§ Order of the Day read for the consideration of Commons Reasons for disagreeing to certain Amendments made by the Lords.
§ THE LORD PRESIDENT OF THE COUNCIL (LORD PARMOOR)
My Lords, I rise to move that the Commons Reasons for disagreeing to certain of the Lords Amendments be now considered. But before the Motion is put to the House I think there are one or two words which I could conveniently say at this stage, and there will be no need to repeat them.
§ LORD PARMOOR
I am glad to hear what the noble Marquess says, because I am sure that a, few words of explanation are right at this stage, and I hope they will clear up a few of the points between the two sides of the House. I see myself no reason whatever for what I call the somewhat excited statements, which involve the word "crisis," in connection with the attitude of this House in seeking to amend the Unemployment Insurance (No. 2) Bill, which came to us from the other place. I think the words "record" and "crisis" are perhaps too often used in our public discussions at the present time.
Speaking not merely as the Leader of a Party in the House, but as the Leader of the House for the time being, I should like to say that it is no doubt within the competence and power of this House to make suggestions for changes in Bills sent up to us for our consideration. I will mention in a moment the limitations to any general statement of that kind, but it is perfectly legitimate, so far as we exercise the responsibility—and a very real responsibility—of a revising 380 Chamber. But when Amendments have been ruled by the Speaker of the House of Commons to be Privilege Amendments and no step has been taken for waiving that Privilege—in other words the Privilege has not been waived—and when the Amendments ruled to be Privilege Amendments have been rejected by large majorities after full discussion in the House in which the Bill has originated, then other and further considerations arise. The serious question of Privilege which has not been waived does emerge in the present instance. A somewhat similar question arose on the Widows' Pensions Bill in the autumn. But I wish to say now—I might forget it at a later stage—that I can find no case, no precedent for a Privilege Amendment being insisted upon by this House where the particular Amendment has been so ruled by the Speaker of the other House and Privilege has not been waived.
The Leader of the Opposition on that occasion—that is, in the case of the Widows' Pensions Bill—did not after discussion suggest that this House should insist upon its Amendments. And the Reasons put forward by the House of Commons in that case are substantially the same as the Reasons put forward at the present time and in the present case. The words are not, I think, exactly the same but they appear to me to have the same meaning and intention. They are these—The Commons disagree to the above Amendments for the following Reason:Because they affect the charge on public funds, and the Commons consider it unnecessary to offer any further Reason, hoping that the above Reason may be deemed sufficient.That is what I call, in other words, a claim of Privilege. In the present case, in addition to the question of Privilege, which I regard as a matter of primary and, perhaps, of decisive importance, the Amendments which were inserted by your Lordships have been fully discussed. There was a long discussion in the other place and they were rejected by large majorities. It was not the case of a discussion rushed into at some late evening meeting. There was a very full discussion and the Amendments were in every instance vetoed by about two to one.
The Leader of the Opposition, Lord Salisbury, described the attitude in the 381 case we are now discussing as an effort to assert once more its grave apprehensions at the want of principle under which the Government had acted in throwing extra burdens on the taxpayers. I do not desire to underrate the importance of this consideration. But it is a consideration which by constitutional practice and Statute has been committed to the final decision of the other House. As regards the dignity of this House, I think our dignity consists in not seeking to override the constitutional practice or Statute, but to do what we can, within our powers, to improve legislative measures.
There are two Amendments of importance and I should like to say a word or two on each, because then it will not be necessary for me to speak again except formally to move that we do not insist on the Lords Amendments to which the Commons have disagreed. The first turns upon the conditions of disability which would deprive an unemployed person of insurance benefit. I do not know whether that is quite clear. I mean the conditions which, if found to be operative, would deprive a person otherwise entitled to unemployment insurance of his insurance benefit. This matter has been fully discussed, and in this connection I would like to recall the words which the noble Marquess used on another occasion as to whether anything fresh or useful could be added. There are, however, two considerations if the primary object of the Bill is to regulate the conditions of conferring the benefit of insurance. We must all agree to that statement.
