, but in the normal work of attending the sick in hospitals or in their own homes. It is quite distinct from the position of medical officers of health. I see no prejudice to the Minister of Health, if this work goes to the Minister concerned with health insurance. It would be better that the Minister should take these powers with him. In any event, it is unfortunate that he is prevented by the words of this Clause, without a further Amendment, from taking them with him. If we leave out the words which my Amendment suggests omitting, it will still leave a decision to be made in the future, after consultation. The Bill says, "Any of the powers" and on Friday, when talking about Orders in Council, the Deputy Prime Minister seemed to think that these paragraphs said "all the powers." They do not. There is to be choice hereafter by the Government of the day of the powers in paragraphs (a) to (g) that are, by Orders in Council, to be transferred to another Minister. If my Amendment is carried, the Government will have months to make up their mind whether the administration of medical benefit is to remain. All I am asking at the moment is that they should not make a final decision but leave the door open. This is in order that they may make a decision different from that contained in the Bill. The Amendment merely opens the door of opportunity. I hope that my right hon. and learned Friend will agree that there is a case, at least, for reconsideration, and on those grounds I move the Amendment.
§ Mr. Ralph Etherton
I support the Amendment, if for no other reason, because it leaves the matter open. If the Clause stands as it is, the decision is finally taken and nothing further can be done without further legislation. Therefore, I appeal to the Minister to accept the Amendment in order to leave the matter open for a decision later, after further consideration.
§ Mr. Molson
I hope that the Government will not accept the Amendment. 1895 The speech made by my hon. Friend the Member for South Croydon (Sir H. Williams) unduly emphasised those aspects of the responsibilities of the Ministry of Health which were taken over from the old Local Government Board. I am one who believes that the Ministry of Health has got at the present time too many different functions to discharge. It is the Ministry which has responsibility for almost every subject which does not appear to fall under any other Ministry. The Home Office is in rather the same position. As things are at the present time, the Ministry of Health is responsible for matters such as rating and the finances of local authorities in addition to health duties. It is logical and reasonable that, under this new comprehensive insurance scheme, there should be a special Department and a special Minister who will be concerned with the insurance and the financial side of the service. It is extremely desirable that the Minister of Health should be free from those various pre-occupations of insurance in order to give increased time and attention to other purely medical responsibilities which rest upon him. Therefore, I hope that the Government will draw a logical and reasonable distinction between the insurance services, which are responsible for providing financially against all the changes and chances of life, and will keep those special medical services, which are closely connected with the medical profession and hospitals, still under the existing Ministry of Health.
§ Dr. Morgan (Rochdale)
I hope that the Minister will not accept the Amendment. The question of medical benefit is purely a health matter. In spite of what the hon. Member for South Croydon (Sir H. Williams) said, you cannot separate curative and preventive medicine. It simply cannot be done. The Ministry of Health really has to deal with health and all medical matters which appertain to health, and the importance of prescribing for patients, and things of that kind, and I hope that the Government will not on any account listen to the claim for the Amendment. The administration of the insurance benefit, linking it up with the medical benefit, depends on medical certification. I want to make sure that, under the regulations, rules or procedure with regard to medical certification, there shall be consultation 1896 between the two Departments so that the Minister of National Insurance will not have the power alone to make regulations and decide exactly what medical certification has to be done. The doctors should be free to certify according to their conscience and their own ideas, within the accepted limits of the ordinary medical procedure with regard to prescribing. There should be no departmental regulations specifically that they must certify in a particular way in order to get the benefits available to the patient. I hope that the Minister of Health will still have the power to retain that position.
§ Sir W. Jowitt
The Government do not propose to accept the Amendment. We do not think that this matter should be left open. It is desirable that this distinction should be drawn in the most emphatic way at the earliest time, that is, the distinction between medical benefit, which means medical treatment and assistance, and sickness benefit, which means periodical payment of sums of money after certification by a doctor.
§ 4.0 p.m.
