§ (1) Where an employed contributor who is a member of an approved society pays to the society such part of any arrears which have accrued due by or in respect if him during any period of unemployment as would have been payable otherwise than by the employer had he continued in employment, the part which would have been so payable by the employer shall be excused, and the amount of the member's arrears shall be reduced accordingly.2892
§ For the purpose of calculating the parts which would have been payable by the employer and otherwise than by an employer had an employed contributor continued in employment, the rate of his remuneration shall be deemed to exceed two shillings and sixpence a working day, unless he proves to the satisfaction of the society that his normal rate of remuneration was two and sixpence a working day or less, in which case his rate of remuneration shall be deemed to be such normal rate.
§ (2) Where in any year a society, or in the case of a society with branches a branch of a society, proves to the satisfaction of the Insurance Commissioners that the total number of weekly contributions which accrued due as arrears during the preceding year in respect of all its members who were employed contributors exceeded the standard number (that is to say three weekly contributions for every such member) then, for the purpose of recouping to the society the loss it will suffer, there shall be paid to the society, or to the society on behalf of the branch, as the case may be, out of the sums retained by the Insurance Commissioners for discharging their liabilities in respect of reserve values, the prescribed amount for every week by which the standard was so exceeded, but not exceeding the total amount so excused as aforesaid:
§ Provided that if the aggregate amount so payable in any year exceeds one hundred thousand pounds the excess shall be paid out of moneys provided by Parliament.
§ (3) The Insurance Commissioners may make regulations for carrying this Section into effect.
§ Mr. W. PEARCE
I beg to move in Subsection (1) to leave out the words "who is a member of an approved society."
The object of this Amendment is to include deposit contributors in the great boon which this Clause gives. During the passage of the Parent Act through the House of Commons all sorts of promises were ma de to consider the position of deposit contributors, and, if something of advantage is to be given, it does seem to me very hard that deposit contributors should be left out. After all they need it most. They are the least regularly employed of any class of contributors, and, presumably, then have a larger quantity of arrears than any other class coming under the Bill.
§ Dr. ADDISON
On a point of Order. Would the Amendment of the hon. Member be in order on this Clause, seeing that deposit contributors could never be in arrears.
§ The CHAIRMAN
I think that is so. Unless the hon. Member can explain how they can be in arrear, the Amendment will not be in order. It might perhaps be put in the form of a new Clause.
Mr. FREDERICK HALL
May I ask this question? If there is no use in this Amendment, it is to be understood that a deposit contributor is, to all intents and purposes, an uninsured person? I should line to get from the Government some expression of opinion as to the position of the deposit contributor in this regard.
§ Mr. PEARCE
Shall I be in order in bringing this up as a new Clause? Cannot the Government see their way to do anything for the deposit contributors in this connection?
§ The CHAIRMAN
I think the proper course for the hon. Member to take is to put down a new Clause. I cannot express any opinion on the point, neither, I suppose, can the Government.
§ Mr. CHARLES BATHURST
I beg to move in paragraph (2) Sub-section (1) to leave out the words "normal" ["normal rate of renumeration"] and to insert instead thereof the word "average."
My object in moving this Amendment is to meet the case of the person who is in discontinuous employment in our rural districts. It is very difficult indeed in such a case to arrive at what is his normal remuneration, and I want to substitute the expression "average rate of remuneration" for the expression of "normal rate of remuneration." There are many cases of poorly paid labour in rural districts, where it would be extremely difficult to discover what is a man's normal rate of remuneration, because he has to turn his hand to several different kinds of agricultural employment. That is the case particularly during the winter months in purely rural areas, and it might be much more easy to discover what is the average rate of remuneration if he can show how fie has been actually employed during the previous six or twelve months. "Normal," after all, is a very ambiguous term. I am 2894 not quite sure what, on the face of the Bill, the word is intended to mean. If, as I think is quite possible, you are going to interpret it to mean the rate of remuneration when the man was last in continuous employment, you are going to do a serious injustice to a very deserving and somewhat badly treated body of men who are to be found in our rural districts. A very large number of men, as the Committee know, turn from one class of employment to another, and are only too glad to get any kind of employment during the winter months, when there is no continuous employment to be found on a farm. This particularly applies to areas in which there is a large amount of pasture as compared with arable tillage. These men, in ordinary employment, do not get more than an average of, say, 2s. or 2s. 6d. per day, and if you are going to say that the basis of their remuneration is going to be taken to be the amount which they receive when they cease to be continuous labourer and become discontinuous or casual labourer, or even labour employed by the piece, I venture to suggest to this Committee that you are going, in many cases, to do serious injustice to the most helpless body of men you will find in the whole country. In moving this Amendment, I only want to suggest that the expression "average" is more easy of interpretation than the word "normal." The only effect of it would be to secure fairness for the person concerned, whereas "normal" is difficult of expression, and the use of it in many cases will operate to the disadvantage of the persons whose position I have described. I came in at the last moment unprepared to make a long speech, but if I have conveyed my meaning to the Committee, that is sufficient for my purpose.
