§ Mr. Sydney Silverman (Nelson and Clone)
I beg to move, in page 12, line 8. to leave out Clause 12.
The House has just decided a question which everybody agreed was not a question of principle but the political importance of which arose out of the fact that a great many Members had given pledges about it. My Amendment is entitled to the support, at any rate of Members on this side of the House, on the ground that to vote otherwise would be to vote against pledges which have been given for 20 years by every Labor Member of this House, pledges which have been given by the party as a party for a quarter of a century, and pledges which do not depend in the least upon a casual incident in the heat of a General Election, but are the direct result of a social experience and a social philosophy which lie at the basis 620 of this party's movement. This is more than a pledge. For the principle on which this Amendment depends the Government have a mandate. Our presence on these benches in such numbers is due more than to any other single cause, to the belief that the common people had that on this party and on this party alone they could rely to achieve a comprehensive social insurance that was complete. They believed that if they returned a Labor Government to power with an adequate majority they would secure, as of right, unconditionally, without a means test, freedom from want in adversity. That phrase, I think, was first coined in this House by the Lord Privy Seal, who, I regret to see, is not in his place in the House at this moment.
If my hon. Friends had any doubts upon the last Amendment because of any pledge that they gave, those doubts must have arisen out of the conflict between the 621 pledge they were misled into giving and the Tightness of the decision they had to make. That is the only thing that gave any political importance to the last Debate. But on this question there is no such conflict. Work or maintenance has been this party's attitude to and policy for unemployment relief ever since unemployment has been a social problem of any size in our community. If there were reasons which made it right to change our minds, I would agree. As my right hon. Friend said at the end of the last Debate, it is better to do the right thing no matter what pledges one has given, than to do the wrong thing merely because one has given pledges to do it.
But is this the wrong thing? Is there anyone on the Government Front Bench who believes that work or full maintenance is a wrong principle? Is there anyone on the Front Bench who believes that if a man is genuinely unemployed, if his unemployment is due to no fault of his own, if the State can offer no employment, if his continued unemployment is due to some social or economic or industrial or political breakdown, then the consequences of that state of affairs should be borne by the unfortunate victim of them and not be borne by the community as a whole? If anybody on the Government Front Bench believes that, I would like to hear from him. Will the Minister for National Insurance say it? His whole political career, his political reputation, has been based on the contrary view, on the view for which I am pleading now.
I said yesterday that I could wish that some of the most influential Members of the Government were not for the moment Members of the Government. I would like to hear the Minister of Health pleading this case, I would like to hear one of the Under-Secretaries for Scotland pleading it better than anybody else in this House; they do it so much better. I heard a speech from the deputy Leader of the Opposition. I do not claim to be able to speak with the same experience or the same passion on these matters as they do; I have not the same personal experience of it as they have in South Wales and in Scotland and in other places, though I have some experience. Perhaps I am handicapped a little by my profession, which is apt to be a little suspect on these benches. I do not apologies for it, any more than I can 622 Help it; I do the best I can with such training and such experience as I have, but I can quite understand that "were I Brutus, and Brutus Antony,"Then indeed we might see a revolution, then indeed the Government might be led.
Let us look at the history of it. The position of this party has been quite clear for a generation. Sir William Beverage came to the same conclusion. Neither this party nor Sir William Beverage have thought it right to impose any limitation of time upon insurance for sickness or upon insurance for unemployment, none at all. What are the reasons advanced against this? I heard my right hon. Friend in Committee, I heard him in the House last night. He talked about how in the past the Unemployment Insurance Fund had had to stand financial strain which no insurance fund ought to be called upon to bear. How does that matter really stand? My right hon. Friend will start paying children's allowances under this Bill and another Act this autumn. My right hon. Friend will start paying the increased old age pensions under this Bill this autumn. I am not complaining of that; I congratulate him upon it. I have done my little best to induce him to speed it up, and I am not pretending for a moment that he was ever reluctant to do so, but out of what moneys will he pay this autumn? His new social insurance fund has not yet begun to collect contributions. I do not know when he will begin to collect contributions, but he will begin to pay next autumn the children and the old. Out of what funds?
Mr. J. Griffith
I am sure my hon. Friend will appreciate that family allowances are paid directly from the Exchequer and not paid from the fund at all. On the other hand, I thought I had made it clear to the Committee when they were considering this matter that, when the new pension rates begin to be paid in the autumn, the new contributions begin too.
§ Mr. S. Silverman
Yes, but if you begin to collect the contributions in the autumn and begin to pay the benefits in the autumn, then you are beginning to pay the benefits at the moment when you begin to collect the contributions, and, therefore, must be paying them for the moment out of some other moneys. Out of what other moneys? Let me tell the 623 House out of what other moneys Look at the Ninth schedule to the Bill, which deals with the social insurance funds that are being taken over by the Minister One of them is the Unemployment Insurance Fund, the surplus under the Unemployment Insurance Act of 1934. Does the House realise how much it is? The Minister talked about the fund being in debt to the extent of £7 million or £8 million. The foundation of the Social Insurance Fund under this Bill is the surplus of £ 400 million taken by the Minister from the Unemployment Insurance Fund.
I have no doubt that that surplus has been built up under exceptional conditions. No doubt it has been built up under the full employment which war, and the preparation for war, provide. No doubt— at any rate we all hope— such exceptional conditions will not recur. I give my right hon. Friend the benefit of all those considerations, but this surplus of £400 million was built up under exceptional conditions. How was the deficit incurred? In the days when the Unemployment Insurance Fund had no surplus, when it was in debt, were those conditions then exceptional? Are we to say that long continued mass unemployment, such as brings a deficit on to a social insurance fund, is normal, whereas conditions that produce a surplus in unemployment insurance are exceptional? I am sure my right hon. Friend will not say that, because he says—I know he says, the Government say, as Beverage said, and as we all say—all this policy of social insurance depends on a number of assumptions, one of which is that mass unemployment over long terms shall not recur again.
All I am saying to the right hon. Gentleman is that he must not make too much of the charge which may fall upon the Social Insurance Fund if he does what Beverage and what this party have always stood for, and leaves the unemployment insurance benefit as unlimited in time as sickness benefit is unlimited in time. If he does that, let him not pretend that that will be a strain upon the Insurance Fund, because if he does that, he is begging the whole question; he is assuming that the very thing which lies at the basis of the solvency, not merely of unemployment insurance but of any kind of social insurance, is something that we cannot count upon, 624 namely the avoidance of long term unemployment in the future. But, suppose I am wrong about that. Indeed, Beverage faced up to this as the party faced up to it. Let us face up to the possibility—I do not want to put it higher than a possibility— that in spite of all the endeavors of the Government, and their new economic policy, in which I believe, there was to be long term unemployment so that the Social Insurance Fund could not be expected to bear it without increasing the weekly collectable premiums beyond a figure which it would be reasonable to expect the workers to pay. I can understand that. I can understand very well that the Social Insurance Fund on these present contributions, which ought not to be increased, ought not to be asked to bear the cost of long term mass unemployment. I can quite accept the reasonableness and prudence of the view that in some agreed period, it may well be 180 days, the cost of relieving unemployment should not be borne by the insurance fund, but should be borne by the Treasury. I think that is a perfectly fair point and a perfectly fair principle, and I understand that that is the Government's case.
What I do not understand is why they associate with that another principle with which it has no logical or reasonable connection. Why do they suppose that because the cost of unemployment insurance beyond a certain level should be borne by the Treasury and not by the Fund, therefore the man should lose his statutory right to benefit, and be entitled in one case to a discretionary power of the Ministry to pay him benefit and, in the other case, be cast on to the Assistance Board with all the social anomalies and evils that that involves? There is no connection between these two propositions.
Let the Government say if they will, "We do not wish to take away a man's statutory right to unemployment benefit so long as he remains genuinely unemployed, but we do not want that to be a charge beyond a certain point on the Social Insurance Fund."They will find no opposition to that on this side of the House. Do not let the Minister use the financial necessity or convenience of making part of the charge a charge on the Treasury instead of a charge on the Fund as an excuse for stopping the man's right to benefit at some arbitrary point 625 in time. There is no justification for it in social policy, and no justification for it in the attitude to these matters that this Party have always adopted, and they have no mandate to do anything of the kind.
I can understand another point—and this, perhaps, is one of greater difficulty. If the Government say that a man has been unemployed for six months or more in the place where he has always lived and in the calling which he has always followed, and if there are no special conditions covering the whole country to account for it, that raises a presumption that there is something peculiar or particular in the circumstances of that unemployed person which may have to be dealt with in a particular way. I do not dissent from the view that at such a time the Government may be entitled to say to the man, " You had better submit yourself to be trained for some other job, for which there is a greater demand."
I would go further than that and this is also a delicate and difficult point. I can even concede, with some reluctance, that it may be true sometimes that the difficulty does not arise out of the particular circumstances of the individual applicant, but out of the industrial conditions of the locality, and that the Government may in those circumstances be entitled to say to the man, " Go to some other locality."That is a great concession for anybody in the Labor Party to make. We have always taken the view that it is better to take the work to the man, than to take the man to the work. I am not concerned to deny to the Government that there may be exceptional circumstances in which it is right to say to the man, " We can give you employment elsewhere, we can give you employment in some other job, and therefore you ought to take it, rather than continue to be a charge on the Treasury or on the Social Insurance Fund beyond six months."The absolute right to benefit may become a conditional right to benefit. But still it is a right to benefit.
§ 7.45 P.m.
§ Mr. Kenneth Lindsay (Combined English Universities)
I am trying to follow the very interesting argument of the hon. Member. He said that it was a concession which he and his friends would make on training. Do I understand that he would 626 make training a condition of continued benefit? Most of the training, unless in a specific place, before the war— and I speak as one who is a bit repentant— was eyewash.
§ Mr. Lindsay
It is a condition I know, but people were sent for training which was absolutely vague, and certainly in Scotland they said, " We are not going."I would like to know what the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. Silverman) means by training. Training for a specific job? It is a very difficult thing to define.
§ Mr. Silverman
The hon. Member for the Combined English Universities (Mr. K. Lindsay) need not waste many words in convincing me. Most of the provisions in this respect, as he reminded us in the course of his intervention, have always been eyewash. If there is a breakdown in economic conditions which causes mass unemployment, I do not believe that we can train engineers to become miners or miners to become engineers.
§ Mr. Silverman
I do not know whose dishonesty it is. Mass unemployment means a complete breakdown of the economic machine and it cannot be cured in that way. If the Government were to take the view that after a certain length of time the continuance of full benefit as a right might depend on certain conditions, I should be prepared to look very sympathetically at that proposition and, if the conditions were reasonable, to accept them. What I am not prepared to accept, and do not believe any hon. Member on this side of the House ought to be prepared to accept, is the arbitrary cutting off of the right to benefit in the first 180 days. The anomalies that would result need no description, and I certainly would not waste words trying to persuade the Minister about it. He knows it as well as I do. But with a Labor Government with an adequate working majority in this House, pledged for a generation to the principle of work or maintenance, elected to power because of their pledge to take from the shoulders of the people the fear of poverty and the fear of want in adversity— how is the 627 Minister going to justify introducing into this historic Measure of comprehensive National Insurance an arbitrary temporary principle cutting off unemployment benefit, and no other benefit, at an arbitrary point of time? It is a principle which has been recommended by no person, no party, no movement and no organization that has ever examined this problem at any time. The Coalition Government would not do it. They drew no distinction between sickness benefit and unemployment benefit. They were wrong, hopelessly wrong, they put a time limit on both.
