§ 12.52 p.m.
§ Mr. Buchanan (Glasgow, Gorbals)
On a point of Order. There are several Amendments to this Clause, three of which are important. The Government Amendments are small drafting Amendments. The three to which I have referred propose to raise the rates of benefit for the man, for his wife, and for his dependent children. I suggest that it would be for the convenience of the Committee, and would make for clear discussion, if we could have a discussion on the first Amendment covering the other two Amendments. If hon. Members liked, we could have an individual vote on each Amendment, but no further discussion. I think that if this course is not followed the discussion on the first Amendment will overlap on to the second, and that on the second will overlap on to the third. I wonder whether you, Mr. Williams, would facilitate clarity and good business by giving a Ruling on the lines I have suggested.
§ The Minister of Labour (Mr. Ernest Bevin)
I would welcome that procedure, if it were possible to adopt it. It would save time and would deal with the whole problem.
§ The Deputy-Chairman (Mr. Charles Williams)
This, of course, raises a very highly technical point, because the Amendments are on different Clauses and on very distinct points. The object of a Committee stage for a Bill is quite different from that of the Second Reading, where the general principle of the Bill is discussed. The object of the Committee stage is to enable Members to come to decisions on separate points, such as the scale for a man, the scale for the wife as a separate proposition, and the scale for the child as a separate proposition. I quite realise that when it comes to a question of the family, these have a very close alliance to each other. I do not think that what we do to-day should be treated as a precedent, but it seems to me, although I am bound by very strict Rules, that, if the Committee as a whole expresses its opinion that on this subject we should take a general discussion and allow a good deal of latitude, that course might be followed. But we must not discuss the other points later. If that is the will of the Committee I will submit to the Committee, not as a precedent, but on the clear understanding that the Committee consider it in their best interests. I hope I have made the position quite clear.
§ Mr. Stephen
I beg to move, in page 1, line 13, leave out "four," and insert "ten."
When I heard the answer of the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Labour to the Debate on the Second Reading, I felt very worried about what was to happen in many thousands of cases. I thought of the position, which had been indicated in the Debate, of the soldiers who have already returned from service owing to disabilities. I thought of people in industry, who were now coming out of munition works and finding themselves without employment. I thought we should have an opportunity of giving them much greater protection than is afforded under this Bill. I know that we were told that this is an interim Measure, for a period of transition. The idea was 2117 put forward by the Minister that we need not be unduly disturbed, because the demobilised soldier would be placed in employment in eight weeks, or else the Ministry would have failed to achieve its objective. After the eight weeks, if the Government have met with disappointment, all those hundreds of thousands of people will be in the same unenviable position that our returned soldiers were placed in after the last war. The constituency that I represent is very largely working-class. There are three municipal wards, Mile End, White Vale, and Denison, and the majority of the people in each ward are working-class. When I have been in my constituency I have realised that many thousands of the men and women are in the Services, and I have felt worried about what will happen to them when they come back. I am thinking of those gallant men in Mile End, White Vale, and Denison who have always had very difficult circumstances to face. They are now being called upon, possibly, to lay down their lives in this great conflict. I am anxious to secure for them, on their return, the most adequate protection and the opportunity of a decent life. To my mind, the greatest of all the problems that we shall be faced with after the war is that of providing a decent house and a decent income for those who have made great sacrifices during this period of stress.
I propose, in the first Amendment, that the payment of 24s. a week to the individual should be raised to 30s. a week. Hon. Members may say "Why 30s? "I would have liked to take, instead of the figure of 30s., the figure x, and to have said that x should represent the wage of the worker in his industry, but the rules of Order did not make that a possibility, and I take the figure 30s. because I myself have been closely associated with the agitation of the Old Age Pensioners' Association, who claim 30s. a week as the lowest possible sum that would afford maintenance for old age pensioners. I put it to the Minister that I believe that the only satisfactory figure would be a figure which would give to the worker the wage of which he was in enjoyment during the time he spent in the factory or works. The figures proposed in these Amendments are, in a certain sense, token figures, in order to meet difficulties which one faces because of the rules of procedure.
2118 1.0 p.m.
The second of the three Amendments proposes an increase in the allowances for children. If the Bill were passed as it stands, the first two children of an unemployed man would get 5s. per week and the other children 4s., and I propose that the figure for every child in the home should be 10s. a week. I want to make only this comment in connection with the second Amendment; no doubt other hon. Members who are very particularly interested in this aspect of our social problem will deal with it in greater detail: It must be perfectly obvious to everyone in this Committee that it is impossible to maintain in any satisfactory way the health and strength of a child on either 5s. or 4s. a week. The figure of 10s. would provide a certain possibility of health and strength for the growing child.
The third Amendment proposes an increase in the allowance that will be given to the wife. The figure in the Bill is 16s. a week, and I propose that this figure should be raised to £1. There are also consequential Amendments, which I do not propose to discuss. There are two schemes of unemployment insurance in the country—the general scheme and the scheme for the agricultural workers. While I am not asking for a vote on the second Amendment, our scheme of Amendments has in view making the same rates of benefit apply to both the agricultural and the general schemes, so that every unemployed man, whether in agriculture or industry, would receive unemployment benefit of 30s. a week, for every dependent child there would be 10s. a week, and, for the wife, there would be an allowance of £1 per week. Where there was a family consisting of a man, wife, and one child, the income going into the home would be £3. With the cost of living as it is to-day, and the conditions people have to face, £3 is no excessive amount to maintain a man, wife and one child in a certain measure of decency and comfort.
I would conclude by saying that if the period which this Measure covers proves to be a very limited period, then a much more generous scale than is provided under the Bill would throw no very great additional burden upon the Unemployment Insurance Fund; but if the period should be longer than the Government think will be the case, then this Committee has no right 2119 to put upon these people the additional burden of unemployment for such an extended period. Hon. Members of all parties have been saying, in reference to the years of unemployment and all the difficulties and heartbreak that our people were called upon to face after 1918, that we are not going to have that repeated after this war. If that be so then let us ensure, in this Measure, that we take the steps that will prevent a repetition of the situation that arose because of an inadequate amount going into the home.
That is the plea I make to this Committee. I hope that those decent people whom I have represented in this House during those years of depression, whose sons and daughters are now in the Services, are to be given a measure of social justice, and that, in the years after peace comes, they will not again be faced by the old weary, miserable days because of the pitiful income going into the home. I plead with the Minister of Labour, and with this Committee, for these Amendments to be accepted, so that there will be a more adequate provision for those who may have to spend some weeks in unemployment in the days that are to come.
§ Mr. McGovern (Glasgow, Shettleston)
I have much pleasure in seconding the proposal put by my hon. Friend the Member for Camlachie (Mr. Stephen). I would say that this Measure is a symptom of things that are to come after this war. In spite of all the promises that unemployment and depression would not take place, we are facing the proposition of dealing with the men who will be returning and will have to face the job of finding employment, or, if no employment comes along, of finding means of subsistence. I have never understood why it has always been accepted in public life in this country that an unemployed man, and his wife and family, can live on a great deal less than the employed man can live on. We seem to me, under the present conditions of society, to be creating, by an inadequate scale of allowances, a large number of diseases in the human body, and, afterwards, spending lavishly considerable amounts of money in order to try to build up the frame that has been destroyed.
We shall be met with the argument that the proposals we are putting forward 2120 have no relation to an Insurance Act, and that men are largely being paid out of the funds contributed during the period of employment. That can be accepted as an argument, but, because of the fact that men are being thrown on an insurance scheme, instead of being dealt with by a completely Governmental scheme, we must make demands on the Government that, in ordinary cases, may not seem justifiable. We may argue that the unemployed man is only going to be carried over the bridge period between service and industrial employment or between war and peace. That argument has held the field for a very long time, and has been the pretence of a large number of glib-tongued politicians in this country and in others, but those of us who give a little study to the question do not accept the theory that it is only going to be a short bridge period, that the Government have large-scale plans for dealing with the unemployment question, or that there will be a return to prosperity in industry in a very short period after the war.
