HL Deb 24 July 1946 vol 142 cc877-83

2.36 p.m.

Order of the Day for the Third Reading read.


My Lords, I beg to move that this Bill he now read a third time. May I take this opportunity of explaining that there are a few merely formal Amendments which I shall move in due course if the House agrees to the Motion. May I also take the opportunity of explaining that I do not intend to propose an Amendment to Clause 42. Your Lordships will remember that the noble Lord, Lord Llewellin, moved an Amendment to provide that persons selected as members of the local advisory committees might include persons put forward by organizations concerned with certain interests. The noble Lord, Lord Strabolgi, said "You do not put forward persons, you put forward names," and I expressed provisional agreement with the noble Lord. I thought that he had a good point there. He said that he wanted the wording to be in good English. I am glad to think that he and I thought alike on that occasion, but further reflection has made me think that perhaps there is a greater authority than either of us. I refer to the Revised Version of the Bible in Chapter I of the Acts of the Apostles, when the remaining Apostles had to fill the vacancy after the death of Judas Iscariot. Acts I, verse 23, says: and they put forward tea, Joseph called Barsabas, who was surnamed Justus, and Matthias. Your Lordships will observe that they put forward two persons, not names, Joseph and Matthias. On the strength of that authority, I feel certain the noble Lord will be convinced that he and I were both wrong. That is why I do not propose to move an Amendment. I beg to move that the Bill be now read a third time.

Moved, That the Bill be now read 3ª.—(The Lord Chancellor.)

On Question, Bill read 3ª.

Clause 43:

Determination of claims and questions.

(3) Regulations under subsection (1) of this section shall not provide for the determination by the Minister of questions as to the right to benefit, but shall provide— (c) for enabling appeals to be brought from such a tribunal to a Commissioner (to be called "the National insurance Commissioner") or deputy Commissioner appointed by His Majesty for the purposes of this Act or to a tribunal presided over by the National Insurance Commissioner or a deputy Commissioner:

(4) Regulations under subsection (1) of this section may provide for the reference to the High Court for decision of any question of law arising in connection with the determination of a question by the Minister, and for appeals to the High Court from the decision of the Minister on any such question of law; and— (c) notwithstanding anything in any Act, the decision of the High Court on a reference or appeal under this subsection shall be final.

(5) Subject to the provisions of this section, regulations made thereunder may, in relation to the determination of questions in accordance with the regulations, include provision—

  1. (a)as to the procedure which is to be followed, the form which is to be used for any document, the evidence which is to be required and the circumstances in which any official record or certificate is to be sufficient or conclusive evidence;
  2. (b)as to the time to be allowed for making any claim or appeal, for raising any question with a view to the review of any decision or for producing any evidence;
  3. (c)for summoning persons to attend and give evidence or produce documents and for authorising the administration of oaths to witnesses;
and except so far as they may be applied by regulations under this subsection the Arbitration Acts, 1889 to 1934, shall not apply to any proceedings under this section.

THE LORD CHANCELLOR moved, in subsection (3) (c) after "Act," to insert "being in either case a barrister or advocate of not less than ten years standing." The noble and learned Lord said: My Lords, this Amendment is intended to carry out the promise I gave on the National Insurance (Industrial Injuries) Bill. It will put the two Bills into line with each other. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Page 37, line 27, after ("Act") insert ("(being in either case a barrister or advocate of not less than ten years standing)").—(The Lord Chancellor.)

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

THE LORD CHANCELLOR moved, at the end of subsection (4) (c), to insert and on any such reference or appeal the court may order the Minister to pay the costs of any other person, whether or not the decision is in his favour and whether or not the Minister appears on the reference or appeal. The noble and learned Lord said: My Lords, this Amendment also is intended to make this Bill comparable with the National Insurance (Industrial Injuries) Bill, and to carry out the undertaking I gave. I beg to move. Page 38, line 15, at end insert the said words—(The Lord Chancellor.)

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

THE LORD CHANCELLOR moved at the end of subsection (5) to insert: It is hereby declared that the power to prescribe procedure includes power to make provision as to the representation of one person, at any hearing of a case, by another person whether having professional qualifications or not. The noble and learned Lord said: My Lords, this Amendment is proposed for the same reason. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Page 38, line 34, at end insert the said words—(The Lord Chancellor.)

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

Clause 49:


(4) If any person—

  1. (a) Wilfully delays or obstructs an inspector in the exercise of any power under this section; or
  2. (b) fails to answer any question or to furnish any information or to produce any document when required so to do under this section;
he shall be liable on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding ten pounds in the case of a first offence under this subsection and not exceeding fifty pounds in the case of a second or subsequent such offence:


My Lords, the Amendment to this clause is intended to carry out an undertaking I gave to the noble Marquess, Lord Reading, on the National Insurance (Industrial Injuries) Bill. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Page 44, line 14, leave out ("fails") and insert ("refuses or neglects")—(The Lord Chancellor.)

On Question, Amendment agreed to.


My Lords, I beg to move that this Bill do now pass.

Moved, That this Bill do now pass.—(The Lord Chancellor.)

2.40 p.m.