Without going into the vexed question of what is called "onus"—I think agree with what the noble and learned Viscount, Lord Sumner, said on that—this primary position has to be maintained, that is the prima facie right to the benefit has to be confirmed unless a condition of disability is proved. Secondly, I am not impressed with the weight which your Lordships have desired to give to the terms of disability to be found in the rules of various trade unions. There is a vast difference between allotting benefits amongst the trade union partners and a general provision which is statutory and compulsory, embracing all workers—many millions, I have seen the numbers stated—whether members of trade unions or not, and whose employment is subject to a wide 382 field of different conditions. I do not intend to re-argue the point. I will not go further than to state that in my opinion no concession under this head should be pressed by your Lordships, and certainly no such concession—I have stated this before—can be accepted by the Government. The negative must be quite clear. I do not see that you can make a negative too strong, but I may use the expression and emphasise it.
On the other material Amendment—the time limitation—I make the same answer to your Lordships. Privilege was not waived in that case. Privilege was ruled by the Speaker of the House of Commons, whose decision is final. Therefore the same objection to this House insisting upon an Amendment which is now ruled to be a Privilege Amendment and on which Privilege has not been waived operates in the question of the time limitation as it operated in connection with Clause 4. The actual time limit inserted could not be made consistent with effective administration. Your Lordships may take it that after considerable inquiry I must lay that down as the considered opinion of the official administration of a Bill of this kind.]3ut apart from this, the Government are well advised not to place in a temporary form a scheme of insurance which affects several million workers, who, on such a question, should be given the ordinary guarantees of permanency and security. Such guarantees are an essential factor in social legislation and for industrial stability. This is the proper business outlook on a matter of this kind. Of the wider question of the guardianship of public resources, I must emphasise that this is a matter for the Chancellor of the Exchequer in another House; and also that there has been a discussion in another place, and the question of Privilege has been raised and decided in favour of the other House. I suggest that that should be the deciding factor here. I desire to make that short statement on consideration, because when we come to the actual Amendments it will be sufficient to state them and take a formal attitude. I beg to move.
§ Moved, That the Commons Reasons for disagreeing to certain of the Lords Amendments be now considered.—(Lord Parmoor.)383
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
My Lords, I think that the noble and learned Lord has pursued a convenient course in raising the question of the proper treatment of this Bill upon the preliminary Motion for which he has made himself responsible. That appears to be a convenient course, because it will enable your Lordships to discuss the situation as a whole, and translate into action the convictions which emerge from that discussion later on when we take each Amendment separately. The situation in which your Lordships find yourselves placed is that so far as the efforts and actions of the great body of your Lordships sitting in this House are concerned the Government in another place have rejected all the Lords Amendments. There is an Amendment no doubt of a substantial character, but not of great importance, moved by my noble friend Lord Fairfax, which the Government have accepted in another place—so at least I understand—but with that comparatively unimportant exception all the Amendments of importance have been rejected by the Government. The noble and learned Lord who leads the House—may I say who leads the House of Lords, for I am not sure you would have judged that from the line he took just now—
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
Oh, the noble and learned Lord has often said so. I was thinking of his actions, not his words. The noble and learned Lord seemed to think that the complete function of your Lordships' House consisted in recommending Amendments, and nothing more than recommending Amendments, to Parliament and to those who sit in another place. Of course we treat, as we are bound to treat, everything which passes in another place with the deepest respect. It would indeed ill become those who profess Conservative opinions to be otherwise than profoundly regardful and respectful of that greatest of institutions, the British House of Commons. I make that full admission. But it is going a great deal too far to say that your Lordships who, fundamentally, have co-ordinating jurisdiction with the House of Commons, at any rate in theory, are confined to the mere function of recommendation.
§ LORD PARMOOR
I do not want to be misunderstood. I really did not say that. I gave full weight to the position of the House of Lords, but then I went on to these particular Amendments.
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
If the noble and learned Lord says he did not say so, or if he wishes to withdraw it—
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
I welcome it. It only shows that there is no noble Lord sitting in any part of the House who does not know in his heart that our functions are much more than those of merely recommending. Our functions, of course, are much more important than that. We are a revising Chamber and our business is not merely to make suggestions but to make revisions. It is not our fault. It has often seemed to be thought by certain critics of your Lordships' House that we are greatly to blame for the action we take. We are here, many of us, not by our own action at all. We are here by hereditary right, it may be, or by the favour of the Sovereign. We are put here as trustees to see that this business of revision is properly carried out, and the idea that threats held out to us as to what may possibly happen ought to have any weight with us in our conduct as trustees is really, if I may say so, a very unbecoming estimate of what are the functions of trustees. So long, my Lords, as we remain here we must do our work.
