§ Order of the Day for the Second Reading read.
§ LORD PARMOOR
My Lords, in moving the Second Reading of this Bill I shall not seek to detain your Lordships longer than I think is necessary in order adequately to explain its underlying principle. It is important that the Bill should receive the Royal Assent not later than next Wednesday, on which date considerable numbers of unemployed persons will exhaust the unemployment benefit now payable—namely, a maximum of forty-one weeks in the first benefit year, which runs from October 18, 1923, to October 15, 1924. The Bill, if passed, will enable this benefit to be continued as from the date on which it is passed. Any interval between July 30 and the passing of the Bill would be an interval in respect of which these persons could not draw their benefit.
The Bill, on the side of the Opposition, is in the care of the noble and learned Viscount, Lord Cave, and no doubt he has noticed that it is Very difficult to deal with it in detail because of the method by which it is drafted. There have been a large number of these Unemployment Insurance Bills in recent years, each of them proposing some change which in itself was not considerable, but the result is that I have seldom read a Bill in which the principle of drafting by reference has been carried so far For that reason it is an exceedingly difficult Bill to interpret. I wish myself that the draftsman had taken a different line and introduced a few more words. Bearing in mind that there is a reference to all the various 1007 preceding Acts it is almost impossible to understand the provisions of this measure unless you have a law library.
I do not intend to go into all the details of this Bill, although I am prepared to answer any questions which my noble and learned friend may desire to ask. I can explain in a comparatively short time its main principles. It may not be quite logical, but I must refer first to the provisions in Clause 2—I will take later on the provisions in Clause 1. The reason why I take Clause 2 first is that it contains the principal provisions as regards rates of benefit; duration of benefit is dealt with in Clause 1. If your Lordships will look at Part II of the First Schedule, which is referred to in Clause 2, you will see set out in convenient form the rates of benefit under the Bill. You will see that the man is to have 18s. per week benefit, whereas his existing rate is 15s.; that the woman is to have 15s., whereas her present rate is 12s.; and that there is no difference in the rate payable to boys and girls, the 7s. 6d. and the 6s. respectively which you see in the First Schedule of the Bill being the same rates as those which are payable at the present time There is another provision, which appears in a clause of the Bill itself and not in the schedule, regarding payment for each young dependent child. At the present time the payment is 1s., and it is proposed that this should be increased to 2s.
Perhaps the way in which I can bring this matter most easily to your Lordships' mind is by giving an illustration. The illustration which I will give is that of a man with a wife and two children. That is a good number in a family by which to test the real effect of the financial provisions of this Rill. Under the existing law the man would have 15s. per week, the wife would have 5s.—I dare say the noble Viscount has the schedule before him—and each child would have Is., making 22s. in all for the family. Under the rates in the proposed Bill the man would have 18s., the wife would have 5s. as before and each dependent child would have 2s., making an aggregate of 27s., as against the 22s. payable at the present time. I think that this is a very fair illustration of the increased advantages which are given under this Bill to people who benefit by unemployment insurance.
1008 When this principle of insurance was first instituted, under Part II of the National Insurance Act, 1911, the rate of benefit for both men and women was only 7s. a week, the rate being halved for persons between the ages of 16 and 18, who are denominated boys and girls in the schedule to which I have referred your Lordships. The benefit was increased to 11s. per week from December, 1919, and it remained at that figure until the passage of the Unemployment Insurance Act, 1920, which made the rate 15s. for men and 12s. for women, as it is at the present time, although it has been altered, as I shall show in a moment, between those dates. Allowances for wives and children were first added in the autumn of 1921. Originally this was a temporary measure, intended to last six months, but it has been continued up to the present time and may be regarded as a permanent charge. Meanwhile, in March, 1921, when prices were exceptionally high, the ordinary rates of benefit were increased to £l for men and 16s. for women, but they were later reduced to the 15s. and 12s., the amounts payable at the present time. I think I have explained to your Lordships the proposed increase under this Bill. It is no doubt a substantial increase, amounting in the case of the family which I took as a test to 5s. a week. I think that this explains the Bill so far as the actual payments are concerned.
