HC Deb 31 May 1949 vol 465 cc2011-31

8.45 p.m.

Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Mr. Bowles)

The next Amendment selected is that to page 5, line 25.

Lieut.-Commander Hutchison

I beg to move, in page 5, line 25, to leave out subsection (6).

This Amendment is designed to remove the reference to an inquiry by the National Assistance Board from the Clause. We feel that the proposed inquiry, however sympathetically conducted, and I feel sure it will be conducted with all care and delicacy——

The Lord Advocate

On a point of Order. I understand, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, that you have not called the Amendment to page 5, line 16, to leave out subsection (5), and that you have called the Amendment to page 5, line 25, to leave out subsection (6). In these circumstances, may I draw your attention and the attention of the House to the fact that subsection (6) is really consequential on the provisions of subsection (5) and the system of inquiry into means set up thereby?

Mr. Deputy-Speaker

I think we had better have it moved.

Lieut.-Commander Hutchison

I feel that to some extent these subsections hang together, but at the same time it is possible for us to make the point we wish to make on this Amendment.

The point I am making is that, although any inquiry which might be conducted by the National Assistance Board would no doubt be made most sympathetically, we feel—and this view was expressed by a considerable number of hon. Members during the Committee stage—that it might frighten away possible litigants who would otherwise avail themselves of the services of the Bill. For that reason, we wish to remove from the Clause the reference to an inquiry by the National Assistance Board. We consider that the provision under the proposed regulations under subsection (5) of the Clause should remain as at present—that of the statutory declaration—and that, if the local committee charged with the duty of investigating the resources under the plan envisaged in the White Paper has any doubts as to the bona fides of any would-be litigant—that is, doubt as to the accuracy of the statutory declaration—the matter should be left to the local committee to take such steps as they are inclined to take. We feel that that would be the most satisfactory solution to this difficulty.

Major Guy Lloyd (Renfrew, Eastern)

I beg to second the Amendment.

Mr. N. Macpherson

I did not quite take the Lord Advocate's point. While it is quite true that the rules to be followed would be those of the National Assistance Board in this case, it would not necessarily follow that the National Assistance Board should have to interpret these rules itself. The rules could quite easily be interpreted by the solicitor before whom the declaration has to be made, and the advantage of the declaration is that it will save a great deal of time. It will be possible for the question whether a person is entitled to legal aid or not to be settled right away in the first instance, before the question whether he has a case to go to court has been decided, which is what will be involved if the procedure envisaged in the Clause as it stands is followed. In that case, it will be necessary, first, to decide whether there is a case to go to the court or not, and afterwards for the National Assistance Board to investigate the means. We do not think that is right, and that is why we move the deletion of subsection (6).

Mr. McFarlane (Glasgow, Camlachie)

I support the contention advanced by my hon. and gallant Friend in moving this Amendment. Subsequent to the Debate on the Committee stage, I regarded it as a reflection on the Bill that the means of ascertainment is based upon the investigation of the National Assistance Board. I confess to the House that when we came to this particular point in Committee, I had a divided mind on the subject. Certain legal friends have pressed upon me the point of view that they did not want this task of ascertainment; they regarded it as somewhat invidious and would be happy to see it handed over to the Assistance Board. I also listened with great respect to the arguments advanced by the Secretary of State for Scotland when he spoke of the public economy which would result from taking advantage of the existing machinery. I think that was a perfectly cogent argument which we should take into account.

When the Lord Advocate came to deal with the situation, I am afraid that he turned my mind in the opposite direction. He said that it was desired through this machinery to create a new psychology. We all agree that it is an essential part of our social services that national assistance should prevent any unfortunate person from falling below a certain prescribed level, but at the same time we must agree that in Scotland there is a very large body of public opinion which looks upon national assistance, I would not say in a derogatory way, but certainly as something with which they hope never to be entangled. The emphasis of this large body of public opinion is upon self-reliance and independence. I think that we agree that these people are among the most valued members of our society.

It seems to me to be particularly regrettable that in a Measure of this nature, when we are providing monetary assistance from the State to enable people to vindicate their independence in the sight of the law, they should first of all have to go through the hands of national assistance. I think that when we look at this matter from that point of view, we certainly subject them to what, I think, is a derogatory state, and for that reason I support the Amendment.

Mr. Scollan (Renfrew, Western)

May I point out to the hon. Member for Camlachie (Mr. McFarlane) that it is rather amusing for Members on this side of the House to listen to the kind of speech he has made about Scottish independence being insulted when people are looking for legal assistance if they have to go to the Assistance Board and go through some kind of examination with regard to their means to ascertain whether they can qualify for legal assistance or not. I would say, without actually knowing the figures, that there are more Scotsmen and Scotswomen who had to go through the vile degradation of the old means test imposed upon them by the Tory Governments of the past than are ever likely to go through this modest provision that is made here.