I would say, in passing, in dealing with the arguments for a higher scale, that the competition that will inevitably develop after the war will produce a greater system of cut-throat competition, with consequent unemployment and depression very much worse than after the last war. When we propose a scale that has more relation to the cost of living in this country, it must not be understood that we have wild theories that are not practicable in present-day life because it has been argued, time and again, by those who advocate increased scales in order to feed men, women and children, that the country cannot afford to treat its unemployed or poor on a lower standard, that this problem has some relation to turning the wheels of industry and to the lack of purchasing power of the people.
In dealing with the children's scheme, it would be unfair and unjust to say that there is no proposal for an increase in this Bill, and that there has been no advance since the last war. I remember 1926, during the General Strike, when I myself and my wife and two others in the family, had 28s. a week. The rent of my house was 15s., and I was left with the splendid sum of 13s. with which to feed and clothe myself, wife and two. children—if I had been completely de- 2121 pendent upon that income. Therefore these scales are not generous by any manner of means. I was a member of a parish council before I came to the House of Commons, and I can remember being a member of a committee dealing with the scales of relief under a Tory-dominated council in Glasgow. They paid 22S. 6d., plus 7s. 6d., for a single individual, making 30s. There was an increase up to 12S. 6d. in special cases, and there were clothes, boots and bedclothes in addition. They paid 7s. 6d. for the first child, 6s. 6d. for the second and 5s. for each other child, with a limit to the number paid for. That Tory council gave a much better allowance to those drawing relief—not drawing it out as insurance benefits for which they had paid—and had a much greater standard than the average person is allowed under this Bill.
The single person presents a difficulty which has never been faced. That was my experience when, in 1926, I argued with the parish council that we ought to have a subsistence level, plus a rent allowance. We found that a man who perhaps had enjoyed good wages but had been a drinker and had gambled away part of his income, and had been content to live in a dwelling with a rental of 3s. or 4s. a week, was drawing the same allowance as the decent worker who was paying 15s. rent in order to try and provide a better opportunity for his children. That was the basis on which the Unemployment Assistance Board dealt with a large number of cases in this country. An unemployed single person who drew 24s. a week might have to pay 8s. or 9s. in rent, being left with a miserable sum with which to keep and clothe himself and provide ordinary amenities. I remember, again, an argument that I used in those days in dealing with the cost of living figures and so forth. It was that in respect of a child of our own we had to spend 10s. 7½d. per week in order to provide it with milk, and here we are giving only 5s. or 4s. for the child of an unemployed man.
We are not using extreme, harsh or unjust language in saying we should face up to this problem in a more courageous manner and give to these people scales of relief that have some relation to the 2122 cost of living. There are impositions today on the community which the unemployed will have to bear. The cost of coal has been steadily rising, and in some areas the cost of gas and electricity, and there are rises and falls in the prices of certain commodities during winter. These have not been taken into account. We have a rent committee sitting at the present time and I do not know what the decisions of that committee will be, but there is a tremendous demand being made by property owners for an increase of rent. They, regard it as scandalous that while the shopkeeper can put on his increase, the landlord, with a tenant in possession, is at a disadvantage. They are demanding an increase of rents and I can see that even the small allowance granted to unemployed people under this Bill will be swallowed up. It will be argued by property owners that even the unemployed are getting an increase and that they ought to get their bit too. My hon. Friend was not using any extreme argument when he said that 50s. for a man and wife was not sufficient. Is there any Member of this Committee who would like to try to keep his wife and himself for a limited period on 50s. a week? The only regret I have is that it does not apply to Members of Parliament. If it did it would be rectified in a more adequate manner than it is to-day.
We spend in Glasgow from 70s. to 75s. a week on the institutional treatment of children who have developed T.B. That is what is done when we have destroyed the physical frame, and yet when we should be maintaining them on a decent physical standard we expect them to drag along on a miserable pittance. There will be large masses of unemployed people after the war who will have come out of the Forces and out of factories believing that they were going to live in a better world and have something worth while, for which they believed they had been fighting. They believed that there would be no unemployment and that if there was it would be dealt with in a decent manner. When there somebody to kill there can be a decent wage. When it is a question of killing Germans or killing Japs, it is a paying proposition, but when it is a question of peace, the people are not treated in that way. These scales should be revised. I would have liked to see a much higher scale for the people, 2123 who, when they come back, will be unfortunate enough to be unemployed.
§ Mr. Colegate (The Wrekin)
I listened with great interest to the two speeches we have just heard, and if I were trying to instruct the public in the manner of the philosopher Plato I would say that I agreed with a very large amount of what had been said. In the ideal community there would be no fluctuation in income. I have often wished myself that there was no fluctuation in income. A great many of us in 1929–30 found ourselves with the clothes we stood up in and a large overdraft at the bank and it was a very unpleasant experience, and I have very great sympathy with anyone who finds his income disappear in a moment of time. But, after all, what are we trying to do here? We are not trying to gauge the Government's policy on employment, to which a large part of the hon. Members' remarks were addressed, but we are simply dealing for an interim period with the unemployment benefit obtainable from the insurance scheme until such time as a permanent scheme of social security is passed into law and comes into operation. That is the gap to be filled by the present Bill. Whatever basis we may adopt when the matter has been discussed on the grand scale on which it must be discussed when we bring in social security, costing £800,000,000 or 900,000,000 a year, we surely must be guided at the moment by current practice.
Where does the current practice of the Ministry of Labour come from? I will tell the Committee. The Unemployment Insurance Scheme was initiated, as hon. Members will find, in Sir William Beveridge's book on unemployment after the rules of every trade union had been carefully analysed and classified, and the whole of the experience of the trade union movement in preventing malingering, which, unfortunately, we have to face, was utilised. It was decided at that time to make what was called a miserable payment of 7s. per week. It has been built up to a larger and larger amount, and a very grave responsibility rests on those administering the scheme. They have a large fund to administer, but that is not a reason for having—as I gather some hon. Members opposite the other day seemed to think—a really high share out and so getting rid of £290,000,000 very 2124 quickly. The proposal is a very responsible one. It is that, having a very considerable fund, some immediate advance should be made until we get the new scheme, with the new rates of contribution—which we are not getting here; there are no increases of contribution under this proposal—and that these advances should operate until the new scheme is brought in.
The hon. Member for Shettleston (Mr. McGovern) foresaw cut-throat competition after the war producing great unemployment. Cut-throat competition does not produce unemployment. It produces employment but less profit. If two bicycle manufacturers, in cut-throat competition, reduced the price of bicycles to £2 10s. there would be an immense sale of bicycles and more employment. If cut-throat competition is too severe manufacturers lose profit, but it is not cut-throat competition which leads to unemployment. Therefore, the Government, in my opinion very rightly, look forward to a period after the war when there will be plenty of available employment. There are firms with which I am connected whose order books are full up for ten years ahead. Many large firms will not accept orders for many years ahead because they are full up with orders, but even these firms will have to change over from their war production to peace production. The position is aggravated—and I think everyone will agree that it is a serious aggravation—by the housing shortage. There may be a factory discharging workers who are badly and urgently needed at another factory, but it may take a few weeks to get over the inevitable difficulties before they can be transferred from one factory to another.
I have often disagreed with the right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Labour, but here I think he is right. Since it is clear that there will be possibilities of short, sharp bursts of unemployment, not because there is no employment available, but because of physical and other difficulties in transferring workers from war to peace work, the only thing to do is to make some temporary provision such as is provided in this Bill. Without prejudicing the position at all or raising the question of contributions, about which some of us have ideas that we hope to put before the House in due course, the only thing to do is to bring forward a short temporary Measure of this kind, and 2125 I hope, therefore, the Minister will resist this Amendment.
§ Mr. Shinwell (Seaham)
If the hon. Member for The Wrekin (Mr. Colegate) had devoted himself to the simple and fundamental issue that is comprised in this Measure instead of indulging in a lot of academic nonsense and irrelevance, it would have been more to the point.