I now turn to Clause 1. Perhaps I ought logically to have taken it first. This clause raises matters of first-class importance regarding the duration and period of the benefit. Again I will try to explain the matter to your Lordships by stating present conditions and comparing them with the changes introduced in the Bill. First of all, all arbitrary time limits, as such, have been eliminated by this Bill—the condition, for example, that there shall be no payment after forty-one weeks, or some other period. The Bill does away with the whole system under which gaps arise through which a man who is still unemployed is no longer entitled to his unemployment insurance. That system has been eliminated, I think, in substance and in truth by this Bill, and if your Lordships will look at paragraphs (a), (b), (c) and (d) of subsection (3) of Clause 1 you will see what conditions are proposed.
1009 A man has to show
And finally—and this I regard as the real safeguard—
- "(a), that he is normally employed in such employment as would make him an employed person ߪ
- "(b), that in normal times insurable employment suited to his capacities would be likely to be available for him;
- "(c), that he has during the two years immediately preceding the date of the application for benefit been employed in an insurable employment …"(d) that he is making every reasonable effort to obtain employment suited to his capacities and is willing to accept such employment.That is to say, if a man, being an insurable person, is genuinely seeking for and desiring employment, and is not able to obtain it, he is allowed to continue, his benefit.
A limitation is imposed, however, in paragraph (i) of the amended form of subsection (1) of Section 7 of the principal Act, to the effect that he must provethat not less than thirty contributions have been paid in respect of him under this Act since the beginning of the first of the two insurance years next before the beginning of the benefit year in which the application for benefit is made.That is a substantive statutory requirement, and he has to fulfil the conditions set out in order to entitle himself to any benefit at all. But with that limitation, if it is properly so described, it really comes to this, that, if he is a worker in insurable employment and is genuinely seeking work, he is not to be deprived of his unemployment benefit.
I must here call your Lordships' attention to a very crucial matter which arises under Part I of the First Schedule. I think your Lordships ought to realise the great importance of a provision which, I think, was put in during the Report stage in another place. At any rate, it was inserted at a late date, and is enormously important in relation to the financial aspect of the Bill. The words to which I am referring are as follows:Benefit shall be payable in respect of each week after the first three days of a continuous period of unemployment.As the Bill was originally framed, no payment was made until after the first week of a continuous period of unemployment, and I was certainly startled when I heard the effect of this alteration.
1010 The effect of the reduction from a week to three days places on the Insurance Fund an estimated demand per year of no less than £4,500.000—a very large sum indeed. I may add that, in respect of this additional large charge, the well-known Government actuary, Sir Arthur Watson, has considered this Bill in all the various conditions which attach to its present possibilities. If the Bill had been left in its original form it was expected that in July, 1926, I think, the whole of the debt due from the Insurance Fund to the Treasury, which is still about £6,000,000 and has at one time been very much larger, would have been paid off, and when it had been paid off a new scheme would have come into operation under which the contributions from employer and employee would have been very much reduced. I will give your Lordships the scale of reduction in a moment. The obvious result of this additional charge is to postpone any reduction of that kind. It is not expected that there will be any difficulty in the Fund providing the amount, but the, surplus which would have been available for repayment of the Treasury advance: will, of course, be much less than it would have been otherwise.
I may say that as regard the actuarial calculations there are, of course, elements of uncertainty which, as the Government actuary points out, it is impossible really to foresee. You cannot calculate all these matters on any very nice actuarial basis, but these calculations are based upon the expectation that within, I think, a year the number of unemployed will be reduced to a million, and that permanently you will have, unless industrial conditions alter, 800,000 unemployed to provide for from year to year in the future. Of course, if these conditions are falsified, and the number of 800,000 becomes very much less, as many people hope it will, the Fund will be in a very much stronger financial position, and the payment off will be much quicker, whereas if unemployment increases you will have financial difficulty. The financial deficit arose shortly after the war when the stress of unemployment was very great indeed. Of course, this is a matter which an actuary can only calculate upon the basis supplied to him, and I have told your Lordships what the 1011 basis supplied to him was. I have all the statistics here, but I do not think I need go through all the various changes.
In the old days there were various provisions, that an unemployed worker could not get the benefit of his insurance except for a certain number of weeks in the year—twenty-six in the first instance and then forty-one—and unless within the immediately preceding year, or whatever the time was, he had provided a certain number of contributions to the fund. All these conditions are superseded by the terms of the present Bill. As I have stated, the proposal is that as long as he is in insurable employment, and genuinely desirous of obtaining work, and has complied with the conditions of Clause 3, subsection (1), he will obtain the benefit. There is no gap provision or anything of that kind.
