HC Deb 01 May 1952 vol 499 cc1745-53

8.0 p.m.

Mr. McNeil

I beg to move, in page 4, line 10, to leave out from "exceeding," to "and," in line 11 and to insert "twenty pounds."

The purpose of the Amendment will be obvious to the House. I do not want to keep the House for any length of time, particularly as we are so late in our allotted time. I am advised that if the intention of the Minister and the Government is to ensure recovery of the charges which they propose to levy the procedure for doing this already exists, that on., could proceed in a normal civil fashion and that, if a debtor failed to make payment, normal redress could be obtained.

I do not think the Minister will argue that the intention of the subsection is to make that provision. Probably he will argue that this is introduced as a deterrent. I want to make two short points about that. First, I am aware that this is the actual wording which appeared in the National Insurance Acts, but it is not really a good parallel. Whichever Government had been dealing with the National Insurance Acts would have had to take some steps to ensure that a fairly substantial penalty was available to deal with people who fraudulently misrepresented their position and obtained, for example, a pension to which they were not entitled, one which they might draw for weeks or years.

But that is not the case here. We are talking about a poor person who wishes to obtain a prescription and says, "This is my Assistance book," thereby seeking to escape the charge of 1s. for the medicine or drug that he needs. This is not someone really robbing the Exchequer. It may be a girl saying she is 21 when she is actually 21 years and three months old. It may be a woman who says that she had her baby in the last 12 months when she really had it 18 months earlier. I suggest most strongly that this penalty Clause is out of all proportion to the type of offence contemplated.

Secondly, the Minister may say that these are just maximum penalties and that the courts will be moved by the dimension of the offence. I am sure that is true, but I am sure that it is equally true that looking at a Clause which says that the penalty shall be a tine of £100 or three months' imprisonment, the court must feel that the offence was evidently thought to be a serious one. If the court goes a quarter of the way towards the maximum, it will still be a very severe penalty.

The Minister has not found it necessary to be at all yielding up to date, except to his hon. Friends. I suggest that ours in an eminently reasonable Amendment in suggesting that a maximum fine of £20 would be sufficient to cover the situation. This is almost the last place where the Minister can show any compassion towards the patients and any mercy towards us. Here he might reasonably have followed his recent example and put his name to the Amendment, and I hope that he will accept it.

Mr. Crookshank

As the right hon. Gentleman's last words called attention to the fact that my name had not been added to the Amendment, it will not surprise him when he hears from me that I do not advise the House to accept it. [Interruption.] In spite of the clicking noises being made by the hon. Member for Leicester, North-West (Mr. Janner)—[HON. MEMBERS: "And others."]—this is the common form in all cases where there is a question of false statements and false representations being made for the purpose of evading payment of a charge.

It was used in every similar Act by our predecessors. In Section 52 (1) of the National Assistance Act, 1948, the penalty was for anyone knowingly making a false statement for the pupose of claiming benefit under Parts II or III of the Act, which related respectively to assistance in cash or in kind. If the right hon. Gentleman and his hon. Friends found it necessary to introduce that in accordance with precedent—I am not suggesting that they invented it—they thought the precedent must be followed because false representations might bring some advantage to which a person was not entitled.

Mr. McNeil

They might have been extensive sums.

Mr. Crookshank

No, Sir. The type of person applying under the National Assistance Act is not likely to get very extensive sums. The provision to which I have referred was particularly in relation to assistance in cash and kind and to accommodation provided by local authorities, and I do not think there was a chance of extensive sums being involved.

Whether the sums are large or not, this Clause is the common form with which to deal with cases where there may be false representation. For that reason we have put it in the Bill, and for that reason I ask the House to accept it. The righ hon. Gentleman has already pointed out that these are only maxima. One could anticipate that the fines would be very much less. That has proved to be so in the case of Acts introduced by right hon. Gentlemen opposite in 1948, 1950 and 1951 when similar words were used.

