HL Deb 18 July 1916 vol 22 cc745-51

Order of the Day for the Third Reading read.

Moved, That the Bill be now read 3a.—(Lord Stanmore.)

On Question, Bill read 3a.

LORD BALFOUR OF BURLEIGH had the following Amendments on the Paper—

After Clause 4, line 32, at end, insert:

Payment of Rates by Employers.

Subject to the provisions of this Act, every workman insured under this Act and the employer of any such workman shall be liable to pay the rates specified in the Third Schedule to this Act.

Page 4, Second Schedule, line 30, insert:


The following shall be the rates of contribution from workmen and employers:—

To be paid by the employer d. per week.
To be paid by the workman d. per week.

In the case of workmen of the age of twenty-one or upwards whose remuneration does not include the provision of board and lodging by their employer and the rate of whose remuneration does not exceed 4s. 6d. per working day, the following shall be the rates of contribution:—

Where the rate of remuneration exceeds 3s. 6d. but does not exceed 4s. 6d. per working day:

To be paid by the employer 4d. per week.
To be paid by the workman 1d. per week.

Where the rate of remuneration does not exceed 3s. 6d. per working day:

To be paid by the employer 5d. per week.

Provided that, in the case of a workman below the age of eighteen, 1d. shall be substituted for 2½d. as the contribution from the workman and from the employer, or where the rate of remuneration does not exceed 3s. 6d. per working day, 2d. from the employer.

The noble Lord said: As your Lordships will have seen, I have given notice of Amendments to this Bill. The Bill is rather a complicated one, and there is in it a great deal of legislation by reference. I have done my best to understand it, but if your Lordships will look at the first clause you will see what a very complicated proposal it is. The clause runs— Subject to the provisions of this Act, the provisions of the National Insurance Act, 1911, relating to unemployment insurance (including the provisions as to contributions out of moneys provided by Parliament), as amended by the National Insurance (Part II. Amendment) Act, 1914, and the National Insurance (Part II. Amendment) Act, 1915 (which provisions as so amended are hereinafter referred to as the principal Act), and the regulations made thereunder shall extend to every person, being a workman within the meaning of the principal Act… and so on. This shows what a good deal of reading you have to go through to find out what is really the object and intention and probable result of the Bill.

It seems to me that there is a danger, under the latter part of this Bill, of a very unfair burden being put upon the humblest class of workers who have been recently recruited in our munition factories, and it is to attempt to get rid of what I think is this injustice that I have given notice of the long, but I hope not very complicated, Amendment which is upon the Paper. It is not, I am bound to say, exactly in the form in which I should have wished to see it, because I should like to have included provision for some part of the necessary expense of the matters referred to being borne out of public funds; but, of course, I am precluded from doing that by the doctrine of privilege. Therefore I came to the conclusion, with those who advised me, that the only way in which the injustice of which I am afraid can be remedied is by putting a slightly larger share of the necessary expense upon the employer.

The principle of graduated unemployment contribution in accordance with the wages earned by the workers is already incorporated in the health sections of the National Insurance Act. This principle did not, I am sorry to say, find a place in the unemployment sections, presumably because hitherto those sections have applied only to a few of the better paid trades. It is because this Bill will apply to a number of poorly paid employments that I think a new departure should be taken. Broadly speaking, all those well paid employments are men's employments, but this new Bill extends the insurance contributions to a large number of, comparatively speaking, new industries, in many of which women and children are engaged at exceedingly low wages. Take one instance. I could give many more, but this is an illustration in certain leather work, including the sewing of women's shoes, carried on by home workers, the rates of wages in which are so low that the need of a Wages Board is urgent. In munition works the Ministry of Munitions has just fixed, for women and girl workers, wages from 2½d. for girls of 16 to 4d. and 4½d. for adult women, with an extra ½d. for women in danger zones. The point is this, that the charges already levied on women workers tend to lower their wages. There is the Health Insurance of 3d. per week in the case of girls of 18, up to a larger sum in the case of women. It is also customary to charge the workers a penny a week to pay for the cleaning of the workshop, and for the errand girl, and so on; and also for the silk, cotton, or thread, and so on, according to the work on which they are engaged. Some of the women who are working at these wages have other expenses to meet besides those I have mentioned. To enable them to go to work they have to pay from 2s. 6d. to 4s. a week in many cases to have their children cared for while they are at work. This sum varies with the amount of food that has to be provided, and, as your Lordships know, food and other things have risen very largely in price; and I am very much afraid that if some such provision as that of which I have given notice is not incorporated in this Bill serious injustice will be done to a very humble class of workers engaged in useful munition work.

I frankly say that in moving this Amendment at this stage of the Bill I do not feel that I have very much hope of enlisting the real knowledge of a large number of your Lordships, because unless your attention has been called to it and you have studied the Bill, as I have endeavoured to do, I am quite sure that the whole weight and importance of the matter will not easily be brought home to you. My attention was only called to the matter as late as Friday of last week, and I have had no time to go more fully into it than that lapse of time has allowed. I knew that I had to give notice of the Amendment yesterday, because by the Standing Orders of your Lordships' House an Amendment on Third Reading must be in print before it is moved. I think that this Bill, considering its importance, has been hurried through. I know, however, that it is an Emergency Bill, and I do not make a real point of that. Although I think that this Amendment hangs well together and would be just if inserted, I have hardly any hope that I shall be able to persuade the Government Office responsible for the Bill to accept it. But if they do not accept it I would like to ask this question, Cannot they devise some means whereby this obvious injustice to a very humble class of our fellow-subjects can in some way be obviated, because I am sure there is a real grievance.