The next important matter that I want to refer to is that of the rates of contribution; that is to say, the payments made by the employer and employed, because the rates are a very important matter in a scheme of this kind. The rates proposed in the Bill, in the first instance, will be the same as at the present time. In the case of a man, the employer pays l0d., the employed 9d. and the Exchequer 6¾d. In the case of a woman the employer pays 8d., the employed 7d. and the Exchequer 5⅞d. Until this debt to the Exchequer has been paid off those rates will be continued, because, of course, to diminish them would diminish the power of paying off the debt to the Treasury of the sum they advanced when the conditions of employment were exceedingly poor. When that period comes to an end there will be a very large reduction of the contribution both by the employer and the employed. The proposed reduction will be, in the case of men, employer 6d. as against 10d. and employed 6d. as against 9d. But the Exchequer will pay more than it does at the present time. Practically, I believe, it will pay about double. That is a matter which is again proceeding upon actuarial calculation, and the calculation is that if those payments are made the Fund will be perfectly solvent. I think I was right in the date I gave, but I see that as the Bill was originally framed what is called the "deficiency period," that is, until the Treasury is paid off, would come to an end in June, 1926.
1012 Now there is a matter which was considerably discussed in the other place. Clause 4 deals with the question of strikes. That is always an important matter in unemployment insurance. At the present time, supposing a strike takes place, whichever party is in fault, even if a man who otherwise would have unemployment insurance is merely engaged in some supplementary trade which is disarranged because persons in the principal portion of the trade are on strike, he is disentitled to unemployment insurance benefit. Given a strike, it does not matter how it originated, he cannot have insurance benefit. That was felt to be hard, and I should like to read the actual provisions of Clause 4, subsection (1), which is intended to deal with the matter. The principle of it is that if a man is in any way responsible for a strike he is not to have payment, but that if the strike is entirely independent of his action, and if he has no control over it, then payment is to be allowed.
I cannot say that I think the drafting is model drafting, but you will find that the provision in Clause 4, subsection (1), is as follows:—Subsection (1) of Section eight of the principal Act (which imposes a disqualification for the receipt of benefit during a stoppage of work) shall not apply in any case in which the insured contributor proves that he is not participating in or financing or directly interested in the trade dispute which caused the stoppage of work, and that he does not belong to a grade or class of workers members of which are participating in or financing or directly interested in the dispute, or that the stoppage is due to an employer acting in a manner so as to contravene the terms or provisions of any agreement existing between a group of employers where the stoppage takes place, or of a national agreement to cither of which the employers and employees are contracting parties.If your Lordships look at the discussions which took place in another place you will find that, naturally enough, there was considerable discussion upon this clause, but I think the principle is clear enough—namely, that if a man is neither directly nor indirectly, nor in any way, himself responsible he shall not suffer. You may take a case like that of a strike in the electric light industry, which stops the power in a factory, and throws the men in that factory out of work. That is no fault of theirs; they want to go on with their work. If the stoppage is caused by a strike of that kind, quite outside their 1013 control, they are still to be entitled to draw unemployment insurance pay.
The next clause to which I want to call attention is Clause 8. The noble and learned Viscount (Lord Cave), who knows about the construction of Acts of Parliament, will sympathise with me when I say that the marginal note to this clause is wholly inaccurate, as it often is. The side-note is "Abolition of power to make special schemes." It is not the abolition, it is the suspension of that power.
§ LORD PARMOOR
Very likely, but the worst of it is that you often find that when an Amendment of a clause is made the side-note is forgotten, and that is why, from a legal point of view, the side-notes are never referred to. Still, it is rather embarrassing. In the present case I know it caused me a great deal of reading in order to try to reconcile the side-note with the clause, until I was told that the side-note was wrong. The reason why you do not want special schemes is this, that some industries have far fewer unemployed than others. The workmen in the better and more established industries really have to contribute, under insurance of this kind, for the benefit of their less fortunate fellow-workers in other industries. Therefore, the general principle of an insurance is that you must take the good and the bad together. But this is not of very much importance, and, as a matter of fact, there are only two industries in which there are special schemes at the present time. They are banking and insurance. It is pretty obvious that neither banking nor insurance is likely to lead to any special amount of unemployment, and they have special schemes of their own. The conditions of their employment allow them to be exceedingly well off. The provision of the Bill is for the suspension of these special schemes under certain conditions. No real change is made, because I believe the suspension is allowed, and is going on, at the present time. Personally, I am very glad that the clause does not provide for the abolition of these schemes. I can understand the suspension of them, but I think it would be more difficult to justify abolition.
