HL Deb 14 November 1934 vol 94 cc461-4

Order of the Day for the House to be put into Committee read.

Moved, That the House do now resolve itself into Committee.—(Viscount Gage.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.

House in Committee accordingly:

[The EARL OF ONSLOW in the Chair.]


There are no Amendments to this Bill in print, but the noble Earl, Lord Kinnoull, has handed me a manuscript Amendment, so that I am afraid I must take the Bill in the ordinary way.

Clause 1:

Amendment of 20 Geo. 5. c. 17. s. 48.

1. Section forty-eight of the Poor Law Act, 1930 (which makes provision as to be matters to Le disregarded in granting outdoor relief to members of friendly societies and certain other persons), shall have effect subject to the following amendments, that is to say:—

  1. (a) in subsection (1) of the said section after the words "friendly society" wherever those words occur therein, there shall be inserted the words "or trade union";
  2. (b) at the end of the said section there shall be inserted the following subsections, that is to say:—

THE EARL OF KINNOULL moved, at the end of the clause, to insert: (6) In granting outdoor relief to any person the council of a county or county borough shall not take into consideration any weekly payments by way of compensation under the enactments relating to workmen's compensation received by any person whose resources are taken into account in relieving him, as though such payments were reduced by one half. (7) The foregoing subsection shall apply to Scotland.

The noble Earl said: I apologise to your Lordships for not having handed in this Amendment in time for it to be printed. The object of the Amendment is to make it mandatory on public assistance committees to disregard half of workmen's compensation benefit. At the present moment it is discretionary. The Government do really accept this principle, as in their 1934 Act it is made mandatory upon the Unemployment Assistance Board to disregard half the workmen's compensation benefit to those people who are applicants for transitional payments. The point I wish to make is this, that people who are applicants for transitional payments come under the means test in precisely the same way as people who have to apply for out relief, and there is no reason why applicants for out relief should not be treated in the same way. It seems to me there is no reason why the Government should not accept the Amendment.

Amendment moved— Page 2, line 18, insert the said new subsections.—(The Earl of Kinnoull.)


I am not sure whether I fully appreciate the effect of this Amendment, but it appears to me that it is undoubtedly a Privilege Amendment, and I submit to noble Lords opposite that they should be very chary of running counter to the Privileges of the House of Commons. This House, I think, will always be careful, unless it has very strong convictions on the matter, not to run the risk of conflict with another place, and I should think that that would appeal to the noble Lord who leads the Opposition.


We have just listened to an expression of opinion from a very experienced noble Lord on the question of Privilege, and I have to point out that whether or not this is a Privilege Amendment, in another place it has been ruled out of order, though I notice that the noble Earl has slightly changed the Amendment, and reduced by one-half the amount of compensation which is to be regarded. The principle, however, would remain the same as was considered in another place to be out of order. Mr. Speaker said he had carefully considered the reports of speeches made by representatives of the Government in introducing the Bill, and was quite clear that the Bill was one to bring the English law into conformity with the existing Scottish law, and that if he allowed the instruction he would be allowing the House to consider in Committee a Bill which was not the same Bill as that to which the House had given a Second Reading.

As I explained yesterday, this Bill was designed to remove certain discrepancies between the procedure for the application of the Poor Law in Scotland and the Poor Law in England. The noble Earl wants to take this opportunity to amend both the English and the Scottish procedure and—I will not say that this House has not rules of procedure in this matter, but at any rate it is less strict than the rules of another place. Nevertheless, I think it could hardly be considered that any Amendment of this character was within the four corners of the Bill. I do not know whether it is necessary for me to argue this matter on its merits. Your Lordships realise that public assistance committees have discretion in these matters. At present they can take these things into consideration, or not, as they choose, but the principle which generally is taken to apply to the Poor Law is that where the local authorities administer the Poor Law they should have, excepting in unusually important matters, the discretion to take these assets into consideration, or not.

It is quite true that we did make the disability pension to which the noble Earl has referred an exception. Perhaps it may be argued that we were wrong in so doing. It may be argued that it does offend the strict principle of Poor Law procedure. Nevertheless, there is considerable sentiment attaching to the disability pension, and it was allowed to pass. But if we are to consider every aspect in which this Bill does not definitely correspond with the Unemployment Act we should have to consider many other items beside this. I can only repeat that this Bill was never intended to have that effect. I hope that, in view of the fact that if the Amendment were passed it would necessitate some slight struggle between the two Houses, the noble Earl will not see fit to press it. That is a hope in which I am reinforced by observing that on the original Scottish Act, introduced only last July, the noble Earl did not see fit to propose such an Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 1 agreed to.

Remaining clause agreed to.

Bill reported without amendment.