As I understand that the right hon. Gentleman would like some little time for a Third Reading debate, perhaps the Opposition will not press the matter further now so that we may get on with the business; but I am in their hands.

Mr. McNeil

If I may have permission to speak again, I cannot do otherwise than advise my hon. Friends to press this Amendment to a Division. The right hon. Gentleman's attitude is quite surprisingly hard and rather pitiless.

Mr. Simmons

I am absolutely amazed. This is the most disgusting thing that has happened during these proceedings. It is Tory repression at its very worst. It is a savage attack upon the ordinary people of this country. The Opposition ought to go into the Lobby and protest against it, and also protest against it up and down the country.

This is not in any way comparable with the penalties imposed in other Acts of Parliament which have been quoted. As regards the Ministry of Pensions, in the case of people who defrauded the public over a period of years there might have been such an argument as this, but in this instance the 1s. prescription is all that is involved. Here we have an Amendment suggesting a reduction in the fine to £20 and the abolition of imprisonment, and yet hon. Members opposite, through the Minister, oppose it.

I wish to utter my most emphatic and sincere protest against the absolute heartlessness of hon. Members opposite in regard to the welfare of a class which I am proud to represent in the House. [Interruption.] Hon. Members will laugh on the other side of their faces before long. [HON. MEMBERS: "Order!"] Never mind about order.

Mr. Powell

I hope I shall not be going outside the rules of order if I say that in the few remarks which he made the hon. Member for Brierley Hill (Mr. Simmons) was placing himself in danger under the provisions of the Clause. At one stage he said that this deals only with the 1s. prescription. That is not so. It deals with very considerable sums and with what may be recurrent sums. There is an item of £4 5s. under Clause 2, and charges which may be incurred under Clause 1. It seems to me that the charges which can be imposed under this Bill are entirely on a par as regards magnitude with the sums payable under the National Assistance Act, and that

therefore the precedent of that Act should be followed.

Mr. Simmons

You are a cold-blooded lot.

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

The House divided: Ayes, 266: Noes, 246.

