HC Deb 22 May 1946 vol 423 cc361-4

Amendment proposed; In page 11, line 12, to leave out from "employment,"To the end of the Subsection.—[Mr. J. Griffiths.]

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

5.14 p.m.

Mr. Poole

I was expressing my doubts about the ability of some of the self-employed people, particularly in the villages, fully to understand the content of Clause 11 (2c). If they do not understand it, it will be impossible for the Minister to rely on seeing that the provisions are carried out correctly. When the right hon. Gentleman answers the questions which have been put by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Saffron Walden (Mr. Butler), I hope he will also deal with the case of people in rural districts who work only on certain days of the week, and say how they can link up the days when they do not work. What is to happen about wet days, when some of the middle aged men have rheumatism? Many of them do not go out on those occasions, and can legitimately say that they were sick on those days. I would have preferred provisions bringing in the self-employed people without bringing in the link-up days.

Reference has been made to the size of the contribution, particularly in regard to the small men in small country towns. The Minister should not pay too much attention to complaints that he gets now as to the size of the contribution, from these people. I have spent a great deal of my life trying to persuade people to pay insurance premiums, and though I have found difficulty in doing it, I have found no difficulty in persuading them to make a claim.

Mr. J. Griffiths

This is a very difficult problem. Hon. Members on all sides of the Committee have been pressing me, to do this; now they begin to realise how difficult it is. However, I have looked into all these problems and I do not think—complicated as it looks in the Clause—that there will be any difficulty in getting the self-employed to understand the link-up. I used to understand it when I worked in the pit, although I left school at 12 years of age. People will soon discover how it works, and will work it adequately. I do not anticipate any difficulty about that at all. I could have left this provision out, but it would have reduced the additional contribution by one half, which would cause a headache for everyone. Since the self-employed are so very keen on being put on the same footing as other persons, I felt I ought to provide the link-up as well. I have done my best to find out the views of this section of the community. The only representations I have received have requested that I should do what I am doing now. That includes every one who has spoken to me about this problem and includes large numbers of hon. Members who speak for the farming community, the hedgers and ditchers, and others of whom we have heard in discussions on this Bill.

As was pointed out by my hon. Friend the Member for Westhoughton (Mr. Rhys Davies), a large number of substantially self-employed people are already covered as voluntary contributors. A great deal of experience can be gathered from them. I have been asked what suggestions the retail traders put to me, and have not answered previously, because I wanted to examine what they propose. Whatever administration is adopted, I cannot apply it merely to them—but have to apply it to the whole of the self-employed. They proposed that when the sickness benefit is claimed, it should be claimed on a form stating that on certain dates they have been ill and the illness should be proved by an appropriate doctor's certificate also indicating that on those days they had been incapacitated and had not done any work. I am examining that proposal, and wish to see how it could be applicable to others besides the retail traders

For the first time we shall have a complete network of local offices with local administration and local advisory councils. My Ministry will be in closer touch with the insured person than has been the case in any experience of this work before. I rely on that, and on the integrity and cooperation of everyone concerned. We are doing this at the request of the self-employed. We are taking risks in doing it, and look to them for cooperation in every way to make that risk worth while.

Sir Henry Morris-Jones (Denbigh)

I did not have the advantage of being a Member of the Standing Committee on this Bill, but I had an opportunity of bringing this matter to the attention of the Minister in a speech in the Second Reading Debate. I would like to make two points in relation to the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Oswestry (Mr. Poole), who said that the contributors to the scheme will not object to paying this contibution. That is not my experience. I have had a considerable amount of correspondence in which it has been said that the amount of contribution expected from the self-employed persons is very considerable to people who are earning only a very small amount of money, and I have also received complaints based on the fact that these contributors will not get any unemployment benefit. I am sorry the right hon. Gentleman has not been able to meet them on that matter. Although I know the difficulty, it seems to me that a contribution of 6s. 2d. a week, for which sickness benefit only is obtained—[HON. MEMBERS: "No."] I know there are pension rights—is a very large one.

Mr. Poole

I am sure the hon. Member does not wish to misrepresent what I said. I fully appreciate that there may be complaints now about the size of the contribution, but when people begin to feel the full benefit of the scheme, those complaints will cease.

Mr. Leslie (Sedgefield)

I happen to know quite a number of small traders, many of whom were shop assistants who later became self-employed persons. On no occasion have they complained to me about the increase in the contribution when they have realised what it will mean to them. This provision will be a Godsend to the large army of ex-Servicemen who, on returning to civil life, have been granted licences and have become self-employed. Therefore. I welcome the Minister's action.

Amendment agreed to.

Further Amendment made: In page 11, leave out line 30.—[Mr. Griffiths.]

Mr. Lindgren

I beg to move, in page 11 line 34, after "periods," To insert not."

This Amendment and the next Amendment, in page 11, line 35, are consequential one upon the other. They transfer the word "not" from line 35 to line 34, and this makes for greater clarity and for a much more accurate operation of the linking-up Clause as required for the 13 weeks linking-up rule.

Amendment agreed to.

Further Amendments made:

In page 11, line 35, leave out "not."

In line 42, leave out from the beginning to the end of line 45.—[Mr. Lindgren.]

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