HC Deb 01 February 1949 vol 460 cc1591-608

7.41 p.m.

The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of National Insurance (Mr. Steele)

I beg to move, That the Draft National Insurance (Mariners) Amendment Regulations, 1949, a copy of which was presented on 18th January, be approved. These regulations deal with one of the most difficult problems that have confronted us in bringing into operation the new comprehensive scheme of National Insurance, namely how to insure all share fishermen. For many years past share fishermen have made requests that they should be insured against unemployment, and in 1935 the problem was referred by the Minister of Labour to the Unemployment Insurance Statutory Committee. That committee, however, were unable to make a favourable recommendation. The difficulty persisted, and in view of the complexities of the question and to meet a promise made in the House by my right hon. Friend, he referred it to the National Insurance Advisory Committee as soon as the committee was established in November, 1947. The committee examined all sides of the problem, and consulted with the fishermen's representatives as well as certain hon. Members specially interested in the problem. They published their report on 28th April, 1948, with favourable recommendations, and I would remind the House that the National Insurance (Share Fishermen) Provisional Regulations were made on 25th June.

Broadly speaking, the effect of those regulations was to bring persons wholly or mainly engaged as share fishermen into Class I for insurance, even though they might not be employed under a contract of service. These regulations, however, only gave effect to a part of the committee's recommendations which were contained in their report. The committee had themselves recognised that further study by the Ministries concerned was necessary before regulations to give effect to their suggestions could be prepared. The results of this further study were embodied in a preliminary draft of the regulations now before the House, on which the committee reported on 20th December recommending certain amendments. I should like to take this opportunity of expressing our appreciation of the very thorough manner in which the Advisory Committee investigated this difficult problem, and the care which they have shown in making their recommendations.

Regulation 1 is, of course, merely introductory. Regulation 2 amends Regulation 1 of the National Insurance (Mariners) Regulations so as to include share fishermen whether or not employed under a contract of service within the definition of "mariners." It should be noted that the definition of a share fisherman excludes a man who works his boat singly.

Regulation 3 amends Regulation 2 of the National Insurance (Mariners) Regulations which treats employment as a mariner as employed contributor's employment. The effect of this amendment is, broadly, that a share fisherman is insured as an employed person if he is employed under a contract of service or has been wholly or mainly engaged as a share fisherman or in share fishing and other Class I employment. In bringing share fishermen into insurance as employed persons my right hon. Friend has followed the recommendations of the National Insurance Advisory Committee, which were made in the light of evidence that the great majority of share fishermen wished to be so insured.

I want to take this opportunity to explain this to the House, because representations have been received from a small minority that some share fishermen, and especially I think some of the skippers, would prefer to be insured as self-employed persons. This is because they think they would not be likely to satisfy the conditions for receipt of unemployment benefit, and also because the total contribution of 9s. Id. is too high. The former objection is based on a misunderstanding, because, as I shall explain in dealing with the next regulation, all share fishermen, including skippers, will be able to qualify for unemployment benefit. Moreover—and this point also answers the second objection—if share fishermen were to be treated as self-employed persons they would normally have to pay a contribution of 6s. 2d. whether they fished or not but as employed persons they would not only be entitled to unemployment benefit when they proved unemployment, but would also be entitled to credits of contributions.

Regulation 4 introduces two new regulations, 14A and 14B, into the National Insurance (Mariners) Regulations. The first deals with the payment and collection of contributions payable in respect of share fishermen who are not under a contract of service. It provides that the owner or, where there is more than one owner, the managing owner, shall be treated as an employer for the purposes of the Act. It further provides that in these cases the employer's part of the contribution may be deducted from the gross earnings of the vessel before the profits are shared. The regulation also allows the employee's share to be paid out of the gross earnings as an alternative to being recovered from that employee's share of the profits, because of the widely differing methods of remuneration in the industry, which are well tried and which we do not wish to disturb.

Paragraph (1) of Regulation 14B provides, first, that a share fisherman shall not receive unemployment benefit on any day unless on that day he has performed no work as a share fisherman as defined in paragraph (3). In most industries, when machines require repair or maintenance the men are paid to do the work, and there is really no difference between this work and similar work in the fishing industry. It is merely a result of the peculiar methods of remuneration in share fishing that the men receive no payment directly related to the time so spent. If the work is not done fishing will be delayed and the earnings which they share will be reduced. This work must, therefore, be considered as an essential part of the fisherman's job, for which he is paid—though not at the time—by his share of the profits, and he cannot be regarded as unemployed while so engaged.