What actually happens today? Nobody approaches public assistance in the spirit which existed in those days. It has been a very difficult job for the Government to eradicate the stigma of the old obnoxious means test, but, nevertheless, in the short period during which this Government have made the laws of this country they have educated the public to appreciate that there is a vast difference between allowing abuses of public funds and a Christian and civilised administration of assistance to people in need. That position has been established, and I would point out to the Opposition that the best type of Scottish people have never at any time hesitated on behalf of their sons and daughters when they were applying for bursaries to further their education, to place at the disposal of an examining committee the total income of the family, and never at any time did they consider it degrading so to do.

Mr. McFarlane

Is that not equivalent to the statutory declaration for which we are pleading by this Amendment?

Mr. Scollan

No, not at all. Subsection (6) lays down that it shall be determined by the National Assistance Board, who may call attention to any special circumstances affecting the maximum amount of the lump sum and the periodical payments which could reasonably be made in contribution. Is it reasonable to ask the Government to put the assessment of what these people are able to pay into the hands of their legal representatives? Obviously not. Some impartial and independent body is better able to assess what can be done than any interested party. Consequently, I would oppose any interference at all with this subsection, because I consider this to be one of the most valuable safeguards that the public have, that while legal aid can be granted to those who cannot afford to pay for it, public funds will not be abused by people who are interested only in getting their clients more than they should get.

Mr. Carmichael (Glasgow, Bridgeton)

I am afraid that I am not as happy about this subsection as my hon. Friend the Member for West Renfrew (Mr. Scollan). There are a number of reasons which entitle us to argue against it. I said in Committee, and I now repeat, that the Poor Law is not removed by passing legislation. I am satisfied that unfortunately the Poor Law mind still operates today in regard to the granting of relief. That is my considered opinion from considerable experience. It does not necessarily follow that those who administer it, do so with a Poor Law mind, but in Scotland today the Poor Law mind still operates in the minds of hundreds of people, who consequently will not apply for relief. I can give hundreds of examples in the City of Glasgow of people who still refuse to have their case examined in detail by the Poor Law.

It has already been argued on this Bill that in dealing with legal aid in Scotland we are dealing with an entirely different form of law from that in England; but apparently, when it comes to an examination of needs, the National Assistance Board scales apply all over the country. I do not like the set-up, but the more important point on the administrative side is the declaration. It has been suggested that if a declaration is asked for there is the danger that people who are directly interested will not pay the same attention to means as an outside body. But the regulations are already laid down, and all we are now deciding is who shall make the examination. The scales, the income and capital of those concerned have already been determined I say that this is a departure which has not been made in any other field of legislation or administration in which financial aid is concerned.

9.0 p.m.

My hon. Friend the Member for West Renfrew referred to bursaries. Who examines the case when someone applies for bursary aid for his children to go on to higher education? Not the National Assistance Board; nor the Poor Law, but the authority which ultimately decides to give the grant, the education committee itself. Who examines the case of the person who complains about his Income Tax? It is the Inland Revenue only and no other body. My contention is that from the point of view of administration alone, it is sound to leave this particular business with the people who are going to do the entire job, because one of the many things disturbing people today is that they have to go from one body to another to clear up certain points.

Under this Bill a person first makes an application to a solicitor to see if he has a case, and the solicitor after examination agrees that he has. The client cannot go any further, because he has doubts about his means. He makes representations to the Assistance Board, and then he is examined by the Board, which agrees that he is entitled to assistance. He takes the case back to the solicitor and then they begin to take the necessary proceedings. It is easy for people like ourselves, looking at the thing in the abstract, to say that there is no difficulty there, but this will be harder in actual operation. Anyone who has experience of the Poor Law or the machinery of the Assistance Board knows how an applicant can be sent from individual to individual before his case is fully examined.

From a purely administrative point of view it would be wise to confine this to the people associated with the business, even the lawyers. It has been suggested that there should be very severe penalties for people who make false declarations, but the people who make false declarations before justices of the peace are very much in the minority in the community.

My last point is that it is true that the Lord Advocate in Committee made some concession to ease our minds in that he suggested that he would second specialists from the Assistance Board for this particular work. I am prepared to accept this at this stage, but I would ask the Government to take great pains and watch the operation of this scheme to see whether the Assistance Board is the right body to operate it. Should it be found that it is not so, I hope the Government will come back to the House with an amended form of legislation so that it may be handed over to the Committee to examine it.

The Lord Advocate

I was very much surprised at the opening statement of my hon. Friend the Member for Bridgeton (Mr. Carmichael). When he expressed that view it was for a very small minority from this side of the Committee. He remarked that the Poor Law was not removed by legislation. One of the greatest things we have done in recent legislation is to remove the Poor Law from this country, and we have done it not only by legislation but by consequential administration. If the allegation is made that the Poor Law mind still operates then, as I said in Committee, that is something which we have to break down. I say this more in sorrow than in anger, that I do not think that that breaking down process will be helped in any way by speeches such as that of my hon. Friend.