Division No. 112.] AYES [8.11 p.m.
Aitken, W. T. Douglas-Hamilton, Lord Malcolm Law, Rt. Hon. R. K.
Allan, R. A. (Paddington, S.) Drayson, G. B. Legge-Bourke, Maj. E. A. H.
Alport, C. J. M. Drewe, C. Legh, P. R. (Petersfield)
Amory, Heathcoat (Tiverton) Dugdale, Maj. Rt. Hn. Sir T. (Richmond) Lindsay, Martin
Anstruther-Gray, Major W. J. Duncan, Capt. J. A. L. Linstead, H. N.
Arbuthnot, John Duthle, W. S. Lloyd, Rt. Hon. G. (King's Norton)
Ashton, H. (Chelmsford) Erroll, F. J. Lloyd, Maj. Guy (Renfrew, E.)
Assheton, Rt. Hon. R. (Blackburn, W.) Fell, A. Lloyd, Rt. Hon. Selwyn (Wirral)
Astor, Hon. J. J. (Plymouth, Sutton) Finlay, Graeme Lockwood, Lt.-Col. J. C.
Astor, Hon. W. W. (Bucks, Wycombe) Fisher, Nigel Longden, Gilbert (Herts, S.W.)
Baker, P. A. D. Fleetwood-Hesketh, R. F. Low, A. R. W.
Baldock, Lt.-Cmdr. J. M. Fletcher, Walter (Bury) Lucas, P. B. (Brentford)
Baldwin, A. E. Fletcher-Cooke, C. Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh
Banks, Col. C. Fort, R. McAdden, S. J.
Barber, A. P. L. Fraser, Hon. Hugh (Stone) Macdonald, Sir Peter (I. of Wight)
Baxter, A. B. Fraser, Sir Ian (Morecambe & Lansdale) Mackeson, Brig. H. R.
Beach, Maj. Hicks Gage, C. H. McKibbin, A. J.
Beamish, Maj. Tufton Galbraith, Cmdr. T. D. (Pollok) McKie, J. H. (Galloway)
Bell, Philip (Bolton, E.) Galbraith, T. G. D. (Hillhead) Maclean, Fitzroy
Bell, Ronald (Bucks, S.) Gammans, L. D. MacLeod, Iain (Enfield, W.)
Bennett, F. M. (Reading, N.) Garner-Evans, E. H. Macmillan, Rt. Hon. Harold (Bromley)
Bennett, Dr. Reginald (Gosport) George, Rt. Hon. Maj. G. Lloyd Macpherson, Maj. Niall (Dumfries)
Bevins, J. R. (Toxteth) Godber, J. B. Maitland, Comdr. J. F. W. (Horncastle)
Bishop, F. P. Gomme-Duncan, Col. A. Maitland, Patrick (Lanark)
Black, C. W. Gough, C. F. H. Manningham-Buller, Sir R. E.
Bossom, A. C. Gower, H. R. Markham, Major S. F.
Boyd-Carpenter, J. A. Graham, Sir Fergus Marlowe, A. A. H.
Boyle, Sir Edward Gridley, Sir Arnold Marples, A. E.
Braine, B. R. Grimston, Hon. John (St. Albans) Marshall, Douglas (Bodmin)
Braithwaite, Sir Albert (Harrow, W.) Grimston, Sir Robert (Westbury) Maude, Angus
Braithwaite, Lt.-Cdr. G. (Bristol, N.W.) Hare, Hon. J. H. Maudling, R.
Bromley-Davenport, Lt.-Col. W. H. Harris, Frederic (Croydon, N.) Maydon, Lt.-Comdr. S. L. C.
Brooke, Henry (Hampstead) Harris, Reader (Heston) Madlicott, Brig. F.
Brooman-White, R. C. Harrison, Col. J. H. (Eye) Mellor, Sir John
Browne, Jack (Govan) Harvey, Air Cdre. A. V. (Macclesfield) Molson, A. H. E.
Buchan-Hepburn, Rt. Hon. P. G. T. Harvey, Ian (Harrow, E.) Moore, Lt.-Col. Sir Thomas
Bullard, D. G. Harvie-Watt, Sir George Morrison, John (Salisbury)
Bullock, Capt. M. Hay, John Mott-Radclyffe, C. E.
Bullus, Wing Commander E. E. Head, Rt. Hon. A. H. Nabarro, G. D. N.
Burden, F. F. A. Heald, Sir Lionel Nicholls, Harmer