§ Mr. MASTERMAN
I can assure the hon. Gentleman that he has made his point quite clear. What he is asking, I think, deserves consideration, but it is 'not a point relevant to this Clause: This particular reference to normal rate of remuneration in this Clause is really only a reference to the general conditions under Clause 4 of the original Bill, which deals with the reduced rate of remuneration for persons who are under a certain amount of wages, and the hon. Gentleman says, quite rightly, it may be desirable more clearly to define what is meant by "rate of remuneration." He wishes to substitute the words, "average rate of remuneration," but you cannot deal with this—which here is merely a point of reference—without dealing with the question of what is meant by "rate of 2895 remuneration"—2s. or 2s. 6d. a day, whether calculated over the week, month, or year, is a subject which has given a good deal of difficulty to the Commissioners. It is one with which the hon. Gentleman himself, in the very courageous speech which be made in the House on the Second Reading, dealt. These insured persons are to a certain extent being, I will not use the word "swindled," but the Committee will know what I mean when I say that they are being treated unfairly in some cases, because the rate calculated, 2s. per day or 2s. 6d. per day, is not as a matter of fact calculated fairly. We want to see that is shall be calculated fairly in the Penalty Clause of the new Bill. For the first time we allow the Commissioners and the Inspectors to see that 2s. 6d. as a rate of remuneration shall be a real rate of remuneration, and that, for example, such a thing as harvest money, given specially for a few weeks in the year, shall not be calculated as being the ordinary rate of remuneration for the agricultural labourers. I would ask the hon. Gentleman if be cannot, after consultation with anyone he cares to consult, bring up a Clause dealing with this point, not with the point of arrears, but with the point how the "normal rate," or "average rate" or "rate of remuneration" should be calculated when you are allowing for a reduction to 2s. 6d. or 2s. per day. Then, if that were brought up and carried by general consent, we could make the words in this Clause the same as in the new Clause, so that the arrears should there be calculated on the men who were paid reduced payments at a rate of remuneration the reckoning of which will be fixed. I think if that could be done and if the hon. Member would withdraw his Amendment here, it would be better as it would be useless to put it in here without having a general provision covering all the Clauses of the Act.
§ Mr. C. BATHURST
In connection with that I quite agree to what the right hon. Gentleman has suggested, and I daresay, in conjunction with friends of mine on both sides, we may be able to come to some arrangement which would satisfy him and ourselves. I do not see, however, that he is justified in including for the first time the word "normal." I am not going to propose an alternative for it in view of what the right hon. Gentleman has said, but he himself has pointed out the word "normal" does not appear in the original Section in the original Act, and I think the use for the first time of the word "normal" will tend to a different meaning of the expression "re- 2896 muneration" when it comes to be judicially interpreted than has been put upon it hitherto. Therefore, I think if he wants the meaning to remain the same and not be interpreted to the detriment of the employed person, I would ask him to be good enough to leave out the word "normal" here and leave the question open as to what we shall insert in its place, if anything.
