HC Deb 22 November 1945 vol 416 cc564-6
3. Mr. Tom Smith

asked the Minister of National Insurance whether he has considered the representations made to him in favour of the use of the approved societies in the proposed National Insurance Scheme; and whether he is in a position to make a statement on the matter.

Mr. J. Griffiths

Yes, Sir. The Government have given most careful and sympathetic consideration to the possibility of using the approved societies under the new arrangements. While they fully recognise the great services which approved societies have rendered in the administration of the Health Insurance Scheme they have, however, reluctantly felt bound to come to the same conclusion as their predecessors that it would be impracticable to use the societies as organised bodies in the administration of the comprehensive scheme of social provision now contemplated. The National Insurance Bill to be introduced later in this Session will be framed accordingly.

At the same time it is the Government's intention that in the administration of the new scheme the fullest possible use shall be made of the skilled and experienced staff who have been engaged on the work of approved societies and that sympathetic consideration be given in the case of full-time officers of such societies who for a substantial period have been dependent for their livelihood on Health Insurance work and who are displaced from their employment as a direct result of the new Measure.

There are many important questions arising out of these decisions such as the method of selection and terms of appointment to my Ministry of members of the staff in question; compensation for other displaced officers; and the maintenance of an efficient service to insured persons during the transitional period. Unless an early start is made upon the consideration of these questions the date of operation of the new schemes will be delayed. Without prejudice, therefore, to the ultimate decision of Parliament, I propose at an early date to invite representatives of the societies and of the staff organisations concerned to appoint small committees with whom 1 may consult with a view to securing acceptable solutions of outstanding questions.

Mr. Smith

In view of the fact that the Minister's answer is a departure from promises made a few months ago, will he acquaint the approved societies of this decision?

Mr. Griffiths

My duty was to report the decision of the Government to Parliament. Promises were made to look further at the possibility of using the friendly societies and trade union societies in this scheme. We have examined it very carefully, and the decision is to work this scheme so that it covers the whole of the! population. it will thus be essential for the Government to have its own administrative machinery throughout the country. We have further come to the conclusion that to have other machinery covering sections of benefits and of the people would be a duplication, which we believe, in the long run, would not be justified.

Captain Crowder

May I ask the Minister if his announcement means that these employees taken over by his Ministry will become whole-time civil servants?

Mr. Griffiths

What I have said is that the Government are anxious to make the fullest possible use of the skilled staff of approved societies in working this scheme, and to give sympathetic consideration to the question of compensation for those who cannot be used.

Mr. Logan

Am I to understand that all the approved societies as such are now about to disappear, and the State is going to run its own scheme independent of any other associations?

Mr. Griffiths

I think it is perfectly clear from the beginning of my statement that the Government have decided that we must now have one comprehensive machine to work this scheme.

Mr. Lipson

Can the Minister say whether, in view of the great concern felt at this decision, the House will have an opportunity of discussing it?

Mr. Godfrey Nicholson

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware of the extraordinary degree of dismay that this statement will cause among many millions of the population?

Mr. Griffiths

I shall be sorry for that. My duty is to bring before the House, and to carry on to the Statute Book as soon as possible, a comprehensive State Social Insurance scheme. My primary duty is to make up mymind—and for the Government to make up their mind—how that can be best administered having regard to the interests of the whole nation.