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
I say that quite sincerely. I do not say that the constitution of your Lordships' House is ideal. We have done our very best, many of us, to modify the constitution of this House. I want to do it still. I want the assistance, if possible, of noble Lords opposite in reforming the constitution of your Lordships' House. But that has been refused to us over and over again by the House of Commons. We are, therefore, forced to remain as we are. What else can we do except our duty? What else can we do except fulfil the function which as trustees we are bound to perform? I say we have nothing whatever to be ashamed of.
385 I turn now to the matter immediately before us. Not only have our Amendments been rejected in another place but, if I may use the word in reference not to the institution of the House of Commons but to the individuals who compose it, they have been rejected in a very perfunctory manner. As far as I have been able to learn hardly any argument was used by the members of the Government in another place for the action which they have taken. I know that it has been represented—and I feel it—that the House of Lords desire to persecute the unemployed. That is not a phrase in the mouth of a Minister, but it is in the mouth of another member of the majority in another place, or at any rate it is represented as being their view. We have no desire to persecute the unemployed. The whole conception of your Lordships and your temperament and your experience are absolutely antipathetic to that idea. We are not different from any other Englishmen. We have the same ideas, the same thoughts, the same feelings and the same sympathies, and we sympathise intensely with the unemployed. When I am told that we in this House know nothing of the working classes and of working class opinion I repel that suggestion. I venture to say that many of your Lordships, most of your Lordships perhaps, intimately associated with the working classes on their own estates, going amongst their own people, in and out of their labourers' cottages, know as much as, and more than, many members who abuse them in another place. There is no want of sympathy. We have intense sympathy with labour and we desire in every way we can to help the unemployed. Indeed, personally, I have no antipathy to trade unions. I have said so over and over again and I only with that in the drafting of this Bill the Government had used trade unions more than they have done and had employed the machinery which those great organisations furnish.
What is it that the noble and learned Lord relied upon in the speech which he has just made to us? He has relied entirely upon Privilege. He did say a word or two otherwise, but it was in the main Privilege. I confess that this Privilege which is pleaded always puzzles me, because you would have thought, if we had entrenched upon some sacred 386 ground of Privilege in what we have done, that the House of Commons would not have discussed our action at all. They would have said: "You have gone outside your province. We pass it by." Mr. Speaker, of course, acting most properly, as he always does, in the execution of his high office, would have said: "This is a breach of Privilege" and there would have been no more to be said, at any rate from the point of view of the House of Commons. But not at all. They discussed it, they went into the merits of the case. How is that to be associated in any degree with this plea of Privilege?
But it was not only that they discussed these Privilege Amendments, they accepted one or two. There was an Amendment, I believe moved by the noble Lord, the Paymaster-General, which was a breach of Privilege, an obvious breach of Privilege. I said to a noble friend sitting beside me as it was moved: "Here, at any rate, is a breach of Privilege." That did not, of course, deter the noble Lord, the Paymaster-General. He knew quite well that when it went to the House of Commons it would be accepted, and it was. Mr. Speaker, of course, did his duty. I hardly ought to use that phrase because, of course, he always does his duty. I do not want to make any comment other than a respectful one on the action of Mr. Speaker. He said it was a breach of Privilege. But that did not deter the majority at all. They moved that the House of Commons agree with the Lords in such Amendment.
What is this Privilege which can be put on and taken off like a coat, whenever convenient? I do not understand it. It appears to be something which is very little more than a political expedient. It does not stand upon the ground of principle; it is just a device, a method, under which the Commons can be relieved of giving any reasons at all for the action which they take. There were other Amendments—I dare say of minor importance—which in the same way were breaches of Privilege but which were at once without the least trouble agreed to by the Government in the House of Commons. The principle is this, that if the doctrine of Privilege be pressed to the limit to which it appears that some autho- 387 rities would wish to press it, this House would practically be unable to amend any Bill, because almost every Bill to some extent touches the burden of the taxpayer or the ratepayer and almost every modification in a Bill must affect it. If it be said, therefore, that anything that affects the burden of the taxpayer or the ratepayer is ipso facto a breach of Privilege, to be disagreed with whenever it happens to please the majority of the House of Commons to enforce the Privilege, then your Lordships' House as a revising body ceases to have any effect whatever, except in a purely advisory capacity. I am therefore unable to accept the plea of Privilege.