There is a question involved in this, to which I may refer. It has been suggested that you should have insurance, 1014 not of a general character, but by industries. Insurance by industries gives the more fortunate industries a smaller amount of unemployment insurance, and therefore they could get that insurance on easier terms. But I am told that the employers are universally opposed to insurance by industry, and that, as regards the trade unionists, no doubt there are some differences of opinion, but the majority are in favour, not of insurance by industries, but of the general principle which is embraced in the present Bill. At any rate, I do not think there would be any question of altering that; there could not be without altering the whole Bill, and introducing some different principle.
The next point is raised by Clause 9. At the present time insured people, when they reach the age of sixty, are entitled to certain refunds. The proposal is that in future these refunds shall cease, but at the same time a provision is made for compensation for every person who, under existing conditions, is entitled to expect the advantage of a refund at the age of sixty. What the Government actuary said was that up to the age of fifty the value of a refund is practically nil; it begins at fifty, and the nearer a man gets to 60 the greater is the value of his refund, and he is to have a full refund and the value of his interest calculated on an actuarial basis. I think everyone will agree that that is right. It is an established expectation, which, after all, is the real basis of proprietary claims, and if the established expectation is interfered with the man is to be entitled to have corresponding compensation.
Clause 10 is an amendment as to the forces of the Crown, which includes those forces under certain advantages and privileges in which they are not included at the present time. In Clause 11 it is found convenient to extend the time for recovery of certain payments from six months to twelve. Under the ordinary Summary Jurisdiction Acts you can only recover for six months, but it would be an advantage to extend the time to twelve months. Then there is a provision for persons employed on night work. It is not a, special employment provision. It is provided that if a man's work begins at eleven o'clock at night and goes on till five o'clock in the morning he cannot calculate the two days, but only one day 1015 or the other. I think I have indicated now all the matters that need to be referred to on the Second Reading of a Bill of this kind. I shall have an opportunity of answering any questions which may be asked. I beg to move.
§ Moved, That the Bill be now read 2a.—(Lord Parmoor.)
§ VISCOUNT CAVE
My Lords, I quite agree with the reason given by the noble Lord for not spending too much time upon the various stages of this Bill. It is true, as he says, that there are good reasons for desiring that the Bill should become law by the end of this month if its principles are approved by Parliament. I also recognise that the time is rather late, and therefore I will shorten the observations which I had intended to make. But the Bill is of real importance, and I do not think it would be right to allow it to pass Second Beading without making some examination of what it proposes to do. I entirely agree with the noble Lord that the form of the Bill makes it extremely difficult for most people to understand what its effect will be. The Bill is a conspicuous example of that, against which we have all been protesting throughout our Parliamentary lives—that is, legislation by reference. I will only express the hope that, after the passing of this Bill, an early attempt will be made to consolidate once more all these Acts dealing with unemployment insurance, so that anybody who takes up the Act will be able to see where he stands.
The Act of 1920, the last complete Act, was founded, as your Lordships know, on the contributory principle; that is to say, certain contributions were paid in respect of each man who was in employment, partly by the man, partly by his employer and partly by the State. Out of the fund so formed certain benefits were paid in strict proportion to the contributions which had been made. That was real unemployment insurance and I think it was a valuable, and should be a permanent, part of our industrial system. But since 1920 there has been a very important departure from that principle owing to the amount of unemployment which, I do not doubt, indeed, I know, has been abnormal from the latter half of 1920 down to the present time. It was found that if you adhered closely 1016 to the insurance principle there must be many hundreds of thousands of men who had exhausted their right to benefit and were still out of employment. So the principle has grown up with which most of us are now only too familiar—the principle of uncovenanted benefit; that is to say, benefit beyond that for which a man had actually paid by his premiums.
