§ Debate resumed (according to Order) on the Motion for the Second Reading moved yesterday by Lord Rochester.
§ EARL BUXTON
My Lords, I shall not detain the House at any length on the present occasion, because I do not think anything very fresh can be added to the debate. This is the twenty-first Bill which has been before the House since the Act of 1920 came into force. Many of these Bills were of a temporary nature, although some were intended to be permanent, but circumstances occurred from time to time which have rendered them practically waste paper now. I hope that the Bill which is before your Lordships to-day will have a longer life than my noble friend behind me seemed to anticipate. My noble friend opposite made a kindly reference to myself when he was introducing this Bill. I had the honour of being responsible for the original Act of 1911, and while he was speaking I thought what a tremendous change has taken place in our social life since that time. That was the first time in which Parliament, by an Act, had dealt with the unemployed man—unemployed through no fault of his own. His position was then recognised in an Act of Parliament. Before that he only had the Poor Law to fall back upon, with all its degradation and all its difficulties.
The Act of 1911 was a modest one. The contribution was 2d. for a man and his wife, and the benefit was 12s. We then had this principle of insurance applied only to about 2,000,000 people. Now it is applied to 10,000,000 people, and that number will soon be extended by many more millions. The contribution is 10d. from the employer and the employed, and the benefits to a man with two children amount to 30s. I hope my noble friend behind me will, at all events, think That is an instalment of what he is desirous of having in the matter of benefits. That Act, to which I have referred, was framed upon an insurance basis—namely, that the contributions and benefits should practically be equal, but the 875 contributions paid were somewhat in excess of the benefits paid out. That Act went on, and in the end there was a large surplus. After the War, in 1920, the operations of the Act were extended to 10,000,000 persons and, unfortunately, soon after that, there came the unprecedented unemployment which practically brought to an end the original insurance scheme and also brought to an end the conditions of the benefit. Those who had not paid contributions were given the benefit.
I need not dwell on what actually occurred during those years. The upshot of the whole matter was that instead of the insurance scheme continuing on an insurance basis it became, to a large extent, a relief scheme for about half of those unemployed in the country In 1929 the Labour Government appointed a Royal Commission, and the Bill we now have before us is to a large extent the outcome of the Report of that Royal Commission. Though I do not agree altogether with the Bill, I congratulate the Government on the courage they have shown in introducing a Bill containing proposals of such a far-reaching character and upon the way in which the scheme has been worked out. The Bill is divided practically into two Parts. Part I deals with the insurance alone. To my mind that Part of the Bill is very satisfactory and is founded on that proper insurance basis which ought to apply in the case of unemployed insurance. My noble friend behind me objected to the scheme because, he said, there was too much solvency about it and the benefits, therefore, were not what they ought to be. I think he forgets that the Government of 1929 appointed the Royal Commission on the clear understanding that it should report in what way the insurance scheme could be made effective and at the same time be made solvent, so much so that the Government asked the Commission to produce an Interim Report on that very basis.
At that time every one of their leaders supported the scheme of insurance as then drawn, and I am surprised my noble friend should have gone hack on that and should have said that the scheme ought not to be solvent in order that the benefits may be increased. I do not know whether he remembers that the amount of benefit under the Labour Government 876 was 3s. or 4s. less than the benefit which is now accepted as suitable under present circumstances. The noble Lord applied to this Bill a word which I think he had borrowed. He called it a "rotten" Bill, because the benefit under it was not increased. If the present Bill is a rotten Bill what must be said of the Bill of the Labour Government in which the benefit was 3s. or 4s. less? Perhaps he will be able to find some adjective which will describe that Bill.
A great point of the scheme in Part I is that it applies the principle of insurance on a solvent basis, which will result, as unemployment diminishes, in either increased benefit or reduced contributions. One of the main proposals is the appointment of a Statutory Committee. That Committee is to consider from time to time the question of the solvency of the Fund and is to report to the Minister. In my opinion that is a very good step which will tend to stabilise the contributions and benefits at a lower standard in the case of the contributions and a higher standard in the case of benefits. It is an Advisory Committee which might very well have been appointed before, and I think we should have been saved a good deal of the financial difficulties into which this scheme fell because successive Governments treated the matter year by year as a separate affair and had no special knowledge of or control over what ought to be proposed.
In my opinion this Committee is a satisfactory body from the point of view of control. It is entirely under the control of the Minister and the Minister is entirely under the control of Parliament. Any question with regard to it can be raised in Parliament and the matter can he properly discussed. One or two special matters are to be referred to the Advisory Committee—namely, whether, agricultural workers should not be brought within the purview of the Insurance Acts, and whether the black-coated community also should not be included. It is quite certain, I think, from the clauses of the Bill and from what has been said by Ministers, that it is intended to include both these classes of persons. I venture to think that it is rather a mistake that the Government did not take the bull by the horns and bring both these classes at once within the purview of the Insurance Acts.
877 There is one other proposal to which I attach importance and which I think is very satisfactory. That is that those who have been in insurance for five years or more and have not been given any benefit are to have their period of benefit enlarged according to the number of years they have contributed, if they lose their employment. I have always had sympathy with those persons who for many years past have borne the burden of the insurance scheme. They have contributed and other persons have drawn benefit. It reminds me a little of the story in the Bible of the man who employed men and paid a penny both to the man who worked the whole day and also to the man who only came in at the last moment. That seems to me unjust and I have never quite agreed with that story. Here you have a man who has been in employment, say, for ten years, paying contributions regularly all that time and when he falls out of employment he gets exactly the same benefit and is subject to the same disadvantages as the man who has been paying contributions only for a certain number of weeks. I am glad to see that that that anomaly is to disappear.
There are three points with which I am sorry the Government have not dealt in this Bill. One was referred to by my noble friend behind me. That is the amount of the accumulated debt which the Government are putting on the Insurance Fund. The second is the extra shilling which it was proposed should be given in the case of children, and the third is that the cuts are not to be restored at the same time as the reduction is made in the Income Tax. As regards debt, there never has been a real opportunity of fully discussing it. It seems an unfair position that is taken up by the Government. This debt of £105,000,000 was accumulated during a period of great unemployment, during a period in which the insurance scheme was swamped by those who had not paid contributions but who were receiving benefits. The Royal Commission said that a large proportion of this money ought to have been paid by the country and ought not to be put as a burden on the insurance scheme.
For many years past both employers and employed have paid very heavy contributions, up to 10d. a week and even more. I do not think it is quite realised 878 what a tremendous burden this Insurance Fund has been on industry. Each man employed, roughly speaking, costs trade £4 a year. That is an amount which is a very heavy charge and almost a crippling charge in some cases on industry. It will be an enormous advantage if the insurance scheme can be put on a proper basis so that all improvements will go to the benefit of the Fund and at an early stage contributions can be materially reduced. To put all this debt on the Fund means very considerable delay in the likelihood either of benefits being improved or of contributions being lowered. It is an unfortunate thing which the Government has done. As regards the 1s. for children, I think if that had been allowed it would very largely have solved the difficulty of the family budget. As regards the cuts I think it is very like taking the gilt off the gingerbread when the unemployed have to wait three months for the cuts to be given back.
