HL Deb 25 May 1937 vol 105 cc201-17

Order of the Day for the Second Reading read.


My Lords, this is a Bill to extend the national insurance schemes to a further class. Your Lordships may be aware that about 19,000,000 people are covered by the contributory schemes to-day, and if the dependants of those people are taken into account about three-quarters of our whole population are covered by them. The principle contained in these schemes, which is familiar to your Lordships, is that in return for weekly contributions from the employer and the employee, the employee becomes entitled after the age of sixty-five to a weekly old age pension of 10s. He is entitled to medical attention and money benefits when he is sick, and if he dies his widow and his children also receive pensions. These schemes really constitute a form of compulsory thrift, but it is a form of thrift which is heavily subsidised by the State, and it has been calculated that the total liability which has been assumed by the State in connection with these schemes is no less than £1,200,000,000.

Progress has been fairly easy in connection with the weekly wage earners for this reason, that it is much easier to devise a successful insurance scheme when you can work out the mathematics of that scheme in advance. It is much easier to work out the mathematics of the scheme where you have a compulsory scheme, and compulsory schemes can only be applied where there is contract of service on which to base them, for it is really almost impossible to apply compulsory principles to independent people. Therefore there remains a considerable number of people whose incomes are comparable to the incomes of those who are already insured as working for a weekly wage, but who nevertheless, on account of the fact that they are working independently, or for some other reason, do not fall within the definition of the classes for whom these compulsory schemes were designed. Obviously the need for pensions and for provision for the widows and children of these people is just as great as in the case of the weekly wage earner. Accordingly, it was decided in 1925 that those who had come out of compulsory insurance should be enabled to continue to contribute and to receive their benefits on a voluntary basis. If that decision had not been made they would, of course, have lost the benefits for which they had been contributing in the past. Nevertheless, those insured persons who have been in the compulsory scheme and are now eligible for the voluntary scheme are only a part of the class to which I have been referring, and it is the others to whose case the Government are now turning.

In considering the extension of any Government insurance scheme it is obviously necessary to draw the line somewhere. The Government have never believed it was their duty to devise pension schemes, supported out of State money, for the benefit of those who had sufficient to provide for themselves, but we have had to recognise that the limitations of the existing arrangement shut out a number of people whose claims for State assistance are as great as those for whom provision has already been made. What this Bill sets out to do is to provide that anybody within a certain income limitation should be entitled to procure on a voluntary basis the same pension benefits as those who are already insured. We calculate that there are about 2,000,000 people who can, if they desire, take advantage of these new proposals. What the scheme briefly amounts to is this, that any man between the ages of twenty-one and forty, with an income of £400 a year or under, can, by paying contributions graduated according to the age at which he enters the scheme, secure a pension of 10s. a week for himself and his wife from the age of sixty-five to death, and widows' and orphans' pensions, in exactly the same way as those people do who are now insured.

There is a further considerable concession made in that every man up to the age of fifty-five who joins this scheme in the first year of its existence can acquire those rights, not by paying the full graduated contribution, but by paying the lowest contribution which the youngest entrant would pay in future years—that is to say, 1s. 3d. per week. That is a very valuable concession, and it has been calculated on an actuarial basis that this 1s. 3d. represents over 15s. worth of benefit. I desire to emphasise the fact that if any of these new entrants satisfy the income limitation in the first year they join, they continue to draw these benefits whatever their subsequent income may be without any further means test. Naturally, some conditions have to be made to ensure that the scheme shall work properly. Entrants must have resided for ten years in this country previous to entry into this scheme, and to qualify for widows' and orphans' pensions, a man must have contributed for 104 weeks; for old age pensions he must have been continually insured for at least ten years immediately prior to the age of sixty-five, and must have paid 260 weekly contributions. There is also a safeguard to provide for the proper payment of these contributions, and a smaller rate of benefit is given to those who do not conform. Eventually the benefit lapses, but even then the contributor has certain valuable lapse rights.