§ Sir W. Jowitt
Let us see what these Sections are other than the powers or duties conferred or imposed under Sections 35 to 43 of the National Health Insurance Act. Let me read the rubrics of the Sections:Section 35.—(Administration of medical benefit.)Section 36.—(Power to remove practitioner's name from list.)Section 37.—(Powers of Minister where medical service inadequate.)Section 39.—(Supplies of drugs.)Section 40.—(Powers of Minister where supply of drugs is inadequate.)Section 41.—(Provisions in respect to persons authorised to supply drugs.)Section 42.—(Powers of Minister when he removes names of medical practitioners and chemists from list.)All those are obviously functions which fall exclusively within the control of a health department. The Minister of Health will, shortly, if the proposals are carried through, be in charge of a comprehensive health service, and all those matters are quite obviously part and parcel of the comprehensive health service which is not merely preventive medicine, 1897 which is not merely public health medicine but any of the varieties and aspects of medicine which concern the health of the people, and it would be wrong to transfer those powers from the Minister of Health and take them to this new Department.
Of course, the hon. Member for Rochdale (Dr. Morgan) will realise that I cannot pronounce as to what the policy of the Minister will be, but I am quite certain that, in the matter he has mentioned, there will be the closest consultation between the new Ministry and the Ministry of Health, and the latter would obviously give advice upon the kind of topics which the hon. Member touched upon in his speech. I hope, therefore, that the Committee will reject the Amendment.
§ Mr. Ness Edwards
It seems to me that the most important point has been missed. It is that doctors ought not to be controlled by the Minister who will be paying benefit. I think that is all-important. The doctor ought to be under a different Minister altogether, for it will be a very bad thing if a man who wants a certificate has to go to a doctor employed by the Ministry of National Insurance. As I understand this Clause, as it stands, the doctor will be completely outside the control of the Minister, and in order that some assurance may be given to those who will claim benefits, they ought to feel that they are not going to a servant of the Fund from which they are claiming benefit. From that point of view I hope the Committee will not accept the Amendment.
Dr. Russell Thomas
When certificates are issued by a doctor under the Ministry of Health, will they be accepted at their face value by the Ministry with no caveat at all?
§ Sir W. Jowitt
I cannot possibly answer as to these details, but I should imagine, in the vast majority of cases, that the certificate would be accepted.
§ Sir H. Williams
I think, in a way, the Minister-Designate inadvertently deceived the Committee by reading out the titles. "Administration of Medical Benefit" sounds like a job done by the Minister of Health but it is really done by a body called the local insurance committee, and the Minister only comes in as an approver later on. As to the "Powers to remove practitioners' names from list," this is 1898 only after such an inquiry as may be prescribed. "Supplies of drugs" is a commercial function which had better be done by the Ministry of Supply if one is in being. So, for the right hon. and learned Gentleman to describe these as being things in which the Minister of Health would naturally be expert, was really to deceive himself and the Committee. I do not mind because, as the right hon. and learned Gentleman said, he only went through the rubrics; next time he ought to read the rest of the Prayer Book.
§ Amendment negatived.
§ Amendment made: In line 24, leave out "1940," and insert "1944."—[The Attorney-General.]
§ The Chairman
I was not proposing to select the Amendment in the name of the right hon. and gallant Gentleman. The matter has already been very fully discussed.
§ The Chairman
Perhaps the right and gallant Gentleman will make his point on the Question, "That the Clause stand part."
§ Sir H. Williams
I beg to move, in page 4, line 25, leave out "enactment."
This is quite clear. I realise that these words are governed by the words which appear above, and they are, presumably, limited to such incidental, consequential, and supplemental provisions as appear to His Majesty to be necessary and expedient. Nevertheless, I must say that I dislike the proposal by an Order to amend an enactment. I quite appreciate the right, by an Order, to amend any other Order but when we come to enactments, delegated legislation is trespassing on the privileges of Parliament, and I think we ought to watch it. I know that this point has frequently been argued out before, and the defence is that no Minister has ever behaved badly, but that is not a reason for saying that if a Minister commits murder, he shall not be punished. It is just as well that the restriction should continue to exist.