One other point in connection with which I would like to say a word is with regard to a person being considered genuinely unemployed. I think everybody will agree that if a man or woman is given a bona fide offer of work under suitable conditions and refuses it unemployment benefit ought thereupon to cease. It has always been a difficult problem to find a suitable way in which that could be done. At one time when the Labour Government was in office there was what was called the genuinely-seeking-work proposal before Parliament. I think the Government, and I congratulate them on it, have proposed words which will meet the difficulty, the difficulty being that you must not, put too much of the onus on the unemployed man or woman. The onus of finding work cannot rest on them because they cannot find it. It must rest on the Labour Exchanges. It is for them to find opportunities for employment elsewhere and if then it is refused that will put a man or woman out of benefit.
We hear it stated from time to time that there are a considerable number receiving benefit, especially those who are receiving benefit without having paid contributions, who do not seek work but who are, as it is called, "living on the dole'." So far as my information 879 goes—and I believe it is a fact—the amount of that form of malingering is very small indeed. I believe there is a very small percentage of those receiving benefit who are living on it and have no intention of seeking work because they prefer living on the "dole." I believe that is a fact, and I think it is a very great tribute to the self-respect of the British working man that that should be so. I am not sure that it may not be due also to two other factors. One is that they get very bored when they are not in work, and the other, and I think perhaps an even greater cause, is that the wife gets bored when the husband is always at home. But whether it arises from either of those causes, at all events I think it is a satisfactory sign of the times that there is extraordinarily little of this malingering and of drawing benefit when a man ought to be at work.
So much as regards Part I of the Bill. As regards Part II, I am sorry to say that I am not quite so much in accord with that Part of the Bill. I thought that my noble friend in introducing this Bill put the whole Bill at rather too high a level in his appreciation of it. I think he spoke of it as the greatest social Bill that has been introduced for many years, and so on. I do not mind his crying up his goods, but he ought to remember the adage that "Self-praise is no recommendation." I for one think he put his Bill on much too high a plane, at all events as regards Part II. Part II is dealing with those who are not paying contributions and who receive benefits without having paid them, and I am glad to think that there are now included not only those in insured trades but those in other trades as well. The difficulty is to find some form of central body which will be able to deal with this whole matter. I think there is general Agreement that the administration ought to be more centralised than it is at present, and that at all events all connection with the Poor Law ought to disappear as regards this question of relief and of benefit. There is general agreement upon that, and it is also thought that there should be greater uniformity of treatment throughout the country, combined of course with a certain amount of elasticity.
In my opinion the proposal of Part II is centralism run mad. The proposal of the Bill is that a central body shall be 880 appointed and that that central body shall be entirely out of the control of the Minister and entirely out of the control of anyone, even of Parliament. I think that is going much too far. The only control exists in the first instance, when the rules and regulations are being made providing for the way in which they are to administer the Act. Those rules and regulations, it is true, are to come before Parliament for its assent. But after all they will be very widely drawn, and will be really no check upon the actions of the central body. After they have been passed, as I read the Bill and the explanation given yesterday by my noble friend opposite, the central body will be entirely free of any Ministerial or Parliamentary control. I think that that is a mistake. I believe that under the present conditions and under other conditions, for those who are subjected to tests or who will come under the Bill, it will be a great safety valve if they can feel that under certain conditions and in certain circumstances they can appeal in the first place to their local authority, in the second place to the Minister, and in the third place to their Member of Parliament, who can, if necessary, raise a question in the House. All those safety valves will now disappear, and those who feel themselves aggrieved will have no opportunity of bringing their case in any way before the public.
In addition to this body being so centralised, it is also, under the Bill, an unknown quantity as to how many members there shall be, who they shall be, and what their functions shall be. The only thing which is certain is that their salaries are put on the Consolidated Fund, so that no question shall arise in Parliament in regard to them. I do not think that that is a satisfactory thing, for, after all, this central body will have no fewer than some ten million people under their control. I think the proposal of the Bill goes much too far in that respect. We are agreed that some reform will have to be made in the lower forms of inquiry. The Bill, as I understand it, will to a large extent duplicate the present authorities. The central body are going to supersede the public assistance committees by some 300 advisory committees, as they are called, which they themselves will appoint, who will be entirely and directly under their control 881 and with whom Parliament will have nothing to do. I think that Part of the Bill is very objectionable. It is very unfortunate that the Government should have gone so far as they have in their centralisation proposals.
There is one other point, and it is a very novel one, in connection with the central body. Up till now local authoritites have had grants from Parliament and they have administered those grants. Now for the first time they are asked to contribute for the purposes of the central body, without having any control whatever over the expenditure. That seems to me to be an altogether wrong system of local administration.
I do not want to detain the House at any length and therefore I will not say more than one word in reference to the question of tests to which my noble friend Lord Marley referred. I confess it seems to me that if you have benefits paid where there are contributions, the beneficiary is entitled to claim his benefits under certain conditions, but where he has not paid any contributions, it seems to me essential that his fitness and his means ought to be shown before relief. No doubt that may give rise in some cases to difficulties and to vexation, but these can be minimised and have been immensely minimised of late years. I am sure that all these authorities and committees have been settling down, and there is far greater fairness being displayed than there was at first. With regard, for instance, to the family budget, in this Bill that is immensely improved, and I think that on the whole it has now been put on a, fair basis.
I have tried very shortly to go over the various parts of the Bill which I think are good and the parts which I think are bad, and perhaps I may add one word in conclusion. It is this: the expenditure on unemployment is enormous, and of course it is expenditure which is altogether unremunerative, but I feel that in spite of its size and in spite of the fact that no doubt a certain amount of waste and perhaps a certain amount of fraud may be entailed, the expenditure, great as it has bean during the last few years, has been well worth while as far as the country is concerned. I think so on two grounds. In the first place, for the first time in our 882 history, in the last few years the expenditure on unemployment has kept together the homes of millions who have had to draw benefit, and has relieved them of what must be the most frightening of all feelings—namely, the overhanging cloud of unemployment, which before unemployment insurance was introduced was far heavier and weightier than it is now, because at that time there was no means of relieving it. At all events, though the benefit is a pittance in a way, it does get rid of that overhanging feeling of anxiety, and it has kept together body and soul and the homes of millions.