The result of that system has been, first, that the contributions of those who are at work and of their employers have been greatly increased and have grown, as the noble and learned Lord pointed out, from I think it was 2½d in the original Act to 10d. a week in respect of every man at work. There has also been the result that the Fund has got into debt to the Treasury. From having been at one time in credit to an amount of over £20,000,000 it fell heavily in debt to the Treasury; although I am glad to say that the debt has now been reduced to something between £6.000,000 and £7.000,000. I do not complain of that system as an emergency measure. I have long since made up my mind that you had to come to the assistance of these men and you could not at short notice interrupt the system, however open to objection in itself, of uncovenanted benefit. Indeed, I have been impressed by the patience of those who contribute to the Fund, under the constant increase of their contributions and by the elasticity of the Fund itself and its capacity to recover its position and gradually to pay off its debt.
I want to say that uncovenanted benefit is an anomaly and a danger. I believe that every man who has taken an interest in this matter hopes that at the earliest possible date we shall be able, first, to restore the Fund to solvency; secondly, to reduce the contributions of workers, employers and the State to a reasonable amount; and, thirdly, to put an end to the system of uncovenanted benefit which has a bad and a deleterious effect upon the workers themselves. Therefore, I think we should jealously watch every proposal which involves the continuance and extension of the system to which I have referred. I am not now going into the past. I do not want to consider once more the Acts passed by the present Government or the administrative changes which they have made during the 1017 past six months, except to say that they have already seriously postponed the end of the deficiency period.
Now comes this Bill which, as I understand it, proposes three things in the main. First, it proposes to increase the amount of weekly benefit to a man out of work; secondly, to extend the periods during which that benefit is to be paid; and, thirdly, to make the benefit a matter no longer for the discretion of the Minister in cases where the man has got beyond his covenanted rights, hut a right which the man is entitled to receive. In regard to the increase of amount, I doubt whether your Lordships will think it your duty to criticise what is proposed. We are told upon authority that the amount of benefit now allowed is not sufficient for the maintenance of those out of employment and that it ought to be increased. There is, of course, a danger in that, because the nearer you bring unemployment benefit to the level of low wages for work the greater is the danger of encouraging people to receive their benefit and not to look for work.
If you carry that process too far, it is plain that you will get to the system which some people desire of what is called "work or maintenance" for all. Many of them feel little anxiety as to whether a man shall work or shall receive maintenance. If you go too far in that direction we may easily get back to the position of things before 1834, and we may put the country into a position of very serious danger industrially. Still, we are told that the amount is insufficient. If that case is made I think this House is the last place where there would be a desire to reduce a benefit of this character below the sum which is reasonable and right. But while I say that as to the amount, I feel convinced that we ought to maintain the principle that this uncovenanted benefit should be regarded, not as a permanent part of our law but as an exceptional and a temporary expedient, and that we should treat it not as a right but as a concession by the other workers who are at work and upon whose earnings, as well as upon the earnings of their employers, persons in receipt of this benefit are actually living. We should not allow the system to become entrenched as a permanent part of the law but should take care that it 1018 shall not be an element in our final industrial system.
I have made these general observations, which I do not mean to extend at this time, with a view to leading up to one criticism upon the form of this Bill which, I hope, will be fully considered when we come to the Committee Stage. I take, for instance, subsection (3) of Clause I of the Bill, where your Lordships will find that in the case of a man of the class to which I have been referring, it is provided that he—that is, such a man—shall be entitled to receive benefit if he fulfils certain conditions. The conditions to which the noble and learned Lord referred are set out in paragraphs (a), (b), (c), and (d), of subsection (3) and are, of course, not new conditions. They are old and well known conditions, but what is new is that while the existing Act gives the Minister a discretion to allow or not allow a benefit in a suitable case—a discretion with regard to which ho is, of course, advised by the local committees—this Bill turns that discretion into a right, and gives the workman a right to receive uncovenanted benefit. I think that is a dangerous change. It may be that, in practice, for a time there will not be much difference, because the discretion is so constantly exercised in favour of the claimant that for practical purposes it comes to be looked upon as a right, but there are cases where there ought to be no such right. There are cases where the discretion is, and will increasingly be, really useful, and I hope your Lordships, when we get into Committee, will consider whether you should not accept an Amendment to that clause which will make that point clear.