I should like to deal with a point raised by the hon. Member for Camlachie (Mr. McFarlane). He extolled something with which we would all agree, the self-reliance and independence of the Scottish character, but he got into a very contradictory argument, when he made out that that self-reliance and independence would be shocked if the inquiry were made through the National Assistance Board, but would be appeased if it were made through a solicitor. The inquiry is just for the same purpose, to see to what extent the applicant is entitled under the Bill to legal assistance. It does not seem to me in any way to affect the question of self-reliance and independence. An inquiry, made from one source or the other, is to achieve the net result of deciding whether or not the applicant shall get public money to help him in his litigation.

Mr. McFarlane

What I meant by my statement about psychology was that it was bad psychology to base the inquiry on the National Assistance Board.

The Lord Advocate

If we are building up the new psychology, I cannot see that there should be any differentiation between a man who asks legitimately for public assistance in the form of national funds to allow him to get the necessities of life and the man who applies to the same funds for supplementation to enable him to carry on his litigation. It seems to me to be the same position and that there is no distinction which can be drawn.

Let me get to the real merits of the Amendment. We have to bear in mind that we have already accepted the previous provisions of the Clause, which entail a great deal of detailed inquiry regarding such things as the deductions which may be made under subsection (1, a), the further allowance under subsection (1, b), the question of the allocation between capital and income which has to take place under subsection (2) and the other things which are prescribed in subsections (3) and (4). Then, in subsection (5) there is the difficulty of computing what should be taken into account, having regard to those provisions of the National Assistance Act which we have incorporated into the Bill. Those matters will call for a great deal of inquiry and therefore the more specialised the person who has to carry them out the better. We have not the advantage of the system which was prayed in aid by hon. Members opposite of having an affidavit, because the Amendment which sought to include that in the Bill has not been called.

If all these inquiries have to be done, and eventually a calculation has to be made having regard to those circumstances, as to how much should the man contribute—that is the decision which eventually has to be made—one would, if one were not resorting to this procedure, require to have a very involved and complex questionnaire filled in by the applicant. Surely it is a much easier way of doing it to have a man skilled in this type of work conducting the inquiry, and getting results more accurately and expeditiously than could be obtained by a questionnaire or, for that matter, through an affidavit.

It was suggested that this should be done by solicitors and by the local committee. This is not a line of country in which solicitors are particularly experienced. In my consultation with the legal profession I put this matter up to the solicitors and I asked them, "Would you be prepared if the suggestion were made to undertake the responsibility of working out whether or not a person is entitled to legal assistance having regard to all the qualifications, and if so, what his contribution should be?" The representatives of the solicitors' profession said to me quite categorically that they did not wish to undertake that responsibility. They thought that the proper person to do it was a national assistance officer. I would say in fairness that there was a dislike of the suggestion, because of the hereditary dislike of public assistance, of which not many of them have had practical experience, but they realised that this was the best course to adopt.

Accordingly, they do not want it, but we feel that, whether they want it or not, for the most efficacious working of this administration the proper person to do it is the person skilled in this type of work, and there is nothing in the man's designation, calling, or associations which in any way disqualifies him from the work. Indeed it rather qualifies him for it, and merely to reject this because of some hereditary stigma which attached to the old poor law or the public assistance is just a refusal to face up to facts and an attempt to replace this by something less worthy because of that prejudice.

Commander Galbraith

The right hon. and learned Gentleman started by taking the hon. Member for Bridgeton (Mr. Carmichael) to task. With every deference to the right hon. and learned Gentleman, having for many years known the work and experience of the hon. Member for Bridgeton in the field of assistance, I would rather take his views on this matter than those of the right hon. and learned Gentleman. When the right hon. and learned Gentleman talked later on of people without any practical experience in this field, I should have thought that compared with the experience of the hon. Member for Bridgeton, the right hon. and learned Gentleman's experience was very small indeed in this field. It is for that reason that I take the remarks of the hon. Member for Bridgeton very much to heart in connection with this matter.

Further, I believe that he is right. I believe that there still exists a feeling somehow that going to the National Assistance Board is demeaning in a way. That is to be regretted, but I believe it is still there. The right hon. and learned Gentleman said, "Well, what is the difference really? If he has to go to the National Assistance Board for the needs of life, what is to stop him going to the National Assistance Board for legal aid?" That may be quite a good argument, but, after all, when one's livelihood is concerned, one must go, but when it is a case of legal aid, one need not go. We want this Bill used and we want legal aid to be forthcoming, and we do not want anything put in the way of people obtaining it, and if going to the Assistance Board is an obstruction, we would rather have it removed.

I cannot see why it should not be possible for this examination to be carried through by the local committee. The rules which have to be followed are laid down. The rules were in the Second Schedule of the National Assistance Act and they have been repeated in the Second Schedule of this Bill. Whoever has to examine this matter has everything placed before him. However, the right hon. and learned Gentleman says that this is not a matter for the local committee and that it is not a matter for lawyers, but I remember that during our discussions the right hon. and learned Gentleman suggested that the local committees would have officials attached to them who need not necessarily be lawyers. It might well be that someone of that kind could be appointed here, someone who in a very short time would understand all the matters which have to be taken into account and deal with them very quickly.