My right hon. Friend at the end of the last Debate quoted a Debate in this House on the White Paper of 1944. I will not read quotations; I am quite sure he remembers his speech on that occasion as well as I do. When we sat on the benches opposite, and, for the first time following the formation of the Coalition Government, decided by a majority to vote against the Coalition Government, in which we were a partner, it was he who led us into the Lobby. Did he on that occasion say he was in favor of stopping statutory unemployment benefit after 180 days? From where does this principle come? Who originated it, who is responsible for it? Who has converted Members of the Government, after a lifetime of advocacy against this principle, to support it in the first Measure of comprehensive social insurance that has ever been passed by the House of Commons in this country?
I do not want to take up more of the time of the House. I feel that my remarks have perhaps been too long already. I do not want to embarrass the Government. They are doing better work than any Government in the history of this country. Already they have carried out more constructive social reform in the six, seven, or eight months that they have been in office than any other Government in the history of this country have done in two years. I do not lightly propose to divide— not the House, I do not expect any support from the other side— this party against the Government, but I feel we must do it. I feel that the time will come when, if this Clause remains part of this Bill, this party will regret it. I know that the Government are doing their best to prevent unemployment. They are not altogether succeeding. There is a lot 628 of unemployment in South Wales, in Liverpool and up and down the country, and many people have been unemployed for a period which is already approaching six months, I think the Government will overcome that. If it depended on this country alone there would be a chance within five years—
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Mr. Hubert Beaumont)
Under the Rules of Order the hon. Lady the Member for Dudes-ton (Mrs. Wills) is not entitled to read a newspaper in the House.
§ Mr. Silverman
If it depended on this country alone, there would be a reasonable chance of preventing mass unemployment for an indefinite period ever happening in our country again, but hon. Members know that it does not depend on us alone. We are tied up with world economics; we are tied up, by our own voluntary act, with the economics of another country. If there is an economic collapse in America, does anyone really think that the backwash of that will not affect the schemes of this Government? Does anybody think we can insure ourselves or isolate ourselves against economic collapse in the rest of the world? If it comes it will come at the very time when the period of the mandate of this Government is coming to an end. I beg of those who sit behind the Government, do not let it be possible, when that time comes, for an unemployed person to come to their door, and say, " You, the Labor Government, the Labor Party whom we trusted and put into power with an overwhelming majority, have treated us precisely as has every reactionary Government in the past."
§ Mrs. Castle (Blackburn)
I beg to second the Amendment.
It was, of course, inevitable that the discussion on this Amendment should be overshadowed by the discussion we have had on the previous issue. I only wish that the matter we are now discussing were not graver than the one which has had so much attention and has been the subject of so much clam our. That was a point of administration. Here we are discussing a point of vital principle. I cannot help feeling that my right hon. Friend, in everything he has said on this issue, has been far less happy in dealing with 629 this much smaller opposition than he was on that earlier issue in fighting a large opposition. The reason, in my belief, is that his conscience was clear on the one. and his mind is uneasy on the other.
I listened last night, and earlier in Committee upstairs, to the Minister's arguments on Clause 12. I want to understand his mind on this issue, because I have great faith in his intentions and in his humanity, but I am afraid that the sort of arguments he has been using, rather devious and contradictory, show that he himself is not happy about this issue. He told us last night that it was his belief that very few of the men who were unemployed for a long time were anti-social, or unemployed through their own fault. That was point No. 1. On the other hand, he told us he was afraid that long term unemployment on a mass scale might sink this fund. That was point No. 2. But if there is to be that mass unemployment, and if only a few of the men who are unemployed are malingerers, we are faced with the situation that, on the Minister's own admission, the bulk of the long term unemployed will not be to blame for the condition in which they find themselves, and that that condition will be clue to the failure of State effort to provide them with the jobs they are longing to have. Yet these are the men, the victims of the breakdown of State policy, on whom my right hon. Friend is putting the onus of proving that they are entitled to benefit. In other words, they are assumed guilty of malingering until they have been before a tribunal and established their innocence— they alone, not unemployed men in general, but just the men whom we have argued are most to be pitied, because they are the men who want jobs, and have been out of work for such a long time.
My right hon. Friend last night tried to argue that these tribunals would be in the interests of the men themselves. If the tribunals go hand in hand with the taking away of the men's right to benefit, that is very hard to follow. I ask my right hon. Friend: If this procedure can help the men to find work, if, by the State busying itself in this matter and taking an interest in the individual case and looking into it, men can be found jobs that were not previously available for them, why is this procedure not to be used earlier when a man is unemployed? Why introduce it in this arbitrary way at the end of a quite arbitrary period? 630 Indeed, when we raised this matter in Committee, one of the Minister's strongest arguments for Clause 12, one of his proudest boasts, was that a large number of unemployed, as a result of his policy of added days, would not have to go before the tribunals He said that men could go on for many months without forfeiting their right to benefit. In.fact, he said:This will mean that a person who:has been unemployed for 180 days and has been in work for five years previously can have a further 130 days, and therefore his benefit will be 180 days, plus the credit of 130 days which he is given on his record. If a man with a good record finds that his 180 days, plus his added days, carry him into a new benefit year, we start him again on the 180 days."— [OFFICIAL REPORT, Standing Committee A; 7th March, 1046, col. 146.]8.0 p.m.
As for the argument that these tribunals are necessary to prevent malingering and to help men to find jobs, the whole argument is exploded, if it is used as one of the justifications for Clause 12, if it is said that men who have a good record will escape the tribunal. Then the Minister says, " Oh, but in the case of the other men who do not escape the tribunal, they will come to no harm, because the tribunal is friendly."If the tribunal is really friendly to the unemployed and is helping them to find jobs, why does he refer to the beneficial result of the added days? We believe that the men want work, and we believe that the time to start helping them to find it is at the end of the first month, not at the end of six or even of 18 months. I suggest that when the Minister claims that he is protecting the fund from abuse, he is showing a quite outrageous recklessness in suggesting that, if a man has a good contribution record, he can go on for months without the State bothering to find him a job at all. If the State is going to find him a job, the whole excuse for the tribunal breaks down.
On this issue of unemployment we have always maintained that the two things should go hand in hand— and this is the spirit behind the Beverage Report, the spirit which we are accepting as being relevant to the payment of sickness benefit, namely that a man should not forfeit his benefit merely as a result of lapse of time. The benefit should be paid so long as the condition which gives rise to the need for it lasts. An essential part 631 of this new approach is that malingering should be stopped from the word " go." Nobody should have a free side on employment benefit if they do not need it, and if they do need it, then they should get it as long as the need lasts. In this Clause my right hon. Friend is reviving the old, bad spirit of dividing the unemployed into two categories and is perpetuating the assumption, which has always been part and parcel of the attitude of Conservative Governments, that long term unemployment is the man's own fault. I beg my right hon. Friend to consider this. If we are to get a real new spirit into this new scheme, a spirit of trust on the one hand and responsibility by those who are receiving benefit on the other, we are going the right way to kill it by this division, which is quite arbitrary and unjustifiable. I urge, therefore, that this Clause shall be taken back and that we shall thereby remove what is a most serious blot on this Bill.
§ Mr. Stephen (Glasgow, Camlachie)
I wish to support this Amendment. I expressed some of my misgivings yesterday and tried to save a little from the wreck by appealing to the Minister, but, unfortunately, I was unsuccessful. Today we have this new opportunity of trying to get a little more clarity in regard to the position of the unemployed under this Bill. I noticed yesterday that the Minister insisted in his reply that this Bill was providing a special machinery to deal with the people who were not entitled to benefit because they were really anti-social and were not willing to work. I would like the Parliamentary Secretary, if he is to reply, and if not perhaps he will put it to the Minister, to give us a specific answer to this question: What kind of test is to be applied under the new procedure to prove whether a person is willing to work or not?
One hon. Member said in our previous discussions that there are two conditions, first, capability and availability for work, and second, willingness to work. I should like a specific answer with regard to the test of willingness to work, because I believe there is the possibility of there being introduced into this new Measure what will practically be a repetition of the past unfortunate history with regard to unemployment. In the first place, the House is entitled to something far more specific as to the test of willingness to work, be- 632 cause I am confident that the big majority of this House will not agree to it if it is proposed to introduce any test other than the test of a real job—mind you, a real job—being offered to the man. I remember that formerly people were told at the employment exchanges, "There is a job at so-and-so, and will you take it? " And the man was not prepared to say right away, which put him off. It was later laid down specifically that it had to be a real job and that the man had to get a direction in writing from the exchange regarding taking up that employment. I hope, therefore, that the Parliamentary Secretary will make this point plain.
The hon. Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. Silverman) made it perfectly plain that there could be no reason in the attitude of the Labour Party for allowing the worker to continue in unemployment benefit only up to an arbitrary point, as is contemplated in this Measure. I know that that is the present condition under the present insurance scheme, but I do not think that the Government are justified in saying, at a particular point in the history of the individual's unemployment, that at that point he ceases to come under the ordinary conditions and is to be put under special conditions because he has been unemployed for a certain period, It is quite illogical. I was also very much impressed by the remarks of the hon. Member for Blackburn (Mrs. Castle), whose speech put the Minister in a very difficult position. The new procedure is an order to do something for these poor people that have been unemployed for more than 180 days, plus the additional days. There is to be a tribunal to look into their cases. Practically in the same breath the Minister said that if somebody had been lucky, had a good industrial history and had to suffer much unemployment, he would be able to get the benefit of the new tribunal.
The Government cannot get away with that. I cannot see how they will do so. They are on the horns of a dilemma. They may be willing to do some fancy riding, but if they try trick riding in this matter it will be of very bad consequence to the working class movement in this country. I hope that even at this stage, in view of the obvious widespread misgivings among members of their own party, the Government will give an assurance that they will reconsider the position and try to meet what I am convinced is 633 the view point of the majority of the Labour Party. The hon. Member for Nelson and Colne wondered why the Minister had adopted this procedure. From my experience of this question I think I understand the motives of the Government. Always, in the past, there came a period when a person in receipt of benefit ran out of benefit, and then had to get non-statutory benefit, uncovenanted benefit or extended benefit. Always, when the new period started, new conditions were imposed. The present Government seem to take it for granted that they must follow the old procedure in this respect. The question that poses itself to them is how they can come to the House of Commons and justify asking the Treasury to undertake the provision for unemployed people in those exceptional circumstances, unless by adopting new conditions other than those applying to persons receiving statutory benefit. The Parliamentary Secretary is evidently in agreement with me on that point.
The answer to that question is not to be found in the proposed procedure, but in the fact that the unemployed person is not responsible for his unemployment, which arises out of the economic circumstances prevailing. I remember what a relief it was to a past Minister of Labor when somebody discovered that unemployment was not due to the weakness of the National Government but to a " world blizzard."I remember how the phrase " world blizzard " swept across the House of Commons at that time. The present Parliamentary Secretary should have come to the House with confidence. He should have said: "We, knowing that unemployment is the outcome of economic conditions at home and in other countries, are not going to impose new conditions upon an unemployed person when it becomes necessary to give him extended benefit."