§ Mr. Molson
I think that my hon. Friend has raised a point of some importance, and I feel that although there is a good deal to be said for a provision 1899 of this kind, when new and somewhat wide legislation is introduced, in order to enable all those small consequential alterations to be made in the large volume of statute laws which will be affected by a Bill of this kind, it is only right that the House of Commons should keep it very narrowly under review. I would like to draw the attention of the Government to the special report of the Select Committee on Statutory Rules and Orders, which stresses the importance of the House of Commons retaining control over any delegated legislation of this kind. The Committee pointed out that where delegated legislation does enable existing legislation to be amended, it is most important that there should be a special provision for Rules or Orders of that kind to be laid before the House, and for there to be an opportunity for a Prayer. There is a subsequent Amendment which deals with that point, but I hope the Government will realise that it is this special provision, namely Statutes passed by this House to be modified by delegated legislation, which makes it especially important at a later time for us to move that any rules or Orders of this kind shall be laid before the House with ample opportunity for the House to pray against them. This point was also made by the Dunmore Committee.
§ Mr. Petherick
I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for South Croydon (Sir H. Williams) that whenever the so-called "Henry VIII Clause" rears its ugly head—
§ Mr. Petherick
Was it not the case that at the time of King Henry VIII an Act of Parliament was passed which gave His Majesty, by Order in Council, the right to repeal any Act of Parliament? It seems to me that this is a similar instrument that gives power to His Majesty, by Order in Council, to repeal, modify or adapt any enactment. If I am right in saying that this is the King Henry VIII Clause, or something like it, I do not think it is sight that the House should ever pass such a Clause without challenging it, and I therefore ask the Government to show cause why it is necessary to insert it in the Bill. In this case I 1900 can well understand that it may be that there are a number of Acts of Parliament already in existence which ought to be repealed in whole or in part, but I maintain that when the Government bring forward a new Bill it is their duty to see that under the Act or provisions of the enactment or Rule or Order, and particularly when an Act of Parliament is to be changed, that enactment should be put in the form of a Schedule to the Bill which it is proposed to pass.
I think this is rather an excuse, if I may say so, for some wide and sloppy draftsmanship. I imagine that it has been designed to sweep up the crumbs, as it were. Suppose the Government find, during the course of the machinery which it is proposed to introduce, that there is part of an existing Act which has to be repealed, then they are able to do it by putting in this particular Clause. I do not think that is a satisfactory way of doing it. The Government ought to take all the trouble they can, when envisaging the machinery they propose to use, to see that if it entails any changes in existing enactments a Schedule should be put into the Bill saying precisely what they are. The Minister of Aircraft Production, in his unregenerate days, some years ago, proposed, rather unwisely, to introduce a comprehensive Measure which gave His Majesty the right to do anything by Order in Council—
§ Mr. Petherick
I had finished my argument on that point, Major Milner, and I will not pursue it any longer, but as a general rule I should put this matter of the Henry VIII Clause, or anything analogous to it, very high on the list of those instruments which ought to be challenged whenevr they are put forward in the form of a Bill in this House. I therefore hope that the Attorney-General will show good cause as to why he feels that this insertion is particularly necessary in this Bill.
§ 4.15 p.m.
§ Mr. Ralph Etherton
I want not only to support but to press for the acceptance of this Amendment. To leave these words in the Clause as it stands is really to support sloppy legislation. If there is any Act of Parliament which needs amendment it should go in the Schedule 1901 to the Bill. I would like to ask the Attorney-General: Are these words really necessary? I suggest that it is proper, when this type of legislation is before the House, that the House should retain its power of control over such legislation.