The Lord Advocate

Will the hon. and gallant Gentleman explain the difference between that suggestion and the suggestion I made in Committee that an officer of the National Assistance Board could be seconded to the local committee for this purpose? To that extent he would be just as much an officer of the local committee as the person to whom the hon. and gallant Gentleman refers?

Commander Galbraith

Is that to happen?

The Lord Advocate

It can be arranged administratively.

Commander Galbraith

The right hon. and learned Gentleman says that it can be arranged administratively, but that is not what we are dealing with here. We are dealing with the Bill and that is not in the Bill. The right hon. and learned Gentleman said, "It can be." He does not even say that it will be. If the right hon. and learned Gentleman will say that officials of the National Assistance Board will be appointed to these committees——

The Lord Advocate

Oh, no.

Commander Galbraith

The right hon. and learned Gentleman does not say it. That is all right; we are back where we were.

The Lord Advocate

One does not need to be appointed to a committee to be acting for the commitee. The hon. and gallant Gentleman surely knows that.

Commander Galbraith

An official of the committee? Will the right hon. and learned Gentleman give us an undertaking if he wishes to help——

Mr. Woodburn

The individual would be bound to remain a member of the National Assistance Board. He could not shift on to any committee.

Commander Galbraith

That disposes of the matter completely. What I thought was intended was that officials of the Assistance Board might be seconded for this purpose.

The Lord Advocate indicated assent.

9.15 p.m.

Commander Galbraith

That is rather a different matter. No, I think there is a good deal in this point. It is something we want to overcome if possible and, if the Government are not willing to give way and accept the Amendment, then I advise my hon. and right hon. Friends to divide on it.

Mr. Gallacher

I shall not vote for the other side if this goes to a Division, but I have a certain sympathy for the line they have been taking. I have nothing like the experience of the Assistance Board which the hon. Member for Bridgeton (Mr. Carmichael) has, and what experience of it I have had, has not been good. It must be noted that the Government have been operating in a period of post-war boom, when there has not been a great amount of work for the Assistance Board, but still it has been difficult to get things through that Board. If we go into a slump, as there is some suggestion we may do, we shall find the Poor Law operating harshly on the Assistance Board. It is not just a matter of the Tories. The Tories have a terrible record in connection with the means test, but one of the worst circulars ever sent out was sent by the Minister of Health in the Labour Government of 1929. So this matter should be taken away from the Assistance Board.

I would add the further point that in Committee it was said that this was the Board to deal with matters of that kind. If it is the Board to deal with the matter of means, why did we not have a Clause in the Housing Act that the Assistance Board should decide means? It was argued that this was an admirable body for deciding means, but it should not be a question of directing all sorts and conditions of people to the Assistance Board, because that Board will be quite incapable of coping with them.

Mr. Willis (Edinburgh. North)

This was one of the most contentious matters when this Bill was discussed before the Scottish Grand Committee and, having listened once again to the Lord Advocate, I still fail to see what his reply is to the case put by the Cameron Committee when it recommended a statutory declaration. Incidentally, that Committee consisted mainly of lawyers who, we are now told, are against this proposal. The Cameron Committee rejected the recommendations of the Rushcliffe Committee concerning this matter. They did so because they had some experience of a statutory declaration. I understand that a statutory declaration has been accepted in Court of Session cases since 1933. If it has worked well since then, why should it not work well afterwards?

The only argument adduced by my right hon. and learned Friend is that because some people have their incomes assessed by the National Assistance Board, anybody who requires assistance or who has his income assessed for any purpose should also be assessed by the National Assistance Board—at least, that is the logic of it. That is quite contrary to what happens in this country. There are various means of assessing incomes and people do not all go to the National Assistance Board. One might just as well argue that the best people to examine Income Tax returns would be the National Assistance Board. One might just as well argue that when a parent applies for a bursary for his child, it should be the National Assistance Board which judges it, as my hon. Friend the Member for Bridgeton (Mr. Carmichael) said. But I do not think that is the right way.

Mr. Scollan

It is done by the education committee.

Mr. Willis

Never mind what it is; it is not the National Assistance Board. There are other occasions when people's income has to be assessed for various purposes when different methods of assessing income are used. What the Cameron Committee said was: We further recommend that a Certificate of Means, setting out fully the requisite information as to capital and income, should be furnished by way of Statutory declaration, to be made before any Solicitor. In reply to my hon. Friend the Member for West Renfrew (Mr. Scollan), I would say the Bill already contains full details of how that assessment has to be made. I cannot see what difference exists between a person filling in a form before a lawyer to give these particulars and a person giving them to one of the personnel from the National Assistance Board and having them recorded by him on a form——

Mr. Scollan

Why is the hon. Member objecting to it?