§ Mr. Shinwell
The hon. Member declared that he often disagreed with the Minister of Labour. On those occasions, the Minister of Labour was presumably progressive, but on this occasion, when the proposal is one that in effect—and it is unchallengeable—means a condition of semi-starvation for people who have rendered service to the hon. Member and to the nation during the war, he agrees with the Minister of Labour.
§ Mr. Colegate
That certainly is not unchallengeable. Do not make that foolish remark. Talk about nonsense! That is nonsense.
§ Mr. Shinwell
It is unchallengeable by Members opposite. The facts given by the hon. Member for Shettleston (Mr. McGovern) are all familiar to us. We have heard the arguments which have just been addressed to us for over twenty years in every unemployment insurance Debate that has come before this House. Every time the other side have stone-walled on this issue, and every time they have pretended they were anxious to do the right thing for the unemployed. But every time, in fact, they kept them down, actually below the subsistence point. That has happened over and over again. We had better face the issue. In any event we had better prepare ourselves for the next election, when this will be a fundamental issue. Then let the hon. Member for The Wrekin and his friends go to their unemployed constituents, whether many or few, and ask them to accept this miserable pittance after years of honourable service to the 2126 nation. Let him do that and he will get his answer.
We had a most peculiar argument addressed to us by the hon. Member for The Wrekin. Indeed, it is an argument closely associated with the proposals contained in this Bill—one to which exception has been taken by my hon. Friends, and to which I take exception. It is this, that manufacturers have large orders on their books, and are straining at the leash ready for the word "Go." No one desires more than myself the revival of British trade, and I think I have made as useful a contribution as the hon. Member, because I recognise that unless you do revive British trade, there is no question of security. He says that these orders are in the offing, and the prospects of British trade are apparent. Well, if as a result of that all that we are going to be faced with—and this is the argument we have just heard—is an occasional, temporary, dislocation, due to a switch-over because of the need for new equipment and new industrial set-up, why jib at a proposal to make the rates a little higher than is proposed in this Bill? Obviously that cannot mean the insolvency of the Unemployment Insurance Fund; how can it? That does not mean we are going to have this "bust" which the hon. Member asserted hon. Members on this side were demanding, because there is no great dispersal of the Insurance Fund, of the large income at the disposal of the Minister. Why is it at the disposal of the Minister? Because it has been contributed largely by those who hope, some day, to he the recipients of it, unless we have a Government that is capable of Promoting such a revival of British trade and organising our industrial life so effectively that unemployment will he reduced to a bare minimum.
I put this argument to the Committee. If there is to be large-scale unemployment after the war, then this is the wrong method of approach. Does anyone suppose that the hon. Member for The Wrekin will come along at a later stage, when we have this large-scale unemployment and many people are waiting to be recipients of the Fund, and ask for an increase? No, then he will say that it is impossible. There would be some substance in his argument in those circumstances, but if, on the other hand, we do not expect large-scale unemployment because of a White Paper, and what may be attached to that 2127 White Paper subsequently, then clearly we can afford to be reasonable, if not generous, because there is no generosity even in the proposals of my hon. Friend below the Gangway.
We should, at least, be reasonable with these people. Who, are these people? Soldiers, sailors and airmen who will be discharged ultimately and who may be discharged now for one reason or another. After the period of gratuity has expired, the period of grace has expired, the period of relaxation has expired, and the man is faced with the responsibility of seeking employment in order to maintain himself and his family, and there is no employment because of this switch-over and this temporary dislocation, or because of some other reason, if he is single he receives 24s. a week. He will be going down on his knees and wishing he was back in the Army again, because he was better treated in the Army. It costs more to maintain the man in the Army, even if he is doing nothing, than you propose to provide for him when he is unemployed. Take the case of munition workers. I do not agree with the hon. Member for Shettleston (Mr. McGovern) that you can afford to give those who are unemployed, having been discharged from munitions production, the earnings they were receiving whilst so employed. However I have always held, and I maintain this principle, and I believe it is morally unchallengeable, that if a person is unemployed through no fault of his own, he is as much entitled to all the elementary needs of life, as somebody more fortunate than himself who, by accident, finds himself unemployed. I recognise no distinctions. What you are proposing here is to penalise people who are going to be unemployed, temporarily, it may be for many months or perhaps permanently—for who knows what the course of events will be?
I should like the hon. Member and other hon. Members opposite to address themselves to this fundamental issue: Whether it is a temporary period or whether it is a prolonged period, do they expect a single man to live on 24s. a week? That question permits of an answer, "Yea" or "Nay." Do they expect a man, his wife, and two children to live on 50s. a week? How do they expect it is going to be done? I challenge 2128 anybody in the Committee, certainly anybody on the other side, to say it can be done in these times, and I doubt whether it will be done after the war, because there is no indication that the cost of living is coming down. On the contrary, I expect that as regards certain necessary items, the cost of living will increase. How do we know that we are not going to have inflation after the war, with money values completely distorted?
The only answer that can be advanced to my question is this. Hon. Members may say "This is an unemployment insurance fund. It is a technical matter. You cannot get more out of a fund than you are entitled to get. It has to be solvent," and the rest of it. If that is the reply, then give us another line of approach to a solution of this problem. Do not attack it in this fashion. Indeed, it ought never to have been attacked in this fashion. I will tell the Committee why it has been attacked in this fashion, whether the Minister likes it or not. This is the only constructive proposal the Government have yet advanced in connection with unemployment, except the White Paper. What is the White Paper? It is a White Paper and no more. It is a promissory note which may never be redeemed. That is all. Anybody can put a lot of proposals in a White Paper but, when it comes to legislation, that is a different proposition. Then you have the reactionary Conservatives on their toes. Then you hear what they have to say and it is quite a different proposition. I say that this is the only constructive proposition that has yet emerged from the Government archives in connection with unemployment.
What a line of approach. What a sad commentary on all the tributes that have been paid to the munition workers, to the people in the Civil Defence Forces and the National Fire Service, to say nothing of those in the Army, Navy, and Air Force. What an unflattering commentary. What a tragedy—yes, a repetition of the tragedy that followed the last war. If there is one subject upon which I feel keenly it is this, because I, like my hon. Friend the Member for Shettleston, before not since the last war, suffered the agony of unemployment, and I know how bitter it is.
§ Mr. Shinwell
I know how bitter one can become in those circumstances, and even if I had received the miserable pittance paid out in those days it would not have saved me from starvation. While I sympathise with the hon. Member for The Wrekin, who, on one occasion, found himself standing up in the clothes he wore and with an overdraft, I have a shrewd suspicion that he did not want for three meals a day. Sometimes it is very useful to have an overdraft—your credit is often higher when you have an overdraft than when you are without it. But the unemployed have no overdraft; they have no credit at the bank, they rely on the ministrations and the good will of the hon. Members of this House. They are in our charge. At the end of this war they will be the solemn and sacred charge of hon. Members. As far as I am concerned, I am not going to let them down—I hope I shall not be charged with any egotism in saying that—and I do not believe any hon. Member on this side wants to let them down. I know how they feel about this business. But tied as we are, chained, fettered, manacled to this Coalition and all that it entails, we are prohibited and we cannot move. Nor do I believe the right hon. Gentleman the Minister is anxious to impose this reactionary Measure on the unemployed of this country. I do not believe, in his heart, he wants to do it. We credit him with long and meritorious service to the workers of this country. But this suits the unholy traditions of the Conservative Party. They are up to their old tricks again. They are getting ready for the aftermath of war. Let us be on our guard against them. I shall not vote against the Government to-day; it is not worth while to get a few people into the Lobby. If the hon. Member is afraid—
§ The Chairman (Major Milner)
I must ask the hon. Member for The Wrekin (Mr. Colegate) to withdraw that expression.