I turn to the substance of the Amendments. As the noble and learned Lord has most properly said, they are really, in effect, two Amendments—that which centres around Clause 4 and those which centre around what has been called the time limit. In regard to Clause 4, I need only remind your Lordships in one sentence—I do not want to be always repeating the same thing over and over again—that Clause 4, as the Commons sent it up to us and as they have now returned it to us, involves a wholly new principle—namely, the principle that the applicant, or claimant, as he is called in law, need apparently, on the face of it, make no efforts at all to obtain work as justifying his claim. Of course this had very great weight with your Lordships. You were astonished at this totally new departure, and that astonishment was immensely intensified and great point was given to it by the laying of the White Paper upon the Table on the very morning, I think, when we were about to discuss the Report stage of the Bill. It was found from that White Paper that out of the rules of twenty-six trade unions, selected, if you please, by the Government themselves, those of twenty-five seemed to involve the principle, for which your Lordships were contending, that the claimant should be expected to make some effort to obtain work for himself. That was a most astonishing thing. The Government had had months to consider the question and had been extraordinarily slow, but at last they produced this White Paper, almost too 388 late for us to do anything about it in time for the Bill, and it contained this astonishing fact.
Thereupon my noble and learned friend Lord Darling proposed an Amendment embodying the principle of one of the rules that prevail in the trade unions, and he persuaded your Lordships to accept that Amendment. I admit that it was very hastily drafted. I see that this has been made a charge against my noble and learned friend's Amendment. But it could not be anything else. The White Paper had only just been laid upon the Table. The Amendment was hastily drafted and undoubtedly in that hasty drafting a good many blemishes are to be found. It does not cover completely all the ground that had to be covered, and in other respects it may not be quite perfect. That has to be admitted. It was in the nature of the case. But at any rate the Amendment had this advantage: that the striking out of the Clause 4 in the Bill and the insertion of my noble and learned friend's clause gave the House of Commons an opportunity of reconsidering the whole subject.
The Amendment was sent back to the House of Commons in that form. I am quite certain that the clause wanted reconsideration. I will remind the noble and learned Lord opposite that he himself thought it very likely would want reconsideration. He said, when he was speaking on the Second Reading of the Bill, that it might be difficult to carry out. The noble and learned Lord nods at one moment and shakes his head the next. I am not quite sure what he means, but he certainly said that—
§ LORD PARMOOR
I do not want to interrupt, but I do not think I made either of those motions, now or on the Second Reading, suggesting that the Bill might be difficult—
§ LORD PARMOOR
I think no one said more clearly than I did that there could be no alteration. I made that, I think, absolutely clear.
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
A little later the noble and learned Lord said so, but the point is that he said that it would be difficult to carry out. Is it an astonishing thing that your Lordships thought it better to amend it in that case? The noble and learned Lord was not alone. I have made myself familiar with some of the things that were said in another place, and I find this observation by a supporter of the Bill and of Clause 4. This was four days ago:I must say that since it was discussed—this was Clause 4—there have been representations made to me leading me to the conclusion that in some respects it might be improved.This is the clause which was so sacrosanct that it was not to be amended, the one which the noble and learned Lord thought might present difficulties and of which a supporter of the Government in another place actually went so far as to say that he had been receiving representations—probably they were representations from working class organisations; I do not know this, but I surmise it—to say that it might be improved. Is it astonishing that your Lordships should think that such a clause required reconsideration? Have we done anything particularly amazing in offering the Commons another chance?