I believe also that the fact of having these hundreds of thousands and indeed millions receiving benefit, and maintaining their families and their health and morale, has prevented this country, during the very bad times we have been going through, from suffering from any social upheaval. I believe that without this benefit we might have been in the throes, I will not say of civil war, but, at all events, of great disturbance and great distress. We have passed through these bad times, and I do not think we have had any serious disturbance with regard to unemployment. There may have been deputations or something at which the Police have had to interfere, but I think it is a great tribute to this country and to the unemployed, and to the way in which they have been handled, that during all these difficult years, with two or three millions of unemployed, we have had no disturbance of any sort or kind that mattered.
I understand that there will be no Division on this Bill. Personally, I could not have voted for the Bill because of Part II, but I could not vote against it because of Part I. I am saved the trouble of abstaining from voting because there will be no Division; but if I may end on this note, I would congratulate the Government on having endeavoured to deal with this matter in a large way. I hope that they will be successful in their efforts, and that this Bill may assist the country and the unemployed and the taxpayer. Whether it will do so or not remains to be seen, but at all events it is a great effort on their part, and to that extent I congratulate them on its production.
§ LORD AMULREE
My Lords, no one in or outside this House speaks with greater authority on insurance and insurance benefits than the noble Earl opposite, and it is to be regretted that he does not see his way to give wholehearted support to the entire Bill. To that extent I am in disagreement with him, although as to many of his criticisms I feel certain sympathy. In my opinion this measure is to be commended on two main grounds. The first is that it brings order into what might be described, without undue severity, as chaos. For many years, as the noble Earl pointed out, the arrangements for helping work-people who are the victims of unemployment have been of a makeshift character, devised with reference to no principle except that of temporary expediency. The unemployment insurance system has been twisted out of all resemblance to its original conception. Money expended on what is essentially a relief service has been derived in the most haphazard way from the Unemployment Insurance Fund, from the Exchequer, and from the local rates. The proposals in this Bill have the effect of restoring the unemployment insurance scheme to the position which it should occupy as a social institution of peculiar value and significance.
My noble friend, in his Second Reading speech yesterday, referred to the fact that the benefits derived from unemployment insurance are obtainable as of right. That is true. Every person who is a fully-paid member of the scheme, who has, so to speak, paid his entrance fee and kept up his contributions, is able in the event of involuntary unemployment to obtain weekly payments without the slightest surrender of his natural pride or independence, and without any feeling that he is imposing upon his fellow-countrymen. A scheme of this kind, I submit, is of the greatest national value, and should be maintained with the utmost solicitude. It is essential to such a scheme that it should be self-supporting; otherwise, the benefits received from it cease to be quasi-contractual in their nature, and become simply a form of public charity. No one, therefore, who holds, as I do, that the working classes of this country are moved by feelings of good citizenship and desire, as far as possible, to maintain their independence, can do otherwise than approve of the 884 measures now proposed to put the unemployment insurance scheme on a sound financial basis, and to safeguard, as far as is humanly possible, against any impairment of that basis in future.
The second ground on which I think that this Bill is to be approved is that it affords a broad and firm basis for the future development and exercise of a social duty of the first importance. I refer to our duty, through the State, of helping those who are in need. I do not think that those who are responsible for this Bill would wish to claim that it achieves finality. There are features in which we may reasonably expect that the future will bring developments and improvements. I agree with what the noble Earl who last spoke said about the black-coated employee. The Bill makes comprehensive provision for maintaining in periods of unemployment the whole of the able-bodied wage-earning population, as well as those non-manual workers whose income does not exceed £250 a year. Non-manual workers who earn more than £250 a year are excluded from both Part I and Part II of the Bill. The effect of that exclusion is that if a person has been employed as, say, a draftsman or a bookkeeper at £5 or £6 a week, and he becomes unemployed and is in need of assistance, his only recourse will be to the local Poor Law authority. He will not have been insured against unemployment, and he will not be eligible to apply to the Unemployment Assistance Board which is to be set up under Part II of the Bill.
I appreciate the present difficulties in extending the income limit which at present marks the boundary of the proposals in the Bill. They arise, I apprehend, from the inter-connection between unemployment insurance and health and old age pensions insurance, and from the necessity of providing under Part II of the Bill a workable definition by which the inclusion or non-inclusion of a person within the provisions can be easily determined. I venture to hope, however, that the last word has not been said on this subject, and that the difficulties will be carefully examined with a view to the removal at some future time of what must appear to the plain man as anomalous. I venture also to surmise that experience in the administration of Part II of the Bill may show 885 that some rectification of the frontiers between the Unemployment Assistance Board and the Poor Law or public assistance authorities may be desirable. I say this while at the same time admitting frankly that I am not prepared to point to any respect in which I think the present provisions of the Bill should be amended. So far as the subject is capable of being treated a priori I think the proposals are the best that can be immediately devised. The subject is one, however, on which much light will he thrown by two or three years experience; and I trust that those who will be responsible for, or concerned with, the administration of this measure, will act on the view that the arrangements here set down are not necessarily fixed and rigid for all time.
My noble friend in charge of the Bill submitted the argument that, since the Exchequer was to provide all but a small percentage of the funds to assist those coming under Part II of the Bill, it was necessary that the administration should be made a function of the Central Government. That argument is, I think, unanswerable, and disposes completely of any suggestion that the class of persons to whom Part II relates should be dealt with by the local public assistance authorities. Apart from such argument, however, I think your Lordships should welcome the proposals of this Bill for the reason that it will no longer be necessary for a working man in need of assistance through a long period of unemployment to apply to the Poor Law authority. I am willing to concede that Poor Law administration is humane and considerate, and in relation to the aged, the infirm, the children, and the suddenly destitute it is a social service the value and importance of which cannot be overestimated. Its attitude to the able-bodied unemployed, however, has become associated with an unfortunate tradition, so that if we look facts in the face we are bound to recognise that there are thousands of respectable working-class people of the very best type who would suffer the severest privation rather than put themselves on the parish and incur the stigma of pauperism.
I suggest to your Lordships that social arrangements, under which self-respecting people most in need of help and deserving it, are deterred from making their 886 want known, should be altered; and I think it is one of the great attractions of this Bill that it gives the public duty of assistance a fresh start, free from Poor Law associations, and therefore able to build up its own practice and tradition. I hope that its practice will be characterised not only by firmness against imposition, but by considerateness and courtesy, so that no person whose poverty is due to industrial causes will be deterred from applying for the assistance that is available to him. While it is true that he gives twice who gives quickly, it is also true that he gives twice who gives with a good grace.