My Lords, I should like if I may to say a few words on this Bill before it actually passes into law or, to be more accurate, before it actually leaves your Lordships' House. This is, of course, not a Bill on which a great deal needs to be said; it is not a controversial Bill; it is not one of those measures which could conceivably lead to that clash between Lords and Commons to which I understand the Minister of Fuel and Power is looking forward with such hopeful anticipation. All Parties in this House support the principle of national insurance; there is no difference between us on that. This Bill is largely the work of a Coalition Government, representative of all Parties, during the days of the war. I remember sitting myself on some of the committees which considered it in its early stages and I well remember the general harmony which prevailed. It is, I think, because of the labours of successive Governments of all political colours that we in this country already have, as I think the noble Lord, Lord Beveridge, indicated in his famous Report, the finest system of social services in the world. That is a matter on which we can all congratulate ourselves without, I hope, being at too great pains to apportion the credit for so happy a situation.

But however good are the social services of a country they can always be improved, and that, as I understand, is the object of this Bill. It seeks to codify the existing law and to make such improvements in it as past experience and our financial situation render possible. I am very glad that in their proposals the Government have retained the principle of contributory insurance, because that is, I think, the essence of all true insurance. A man or a woman who wishes to protect himself or herself from the major catastrophies of life must allocate money from his own income for that purpose, if the other sections of the community are really to co-operate to ensure that the benefit he receives is worth having, that is, of course, all to the good, but some contribution by the beneficiary himself is surely essential. In the present scheme, as we all know, the employer, the employee and the community all play their part, and that is, I think, a very true reflection of our joint responsibility.

There are, however, certain sections of the community to-day (I hope not very large ones) which apparently hold the view that the whole cost of this and similar schemes should fall upon what is known as the "State." I remember a speech by a former Minister of Education, Mr. Butler, in which he told how he had received a letter with regard to his Education Bill from a very angry lady, who wrote, "Why should this Education Act be paid for out of rates and taxes? Why is it not paid for by the State?" That is an example of very muddled thinking, but although it is one which it is extremely easy to laugh at, it does reflect a common and a very dangerous illusion. I am extremely glad that in this great measure the Government have not lent themselves to that illusion, for if they had the country would very soon have been bankrupt. I believe that the basis of this scheme is sound and one which we all, on whatever side of the House we sit, can support.

Only one matter of substance, I believe, has been the subject of controversy. It is a matter of common knowledge to your Lordships that we on this side of the House (and here I believe I speak not only for the Conservatives but also for the Liberals) would have liked to have seen the friendly societies given a rather larger part in the administration of this scheme. This question was very fully debated in the earlier stages of the Bill. I do not wish to reopen it now, but I would like to say that I listened during the Committee stage, like many others of your Lordships, to an extremely powerful and persuasive speech by the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack in which he marshalled all the arguments against including the friendly societies. That speech, if I may say so with all deference, was a very remarkable Parliamentary effort—one of the most remarkable we have heard in this House for many a long day—but to me at any rate it would have been more completely convincing if the friendly societies had not for over thirty years been playing an efficient and valuable part in the structure of our national insurance, although it is perfectly true that they became originally connected with it by what was little more than chance.

When, in the years before the last war, Mr. Lloyd George brought in his insurance schemes, there was no State machinery in existence for the purpose and therefore, as we all know, he used the friendly societies, which were already available to his hand. They came forward patriotically in the national interest and did the work required of them, as I am sun we should all agree, both sympathetically and efficiently. It was one of those ad hoc arrangements so common in this country which have proved satisfactory and which have become assimilated into our social system. Personally I wish very much that that connexion could have continued and I could not help having a faint suspicion (I hope it was not an unworthy one) as I listened to the noble and learned Lord that, although he very studiously avoided saying so, there was a certain ideological element in the Government's decision. As good Socialists they prefer State servants to representatives of private institutions, but the result to many of us is that they have eliminated what we should have regarded as a valuable element and a means of providing very good healthy competition which would have helped to keep the Government officials up to the mark. However, I recognize that this is a point on which two views can be held.

It is no doubt arguable that it would not have been justifiable for this House, on this one point, however strongly we felt about it, to postpone the bringing into operation of the rest of the Bill, with ninety-nine per cent. of which we are in the very fullest agreement. Nevertheless, I would not like this occasion to pass without taking the opportunity, on behalf of the noble Lords who sit behind me, to pay tribute to the magnificent work which has been done by the friendly societies in the past. They were called in to meet a national need and they have earned the gratitude of all of us by their untiring and efficient work. I am glad their name has not been entirely excluded from this Bill and that their experience and their counsel will still be made use of on the local committees.

I would conclude by saying that I believe the purposes of this Bill are essentially good. It is a Bill which I hope and believe will be of benefit to the less fortunate sections of the community of this country. We all know that there are certain people who, through no fault of their own, are unable entirely to protect themselves against the major catastrophies of life—old age, sickness, unemployment and so on. It is in these cases that we, the people of Britain, feel a moral obligation to step in and help those fellow citizens of ours who need our assistance. That is the aim and object of this Bill and I am sure that all of us, to whatever party we may belong, are glad to give it our blessing.

On Question, Bill passed, with the Amendments, and returned to the Commons.