HL Deb 05 August 1914 vol 17 cc405-10

My Lords, I rise to move that the Order of March 12, 1912, for printing and circulating Orders and Regulations made in pursuance of the National Insurance Act, 1911, be vacated; and to ask if it has been found possible to make any progress in the codification of those Regulations. I make this Motion purely as a matter of economy. Your Lordships will remember that when the Order of March 12, 1912, was passed, the Act had only recently become law, and the whole machinery for putting it into execution was being set up by means of these Regulations. Since that time the Orders and Regulations have been falling upon us in unceasing showers, Thick as autumnal leaves that strew the brooks in Vallombrosa. I cannot say that during the present session the flights have greatly diminished. I calculate that, roughly, they are still coming to us at the rate of about one a day. But they are rather of a different character now. They are partly consolidating Regulations and Orders; partly Orders passed for the purpose of carrying into effect the changes brought about by the Amending Act of last year; and partly supplementary Regulations to meet requirements which have been found to exist. I do not think that any member of your Lordships' House derives very much benefit by the receipt of them. I have consulted the noble Earl, Lord Camper-down, who moved the Order of March 12, 1912, and he is quite of the opinion that it might now be rescinded; and Lord Heneage, who takes a great interest in the working of the Act, has also written to me expressing his concurrence. The Orders are printed for the House of Commons, and I do not think any useful object is gained by their being printed for this House also and circulated with the Minutes.

I have also taken this opportunity to ask whether it has been possible to make any progress in the codification of these Regulations. I am quite aware of the magnitude of the task; in fact, a friend of mine whose duty it is to advise the Charity Organisation Society on points arising out of the Act, and who has constantly at his elbow a pile of circulars and memoranda about two feet high, has assured me that it is almost impracticable. It is, I think, clear that the changes made by the Act of 1913 must tend still further to delay the process of codification.

I should like to make some suggestions as to what might be clone in the meantime to make matters clearer to the general public. I should hope now, when the necessity for immediate decisions is less urgent, that the four Insurance Commissions might to a certain extent give up the practice of issuing the same Regulation in, to use a musical expression, fugal counterpoint, one after the other, and join together in producing a single collective Order.

Then I would suggest that something might be done to make the title pages a little less verbose and to give a distinct intimation upon them of the locality to which the Order applies, its short title, and its date, which are all that are required. Also I would venture to ask whether the enormous length of the prefatory recitals and "Whereas"'s might not be dispensed with. I am aware that these are questions of technicality, but I should have thought that for the purpose of the copies for public use abbreviations might be possible. If codification must be delayed, as I apprehend it must, for a considerable time, I would suggest that in addition to the index to the National Insurance Act of 1911 there might be an index to the Amending Act, or the two might be comprised together and an index made to the more important Regulations. Also, possibly some one might compile a handbook on the administration of the Act, similar to that now issued for the guidance of approved societies for the use of the ordinary contributor. People not infrequently ask me whether there is any document which would give servants an idea of the whole of their rights and duties under the Act, and I am obliged to reply that to the best of my knowledge there is no such document, but that they might get four or five leaflets and two or three Regulations and to that extent acquaint themselves. In my opinion it would be of great advantage if something of the kind that I have suggested were done. I beg to move.

Moved, That the Order of March 12, 1912, for printing and circulating Orders and Regulations made in pursuance of the National Insurance Act, 1911, be vacated.—(Lord, Sanderson.)


My Lords, the Notice of the noble Lord is partly a Motion and partly a Question. I will deal with the Motion first. The Government consented to the Order of March 12, 1912, in consequence of what Lord Camperdown said, and thought it highly desirable, owing to the large powers given to the Commissioners for subordinate legislation, that your Lordships should have brought to your notice all these Orders, though it entailed a great deal of expense. However, as the noble Lord has asked for the discontinuance of the circulation of these Orders and Regulations to the members of this House, and the noble Earl who obtained the original Order (Lord Camperdown) agrees to that course, the Government are perfectly ready to assent to the Motion now before the House. That of course does not mean that the members of this House will not have an opportunity of getting the Regulations, as they can be asked for, like other Regulations, on the Pink Paper.