§ Mr. Colegate
I am quite willing to withdraw my remark, Major Milner, if the hon. Gentleman will withdraw his charges. He is very free with his remarks about the Tory Party, which he knows are utterly unjustified, and he has no right to make them.
§ Mr. Shinwell
With great respect to the Chair, and quite appreciating the Chair's desire to retain decorum in the Committee, I do not ask the hon. Member for The Wrekin to withdraw his remark because I know it is simply a foolish statement. I think that hon. Members know me well enough and know that, if I want to do anything, there is nothing that will deter me, either physically or mentally. If the hon. Gentleman wants to try, he can. As I say, I am not going to waste my time in going into the Lobby. Half a dozen or perhaps a dozen going into the Lobby will, perhaps, make further complications, and will not have any effect on the other side, so what is the good with that solid phalanx against us? They are not here now, but they will emerge in due course from the dining rooms, the smoking rooms, and the Library. They will come along, not knowing what the issue is, and some of them will not care what the issue is. But they will vote against the unemployed and their interests. Therefore, I content myself with this protest. I hope it has been vehement, but it has not been so vehement as some of the protests we will make before long if this is the kind of policy which is to be adumbrated and applied by His Majesty's Government.
§ 1.45 p.m.
§ Mr. Buchanan
This is a very important Debate. I regret to say that I was not able to be present here last Wednesday, because I was serving on a committee in connection with rent control. Unemployment insurance is the most peculiar subject I have ever known. Nobody wants to discuss it. It is an unattractive subject. The fixing of 1s. or 2s. extra for a child is not something which makes a popular appeal. It is not like discussing foreign affairs, or the I.L.O. or intertional finance. Every Government, not with bad or mean intent, has always said "Let us get rid of unemployment benefit, let us end commissions and boards." But always the question comes back to the House. When this war started I met a Conservative colleague, now dead, and 2131 I said to him "The war will at least do something for me, inasmuch as I shall not have to hear about unemployment insurance until it is over." Now the question is before us again, even before the war is over. When this issue used to be discussed in the past, as my hon. Friend the Member for Seaham (Mr. Shinwell) and others then in the House well know, we used to have violent Debates about the rates of benefit. I remember that we were never opposed on the grounds that what we were asking for was too much. We were not met by an argument that 5s. then, for a child, was too much. The scale then, I believe, was something over for a man and equivalent allowances for his wife. The argument which met us was that while our demands were just there was not enough money in the till. That was the argument in 1930–31–32. Since then we have had an economic blizzard and five years of war, during which we have spent £12,000,000 to £15,000,000 a day, and yet we were told that we could not afford it then. I always get angry when I am baffled, because I am not then capable of arguing things nicely with others, and what baffles me is that before we spent the millions which we have spent in this war we could not afford to pay what is now being offered.
My hon. Friend the Member for Camlachie (Mr. Stephen) was quite fair. He does not want the House to discuss every item raised by this Bill—agricultural workers, children and all the rest of it. His Amendments are tokens which represent two things—the inadequacy of the Government's offer and the need for better treatment. I read last Wednesday's Debate and I noticed that hardly one Member mentioned the 22s. which has been fixed as the allowance for women. Can anyone tell me how an adult woman of 25 or 30 can live on 2s. a week less than a man? It beggar's description. Whatever else the Government did I should have thought they would at least have made the amounts equal. How can they defend the different treatment of women against men?
§ Mr. Buchanan
Well, I tried to follow the horses at one time and I found it nearly as difficult as trying to follow the 2132 Prime Minister. I have given up both pastimes. I remember talking to a secretary at an employment exchange in Glasgow once, and he told me that one thing that struck him was that the girls who claimed benefit were all well dressed. For a single woman, I think I could argue an unanswerable case that she needs even more than a man. Twenty-two shillings for a woman is mean and petty, and a disgrace. I want now to turn to the most pathetic feature of this business—the figure for children. I am chairman of a small, highly skilled and technical craft association, and I am beginning to feel that in a craft closely related to it unemployment is raising its head. Further, I am beginning to feel it in my own division. Tonight, in a works which I would be out of Order in mentioning—and I do not take the view that a capitalist cannot run a works, because he can if he likes—between 400 and 500 men will be dismissed from the foundry and pattern shops. This in the midst of a war. I have a letter from a man who is fairly well off and who lives in Cathcart. He is a foreman joiner who was engaged on concrete work. I will hand over his letter to the Minister so that he can examine it in detail. The work this man was engaged on was nearing its end, and as his services would be no longer required by the firm he began to look for another job before getting the sack. He was ready to take another job, but no permission was given and so the man was dismissed. Since then, for over 18 days, this man has been tramping the streets trying to get a job while his wife, child and himself have been living on 34s. a week. This man was offered employment and was not allowed to take it.
§ Mr. Buchanan
I am not against training schemes, but the great majority of men who will be coming back from the Forces will not be war casualties. The fellows I am meeting now in large numbers are those who have been found to be unfit since joining the Forces. They are not in first-class health. Try to get one of these men a job in the City of Glasgow, or the county of Lanarkshire, and see what happens. The Glasgow Corporation will say, "There is labour of that type in abundance."
2133 2.0 p.m.
I often feel that the House of Commons, including myself, too readily forgets the things it has done. I am careful about attacking Members, because I have so many blemishes of my own that I cannot afford to do it too much. It is not long since Parliament was shocked by two reports issued at a time when the name Professor Boyd Orr—a great man—was a household word to people interested in politics. He brought home as has seldom been done before the effects of malnutrition and bad housing. In his famous report on the Scottish situation, a tragic document, he put malnutrition first. To-day we are fixing the income of a child at 5s. a week. When I read the White Paper I get angry. A man at work is to get his full wages and 5s. for each child after the first. The day he comes out of work the first thing we do is to take the family allowance off him. What a cruel thing it is. We push him out of his job—that is bad—and, when we have done that, we attack his children. Even Beveridge fixed 8s. for a child. The Government in their White Paper fix 5s.
§ Mr. Buchanan
I am not doing so. I am discussing the inadequacy of 5s. per child. It is totally inadequate even in a temporary Measure. The Under-Secretary for Scotland told us the other day that school feeding could not be carried out under three years. We can only discuss these questions when opportunities arise and to-day is our only day. Our vote to-day will determine the child's money for years to come. It will not be sufficient for me to say that the numbers were few. Heir Hardie was in the House when the numbers were fewer still, and yet he voted. These human issues are of fundamental importance, and we must plead for decent treatment for the children. It would have been a disgrace to the House of Commons that we could spend an hour or two discussing diplomatic immunity but could not bother about how a child was to live. That would have been a terrible position for the House to be in. Those who have raised the question have performed a public duty to the House and the country. I intend to vote for the improvement of the unemployment rates. I hope that 2134 hon. Members will vote as their consciences dictate and that the House of Commons will assert itself. Last Friday the House of Commons turned the Prime Minister down in order to see that justice was done to landowners. Is it too much to ask that on this Friday my comrades and I, who have so much in common, should do everything to see that justice is done to the unemployed?
§ Mr. Lipson (Cheltenham)
I am not going to pretend that I have not been very much moved by the speech that we have just heard. The hon. Member has brought home to us all the inadequacy of the amounts available for those who are unemployed. But I draw the conclusion from his speech that, no matter what we may do, the amount paid to anyone by way of unemployment insurance is not a proper alternative to an adequate wage for full employment. Even the figures proposed by the movers of the Amendment would not enable the unemployed to maintain themselves and their children on a reasonable standard of living. The lesson that the Committee and the country should learn is that we must see that the policy of full employment is made a reality and that we are not exposed to the necessity of making these small payments. If unemployment insurance was intended to meet a long period of unemployment, if it had to be recognised as an accepted fact that in the post-war world, as in the world before the war, men and women were to be unemployed over a long period, many of us would object to these small rates, but to-day we are faced with proposals to meet a temporary emergency during the period of change-over from war to peace production. It comes at a time when men, and often women, have been in full employment for a considerable period and it is reasonable to assume that they have something by way of a nest-egg to help them temporarily.