Mr. Willis

I am coming to that. The Cameron Committee went on to point out that the declaration should be fenced with criminal penalties of fine or imprisonment … I raised this point in Committee, but still there is no reply to it. The Cameron Report went on to say: This declaration of means should be submitted to the Local Committee along with the application for legal aid, to be presented by a Solicitor on the panel. It should be within the power of the Local Committee to accept without further inquiry the declaration as to means. … In other words, the case could then be proceeded with at once. That would be more expeditious than for the man to have to wait until such time as the National Assistance Board had assessed his income before the case could be proceeded with. This is a perfectly feasible idea, which commanded the support of a committee set up to examine the proposition. That committee rejected the suggestion of the use of the National Assistance Board. This seemed to be in accordance with practice in Scotland since 1933, and to be a much more flexible method of dealing with this problem.

We have not yet had any reply on the question of expedition in dealing with a case. If justice is to be of value it should be swift. For these reasons, I should have thought that my right hon. and learned Friend would have given this matter rather more consideration than appears to have been given to it, rather than to have succumbed, as I think he has succumbed, to what was decided by a committee appointed to inquire what was happening in England.

Mr. Woodburn

I hope we can make progress with the Bill. I deplore that the discussion on the Clause has been used by one or two hon. Members for an attack on the Assistance Board. During the war the Assistance Board was recognised as the friend of people who were bombed out and rendered homeless, and during times of flood it has been recognised as a friend of people who were washed out. It is recognised by many old people throughout the country as a generous and attentive social service, and I deplore that this smear of the Poor Law has been put across the National Assistance Board by my hon. Friends on this side of the House. I very much regret that whenever progress is made, it should be depreciated to such an extent.

The idea that we should put into the minds of people the impression that our social service has the dishonour, one might say, that used to attach to the old Poor Law is very much to be regretted. To my personal knowledge the Assistance Board is acknowledged by old people to be their friend; many of them recognise the officers who come to deal with them as kindly, decent people, who are encouraged to treat folk as they would their own relatives. That is my appreciation, at least, of the Assistance Board. While in some parts of Glasgow there may be people who think differently, I am very glad to say that throughout tile rest of the country the impression is quite different.

The hon. Member for West Fife (Mr. Gallacher) used the occasion to repeat a slander upon my right hon. Friend the Member for Wakefield (Mr. Arthur Greenwood) in suggesting that he sent out the worst circular regarding the Poor Law that was ever sent out in this country. That is simply not true. That circular which was sent out was an amendment asking that people should be treated more kindly. It was misrepresented up and down the country by enemies of our party and very largely led to the defeat of Labour in 1931, and it may be used again for the same purpose.

The Assistance Board administer relief to hundreds of thousands of poor people today. If there is any kind of disgrace of the kind of which hon. Members have spoken tonight attaching to it, they ought to move for its abolition and for something to be put in its place, but if they are prepared to accept it as part of the administration of the people, it cannot be wrong for those who want legal aid. The hon. Member for Bridgeton (Mr. Carmichael) has not complained of the administration of the Assistance Board in ordinary affairs and I say it is quite wrong that he should insist that another class of people should be treated as though they were the aristocracy of the people and require a different treatment from ordinary people.

Mr. Carmichael

Are we now debating the work of the National Assistance Board—I think the right hon. Gentleman has been on that particular theme—and all its ramifications, or are we dealing with one particular phase of its work? The right hon. Gentleman's attack is quite unjustified. At the proper time I am prepared to put my case regarding the Assistance Board, but I was limited in this Debate to a particular Clause. I do not run away from any of the allegations I made, but I stick to them.

Mr. Woodburn

If my hon. Friend will read the subsection of the Clause to which we are referring he will see that the only thing, in it is that the Assistance Board shall determine the needs of the persons concerned——

Mr. Carmichael

It does not say that at all.

Mr. Woodburn

if my hon. Friend will read subsection (6)——

Mr. Carmichael

It does not say that.

Mr. Woodburn

—he will find that it only refers to the National Assistance Board and, therefore, it is quite in Order to discuss that. It is simply dealing with the National Assistance Board and this has been put in by the Government and not by any particular Committee. It is Government policy and the Government have to accept responsibility for what they put in the Bill.

We are dealing with large sums of money. The possibility of expenditure in connection with legal aid is enormous and we have to protect the public against any abuse of this expenditure. I beseech hon. Members to realise that they have a responsibility in this direction to see that there is no abuse for a service of this kind, which can run into great sums of money. It is a great experiment we are carrying on and the Government have very carefully considered how far they can go in risking this expenditure.

Therefore, they have established in the Bill what they regard as the best means for seeing that the right people get the benefit and that the wrong people do not get the benefit and that the benefit shall be supplied for the purpose for which the Bill is designed. I commend to the House the recommendation that the Assistance Board should deal with this in the same way as they deal with a great deal of administration.

9.30 p.m.

Lieut.-Colonel Elliot

I am very interested in the discussion because I founded the National Assistance Board; it was my work. I must say that at the time I did not hear nearly so many encomiums as have been heaped upon it this evening.

Mr. Woodburn

It has improved since then.