§ The Attorney-General
First, let me say that I do not in the least complain about a Clause of this kind being challenged—indeed, I welcome it—because it gives those who are responsible for the Bill an opportunity of trying to convince the Committee that these are things not put in lightly, but because there is a strong case for them. Let me tell my hon. Friend the Member for Penryn and Falmouth (Mr. Petherick) that this is not the Henry VIII Clause, that is to say if one adopts the ordinary terminology. The Henry VIII Clause was a Clause which appeared in certain Acts—I think mostly towards the end of the last war—and which gave the Minister power to amend that Act by Order in Council, and then said that these Amendments, when made, should have the same effect as if they had been originally in the Act and had passed through all stages in both Houses. Rightly, I think, objection was taken to that. Of course, people can call a rose by any other name and I shall not quarrel with my hon. Friend if he chooses to describe this Clause as one analogous to the Henry VIII Clause. It is, however, put in not as a matter of sloppy drafting but to prevent there being a long and cumbrous Schedule, and particularly with regard to this Bill, because you cannot say at this precise moment what amendments in enactments may be necessary. This Bill empowers the Government, by Order in Council, to transfer certain of the functions of existing Ministers to the new Minister. I think it is generally desirable that there should be a little elasticity there. Indeed, my hon. Friend the Member for South Croydon (Sir H. Williams), in his last Amendment, asked for more elasticity. Everybody agrees that it is desirable that there should be a certain amount of elasticity at the moment as to where precisely that line is drawn, but the decision as to where the line is drawn will affect the question as to what amendments of enactments is necessary to make.
Let me give a few examples. For instance, in the National Health Insurance Act, 1936, there are hundreds of refer- 1902 ences to "the Minister." When these Orders in Council under Clause 6 have been drawn up, in, say, go of these cases for "the Minister," there will have to be read "the Minister of National Insurance," and in 10 cases "the Minister of Health." Whether it will be 90 or 91 depends on the decisions which are taken under Clause 6 and, therefore, there is no question of sloppiness here. It will be necessary to amend enactments, and the vast bulk of the Amendments will be this alteration of terminology—for instance, "In Section so-and-so for 'Minister' real 'Minister of National Insurance'." That is a good example of the necessity for having these provisions. It would be impossible to produce a Schedule now in a final form because it will depend upon the nature of the decisions which are taken under Clause 6. The same point also arises in the Unemployment Act, 1934, where there are references to "the Minister of Health" which will now have to be "The Minister of National Insurance." I hope the Committee will agree that it is necessary to have a provision of this kind. As my hon. Friend the Member for South Croydon said, there has never been a case where it has been suggested that it has been abused and that the Order has gone wider than these words legitimately justify. I appreciate that the fact that it is necessary to retain power to amend enactments reinforces the argument which will be advanced later on other and wider grounds for saying that these Orders should be subject to a negative Resolution, but I would ask the Committee to reject the Amendment. I hope I have shown that it is necessary to have the power and that it is not due to sloppiness.
§ Mr. Ralph Etherton
If leaving the word "enactment" in the Clause is only intended to enable the Minister to deal with drafting Amendments, could he not possibly leave out the words in line 23 and 24:but without prejudice to the generality of the foregoing provision"?
§ Captain Duncan (Kensington, North)
I dislike this sort of language and I support the Amendment. My hon. Friend the Member for Penryn and Falmouth (Mr. Petherick) called it a Henry VIII Clause. The Attorney-General said it was not because the Henry VIII Clause 1903 enables a Minister to amend an Act by Order in Council. To start with, the Minister cannot issue Orders in Council and, secondly, what is the difference in language between amending an Act and modifying an enactment? It seems to me it is exactly the same principle with slightly different language and it is in effect the same system as the Henry VIII Clause, to which I strongly object. I agree that at this stage it is not possible to put all the Amendments required in a Schedule to the Bill but there will be a large number of Bills in the next Session dealing with various aspects of the matter. Would it not be better to put the several Acts in the Schedule rather than have this objectionable system? It is not only Acts passed by this House but Acts passed by the Parliament of Northern Ireland 'which can be repealed, modified or adapted. I hope the Attorney-General will have another look at it and see if it cannot be done in the way we are most anxious that it should be done.