I do not deny the difficulty of drafting a substitute for the Government's Clause 4. I frankly admit that this is a most intricate and difficult question. My noble and learned friend was under very special difficulties in drafting the clause that stood in the Bill as it was sent back to the Commons, because, as I have already explained to your Lordships, he saw the trade union rules only that morning. I am not prepared out and out to defend the clause as he sent it to the Commons. I think there is a great deal to be said on that point. My noble and learned friend, I am sorry to say, is detained by indisposition and cannot be in his place this afternoon, but I think he would agree with everything I am saying, and I therefore am not prepared, as far as this clause is concerned, to urge your 390 Lordships to insist upon it. I do think that we had the strongest ground for calling in question the clause as it reached us from another place. I do think we had an overwhelming argument in favour of using the trade union practice as a model on which the Government clause ought to be drafted; but I cannot say that as it stood in the Bill when your Lordships sent it to another place the clause was perfect.
All I have said up to now, even if we do not insist upon the Amendment to Clause 4, intensifies the argument that we ought to make the Bill instead of permanent a temporary Bill, because if the Government think that this vital clause will be difficult to enforce, and supporters in another place think it ought to be improved, it seems to me that it stands almost demonstrated that it ought to come up for revision within a brief period. I cannot understand how any one, however sympathetic towards the Bill, could hold any other view; and if we look at the Bill, it is obviously experimental. From start to finish it is an experimental Bill. It has been so stated and defended by Ministers in both Houses of Parliament, and we are told that there is a Cabinet Committee actually sitting, part of whose business it undoubtedly will be, as I understand, to revise this very measure.
It is experimental from beginning to end, from the first word to the last, and in respect of this celebrated Clause 4 which we have been discussing, what did the Minister in charge of the Bill, the right hon. lady the Minister of Labour say on the Second Reading? She said:If during the experimental year"—I hope your Lordships will not ice the phrase—this subsection"—the second subsection of the clause—proves to be still open to criticism, opportunity to amend it will occur at the end of the year.It is almost in express words that the Minister in charge of the Bill in the House of Commons said that it ought to be liable to amendment at the end of the year—that it was essentially of an experimental and provisional character. I do not think that anything can be stronger than what I have stated, and when the noble and learned Lord talks, as he did just now, about the duty of 391 giving a permanent guarantee to workers in respect of this, how can you give them a permanent guarantee in respect of a Bill of which the Minister herself said that it is of an experimental character? If it were not so serious a matter the thing would be laughable. That is what their Lordships felt, and they have therefore put an Amendment into the Bill making it of an experimental character; limiting, that is to say, the duration of the Bill to a certain number of months, alter which the Bill will come up again for reconsideration.
Of course I need not say that since the right hon. lady made the statement which I have just communicated to your Lordships the whole history of the Bill has intensified this conviction among your Lordships, because Clause 4 has been revolutionised, and all sorts of admissions have been made in respect of the Bill. It is not only Clause 4. Take the juvenile clauses. I searched in vain in the debates to see any answer on the part of the Government to the charge that the juvenile provisions of the Bill led to the same conviction, that the measure ought to be a temporary Bill. I know that that charge was made in this House, because I made it myself, and it was made also in another place, and so far as I am aware no answer was given or attempted.
Let me remind your Lordships how cogent that argument is. These clauses introducing younger children to unemployment insurance and benefit cannot possibly come into force for many months, because the Bill raising the school age, upon which those clauses have to depend, has not been passed. It is not certain that within the shortest period mentioned they can come into force, because since this Bill was in this House I have seen a statement in the newspapers—I do not know on what authority—that it is quite impossible within a limited number of months to provide the necessary school buildings, and to train the necessary teachers, for the purpose of bringing the thing into being at all. So it may be a long way off before these clauses can possibly operate. Why are we to anticipate what the view of Parliament then will be? Obviously, the time to decide that is when the raising of the school age becomes a definite matter—when Parliament and the country have approved of that. There is no assurance that 392 Parliament and the country will approve of it without many months delay. I am for raising the school age myself, personally, but I see that it involves very formidable consequences, and we do not know the conditions under which the raising of the age will ultimately take place.