Lieut.-Colonel Elliot

It improves; the right hon. Gentleman has improved since then; I hope that I have. People talk about the smear on the National Assistance Board. Anything said tonight is merely a smut on its collar compared with the sort of thing which was said by hon. and indeed right hon. Gentlemen opposite when I was introducing it into the social system of this country. We on this side of the House have not made any smear on the National Assistance Board. I should very much deprecate any smear upon it. When we were setting it up I believed that it would do a good job of work, as it has done. When I was introducing the system of disregards I said that they would be of great benefit to the people of this country, and I believe that they have been.

The argument that is being used is that the Board is an inappropriate organ of our social system to apply to this particular problem, that the problem is more analogous, to use the instance given by the hon. Member for Bridgeton (Mr. Carmichael), to, let us say, the education system and the inquiries that are quite rightly made as to the means of someone who is asking for assistance from the community to send a son or daughter to have the benefits of higher education. That is quite right. As I said in Committee, there are many bodies which closely examine the incomes of people in this country, and which have much greater knowledge of the higher brackets of income than has the Assistance Board. There is the enormous and meticulous machinery of the Inland Revenue, which has a knowledge of the incomes of people which would make the Assistance Board stagger backwards with surprise if it secured access to their books.

I do not really think that this matter requires the heat which was imported into it by the Secretary of State for Scotland. The contention is that in general the older system of this country should be allowed to operate, that in general——

The Lord Advocate

Does the right hon. and gallant Gentleman know that the oldest system in Scotland was the system of inquiry by the inspector of the poor.

Lieut.-Colonel Elliot

If I may say so, the grammar of the Lord Advocate has faltered a little on this point. I did not say the "oldest" system, I said the "older" system, the system before this one, which was the system of the statutory declaration. It is true that the previous system was that of inquiry by the inspector of the poor, but it is ultra-conservatism on the part of the Lord Advocate to say that we should go back to the more ancient system, rather than to the comparatively improved system under which we were operating.

I submit that neither the Lord Advocate nor the Secretary of State has brought forward any argument to discharge the onus which lies upon them. It is in the grammar of legislation that the onus of proving that a proposed change of law is desirable, lies upon those who seek to make the change. Where is the scandal that has arisen? What has failed in the existing system? What is the abuse or defect which the right hon. Gentleman wishes here to correct that he is seeking permission to alter the law of Scotland? Before he does so, it is an elementary question to ask what is the abuse which is at present being shown in the working of the law in Scotland which makes it desirable here and now to make that alteration.

We should get away from the arguments for and against the Assistance Board. The hon. Member for Bridgeton, who has almost unrivalled knowledge and experience of it, says that in his experience there is a certain deterrent in the operation of that system. He may be right or he may be wrong, but he has great knowledge in these matters. No one will deny that there are many alternative methods by which the same result could be brought about. All that we are suggesting is that some of these alternative methods should be used. For myself, I would certainly deprecate any attack upon the Assistance Board. I am more than delighted to find it receives such universal applause as it is offered. To night I stand with pleasure at this Box, even in the cold shades of Opposition.

Many harsh things were said about the right hon. Member for Wakefield (Mr. Arthur Greenwood) because of the circular which he sent out. It was not an entirely innocuous circular as he suggested it was. I will say this. Of all the harsh things said against the right hon. Member for Wakefield, much harsher things were said against me; and if the right hon. Member for Wakefield is to be exonerated, I trust that retrospective exoneration will be passed upon me for what is now universally recognised as the very beneficent contribution which I made to the law of this country when I had the responsibility of the right hon. Gentleman now sitting on the Government Front Bench.

Mr. Rankin (Glasgow, Tradeston)

I wish neither to praise nor to bury the National Assistance Board, because I do not see that it has anything to do with the question before us. There may have been extremes in the discussion on both sides in regard to the Board. The only point that faces us is this: is the National Assistance Board likely to be the most efficient instrument for carrying out this particular job?

From my own experience within the City of Glasgow I would say that the National Assistance Board at the moment could not face up to this job. The Secretary of State for Scotland must know that. Indeed, in most parts of Glasgow, and particularly in my own division, the National Assistance Board is simply overwhelmed with work at the present time. When this matter was before the Scottish Grand Committee, the learned Lord Advocate to a large extent admitted that case; and made what I understood at the time to be a promise to the Committee that a special officer would be appointed to act in connection with the National Assistance Board as part of its machinery for this particular work. It needs not merely an officer but almost another Department. Now tonight, it seems to me, he more or less repudiated what he said in the Scottish Grand Committee——

The Lord Advocate


Mr. Rankin

He seemed to me to repudiate it, because when he was charged he said that an individual can be appointed. It would make the position clear and easy for all of us if the right hon. and learned Gentleman, instead of saying the individual can be appointed, would give us an assurance that this individual will be appointed. I quite agree

that if we are accepting this particular piece of machinery, then such an individual must be appointed, and I would urge my right hon. and learned Friend to tell us now that such an individual will be appointed. If he says that, he will meet to some extent, although not completely, the objections which many of us have to this particular part of the Clause.

Question put, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Bill."

The House divided: Ayes, 210; Noes, 89.