§ Mr. Petherick
I think my right hon. and learned Friend was technically right but substantially wrong. He is right in this respect, that a few years ago, when the Henry VIII Clause started to be used fairly freely, it was giving power to the Government of the day in one Act of Parliament to alter that same Act of Parliament, but I do not think he was quite correct, taking the long view, because it was just a loose expression which was invented at that time. It referred to a very important principle of a Statute of the time of Henry VIII which gave His Majesty the power to alter not only any given Act but all Acts of Parliament simply by Order in Council. We feel that the principle is really the same and that it should be watched rather closely.
§ Amendment negatived.
§ Mr. Ralph Etherton
I beg to move, in page 4, line 30, leave out "and without more."
I do not understand what these words mean and I should like the Attorney-General to tell us.
§ The Attorney-General
They have been inserted in previous Acts for this reason. The Sub-section deals with the transfer of property and it was thought that, although the Order in Council provided for the transfer, someone might suggest 1904 that it was necessary to have a formal legal transfer in the form of a conveyance. The words have been inserted before to prevent any argument and to make it clear that the Order in Council, without any further instruction, operates as a transfer of the property. I think, on the whole, it is a good formula and it would be a pity to change it.
§ Mr. Petherick
When I read it I did not understand it. I imagined that it meant without more Orders. Apparently it means without more machinery. Would it not be better to insert the word "machinery"?
§ Sir H. Williams
I beg to move, in page 4, line 33, to leave out "before".
I have tried to understand this sentence and failed, and I want some cheap legal advice on the real significance of the word.
§ 4.30 p.m.
§ The Attorney-General
My advice will certainly be cheap, and I hope it will be acceptable. May I read the words of the paragraph—Provide for treating anything done before the date when the Order takes effect by, to, before or under the authority of an existing authority.My hon. Friend is concerned with the meaning of the word "before." The object is, and it is a necessary object, to see that when we make a change of this kind we do not force people to start all over again. They may have given notice to the Minister of Health as part of a procedure which is incomplete at the time when the new Ministry is set up. The word "before" is inserted to cover those cases where there is to be or can be something, say, in the nature of a hearing before an authority. The ordinary preposition used in that case is "before."
§ Sir H. Williams
As the word "before" really means "in front of," I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Sir Harold Webbe (Westminster, Abbey)
I beg to move, in page 5, line 24, leave out Sub-section (7), and insert:(7) Every Order in Council made under this Act shall be laid before Parliament as soon as may be after it is made, but, notwithstanding anything in Sub-section (4) of Section one of the Rules Publication Act, 1893, such an Order shall be deemed not to be a statutory rule to which that Section applies.(8) If either House of Parliament within the next twenty-eight days on which the House has sat after such an Order in Council as aforesaid is laid before it, resolves that the Order be annulled, the Order shall thereupon cease to have effect, except as respecting things previously done or omitted to be done, without prejudice, however, to the making of a new order.I am in the happy position of knowing what this Amendment means. Its effect is to bring within the control of Parliament the Orders in Council which are to be issued by the new Minister. Although I attach great importance to the Amendment, I need not take up much time in arguing it. In the first place, I am encouraged by the speech of my right hon. and learned Friend the Attorney-General on a previous Amendment to think that this Amendment may receive sympathetic consideration. In the second place, the matter was fully discussed on Second Reading, and I am obliged to move the Amendment, not merely on the narrow ground which was indicated by my right hon. and learned Friend a few moments ago, but on the much broader grounds which were advanced by my hon. Friends the Members for South Croydon (Sir H. Williams) and Penryn and Falmouth (Mr. Petherick) on Second Reading, because the reply which was then given by my hon. and learned Friend the Solicitor-General was unsatisfactory. The Solicitor-General, it is true, accepted the fundamental argument which was put forward in support of the principle which this Amendment embodies, when he said:The control of the House over all