I want to refer next to Clause 4 of the Bill, to which the noble Lord also referred. This is a clause relating to disqualification in case of a strike. I agree that the wording is not a very happy one, but I am not going to criticise the wording to-day. What I want to do is to refer to something which I think is a real omission from the clause. No provision is made for the case where a man is a member of a trade union which is itself, or through some confederation of unions to which it belongs, promoting and supporting a strike. It is not fair to the employer that this Fund, which is partly built up by his contributions, should be used to finance a strike against him. I 1019 think we ought to take the greatest care that no such possibility is left in the Bill. I say it with more confidence for this reason. If your Lordships consult the reports of discussions in another place you will find that for some time that was the view not only of the Liberal Party but of the Government in that House.
The very proposal to which I am referring was made by a distinguished member of the Liberal Party in the House of Commons, Sir John Simon. It was accepted by His Majesty's Government, but something or other intervened, and on a succeeding day both the proposer of that Amendment, and the Minister who had supported him, deserted their colours, and no such Amendment is now to be found in the Bill. I hope your Lordships will give further consideration to that point. I think it should be made clear that this danger is avoided—that a man may not be individually supporting a strike but may be a member of a union which is a body supporting a strike, and yet may receive benefit out of the fund established under these Acts. The particular details of the Amendment which ought to be made, of course I leave to a later stage.
I wish to make one other observation upon Clause 4. You have these words, which I believe were inserted on an Amendment moved by a private member, and accepted by His Majesty's Government. It is said that it will be enough for a man claiming benefit to prove that the stoppage of work "is due to an employer acting in a manner so as to contravene the terms or provisions of any agreement existing between a group of employers where the stoppage takes place, or of a national agreement to either of which the employers and employees are contracting parties."
We all of us know how often the allegation is made on one side and the other that some sectional or national agreement is being broken, and how very difficult it is to be quite sure as to the rights in a matter such as that. We have recently seen an inquiry conducted by a distinguished member of this House, and I believe that even he and his able colleagues who were associated with him found it difficult, if not impossible, to be quite sure whether a particular agreement had been made, and whether it had 1020 been broken. But by these words you leave that difficult question to be determined by the manager of a local employment exchange, because when a man applies at the exchange for his benefit it will be for the manager of that exchange—very competent men most of them, but certainly not accustomed to decide points of that importance—to say whether there has been a breach of a national agreement, and whether, therefore, the man is entitled to his benefit. I think that is an unworkable amendment, and may lead to serious trouble, and that those words also may require consideration at a later stage of the Bill.
I am not going through the other clauses. With regard to Clause 8 I heard with interest the noble Lord say that be thought that it was a good thing that the power to approve special schemes had not been abolished, but had been suspended. If so, he must be grateful to members of my Party for carrying that Amendment in the face of the opposition of his colleagues in another place. The clause, as it stood, really was the negation of that which many people have desired—that is to say, insurance by industries. The Amendment, at all events, postpones that question so that it may be reconsidered at a future date. With regard to Clause 9 as to refunds, I venture to agree with what he said. I think the clause is a useful one.
There is only one other point, but it is one of importance, to which I would direct your Lordships' attention, and that is the question of finance. We all know that during the deficiency period the contributions are to be kept up to their present level, and that at the end of the deficiency period, not under this Bill, but under the existing legislation, the man's contribution is to be reduced to 6d., and the employer's to 6d., and this Bill proposes that the State contribution, instead of being one quarter, shall be half of the aggregate of the other two. So that if it goes through you will have 6d., 6d and 6d. as the three contributions. That, of course, will be a tremendous benefit to the workers as compared with the present condition of things.
But I notice this. The Government Actuary, whose ability we all recognise, having made one report, was asked to make a further report as to the effect of this Bill upon the finance of the unemployment scheme. He went into the matter 1021 very carefully, and he reported in this way:I estmate that the net annual income after the end of the deficiency period will be £30,600,000 and that the annual expenditure on benefits, after allowing for the extension of dependants benefit in respect of unmarried persons will be £30,500,000. The estimated margin is, therefore, only £100,000 a year, and on the basis above described this sum is all that is available for contingencies and to meet such liabilities as may he involved in the proposals discussed in the succeeding paragraphs.Then he deals with the continuity rule, and with the strike clause, and he finds, it impossible to give an estimate of the cost of these two things. He leaves them to be covered, if they can, by this margin of only £100,000. Since that report His Majesty's Government has accepted, as the noble Lord opposite mentioned, an amendment to the Bill, the effect of which is to reduce the waiting period to three days and to cast upon the fund an estimated annual additional cost of £4,500,000. I should like to know how you are going to get £4,500,000 a year, besides other sums, out of £100,000. The Lord President was under a misapprehension. He told your Lordships that while this might postpone the end of the deficiency period yet, at the end of that period, the income of the Fund would be sufficient to meet all its liabilities.