§ 8.15 p.m
Lieut. - Commander Joynson-Hiks (Chichester)
I am trying to follow the argument of the hon. Member. Under the argument he is advancing, is there any reason why he should limit it to extended benefit? If unemployment is due to an international economic blizzard, is there any reason for insurance against it at all?
§ Mr. Stephen
The hon. and gallant Member has put a question to me, and 634 I would answer it. Unemployment is not something that is suitably dealt with by insurance. The Minister said in Committee that we were starting from the beginning, but we are not doing so. We have had unemployment insurance since 1912 and have repeatedly modified it. I have to proceed from that position. Now we have an unemployment insurance scheme in being, and as to the Minister's justification for keeping a certain amount of it—
§ Mr. S. Silverman
The hon. Member should bear in mind that under he Minister's own scheme payments under Clause 62 do not come out of the Employment Fund. They are an additional payment.
§ The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of National Insurance (Mr. Lindgren)
That is the point made by the hon. Member.
§ Mr. Stephen
I think I have answered the hon. and gallant Member for Chichester (Lieut.-Commander Joynson-Hicks). The reason why unemployment should still be dealt with partly on the basis of insurance and partly as a responsibility of the Treasury is due to the history of the matter. I assure him that I regard it as something with which the Government might have dealt, but I am not specially worried about that. I am still trying to deal with this problem. The Government have no right to say to the individual who has suffered a long spell of unemployment that because of that longer spell he must be dealt with differently.
One answer that can be made is that which the Minister has already made when he said: "We are not doing it in a penalising fashion but for the benefit of the individual."The hon. Member for Blackburn pointed out that, if it is so beneficial, why should not the benefits be given also to the fellow with the additional 180 days and who gets carried on to a new benefit year? Why not treat all alike? They are not responsible for their unemployment. If they were, they would not get benefit. Why penalise them, as the Government are doing here? I hope that even at this late hour the Government will have a little sense in handling this question.
There is great feeling in the Labour Party about this matter; there are misgivings in the minds of the people in that 635 great movement. I appeal to the Government to take more thought on the matter, and to give us an assurance that they will reconsider the whole position with a view to putting the unemployed all on the same level with regard to work and maintenance. That is the old principle of the Labour movement, which was enunciated by the Member for the unemployed in the House of Commons, the late Mr. Keir Hardie, the great pioneer of the Labour movement. I appeal to the Government not to depend upon the fact that they have their party so well disciplined that they will be able to persuade a majority to go into the Lobby against the Amendment. The Minister has given way on various points in this Measure. The biggest thing he could do now would be to have a certain amount of consideration for the feelings of those of us who have fought on this for so many years. We do not want to see our struggle wrecked by a Government who have begun so well and who, we hope, will do great things for the working people.
§ Mr. R. A. Butler (Saffron Walden)
I think it would be wise for me to intervene briefly at this stage in order that the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. Silverman), who moved the Amendment, may know where he stands in the struggle which is obviously before him this evening. My hon. and right hon. Friends on this side of the House do not desire to take any part in this family quarrel within the Labour movement. If the hon. Member sets about collecting his forces for the remainder of the evening, he will no doubt feel that we have not let him down at a later hour if we do not support him in the Lobby. It is only fair to him and to the Government, to enable them to compose themselves for the battle ahead of them, that they should know that they cannot rely on this side of the House for support in their struggle.
On the merits of the case, I would like to pay a tribute to the sincerity of the speeches that have been made. It is clear to anyone who has been in the House for a considerable time that this is an issue on which there has been, in certain minds a consistency throughout, and I think it is legitimate to say that, taking the history of the Labour movement, so far as I have studied it, those who have spoken in support of the Amend- 636 ment have a certain justification. On the other hand, the Government have framed Clause 12 as would have been expected by any of those who know the ordinary continuity of the unemployment law of this country. They are, in fact, continuing the present practice. In the Standing Committee, I and my hon. Friends did not challenge the Clause, and we do not propose to challenge it on the Report stage. We shall, however, listen with interest to the justification which the Minister gives in answer to his critics.
I must point out that the atmosphere created has been tense and severe. The hon. Gentleman, in moving the Amendment, referred to pledges given for a quarter of a century. We shall want to know the Minister's answer to and explanation of this serious charge. The hon. Lady the Member for Blackburn (Mrs. Castle) does not want a return to the old bad spirit. Speaking from the confidential Bench just behind him, she regards her own Minister as being devious and contradictory, and she regards his policy as one of outrageous recklessness; and the hon. Member for Camlachie (Mr. Stephen) regards the Minister as about to indulge in some trick riding. I can only sympathise with the Minister, as I feel certain that the speeches which are to follow will embellish those epithets and warm up the argument. It will be for us a most excellent experience to hear the answer which the Government propose to give.
As regards hon. and right hon. Members on this side, we are naturally most sympathetic to the claims of the unemployed. I would like here, in all sincerity, to pay a tribute to the hon. Lady the Member for Blackburn. I confess that, although I did not like her intemperate language last night which was directed in my direction, I considered the latter part of the wording of the Clause which I moved last night to have been so unsatisfactory from my point of view that I decided not to press the matter to any decision. We can but own up when we consider that a matter is unsatisfactory, and if the hon. Lady has been able to move me to give a concession to her, I think that the speeches of the hon. Member for Camlachie, the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne, and the hon. Lady, must have some effect on the Government tonight.
§ Mr. S. Silverman
I am very grateful to the right hon. Member for Saffron 637 Walden (Mr. R. A. Butler) for explaining where his party stands on this matter, but I am afraid I have not understood him. They voted against Clause 62 in the Standing Committee; so, presumably, they do not want that. They did not vote for what they called their constructive and statesmanlike alternative; so, presumably, they do not want that. They do not intend to vote against Clause 12, so, presumably, they do want that. Is it their position, then, that they want unemployment benefit to cease on the 181st day and to provide nothing after that?
§ Mr. Butler
What we want is something on the lines of the speech I made last night, namely, a constructive attitude towards unemployment. The attitude that we do not want is any return to public assistance or anything of that sort. We want a constructive attitude to unemployment, as was described by the hon. Lady the Member for Blackburn, and which I outlined at some length last night, which involves the consideration of a man's case sympathetically, the use of all modern methods, psychological and otherwise, of finding out what is the best thing for him, and the creation of a positive policy of putting him in the best place, coupled with the extension of benefit in certain circumstances; and I agree that in the background, as the Government have it in the background, there will always have to be the Assistance Board to assist the man whose benefit is not extended. That is precisely the position of the Government, because in the event of their tribunals not affording the extended benefit, the man has to go to the Assistance Board; but I have accepted the position that we should not use the Assistance Board in the first place, as the Coalition Government did. Thus, we are all learning every day I hope the House will accept the fact that we on this side adopt an attitude of sympathy and understanding towards the unemployed, but we cannot engage any further in this family quarrel within the Labour movement.
§ Miss Jennie Lee (Cannock)
I am glad to see that my right hon. Friend the Minister of National Insurance is just returning to his place on the Front Bench. No one grudges him a brief interlude, because he has had a strenuous day. At the same time, we are discussing Clause 12 638 in a very thin House, a fact which underlines a dilemma in which all of us find ourselves. It is impossible for any Member, whether on the Front Benches or the Back Benches, to give careful, considered judgments from nine o'clock in the morning until nine o'clock in the evening, and often very much later. I am deeply alarmed by this Clause. I shall await with great interest what the Minister has to say in reply to this Debate. I rather feel like an outsider who is intervening, not in a family quarrel, but in a Committee quarrel, since I am, I think, the first Member who has taken part in this discussion who was not a Member of the Standing Committee. There is so much work going on in the House that I am afraid most of us are orthodox members of our parties when it comes to matters we know nothing about, and are apt to become a shade intransigent when there is an issue on which we are really considering the details.
As a Member who was not in the Standing Committee, I have carefully read the wording of Clause 12. I ask other Members of my party—hon. Members opposite are enjoying the situation, for the matter is not important to them, and it is for us—to read Clause 12. Have they read it? Have they made a considered judgment on it? I have read it, and on the wording, it is either meaningless or mischievous. Therefore, on either ground, unless the Minister has something to say which alters my point of view, I believe the Bill would be greatly improved by rejecting this Clause. No one is going to object to the case that, since this Bill is an insurance Measure, there must come a time when unemployment benefit must be paid directly by the Chancellor rather than from the insurance fund. There is no dispute at all about that; but what bedevils the entire issue is that at the end of six months, or in special circumstances seven or 10 months, when a change is made in the method of financing the unemployed person there should also be a change in the conditions that are laid down. Why should that be? The hon. Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. Sydney Silverman) is saying, "I am doubtful whether he has a right to benefit at all."That is quite true. It may mean, since this is left at the discretion of the 639 Minister, that the unemployed person then has to go on public assistance.
What is behind all this? Are we not back to the old business of the Conservative Party who, in economic circumstances that never justified their point of view, insisted that if a man or woman was not lazy, he or she could find work? Are we not in danger of imposing punitive measures? We are all agreed that it is the exceptional person who is not prepared to accept work. If it is a case of a sub-standard person, the Public Assistance Board or a means test is going to be no deterrent at all. If a man or woman has been unemployed for six months, and has not been offered a reasonable job by an employment exchange, and punitive measures have to be imposed, they ought to be imposed on the Government and not on the unemployed person. I say frankly, not having been a Member of the Standing Committee, that I do not understand the wording of this Clause. I am alarmed by it. I repeat what I have already said, that, as I read this Clause, it looks as if it were a furtive effort to reintroduce some form of means test.
We have had a positive assurance from the Minister that there will be no means test. If there is to be no means test, I ask him to explain why he thinks his Bill is improved by the inclusion of this Clause. Unless we get from the Minister a more convincing statement than has yet been made, I hope that we, as a House of Commons, will face our responsibility. That responsibility is that we shall provide work, and that we shall make the conditions applicable equally to men and women who are unemployed for one day, week, or year. If the Labour Government are to stick to this simple and oft-repeated pledge, to be responsible for providing either work or maintenance, we certainly shall not introduce fears and punitive measures which are not justified. Within that framework, I can see no cause at all for refusing to delete this entire Clause from the Bill.
§ Mr. Norman Smith (Nottingham, South)
The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Saffron Walden (Mr. R. A. Butler) made what I thought was a most significant statement when he obligingly told the House that in this Bill, and particularly in this Clause, there was evi- 640 dence of continuity of policy so far as the Labour Government were concerned in relation to their Conservative predecessors.
That is just my complaint. I have believed for many years, and still believe, that the Labour Party is on the side of the angels. Unfortunately, the Labour Party, like the party above the gangway on the opposite side of the House, is also on the side of the actuaries, and the hon. Member for Camlachie (Mr. Stephen)—who approached this question, as he always does, from a very warm and human point of view, which has led him, I think, to the right conclusions—gave, I thought, one unsatisfactory answer to a question of his own proposing. He asked why the Minister was doing this thing, which so many of us on this side deplore. I can only put it down to the extraordinary circumstance that this Labour Party persists in an attitude of superstitious credulity towards the calculations of actuaries. Let me make quite clear what I want to put over.