Division No 161.] AYES [9.42 p.m
Adams, Richard (Balham) Grey, C. F. Messer, F.
Albu, A. H. Grierson, E. Middleton, Mrs L.
Allen, A. C. (Bosworth) Griffiths, D. (Rother Valley) Mitchison, G. R.
Allen, Scholefield (Crewe) Griffiths, Rt. Hon. J. (Llanelly) Moody, A. S.
Alpass, J. H. Guest, Dr. L. Haden Morley, R.
Anderson, A. (Motherwell) Hale, Leslie Morris, Lt.-Col H. (Sheffield, C.)
Attewell, H. C. Hall, Rt. Hon. Glenvil Morris, P. (Swansea, W.)
Awbery, S. S. Hamilton, Lieut.-Col. R. Murray, J. D.
Ayrton Gould, Mrs B. Hannan, W. (Maryhill) Nally, W.
Bacon, Miss A. Hardy, E. A. Neal, H. (Claycross)
Balfour, A. Henderson, Rt. Hn. A. (Kingswinford) Noel-Baker, Capt. F. E. (Brentford)
Benson, G. Henderson, Joseph (Ardwick) O'Brien, T.
Binns, J. Herbison, Miss M. Oldfield, W. H.
Blenkinsop, A. Hewitson, Capt. M. Paling, Rt. Hon Wilfred (Wentworth)
Blyton, W. R. Holmes, H. E. (Hemsworth) Paling, Will T. (Dewsbury)
Boardman, H. Horabin, T. L. Palmer, A. M. F.
Bowden, Flg. Offr. H. W. Houghton, A. L. N. D. (Sowerby) Pargiter, G. A.
Braddock, Mrs E. M. (L'pl Exch'ge) Hoy, J. Parker, J.
Bramall, E. A. Hubbard, T. Parkin, B. T.
Brook, D. (Halifax) Hudson, J. H. (Ealing, W.) Paton, Mrs. F. (Rushcliffe)
Brooks, T. J. (Rothwell) Hughes, Hector (Aberdeen, N.) Pearson, A.
Broughton, Dr A. D. D. Hynd, J. B. (Attercliffe) Popplewell, E.
Brown, T. J. (Ince) Irving, W. J. (Tottenham, N) Porter, E. (Warrington)
Burden, T. W. Janner, B. Porter, G. (Leeds)
Burke, W. A. Jay, D. P. T. Pritt, D. N.
Callaghan, James Jeger, Dr. S. W. (St. Pancras, S. E.) Proctor, W. T.
Champion, A. J. Jones, Rt. Hon. A. C. (Shipley) Pryde, D. J.
Cobb, F. A. Jones, D. T. (Hartlepool) Pursey, Comdr. H.
Cocks, F. S. Jones, J. H. (Bolton) Randall, H. E.
Collick, P. Keenan, W. Ranger, J.
Collins, V. J. Kenyon, C. Reeves, J.
Colman, Miss G. M. Kinghorn, Sqn.-Ldr. E. Reid, T. (Swindon)
Cook, T. F. Kinley, J. Rhodes, H.
Corlett, Dr J. Lang, G. Ridealgh, Mrs. M.
Cove, W. G. Lee, F. (Hulme) Roberts, Goronwy (Caernarvonshire)
Daggar, G. Leslie, J. R. Robertson, J. J. (Berwick)
Davies, Edward (Burslem) Lewis, A. W. J. (Upton) Robinson, Kenneth (St. Pancras, N.)
Deer, G. Lewis, T. (Southampton) Rogers, G. H. R.
Delargy, H. J. Lindgren, G. S. Royle, C.
Diamond, J. Lipson, D. L. Scollan, T.
Dobbie, W. Lipton, Lt.-Col M. Segal, Dr. S.
Dodds, N. N. Longden, F. Shackleton, E. A. A.
Donovan, T. Lyne, A. W. Sharp, Granville
Dugdale, J. (W Bromwich) McAdam, W. Shawcross, C. N. (Widnes)
Ede, Rt. Hon. J. C. McAllister, G. Silkin, Rt. Hon. L.
Edwards, Rt. Hon. N. (Caerphilly) McEntee, V. La T. Silverman, J. (Erdington)
Evans, John (Ogmore) McGhee, H. G. Simmons, C. J.
Evans, S. N. (Wednesbury) Mack, J. D. Skeffington, A. M.
Ewart, R. McKay, J. (Wallsend) Smith, C. (Colchester)
Fairhurst, F. Mackay, R. W. G. (Hull, N. W.) Smith, S. H. (Hull, S. W.)
Farthing, W. J. McKinlay, A. S. Sorensen, R. W.
Fernyhough, E. McLeavy, F. Soskice, Rt. Hon. Sir Frank
Field, Capt. W. J. MacMillan, M. K. (Western Isles) Sparks, J. A.
Fletcher, E. G. M. (Islington, E.) MacPherson Malcolm (Stirling) Steele, T.
Forman, J. C. Macpherson, T. (Romford) Stewart, Michael (Fulham, E.)