So far I have been dealing with men, but it will be seen that the Bill also makes provision for women. At first glance it may appear that women are treated on a basis inferior to men for, although the income limit in the case of men is £400, the limit in the case of women is £250. The explanation of this apparent inequality is fairly simple, for it is important to remember that this is a voluntary scheme. I understand that it has been by no means easy to devise a voluntary scheme of this nature, and the only way in which the difficulties can be got over is by anticipating intelligently the sort of response that will be made to the Government offer. Our anticipation, which I hope is intelligent, and which is certainly based on a great deal of experience in the past, is that the principal attraction of this scheme will be the opportunity it gives to a man to make provision for his widow in old age. Examples I am sure can also be produced where a woman might desire to make provision for her husband and family if she pre-deceased them. But, as I have said, we must base our scheme on the conditions most likely to arise. If our anticipations are correct, it will be seen that a large proportion of the moneys paid in by the men—the benefits accruing from these contributions—will, in fact, be enjoyed by women. I would also remind your Lordships that a man is not entitled to contribute to old age pensions without also contributing to his wife's old age pension and to the widows' and orphans' pensions, whereas a woman under this scheme, in return for a much lower contribution, can get her old age pension at sixty-five. It was felt that the lower income limit in the case of women was justified because, in entering this scheme, a woman would only have her own future to consider and not the future of her dependants.

I want to say a word about a different matter—namely, those who are covered by the present voluntary scheme. As your Lordships will understand, that is the class who have been in compulsory insurance and now, because they have exceeded the income limit or have transferred to some non-insurable occupation, have gone out of insurance. A certain complication arises in connection with that class, because the present voluntary scheme provides not only for pension rights but also for health insurance. For reasons which I do not think I need go into at the moment this new scheme has to be confined to pension benefits only. These existing voluntary contributors have, however, been paying hitherto for combined pension and health insurance benefits, and naturally it would be unfair to deprive them now of the health benefits for which they have been contributing. Therefore what we propose to do is to continue their health insurance but to give them the option of deciding whether they shall be insured separately for health and for pensions, or continue exactly as they are. One stipulation we make is that if they do decide to go on exactly as they are they shall not drop their health insurance without dropping the whole scheme. If they decide in favour of separation, which is the first alternative, then they will have power to drop out of either health or pension insurance at any time that suits them best.

In the case of a Bill of this sort, which I think it will be difficult to amend in this House without infringing the rules of Privilege, it is not always easy to know exactly the degree of detail in which your Lordships may be interested, but I hope that in this brief explanation I have said enough to show that it is designed to meet the proved needs of a very varied number of people whose one common denominator is that they all are not very well off; in fact, there are none of them very well off. The Bill is called the black-coated worker's Bill, but actually we anticipate that it will be of service to a much wider class than the black-coated worker. We think it will be of service to people of such diverse occupations as smallholders, the clergy, the village blacksmith, dressmakers and all kinds of other people. We believe that it is a practical measure and one that will be welcome. I think the fact that there was no Division either on Second Reading or Third Reading in another place confirms that belief. In fact we claim that it is the cheapest and safest scheme of its kind in the world to-day. I confidently commend the Bill to your Lordships for Second Reading.

Moved, That the Bill be now read 2a.— (Viscount Gage.)


My Lords, my noble friends and I do not propose to offer any direct opposition to this Bill. It certainly is a well-meant effort. We recognise that, and we thank the noble Viscount who has resumed his place for his very clear and also sympathetic references, especially to the village blacksmith as a black-coated worker. I do not think the village blacksmith would quite recognise himself in that description. On the other side of the Atlantic they talk of a similar class as the white-collared worker. The village blacksmith would not recognise himself as a white-collared worker either. But we know that what the noble Viscount means is that for the small independent capitalist, the small businessman, no doubt this Bill is advantageous. Indeed the whole Bill is another good piece of Socialism introduced by a Tory Government with the inevitable defects that a Tory Government always manages to include at the last moment. I did not quite understand the actuarial calculation, neither did my noble Leader, Lord Snell, who is a great expert on these matters. I understood that for a contribution of 1s. 3d. the insured person of mature age got a benefit for which in commercial insurance, for example, he would have to pay 15s.


What I meant was that if that man had gone to a non-State subsidised concern he would have had to pay something over 15s. to get the benefits which he derives from this Bill. I am sorry if I made a mistake in my explanation.


Thus these workers will get 15s. for 1s. 3d. That is even better than 9d. for 4d., so that my right honourable friend Sir Kingsley Wood has improved on another friend of mine, Mr. Lloyd George, because, instead of giving 9d. for 4d., he is now giving 15s. for 1s. 3d. and all the other benefits which the noble Viscount has explained. So much for the advantages of the Bill. Its objections from our point of view I can summarise in this way. If it is passed in its present form the effect of Clause 9 will be to deprive civil servants and railway salaried staffs and people of that kind in excepted employments of the rights which they now have of becoming voluntary contributors for national health benefits and the old age pension on promotion to more than £250 per annum. On admission to a statutory superannuation fund such staffs are excepted from the provisions of the National Health Insurance Act and contributory old age pension insurance, but are compulsorily insured for widows' and orphans' pensions only. On promotion to more than £250 a year such persons now have the option to become voluntary contributors, thereby maintaining their widows' and orphans' pension insurance, and in addition insuring for national health benefits and the contributory old age pension at the age of sixty-five. This Bill proposes to permit them to continue their widows' and orphans' pension insurance only; they will not be able to insure for both national health and the old age pension. We do not think that is fair, and we hope your Lordships will accept an Amendment to put that right during the Committee stage.