§ Mr. A. Bevan
Does the hon. Member, and does his right hon. Friend, accept the principle that the longer a man is unemployed the higher should be the payment?
§ Mr. Lipson
I am going to use my influence, as far as it goes, to see that the policy of full employment is maintained, because I believe that unemployment insurance is at best a palliative and that 2135 the real remedy to which we should address ourselves is not to increase the benefits but to see that they are no longer necessary. I have received two communications from shop stewards. They are not asking for what hon. Members opposite are proposing. They say they are concerned about the problem of redundancy, and they ask that until alternative work has been found, men who are declared redundant shall be paid the full rate of wages on the basis of a 47-hour week. They have adopted what is a logical attitude, an attitude in accordance with the arguments of the hon. Member for Gorbals (Mr. Buchanan). All the Government have done is to propose increases to meet the change in the value of money. If they had seen fit to give rather more, it would have been acceptable no doubt on all sides of the Committee. I regret, as one who has always stood for equal pay, that there is this differentiation between men and women. I admit that one cannot maintain a child on 5s. a week but one hopes it will only be for a limited period, during the changeover, and that these people have some other resources. In the circumstances, I think one has to accept the Government's proposals for the time being but, if full employment cannot be brought about, and there is once again protracted unemployment as before the war, the question must come up for revision.
§ 2.15 p.m.
§ Mr. Stephen
Does the hon. Member mean that when these people have become unemployed they should take their money out of War Savings Certificates so as to tide them over this period?
§ Mr. Lipson
I would much prefer that they did that than that they and their children should go short.
§ Mr. Hugh Lawson (Skipton)
My hon. Friend the Member for Cheltenham (Mr. Lipson) rightly said that the increase proposed in our Amendment is insufficient, and he added that, therefore, there was no point in the Amendment. We thought that proposals which are couched in such modest terms as to represent only a token increase would receive approval from all Members. If there is any logic in my hon. Friend's speech he will go into the Division Lobby for the Amendment. I am not one of those who can 2136 speak of unemployment and poverty from personal experience, for I have always been one of the fortunate ones and have never run short in the same way as some hon. Members who have spoken from their own experiences with sincerity and feeling. Therefore, I want to examine the matter in a calculating and impersonal way. This Bill, in effect, increases the rate of benefit in exact proportion to the increase in the cost of living since before the war. Cmd. Paper 6520, on page 8, states that the increase in retail prices from 1938 to 1943 is 41 per cent. I am not in a position to challenge that official figure, but I feel sure that it is not on the extravagant side and is rather on the conservative side. Let us take the increase at 40 per cent. for the sake of argument. The 17s. in 1938, when increased by 40 per cent., comes to 24s., and that is what the Bill proposes. All the other figures, within a shilling or two, are an increase of 40 per cent. on the 1938 figures.
I do not think that the Minister pretends that this Measure does anything but bring the purchasing power of the unemployment benefit of 1938 up-to-date in accordance with the cost of living. We are not, therefore, giving an increase; indeed, the existing figures are below the 1938 values. If we want to examine the adequacy of the figures we can quite properly compare those of 1938 with the cost of living of 1938. We are fortunate in having for the years just prior to the war an excellent examination of the relationship between income, standard of living and the amount spent on food. In his classic work, "Food, Health and Income," Sir John Orr states that until there is an income per head of between 20s. and 30s. per week, that is until the level is reached when 10s. per head per week is spent on food, there is malnutrition. We should examine these new rates, which are equivalent to the old rates of 1938, with that in mind. A man received 17s. a week in 1938. Sir John Orr's investigation showed that a person with that income per head was spending about 8s. on food. A man and wife with children, who were receiving benefits of 10s. or less per head per week in 1938, were spending the small sum of 4s. per head per week on food. Apart from the amount of calories and so on that are required, we all from our own 2137 experience know that we cannot maintain reasonable standards of living by spending 4s. per head per week on food. That is what the rates of benefit in 1938 meant, and the rates we are being asked to accept to-day are the same proportionately.
In our Amendment we are not proposing anything extravagant or unusual. We are proposing increases which will lead to the income per head for a family with one, two or three children being somewhere between 15s. and 18s. per head per week. Sir John Orr proved in 1936 that, until the income per head was 25s. per week, or thereabouts, insufficient was spent on food to maintain health properly. To make a proper comparison with Sir John Orr's 255., we have to increase it by 40 per cent. We, therefore, require 35s. per head. When there are children, we are offering 15s. to 18s. per head. In other words, we have not advanced at all on the 4s. per head per week for food of 1938. Was the country satisfied with those figures? I know that it was not. I know that my hon. Friends above the Gangway were not satisfied. Therefore, we cannot be satisfied with this Bill now.
If the Government in the five years before the war had known the man-power problem with which they would have been faced in the last three or four years, would they have tolerated such meagre unemployment benefits, which were undermining the health and physique of the people? What a tremendous amount would have been saved in man-power if we had, in the years before the war, paid benefits adequate to provide a sufficient diet. I have not the figures to prove it, but I am confident that it would have lead to a considerable increase in the number of men who were sufficiently physically fit to go overseas in the forces—
§ The Deputy-Chairman (Mr. Charles Williams)
This is a wide Debate, but it is an abuse of the whole proceedings to go into the question of man-power now.
§ Mr. Lawson
I bow to your Ruling, Mr. Williams. My contention is that it would have been greatly to the benefit of the community if those who had been out of work before the war had been paid a sufficiently high rate of benefit to maintain health. It will be to the benefit of 2138 the community after the war, and at the present time, to pay benefits of a sufficiently high scale to maintain health. I think I have proved beyond the shadow of doubt that the rates which we paid before the war were insufficient and that the rates proposed by the Bill are exactly the same in purchasing power. The Amendment is very modest and only proposes an increase in purchasing power of 25 per cent. on pre-war prices. It is such a modest proposal that no one can say it will bankrupt the Fund or upset the finances of the country. Apart from humanitarian considerations, it will pay a great dividend in the increased health of the people.
§ Mr. Bevin
I am glad that we have had another Second Reading Debate, in which the whole range of the problem has been recited, together with a rehearsal of the speeches that will be made on the White Paper in a week or two's time. It has been said that men are unemployed in Glasgow now, that they have been stood off. If the Minister had not taken the initiative and come promptly with this increase, those men would have been getting £1 a week and the women 10s., whereas in a fortnight's time I hope to put it up to 24s. I do not think the Minister can be criticised for taking the initiative at once. It is not a bad trait in a Minister to take the initiative, and I do not think he ought to be pulled to pieces for it. I do not mind at all. I realise, when people are great experts on these problems, that every time they come before the House, the experts' knowledge must again be displayed in the shop window—but it has nothing to do with the Bill. I am told that I am going to starve children on 5s. a week, that I am riveting 5s. a week on the children. Nobody knows better about Government policy on these things than my hon. Friend the Member for Gorbals (Mr. Buchanan). The last time I was at this Box dealing with this problem I put these rates for children before the House and they were adopted: Under 8 years, 6s.; between 8 and 11, 7s. 6d.; between 11 and 16, 9s. As my hon. Friend well knows, these people will have a claim to these rates. Under the Needs Act the system has been modified to the point at which claims are admitted in a way that has no comparison with the old means test conditions which, quite properly, used to rouse such ire in the House.
2139 2.30 p.m.
I want to state a principle. I happen to be a Socialist, and I am still a Socialist, in spite of the chains that join me to the Coalition, and in spite of the same chains that the hon. Member for Seaham (Mr. Shinwell) would probably have riveted on himself with great alacrity if the right post had been found. As a Socialist I am never going to admit the principle that insurance is the right way in total to deal with unemployment. I will not accept that.