I am glad to see evidence in Part II of the Bill that the existence of need is to be an essential condition of the payment of allowances. The only other conceivable scheme would be that a fixed sum should be paid irrespective of need. To my mind such a system, quite apart from considerations of economy, would be entirely unjustifiable. It would be quite impossible to devise a fixed payment which would be appropriate to every case. In some instances the payment would not meet the full necessities of the case, and unless it could be increased the individual concerned would suffer hardship. This happens, as your Lordships are no doubt aware, in the case of unemployment benefit payments which are fixed payments made irrespective of need. In many instances where there is sickness, or where there are high rents or other similar circumstances, the unemployment benefit has to be supplemented by the public assistance authority. If, however, fixed payments are to be increased to meet the needs of a particular case, a means test, or needs test, is clearly implied; and I am at a loss to understand how those who object to a means test in toto would meet this difficulty, unless they are prepared to deal with persons in need after the manner of Procrustes and ignore the hardship and suffering entailed.
I should also submit to your Lordships that to make payments from public funds to large numbers of persons irrespective of their needs would discredit the whole scheme in the eyes of the recipients themselves. Nothing is more familiar to men with experience than the fact that the indiscriminate disbursement of money earns, not the gratitude, but the con 887 tempt of the recipients. My noble friend in charge of the Bill was, in my submission, entirely right when he said that opposition to a means test was only comprehensible on the view that it is opposition to a means test administered or conducted in a particular way. The Board are given by this Bill the widest latitude in determining the basis upon which needs shall be assessed and resources taken into account. Clause 38 provides that where a person applies for assistance and is already in receipt of income from another source only part of such income shall be taken into account. In so far as the clause limits the discretion of the Board it is mainly in the direction of securing to applicants for allowances not less, but more, generous treatment than strict regard to their needs would enjoin. The policy of the Board will be expressed in regulations which will need the approval of your Lordships before it can become effective. In these circumstances we can expect that the means test to he adopted under Part II of the Bill will not be harsh. It will certainly not be a "destitution" test, but will be such as to commend itself to reasonable men.
If I appreciate the intention which lies behind this measure it is that working men and working women who have fallen on evil days through industrial causes shall be dealt with on such a basis that all the requirements of the case with respect to the maintenance of bodily health and morale and industrial and technical training shall be co-ordinated, and that the authority charged with this important social duty shall approach its task with a full consciousness that it is concerned with persons whose restoration to the ranks of industry is not only desired by themselves but is of vital importance to the country. That, I take it, is something of what my noble friend in his Second Reading speech intended when he referred to the scheme as being industrial in its outlook. As one who has had some contacts with industry and has gained some knowledge of both employers and workpeople, it is a feature of the scheme with which I am in most profound sympathy, and which I sincerely commend to your Lordships.
THE EARL OF KINNOULL
My Lords, I did not expect that many noble Lords would he here this evening. I expected that they would have gone to Epsom, but it does seem to me rather curious that 888 when a measure relating to betting comes up noble Lords in large numbers will stay till midnight, whereas here is a Bill which affects the livelihood of millions of peope in this country, and only a few noble Lords can come. One curious thing I have noticed in this debate, and that is that the three spokesmen from the Government side have all been National Labour Peers. Not one Conservative Peer has yet said anything. We were treated last night to a very eloquent speech from the noble Lord, Lord Elton, who, I am sorry to see, is not in his place, and I noticed with what pleasure noble Lords opposite enjoyed his speech. After all, a political renegade is always popular in his new camp. We on this side feel some satisfaction that his attacks on and renunciation of his former Socialist creed relieve us of any prospect of his knocking at our door for readmittance when we form a Government. The noble Lord made great play with the question of the solvency of the Unemployment Fund. Listening to his speech one would have imagined that solvency was the only thing that counted at all. Apparently it does not matter that millions of people are living at the starvation limit.
Twenty-one million pounds have been filched from the pockets of the unemployed by the means test in order to balance the Budget, in order to produce a surplus, and now this Bill is produced to put the Unemployment Fund on a solvent basis. The money received from the means test has now been given, through the last Budget, to the well-to-do to make them better-to-do. The noble Lord, Lord Elton, referred to the doctrines and works of Lord Passfield and Mrs. Sidney Webb. I am really surprised that so erudite a gentleman as the noble Lord has not realised that the whole theme of these works is the abolition of the Poor Law system. The noble Lord further stated that statutory bodies were ultimately responsible to Parliament. That is not true. Parliament can no more question the action of the proposed Unemployment Assistance Board than it can question the action of the Judges of the High Court. Our objections are that it sets up a bureaucracy, a Fascist bureaucracy, and it perpetuates the Poor Law principle.
The noble Lord also referred to Circular No. 1069 sent out by the late Minis 889 ter of Health, Mr. Greenwood. I am going to quote the words he used:…the late Labour Minister of Health, who is nowadays repeatedly denouncing the means test, was responsible for a circular—No. 1069—in January, 1930, in which he insisted upon the means test being rigorously applied to the agricultural and other unemployed uninsured workers who then had nothing save the Poor Law between them and destitution.I have the circular here, and with your Lordships' permission I am going to read a portion of it:It has been brought to his [the Minister's] notice that certain boards of guardians have made a practice of excluding, either from the grant of outdoor relief or even from the grant of any relief at all, certain categories of persons, such for example as single men, able-bodied men as distinct from their families, or persons who have been on relief for long periods. The Minister recognises that the mere bulk of the problem with which the guardians are confronted may create a tendency to adopt such rough-and-ready methods of classification. It is true that they may be intended merely for the guidance of relief committees and may permit in doubtful cases of reference to the full board, or a revision committee who have power to disregard the general rules. The fact, however, remains that such rules tend to become too rigid in their application and the Minister desires to point out that a general refusal of outdoor relief to particular classes without regard to individual circumstances is contrary to one of the first principles of Poor Law administration …Later in the circular he says:'Mothers' (that is to say widowed mothers) should not be expected to earn unless satisfactory arrangements can be made for the children.What does that mean?
Let us see how the Manchester Guardian of the 4th January, 1930, in-interpreted that circular. In a leading article it said:The circular is a shining example of the way in which conditions can be bettered without legislation. Under the late Government pressure was too often exerted towards the less liberal interpretation of the guardians' duties. The Memorandum issued by Mr. Greenwood indicates a complete change of spirit. There is no suggestion of extravagance or reckless distribution of cash. But there is the sympathetic understanding of the needs of poverty which ought to lie at the root of all Poor Law work.The noble Lord implied that Mr. Greenwood was responsible for the present means test, but surely with his vast erudition he ought to be well aware that 890 the means test is as old as the Poor Law system. The whole intention of the circular was to relax the harsh administration which had been imposed by the previous Tory Government. The circular was designed to secure more humane treatment for the destitute and especially for widows and children, disabled ex-Servicemen, and blind persons.