The proposed repeal of Section 121 of the Insurance Act—Clause 13, subsection (1)—is a very serious matter both for the staffs concerned and for the approved societies which cater for such persons, as not only will it take away a right which has been conferred in every successive Act since 1911, and confirmed as recently as 1936 by the present Government, but will close up the field of recruitment so far as the approved societies specially established to cater for this class of insured person are concerned. Another serious aspect from our point of view is the repeal of rights which previous Parliaments have conferred upon persons of this category in excepted employments to become insured for national health benefits on passing over £250 a year. The Government argue that the effect of the Amendments which we would like to see embodied in the Bill would be to compel everybody in this class to take the further benefits—that is, national health as well as old age pensions—and, apparently, the Government consider that such persons will welcome the opportunity of becoming voluntary contributors under the Bill only for the benefits for which they were previously compulsorily insured. We are given to understand that there is a very wide body of opinion in the country which does not agree with the Government in that.

The Government further contend that it will be difficult to justify the expenditure of Exchequer money to provide for the classes in question the benefits in respect of which they are excepted whilst in receipt of not more than £250 a year, on the ground that they enjoy at least equivalent rights under the terms of their employment. By the provision of benefits in respect of sickness and disablement on the whole not less favourable than the corresponding benefits conferred by the National Insurance Act, the people who make this objection, the railway clerks, civil servants, Post Office employees and so on, are excepted from payment of national health insurance contributions under the terms of a certificate granted by the Minister of Health, but on passing over £250 a year they are normally outside the range of the Insurance Act. It is at the stage when salaries exceed £250 per annum, however, that they now have the option to become voluntary contributors for national health benefits as well as the contributory old age pension. The repeal of this Section 121 of the Act will deprive them of this option, and they consider that to be an injustice.

Those are a few of the objections. I believe also that many of the women's organisations are very much exercised and worried about this Bill, but I understand a noble Lord opposite is going to deal with that particular matter, and as there are other speakers I will leave the case of the ladies to him if I may. I only now want to advise the noble Viscount that we shall put down Amendments for the Committee stage—very reasonable Amendments—to meet these particular hardships and I hope the Government will see their way to accept them.


My Lords, I should like first of all to offer a word of congratulation to the Government for having produced this very excellent Bill, and if I may I should like also to congratulate the noble Viscount who introduced it on the very clear way in which he laid it before your Lordships. It is, of course, going to confer a very great boon upon a class who urgently need help in making provision for old age, a class which has borne its share in paying for the provision made for the classes already compulsorily insured. Nothing that the Government could do is more needed, I think, at the present time. The sort of people who will be benefited are the people working independently on their own account, tradesmen, many women, like teachers of music and teachers of languages, and other people who certainly have a very hard struggle to make both ends meet and also to provide for old age. There is a very admirable feature of the Bill, that which permits entry in the first year up to fifty-five at the flat rate. That is a tremendous boon.

But if I emphasise the merits of the Bill it is for this reason, that the greater the benefits of the Bill the greater is the hardship to those groups or classes of people to whom the benefits ought to apply and who are excluded. It becomes all the more bitter to be in a small and most deserving class which is excluded from this rare and refreshing fruit which is offered to contemporaries and colleagues. This income differentiation is going to result in the exclusion, quite arbitrarily, of a very deserving class of women. The noble Viscount touched lightly on that, and he did indicate—I was very glad to have that indication—that he realised that there will be hard cases. But he did not indicate at all to your Lordships the number of people falling into the class who will be cut out by this income limit. I think we are entitled to know to what extent this exclusion is going to inflict hardship. The group excluded is a rather special group because it is a group of women at a certain age and at a certain income.