Then there is the last point which is equally important. Not only the case of children but the case of young persons older than children although not yet adults. It was stated on behalf of the Government that an essential part of their plan was that courses of instruction should be provided for all these juveniles out of work and in receipt of unemployment benefit. That was said to be essential. It was emphasised by the Leader of the House and the right rev. Prelate the Bishop of Southwark, and yet no provision is made in the Bill for the provision of these centres of instruction, and beyond a vague statement by the Paymaster-General there is no prospect of it. Mr. Snowden has not got a lot of money to throw about—he is desperately hard up—and the actual supply of these centres of instruction is very small. According to one of the Committees Reports—I am not quite certain whether it is the Morris Committee or the Blanesburgh Committee—there is not provision for more than ten per cent, of these young people, to whom this instruction is by the confession of the Government itself essential before these clauses come into operation. There never was a Bill in the whole history of Parliament which held upon its face more clearly the character of provisional and experimental, and all your Lordships have done is to ask Parliament to say so in the definite provisions of the Bill. That is the Amendment which your Lordships thought fit to insert.
I cannot, therefore, have any doubts as to what I should venture to ask your Lordships to do in respect to this time-limit Amendment. We have, as we believe, proved it up to the hilt. We have sent it to another place and no argument worthy of the name has been used against it. We propose to insist upon that Amendment. That is the function—as I take it, the true function—of a revising Chamber: to treat the House of Commons, of course, as the great predominant institution of this country, with 393 profound respect, but to ask that that respect at any rate should be mutual, and that, when we try to do our duty, our efforts should be received in the spirit in which they are made. We have a great responsibility—a great responsibility to the workers of this country. Will the House remember that this money which is to be given by way of benefit is found in great measure out of the pockets of the workers themselves, out of the hard-wailing, zealous, industrious workers of this country; they have to find a large part of the money. Are we not to have regard to their interests when we are revising this measure? We must think, we ought to think, of the interests of the unemployed; but we ought also to think of the interests of the fully employed workers. They are not so well off that we can afford to play ducks and drakes with their pennies, which they contribute to the Insurance Fund. Why are they not entitled to our protection as well as the unemployed?
I do not mean that all the unemployed are worthless. Certainly not. Many of them, most of them, would work if they could, but some of them, a few of them —a minority—are not very deserving. The people out of whose pockets the money comes are all hard-working, worthy members of society and citizens of this country, and we have a great responsibility towards them. Let us perform that responsibility, and let your Lordships do what you can to protect them. We do not want to wreck this Bill. There is no wrecking in these Amendments, even the Amendment to Clause 4 itself. Your Lordships will do as you think fit, but, so far as I am concerned, I am not going to ask you to insist upon that. But as to this Amendment, which is not a wrecking Amendment, but merely an Amendment to see that, in the full spirit of a revising Chamber, this Bill, this obviously temporary Bill, is reconsidered at the proper time, I shall ask your Lordships to insist upon that Amendment.
My Lords, the noble Marquess who has just sat down has used grave language in his speech, but not more grave than the serious character of this occasion demands. The noble and learned Lord the Leader of the House has soberly suggested to us that the sole remaining function that we 394 possess and can dare to exercise is that of suggesting. The words he used were that we were entitled to make suggestions. I wholly repudiate that statement. While we remain, and subject to the limitation of our powers by Statute, and their modification by the old inherent practice of this House, we are obviously as powerful a member of the Legislature as the House of Commons itself. I therefore regret that in a debate which necessarily brings into sharp contrast the action of this House and another place the discussion should have been opened by a phrase which I am sure must have been heard by your Lordships with feelings approaching those of resentment. I want in what I say to make it quite plain that I do not share in any way whatever the inference to be drawn from those words of the noble and learned Lord the Leader of the House.
Now, when we come to the matter that we have to discuss it seems to be confined in rather a small compass; and yet I cannot help thinking that it may prove to be like that cloud which, when it was first seen, was no bigger than a man's hand, but which ultimately grew and covered the whole sky, and was found to be the herald of an approaching storm. We are dealing with a Bill which affects a very large number of very poor people, whose feelings have undoubtedly been distempered and rendered acute by the hardships of the conditions in which they live. And for this House to take an action which would appear to be hostile to their claim is a thing that every one must regard as a very grave step. Now, the two Amendments that are before the House are of a totally different nature. The one deals with the substitution of a clause that this House introduced as to the conditions on which benefit was to be obtained, and the other is a pure matter of making the Bill temporary. I do not propose to discuss the merits of the first one at all, not only because the noble Marquess himself said that he did not ask your Lordships to support it—and I feel sure that your Lordships would be anxious as far as possible to follow his advice—but also for this' reason: it was clause upon which you expressed' a very strong opinion, but it is no use re-arguing in this House the merits of a case upon which your opinion has already been expressed. Whatever qualities another 395 place may think that we possess, that of going back upon our opinions is certainly not one. And therefore your Lordships would undoubtedly, if the merits of the clause were again before you, do as you did before. Discussion, therefore, on that point is wholly needless.