Before concluding I must just make a reference to the question of the allowance to children, which has been already dealt with by my noble friend below me who spoke yesterday. The Bill leaves the allowance of 2s. a week to children exactly where it was. I think it is a crying scandal that only 2s. a week should be allowed to keep a child. How can anybody keep a child on 2s.? I would ask your Lordships how you would like to do it. Would my wife like it if I gave her 4s. a week to keep my two chidren? Malnutrition is rampant, and no wonder. The future generation will be sickly, ill-nourished, and a disgrace to the civilised world. Why should England, the country that prides itself on being the most civilised nation in the world, tolerate such a state of things in the midst of plenty? Youth is being demoralised by ill-nourishment, it is being demoralised by poverty, and there is no stamina in it.
Then this Bill, in perpetuating the means test, is creating a feeling of hatred amongst the working class. The Government admit saving £21,000,000 by the means test, as I have already said, in order to balance the Budget and produce this surplus, which has been done at the expense of the poorest of the poor. This is a grave injustice on people who cannot help themselves, who are out of work for long periods through no fault of their own but because of the fact that the capitalist system has broken down. Responsibility for the treatment of the unemployed is to be taken completely away from Parliament. Under Part I of the Bill the Statutory Committee is not really responsible to anybody, and certainly under Part II the Unemployment Assistance Board is not responsible at all. The poor are to be ground under the heel of a pitiless bureaucracy only equalled by that which is being dealt out by Herr Hitler in Germany to-day. In conclusion I would like to say that there is only one good point about the 891 Bill, and that is it will make the Government so unpopular with the electors of the country that it will ensure our return at the next Election.
My Lords, I do not wish to detain the House more than a few minutes, but I do wish once again to ask the Government if they cannot see their way to do something more to rid this country of the curse of unemployment. I have been assured by several people that relief works are a hopelessly uneconomic undertaking, but I quite fail to see why that should be so. We do not consider the Army as an uneconomic undertaking, and I beg to suggest that we might recruit an army of able-bodied unemployed, house them under canvas like troops in the field, clothe them in some good blue or brown overalls, with some distinctive badge on the collar, treat them in fact like Territorials out for their summer training. The work that the unemployed army thus recruited could do would be the planting of trees, the reclamation of marsh-lands, and the prevention of coast erosion, all of which occupations, I submit, in spite of assurances by the spokesmen for the Government to the contrary, would be perfectly suitable for any able-bodied, healthy man, under, of course, suitable skilled direction. These directors or foremen could be some of the many ex-officers who are now trying to exist on very small incomes or small pensions. I am sure they would welcome the chance to get some useful and healthy work to do during the summer months.
If extra money is needed to finance such a scheme of work, then again, I suggest, it would be a most suitable way of employing money raised from a national lottery or sweepstake. In this connection may I correct a surprising mis-statement made by the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Winchester during the Committee stage of the Betting and Lotteries Bill? He brought forward as an argument against a national sweepstake that the Irish hospitals had lost revenue since the establishment of the Irish sweepstake, and that their income from voluntary sources had fallen considerably. Now, having resided in Ireland for many years, I happen to know quite a lot about the Irish hospitals. I used to subscribe to several of them during the years I lived 892 in Ireland. When I left in 1923 the hospitals were hard hit. Many of them had heavy debts to pay off, and three-quarters of the people who used to support them by voluntary subscriptions had left the country after the very inglorious surrender to the forces of disorder by the British Government of that day, and they took what was left of their fortunes with them. I can positively assure the House that but for the assistance given to the hospitals through the Irish sweepstake many of them would long ago have had to close down. So much for that argument against the sweepstake.
I fully admit that the present National Government have probably done more for the country than any other Government of recent years. When they came into office they found the country in a parlous state. During their tenure of office the country has recovered to a very remarkable degree. That has not necessarily made for a popular Government. Noble Lords connected with Ireland will, I know, bear me out when I say that it was often the landlord who tried to do most for his tenants who got shot first. This Government by some of the things they have done, or tried to do, and still more by a lot of things they have not done, have earned the cordial dislike of a great many of the people of this land. This last Betting and Lotteries Bill, for instance, is a highly unpopular measure. People do not want to be improved by what is called grandmotherly legislation. The man in the street considers that if he wants to buy a sweepstake ticket he has a perfect right to do so, and the same with any other form of betting or gambling. I need not mention other things. I hope to see this Government returned to power at the next General Election, and if they can bring themselves to make a really big effort to rid the country of unemployment I think that when the time comes they will be able to go to the country with every prospect of success.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR (VISCOUNT SANKEY)
My Lords, at the close of this debate it is hardly necessary for me to detain your Lordships very long, as it is clear that the House is determined to give the Bill a Second Reading. Permit me, however, to address your Lordships quite briefly first on the general scope of 893 the Bill, during which I may be able to satisfy some of your Lordships' doubts on one or two points which have been raised, and subsequently to give an answer to the questions which have been addressed to the Government. First as to the general scope of the Bill. The problem of unemployment is one which it is to be feared will engage not only many Governments but many countries and for many years to come. In such circumstances it is best to endeavour to settle a structure which will stand the test of time, but to be quite prepared to fill in or alter details according to needs and situations which may arise. I venture to suggest to your Lordships that the structure of this Bill is one which should commend itself to the House. It is the first measure introduced in this country dealing comprehensively with the whole of the able-bodied industrial unemployed. It has been framed after very careful examination and consideration of the Report of the Royal Commission on Unemployment Insurance, and it consists of two parts, one dealing with unemployment insurance and the other dealing with unemployment assistance.
Permit me, for a moment, to use a neutral term with regard to unemployed persons, and to call them persons who are not at work. The Bill introduces a system under which persons who are not at work will be divided into three great classes. There will be those who have insured themselves against unemployment. When they happen not to be at work they will be entitled, as a right, to insurance benefit, just as anyone who has made a contract say, for example, with an insurance society is entitled to benefit. Secondly, the Bill will deal with those who have lapsed from insurance. By the hypothesis, these men being no longer insured, or not being insured, will not be entitled to insurance benefit, but they will be entitled to unemployment assistance. Thirdly, there will be that large class of our fellow-countrymen who are sick, aged or infirm, not entitled to any insurance benefit, who do not come under the provisions for unemployment assistance but who will receive public assistance from the community.
Dealing with the first of these great classes, those who are entitled to insurance benefit, it must always be recollected that insurance is in the nature of 894 a contract and, to put it quite generally, you are entitled to get what you pay for. The most important thing of any insurance scheme, whether it be a public one or a private one, in justice to the assured, is that it should be financially and actuarially sound. This is one of the problems of the present Bill; and it has been solved by setting up, as your Lordships are well aware, a specially constituted Unemployment Insurance Statutory Committee who will be guardians and protectors of the Fund.
