HC Deb 12 March 1951 vol 485 cc1045-7
18. Mr. J. N. Browne

asked the Minister of National Insurance to what extent, in considering whether any case comes under the provisions of the National Insurance (Seasonal Workers) Regulations, 1950, differentiation is made between persons who are severely handicapped in their search for employment and others who are not in any way handicapped.

Dr. Summerskill

The interpretation of the regulations is a matter for the statutory authorities. Until decisions have been given in a fairly wide range of cases by the National Insurance Commissioner, I am unable to say how they will affect individual cases.

Mr. Browne

Has the Minister considered the case of Mr. Hugh Quigley, of 58, Elderpark Street, which I sent her when putting down this Question? Does she not think that if anyone is incapacitated and unable to obtain work during the winter, these regulations should not apply to him? Is the right hon. Lady satisfied that these regulations, which are causing a great deal of trouble, should continue to apply at all?

Dr. Summerskill

I have explained before to the House that the statutory authorities have wide discretion in this matter and can take all these circumstances into account.

28. Mr. David Renton

asked the Minister of National Insurance what representations were put forward on behalf of agricultural seasonal workers, and by whom, before the National Insurance (Seasonal Workers) Regulations, 1950, were introduced; and whether those representations were accepted or rejected.

16. Commander Maitland

asked the Minister of National Insurance whether the organisations she consulted before bringing in regulations to prevent seasonal unemployed workers from drawing unemployment benefit included the National Union of Agricultural Workers; and whether the regulation was introduced in agreement with that trade union.

34. Mr. Gooch

asked the Minister of National Insurance how far consultations took place with the National Union of Agricultural Workers before the National Insurance (Seasonal Workers) Regulations, 1951, were introduced; and if she will indicate the nature of the representations made by the National Union of Agricultural Workers then and since.

Dr. Summerskill

I understand that when the National Insurance Advisory Committee were considering the question of special rules for seasonal workers, the unions representing agricultural workers made representations to them. When I received the Committee's Report and before regulations were drafted certain representations were made to me by the Trades Union Congress and various points of view were put forward including those of agricultural workers. I take full responsibility for the draft regulations which I subsequently asked the House to approve.

Mr. Renton

Would the right hon. Lady be so good as to answer the last few words of my Question, which asked whether or not the representations were accepted or rejected? Is she aware that the regulations so far have had a most unsatisfactory effect so far as women in agriculture are concerned and is it not a pity that the advice of the union was not accepted?

Dr. Summerskill

When the National Insurance Advisory Committee made their report to me, representations were made to me from the T.U.C. and a deputation came to see me representing all the unions which were concerned with seasonal workers. The hon. Member for Huntingdon (Mr. Renton) now asks me to disclose to this House what one individual, or two individuals maybe, of certain unions said—in fact, in Question 28 I am asked to give the name. I believe it would be a breach of confidence to do that publicly and would be calculated to prejudice my discussions in the future.

Mr. Gooch

Does not my right hon. Friend agree that the National Union of Agricultural Workers have been opposed to the imposition of these regulations all the way through? Did she not say in a letter to the union: I am sorry if any remarks I may have made in the House of Commons on the 5th February have been taken as implying that these Regulations had actually been agreed with the agricultural union"?

Dr. Summerskill

I would refer my hon. Friend to the answer I have just given, but I must also recall that when I made the draft regulations and submitted them to the Advisory Committee, no unions made representations. Furthermore, when I came to the House and asked for approval of the regulations—the House will recall that approval was necessary in this matter—I got them on the nod and there was no debate.

Mr. Turton

Are we to understand from the earlier reply that these regulations were approved by the T.U.C.?

Dr. Summerskill

Not at all; I invited the T.U.C. to send a deputation to see me. The hon. Member has asked me what certain individuals said and I have refused to disclose publicly what they did say.

Major Legge-Bourke

Will the right hon. Lady bear in mind that some weeks ago in this House she replied to me that she considered that the unions were the obvious people to advise and that we ought to have their advice? Is not the effect of her reply that she has not accepted their advice?

Dr. Summerskill

When I am given advice, on whatever matter it is, I consider the advice given. I do not always take it.

Mr. Renton

On a point of order. The right hon. Lady has misstated what I said only two minutes ago. I have never asked what individuals had said. I asked her what the unions had said.