I am going to suggest to your Lordships that averages taken over all professional women, both from the point of view of income and of dependants, are fallacious. The Minister of Health in another place on Third Reading quoted from a work called "The Human Needs of Labour" by Mr. Rowntree, and derived from that great satisfaction because Mr. Rowntree, who was considering minimum wages and nothing else, gave statistics showing that the proportion of professional women with dependants was very small. But he does point out that in a particular category, the age group of women from thirty-six to forty years of age, the number with dependants is as high as 28 per cent. That passage in the book must have escaped the Minister's attention, because nobody who knows him could imagine for a moment that he intended to mislead the House. Mr. Rowntree says specifically that in that group 28 per cent. of women, no less, have dependants, and therefore they urgently need the protection given by this Bill. I suggest that there are three categories of women who will be excluded who deserve your Lordships' sympathy. First, there are unmarried women with dependants. There are lots of them, women supporting a relative, a parent or a younger brother or sister. Secondly, there are the widows of uninsured men, possibly with children. Thirdly, there are wives supporting incapacitated husbands, also very likely with children. I have no doubt that there are other categories, but at any rate there are three, and it is idle to say they do not exist. Of course they exist, and I think they exist in considerable numbers.

This is the first time in the whole history of national health insurance that this kind of differentiation has been made. The Government have said—I think the noble Viscount said this—that it was not differentiation on account of sex. But is it not? Any man with £300 a year and dependants comes in, but a woman with £300 and dependants does not come in, only because she is a woman. The members of all the three categories I have mentioned would come in if they were men. If it were true to say that there is no sex differentiation then the differentiation would depend on need, on whether there were dependants or not. I think that is clear. If you are going to make inclusion in the scheme dependent on whether a person has need because there are dependants, then let it be because of dependants and not because of sex. The theoretical question of sex equality does not really arise as in a case of women seeking entry to a domain hitherto occupied by men, as for instance when there was agitation for the vote or for entry into the professions of medicine and law. That agitation was based on theoretical rights of equality to enter into a domain occupied by men. This is a very different thing. Here is a case where the Government have hitherto treated the sexes equally and are now establishing a new privileged class. Here you have differentiation, not only between men and women but between women and women, which I do not think can possibly be justified. What I am asking for is equal treatment for equal need irrespective of sex.

The noble Viscount said, I think, but if he did not do so it was said in another place, that these women could make provision for themselves outside the Bill. What we are concerned about is mainly provision for old age, one of the most important things as everybody knows. The noble Lord, Lord Horder, is not in his place to-day, but he said recently that worry was responsible for half the cases of sickness that occur. Everybody knows that the annuitant is the person who lives for ever. Therefore provision for old age is the most vital thing that the Government can provide. It is said that a woman with an income of £250 can afford to provide for it herself. I have made inquiries and I am told that at the age of twenty-five a woman can make provision for a pension of 10s. a week at sixty-five by the payment of 1s. 6d. per week. The Government ask why women do not do that. Well, my Lords, at twenty-five old age seems a very long way off. No girl of twenty-five thinks she is going to be old and have nobody to look after her. Moreover she is not sure that she is not going to marry. The chances are that she will. The Government do not expect young bachelors to come into such a scheme. They do not expect men to come in until they are either married or about to marry. Yet they expect young women at the age of twenty-five, long before old age comes in sight, to make this provision. There is another point to be considered. They say that a woman with £250 a year can afford 1s. 6d. a week, but the young woman of twenty-five has not got £250 a year. Women do not get £250 a year until they are thirty-five to forty years old. By that time the cost of this provision is three or four times as much, and moreover involves medical examination. It does seem terribly unfair that you should put men in and leave women out.

As to the numbers in this group I cannot offer your Lordships any figures because I do not know what they are, and the Government do not know. The Government have not offered any figures of these hard cases. But there are hard cases in fact. Surely it would have been reasonable that the Government, before they made this arbitrary exclusion, should have told us something about the numbers of the people who are going to be excluded; and then they might have said: "Well, it is only a very few, and therefore we have to take the rule for the whole on an average basis." I do not think it is a very few. I have told you that Mr. Rowntree says it is 28 per cent. in the age-group thirty-six to forty. I made some inquiries of some of the women's societies. The Society of Women Estate Managers, a most admirable body of people, tell me that no less than half their members will be kept out by this provision. That is a large percentage. I do not say that this is a big society, but they are very praiseworthy people and representative of the class about which I am talking. There is another society, the Society for Women's Service. They tell me that thousands of women have passed through their hands since the War and that a very large percentage of these have dependants and will be excluded by this Bill.