My right hon. Friend the Lord Privy Seal once referred to pounds, shillings and pence as " meaningless symbols," a somewhat indiscreet statement for which he has often since been taken to task. And the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. S. Silverman) mentioned the £400 million surplus in the Unemployment Fund, which is actually the working basis of this scheme. I submit that those 400 million pounds are in fact, meaningless symbols. Against each and every one of those pounds, nowhere in the world do there exist tangible, physical assets. The basis of this scheme is insurance, and, if insurance means anything, it means that I go short of consumer goods today in order that, in a certain eventuality later, I may consume goods in the time to come. The £400 million in the Unemployment Insurance Fund are meaningless symbols, because nowhere can anybody point to consumer goods in the shop windows which would not be in those windows today if contributors had not had to forgo consumption in the past.
I deplore this obsession of the Labour Party with the actuaries and with the calculations of finance. They remind me of Procrustes. Procrustes was a man who, a long time ago, kept an inn in which all the beds were of exactly the same length, 641 and if a tall person went to that inn of Procrustes and asked for a bed, he said, "I am sorry, you do not fit the bed; I must cut off your feet."If one was deficient in height, he said, "I am sorry you are not long enough; I must put you on the rack."In the end, he made everybody fit the beds, and the Minister of National Insurance, for whom I have very great personal affection, will, unfortunately, make his scheme fit these fantastic and superstitious calculations of the actuaries.
My hon Friend the Member for Nelson and Colne said that for 25 years we of this party had been preaching " work or maintenance."In my case, it is longer than that. I well remember, 39 years ago, standing on a soap box outside the Swindon locomotive works making a speech, and I look back upon that occasion with mingled shame and pride— shame because of my disgusting sartorial taste in combining blue overalls with a red tie, and pride because I had the foresight, even in 1907, to advocate work or maintenance. I have long since got past work or maintenance. [Laughter.] Of course, the House will understand that I am speaking not subjectively but objectively. I advocate a principle which is far better than that. I advocate the principle of the cultural heritage. Whatever may be the possible output of contemporary industry, most of it is due not to labour, still less to investment, but to the fact that generations of past knowledge and science have gone into contemporary production to make present-day output possible, and I contend that every one of us, merely because we are alive, is entitled to an income, and that is why I object to this Clause.
It is not mere academic stuff that we are debating. There is a danger that in the future there will again be mass unemployment. It is not merely a case of Socialist planning at home; we are unfortunately committed to certain external policies of which I will only say that there is an equation—free trade plus the gold standard equals mass unemployment. Because this is not an academic discussion, because mass unemployment may happen in the future, and because the whole trend of technology is to produce unemployment by transferring from the man to the machine the burden of production, I am going into the Lobby to- 642 night with my hon. Friend the Member for Nelson and Colne.
§ Mr. Charles Williams (Torquay)
The hon. Member for South Nottingham (Mr. N. Smith) will realise that it is due to no discourtesy on my part if I do not follow him into a discussion of the gold standard and things of that kind. I was moved by what the hon. Lady the Member for Cannock (Miss Lee) said, and with which I agree. I do not understand why this Clause is in the Bill at all. She put that aspect of the case very clearly indeed. My right hon. Friend the Member for Saffron Walden (Mr. R. A. Butler), who did not, I think, hear that speech, said that we were not taking part in this particular discussion. I am taking part in this discussion because I think that those of us who have listened to the speeches in this Debate have some right to know exactly were we are, so far as the Government are concerned, and what is going to happen. I was very interested, indeed, in the speech made by the hon. Lady the Member for Blackburn (Mrs. Castle) who seconded the Amendment. She spoke very well on the new spirit which is required to deal with unemployment In Britain. Her new spirit showed itself in many ways, and it was most interesting. I wish that many years ago I had had her technique in saying things about the devious mind of the Minister. Of course, those who have listened to the Minister know that he has an extremely devious mind on these matters, so devious that he is not prepared to remedy something which, as I understand it, goes right back on the pledges given at the Election.
I have had a good deal of trouble in this matter regarding the election, I have been asked " Will you support the Socialist Party and will you endorse the pledge of the Government of this country that now the war is over, there will be absolutely full employment? "I have said that there could not be full employment, and I do not believe that anyone can honestly say that there could be full employment for all time. That is the difference between myself and those throughout the whole country who voted against our party. If we are going to have full employment, if the Government believe that they can give full employment, what is the good of these regulations and of laying down in this Clause that after 180 days the benefit shall cease? I do not wonder, 643 that one or two hon. Members opposite seem to be very cross—indeed, as cross as I am—and feel so badly about it. I really believe that if the Government were able to do that, or thought they would be able to do it, that they would have shown more spirit than they have shown up to now.
I come to the second point, the question of unemployment benefit. The next thing I was asked was whether I would pledge myself, as all the Socialists have pledged themselves, that there would be no limit whatever to the benefit. As I understand it—and I think the speeches we have already heard from the Socialist Party will bear me out—there will be no limit of time for the unemployment benefit. I refused to give that pledge because I could not carry it out. I wonder whether hon. Members opposite would refuse to give a pledge of no limit, or whether they would vote for the Government in limiting the amount of time in which benefit could be given. I wonder how many hon. Members opposite led the electors to believe that there would be full employment, and no limit to unemployment benefit.
For years I have listened to Members of the Socialist Party denouncing the means test. From everything we have heard tonight about this Clause, it would appear to impose something which, if it is not a means test in the usual sense, is so closely allied to it that I cannot see any difference. I would like to ask the Minister, with his devious mind, to explain exactly what is meant by this Clause. I do not think I am being unkind to the Minister, because his voung back bench P.P.S. referred to his devious mind. In any case, it is not my job to be kind to Ministers, and I have no intention of doing so, although I respect them, despite their devious minds. Several hon. Members opposite, whose views I respect— because they are just as entitled to their views, as I am entitled to mine—have criticised the Government which they have recently been elected to support, because they believe the Clause imposes a means test. That being so, is there any Member in this House, or anyone outside who has taken part in politics, who does not realise that every Socialist candidate for a very 644 long while has been pledged up to the hilt—
§ Mr. Tolley (Kidderminster)
May I ask, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, how much of this is relevant to the matter under discussion? The hon. Member is talking about the last General Election.
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Mr. Hubert Beaumont)
Perhaps it would be as well if the hon. Member allowed me to decide what is relevant
§ Mr. Williams
The points that I am raising all come strictly within the scope of the Bill, although I have no intention of going on for any considerable length of time. During the General Election, we were told of three things which the Socialist Party would do. One was to provide full employment. But we do not need this Clause if we have full employment. The second was no limit to benefit. This Clause is absolute nonsense, unless we expect to have long periods of unemployment. The third is what is usually known as the means test. The Government may take no notice of what I say. After all, I speak for a small, weak and overburdened majority in this House. I, like, the hon. Member for Cannock, was not a Member of the Committee and I have the same difficulties in that respect as she has. I sympathise deeply with her, because I find it difficult to keep in touch with everything that has been done in Committee upstairs. When a Clause of this sort is inserted in the Bill, which seems to go against everything that we have been told would happen, then, just as the hon. Lady and others want to know what is the good of this Clause, so I want to know what in the world is the reason for it, in view of all the pledges given by the Government at the General Election.
Mrs. Braddock (Liverpool, Exchange)
Had I needed any reason for supporting the opposition to this Clause I got it from the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Saffron Walden (Mr. R. A. Butler), because he said that to him this was a continuation of policy. That is what we are afraid of. We are afraid that Clause 12 does continue the policy that has been adopted in unemployment benefit for so many years. I have been an employees' representative on tribunals that have had to deal with unemployed people in relation to various provisions in Statutes 645 which have been used by the Ministry of Labour from time to time, such as " genuinely seeking work," or whether a person is out of work through misconduct —various means used by the Ministry of Labour in an attempt to debar people from receiving unemployment benefit. In Liverpool, with its present unemployment figure of 25,000, we feel strongly on this Clause. I have had long experience of the unemployed in Liverpool. I have been in baton charges when the police of this country—particularly in Liverpool— have used batons upon unemployed, on people demonstrating against their poverty and against the application of Clauses such as that which we are discussing.
Our Government ought to have accepted the responsibility of saying that if they are not capable of offering employment to people, then it is their responsibility, as a Government, to see that those people continue to receive unemployment benefit at whatever scale happens to be fixed. The inclusion of Clause 12 means that other Clauses have to be included also. It means that some group of people has to decide whether a person is genuinely out of work. Whatever we may say to the contrary, and however many words we use in this respect, it is a question of whether a person is genuinely seeking work. We can hide in our Clause behind as many words as we like, but it always comes back to the question of whether a person is genuinely seeking work. That is the only basis upon which we can decide, under this Clause, whether a person is entitled to unemployment benefit or not. In this Debate I am speaking for the Amendment with very deep feeling, because I believe my party's future depends entirely upon the attitude we adopt towards the question of unemployment pay and unemployment generally. If a Division is called, I shall hate having to go into the Lobby against my party, but I shall do so, because of my long experience and knowledge of this whole position.
Our people were looking for something different, for some other approach to the question of unemployment pay and unemployment generally. I believe most sincerely—and I am certain a lot of hon Members on this side believe the same— that we are entitled to say that if we cannot find work for people it is the responsibility of the Government, and it is not the responsibility of the person to prove 646 whether or not he is genuinely seeking work. These committees are bound to be set up if this Clause stands, for however long extended benefit is given. If it is stated under Clause 12 that 180 days plus so many days if a person has a good record, plus so many more if he comes into a new insurance year, what is the use of the Clause at all? As far as I can see, the only reason is that another Clause shall be inserted somewhere so that a different set of circumstances will apply when a person has exhausted insurance benefit.
§ Mr. Scollan (Renfrew, Western)
Does the Clause say that a person shall be disqualified if he is not genuinely seeking employment?
No, it does not say that: in Clause 12. What I say is that if Clause 12 is passed another Clause will be needed for determining how additional benefit outside of contribution benefit shall be paid. If we accept Clause 12 we must accept another Clause, because there must be a tribunal to decide whether a person shall go on receiving benefit after he has completely exhausted the benefit he obtained on the common insurance basis. That Clause, of course, is a Clause further on in the Bill, and that Clause sets up tribunals. I, for the life of me, cannot see any difference in the suggested tribunal under this scheme and the tribunal of the moment. It is to be representative, and there will be a chairman, an employers' representative and a workpeople's representative; and that is how the tribunal is made up at the moment. Even under this Bill, if the Clause is passed, and even under Clause 62, and under the other Clause that permits the tribunals to be set up, the dice are always loaded against the unemployed worker. The chairman of the tribunal has been a paid officer, and there is an employers' representative as well. On innumerable occasions I have dissented from the majority decision that has been taken by the chairman and employers' representative. There must be something laid down whereby it can be decided whether a person is genuinely out of work or not. Let us say " genuinely out of work "Instead of " genuinely seeking work."Then it will be a question of deciding whether he is genuinely out of work before he receives-benefit paid by the Treasury and not by the Fund.