subsidiary legislation, and, indeed, over Ministerial action, is a vital part of our constitution and one which we all value.But he then went on to argue that here this was merely a matter of transfer of powers and of timing, and that the Orders in Council were merely the instruments by which the new Minister would give effect to the will of the House as already expressed in this Bill. He said:This House, by passing the Second Reading, is approving of the general principle of the transfer of powers. It is, then, a 1906 matter for the Government during what period and at what time these powers will be transferred.Further on he said:This is merely the putting into force of specific powers laid out in the Bill, the transfer of which has been approved by the House.He went on to argue that,as regards the timing of the transfers, it is merely an administrative matter … which does not need the special requirement of an affirmative or negative Resolution.Furthermore, he referred specially to the Orders in Council which are contemplated under subsection (4, a), and he pointed out that these Orders would belimited to provisions which are either incidental or consequential or are necessary to an Order in Council making the transfer. It is only for that limited purposethat they would be required. So that, he concluded,I do not think that when we are limited to incidental, consequential and supplemental provisions, there can be a very formidable inroad into the privileges of the House."— [OFFICIAL REPORT, 10th Nov., 1944; Vol. 404, c. 1704–6.]I am afraid that my hon. and learned Friend did not fully appreciate the case which had been made and was not fairly interpreting the Bill as it stands. His case was based on the argument that the powers to be transferred are specifically laid down in the Bill and that the House, by passing the Bill, is itself reaching the decision in regard to these transfers and leaving the new Minister nothing to do but merely to implement that decision. As my hon. Friend the Member for South Croydon pointed out in interrupting the Solicitor-General, the powers to be transferred are by no means specifically laid down in Clause 6. That Clause does not state exactly which powers are to be transferred, but merely makes a list of groups of powers, any of which can be transferred. I think that my hon. Friend was quite right in anticipating that the partial transfer of powers might well lead to difficulty and consequential problems which should have the attention of this House. I submit that it goes even further than that, because in Sub-section (3, b) there is specific provision for Orders in Council to be made if His Majesty consider it necessary or expedient to do so, providing for:the transfer to the Minister of any power or duty conferred or imposed on an existing authority by or under any enactment other than those mentioned in Sub-section (1).1907 So that clearly the position is completely open, and this Bill does not provide for the specific transfers which are to be covered by the Orders in Council. I hope that the Government will accept the Amendment and will apply to these Orders the salutary check which is applied normally to Orders by submitting them to Prayer by either House of Parliament. The argument may be advanced, as it was by the Solicitor-General, that in these matters we must trust the Minister. That is an argument which has been used rather too frequently in the last few years. It is an argument which it is invidious to challenge, but it goes dangerously far along the road which leads to that abomination, the totalitarian State. I would ask my right hon. and learned Friend to adopt another argument this time and rely, not on the good will of the Minister, but on the good sense of this House and of Parliament not to abuse its position.
§ Sir P. Harris
I wish to support the view which my hon. Friend has put so well. He has covered the ground so clearly that it is not necessary for me to add another argument, except to say that the Government are very sensitive to feeling in all quarters. Earlier in the day they gave way on another issue because of what they thought was the general feeling of the Committee. Perhaps I may, from this corner of the Committee, add to the feeling in support of this Amendment, which raises a fundamental issue. From whatever angle of approach we look at the problem, we want to know what powers are transferred, and to have the right to criticise as to whether they are adequate or are too great. They will probably be too small for me. We want to have control by the House of Commons. Therefore I support the Amendment.
§ Mr. Etherton
I do not want to occupy time by repeating arguments which have been used, but I want to indicate to the Government that there is very strong feeling on these benches that they should accept the Amendment.