On the other hand, a fisherman may occupy time when he is forced to remain on shore in doing work on his vessel or gear which must be done sooner or later, but which is not immediately necessary or likely to be necessary in the near future. For example, he may spend time in painting the vessel or in mending spare nets. The House will appreciate the difficulty in defining the dividing line between essential and non-essential work in such a way as to do justice to the many different types of share fishermen on the one hand and the general body of employed persons on the other. We have tried to state clearly the kind of work which is essential, and in general terms which will enable the independent statutory authorities to take account of local practice in interpreting the definition. Paragraph (1) provides, secondly, that before a share fisherman can receive unemployment benefit he must prove that he has not neglected to avail himself of a reasonable opportunity of working as a fisherman.

Paragraph (2) imposes rather stricter conditions where the boat is owned or part owned by the master or member of the crew. In these circumstances it is very difficult to tell whether or not the unemployment of owner-workers is involuntary or not. We agreed with the Advisory Committee that it is desirable that all share fishermen should be insured in the same way for the same benefits and undesirable that any distinction should be drawn between those members of the crew who part-own a vessel or its nets and gear and those who do not. These additional conditions therefore apply to all the crew in any vessel which is owned or part-owned by the master or any member of the crew.

The regulations provide that the claimant to unemployment benefit must prove that there was no work in or in connection with the vessel available to him for the day in question for any one of the reasons specified in the regulations or that for any other reason the boat could not reasonably be expected to operate. This last is a wide provision which would cover such things as the prohibition of fishing by the Herring Industry Board. What constitutes a good reason is a question which the independent statutory authorities established under the National Insurance Act will have to determine, and here again they will have some scope to take account of differences between local types of fishing.

These regulations apply the provisions of the National Insurance Act to a body of men who by virtue of the circumstances in their industry are in a peculiar position but whose work is of great importance to the community and who should not be subject to any avoidable penalty in their position in the National Insurance scheme by reason of these circumstances. It may be argued that because of these special circumstances there are administrative difficulties in applying the special conditions for benefit, but we should not shrink from these difficulties in doing what we think is right. Moreover, I share to the full the confidence of the committee that the share fishermen will co-operate fully with the Department because these rules are fair and reasonable and therefore can be administered without too much difficulty.

I can, however, assure the House that we shall watch the administration of the regulations with particular care. Administratively we face the consequences of tackling an old insurance problem on new lines, and I am sure they are the right lines, and we are willing to learn from the experiences which attend all beginnings. I am certain, too, that the House needs no assurance about the fishermen themselves. I am quite sure that the share fishermen do not want a privileged position any more than they want penalties. Like any other group of insured persons, they want a fair deal from the scheme, and with this aim foremost in our minds, I ask the House to approve the regulations.

7.53 p.m.

Sir Basil Neven-Spence (Orkney and Shetland)

As one of the hon. Members to whom the Parliamentary Secretary referred as having a special interest in the problem, I welcome the promulgation of these regulations. A great deal of confusion of thought reigns at present. The inshore fishermen are largely stranded and do not know where they are and the employment exchange officials are very largely at sea. The publication of these regulations will no doubt put them both back in their proper elements.

Fishermen have always been difficult customers to deal with over these social insurance questions. Every time a form of insurance has arisen, a strong body has objected to being included. That occurred in the case of the original widows and old age pensions scheme and in the case of Health Insurance, and it was only to be expected that a body of objectors would be found to Unemployment Insurance. Some flatly object—though there are not many—simply because they consider themselves to be owners who should therefore be treated as self-employed persons. Others have based their objection more on what they conceive to be the absolutely insoluble difficulty of saying whether or not a share fisherman was employed. These regulations are a most admirable attempt to clear up the whole problem.

I want to ask one or two questions, first concerning the distribution of the cost of contributions. I hope that the regulations will be sufficiently flexible to take account of the varied systems of keeping boats' accounts which prevail on different parts of the coast. The regulations provide that the contribution paid by an employer may be deducted from the gross earnings of the vessel. Would it be permissible for the employer's contribution to be charged against the employer's share of the profits instead of against the gross earnings? The employee's contribution would normally be collected from his remuneration, that is, from the fishermen's share. Would it be permissible again for the employee's share to be deducted from the gross earnings of the vessel? I put these points merely because it is undesirable to disturb practices which have existed for a very long time.