Let me pass from the first Part to the second Part of the Bill—namely, to those who have lapsed from insurance and who are not entitled to relief from the fact that they are insured against unemployment. These persons come under the central authority, the Unemployment Assistance Board, and it is this part of the scheme which has given many of us the greatest anxiety. It may be claimed that by the first Part of the Bill the insured are now safely placed upon a true insurance basis, and know exactly where they stand, and that the Fund has been made safe and stable. Those who have lapsed from insurance are provided with a regular procedure of relief, which everybody is devoutly thankful does not carry with it the stigma of the old Poor Law. At the moment their rights will in purchasing power be higher than they have ever been before, but it is most necessary that something in the nature of a means test should be applied to those who come under this second part of the national scheme. Here everything will depend upon one thing. Eyerything will depend on the administration. Parliament may legislate never so wisely, never so humanely, never so logically, but Parliament cannot administer. It can take care as far as possible that the administration shall be just, but you will never be able to make administration a cast-iron system. It is not desirable to do so. In the interest of the unemployed themselves you must have elasticity.
But the danger of elasticity is that it may lead to improper administration. Whatever is best administered is best. If we are to have Pharaohs administering this Act, it will be a failure. We have the same problem with magistrates all over the country. One bench of magistrates may take quite a different view of offences from that which another bench 895 takes. The administration of this Act does not call merely for qualities of head or merely for qualities of heart, but a difficult combination of both head and heart which it is so difficult in human affairs to obtain. Parliament, however, will be doing its best by framing, as far as possible, regulations along which those who administer the law must work. I do not believe that there is more than an infinitesimal proportion of our fellow-countrymen who shirk work, or who do not desire to work. I believe practically every Englishman is only too glad to get a job and thanks God if he does so. Further, in this Bill the gap between the ages of leaving school and entering insurance has been closed, and the duty of providing instruction for unemployed children has been imposed on local authorities. So far with regard to the structure of the Act.
Let me now endeavour to reply to some of the questions which have been addressed to the Government and here let me deal first with the speech of my noble friend Lord Marley, covering at the same time the speech of my noble friend the Earl of Kinnoull. I do not complain for a moment of their somewhat hard criticism of the Government. They naturally entertain very strong views upon that subject and they are entitled to express them. But I very much wish sometimes that the unemployed question could be argued without adjectives. I am sure we should get on a good deal better if we tried to use arguments instead of adjectives, and I am sure my noble friends will not blame me for suggesting that to them. Of course, if you do what the noble Lord, Lord Marley, does, and if you do what the noble Earl, Lord Kinnoull, does—that is to say, regard this Bill as an accursed thing—and if you use the somewhat cynical expression, "Can any good come out of Nazareth?" then of course any stick is good enough with which to beat the Bill. But I venture to suggest to the two noble Lords that everything will depend upon the administration of the Bill, and it may very well be that both Lord Marley and the Earl of Kinnoull will live to see their prophecies falsified. They will not be the first persons who were called to curse but who remained to bless. Forgive my saying one thing to them. They say—and they are entitled to say—"Ah, but when the Labour Government come in we will re- 896 peal the Bill." Well, I am afraid the noble Lord, Lord Marley, will have to wait a little time for that, and perhaps when he has waited a little time, may I suggest he will be a little wiser?
May I deal—because I ought to deal seriously—with some of the points raised by my noble friend? One of the first points made by the noble Lord, Lord Marley, was this. He rather suggested that the Bill was of a bureaucratic character and that there really was no actual control by Parliament. The words he used were:… the Unemployment Assistance Board is not responsible to Parliament … [It is] a body which is not subject to Parliamentary control.He is not quite right there. The noble Lord, Lord Marley, is a very busy man and he has not the opportunities afforded to me of having people to look up matters for him. It is generally accepted that any system of assistance according to need can only by operated on the basis of discretion exercised by an authority in close contact with the personal circumstances of the applicant and the local background. That is what you have to provide. The existence of such a discretion is irreconcilable with direct Ministerial responsibility for every individual decision, carrying with it the liability to constant Parliamentary questioning in individual cases. Of course the noble Lord will see the impossibility of such a thing as that, and as a practical man he will not desire it.
But the proposals in the Bill represent, I submit, an attempt to ensure to the Unemployment Assistance Board a proper degree of administrative independence while at the same time providing opportunities for Ministerial control and Parliamentary criticism if the Board's general administration is not satisfactory. Permit me to refer you to one or two safeguards. There is the requirement that the Minister must approve various administrative matters. I have in front of me dozens of them. I will only quote one, but it is one of the most important. The Minister must approve the procedure for the issue of allowances. That is in Clause 42 (1). Then there is the requirement that the Board must obtain the Minister's approval for any arrangements it may make for the provision and maintenance 897 of training courses. That is in Clause 37. I must give the next instance rather more fully.
A measure of Parliamentary control is secured by (a) the requirement that the regulations under Clause 38 to set up a basis on which need is assessed and allowances granted must be sanctioned by an affirmative Resolution by both Houses of Parliament before coming into operation—Clause 52 (3) and (4)—(b) the annual Vote required for salaries and allowances of the officers and servants of the Board and for the Exchequer contributions to the Unemployment Assistance Fund (Clause 47);(c) the annual report to Parliament of the Comptroller and Auditor General upon the Board's accounts;(d) the annual report of the Board to the Minister; and (e) the procedure with respect to rules made by the Board. I will therefore venture to suggest to my noble friend that on second thoughts he will come to the conclusion that the statement which he made with regard to Parliamentary control was made in rather too wide and too exhaustive terms.
Now I come to another matter to which the noble Lord referred, and with this I want to deal only very briefly, because although it touched me very much I am not quite sure how far such a statement advances the cause here. The noble Lord, Lord Marley, in his speech said something about "slave camps." That adjective is not quite merited. He said:… the camps have been called 'slave camps,' and I believe it is not an inapt description.Of course the noble Lord may have visited them, in which case I unhesitatingly and without a moment's thought accept what he said. I have not visited them, but what I rely upon is a report which was made by a special correspondent, Mr. Phillpott, of the Daily Herald.
I think that his articles appeared on March 15, 16, 17 and. 19, 1934. Of course I am not going to quote the whole of them, but amongst. other things which he said are these:I went out to see the gangs at work. They were at it cheerfully, and the gangers were unobtrusive. There was no slacking on the one hand or goading on the other.There are of course variations in the diet….I have seen the meals prepared 898 and served. They are good, and there is no stint of quantity.Punishments do not exist.…. all the officials I have met have an obviously sincere and self-sacrificing, faith in the voluntary system, and a complete belief in the potentialities of the lads they are trying to 'recondition.That may be true. That is the account given by the special correspondent of the Daily Herald. All that I am saying is this—because unfortunately I have been generally acting as a Judge and not as a politician: If that statement is anywhere near the truth—and it is out of the Daily Herald—I should a little think the phrase "slave camps" a misnomer.