§ The Attorney-General
The Government are always vulnerable in Committee, from one of two angles. If they give way to what appears to be a general feeling in all quarters of the House they can always be told that they have no mind of their 1908 own. If, on the other hand, they strenuously resist hon. Members' suggestions, they may be asked: "What is the use of a Committee stage?" We try to hit the happy medium. The Bill was introduced without a provision for a negative Resolution against Orders in Council, on the basis that it was, in effect, merely a machinery transfer Bill, in which case I would be inclined to support the provisions of the Bill as they were put forward. It was looking at it in that light which led the Government to put it forward as the Committee find it at the present time; but we feel there is great force in the argument which has been put to-day, and which was put also by my hon. Friend the Member for South Croydon (Sir H. Williams), in, I think, an interruption of the Solicitor-General rather than in the speech he made earlier, and of which I am sure the whole Committee will be conscious, as a result of the discussion which we have had.
It is said, and said rightly: "This is not a mere transfer of machinery Bill. You cannot tell by looking at the Bill precisely what is going to be transferred, because that is going to be the subject of separate decisions." I was justified in resisting an Amendment just now on the ground that we could not tell exactly what Amendments of any enactments we should have to make until the policy decision had been taken as to where the line should be drawn. Therefore, we have come to the conclusion that Orders in Council under the Bill come out of the category where the House would be unreasonable to ask for the negative Resolution procedure and come into the category where the negative Resolution procedure is appropriate. My hon. Friend the Member for St. George's, Westminster (Mr. Duff Cooper)—
§ The Attorney-General
I am sorry. I meant the Abbey Division (Sir H. Webbe) said: "Let us proceed on the basis that the House will show common sense in the use of its powers." I am quite happy to proceed on that basis. As a matter of fact, although slight heat is sometimes developed on this subject, I do not think that hon. Members who do not sit on these benches have great complaint of Ministers or that Ministers have any complaint of the exercise of powers by the 1909 House of Commons. We have no reason to think that anything other than good sense will be brought to bear upon these Orders, as upon others. Therefore, we think, for the reasons which I have given, that the case is made out for putting these Orders into what I call the negative Resolution pigeon hole. There are three pigeon holes: The affirmative Resolution pigeon hole, the negative Resolution pigeon hole and the no Resolution pigeon hole. We think that the Orders in this case should go into the middle pigeon hole and therefore we accept the Amendment.
§ 4.45 p.m.
§ Mr. Pickthorn
It may seem a little ungracious of me to detain the Committee upon an Amendment after we have had a concession, but I hope I may be forgiven —I shall be quite short—as I think there are one or two other points which might usefully be put to the Committee. One is that the Government might look at these matters more often from the point of view of what they really need in order to do the business in hand, and not always come to us with Bills which ask us for a much bigger cheque than they intend to spend, and then, if sufficient of us make a fuss, proceed to write across it, "Not more than £100." That is rather an ungracious way of doing it.
Secondly, I would like to ask the learned Attorney a question. He said there were three pigeon holes into which these things could be put, but there is a fourth, which he omitted. There is the pigeon hole which demands that draft Orders shall be laid before the House, which is stronger, from the point of view of the House of Commons, than either the positive or the negative Resolution procedures, because it makes amendment practicable. And, thirdly, I was a little disquieted by his suggestion that if this had been a mere machinery transfer Bill the Government would have dug their toes in. I ask the Government not to accept that as a principle. Even if this were a mere machinery transfer Bill, to draw the line between the mereness of the transfer and the possible legislative effect of some machinery transfers is very difficult for us. It makes it all the more difficult when Bills which everyone wants to see passed are considered at the very end of the Session and the Government ask us to take the Committee stage and all other 1910 stages on the next Parliamentary day to that on which we discuss the Second Reading. This makes it very difficult.
I am not sure whether my recollection is right, and there has been no time to correct it, but in one of the earlier Bills of this sort, I think it was the Ministry of Health Act, 1919, provisions equivalent to these were submitted in the original Bill and not after protest, certainly in the Act, they were submitted to the fourth pigeon hole process, the one which the Attorney-General left out. That is, they had to be placed before the House of Commons in draft, so that the House could not only accept or reject them but could, possibly, amend them. That is the tightest of all these controls. I am very grateful to the Attorney-General for the concession, but I hope that the Government will not accept the assumption, at which he seemed to hint, that where a Measure can be defined, or assumed, to be a mere machinery transfer Bill, the House ought not to expect any kind of control at all. I am sure that we shall be laying up trouble for ourselves if that assumption goes unquestioned.