Gaitskell, Rt. Hon H. T. N. Mainwaring, W. H. Strauss, Rt. Hon G. R. (Lambeth)
Ganley, Mrs C. S. Mallalieu, E. L. (Brigg) Stubbs, A. E.
Gibbins, J. Mallalieu, J. P. W. (Huddersfield) Sylvester, G. O.
Gilzean, A. Mann, Mrs. J. Taylor, H. B. (Mansfield)
Glanville, J. E. (Consett) Manning, Mrs. L. (Epping) Taylor, R. J. (Morpeth)
Gooch, E. G. Medland, H. M. Thomas, D. E. (Aberdare)
Thomas, George (Cardiff) Wells, W. T. (Walsall) Williams, W. R. (Heston)
Thomas, I. O. (Wrekin) West, D. G. Wills, Mrs. E. A.
Thomas, John R. (Dover) Wheatley, Rt. Hon. John (Edin'gh, E.) Wise, Major F. J.
Timmons, J. White, H. (Derbyshire, N. E.) Woodburn, Rt. Hon. A.
Titterington, M. F. Whiteley, Rt. Hon. W. Woods, G. S.
Tomlinson, Rt. Hon. G. Willey, F. T. (Sunderland) Yates, V. F.
Ungoed-Thomas, L. Williams, D. J. (Neath) Young, Sir R. (Newton)
Wallace, H. W. (Walthamstow, E.) Williams, J. L. (Kelvingrove)
Watkins, T. E. Williams, Ronald (Wigan) TELLERS FOR THE AYES:
Webb, M. (Bradford, C.) Williams, W. T. (Hammersmith, S.) Mr. Snow and Mr. G. Wallace.
Agnew, Cmdr P. G. Haughton, Colonel S. G. (Antrim) Raikes, H. V.
Amory, D. Heathcoat Headlam, Lieut.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir C. Roberts, H. (Handsworth)
Astor, Hon. M. Henderson, John (Cathcart) Robinson, Roland (Blackpool, S.)
Baldwin, A. E. Hollis, M. C. Ropner, Col. L.
Beamish, Maj. T. V. H. Howard, Hon. A. Sanderson, Sir F.
Birch, Nigel Hulbert, Wing-Cdr. N. J. Spearman, A. C. M.
Bowen, R. Hutchison, Lt-Cdr. Clark (Edin'gh, W.) Stoddart-Scott, Col. M.
Bower, N. Lambert, Hon. G. Stuart, Rt. Hon. J. (Moray)
Boyd-Carpenter, J. A. Langford-Holt, J. Studholme, H. G.
Braithwaite, Lt.-Comdr. J. G. Law, Rt. Hon. R. K. Sutcliffe, H.
Bromley-Davenport, Lt-Col W. Legge-Bourke, Maj. E. A. H. Thomas, Ivor (Keighley)
Channon, H. Lloyd, Maj. Guy (Renfrew, E.) Thorneycroft, G. E. P. (Monmouth)
Conant, Maj. R. J. E. Lloyd, Selwyn (Wirral) Thornton-Kemsley, C. N.
Cooper-Key, E. M. Lucas, Major Sir J. Touche, G. C.
Corbett, Lieut.-Col. U. (Ludlow) McFarlane, C. S. Turton, R. H.
Crookshank, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. F. C. McKie, J. H. (Galloway) Tweedsmuir, Lady
Crosthwaite-Eyre, Col. O. E. Macmillan, Rt. Hon. Harold (Bromley) Vane, W. M. F.
Crowder, Capt. John E. Macpherson, N. (Dumfries) Wakefield, Sir W. W.
Dodds-Parker, A. D. Maitland, Comdr J. W. Walker-Smith, D.
Drewe, C. Manningham-Buller, R. E. Ward, Hon. G. R.
Dugdale, Maj. Sir T. (Richmond) Marshall, D. (Bodmin) Webbe, Sir H. (Abbey)
Duthie, W. S. Maude, J. C. Wheatley, Colonel M. J. (Dorset, E.)
Elliot, Lieut.-Col. Rt. Hon. Walter Molson, A. H. E. White, Sir D. (Fareham)
Fletcher, W. (Bury) Neven-Spence, Sir B. Williams, C. (Torquay)
Foster, J. G. (Northwich) Nield, B. (Chester) Williams, Gerald (Tonbridge)
Fyfe, Rt. Hon Sir D. P. M. Noble, Comdr. A. H. P. Willoughby de Eresby, Lord
Gage, C. Odey, G. W. Young, Sir A. S. L. (Partick)
Galbraith, Cmdr. T. D. (Pollok) O'Neill, Rt. Hon. Sir H.
Galbraith, T. G. D. (Hillhead) Orr-Ewing, I. L. TELLERS FOR THE NOES:
George, Maj. Rt. Hn. G. Lloyd (P'ke) Peto, Brig. C. H. M. Brigadier Mackeson and
Hare, Hon. J. H. (Woodbridge) Ponsonby, Col. C. E. Mr. Wingfield Digby.