The second Amendment is a very much more serious thing. The noble Marquess asks you to adhere to the view you formed that this Bill should be made a mere temporary measure. Well, I admit I was not impressed with the arguments that he put forward as to why that should be done. He suggested that there would be a certain amount of uncertainty and unreadiness and, it may be, confusion in the earlier stages of the working of this Act, and therefore you ought to wait until the end of twelve months to see what had happened. If what he says be right the Bill will not really begin to have operated before the end of twelve months at all, or at any rate it will not have operated to such an extent that you would be able to gather from what had taken place what it is that you ought to do. I do not think that that was the strongest part of the noble Marquess's argument.
What I thought was the strongest part was the statement that he made that the Minister in charge of the Bill in another place had herself suggested in the first instance that it would be desirable that the Bill should be made temporary. But I should be very glad indeed to know if the noble Marquess is quite certain about what he states, because the right hon. lady herself undoubtedly distinctly said that she had for the first time had a separate Treasury grant for the people who did not contribute to the Unemployment Insurance Fund, and that she had set that aside and was desirous to see at the end of the year how that arrangement, which was quite new, had worked. If that is really what she did, it is something extremely different from what the noble Marquess—
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
My Lords, I will read the passage. The right hon. lady said on Second Reading:—I want to use the collective wisdom of the House to make this subsection completely water-tight.She was speaking of subsection (2) of Clause 4. 396If during the experimental year this subsection"—subsection (2) of Clause 4—proves to be still open to criticism, opportunity to amend it will occur at the end of the year. Only experience can show whether this subsection, taken in conjunction with the work-finding activities of the exchanges, and the training, reconditioning and transfer facilities which we provide and which we hope to develop, will help us to avoid the twin evils of injustice to claimant and imposition on the Unemployment Fund.
§ LORD BUCKMASTER
I think, first of all, the noble Marquess must realise that what she was saying has strict relation to subsection (2) of the clause. I have not been able to examine the Bill in close detail, but the words undoubtedly refer to that alone. If you read the right hon. lady's own words when the matter was before another place, you will find that she said this—I cannot help admiring the ingenuity of hon. Members in regard to this point. The fact is that I was referring to an experimental year, and it was the experiment of having a direct Treasury grant to deal with the persons who were not contributing to the Insurance Fund. It is the fact that for the first time I have separated those people who did not contribute to the Insurance Fund, and I have placed them in a separate category which I assure the House was an experiment, and I said it was an experiment. I have made financial provision for twelve months for that experiment, and it has no relation whatever to any other part of the Bill. Whatever ingenuity may be displayed by hon. Members"—she might have added here as well as there—for the purposes of this debate, that is what I meant.'I think the noble Marquess will realise that to do justice, as he would be the first to desire, to the right hon. lady who was in charge of the Bill, it was plain that she never at any moment—
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
I can only judge from what she said. If the noble and learned Lord will read subsection (2) he will see, I think, that it has no special reference to the non-contributory participators in the benefit. It is a general subsection, and she was saying that if during the experimental year this subsection proves to be still open to criticism, it is quite obvious that this subsection would be part of the experiment.
§ LORD BUCKMASTER
Of course, it is very difficult indeed for us to determine here what the right hon. lady meant. I cannot help thinking that what she said she meant was that this subsection (2) was the subsection which brought into operation this separate arrangement for a separate grant that she had allocated from the Treasury funds for that purpose, and that she wanted to see how that operated in relation to this subsection. One thing at any rate is perfectly clear—that nobody could have repudiated in more emphatic language than the right hon. lady herself the idea that she at any time had ever meant to say anything with regard to the Bill She said that it 'had no relation whatever to any part of the Bill whatever ingenuity might be displayed by hon. Members. That is what she meant. I think we are bound to assume, in spite of what may be our experiences in other places, that that is what the lady still means. I certainly cannot possibly have my judgment influenced by the hypothesis that she at any time thought that this Bill ought to he an experimental Bill.