Butcher, H. W. Heath, Edward Nicholson, Godfrey (Farnham)
Carr, Robert (Mitcham) Higgs, J. M. C. Nicolson, Nigel (Bournemouth, E.)
Carson, Hon. E. Hill, Dr. Charles (Luton) Nield, Basil (Chester)
Cary, Sir Robert Hinchingbrooke, Viscount Noble, Comdr. A. H. P.
Channon, H. Hirst, Geoffrey Nugent, G. R. H.
Clarke, Col. Ralph (East Grinstead) Holland-Martin, C. J. Nutting, Anthony
Clarke, Brig. Terence (Portsmouth, W.) Holmes, Sir Stanley (Harwich) Oakshott, H. D.
Cole, Norman Hopkinson, Henry Odey, G. W.
Colegate, W. A. Hornsby-Smith, Miss M. P. O'Neill, Rt. Hon. Sir H. (Antrim, N.)
Conant, Maj. R. J. E. Horobin, I. M. Ormsby-Gore, Hon. W. D.
Cooper, Sqn. Ldr. Albert Horsbrugh, Rt. Hon. Florence Orr, Capt. L. P. S.
Cooper-Key, E. M. Howard, Gerald (Cambridgeshire) Orr-Ewing, Charles Ian (Hendon, N.)
Craddock, Beresford (Spelthorne) Howard, Greville (St. Ives) Osborne, C.
Cranborne, Viscount Hudson, Sir Austin (Lewisham, N.) Partridge, E.
Crookshank, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. F. C. Hudson, W. R. A. (Hull, N.) Peake, Rt. Hon. O.
Crosthwaite-Eyre, Col. O. E. Hulbert, Wing Cmdr. N. J. Perkins, W. R. D.
Crouch, R. F. Hurd, A. R. Peto, Brig. C. H. M.
Crowder, John E. (Finchley) Hutchison, Lt.-Com. Clark (E'b'rgh W.) Peyton, J. W. W.
Crowder, Petre (Ruislip—Northwood) Hyde, Lt.-Col. H. M. Pickthorn, K. W. M.
Hylton-Foster, H. B. H. Pilkington, Capt. R. A.
Cuthbert, W. N. Jenkins, R. C. D. (Dulwich) Pitman, I. J.
Darling, Sir William (Edinburgh, S.) Jennings, R. Powell, J. Enoch
Davidson, Viscountess Johnson, Eric (Blackley) Price, Henry (Lewisham, W.)
Digby, S. Wingfield Jones, A. (Hall Green) Prior-Palmer, Brig O. L.
Dodds-Parker, A. D. Kaberry, D. Profumo, J. D.
Donaldson, Cmdr. C. E. McA. Kerr, H. W. (Cambridge) Raikes, H. V.
Donner, P. W. Lancaster, Col. C. G. Rayner, Brig. R.
Doughty, C. J. A. Langford-Holt, J. A. Redmayne, E.
Renton, D. L. M. Soames, Capt. C. Vane, W. M. F.
Roberts, Peter (Heeley) Spearman, A. C. M. Vaughan-Morgan, J. K.
Robertson, Sir David Spence, H. R. (Aberdeenshire, W.) Vosper, D. F.
Robinson, Roland (Blackpool, S.) Spens, Sir Patrick (Kensington, S.) Wakefield, Edward (Derbyshire, W.)
Robson-Brown, W. Stanley, Capt. Hon. Richard Wakefield, Sir Wavell (Marylebone)
Rodgers, John (Sevenoaks) Stevens, G. P. Walker-Smith, D. C.
Roper, Sir Harold Steward, W. A. (Woolwich, W.) Ward, Hon. George (Worcester)
Ropner, Col. Sir Leonard Stewart, Henderson (Fife, E.) Ward, Miss I. (Tynemouth)
Russell, R. S. Stoddart-Scott, Col. M. Waterhouse, Capt. Rt. Hon. C.
Ryder, Capt. R. E. D. Storey, S. Watkinson, H. A.
Salter, Rt. Hon. Sir Arthur Sutcliffe, H. Wellwood, W.
Sandys, Rt. Hon. D. Taylor, Charles (Eastbourne) White, Baker (Canterbury)
Savory, Prof. Sir Douglas Taylor, William (Bradford, N.) Williams, Rt. Hon. Charles (Torquay)
Schofield, Lt.-Col. W. (Rochdale) Teeling, W. Williams, Gerald (Tonbridge)