As to conditions governing unemployment, these regulations are a very great improvement on the preliminary draft published earlier. This matter was dealt with in Section 14B (1) and (3) of the preliminary draft, the broad effect of which was that fishermen were not treated as unemployed if they were working for a substantial part of the day on repairs or maintenance. The words used there would undoubtedly have tended to encourage idleness, and would also have paved the way for the performance of too great an amount of essential work. The present regulations are a very great improvement in that respect.

I want to say a word about the conditions under which these men can draw unemployment benefit. The preliminary draft provided that unemployment benefit could be drawn if, on account of the state of the weather, a fishing vessel could not put to sea. In the regulations the words "with a view to fishing" have very wisely been added. Obviously there are many occasions when fishing boats could put to sea with absolute safety but under conditions in which fishing would have been completely impossible. The condition that unemployment benefit may be drawn when there is a complete absence of fish in the sea is reasonable, for the men have no control over that.

A much more widely drafted and difficult condition is that relating to causes necessitating an abstention from fishing. There have been occasions upon which fishermen have declined to go to sea because they did not like the price offered for their fish. That happened two years ago in the herring industry. The men did not like the price of 35s. a cran. Their real objection was not the price. Understandably they felt it was wrong that this excellent food should be used for making fish oil or meal. It is unreasonable that the men should draw unemployment benefit simply because they decide that they do not approve of the price being offered for the fish. If the fish are there and there is a market for them, they ought to go to sea, and they are therefore not unemployed. However, other things may happen. From time to time the Herring Industry Board may close a port. The fishermen have no control over that. It sometimes happens that the fish buyers close the market. That again is something over which the men have no control. Also there have been on occasions transport strikes and dock strikes, when it was useless to fish, because it could not be got to the markets.

Then comes subparagraph (2) (b) which deals with vessels undergoing repairs and maintenance. This can be divided into work of an essential kind and work of a less essential kind. Obviously any work which should be done before the vessel puts to sea is essential as well as any which has to be done in the near future if the vessel is to remain safe and efficient for its job. Finally, there is the work of laying up the boat and laying aside the gear at the end of the season. All these have been regarded as an essential part of the fisherman's job, and for which his remuneration came out of the proceeds of his fishing, and it is right that employment on these jobs should not rank for the payment of unemployment benefit. On the other hand, there are less essential jobs in which the men engage when prevented from fishing by weather, not essential jobs but ones which it is better should be done. These tail off into minor repairs to the boat, and things which fishermen like to do and ought to be encouraged to do, such as keeping their boats spick and span. The difficulty comes in deciding where the line is to be drawn.

Paragraph (3) (a) and (b) is an admirable attempt to define the class of work which, if done, shall not entitle a man to draw unemployment benefit. For the rest I think it has to be left to the Commissioner to make decisions and, in time, a body of case law will be built up which will be a good guide. There is a danger, though not a big one, that some fishermen may attempt to make a wrong use of these regulations. I hope they will not because, unless they co-operate in the working of these regulations, they may find that fresh ones will have to be drawn up which might prove to be less favourable to them than these.

Finally, I endorse what the Parliamentary Secretary said. I think that Sir Will Spens and those who worked with him, have done an admirable job in dealing with a thorny problem, and I am sure that the entire inshore fishing industry will be grateful to them and to the Minister, as we are.

8.4 p.m.

Mr. Hubbard (Kirkcaldy)

Share fishermen all over the country will welcome the enterprise of the Government in at last finding a scheme to bring these fishermen inside the class of employed persons. The life and livelihood of share fishermen have been precarious for many years. It has often been described as "a hunger and a burst," but generally there has been much more hunger than there have been bursts. We are happy, therefore, that a solution has been found at last. There has always been fear in the minds of these fishermen who could not look forward to any security in the future. No one wants the form of security given by the regulations but it is a comfort to all those involved to know that it is there, and so they welcome the regulations. They already feel fairly comfortable inasmuch as the guaranteed prices now made available have given them some security when they are working and land a catch. Now these regulations give them some security when they have been unable to land their catch or to go to sea, and they will be a great comfort. I wish to congratulate the Department on being able, with the help of the Advisory Committee, at last to produce a scheme which will bring those people within the scope of unemployed persons when necessary.

8.6 p.m.

Mr. Beechman (St. Ives)

These regulations, which at first sight may appear somewhat modest, in fact make history, and not only in the fishing industry. They certainly make history in that industry because for at least 11 years the share fishermen have desired what is substantially in these regulations. So here we have something that has been wanted for many years. I know it has not been wanted by quite all the share fishermen, but I know also that the majority have desired it. Therefore, I share in the tribute already paid to the Advisory Committee, whom I have had the opportunity of seeing once or twice, for the enormous care they took, and to the Department for getting over what was a difficult matter.