I take one view, having gone into this insurance system, and I always have taken it. If I have one view in this matter it has been consistent. There is a great difference between my hon. Friend the Member for Gorbals and me. He was trained in what is called the Little Bethel of Socialism, the I.L.P. I got my economic basis when I was young, with the S.D.F. I was like my hon. Friend the Member for West Islington (Mr. Montague); we both kept right on the strait and narrow path. I take the view, having got into this insurance, that it was, after all, not a Socialist measure. It was a Liberal measure, a Liberal device, and it was devised at the time to avoid the actual steps that ought to have been taken to deal with unemployment. I have never departed from that principle, as I stated in the Debate on the White Paper. I am being asked to forsake all my Socialist principles and come down to the I.L.P. philosophy that the dole is the solution for unemployment, and I am not going to do it.
§ Mr. Buchanan
I gave way five times for the right hon. Gentleman on Friday last, and he might do it once for me. I have never taken the view that this was 2140 a solution of unemployment. I take the Parliamentary view that this is expenditure for unemployed people, and I have taken the legitimate way of saying that it is not enough, and that we should increase it.
§ Mr. Bevin
All right. I will come to that point in a moment, but the hon. Member does take the view that the Government are not riveting 5s., as the total standard for children. Even the 6s. to 9s. which I mentioned just now are exclusive of the right to food in the schools, and in addition to unemployment assistance allowance, as the hon. Member well knows. He should give the Government credit. Governments are not entitled, I understand, to any credit at all. I have discovered that since I have been a member of one. At least the hon. Member can be fair and tell the country that what the Government have placed before Parliament quite recently is this scale, plus, in case of necessity, free school feeding, and not the 5s. which is before the Committee just now on a pure insurance basis. When I brought the other Bill before the House I was denounced in exactly the same way and voted against in precisely the same way as I shall be to-day. I do not mind. Whatever else I have been guilty of as Minister of Labour in this Government no one can point the finger of scorn at me for what I have done in connection with the means test and this business since I have been in office. I do not apologise to anybody when I compare it with what the rules were before.
Did we not in those Regulations provide that this horrible question of rent should be in addition to the payments—reasonable rent? That applies to the single man and to everybody else, but should it have come out of the Insurance Fund? I say "No." It should come out of the Consolidated Fund, out of the general taxation of the country. That is the difference between us. I am not prepared to saddle pure insurance contributions with it. I say to my hon. Friend who moved the Amendment that I think this is as much as we ought reasonably to put on the contributions now, especially in view of the new scheme. It is reaching a point where it is the limit. If the contributions will not stand it up to that point, it has to come out of the general taxation of the country.
§ Mr. Bevin
Then the hon. Member concedes my point. I am only dealing with the contributory portion of these benefits. I have not put before Parliament what is essential for the maintenance of life. I have never pretended to argue that. I would not justify these sums as being sufficient for the maintenance of a proper standard, not for one moment. I know my own people in this country very well, as intimately as any hon. Member who has spoken. I know that, up to the limit, the more that is put on insurance benefit and the more the man gets as a right without question, the better he likes it. Everybody accepts that principle. Therefore I have endeavoured, up to this point, to meet what I think can be reasonably stood without increasing contributions, and without facing any more taxation—indeed without touching the accumulated funds. It has been said that I ought to have touched the accumulated funds and increased the benefits; well, I do not think so. The accumulated funds will have a very great bearing ultimately, as hon. Members will find in a few weeks, on the height of the contribution that will ultimately have to be paid in the total scheme, and that is a very big factor in the whole consideration of the insurance portion.
It has been suggested that I ought to have increased benefits more under this particular scheme. I am sorry. I have added 20 per cent., which I think is reasonable, to this particular income to which the man is entitled. Questions have been raised whether I ought on this Bill to have dealt with the problem of the people who are redundant. It is a little difficult to deal with the whole demobilisation of war man-power in a Bill like this. I have already announced that, in addition to the Command Paper dealing with demobilisation itself, I am in discussion at the moment with the industries, the T.U.C. and the employers and other federations, in the hope that I will get an agreed scheme. The Cabinet, of course, have to play their part, the main part. When the change-over comes—and it has not come yet—Parliament will have an opportunity of hearing the views of the Government on that issue as well.
One of the arguments advanced concerned a foreman carpenter. We are not a perfect institution. Some official may 2142 have made a mistake. I do not know. Nobody knows better than the hon. Member who raised it that it will be dealt with pretty speedily if we get to know about it. I am quite prepared, if he will give me the name of the man, to look into the individual case immediately, and to see whether any error has been committed. As I said on Second Reading, whatever arrangements I make for re-employment there is bound to be some period when tranferring from one field of employment to another men will have to draw their unemployment pay. It cannot be synchronised perfectly. If that should happen—in fact, it is happening now—it will not mean that the total of unemployment is up. It changes continuously. The difficulty is that changes are taking place very fast, because of the changes in the nature of the war and the preparation for the intensification of the Japanese war.
§ Sir Percy Harris (Bethnal Green, South-West)
Is it the Minister's contention that there is no serious surplus of man-power but that there is still a shortage?
§ Mr. Bevin
The vacancies are far more than I can fi11 at the present moment. The difficulty sometimes arises that the people who happen to be out are not the people for whom I have vacancies, because of the different crafts. The total demand in the country now is far greater than I can fill. I only say that to illustrate the very great difficulty there is. Take the whole of the south coast of England. It is an area which, in the language of the Ministry of Labour, has been an exporting area for labour.
§ The Deputy-Chairman
I very much regret to have to interrupt the right hon. Gentleman but I do not think we ought to go into the areas of labour. We had had a very wide discussion.
§ Mr. Bevin
I apologise. I was trying to answer the right hon. Member for South-West Bethnal Green (Sir P. Harris) and it rather led me off to pursue that line. I do not think there is any great total rise in unemployment, except in the adjustments which have to take place and up to that point I prefer to meet as much of the difficulty as I can out of the rights to insurance benefit. If there is to be extended benefit from the State, it will have to be apart from the insurance part of the Bill.[...] 2143 I do not think there is any other point except the general criticism of the amount, and I hope that the Committee will now be able to come to a decision in order that we may proceed with the other Clauses. As incidents are arising every day now we must pay these increases out as quickly as we can, and within the next fortnight or three weeks make the money available, provided the Bill is given the authority of. the House and I can put it into operation.
§ Mr. McEntee (Walthamstow, West)
A few days ago I criticised the 24s., and I want to apologise to the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Labour for being unable, on that occasion, to hear his reply. I read it all the next day, and I was somewhat reassured. Having heard the Minister now, I am further reassured. I still want to see further improvement. This is an insurance Bill and I suppose it is natural for one to expect the benefits to be such as a lump of money paid week by week would enable the contributor to draw. On that aspect of it, I want to put it to the Minister that too much has been paid in. He must admit that he could not have amassed the surplus he has but for the fact that contributions were too high.
§ 2.45 P.m.
§ Mr. McEntee
Surely I am entitled to say that if there is a surplus such as there is now, it was brought about by contributions being higher than need have been paid?
§ Mr. McEntee
I must accept your Ruling, Mr. Williams, and I do so, but may I say this? Surely there is in the Fund now a very big sum of money, and from that money it would be possible, if the Minister so desired, to increase the amount that is laid down in this Bill. Leaving out the question how it got there, it is there, and it is still my view that it would have been far better for the Minister to use some of that money and increased the benefit to the men, women and children who are covered by this Bill. Is it claimed that a man can 2144 live on 24s., and a woman on 22s., a week? I do not intend to vote against the Bill. I recognise it is an advantage to have an increase, but I still say that in my view the increase ought to have been, and might have been, more.
If I were an unemployed man, as I have been in the past, and if I had children and they went to school, they could get meals there, but the Minister is surety wrong when he says they can have free meals there in all cases. It is not so. In many cases they pay for their meals. It may be that the amount paid is not sufficient to cover the whole cost of the meals, but in most cases something at any rate is paid for the meals. I would have to ask myself, supposing I was not insured, what would I get. I have a right to go to the public assistance committee, and the scale I would get—
§ The Deputy-Chairman
We came to an arrangement at the beginning of the day to discuss the points raised in these Amendments together, but the hon. Gentleman has gone on to free meals. He is now going on to another subject. We cannot extend this discussion to things which not only are not contained in the Amendments on the Order Paper, but to things which are actually far beyond what is in the Bill. I think the hon. Member should keep strictly within the Amendments, and to the arrangement that has been made.