Scott, R. Donald Thomas, Rt. Hon. J. P. L. (Hereford) Williams, Sir Herbert (Croydon, E.)
Scott-Miller, Cmdr. R. Thomas, P. J. M. (Conway) Wills, G.
Shepherd, William Thompson, Kenneth (Walton) Wilson, Geoffrey (Truro)
Simon, J. E. S. (Middlesbrough, W.) Thorneycroft, R. Hn. Peter (Monmouth) Wood, Hon. R.
Smiles, Lt.-Col. Sir Walter Thornton-Kemsley, Col. C. N. York, C.
Smithers, Peter (Winchester) Tilney, John
Smyth, Brig. J. G. (Norwood) Turner, H. F. L. TELLERS FOR THE AYES:
Snadden, W. McN. Turton, R. H. Mr. Studholme and
Mr. Richard Thompson.
Acland, Sir Richard Dugdale, Rt. Hon. John (W. Bromwich) Jeger, George (Goole)
Adams, Richard Edelman, M. Jenkins, R. H. (Stechford)
Allen, Arthur (Bosworth) Edwards, John (Brighouse) Johnson, James (Rugby)
Anderson, Frank (Whitehaven) Edwards, Rt. Hon. Ness (Caerphilly) Johnson, Douglas (Paisley)
Attlee, Rt. Hon. C. R. Edwards, W. J. (Stepney) Jones, David (Hartlepool)
Awbery, S. S. Evans, Albert (Islington, S.W.) Jones, Frederick Elwyn (West Ham, S.)
Ayles, W. H. Evans, Edward (Lowestoft) Jones, Jack (Rotherham)
Bacon, Miss Alice Evans, Stanley (Wednesbury) Jones, T. W. (Merioneth)
Baird, J. Ewart, R. Keenan, W.
Balfour, A. Fernyhough, E. Key, Rt. Hon. C. W.
Barnes, Rt. Hon. A. J. Field, W. J. King, Dr. H. M.
Bartley, P. Fienburgh, W. Kinley, J.
Bellenger, Rt. Hon. F. J. Finch, H. J. Lee, Frederick (Newton)
Bence, C. R. Fletcher, Eric (Islington, E.) Lee, Miss Jennie (Cannock)
Benn, Wedgwood Follick, M. Lever, Harold (Cheetham)
Benson, G. Forman, J. C. Lever, Leslie (Ardwick)
Beswick, F. Fraser, Thomas (Hamilton) Lindgren, C. S.
Bevan, Rt. Hon. A. (Ebbw Vale) Freeman, John (Watford) Lipton, Lt.-Col. M.
Bing, G. H. C. Freeman, Peter (Newport) Logan, D. G.
Blackburn, F. Gaitskell, Rt. Hon. H. T. N. McGhee, H. G.
Blyton, W. R. Gibson, C. W. McInnes, J.
Boardman, H. Glanville, James McKay, John (Wallsend)
Bottomley, Rt. Hon. A. G. Gooch, E. G. McLeavy, F.
Bowden, H. W. Gordon Walker, Rt. Hon. P. C. McNeil, Rt. Hon. H.
Bowles, F. G. Greenwood, Rt. Hon. Arthur (Wakefield) MacPherson, Malcolm (Stirling)
Brockway, A. F. Grenfell, Rt. Hon. D. R. Mainwaring, W. H.
Brook, Dryden (Halifax) Grey, C. F. Mallalieu, E. L. (Brigg)
Broughton, Dr. A. D. D. Griffiths, David (Rother Valley) Mallalieu, J. P. W. (Huddersfield, E.)
Brown, Rt. Hon. George (Belper) Griffiths, William (Exchange) Manuel, A. C.
Brown, Thomas (Ince) Hale, Leslie (Oldham, W.) Marquand, Rt. Hon. H. A.
Burke, W. A. Hall, Rt. Hon. Glenvil (Colne Valley) Mayhew, C. P.
Burton, Miss F. E. Hall, John (Gateshead, W.) Mellish, R. J.
Callaghan, L. J. Hamilton, W. W. Messer, F.
Castle, Mrs. B. A. Hannan, W. Mitchison, G. R.
Champion, A. J. Hardy, E. A. Monslow, W.
Chapman, W. D. Hargreaves, A. Moody, A. S.
Chetwynd, G. R. Harrison, J. (Nottingham, E.) Morgan, Dr. H. B. W.