647 I am certain that if this Clause applies and if the various consequential Clauses apply, we are going to have very grave difficulties and much disgust, as far as those people who have to go to the tribunals are concerned. Let us suppose we have a man who has completely exhausted his benefit. He goes to the tribunal that is set up and they say, " We cannot find you work here, but there is plenty of work in Birmingham."This man happens to be a married man, with a wife and three children to support. He reckons that if he goes to Birmingham it will cost him at least £2 a week to live there. If his wages are £4 12s.—I understand that that is about the rate being paid in Birmingham at the moment— he will be left with only about £2 2s. 6d. or £2 5s. to send to his wife and three children, who are living in Liverpool. It is impossible at the moment for a woman and three children to exist on £2 5s. in any part of the country at all. If that man refuses to go to Birmingham, what attitude will the tribunal adopt? They will say he is refusing to work and that he does not want to work, and so he is not entitled to any extended unemployment benefit at all. If this Clause and its subsequent Clauses are withdrawn until after the period of the first five years of the application of the Act, then we shall be in this position, that the man will go to Birmingham, because we shall have provided houses by that time, and he will be able to take his wife and children with him. We have no right to expect people to move about the country and leave their wives and children elsewhere because we cannot provide decent accommodation for them.
I was going to ask the Minister to look at this again, but perhaps I should not say that, because the wording proves that the Minister has tried to make it as easy as possible. Unfortunately, there is a drag somewhere. Someone has been able to force the position. That is all wrong, because I am certain that if the Minister could express his own private opinion, he would not be in favour of this. Those of us who have taken so large a part in unemployed demonstrations, knowing how similar this is to the old policy, will be glad., if we do not get some guarantee, to go openheartedly and with good in- 648 tentions into the Lobby against a proposal which we consider to be entirely detrimental under this Government or any other Government. I hope, when the Minister replies, that we shall have some definite assurance, and for my part I shall need some definite assurance that there is to be no continuation of the old type of legislation. Unless we get some definite assurance, a number of us will take the responsibility in this case of voting against our party.
§ Mr. Lever (Manchester, Exchange)
I am going to vote against the Government on this Clause. I consider that both sides of the House should change their decision. Members on the back benches opposite should vote in accordance with their principles, after all they have said about Members on the back benches on the Government side. I wonder whether they will have the courage to go into the Lobby, in spite of what their leader has said. Surely they do not want us to think that they have no opinions on this question. Let them not hide their views in a cowardly manner by abstaining. For those who are in doubt about the means test, I would point out that after a certain period the long-term unemployed to obtain their benefits will be dependent upon a tribunal, acting on principles which have not yet been disclosed to the House, and of whose constitution we know nothing so far. What we are being asked to do by passing this Clause is to hand over the long-term unemployed to a tribunal who will decide upon their benefits, on principles about which at present we know nothing.
I ask hon. Members on this side of the House whether they are prepared to hand over the long-term unemployed to tribunals of this kind We have had experience of the rights of long-term unemployed men, and the Minister ought to have told us upon what principles the Government are to act in dealing with them The Government should tell us what regulations will govern the tribunals, over which, apparently, this House will have no power once this Measure, as it now stands, has been passed. I hope that everyone on this side of the House will follow the principle, which is the principle of their party, and has been since the beginning of the century, and vote against this Clause 649 which can only have a mischievous intent, so far as the rights of the long-term unemployed are concerned. I appeal finally to the Opposition to decide on which mast they intend to nail their flag, to have the courage of their convictions and to defy the courageous gentleman who rules their destinies and whose ruling, apparently, they accept with a subservience that appals me. If this Clause is defeated, it will remove once and for all the possibility of a means test. Surely they are not going to allow this Clause to stand without some action on their part.
§ Mr. Emrys Roberts (Merioneth)
I think that this Amendment represents a logical supplement to a real social security scheme. The basis of such a scheme is this—that every man on the condition of working while he can, and contributing while he works, is entitled as of right to maintenance when, by reason of circumstances outside his own control, he is unable to work, as the result of sickness, old age, accident or being thrown out of work. We have accepted that principle as regards sickness, old age and accident; but the Bill unfortunately stops short of accepting it in the case of unemployment. It is generally accepted that any social security scheme, if it is to be effective, must depend also on an effective plan for full employment. We Liberals believe that full employment can be secured by planning to that end. We do not believe that unemployment is caused by vast, mysterious forces, over which we have no control and no understanding. Accordingly, as we believe that, we can control employment, let us show our confidence by carrying to its full logical conclusion our planning for social security, by accepting the principle that men are entitled to benefit for the full period of unemployment. That is all I want to say. I do not want to indulge in any talk about continuity of policy, or in any party recriminations; and certainly I do not wish to charge the Minister with using any devious methods. We Welshmen have not devious minds The Minister showed, in his last speech, that he faces these difficulties courageously, and in a straightforward manner. I hope that to make this great scheme the epoch-making one which it can be, he will accept this final step towards achieving social security for all.
§ Mr. J. Griffiths
I hope that hon. Members will not think that I am entering into 650 this Debate at a stage which curtails it unduly, but discussion on this matter has been proceeding for about two hours, and it was our hope to be able to make progress with the Bill tonight. I think, therefore, that I might be permitted to say a few words on this matter in reply to my hon. Friends who have spoken in this Debate. In many ways, perhaps, it is unfortunate that, owing to a number of Amendments at different stages of this Bill, dealing with unemployment, we have had several bits " of Debate about Clauses 12 and 62, and no connected Debate about the whole of the problem. In Committee upstairs, we gave very full consideration to this, and it falls to me now to put, if I may, very briefly before the House, the considerations which led the Government to its decision.
There were two courses open to us under this Bill. We could have made the whole thing, without any kind of limitation or of duration chargeable to the Fund, but I indicated yesterday what that would cost in terms of money and contributions by the contributor. The alternative was to make the provisions that we have done in Clauses 11, 12 and 13. In Clause 11 the conditions under which unemployment and sickness benefits are paid is set out. Clause 13 states the disqualifications and special conditions and Clause 12 makes, provision for the exhaustion of and re-qualification for benefit. The latter is the Clause which the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. Silverman) has now moved to delete from the Bill. I shall show in a moment what the effect of that would be.
I have explained to the House the reasons which prompted the Government to adopt this method of making two provisions for unemployment benefit, including the one in the Clause I have to refer to, which is statutory benefit of 180 days plus added days. I gather that one or two hon. Members have made reference to the added days' benefit, and questioned whether it should be included or not. The position is that the rule of added days of benefit has been in existence as long as unemployment insurance, and I had to consider whether it was worth while continuing it in the Bill or otherwise. I gather from all the evidence that has been given to me, that it was looked upon as desirable and I incorporated it. As hon. Members know, this " added days " rule was put in cold 651 storage during the period of the war for administrative reasons, but recently it was reintroduced and is working as it was before the war. There may be varying views as to whether we ought to have a rule of that kind or not, but since it was in operation for a long time, and since none of those who came to discuss this problem with me suggested that it should be left out, I incorporated it. I do not think it is a great matter of principle one way or the other.
Under this Clause then, a person will get 180 days' benefit plus whatever added days' benefit he is entitled to on his own contributions over a period. After that, other provision is made. It is difficult to discuss these Clauses separately, and that is why I am sorry that in the course of the Debate they were discussed without being linked together. I hope it will be in order for me to deal with them together, because it is essential to the giving of a clear picture. The charges under Clause 13 will be borne by the Fund and paid by the Fund. When a person is about to exhaust his statutory benefit, we provide in the Bill what is an entirely new provision. At the moment when a person exhausts his standard benefit that is the end of benefit. He then falls entirely outside the insurance scheme. There is no provision in the Unemployment Insurance Acts whereby he will get benefit when his standard benefit is exhausted. The only provision is in the Unemployment Assistance Act. He can apply to the Assistance Board for assistance which will be granted to him subject to his registering at the employment exchange as an unemployed person, fit for work.
§ Mr. S. O. Davies (Merthyr)
But my right hon. Friend must be fully aware that under the Clause, an unemployed person having exhausted the number of days was allotted a further number of days under the Act, and could still draw benefit, subject to the 78 days' review. He was still on benefit for that period of the review, and the Minister is now making it abundantly clear that instead of that period of review, the benefit is going to stop. At least that is my understanding of the position.
§ 9.15 p.m.
§ Mr. Griffiths
My hon. Friend is referring to conditions many years ago, but conditions today are not the same. There 652 is no 78 days' rule, and, therefore, no loss of standard benefit. When the standard benefit is exhausted a man can only apply to the Assistance Board. That is the position today. Under this Bill, he will have the right to apply to the tribunal. My hon. Friend the Member for Nelson and Colne wants to convert this right to apply to the tribunal into the right to benefit. What we have done in Clause 62 is to provide that tribunals are to recommend the continuation of benefit under conditions which are to be laid down, and on directions which are to be given by the Minister under the regulations.
§ Mr. Griffiths
The right of grant carries, also, the right of refusal. The position is as I stated to the Committee and to the House, that the tribunals would have no right to apply any kind of means test in consideration of that claim. The suggestion that keeps cropping up is that the tribunal, in deciding these cases, will have the right to operate the means test.
§ Mr. Griffiths
Where unemployment benefit is refused at any stage of a man's unemployment, he has no recourse but to go to the Board.
§ Mr. S. Silverman
I am sure my right hon. Friend does not want to mislead anybody. It is no good saying that it arises at any stage. The point is that if Clause 12 is in the Bill it must arise after 180 days.
§ Mr. Griffiths
It is suggested that standard benefit is benefit to which unemployed persons are entitled without condition, and that benefit beyond that is the benefit which they can get only on condition.
§ Miss Jennie Lee
We hold that during the first week of unemployment, if there is reasonable employment available, the man or woman must take it.
§ Mr. Griffiths
I said that the conditions under which benefits are paid from the 653 first day are laid down in Clause 13. There, what I have done is to incorporate the conditions under which standard benefits are now paid under the existing Acts. I considered carefully, and discussed with my colleagues and representatives of the T.U.C. and others, the conditions laid down under Clause 13. The conditions have changed from time to time but I gather that on the whole there seems to be general agreement that those which are now applied to persons who claim benefit under the existing provisions work reasonably well, and that there is no substantial complaint against them. I have, therefore, incorporated in the Bill the provisions which now apply The conditions which will be applied when we come to extend benefit have still to be determined by regulations. The regulations have to be submitted to an Advisory Council and to this House of Commons. One of the Amendments on the Order Paper, which will be reached later is one in which I accept the view that these regulations under Clause 62 are to be subject to the affirmative Resolution of the House. They will, therefore, not become operative until the House has approved them. The House will have the fullest opportunity of deciding whether the conditions to be attached to extended benefit under Clause 62 are satisfactory or otherwise. I was asked in the Committee whether I could indicate what these regulations would be, and I replied that I was sorry I could not do so. I admit that I am still not in a position to answer this question; the matter is still under consideration although I am sure hon. Members will appreciate that we have been working on this Bill under very great pressure.
§ Mr. Griffiths
I have listened to the arguments of hon. Members and I really must get on. Clause 62 provides that the Minister will issue regulations that will govern tribunals in deciding whether they recommend continuation or extension of benefit or otherwise. One thing 654 we have made clear in Clause 62—and I made further Amendments last night, which were accepted by the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne, to make it even clearer—is that these regulations would include no power to institute any kind of means test. What remains to be decided is what conditions shall apply. I will be frank with the House and say that it is no use speculating as to what these regulations will be because we have not reached a final conclusion, and I can give no undertaking. I have already said that I do not propose to do anything under Clause 62 in any devious way, and whatever action is taken under the Clause will be taken only with the full approval of the House. For reasons which I may be allowed to explain later in the Debate I had included under Clause 62 certain regulations which were not subject to affirmative resolutions because I had to bring some transitional provisions into operation. I have mentioned this because I want to be perfectly plain and straightforward about it, but the regulations that will finally be framed under Clause 62 will be subject to affirmative resolutions so that the conditions under which tribunals will work cannot come into operation until the House has received, discussed, and approved them.