Are the Amendments of the noble Lord to be taken separately?


I apologise to the House for not explaining that. The first Amendment is one referring to the liability of the workman to pay the rates specified in the Third Schedule. The second Amendment is to the Third Schedule. It was, of course, impossible to explain the first Amendment unless I explained the contents of the second; but, as a matter of course, the only actual Amendment is the first—for the insertion of the three lines after Clause 4.

Amendment moved— After Clause 4, line 32, at end, insert:

Payment of Sates by Employers.

Subject to the provisions of this Act, every workman insured under this Act and the employer of any such workman shall be liable to pay the rates specified in the Third Schedule to this Act.—(Lord Balfour of Burleigh.)


My Lords, I cannot accept this Amendment. My noble friend's object in moving the Amendment is to relieve the lower paid workpeople of the greater part or the whole of the contributions which otherwise would be deducted from their wages. This suggestion has constantly been put forward and rejected in regard to the existing insured trades. An Amendment on similar lines was put down in the other House by a Labour Member. It was not moved because it was out of order there. But subsequently reference was made to it by another Labour Member, from which I should gather that the Labour Members themselves were not entirely in agreement in regard to the desirability of having discrimination of this kind as to the workpeople who are paid at different rates. I may point out that the Amendment would set up an impracticable distinction between the present insured trades and the new trades. Workpeople getting less than 21s. or 27s. a week, as the case may be, if engaged in engineering, shipbuilding, etc., will continue to pay 2½d.; if insured under the new Bill they will pay 1d. or nothing. There will be many border-line cases in which it is very difficult to say as regards a particular workman whether he is at the moment insured under the principal Act or under the new Bill. Constant difficulties and disputes between employers and workmen will arise accordingly. Even if in all cases the demarcation question could be settled so that it was quite clear without difficulty whether a workman was insured under one Act or the other, the difference of treatment in the two cases could not be justified and would arouse resentment. The women and girls, for instance, engaged in shell turning or fuse making are insured under the principal Act (as being engaged in engineering) and would continue to pay 2½d. The girls of the same type, and getting, perhaps, the same money, engaged on shell filling or fuse filling would pay no contributions or reduced contributions.

On Question, Amendment negatived.

Moved, That the Bill do pass.—(Lord Stanmore.)


My Lords, on this Motion I should like to call your Lordships' attention to the Bill itself. It is a Bill "to extend the provisions of the National Insurance Act, 1911, relating to unemployment insurance to certain trades and employments in connection with the present war." My attention has only been directed to-day to this Bill, because it was read a second time as recently as Thursday last and is down for Third Reading this afternoon. If your Lordships will look at the Bill you will see how it proceeds. Clause 1 applies to a workman who (a) is engaged on or in connection with munitions work as defined by the Munitions of War Acts; or (b) is employed in a trade mentioned in the First Schedule of this Act. This is an Emergency Bill limited to a certain time by Clause 3, which provides that employers and workmen are only to be liable to pay contributions up to such date as the Board of Trade may by Order determine, "not being later than five years after the commencement of this Act or three years after the termination of the present war." But though this is an Emergency Bill, if your Lordships look at the trades specified in the First Schedule you will find, among others, that "saw milling, including machine woodwork and the manufacture of wooden cases," is included. To a certain extent I have no doubt that packing cases are used for ammunition and things of that kind, but the result of this provision is to include not merely the saw millers who are engaged for ammunition purposes and for the purposes of the war, but all saw millers of every kind and sort all over the kingdom.

I call your Lordships' attention to this because it is an instance of an Emergency Bill which is used for much larger purposes. It introduces certain trades which were attempted to be included before, but that attempt was then defeated. It is so with regard to the question of saw millers. I believe that the reason of this provision in the Bill is this, that there are some saw millers who are at the present time out at the war, and who, when they come back, will displace other persons who are engaged in the saw milling occupation; and therefore it is thought right that the persons who are now engaged should pay contributions and should be included under the unemployment sections in order to provide for them after they are replaced by the persons who are now abroad and who may return and resume their employment. I am bound to say that if saw millers are to be included it should be only saw millers who are engaged during the war. It is hardly fair to include saw millers who are employed all over the country. I know that this has been specially objected to by large contractors in Scotland and other places, who are engaged in timber works and employ a large number of men, who will now, under this clause, become liable to contribute under the unemployment sec- tions. I do not like to move the omission of paragraph (7) from the First Schedule, but I think it ought to be omitted in justice to all saw millers who are not employed in place of persons who are now out at the war. I submit that this Emergency Bill principle is being very largely extended and made to include all kinds of Regulations and Orders which are not emergency matters at all.


My Lords, I should like to point out to the noble Earl that the saw milling trade were selected on exactly the same principle as the six other trades in the First Schedule, and that they are doing a very large amount of war work.

On Question, Bill passed.