The next point which the noble Lord made, and which was made with very great propriety if I may say so, and very great emphasis, by the noble Earl, Lord Kinnoull, is about the 2s. allowance for children. I am not going to say that 2s. is enough for a child. I do not believe it is. But let us just see what the facts are. Of course it is quite impossible to imagine a child going up to the place where he can get the money, and saying: "Give me my 2s.," and to contend that 2s. is enough for the child. If you look at it in that detached way it is ridiculous. But at any rate let me put the facts. Since 1924, 2s. has been the rate of allowance in respect of each child under fourteen years of age of an unemployed person in receipt of unemployment benefit. I am not saying that that proves that the 2s. was right; all I am saying is that there have been different Governments in power during that period, and they continued the allowance of that sum. That rate of 2s. was not reduced when other benefit rates were reduced in 1931.
May I give a figure? I apologise; I am not so good at figures as the noble Lord. The cuts in benefit rates are restored by this Bill, so that from July 1 a man will get 17s. instead of 15s. 3d. for himself, and he will have 9s. instead of 8s. for his wife. Let us take the figures now for a man and his wife and a child. I do not think it is fair—I will not say "fair," because the noble Lord wishes to be as fair as I do, but I do not think it is scientific, to look at it and to say: "The man has 17s., the woman 9s., the child 2s." I think you must put the whole sum together and say that the man, 899 woman and child have 28s.—17s., 9s., and 2s. Now, while the sums paid to the unemployed man are calculated separately, the total amount is of course spent as a single sum towards the maintenance of the family. The Statutory Committee will eventually have to consider whether any surplus from the Unemployment Fund shall be spent upon an increase in the sum paid to men with families, and, if they think it should, whether the children's allowances should be increased.
But I want to point out this to the noble Lord, because it obviously escaped his attention. It is perfectly true that the man gets 17s., the woman 9s. (making 20s.) and the child 2s. (making 28s.). But if, when noble Lords have an opportunity —I do not ask them to do it now—they will be good enough to look at Clause 38, subsection (2) of the Bill, they will discover that a man in that case may go to the Unemployment Assistance Board and try to get more, and if he proves that he has special merits he may get more. Personally I do not dwell too much upon that subsection, but all I do suggest to the noble Lord is that as a matter of arithmetic it is not quite in the right perspective to say that because 2s. is not enough for a child it is a great fault in the Bill. I am not saying personally that I should not like to see it very much more. That is my view; but that is not the point. It may be my personal view, but all I am saying is this, that I think you must take into consideration the whole amount, and I think you must also take into consideration that clause under which the man may go to the Unemployment Assistance Board.
The noble Lord, Lord Marley, said—and here his arithmetic, if he will allow me to say so, is no better than my uninstructed arithmetic, but I have got instructions—… the Fund, in order to maintain the solvency by which the Minister sets so much store, is actually making a profit out of children of £750.000 a year ….Now that is wrong. It is entirely erroneous. The point is dealt with on pages to 2 to 4 of the Government Actuary's Report. Let me give the figures. The estimated income from contributions in respect of boys and girls under sixteen is £760,000 per annum, of which only one-third is paid by the boys and girls themselves. Against this contribution must be set the estimated cost 900 of reducing the minimum age for receipt of benefit to sixteen, which is £230,000; the estimated cost of the extension of dependants' benefit, £75,000; the estimated contribution from the Unemployment Fund to the cost of courses of instruction,£425,000; and the estimated cost of administration, £95,000. These total £825,000, which is £65,000 in excess of the income derived from the lowering of the age of entry.
There was a point made by the noble Lord, Lord Marley, and indeed by one or two of the other speakers, including I think my noble friend Lord Buxton, with regard to the means test. It is hardly necessary for me to labour the necessity of the means test. We none of us like it. It may be a disagreeable necessity, but a necessity it is. Let me put an argument or two about it. The expression is a short way of referring to the principle that a man should be assisted according to his need. Obviously a man's need cannot be determined apart from the question of his resources. He is in need only to the extent that his resources are insufficient. The justification of a means test becomes most apparent when the alternative is considered. The only alternative to a means test is a payment irrespective of need. See what that means. If payments are made without regard to need it must follow that they are more than some and less than others of the recipients need, and it would lead at once to most appalling injustice. What is to happen to the man who does not get enough? Is he to make shift on an inadequate payment? Clearly that would involve hardship. Then on what basis is the inadequate payment to be supplemented? There can he only one answer, and that is, by reference to his needs.
The real difficulty of the means test, I submit, is not because it is either unjust, cruel or hard. I think the criticism of a means test is often confused with criticism of a particular kind of means test, and that the opposition to this Bill is due largely to the fact that the Bill provides that the resources of an applicant which are to be taken into account shall include the resources of all the members of the household of which the applicant is a member. Many people who would not object to a strictly personal means test do oppose the "household" principle by which the 901 resources of sons or brothers and sisters or parents are taken into account. The answer is this. If an authority determining allowances according to need finds that an applicant is living as a member of a well-to-do household, that he is already provided with bed and board and other necessaries, how can they decide with any regard to the realities of the case that he is in need? They are justified in taking the facts as they find them and the facts are that, thanks to family solidarity, the applicant's needs are already being met. Everything in this case, and this is one of the difficulties, will depend upon administration. I am confident that if this measure is going to be properly administered, I shall live to see the day, if I live long enough, when the noble Lord will get up and say he has made a mistake. Do not misunderstand me. I am not saying that this Bill cannot be improved, but I am saying that on the structure of this measure it is a real attempt to put this debatable matter on a proper footing.
Now comes the next point referred to by Lord Buxton and by my noble friend also, and that is the debt of the old Unemployment Fund. What is to be said about that? The answer is as follows. The problem of the debt of the Unemployment Fund cannot be considered in isolation, apart from the other recommendations of the Royal Commission affecting the Exchequer, the circumstances in which their recommendations were made, and the total financial burden falling on the Exchequer under the Bill. If you look at the Report of the Royal Commission on the finance of the Unemployment Fund as a whole, no support can be there found for the demand that in the existing changed circumstances of to-day the Exchequer should take over a part of the debt charge. Even if the question of debt were looked at in isolation, much might be said as to the clear propriety of repayment. The worst of starts would be given to the new scheme, a fundamental feature of which is its continued solvency, if it were thought that debts could be incurred, only in the course of time to be written off.