§ Mr. McEntee
I must express some surprise at that decision. The Minister was allowed to say, without any interference from the Chair or anyone else, that in addition to these benefits a child could get free meals.
§ The Deputy-Chairman
I have allowed the hon. Member to deal with that matter. I am appealing to him, in view of the arrangements made at the beginning of the day, not to extend the discussion so that we have a wide discussion on things which are not in the Bill.
§ Mr. Shinwell
Further to that point of Order. With great respect, the Minister quite properly and within his rights made reference to the question of free meals, and declared affirmatively that free meals could be procured. Is it not within the province of an hon. Member to demonstrate that the Minister might be mistaken?
§ The Deputy-Chairman
I think the hon. Member is not quite clear as to what I said, which was that I heard the Minister say that, and I allowed the hon. Member to make the statement, which he has done. He was, however, going on to deal with further matters of that kind, and I suggested it would be in the interests of the Committee if he did not develop that aspect of the subject further. I did not question his right to say something on that point.
§ Mr. McEntee
I merely intended to say that in the circumstances I mentioned I would be better out of insurance. As an unemployed man who had paid insurance contributions I would receive, under the provisions of this Bill, 24s. a week. Surely I am entitled to say that if I were out of insurance, paying nothing, I would get 24s. 6d.? As I say, I was somewhat reassured by the statement made by the Minister to-day, and I shall not vote against the Bill. I think this discussion has done very much good. I do not think much need be said to the Minister by me or anyone else, in regard to what we feel about it. The right hon. Gentleman knows quite as much as I do, and no doubt he feels as I do, too. But I fear, and many of us fear, that this 24s. is being taken by the Government as the basis of what a man can live on, and I wish to assure him that if the Government persist in that view, and lay that down as a scale on which a man can live, the Government are looking for very serious trouble in the future.
§ Mr. Thomas Fraser (Hamilton)
I suggest that the Minister rather misled the Committee when dealing with the present scales. He himself said specifically that he did not regard these scales as adequate—as sufficient to provide a standard—but in resisting the Amendment, lie indicated that in addition to these scales, the recipient could have several additional benefits and allowances and so on, and that in regard to the children the scales operated by the Assistance Board could be applied. But ho knows full well what happens when a man becomes unemployed and draws unemployment insurance from the employment exchange. He does not go along to the Assistance Board and make an additional claim for these other things. He merely draws unemployment benefit, and when this Bill passes into law—
§ The Deputy-Chairman
Quite frankly, the question of rates which are outside the Bill is outside the scope of discussion, even on Second Reading, and I think that the Committee, having asked for the latitude which has been given, might now at any rate help me, and not make the discussion so much wider.
§ Mr. Fraser
Surely these things are closely related to the Amendments we are discussing? Surely if we may not examine what additional income these people may have, there is no point in discussing the benefit at all?
§ The Deputy-Chairman
Those are points for discussion in other circumstances on another Bill. I do not think it is right or fair to bring them into this discussion.
§ Mr. John Wilmot (Kennington)
Might I submit, with all respect, Mr. Williams, that it is extremely difficult for Members to come to a conclusion on a matter of this kind, without considering whether a man receives in toto enough to live upon, and it is very difficult for them to decide how to vote, unless they can ask the Minister, and the Minister can reply, to questions designed to illustrate what the man's income will be in certain circumstances.
§ The Deputy-Chairman
If we were discussing the whole question of what a man's subsistence should be, that would be so; but this is simply a matter of insurance, and of what can be paid out of the fund.
§ Mr. Stephen
Suppose we had been discussing the first Amendment, strictly in accordance with the Rules of the House, without widening the Debate, as we agreed to do. The Bill proposes a certain rate, and I have moved that the rate should he increased to a certain amount. Surely I am entitled to say, "I could not live on the amount in the Bill," and for the Minister to say, "No, but you could go out and sing in the street, or do something else to add to it"; and then, surely, I would have an opportunity of discussing those circumstances. I submit that, in accordance with the strict 2147 Rules, one would be entitled to say that one wanted this increased amount for the man, although there were other ways in which income might be increased.
§ The Deputy-Chairman
No, we must keep strictly to the matter of insurance on this Bill. Hon. Members have taken great latitude in their illustrations, as the hon. Gentleman has just done, but I suggest that, if we are going to make any arrangements of the kind we have made to-day, it will become completely impossible for the Chair, if hon. Members widen the Debate indefinitely, so that almost any point can be brought in.
§ Mr. Hynd (Sheffield, Attercliffe)
A number of Members, including myself, have been impressed by the Minister's argument; and that fact may decide the fate of the Bill. His argument was that this is not a subsistence standard, but merely a part of the income available to the unemployed man from various sources. Hon. Members here wish to examine that argument; and surely it should be thoroughly examined, so that we may make up our minds.
§ 3.0 p.m.
§ Mr. Stephen
I have been in this House since 1922, except for four years, and the party on this side have never accepted the contention of the Minister.
§ The Deputy-Chairman
It does not matter what any individuals accept. We are discussing insurance; and we cannot go outside that, into the whole question of the subsistence of the people who are covered by this Bill. Hon. Members must keep strictly to the position that it is an Insurance Bill.
§ Mr. Fraser
Perhaps I may continue. I would suggest that anyone who knows anything about unemployment insurance and the administration of the Fund, whether from the administrators' end or from the receiving end, appreciates that the benefits paid are the total income of the recipients in nearly all cases.
§ The Deputy-Chairman
The hon. Gentleman really must not discuss this quest- 2148 ion of total income. That is outside the question of insurance.
§ Mr. Fraser
I want to keep within the Rules of Order, but I want to refer to the inadequacy of 24s. a week as a figure on which to live. I know what it is like to be unemployed and to draw unemployment insurance benefit: I have been unemployed for long periods; and many of my people are still unemployed. These people are living on the benefits; and, in my view, the increase proposed by the Bill is quite insufficient. I find myself compelled to support the Amendment, appreciating that even these increased benefits will be insufficient, as they will be the sole subsistence of these people. I hope that when the Minister replies he will be able to clear up this position about income, for we cannot divorce this subject from income.
§ Mr. Fraser
He should explain it more fully. The Committee does not know what the position is; and, without clarification, Members, if there is a Division, will not know upon what they are voting. Let me say a word about the Minister's apprehension of the likelihood of pockets of unemployment when the change comes. It is because of these small pockets that he justifies this 24s.—
§ The Deputy-Chairman
This question of pockets is exactly the one on which I ruled the Minister out of Order.
§ Mr. Fraser
I think that the Minister was dealing with certain areas. It has been argued that the scales proposed in the Bill would relate only to pockets of unemployment, and not to large-scale unemployment. But we have continuous and permanent unemployment to-day. In many parts of the country there are people who have been unemployed for a long period. They are living on the present scale, and they are looking for better treatment than is afforded by this Bill. I beg the Minister to appreciate that we are not dealing with people who would be unemployed for two, four, or eight weeks, I come from an area where we have, I think, a higher percentage of unemployment than is envisaged in the period of transformation from war production to peace production. Indeed, I believe that in Lanarkshire we have more 2149 than one-tenth of the unemployed population of this country, although I question whether we have much more than one-hundredth of the population. Therefore, we have long periods of unemployment for large numbers of people. These people will find it very difficult to live on the scales proposed in the Bill. That being so, I think the Committee should give this matter much thought, and seriously consider supporting the Amendment.