I think it ought to be stated how this makes history in a wider sense. The difficulty until now has been that a share fisherman has been regarded as a self-employed person and has, therefore, not been entitled to benefit. The next stage was that it was considered by many that he should not have benefits unless he was in the ordinary sense an employee. It is to the great credit of all concerned—and it pleases me very much because it marches with my thought—that these regulations recognise a traditional form of co-operation. These fishermen co-operate with each other in a special enterprise. If an engineman, or some other skilled man, is taken away from a boat, the little boat cannot put to sea. It is a traditional, practical form of co-operation. Nobody knows for how many years it has existed. It is a form of co-operation in which we may take great pleasure for it is a voluntary method whereby fishermen, very often of the same family, work together, and it is not something which is enforced from the top. This form of co-operation has been recognized as of importance in the make-up of the scheme.

My hon. Friend the Member for Orkney and Shetland (Sir B. Neven-Spence) has mentioned a matter to which I should like to refer. Paragraph (3, b) relates to a very great improvement in a problem of very great complexity, that is, whether benefit should be allowed whilst repairs are being made to a boat. The meaning, I am sorry to say, is still not clear, and it is very important that it should be clarified. Fishermen want to know whether, if they paint their boats and make crab pots, for instance, whilst their boat is laid up because of stress of weather or overhaul, they will still receive benefit. The wording of the paragraph states that repairs may be done: … at the end of a fishing season or their preparation for a season's fishing. None the less, these repairs may in fact be carried out, and rightly so, when weather renders fishing impossible or when there are no fish about. It is not merely a question of repairing boats. There is, for instance, the necessity of making crab pots. A man may be much better engaged in that way than sitting about in the sun and being unemployed. I should like to know that such fishermen will not be prevented from drawing benefit. The same argument applies equally to the question of overhauls of all descriptions.

I am sorry if a boat which is operated by only one or possibly two men, which may not, of course, really be a share fishing boat, is excluded from the regulations. I can understand why, and I know that many of the people who take out these little boats, especially in Scotland, have other forms of work which they can undertake. But some people with little boats of their own are genuine fishermen who live by the sea. I am very sorry that single fishermen are relegated to that class which has to pay 6s. 2d. because for them 6s. 2d. is a very great sum. Apart from such criticisms, however, I think that these are an admirable set of Regulations.

8.16 p.m.

Mr. Douglas Marshall (Bodmin)

This is indeed a good ending to what is quite a long story, even in the life of the present Parliament. The Minister is well aware of the arguments put forward by my hon. Friends and I in February, 1946, upon this subject. We felt at the time, I think rightly so, that he had great sympathy towards those arguments, but, as is the usual method of Parliamentary procedure, the Minister had to be pressed on many occasions after that Debate, to take action, and certain complications arose about how our proposals should be put into effect.

I should like to pay my tribute also to those who served on the Spens Committee, for their understanding and the kindliness with which they approached the subject when we went before them as witnesses, and also to the permanent officials attached to the Ministry, who at all times, even prior to the setting up of the Committee, did their level best to see how our proposals could be brought about.

The great problem about the principle of giving unemployment benefit to inshore share fishermen was the fact, as the Minister well knows, that certain ports managed to get over the difficulties and some ports did not. In consequence, quite a ridiculous position was developing. Owing to the wonderful qualities in the spiritual and mental make-up of our share fishermen, they never brought fully to light the fact that although somebody else was prospering, they themselves were not.

What I consider to be the gravest and most vital question under the regulations is not only to what extent they will help the share fishermen but how they will assist the intake of men into the Industry. There is a great anxiety about the entry of people into the fishing industry and I know that the Minister realises to the full the seriousness of this question. It is true that following our Debate tonight, a certain degree of publicity will result, and that the statement of the Parliamentary Secretary will add to that publicity, but this is not enough. I should like the Minister to persuade the Service Departments to issue publications — the Admiralty by A.F.O. and the other services by the appropriate method—to inform men who are passing through the Services of the conditions contained in these regulations so that they may be attracted to this vital and important industry.

My words are endorsed, I believe, by the draft of these regulations wherein it was suggested that the small number of share fishermen who were opposed to the regulations were opposed only because they were not fully aware of their meaning. Words were used to the effect that they were not fully aware that they would qualify for unemployment benefit in such a case. But it is made clear in the draft report where the words are used: If a fisherman is unemployed for part of a week unemployment benefit may be payable That is an important point to make.