Permit me here to give a few figures which I am really giving in answer to Lord Buxton on another point. The estimated cost to local authorities during the "standard year" of the relief of the able-bodied unemployed which will be 902 transferred to the new Board is £6,500,000. Of this sum the local authorities are to contribute £3,600,000. The authorities, however, receive block grants from the Exchequer which amount to about 23 per cent. of their total expenditure. The effect of this is that the sum which authorities will have to find from the rates will be about £2,100,000 a year up to March 31, 1937, when this matter, together with the block grants, will fall to be reviewed. Against this sum there is to be contrasted the expenditure in respect of able-bodied unemployed falling directly upon the Exchequer, for which provision of a figure approaching £50,000,000 has been made in the current financial year. The disbursements from local rates, therefore, amount to less than 5 per cent. of the charge in respect of the relief of able-bodied unemployed not entitled to benefit. In addition there is the Exchequer contribution to the unemployment insurance scheme, which for 1934–35 is estimated to be £20,500,000.
I was a little disappointed at the remarks on Part II of the Bill by the noble Earl, Lord Buxton, who certainly made the best speech which has yet been made, if I may be allowed to say so, on Part I of the Bill—I am not talking about the noble Lord who introduced the Bill because, of course, he is on our side. I think 'what he meant was that he rather disliked the idea of what he called centralisation. Centralisation is an admirable thing for two reasons. The first is that the central authority is going to put up most of the money, and the easiest thing in the world—I am not attacking the local authority; I should do the same—is to spend somebody else's money. If the central authority is going to put up the money I suggest that the administration of the money ought to be in the central authority's hands. I have already pointed out the very small proportion which the local authorities will have to contribute. Forgive my dealing with one other point. I am only now putting a point which may be wrong but which is my personal view. One of the great difficulties of the old Act has been the different way in which it has been administered in different towns. In some towns you had an administration which—I do not want to say too much about it, but it was unsatisfactory. In 903 other towns you had a far more—I do not want to use a depreciatory adjective —charitable way. That has produced, no doubt, very great discontent. The great point about centralisation of administration is that you are able to have even administration and the way you get that is to make settled rules and as far as possible let the local administration run on these lines.
I hope I have answered with one exception all the inquiries of noble Lords, but I have left one point over because it was a point on which the noble Lord found a most ardent supporter in the most reverend Primate last night. "Why," he said, "do you not raise the school-leaving age?" Let me first of all remind the noble Lord that this Bill is not primarily an Education Bill, it is primarily an Unemployment Bill. I want also to point out that there is nothing in this Bill from start to finish that in any way prevents or prejudges the question of the raising of the school-leaving age. The answer to the most reverend Primate and my noble friend is that while the raising of the school-leaving age would take the age group fourteen to fifteen off the labour market, and would certainly have some effect on unemployment in the age group fifteen to eighteen, it would not, as they no doubt realise, put an end to such unemployment, largely because juvenile labour is very immobile, and shortage of labour in one area cannot be made good, at any rate completely, by a surplus of unemployed juveniles in another. In any case, therefore, it would still be necessary to make provision for the fifteen to eighteen group along the lines of the Bill. The Bill has been drafted with the utmost care so as not to prejudice the question of the raising of the school-leaving age. There are thousands of people in this country, whose opinions are entitled not only to respect but to consideration, who hold that the school-leaving age should be raised. I express no opinion myself upon it; it is no part of my duty tonight. It has nothing to do with this Bill. All I do say is that merely as an argument the contention that by raising the school-leaving age you will reduce unemployment is as sound as twice two are four.
But the most reverend Primate was then quite right in saying, "Well, if you are not going to raise the school-leaving 904 age, and if you say you are going to have all this instruction and all these classes, what are you going to do for them? This Act is going to pass in a few weeks' time. What have you done?" And he posed a series of questions. The first question was: Are schemes being prepared by the Ministry of Labour and the Board of Education in consultation? The next question was: What is being done to secure well equipped buildings and suitable teachers? The next question was: How is continuity of attendance to be secured? The next question was: Should the Board of Education be responsible?
Let me answer these questions. First, Are schemes being prepared by the Ministry of Labour and the Board of Education in consultation? Answer—Yes. The scheme in accordance with which authorities will have to submit their proposals for dealing with unemployed juveniles is already under consideration by the Ministry and the Board. I am not going to describe everything that has been done. It would take me too long. But I should like to say that the Ministry have had the advantage of receiving on this point very full reports on the problem as a whole from the National Advisory Councils for England and Wales (the Chairman of which is Lord Goschen) and for Scotland (the Chairman of which is Lord Elgin); and I think we owe our best thanks for what they have done.
In answer to the next question: What is being done to secure well equipped buildings and suitable teachers? these two matters have been particularly referred to in the letter to authorities asking them to make surveys. The replies show that there should in most cases be no serious difficulty in providing suitable buildings. If necessary, the erection of temporary buildings for this purpose will be approved by the Ministry of Labour. With regard to continuity of attendance, no one in this wide world knows how that can be secured, and nobody can secure it. This is inherent in any scheme which is designed to deal with young persons only as long as they are out of employment. As soon as they get a job again you lose continuity. That is one difficulty of the problem. It is, however, possible to give these young persons very useful instruction and training, even though it cannot be a course of instruc- 905 tion such as they would receive in an ordinary school.
The last question was: Should the Board of Education be responsible? Well, the reasons why we think that the Ministry of Labour should be responsible are these. It is essential that one Department only should be responsible for dealing with the service in relation to Parliament, for framing policy, and for carrying out administrative decisions. No man can serve two masters: it is difficult enough to serve one Department. That means that it is only natural that the Department should be the Ministry which has already conducted this service, though on a smaller scale, for ten years. In any case the provision of instruction for unemployed juveniles is closely bound up with questions of employment and unemployment existing and prospective, on which the Ministry, not the Board, is the expert Department.
The noble Earl, Lord Buxton, in his speech this afternoon made a point that the Bill is not specific enough in Part II with regard to the functions of the Board. It is a very complicated Bill and is bound to be so, and I do not blame any noble Lord for making a slip and for overlooking one or two of the clauses, but the functions of the Board are set out in Clause 35 (2) and the constitution of the Board is set out in the Sixth Schedule. I think that everybody who reads that clause and that Schedule will come to the conclusion that the suggestion that the Bill is not specific is hardly one that can be justified.
With regard to Lord Kilmaine's suggestions, first of all I should like to thank him on behalf of the Government for the 906 support that he gave. He certainly made some very valuable suggestions as to creating employment and so forth. I am quite sure that we shall receive these and give due weight to them. Of course, I cannot make any promise; I am not the Minister. But then there was another matter to which the noble Lord referred —something to do with sweepstakes. All I can say with regard to sweepstakes is that perhaps to-day of all otihers is the day on which we take the most charitable view of sweepstakes. I have now endeavoured to answer all the questions. I cannot hope that I have converted all my noble friends, but at any rate I have done my best to answer them. I think your Lordships will find that if this Bill, when it becomes an Act, is fairly and properly administered, none of us will ever regret having voted for the Second Reading.
§ On Question, Bill read 2ª, and committed to a Committee of the Whole House.