§ Mr. Shinwell
A point has emerged which, with great respect, Mr. Williams, I think requires some clarification to help hon. Members to make up their minds on this issue. It is proposed in the Bill to provide an increase for single men who may be unemployed, which would enable them to receive 24s. a week. An Amendment has been moved which proposes to make a payment of 30s. a week. The Minister resists that Amendment; and, in doing so, seemed to me to indicate—and this is the point that requires elucidation—that the amount of 24s. a week received from the Unemployment Insurance Fund, did not preclude the recipient from seeking assistance elsewhere. That is the point. What does that really mean? It a single person is unemployed, and is receiving the total amount provided under the Unemployment Insurance Scheme, that person can apply, for example, to the public assistance committee or Unemployment Assistance Board. The Minister said he had that right. The point we have to consider is whether, having that right, he would receive some additional assistance. I am not arguing the merits of the case, but does the fact of that person being a recipient of unemployment insurance preclude him from receiving any assistance from the Unemployment Assistance Board, even supposing he makes an application? It seems to me that we require further elucidation, because, obviously, if we were assured that no person, single or married, was precluded from applying, and also, having regard to the inadequacy of the financial assistance provided under the scheme, that such a person would receive additional assistance, it would make all the difference in the world. If the Minister could enlighten us on that point, it would be a very great help.
§ Mr. Bevin
I regret that some hon. Members were not here in time for the earlier reply. I dealt with this fully in 2150 reply to the hon. Member for Gorbals (Mr. Buchanan). The hon. Member took as an illustration the 5s. for a child, and accused me of compelling a child to live on 5s. a week. May I follow up the illustration he put to me? I replied that the Assistance Board rate, which was in the last Regulation I introduced on this subject, lays down 6s. a week up to eight years; 75. 6d. from eight to eleven years, and 95. a week from II up to 16. Therefore, the person who established this case with the Assistance Board would draw 5s. for a child between II and 16 years as insurance benefit out of the Insurance Fund and would be entitled to the Assistance Board payment of 4s., making 9s.
§ Mr. Bevin
It is not a needs test now. The hon. Member should not interrupt. I am asked to give a reply, and I am entitled to do so. I listened to all hon. Members with very great attention. The same thing applies to the rent allowance. It is said that this 24s. is the total income. Under the Assistance Board, in addition to the money payment, the unemployed person can get a rent allowance, and, if the recipient is drawing the insurance, he is still entitled to go to the Assistance Board for the addition. Equally, he is entitled to apply to the Assistance Board for the other kinds of grant which they make in addition to this. But, if he goes to the Assistance Board on the scales that have been quoted—and this is the answer to the point raised by the hon. Member for Walthamstow, West (Mr. McEntee)—then he can get nothing from the Assistance Board. That is the law. All the additions, which the Assistance Board allow over and above insurance, are additions which he is entitled to have. I hope I have made the position quite clear. I have taken this attitude all through. If hon. Members had been in the Committee, they would have heard, but perhaps I may be allowed to repeat this with emphasis. Neither I, nor any Member of the Government, has accepted subsistence on insurance—that is, that the insurance satisfies the subsistence basis. So far as I am concerned, as a good Socialist—I am still a Socialist and hope to die one; I have lived one, anyway—I will never accept the principle that, when you lay 2151 down a contributory basis, it satisfies the subsistence basis.
§ Mr. McEntee
I am very concerned about this, and if my right hon. Friend had had the experience which I have had, he might be more concerned, too. Do I understand the Minister to say that, if a single man is receiving, from insurance benefit under this Bill, 24s. a week, he is entitled to go to the U.A.B. and get more—not merely claim it, but get it?
|Division No. 38.]||AYES.||[3.14 p.m.|
|Adamson, W. M. (Cannock)||Gledhill, G.||Messer, F.|
|Apsley, Lady||Goldie, N. B.||Mills, Sir F. (Leyton, E.)|
|Astor, Hon. W. W. (Fulham, E.)||Green, W. H. (Deptford)||Mills, Major J. D. (New Forest)|
|Barnes, A. J.||Greenwood, Rt. Hon. A.||Montague, F.|
|Beechman, N. A.||Grimston, R. V. (Westbury)||Mott-Radclyffe, Capt. C.E.|
|Berry, Hon. G. L. (Buckingham)||Gunston, Major Sir D. W.||O'Neil, Rt. Hon. Sir H.|
|Bevin, Rt. Hon. E. (Wandsworth, C.)||Guy, W. H.||Petherick, M.|
|Boles, Lt.-Col. D. C.||Henderson, T. (Tradeston)||Ponsonby, Col. C. E.|
|Boothby, R. J. G.||Hepburn, Major P. G. T. Buchan-||Pownall, Lt.-col. Sir Assheton|
|Bower, Norman (Harrow)||Hicks, E. G.||Prescott, Capt. W. R. S.|
|Brabner, Comdr. R. A.||Hogg, Hon. Q. McG.||Procter, Major H. A.|
|Brooke, H. (Lewisham)||Hume, Sir G. H.||Pym, L. R.|
|Bull, B. B.||Hynd, J. B.||Reed, Sir H. S. (Aylesbury)|
|Bullock, Capt. M.||Jeffreys, General Sir G. D.||Reid, W. Allan (Derby)|
|Campbell, Dermot (Antrim)||John, W.||Russell, Sir A. (Tynemouth)|
|Campbell, Sir E. T. (Bromley)||Jones, Sir G. W. H. (S'k Newington)||Shaw, Capt. W. T. (Forfar)|
|Cary, R. A.||Joyson-Hicks, Lt.-Comdr. Hon. L. W.||Silkin, L.|
|Channon, H.||Key, C. W.||Somervell, Rt. Hon. Sir D. B.|
|Chapman, A. (Rutherglen)||Kimball, Major L.||Stewart, J. Henderson (Fife, E.)|
|Charleton, H. C.||Kirby, B. V.||Stourton, Hon. J. J.|
|Chater, D.||Law, Rt. Hon. R. K.||Stuart, Rt. Hon. J. (Moray & Nairn)|
|Clarke, Colonel R. S.||Leighton, Major B. E. P.||Suirdale, Viscount|
|Cluse, W. S.||Levy, T.||Sutcliffe, H.|
|Colegate, W. A.||Lewis, O.||Tate, Mrs. Mavis C.|
|Colman, N. C. D.||Locker-Lampson, Comdr. O. S.||Taylor, Major C. S. (Eastbourne)|
|Conant, Major R. J. E.||Loftus, P. C.||Taylor, R. J. (Morpeth)|
|Cooke, J. D. (Hammersmith, S.)||Longhurst, Captain H. C.||Thomas, I. (Keighley)|
|Denville, Alfred||McCorquodale, Malcolm S.||Thorneycroft, Major G. E. P.|
|Dobbie, W.||MacDonald, Sir Murdoch (Inverness)||Touche, G. C.|
|Douglas, F. C. R.||Macdonald, Captain Peter (I. of W.)||Ward, Col. Sir A. L. (Hull)|
|Dunn, E.||McEntee, V. La T.||Whiteley, Rt. Hon. W. (Blaydon)|
|Edmondson, Major Sir J.||McEwen, Capt. J. H. F.||Wilmot, John|
|Evans, Col. Sir A. (Cardiff, S.)||Magnay, T.||Windsor, W.|
|Frankel, D.||Marlowe, Lt.-Col. A.|
|Fyfe, Major Sir D. P. M.||Mathers, G.||TELLERS F[...] THE AYES:—|
|Galbraith, Comdr. T. D.||Mayhew, Lt.-Col. J.||Major A. S[...] Young and|
|Gibbons, Lt.-Col. W. E.||Mellor, Sir J. S. P.||Mr. Drewe|
|Bevan, A. (Ebbw Vale)||Cove, W. G.||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:—|
|Bowles, F. G.||Driberg, T. E. N.||Mr. Hugh Lawson and|
|Buchanan, G.||Stephen, C.||Mr. McGovern.|
§ Clause ordered to stand part of the Bil.
§ Clause 2 ordered to stand part of the Bill.