I share with the hon. Member for St. Ives (Mr. Beechman) regret that there was no method of dealing with the case of the genuine single fisherman. I ask the Minister to state categorically that what I read in the order is that it is only in the case of the single man and where it is a question of two men they are absolutely and completely covered.

The Minister of National Insurance (Mr. James Griffiths)

indicated assent.

Mr. Marshall

I am very glad to see the Minister nod his head and agree on that point. It was fully realised and mentioned in the report that when a fisherman is unemployed his boat is literally part of himself. The report says: The fisherman's boat, however, is often his pastime as well as his means of livelihood. If he is unemployed and there is no work for him to do, he may wish to occupy his time improving the appearance of his boat or doing other jobs which need not be done for the boat to be ready to go to sea with safety and efficiency either at once or in the near future. Fully realising that, they came to the recommendation which I think is all important that any amount of work on the boats or gear which does not fall within this definition"— and the definition refers to a full performance of work which is necessary— will be disregarded. That is a very important recommendation covering some points which have not been made completely clear.

One of the most important things about this draft order is the spirit in which it will be carried out. There are bound to be difficulties. The Minister has stated that he hopes that share fishermen will co-operate in this matter. I am certain that the fishermen I know in Cornwall will co-operate. They will do everything they can and will be grateful for this order. I am absolutely convinced about that. I trust that the Minister in his reply will give clear words of direction to his representatives that the one thing he wishes is that they should implement this order in the spirit in which he wishes to see it implemented, and that share fishermen should receive unemployment benefit when unemployed.

8.25 p.m.

Mr. Assheton (City of London)

This seems to be a very happy and harmonious occasion and I congratulate the Parliamentary Secretary, who introduced the regulations, on having presented them in such a satisfactory way. We have heard nothing but commendation of the regulations from all sides of the House and we have had two speeches from hon. Members from either extremity of Great Britain, both sitting on this side of the House, which have convinced me that these regulations are thoroughly satisfactory. There was so much commendation from those representing share fishermen that I began to wonder if there was anything in the regulations which would prompt me in the general interest to query their desirability, but I know that the Minister watches these things from the point of view of general interest and is supported by an able staff in his Department. I am sure the House will give its free assent to the regulations. I should be glad if the Minister would say a word or two about the question of determining authorities, because it appears to me, as one who does not fully understand these matters, that they are given considerable latitude, and I fully see the need for that.

8.26 p.m.

The Minister of National Insurance (Mr. James Griffiths)

May I say how grateful I am to hon. Members who have paid tribute to the Advisory Committee. On occasion I have had to put very difficult questions to Sir Will Spens and his committee and I think this was the most difficult of all. Indeed, it was so difficult that no Government up to now proposed to do what we shall do tonight, that is, to deem these very important and fine people to be persons under the Act under contract of service, although no contract, in fact, exists. I also wish to pay tribute to the Advisory Committee for the way in which they examined every phase of the problem and for the great thought they have given to devising words to cover the problems we have to meet and being fair to share fishermen whilst also having in mind the general body of insured persons.

About 26 million people are insured under the scheme and in our Department we have had a very difficult task to sort them out into three classes of insured person—employed, self-employed, and not gainfully employed. When the National Insurance Bill was framed we considered it desirable to leave the matter in such a way that where we thought we ought to deem someone to be under contract of service although he was not under contract of service we should have power to do that by regulation. This is another instance of how valuable legislation by regulation may be. I am looking at some of the critics of that policy now. If we had tried to argue it out and find words in the House of Commons although we have a very fine pool of experience we might have made a mess of it. I hope it will go on record that this legislation by delegation is sometimes a happy way of doing things and a very great advantage.

Mr. D. Marshall

Subject to an affirmative Resolution.

Mr. Griffiths

The major difficulty has been the question of unemployment benefit. These share fishermen are people who are their own employers and, being their own employers, they can decide whether they work or not. The mass of people covered for unemployment benefit, when they receive benefit, do so because there is no work available for them. And there is a test and we can check up. In this case the problem was how we could maintain good administration, which is essential to a scheme of this kind, by making quite sure that when a person put in a claim for benefit that claim could be checked. The hon. Member for St. Ives (Mr. Beechman) said that this matter had been discussed for 11 years and I expect it was taken up before then. Successive Governments have been appealed to and we have had to find a way out.