§ VISCOUNT CAVE
I know he thought so, but he is mistaken: and if he will look at this report he will find that the acceptance of that amendment will make the Fund insolvent by £4,500.000 a year. That is a serious thing. The whole success of the scheme depends on the solvency of the Fund, and if there is any doubt about it being sufficient to pay the claims upon it then surely the whole finance of the matter should be reconsidered and we should be told exactly where we stand. I will add this, that this circumstance, as well as the repeated postponement of the end of the deficiency period, militates strongly against what many of us have at heart—namely, the setting up of a scheme of all- round general insurance, the principle of which is accepted by all Parties and which most of us would gladly see in operation. I have covered as much of the ground as I can in the short time at my 1022 disposal. My friends and I have no intention of opposing the Second Reading of the Bill, but we hold the view that the points I have mentioned, and possibly others, will require careful consideration at a later stage.
§ EARL BUXTON
My Lords, this is the principal measure dealing with unemployment that the Government have introduced since they have been in office, and I think they are treating your Lordships very badly. The Lord President has told us that this Bill is urgent and must be passed by next Wednesday. Surely it is very unfair to this House and to members who take an interest in this question that the Government should so mismanage their business in the House of Commons that this Bill comes up at this late period in the Session, is put down for a day on which the other business is considerable, and when we meet an hour earlier in order that more time should be available for consideration of this matter, the Lord President himself consumes one and throe quarters hours of the time of this House? I think that is treating your Lordships rather badly.
The Lord President, in my opinion, is very sanguine. I gather that the noble and learned Viscount is going to move one or two Amendments to which he has referred They are vital to the Bill and will lead, undoubtedly, to a difficulty between the two Houses which may last some time. I may say at once that so far as the points he mentioned are concerned I am more in favour of the Bill; but they are all matters of great importance and require careful consideration. If the noble and learned Viscount presses them, of course, he will amend the Bill. I only rose for the purpose of saying this, that to bring in a Bill in this way and not give us longer time for consideration is treating this House very badly. I should like to have said something on the important questions which the noble and learned Viscount has raised. It is futile to do so at this time of the evening, however, and I shall therefore reserve my right to speak on them on the Motion to go into Committee. I claim to have a right to speak on this Bill as I was the author of the original Act of 1911, upon which the whole measure is founded.
§ LORD ASKWITH
My Lords, I only desire to give notice of the points I desire to raise in Committee; it is impossible to 1023 do more owing to the speed with which the Bill is being rushed through. My first point is in Clause 4 with reference to an "employer acting in a manner so as to contravene the terms or provisions of any agreement." The clause as it is drafted is quite incomprehensible. It-seems to have been rushed through the House of Commons with practically no discussion at all. It does not say whether the employer is to belong to a group of employers. From my experience of several disputes in which the allegation of broken agreements has been made this clause as it is drafted would not work. For instance, the transport strike of 1912 was due to some alleged breach of an agreement between the watermen and their employers, and then the struggle was transferred because one carter left his association and proceeded to pay less wages than the Carters Association paid. Under this clause as it is drafted those people would have been receiving unemployment pay. That cannot he said to be reasonable. I think this clause was put in because there was some alleged breach of an agreement in some of the mining industries, which is quite a different thing to an agreement in respect of many other industries, and because there was some suggestion that Messrs. Vickers and Son are leaving the Engineers Association and are proposing to reduce some of their salaries and wages. I propose to put down an Amendment to leave out that part of the clause.
The only other point is in Clause 8. I am very glad that this Clause has been left in. The Lord President said that the employers were universally against insurance by industry and that there was very little support for it among the unions. My information is that, although there was a report by certain employers against insurance by industries, yet that recently a considerable number of employers have been looking into this matter, that some of the great unions are keen about it, and that it has only been held back for further investigation. It 1024 is suspended during the deficiency of the Insurance Fund and this will allow the further investigation as to how far insurance by industries or by special employment might be available as a cheaper and better method, and as a method which will bring employers and employed more together, rather than being kept apart by officials and State interference.
§ On Question, Bill read 2a, and committed to a Committee of the Whole House.