§ Mr. Stephen
Could not the Minister tell us, with regard to these regulations, whether the test of willingness to work will be an objective or a subjective test? A great deal depends upon that.
§ Mr. Griffiths
I have said already that they certainly will be objective tests. Subjective tests are not tests at all, they are penal. These will be objective.
§ Mr. Cove (Aberavon)
It is provided that when the tribunal make recommendations they shall have regard to the industrial conditions in the district. Will that lead to uniformity in decisions by the tribunal, or will it make for varying recommendations, varying according to the industrial conditions in the area? What is the virtue in that?
§ Mr. Griffiths
It might. It leaves the door open. It may be that the recommendations will be related to the industrial conditions in the area where the applicant lives. I hope I have made it clear that under Clauses 11, 12 and 13 there is provision for standard benefit. Clause 62 goes beyond that. Clause 62 cannot be 655 brought into operation until the regulations are approved by the Minister and by the House of Commons. Several of my hon. Friends have said that they propose to vote for the deletion of Clause 12. If Clause 12 is deleted, it will mean the recasting of the Bill. Clause 12 is particularly related to Clause II, and the whole Bill would have to be recast.
There are obviously two things of which hon. Members are afraid. The first is the reintroduction of the means test. I hope I have made myself clear on that. Secondly, they are afraid of persons who are not genuinely seeking work. I discussed that at very great length in Committee and gave my views and assurances. I cannot go beyond that for the simple reason that, if I did, I would have to tell the House the conditions under which Clause 62 will operate and I cannot say that, because no decision has been arrived at. I have listened to what has been said upon this matter and I have heard hon. Members express very strong feeling, but at the moment I cannot go further. I hope that that, in itself, will be sufficient to induce my hon. Friends not to press their Amendment.
§ Mr. Osbert Peake (Leeds, North)
So far as I and most of my hon. Friends are concerned, we simply have not had put before us the information which would enable us to come to a decision which way to vote on this Amendment. After all, we are dealing with an insurance scheme, and in an insurance scheme benefits are related to contributions. The contribution rates set out in the Bill are, no doubt, related in some way to the period for which there is entitlement to benefit for unemployment and there can be no doubt that if the duration of benefit is increased or becomes unlimited, as it would under the Amendment proposed by the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. S. Silverman), the contribution rate would have to be increased accordingly.
§ Mr. S. Silverman
Surely the right hon. Member is deceiving himself about that. There is Clause 62 which is described by 656 the Minister as dealing with extended benefit. Under Clause 62 the monies do not come out of the Fund. They are paid by the Treasury. There is no difficulty in principle or machinery in making these payments by the Treasury as of right instead of discretionary.
§ 9.30 p.m.
§ Mr. Peake
No, out of the Fund. That is so under the Bill, and there is not the slightest doubt that if this Amendment were carried the charge on the Fund would pro tanto be increased and the contribution would have to be increased accordingly. This Amendment is a division of opinion between the right hon. Gentleman and some of his supporters.
§ Miss Lee
May we get this clear, because it seems to be a division of fact rather than of opinion. As we understand it, we are proposing that after six months, during which contributions are paid from the Fund, they are met from the Exchequer. Why should the right hon. Gentleman say that this would be an extra burden on the Fund since the Fund would not be involved beyond the six months or the additional period in certain special cases?
§ Mr. Griffiths
I have explained to the House that I have had to make several speeches on this matter at various times. I made one last night. I referred to this question and I indicated what the increased contribution would be. The present provision relates to 180 days' benefit. Therefore, the unlimited benefit 657 would fall on the Fund and the contribution would be increased.
§ Mr. Peake
I am much obliged to the right hon. Gentleman, and I could call in aid his statement the other day, which was quite categorical, to the effect that the reason he had put a limitation upon the duration of benefit in the Bill was that, if circumstances were to recur similar to those of 1931 or 1932, his insurance fund would be completely " bust."That being the position, this is a dispute between the right hon. Gentleman and some of his supporters below the gangway. There has been an impassioned appeal in a very unusual form to us on these benches by the hon. Gentleman the Member for the Exchange Division of Manchester (Mr. Lever). He appealed to us to go into the Lobby against the cause which he has at heart. He is most concerned that sufficient hon. Members of my party shall support the Government on this Amendment to enable him and his friends to go safely into the Lobby against the Government without running any risk of defeating the Government.
§ Mr. Lever
Will the right hon. Gentleman allow me? I made no appeal to him, but I made an appeal to the dumb minority behind him who are betraying everything they have stood for since the turn of the century and before, by abstaining on this Clause, and thereby running the risk of the means test being removed from the Statute.
§ Mr. David Renton (Huntingdon)
In a desire to obtain clarification, and to thrash out the issues in Subsection (1) of this Clause, it seems that we have lost sight of the importance of Subsection (2) which concerns the requalification for sickness benefit. As I see it, it is possible that a person becoming incurably ill before he has paid 156 contributions may find himself in a position of very great hardship, and I wish to put this point to the Minister for his consideration. It so happens that under the Health Service a person will get treatment, but 658 it does not mean to say that he will be kept in a hospital. He may be having to keep himself. If we turn to the White Paper issued with this Bill we find that sickness benefit at the full rates will be paid indefinitely if the sick person has 156 contributions actually paid at the time.
If he has not 156 contributions actually paid we find in Subsection (2) of Clause 12 that he will get sickness benefit for 312 days and then it seems that it comes to an end subject to the manner in which Clause 4 is going to operate. If the Parliamentary Secretary is to reply, I am sure the House will appreciate an assurance from him that Subsection (4) may be so worked as to overcome any hardship. I conclude by reminding the House that the Coalition White Paper referred to in the White Paper accompanying this Bill said that the proposed invalidity benefit on a reduced rate could be paid after three years.
That may very well be a sensible solution. It is better than nothing; a reduced rate would be better than nothing. Unless good notice is taken of this point, those unfortunate people—and there may be several hundred of them—who become ill before they have paid 156 contributions, will suffer.
§ Mr. S. O. Davies
I hoped that the Minister would relieve us a little of our anxieties on this matter, but he has not done so. We all appreciate the tremendous task he has had in piloting this vast Bill through the Committee and the House, but I am sure those who have criticised will agree that never since the Bill came before the House has he been less enthusiastic and more uncertain than he has been this evening.
He knows he is reviving all the worst evils in the administration of unemployment insurance in this country. The fact is that he is giving the unemployed something worse than existed 12 or 15 years ago. In those days when the unemployed person had used up his unemployment benefit coming to him in the period fixed in the Act, he could go before, not a local tribunal, but a local committee. It was made up of local persons and did not include a single full time member or official. He could get benefit extended for 78 days. On scores of occasions I sat on those committees. The Minister must know that when a tribunal sits on the 659 claim of an unemployed person for extended benefit, that tribunal will have to use its power against the unemployed person. I wonder what the Minister's feelings would be if he happened to be the representative of my constituency in this House. In my constituency there are thousands of persons unemployed now who have been out of work from nine to 11 months. They will have exhausted their 180 days and are nearing exhaustion of their added days. I suppose the only consolation or encouragement the Minister can give them is that they will be referred to a tribunal.
That tribunal will have to decide upon certain principles and conditions which this House knows absolutely nothing about at this moment. I am sorry that the Minister has permitted this blot to be placed on what is, with all its small imperfections, an otherwise magnificent piece of legislation. But if there is anything that will bring the Bill into disrepute it is this Clause which the Amendment asks the House to delete from the Bill.
I cannot understand either the degree of shortsightedness on the part of my right hon. Friend and the Cabinet, or their unpardonable obstinacy in permitting, in spite of the protests that have been made, in Committee and elsewhere, the worst aspects of Tory dealing with the unemployed of this country. It is a pity that a blot—I must describe it in the language I feel it justifies—as sordid as this Clause 12 has been permitted to be placed on this Bill. The Minister knows very well that the contents of this Clause cut across nearly all that he has stood for in the interests of the unemployed of this country. No one has defended the unemployed more eloquently on the Floor of this House than he has. Nobody has castigated Tory mentality more furiously and fiercely than the Minister who is fathering this Clause in this Bill today. I am sorry that now, at this stage, we are compelled to link the Minister with the past of Tory misrule and cruelty to the unfortunate unemployed people of this country.
I am in a most unhappy position. I have these thousands of unemployed persons in my constituency, and I am sorry to say that they are likely to be unemployed for a considerable time to come. I cannot allow this Clause to be passed by this House without making my protest. 660 I am honoured in representing the constituency which was at one time represented in this House by one who is today admitted by everybody to be a great man, the man to whom this Government and this party probably owe more than to any individual in the history of the working class movement of this country, the man who succeeded in getting the Labour movement of this country to accept not merely as a slogan, but as a fundamental truth in our lives, that there must either be work or maintenance. Now, after 180 days, there is to be either work or the infliction of the old Tory penal consequences upon unemployed persons in this country.
As my hon. Friend has already said, I am confident that this Government will provide the solvent for unemployment. I have no misgivings about that. I am prepared to give them reasonable time to prove that our confidence in them is justified, but meanwhile we shall not be true to the traditions of the Labour Party and of this Government if we become parties to the retention of such a Clause as this in the Bill. I appeal to my right hon. Friend to remember his past, to remember the way he has fought, and fought so gallantly. I appeal to other Members of the Government, for heaven's sake, in the interests of our great movement and of the future of this Government, to delete this sordid blot from an otherwise great piece of legislation.
§ 9.45 p.m.
§ The Lord President of the Council (Mr. Herbert Morrison)
I apologise to the House for the fact that I have not been able to hear the whole of this Debate; but my hon. and right hon. Friends on this Bench have reported to me the proceedings and, moreover, the point which is before the. House was given the fullest consideration by the Government as a whole. In view of the history of the controversy with regard to unemployment benefit, it was natural that we should expect feelings, convictions and arguments upon the point, and therefore at earlier stages of the Bill, the Government gave the fullest consideration to the existing controversy upon the provisions of the Bill and to controversies which were probable in view of the past history of the matter. Unemployment benefit is an exceedingly difficult matter to administer. This is an insurance scheme, and it is based upon 661 contributions settled by statute, and benefits which also have to be settled by statute. It is a contributory scheme to which the employers, the workpeople and the State all contribute, and it is necessary, in considering legislation of this kind, to take into account, and to pay every respect to, the actuarial advice which the Government, being responsible for the framing of the Bill and settlement of its finances, must seek. I start therefore from the point that, first of all, it is an insurance scheme, and must take into account actuarial and financial considerations. If I may say so with respect, I think it is impossible, being an insurance scheme, that it should march upon the basis that there can be unlimited or unqualified benefit in respect of unemployment.