If that is waived, what special reason is there why this Bill should, among all others, be made an experiment? I should have thought there was none at all, and, further, I think it is the most dangerous Bill on which to try an experiment. If your Lordships were really seeking to accelerate that day of dispute which all of us can foresee when this House will be brought into definite collision with another place, surely this is not the moment to do it. The reason is that if we are ever going to do that, the one thing we ought to be assured of is that those who are most likely to support our claims supported them in another place. What do I find when I look at the Division on this very clause in another place? I find that the Government—who, I beg your Lordships to remember, are in a minority in that House, who are nit a majority Government and can only maintain their existence by the casual and precarious support of some fifty-nine Liberal votes—on this particular Division had 273 in their favour and 124 against. Is it on numbers like that that you think it wise to reject that which they did? I would not pay any attention to the numbers had that been the normal majority of the Govern- 398 merit. I can understand your Lordships' House doing what it did in 1906. I disapprove of it, but I can understand it. I can understand your Lordships saying: "Your majority in the House does not represent your hold on the country to-day, and therefore we intend to give the country an opportunity of revising their verdict." But you cannot say it on those figures. In fact, those figures show that the people to whom you would look for support did not think the Amendment was worth taking the trouble to come down to the House in its support. Is it in those circumstances that you are going to insist once more on doing something which in another place was thought worthy of only that brief and casual treatment? I sincerely hope it is not so.
As I said just now, I have never disguised from myself the fact that there may be a time when we shall either have to assert our position or consent to the humiliation of being put upon one side altogether. If we cannot reform ourselves as the environment of the world demands that we should so as to put our constitution more closely into touch with the world in which we now live, either we shall perish by slow decay or we shall perish by catastrophe. That is not a mere prophecy. You will find that fact written not only in every page of history but engraved on tablets of stone in the records of the rock on which we stand. Every organism that cannot change itself so as to meet the changing circumstances in which it lives ultimately goes down. If we cannot do it, we shall fall too. Personally I would far rather go down fighting than go down in decay; only I would beg your Lordships not to choose this particular moment as the moment in which you desire to fight.
§ On Question, Motion agreed to.
§ Lords Amendment.
[The references are to Bill (No. 55) as first printed for the House of Lords]:
Clause 4, page 4, leave out Clause 4 and insert as a new clause:
Amendment as to disqualifications for receipt of benefit.
(". If, on a claim for benefit, it be proved that the claimant has refused, and refuses, without reason, to work when employment is found for him, or if it be proved that the claimant is not endeavouring to obtain employment, he shall be dis-
qualified from receiving benefit for a period of six weeks or for such shorter period and from such date as may be determined by the court of referees or the umpire, as the case may be.")
§ The Commons disagree to the above Amendment for the following Reason:
§ Because it alters the conditions for receiving Unemployment Benefit; and the Commons consider it unnecessary to offer any further Reason, hoping the above Reason may be deemed sufficient.
§ LORD PARMOOR
My Lords, I beg to move that your Lordships do not insist upon this Amendment with which the Commons have disagreed for the Reason they assign, namely:—Because it alters the conditions for receiving Unemployment Benefit; and the Commons consider it unnecessary to offer any further Reason, hoping the above Reason may be deemed sufficient.I do not propose to trouble your Lordships with another speech. I beg to move.
§ Moved, That this House doth not insist cm the said Amendment. — (Lord Parmoor.)
§ On Question, Motion agreed to.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR (LORD SANKEY)
The noble Lord, Lord Cozens-Hardy, has an Amendment to Clause 4 —[to insert a proviso at the end of subsection (1)].
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
On a point of order. Your Lordships' House has not insisted upon its Amendment to the Commons Amendment, and, therefore, it appears we have accepted the Commons Amendment. I should hardly think now it is open to a further Amendment, but I am in your Lordships' hands.