I think we are entitled to something more from the Government than an airy assurance that these cases are very few, before they are brushed aside like that and put out of court. After all, if they are so very few, why not put them in? We have not been told that it is on the grounds of expense that they are being kept out. The noble Viscount defended this differentiation on the grounds that this was a voluntary Bill. I am bound to say that this reason interested me very much, because it is precisely one of the strongest reasons which I am going to give your Lordships why these women should be put in. The Government Actuary says in his report that he anticipates that of the eligible people only one quarter or one-fifth will come in, and it is anticipated that there will be a good deal of what is called "selection against the Government": in other words, the hard cases, the special people, are going to come in. Where could you have more hard cases than among these people of whom I am speaking? If it is a Bill for hard cases, why not put these people in? You can only talk about averages if you are going to include the whole category; then your average has something to be said for it. If you are putting in the whole lot the average will work itself out, but as you are only going to take selected people, who are going to select themselves, surely it is only reasonable that you should allow these hard cases to come in.

The noble Viscount said that the woman has only her own future to consider and not that of dependants. Numbers of women have dependent children, and that statement is therefore not quite accurate. He made the point, with which of course I absolutely agree, that a large proportion of the money paid in by the men will go for the benefit of women. Of course it will; nobody has denied it. But, surely, it is a benefit to the men that they will be able to make provision for their dependent women. The people with whom I am concerned are not the dependent women; the Bill is admirable for them. I am speaking about the women who are not dependent, who have no man on whom to be dependent and who at the age of twenty-five do not know whether they are going to find a man on whom to be dependent. That may be the very thing that they would like of all others, but they do not know whether they will get it. There is a surplus of women who will not be dependent on men, and it seems frightfully hard to shut them out because they have been independent, because they have made their own way, and perhaps supported relatives and thereby saved expense to the State.

There are one or two quite general considerations which I should like to suggest to show why it is unfair to keep out the women in this particular group when others are included. They are considerations rather between men and women. A woman has a greater expectation of life than a man—some four years; therefore her old age is four years longer. She is apt to fall earlier out of employment; it is much more difficult for her to keep her employment right up to the time when she needs her pension. She has less chance of rising to a high salary. You will realise, as the noble Lord told us, that the salary at age on entry is all that counts. Once in, you stay in. A man may come in at under £400 and rise to £800, £1,000 or more. A woman is unlikely to rise so high, yet she is kept out. She has paid her taxes; she has contributed towards those benefits for a man getting five times her salary. It is indefensible.

One other point: the nature of the dependants. Very often the dependants of an unmarried woman are parents or aged relatives. Economically, they can never be anything but a burden. As time goes on they may become a greater burden. The dependants of a man are so often children, and as time goes on they become assets. From an economic point of view there is no comparison; yet a woman is to spend her early life and middle age saving expense to the State, only to be thrown out at the end and told "Oh, you haven't made provision, therefore you go to the workhouse."

I need not tell your Lordships, as the noble Lord opposite has said, that all the women's societies are, of course, up in arms. I have a long list here with which I will not trouble your Lordships, containing such people as the National Council of Women, the Federation of University Women, the Royal College of Nursing, the Chartered Society of Massage and Medical Gymnastics, the Union of Women Clerks and Secretaries, and the Women's Farm and Garden Association. They are responsible people; they are protesting as violently as they can. The Government have also achieved what has never yet been done in the history of this country; they have united the whole of the women Members of Parliament. That has never been done before, but now the whole of the women Members of Parliament are united and went to see the Minister of Health on this subject. That is an achievement, and makes the case which they are putting worthy of consideration. The Bill really produces some astonishing anomalies. Just to state one or two, an unmarried man without dependants is included in these privileges; an unmarried woman with dependants is excluded. The Bill assumes that a woman with £250 a year is always in the same financial position as a man with £400 a year. Indeed, it assumes more than that, for it assumes that a woman with dependants at £250 per year is better off than a man without dependants at £400. That is an astonishing assumption, but one which nevertheless underlies the Bill.

I do not want to do more at this stage than make a plea to the Government to give these matters their consideration. I believe that the only reason for which they have excluded this group is that they think the hardship is very small. I do not think the money is important. Of course, I am aware that if an Amendment were accepted in this House it would, technically, be a Privileged Amendment. That fact need not, however, interfere with the Government's acceptance of it. This has been done a thousand times before, and, as the noble Viscount has told you, there were no Divisions on the main issue in the other House. Indeed, I think there was no speaker on either side who did not comment on this inequality. They all praised the Bill, but nearly everybody said, "There is only one blot which we should like to see removed, and that is this differentiation." I can assure the Government that this Amendment would meet with general approval in another place and is one which would be to their credit. I hope they will consider it between now and the Report stage.