§ Mr. H. Morrison
Sir William Beveridge is not a Member of His Majesty's Government, and I am not proposing to be dominated by Sir William Beveridge upon every point. I say that it is not unreason able in an insurance scheme, where we are entering into a contract with the citizens, that the contribution and the benefits must be stated and specified in the Statute. What is impossible in any insurance scheme is to base it upon the principle that there are limited contributions and unlimited benefits; there has to be check, review and discussion at some point. I am as fully aware as anybody of the long and bitter controversies which have gone on in regard to this matter. If I may say so, we do not settle the complications involved in this by the mere utterance of slogans. We have to deal with the practical terms of a Statute, and I thought that my hon. Friend the Member for Merthyr (Mr. S. O. Davies) was unjust to the Minister of National Insurance, unfair—if I may dare to use the word, uncomradely —in comparing my right hon. Friend the Minister of National Insurance, whose record in the Labour movement is just as good as that of my hon. Friend the Member for Merthyr or anybody else—
§ Mr. Morrison
It is a little brutal, crude and inconsiderate to refer to my right hon. Friend, with his very fine record in trade union and labour circles, as if he were an 662 utterly reactionary and awful Tory politician. With every respect to hon. Gentlemen opposite, that is just too bad.
We start, therefore, upon the principle that it is difficult, in a scheme of this sort, to ignore contributions on the one hand, and conditions of benefit on the other. We cannot have stated contributions calculated to cover the finances of the Bill, and also have unrestricted and unlimited benefits. Otherwise, the actuarial and financial sides of the Bill will get altogether out of accord. What did the Government do? We recognised, we accepted and we affirmed that we did not want to go back to the bad practices of the past. If we could avoid it, we did not want to go back either to the cruder, forms of " not genuinely seeking work " —in itself a slogan of some sense but most difficult to administer fairly to the workpeople—nor did we wish to go back to the cruder forms of the means test.
§ Mr. Morrison
That is the kind of extreme slogan which does not face the administrative actualities that we have to consider. It is all very well to throw that phrase across the Floor of the House, but if my hon. Friend were sitting in Cabinet, or in Cabinet Committee, he would have to face the actualities of the situation. [HON. MEMBERS: " Hear, hear."] I have had to do it for a long time, in one way or another, so perhaps I have some feelings on the point. Then we must consider how we can protect the finances of the Bill, within reason, without indulging in crude brutalities or harshness to the workpeople concerned. The conclusion which the Government reached was that benefit would go on under the insurance scheme and within the finances of the insurance scheme for a stated period. On actuarial grounds it was, in our view, right and inevitable that, after a stated period, the insurance benefit would have to come to a point of review or cessation. The question is, What happens then? Under the old legislation, the benefits stopped automatically, without argument, and the workman was required to go to the Assistance Board. The Assistance Board has done its work with as much humanity and skill as it could. However, we did not adopt that expedient. We provided that, at that point, the workman, the contributor, should have 663 the right, with any other party concerned, to go to a tribunal to review the case, to have a discussion about it and for a fair decision to be reached as to whether he should then go on to what is called extended benefit. That extended benefit will be at the cost of the Exchequer. We are in new circumstances, I suggest, under the Bill, whereby the workman is entitled to argue and to plead his case, and is to have, as I assure the House, under the jurisdiction of my right hon. Friend, a fair decision upon the facts. We do not want the workman to be penalised.
§ Mr. Morrison
Yes, certainly. Why should he not? I put it to my hon. Friends, are we Socialists or are we not?
§ Mr. Morrison
Hon. Members opposite are entitled to join in, although I gathered from the speech of the right hon. Member for Saffron Walden (Mr. R. A. Butler) that the Opposition are inclined to abdicate from their responsibilities. I approach this matter as a Socialist, If under an insurance scheme the contributors contribute on the basis of a financial contract for benefit, when that financial contract actuarially comes to an end, and the beneficiary is to go on to State funds, the State is entitled to have discussion and review before it parts with its money. After all, let it not be assumed that all taxpayers come from the upper classes. I thought we all knew enough about that, in view of the pressure from the working classes to reduce taxation upon them. It is an utter illusion to believe that the average working man wants to be a party to any possibility of the evasion of fairness in the administration of State moneys or to any possibility of State moneys being abused by the recipients. What we provide, in justice and fairness to the worker, is that he shall be entitled to a fair review of his case, and if he gets through on his case, he will become entitled to extended benefit entirely at the expense of the Exchequer. Surely, the Exchequer has a right to be reasonably assured that the money will be fairly and properly spent without abuse.
664 Moreover, this is not the end of the story. There are to be regulations, which will really be the essence of the business, as far as the principles of administration are concerned. Those regulations will not be regulations against which Prayers can be moved; they will be regulations which can operate only by an Affirmative Resolution. Therefore, the House will not have finished with the matter tonight; it will have an opportunity of argument and debate, and more trouble and embarrassment, if necessary, on the regulations. There will be plenty more chances if my hon. Friends want to have more discussion on the matter. The regulations will be subject to Affirmative Resolution; my right hon. Friend is not asking for a blank cheque. That seems to me to be a commonsense attitude on the part of the Government. I cannot believe that those of my hon. Friends who have feelings on this matter, and for the sincerity of whose feelings I have the highest regard, are affirming the doctrine that any citizen, even a working-class citizen, has the unconditional right to draw money from the State without question, query or justification. Any Socialist who affirms that is affirming something which is contrary to the self-respecting and upright principles of Socialism.
Therefore, it seems to me that we have to choose between some channel of argument, some channel of review, some channel of fair decision, or unconditional benefit unlimited in time. I say, frankly, that whether the Government are right or wrong, they will not seek to justify on the Floor of the House unconditional, unlimited benefit out of the public funds in any circumstances. [Interruption.] There may be noise, but the Government will not do it. We will not stand up for that doctrine
§ 10.0 p.m.
§ Miss Jennie Lee
I think it is very important that the Leader of the Party should make it quite clear that we do not believe in unconditional benefit even in the first week of unemployment.
§ Mr. Morrison
I only warn my hon. Friends that I apprehend that that may be the philosophy into which they are in danger of drifting. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] I apprehend it. I have heard the argument elsewhere and in other cir- 665 cumstances, and I say that is an argument that this Government cannot support. Finally, I understand—
§ Mr. Morrison
Let us get on. I understand perfectly the emotions and the strong feelings of my hon. Friend the Member for Merthyr, though I think he was unkind, and harsh, and unjust to my right hon. Friend the Minister of National Insurance. South Wales has a long history of bitter industrial depression and of unemployment. I understand his apprehensions, but a lot of the argument behind the speeches of some of my hon. Friends in this Debate, is the belief that we are going back to those conditions of depressed areas and of unlimited unemployment. We are not. [An HON. MEMBER: " Why the Clause then? "] It is the intention of this Government that we are going to work with vigour and energy for full employment. I say to the House that it is a good thing and not a bad thing that Governments faced with unemployment should be up against this problem of an unlimited period for the statutory right to insurance benefit. If the Government cannot solve this problem of unemployment and prevent unlimited unemployment so as to avoid these vast numbers of cases that used to occur, and enormous numbers of men and women experiencing unlimited periods of unemployment—if this Government cannot do that I will confess we have failed in our job.
It is the intention of my hon. Friends behind me, and of the Government on this bench, that that evil condition, which is hot in the memory of my hon. Friend the Member for Merthyr, shall not recur in the history of our country. Therefore, let us start on this basis, that we are not legislating for interminable unemployment; we are legislating on the basis of limited unemployment. If we legislate upon any other basis, we are legislating at the beginning, on a confession of failure, almost before we have begun the economic life of this Government. This is an insurance scheme. It must be so considered and, for my own part, I think it a good thing that if the legitimate actuarial financial basis of the insurance 666 scheme cannot take care of the unemployed, the Government shall be forced, time and again, in the House of Commons to face up to the problem of long-term unemployment. That is all I can say except that I understand the strong feelings about it; but I ask the House to accept the view that the Government have given this the most careful, sympathetic, and understanding consideration. We are going to a Division, and the House will decide. The Government stand firmly and unitedly behind my right hon. Friend the Minister of National Insurance. I urge the House to give my right hon. Friend their confidence and support to face the issue, understanding that, later on, there can be further Debates upon the regulations.
§ Mr. S. Silverman
I do not know why my right hon. Friend was not content to leave the argument where my right hon. Friend the Minister of National Insurance left it, but I am grateful to him' for his intervention, because he has said that the Government have given very careful consideration to this matter, whereas his speech has shown that they have completely misunderstood—I should hate to say misrepresented—what those of us on these benches wish. The point is a perfectly simple one, and my hon. Friends are perfectly capable of understanding it and of taking their decision about it. It is the simple issue of whether, after an arbitrary period of time is over, an unemployed man shall have a right to benefit, or whether he shall be subjected to a discriminatory test, which nobody knows anything about, and which will inevitably leave large numbers of men at the mercy of the Assistance Board, which means the means test as a whole.
What we are saying—and this is all I have to say about it before we divide— is this: Let there be such checks, after the period, as the Government wish, impose such conditions as they think fair to protect the Fund in every possible way from scrounging or from any fraudulent claims; but, when they have done all that, do not let them deny any unemployed man, whose unemployment is due to no fault of his own, his right of a claim on the community so that his standard of living shall not fall.
§ The Parliamentary Secretary to the Treasury (Mr. Whiteley)
rose in his place 667 and claimed to move, "That the Question be now put."
§ Question put accordingly, "That the words proposed to be left out to the word ' the,' in page 13, line 5, stand part of the Bill."