As regards the progress that has been made in the consolidation of the Regulations and special Orders, I must remind the noble Lord that last year, in reply to a Question by him, I pointed out that we had already done something in that direction, and referred him to the volume of Statutory Rules and Orders issued in 1912. I can assure him that we have not been neglectful in this matter. As to the progress with regard to special Orders dealing with subsidiary employment, there were ten Orders and these have been reduced to one. Seven sets dealing with out-workers are now embodied in one. Therefore, as the noble Lord will see, something has been done as regards consolidation. The Commissioners, however, are not resting satisfied with that; they are still proceeding with the codification of the various Regulations which appear from time to time. I can assure the noble Lord that the Commissioners are themselves very anxious for consolidation, for it stands to reason that they are the people really who would profit the most by such consolidation.

Since the noble Lord put his Motion on the Paper he has given me private notice of Questions to which he desires answers. His first Question is as to whether it is really necessary now that the four Commissions should make identical Regulations one after another, instead of delivering them together. The answer is that Parliament decided to establish four separate Insurance Commissions so as to enable due regard to be given to variations in local conditions in the several parts of the United Kingdom, and it is not always considered expedient by all the Commissions to exercise a given power at the same time. In many cases, however, the power of making regulations is exercised either by the Joint Committee (on which all four countries are represented) alone, or by the Joint Committee jointly with the several Commissions, and in all these cases only one document is printed where regulations in identical terms are made for the whole United Kingdom.

Then the noble Lord asks whether it would be quite impossible that in the copies printed for the use of the public and the House of Commons some uniform plan of title page should be adopted and the long recitals in the preamble omitted. The noble Lord enclosed a specimen to show what he meant, and added that it would be much cheaper and a saying of trouble to all who have to refer to these papers if his suggestion were adopted. The reason for the form adopted is that the Regulations and Special Orders made under the Acts have the force of law, and must therefore be made in proper legal form. This means that the authority of the Department for the promotion of these pieces of subordinate legislation must be fully set out, both for the information of Parliament, which may veto them, and to enable any challenge of their legality in a Court of Law to be met. It is not expected that the public will ordinarily obtain their information as to the Act by a direct study of these legal documents. Explanatory circulars have been issued in regard to many of them; and the Insurance Commissioners, approved societies, and Insurance Committees, are all ready to furnish information on particular points to insured persons who desire it.

Then the noble Lord, in his next Question, says that there is an index to the Act of 1911, and he asks, Might we not have a revised index to the two Acts of 1911 and 1913; and cannot there be some index to the more important Regulations? My answer to that is that the insurance Commissioners will be glad to consider this suggestion, though they have not at present sufficient evidence showing that the index to the Act of 1911 is extensively used to justify them in incurring the expense of revising and enlarging this index to cover the Act of 1913. As regards the Regulations, the Insurance Commissioners have found that the best means of securing that they are properly understood is to issue explanatory circulars to approved societies and Insurance Committees, and it would be a matter of great difficulty to prepare an index which was so detailed as to be a satisfactory guide to those who wish to study the Regulations more closely. In the more important and lengthy Regulations there are side headings which enable any particular paragraph of the Regulations to be referred to without the necessity of reading the whole of the Regulations.

In his final Question the noble Lord says there is a Handbook to the Administration of Sickness and Maternity Benefit for the use of approved societies, of which a revised edition is promised, and he asks whether it would not be possible to produce a shorter handbook for the use of contributors. The answer to that is that the handbook is intended primarily for the use of secretaries of approved societies who are personally engaged in administering sickness, disablement, and maternity benefit for insured persons. In ordinary cases insured persons can obtain sufficient information from secretaries or other officials of approved societies, and, in cases of difficulty, from the outdoor staff of the Insurance Commissioners. The information contained in the handbook is not required by individual insured persons; the information on their insurance cards and books and medical cards, combined with the information on particular points which they can obtain from their approved societies, is believed to be generally sufficient.

On Question, Motion agreed to, and the said Order vacated accordingly.

House adjourned during pleasure; and resumed by the Lord Chancellor.