In addition to the Advisory Committee, I wish to pay a tribute to the officials of my Department who have worked very hard. When I became the Minister and came into touch with these people I told my officials, "The share fishermen are a fine body of men and a distinctive element worth helping and preserving. We must, therefore, set out to find a way of bringing them in, and find a way of overcoming the difficulties." Every one concerned, the Advisory Committee and the Department, have worked with that end in view.

The first question raised by the hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland (Sir B. Neven-Spence) was about the distribution of the contributions between those whom we deem to be the employers and those whom we deem to be the employees, though in fact they will all be drawn in alike. The regulations are permissive in these matters. So long as we get the contribution, the way in which it is raised and the distribution is a matter which under the regulations can be left to the discretion of those involved in the various places. The hon. Member will accordingly know what to advise his constituents when that problem is put before him.

Another question raised by the hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland, by the hon. Member for St. Ives (Mr. Beechman) and by the hon. Member for Bodmin (Mr. D. Marshall) was that of the single fisherman. No way has been found or can be found to cover his case. I am sorry that he has to be excluded, but what else can we do? The only person excluded is the single fisherman. It is made abundantly clear in Regulation 2 that we define a share fisherman for the purpose of these regulations as a master or member of the crew of any ship or vessel being a fishing vessel manned by more than one person …. It is clear that where there are two they are included. As I say, the only person excluded is the single fisherman.

I now turn to the provision 14B contained in Regulation 4. These are the special conditions that are attached, and they are difficult. We have tried in these regulations to state clearly the kind of work which is essential and at the same time to do so in general terms which will enable the independent local tribunals to take account of local differences in applying these regulations. Various hon. Members have share fishermen among their constituents who are often of an entirely different character and have different traditions and customs from other share fishermen. That is our difficulty. There are share fishermen in Scotland, in Devon, in Cornwall, in the Orkneys and Shetlands, and there are all kinds of varying circumstances. The Advisory Committee came to the conclusion that the right thing to do was to state the conditions in general terms, leaving the application of these principles in the particular circumstances of each group to the local statutory authorites.

If we had tried any other method we should have found ourselves returning to difficulties which might have been found insurmountable. I agree that the important people in administering these schemes are the local statutory authorities. The first I shall mention is the local tribunal. This is composed of a chairman, a lawyer of experience, and sitting with him, as equal members of the tribunal, two other members, one drawn from a panel of employers' representatives and the other drawn from a panel of workers' representatives. These tribunals will decide these cases in the various places. So the chairman and the other two members, all of them drawn from the area, will be men with intimate experience of the customs and conditions of the fishermen with whom these regulations are concerned.

Before the case goes to a tribunal our local insurance officer will have to make a decision. These local insurance officers will in many cases have had experience of handling these problems in the Ministry of Labour. They will administer the regulations fairly and sympathetically, with a desire to see that they are made a success. They will know from the start that it is the desire of the Minister, of the Government and of every one in the House that a success should be made of the regulations. If the local officer makes a decision and the fisherman feels aggrieved he can appeal to the local tribunal. There is a further appeal to the commissioner.

Normally the two important authorities concerned are, first, the local insurance officer, who will be an officer of the Department, with independent rights to decide a case in the light of these regulations; and secondly, the tribunal. I think we had better leave the matter to them. This is an experiment. As has been said, we are making history. We think it better, therefore, to leave the matter in this flexible way so that these general principles can be adapted to the circumstances in each case. I hope that the hon. Member will not press me on more detailed questions, because I cannot give an answer; once we adopt these regulations the determination of claims under them is a matter for the local insurance officer, the tribunal and finally, the Commissioner.

It is best to leave the matter there. We can see by experience how the Regulations work out. If we find that here and there they should be changed we can change them, having learned by experience. I consider that to launch this scheme these regulations are the best which we can devise and the best of which the Advisory Committee could think, having given most careful thought to this matter. I appreciate what the hon. Member for Bodmin said about the need for full publicity being given, first to the fact that we have found a solution to this problem; and secondly, that the regulations and their content should be as widely known as possible. As Minister of the Department concerned I shall do what I can to make them as widely known as possible, and I shall also take up the matter with the heads of the Service Departments. I am sure that they too will be glad to co-operate in this respect.

With the co-operation of the fishermen and our local officers, and the good judgment of the tribunals and commissioners, I am sure we shall be able to make a success of this development. It is our desire to make the regulations a success. We are anxious to bring this fine body of people within the full cover of the Insurance Act.

Question put, and agreed to.

Resolved: That the Draft National Insurance (Mariners) Amendment Regulations, 1949, a copy of which was presented on 18th January, be approved.