Clunie, J. Hastings, S. Morley, R.
Cocks, F. S. Hayman, F. H. Morris, Percy (Swansea, W.)
Coldrick, W. Healey, Denis (Leeds, S.E.) Morrison, Rt. Hon. H. (Lewisham, S.)
Collick, P. H. Henderson, Rt. Hon. A. (Rowley Regis) Moyle, A.
Cook, T. F. Hewitson, Capt. M. Mulley, F. W.
Corbet, Mrs. Freda Hobson, C. R. Murray, J. D.
Cove, W. G. Holman, P. Neal, Harold (Bolsover)
Craddock, George (Bradford, S.) Holmes, Horaoe (Hemsworth) O'Brien, T.
Crosland, C. A. R. Holt, A. F. Oldfield, W. H.
Crossman, R. H. S. Houghton, Douglas Oliver, G. H.
Cullen, Mrs. A. Hoy, J. H. Orbach, M.
Daines, P. Hubbard, T. F. Oswald, T.
Dalton, Rt. Hon. H. Hudson, James (Ealing, N.) Padley, W. E.
Darling, George (Hillsborough) Hughes, Cledwyn (Anglesey) Paling, Rt. Hon. W. (Dearne Valley)
Davies, A. Edward (Stoke, N.) Hughes, Emrys (S. Ayrshire) Paling, Will T. (Dewsbury)
Davies, Ernest (Enfield, E.) Hynd, H. (Accrington) Pannell, Charles
Davies, Stephen (Merthyr) Hynd, J. B. (Attercliffe) Pargiter, G. A.
Deer, G. Irvine, A. J. (Edge Hill) Parker, J.
Delargy, H. J. Irving, W. J. (Wood Green) Paton, J.
Dodds, N. N. Isaacs, Rt. Hon. G. A. Pearson, A.
Donnelly, D. L. Janner, B. Peart, T. F.
Driberg, T. E. N. Jay, Rt. Hon. D. P. T. Plummer, Sir Leslie
Poole, C. C. Silverman, Sydney (Nelson) Wade, D. W.
Porter, G. Simmons, C. J. (Brierley Hill) Watkins, T. E.
Price, Joseph T. (Westhoughton) Slater, J. Webb, Rt. Hon. M. (Bradford, C.)
Price, Philips (Gloucestershire, W.) Smith, Ellis (Stoke, S.) Weitzman, D.
Proctor, W. T. Smith, Norman (Nottingham, S.) Wells, Percy (Faversham)
Pryde, D. J. Snow, J. W. Wells, William (Walsall)
Pursey, Cmdr. H. Sparks, J. A. West, D. G.
Rankin, John Steele, T. White, Mrs. Eirene (E. Flint)
Reeves, J. Stewart, Michael (Fulham, E.) White, Henry (Derbyshire, N.E.)
Reid, Thomas (Swindon) Stokes, Rt. Hon. R. R. Whiteley, Rt. Hon. W.
Reid, William (Camlachie) Strauss, Rt. Hon. George (Vauxhall) Willey, Frederick (Sunderland, N.)
Rhodes, H. Swingler, S. T. Willey, Octavlus (Cleveland)
Richards, R. Sylvester, G. O. Williams, David (Neath)
Robens, Rt. Hon. A. Taylor, Bernard (Mansfield) Williams, Rev. Llywelyn (Abertillery)
Roberts, Albert (Normanton) Taylor, John (West Lothian) Williams, Ronald (Wigan)
Roberts, Goranwy (Caernarvonshire) Taylor, Rt. Hon. Robert (Morpeth) Williams, W. R. (Droylsden)
Ross, William Thomas, David (Aberdare) Williams, W. T. (Hammersmith, S.)
Royle, C. Thomas, George (Cardiff) Winterbottom, Ian (Nottingham, C.)
Schofield, S. (Barnsley) Thomas, Iorwerth (Rhondda, W.) Winterbottom, Richard (Brightside)
Shawcross, Rt. Hon. Sir Hartley Tomney, F. Wyatt, W. L.
Shinwell, Rt. Hon. E. Turner-Samuels, M. Yates, V. F.
Short, E. W. Ungoed-Thomas, Sir Lynn
Shurmer, P. L. E. Usborne, H. C. TELLERS FOR THE NOES:
Silverman, Julius (Erdington) Viant, S. P. Mr. Wilkins and Mr. Wigg.