§ Mr. GEORGE ROBERTS
I am in hearty sympathy with the desire of my hon. Friend, but I want also to point out that his proposal might possibly have the very reverse effect of that which he desires. His proposal would certainly tend to ease the lot of those persons who suffer long periods of unemployment, but in respect of the low paid man who is fairly regularly employed, I do not think his proposal would bring any benefit at all. As I understand the word normal, if you mean to say that a rate of 2s. or 2s. 6d. applies to the whole of the year round, if you take the word "average" it means that you include all the extras which enter into the remuneration of the agricultural labourer. Therefore you would at any rate extend the Clause there to people who would get no release whatever under the provisions of the Act and who would thus be penalised. I find myself in hearty sympathy with the hon. Gentleman's motives, but I respectfully suggest that he should adopt the suggestion made by the right hon. Gentleman in charge of the Bill, and, with a few who are in accord with aim, endeavour to frame such words as would undoubtedly carry out his aims. At the same time I express my fear that the proposal which he has made might have the very reverse effect from that which he desired.
§ Mr. FORSTER
I hope the hon. Gentleman who has just spoken may be able to cooperate with my hon. Friend in finding such a solution as was suggested by the right hon. Gentleman opposite. I wish to support the suggestion made by my Iron. Friend that even if we do not include the word here which he has suggested, we should at any rate leave out the word "normal" now. It is used here for the first time since there is nothing in the original Act about normal rate of remuneration. I should not think it is a wise thing to put in a word that is not found in the original Act.
§ Mr. FORSTER
Leave it now rate of remuneration. I am always told by lawyers that it is a very dangerous thing to use fresh 2897 language if you want to deal with the same problem, and I should think, therefore, that is very much better to leave out the word "normal." Then if we come to a general agreement as to the substituted words for a new method of calculation suggested by my hon. Friend behind, then if it is desirable, as the right hon. Gentleman has already suggested himself, we can put those words in here. Until some other word is agreed upon, we had better leave out the word "normal."
§ Mr. RAMSAY MACDONALD
I also find myself in hearty agreement with the intention of the hon. Members opposite, but I do not think it would be advisable for them to press their proposal to leave out the word "normal." I think they will see it if they look at it for a moment. If the expression is left that "his rate of remuneration was two and sixpence a working day," that might be interpreted to mean that his rate of remuneration within a reasonable period of time was over two and sixpence a day. The word "normal" is not very satisfactory, I know, but it suggests this, that in making calculations under this Section, some idea must be taken of a period of time, and so long as the expression "normal" is in, it will be impossible to say that in a particular week a man got a certain sum of money which he alleges did not represent an average run of income. If we keep in "normal" the idea of an average must be in the minds of the Commissioners or of any other authority in making this calculation. It is altogether to the benefit of the insured person that this word should remain in. If it comes out, it is to his detriment.
§ Mr. CASSEL
I suggest that the word "normal" ought to be cut out, for the reason that it does not find a place in the second Schedule of the original Act. This Section clearly ought to follow precisely the wording of the second Schedule of the original Act, which provides that—In the case of employed contributors of either sex of the age of twenty-one or upwards whose remuneration does not include the provision of board and lodging by their employer, and the rate of whose remuneration does not exceed 2s. 6d.Obviously, we ought to follow the same wording here. There cannot be any possible excuse for adopting a different wording in this Section from that which was adopted in the original Act. I could understand the argument that it ought to be altered in both, but that you should adopt a different wording from that in the original Schedule seems to me wholly illogical.
§ Dr. ADDISON
I sincerely hope this word will not be omitted. The hon. and learned Gentleman is, I am afraid, a little outside the facts. The facts are that in a good many cases, especially in the case of casual workers, who would be those most likely to be in arrear, they would be employed at, we will say, five or six shillings a day at a good time, and they would have deductions made according to that, unless you leave in some such word as this which introduces some reference to their general earnings throughout the whole year, and it is a serious difficulty in the second Schedule of the original Act that some such word is not in, and that is why I sincerely hope, although I quite agree with the hon. Member (Mr. C. Bathurst) that perhaps the word "normal" is not on the whole the most suitable; still it expresses what we mean, and until we find a better, I hope it will be left in.