§ Mr. Petherick
I rise merely to make a suggestion. The Government have seen the force of the argument which was presented, and they have given in a most gracious way what the Committee requested. It might be possible to save a good deal of Parliamentary time in the future if the Prime Minister, in the middle of all those multifarious duties which he has, could write a letter to the heads of Departments or to the Ministers concerned, pointing out that in matters of this kind, where powers have been asked for, they should not indulge in great amendment by Order in Council. He might point out to the Ministers that it would be very much better if, when Bills are being drafted, the power of the House of Commons to pray against such Orders should be granted. I believe that would save a lot of Parliamentary time, and would be very much better from the Government's point of view.
Amendment agreed to.
Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Clause, as amended, stand part of the Bill."
§ Lieut.-Colonel Elliot
I would like to ask the Government representative what they mean to do under paragraph (a) of Sub-section (3) toprovide for the alteration of the constitution and functions of the National Health Insurance Joint Committee.And, secondly, what they mean to do in the way of modifyingSection five of the Scottish Board of Health Act, 1919, to give advice in connection with matters relating to national health insurance;
§ Sir W. Jowitt
This is a very complicated business. The Joint Committee at the present time consists of the Minister of Health, who is the Chairman, the Secretary of State for Scotland, the Minister of Labour for Northern Ireland and a person, appointed by the Minister of Health, having special knowledge of national health insurance in Wales. The Committee derives from an early date when there were four national areas each with its separate fund, and there are still to this day four separate insurance funds for those countries. The main functions of the Committee in the past have been to deal with financial matters which arise in circumstances of this sort: where an insured person, having lived for some time in one area, moves to another, various financial adjustments have to be made; and various financial adjustments have sometimes to be made with regard to an approved society which carries on its business in both areas. They also make regulations concerning the valuations of approved societies. I have been at pains to check up this matter. The Committee have never yet exercised any functions except in regard to what I might call the payment of sickness benefit. They have never arrogated to themselves the right to exercise any function or to make any regulation with regard to medical matters. Whether they actually have the power or not is not quite plain, because Section 160 of the Act is drafted in such a way that it looks as if they may increase their powers by making their own regulations. They have never yet done so.
When the Ministry of National Insurance Bill becomes law and the Orders in Council transfer certain functions of the Ministry of Health and the Secretary of State for Scotland to the Minister of National Insurance, then the Joint Committee must be reconstituted, because it 1912 would be impossible for the Joint Committee dealing with the financial aspect not to have the Minister of National Insurance as one of its Members. Exactly what the constitution of the Committee will be I cannot pledge myself at the moment, but it is obvious that the new Minister must be a Member of a Committee which deals with matters which are peculiarly within his province. I am afraid I am not acquainted with the provisions of the Section about which the right hon. and gallant Member questioned me, but I shall, in dealing with that matter, collaborate with the Secretary of State for Scotland, and the same principle will apply, namely, in so far as that Section deals with medical benefit that will remain entirely his concern. In so far as it deals with sickness benefit that will become the concern of the new Minister.
§ Lieut.-Colonel Elliot
Can the right hon. and learned Gentleman see any functions for the National Joint Committee after the single Ministry has been set up, and all the funds pooled?
§ Sir W. Jowitt
I think very likely and probably there will not be, but in the immediate interregnum we should still be carrying on for an interval of time under the approved society system. So long as that lasts the Joint Committee will have to continue. The only possibility of it continuing thereafter is in regard to Northern Ireland. I am not sure that we shall require to have it at all, and in the big Bill we shall have to deal with it.
Question, "That the Clause, as amended, stand part of the Bill", put, and agreed to.