My Lords, I do not want to detain the House, because I have really nothing to add to the admirable speech which my noble friend has just made. I do want, however, to point out to your Lordships that my noble friend who moved the Second Reading was good enough to allude to this subject and say that it appeared at first sight to be a differentiation against women, but that he could quite easily show that it was not one. I listened with the greatest attention in order to hear the reasons which he would give to prove that point. I am sure it must have been my fault, but I did not catch one. He merely said that of course it was not so. I should have thought that it was so unless you could show that it was not! I hope that the Government will consider this criticism very carefully. I can assure them—my noble friend has much more means of assuring them, but I have some—that it is a matter which is felt very deeply by women's organisations, and by women who take an interest in these things. And apart from the actual hardship of the provision which the noble Lord has demonstrated I think it is of importance that legislation should meet with general approval from all classes of the community, if that can be secured. I am quite sure that this will leave a feeling of very great injustice if it is persisted in, and I would beg the noble Viscount to consider the matter very carefully before the Committee stage.


My Lords, I must thank various noble Lords for the reception which they have given to the general principle of this Bill. The noble Lord, Lord Strabolgi, has intimated that he is going to put down various Amendments. So far as I can gather they refer to matters which have been debated in another place, but nevertheless we will do our best to explain and consider the various points that he is likely to raise. On this vexed question of the position of women, I quite agree with my noble friend Lord Cecil of Chelwood that I was perhaps a little optimistic in saying that it was an easy matter to show that this differentiation did not arise. Might I, however, explain the matter once again? I do not make any pretentions to being an expert on insurance, but surely all insurance is based on average expectations. We anticipate that in this question of women and men the average expectation will be for the man to wish to provide for his wife and family. It is quite true that the reverse case may arise, but it will be an exceptional case, and we say that we cannot base an insurance scheme upon exceptional cases. If we put up the woman's limit to that of the man's, and put the women in exactly the same position in other ways as men, we should not be giving them equal treatment but in fact very much better treatment than we give to men, and, moreover, we should be upsetting the finance of the scheme by departing from average expectations.

I do not want to get involved in a lengthy argument about sex equality, but although women are equal to men they are made different from men and this Bill treats them not unequally but differently, and the part referring to women is based upon average expectation in the same way as that referring to men. Lord Balfour of Burleigh made one or two other points to which I should like to refer. He was talking about a number of hard cases, and he quoted my right honourable friend as having, I thought, misled the House of Commons, although, he explained, not intentionally. Surely the figure which he quoted of 28 per cent. is equally misleading, because my right honourable friend made it perfectly clear that he was talking about average cases, and I do not see that if you take four selected years it represents the truth any more than my right honourable friend's figure, which was spread over the whole insurable period.


Only because these are women who are likely to have more than £250 a year.


I should have thought that that was a controversial point, but I will leave it at that. The noble Lord discussed the position of unmarried women and their dependants. As I read the Bill, the dependants which are provided for in this measure are direct dependants—the wife and children—and I do not see that this Bill enables a man to take out an insurance for other people, such as an elder brother and other dependants. If women had that particular privilege, it would not give them equality with men but put them in an exceptional position. The noble Lord quoted the case of the unmarried man being admitted to insurance. The unmarried man, it is true, can go into the insurance scheme, but I understand that that is in anticipation of his getting married, because if he goes in as a bachelor at an early age he gets much better terms than if he goes in later. It is quite obvious that the unmarried man, until he is married, cannot provide for his widow. It is an impossible position for an unmarried man to have a widow. I do not want to labour the point. All I mean to emphasise is that the noble Lord has been basing the whole of his plea upon equality, but I consider that he was really asking for exceptional privileges for these women. He said that he would put down an Amendment about it, which he hoped the Government would consider. As I have said, we are always prepared to consider anything, but I would point out that this particular proposition has been debated at considerable length in another place.


It was not debated at all. It was moved in Committee, but was ruled out of order in the House and was not debated in the whole House.


I seem to have read through many speeches at various stages of the Bill relating to this matter, but I am sure we shall be very happy, if the noble Lord thinks an omission has been made, to treat his suggestions with all due consideration.


Would the noble Viscount kindly put down the Committee stage at as distant a date as possible, as there is no great pressure of business in this House?

On Question, Bill read 2a, and committed to a Committee of the Whole House.