§ The House divided: Ayes, 246; Noes, 44.669
|Division No. 184.]||AYES.||[10.06 p.m.|
|Adams, W T. (Hammersmith, South)||Ganley, Mrs. C. S.||Mellor, Sir J.|
|Allen, Scholefield (Crewe)||Gibbins, J.||Messer, F.|
|Alpass, J. H.||Gibson, C. W||Middleton, Mrs. L.|
|Anderson, A. (Motherwell)||Gilzean, A.||Mitchison, Maj. G R.|
|Awbery, S. S.||Glanville, J. E. (Consett)||Montague, F.|
|Ayles, W. H.||Gooch, E. G.||Morgan, Dr. H. B.|
|Ayrton Gould, Mrs. B.||Gordon-Walker, P. C.||Morley, R.|
|Bacon, Miss A||Greenwood, Rt. Hon. A. (Wakefield)||Morrison, Rt. Hon. H. (Lewisham, E.)|
|Baldwin, A. E.||Greenwood, A. W. J. (Heywood)||Mort, D. L.|
|Balfour, A.||Grenfell, D. R.||Moyle, A.|
|Barstow, P. G||Grey, C. F.||Murray, J. D|
|Barton, C.||Grierson, E.||Nally, W.|
|Battley, J. R.||Griffiths, D. (Rother Valley)||Naylor, T. E.|
|Bechervaise, A. E.||Griffiths, Rt. Hon. J. (Llanelly)||Neal, H. (Claycr[...]ss)|
|Belcher, J. W.||Guy, W. H.||Nichol, Mrs. M. E. (Bradford, N.)|
|Bellenger, F. J.||Haire, Flt.-Lieut. J. (Wycombe)||Nicholls. H. R. (Stratford)|
|Bennett, Sir P.||Hale, Leslie||Noel-Buxton Lady|
|Berry, H.||Hall, W. G. (Colne Valley)||Oldfietd, W. H|
|Bevin, Rt. Hon. E. (Wandsw'th, C.)||Hamilton, Lieut-Col. R.||Oliver, G. H-|
|Bing, Capt. G. H. C.||Hannan, W. (Maryhill)||Paget, R. T.|
|Binns, J.||Hardman, D. R.||Palmar, A. M. F|
|Blenkinsop, Capt. A.||Hardy, E. A.||Parker, J.|
|Blyton, W.R.||Harrison, J.||Parkin, Flt.-Lieut. B. T|
|Bottomley, A. G.||Hastings, Dr. Somerville||Peart, Capt. T. F.|
|Bowden, Flg.-Offr. H. W.||Henderson, A, (Kingswinford)||Perrins, W.|
|Braddock, T. (Mitcham)||Henderson, Joseph (Ardwick)||Popplewell, E.|
|Brook, D. (Halifax)||Hewitson, Capt. M.||Porter, E. (Warrington)|
|Brooks, T. J. (Rothwell)||Holmes, H E. (Hemsworlh)||Price, M. Philips|
|Brown, George (Belper)||House, G.||Pritt, D. N.|
|Burden, T. W||Hubbard, T.||Proctor, W. T.|
|Burke, W. A.||Hudson, J. H. (Ealing, w.)||Pursey, Cmdr. H.|
|Chetwynd, Capt. G. B||Hughes, Hector (Aberdeen, N.)||Ranger, J.|
|Clitherow, Dr. R.||Hughes, Lt. H. D. (W'lverh'pton, W.)||Reed, Sir S. (Aylesbury)|
|Cluse, W. S.||Hutchinson, H. L. (Rusholme)||Reeves, J.|
|Cobb, F. A.||Hynd, H. (Hackney, C.)||Reid, T. (Swindon)|
|Coldrick, W.||Hynd, J. B. (Attercliffe)||Richards, R.|
|Collick, P.||Irving, W. J.||Ridealgh, Mrs. M.|
|Collindridge, F||Isaacs, Rt. Hon. G. A.||Roberts, Goronwy (Caernarvonshire)|
|Collins, V. J.||Jeger, G. (Winchester)||Robertson, J. J. (Berwick)|
|Colman, Miss G. M.||Jones, D. T. (Hartlepools)||Ropner, Col. L.|
|Comyns, Or. L.||Jones, J. H. (Bolton)||Royle, C.|
|Corbet, Mrs. F. K. (Camb'well, N.W.)||Jones, P. Asterley (Hitchin)||Sargood, R.|
|Corlett, Dr. J.||Keenan, W.||Scott-Elliot, W.|
|Crawley, Fit.-Lieut. A||Kenyon, C||Segal, Dr. S.|
|Daines, P||Key, C W.||Shackleton, Wing-Cdr. E. A A|
|Dalton, Rt. Hon. H.||King, E. M.||Sharp, Lt.-Col. G. M.|
|Davies, Edward (Burslem)||Kinghorn, Sqn.-Ldr. E.||Shawcross, Sir H. (St. Helens)|
|Davies, Haydn (St. Pancras, S.W.)||Kinley, J.||Shurmer, P.|
|Deer, G.||Kirby, B. V.||Skeffington, A. M.|
|de Freitas, Geoffrey||Lavers, S.||Skinnard, F. W.|
|Delargy, Captain H. J||Lawson, Rt. Hon. J. J.||Smith, S. H. (Hull, S.W.)|
|Diamond, J.||Lee, F. (Hulme)||Smith, T. (Normanton)|
|Dobbie, W.||Legge-Bourke, Maj. E. A. H||Snow, Capt. J. W.|
|Donovan, T.||Leonard, W.||Sorensen, R. W|
|Douglas, F. C. R.||Leslie, J. R.||Soskice, Maj. Sir F|
|Dugdale, J. (W. Bromwich)||Lewis, T. (Southampton)||Sparks, J. A.|
|Dumpleton, C. W.||Lindgren, G. S.||Stamford, W.|
|Dye, S.||Lipton, Lt.-Col. M.||Stewart, Capt. Michael (Fulham, E.)|
|Ede, Rt. Hon. J. C||Logan, D. G.||Stubbs, A. E.|
|Edelman, M.||Lyne, A. W.||Symonds, Maj. A. L.|
|Edwards, Rt. Hon. Sir C. (Bedwellty)||McAllister, G.||Taylor, H. B. (Mansfield)|
|Edwards, N. (Caerphilly)||McEntee, V. La T||Taylor, R. J. (Morpeth)|
|Edwards, W. J. (Whitechapel)||Mack, J. D||Thomas, Ivor (Keighley)|
|Evans, E. (Lowestoft)||McKay, J. (Wallsend)||Thomas, I. O. (Wrekin)|
|Evans, S. N. (Wednesbury)||MoKinlay, A. S.||Thomas, John R. (Dover)|
|Ewart, R.||Maclean, N. (Govan)||Thomson, Rt. Hn. G. R. (Ed'b'gh, E.)|
|Fairhurst, F.||McLeavy, F.||Thorneycroft, H. (Clayton)|
|Farthing, W. J.||Macpherson, T. (Romford)||Thurtle, E.|
|Fletcher, E. G. M. (Islington, E.)||Manning, C. (Camberwell, N.)||Timmons, J.|
|Forman, J. C||Marquand, H. A.||Titterington, M. F.|
|Foster, W. (Wigan)||Marshall, F. (Brightside)||Tollt[...]y, L.|
|Fraser, T. (Hamilton)||Mayhew, C. P.||Tomlinson, Rt. Hon. G|
|Freeman, Maj. J. (Watford)||Medland, H. M.||Ungoed-Thomas, L.|
|Gaitskell, H. T. N.||Vernon, Maj W. F.|
|Viant, S. P.||White, H. (Derbyshire, N.E)||Williamson, T.|
|Walkden, E.||Whiteley, Rt. Hon. W.||Wills, Mrs. E. A|
|Walker, G. H.||Wigg, Col. G. E.||Wise, Major F. J.|
|Wallace, G. D, (Chislehurst)||Wilkinson, Rt. Hon. Ellen||Woods, G. S.|
|Wallace, H. W. (Walthamstow, E.)||Willey, F. T. (Sunderland)||Yates, V. F.|
|Warbey, W. N.||Willey, O. G. (Cleveland)||Young, Sir R. (Newton)|
|Weitzman, D.||Williams, J. L. (Kelvingrove)||Younger, Hon. Kenneth|
|Wells, P. L. (Faversham)||Williams, Rt Hon. T. (Don Valley)|
|Wells, W. T. (Walsall)||Williams, W. R. (Heston)||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|Mr. Pearson and Mr. Simmons.|
|Baird, Capt. J.||Davies, S. O. (Merlhyr)||Mallalieu, J. P. W.|
|Blackburn, A. R,||Dodds, N. N.||Manning, Mrs. L. (Epping)|
|Bowen, R.||Driberg, T. E. N.||Orbach, M.|
|Bowles, F. G. (Nuneaton)||Follick, M.||Roberts, Emrys (Merioneth)|
|Braddock, Mrs. E. M. (L'p'l, Exch'ge)||George, Lady M. Lloyd (Anglesey)||Roberts, W. (Cumberland, N.)|
|Brown, T. J. (Ince)||Goodrich, H. E.||Shawcross, C. N. (Widnes)|
|Brown, W. J. (Rugby)||Griffiths, Capt. W. D. (Moss Side)||Smith, H. N. (Nottingham, S.)|
|Bruce, Maj. D. W, T.||Gruffyd, Prof. W. J.||Stephen, C.|
|Butler, H. W. (Hackney, S.)||Horabin, T. L.||Tiffany, S.|
|Byers, Lt.-Col. F.||Lang, G.||Wadsworth, G.|
|Champion, A. J.||Lee, Miss J. (Cannock)||Wilcock, Group-Capt. C. A. B|
|Cocks. F. S.||Lever, Fl. Off. N. H.||Zillia[...]us, K.|
|Cook, T. F.||Lipson, D. L.|
|Cove, W. G||McGhee, H. G||TELLERS FOR THE NOES|
|Daggar, G.||McGovern, J.||Mr. S. Silverman and|
|Davies, Clement (Montgomery)||Mackeson, Lt. Col. H. R.||Mrs. Castle.|
Question, "That the proposed words be therefore inserted in the Bill," put, and agreed to.
§ 10.16 p.m.
§ Mr. R. A. Butler
Mr. Speaker, before you call the next Amendment, may I ask what are the Government's intentions about proceeding with the Report stage this evening? We have not yet really got on to the Report stage, except-for this one Debate which has been monopolised by the supporters of the Government and by those in the same party who have opposed the Government, We have twice this evening had the spectacle of Members of the Labour Party forming the four Tellers and voting against each other. On this side of the House we have had no opportunity at all of debating the Report stage of this Bill, and I want to ask the Government how far they propose to go this evening, because it is clear that we cannot do justice to the Report stage this evening even if we sit a bit longer.
§ Mr. Herbert Morrison
I am bound to say this request surprises me. It is true that four Members of the Labour Party have acted as Tellers, but the right two were in the right place, and I am not complaining. But who is the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Saffron Walden (Mr. R. A. Butler) to complain that the Opposition have not played their part? If the Opposition abdicate their functions, contract out of Parliamentary service, refuse to earn their salaries and malinger in this way, merely because they are enjoying a very slight and minor difference of opinion among the supporters of the Government, that is all right, but certainly 670 the right hon. Gentleman cannot claim credit for it. That is his funeral. If he goes that way, he must go that way.
On the point of substance which the right hon. Gentleman quite clearly raises, I may say we have had two Debates of considerable substance. It is true that the first Debate was an overflow from the Debate yesterday, but it did last some time, and it was a Debate of substance on an important issue of the Bill, namely, the approved societies; the House divided, and that was settled. We have since had a considerable Debate, and a very interesting one—certainly very interesting from my point of view—and we have just divided upon that. The Opposition, it is true, did not play a very prominent part in it, but that was their decision. We have decided that My information is, if I may say so to the House in a spirit of sweet reasonableness, that I understand there are, unhappily, no more great and exciting issues about which we can get into difficulties.
There are relatively small points, and on the whole I should have thought the House might continue to finish the Report stage. With good, workmanlike progress, I think we might do it in about an hour. [Interruption.] I should have thought so. It is eminently the duty of the House of Commons to spend time upon the big issues. It is equally the duty of the House of Commons not to spend too much time upon the small issues. I do not think there is much issue of substance left. I would respectfully, politely and courteously say to the right hon. Gentleman, 671 that if we go on in a rational and sensible way I think we shall complete the Report stage quite soon.
§ Mr. Butler
With your permission, Mr. Speaker, might I ask the Leader of the House whether he agrees that if we go on in a rational and sensible way—which we undertake to do—we can give full and proper attention to all the points that ought to be raised? If that is the case, and if he will not keep the House sitting too late, we do not desire to obstruct on any point that is raised. It was due to our desire not to obstruct that we did not take part in the domestic quarrel which has just taken place.
§ Mr. Morrison
Mr. Speaker, with your permission I would say I reciprocate the very reasonable spirit manifested by the right hon. Gentleman. I suggest to the House; Let us see what we can do; let us go ahead.