§ Mr. MASTERMAN
There is nothing very much between us. We are all trying to help to get a right Clause. I have made a promise that later on, on Report, if "normal" does not seem to be the right word, we will alter it, I am a little afraid of the word "average," because "average" may include such things as harvest money, which we do not intend to include. If the Committee will accept that promise, we will try and unite on a new Clause, defining rate of remuneration, and leave "normal" in meanwhile.
Mr. MacCALLUM SCOTT
The hon. and learned Gentleman (Mr. Cassel) suggests that in this Clause we should follow the wording of the second Schedule. There is all the difference in the world between the object of this Clause and that of the second Schedule. The second Schedule is dealing with a specific week during which a definite wage is paid, and therefore there is no question of "average," or of "normal," or of spreading it over a period of time. Here we are dealing with a period during which no wage is paid, and in order to arrive at some hypothetical sum, we have to consider what wages the man was earning before the period of unemployment arose. Therefore you have to insert some word—not the word "average"—but some word indicating that a period of time is to be taken into account.
Mr. GEORGE HAMILTON
Do you think the word "usual" substituted for the word "normal" would get over the difficulty, and meet with everybody's approval?
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Mr. C. BATHURST
I beg to move after the word "rate" ["shall be deemed to be such normal rate"] to insert,
"(2) An employed contributor shall not be deemed to be in arrear in respect of any period during which his employer is not required to contribute on his behalf, nor authorised to make any deduction from his wages, by reason of the fact that such employed contributor is in employment outside the United Kingdom."
I have been asked to move this, particularly on behalf of the domestic servant class who may be taken by their employers outside the United Kingdom, as many of them are, from periods which may vary from a few weeks, to say, six months or more, and during that time nothing is being contributed on their behalf, and no benefit is being obtained on their behalf either. It is not a question of financial charge in this case because one factor will balance the other. Nothing is being paid and nothing received, and as both employers and employed feel that there is some injustice in the present arrangement, I ask, to meet the case especially of domestic servants, that this Amendment be carried in order to include them in the Section which will relieve them of any arrears during the time when they are receiving no benefit, and cannot by any possibility receive a benefit, from their contribution.
§ Dr. MACNAMARA
This involves a question which is raised in principle in a number of succeeding Amendments, although this deals with persons who go out of the United Kingdom for any length of time. It does not specify any time during which they may be away. There is another Amendment which restricts the absence to twelve months. This Amendment proposes that a man who leaves this country for any length of time should be absolved from paying his contribution and, of course, from the payment not only of the employer's contribution but his own. Let the hon. Member consider the effect of that upon the societies. This man is away for any length of time. He comes back and is entitled to full benefit on his return, no matter how long he is absent, no matter how long they stay out of any contribution on his behalf. I do not think you can contemplate that. I assume that the reason is, although it was not stated, that while he is away, he gets no benefits. [An HON. MEMBER: "Will he get 2900 benefit if he is away temporarily?"] He can get sickness benefit, and, if his wife is confined at home, she may get maternity benefit. What he cannot get while he is away is a doctor. He cannot get medical attendance.
§ Dr. MACNAMARA
Oh, yes, he can. The friendly societies for years have sent Postal Orders to people who are abroad who are insured with them.
§ Dr. MACNAMARA
It is quite true that he might not be able to secure medical attendance, but the hon. Gentleman should remember that he gets his wages. The man we are dealing with has to pay his own contributions, but he is getting no wages. I think this puts the man who is abroad, who is getting his wages, in a position more favourable than the man who is at home with no wages, and who has to pay his contributions. I think the point with regard to medical attendance requires consideration.
§ Mr. C. BATHURST
I think the right. hon. Gentleman is under a misapprehension. May I refer him, before he goes further, to Subsection (4) of Section S of the Act, which says—No Insured person shall he entitled to any benefit during any period when he is resident either temporarily or permanently outside the United Kingdom.
§ Mr. C. BATHURST
There are provisos limiting the benefit. The Sub-section says—Provided that, if a person is temporarily resident in the Isle of Man or the Channel Islands, he shall not, whilst so resident, be disentitled to benefits other than medical benefit, and that, if with the consent of the society or Committee by 2901 which the benefit is administered a person is temporarily resident outside the United Kingdom elsewhere than in the Isle of Man or the Channel Islands, the society or committee may allow him, whilst so resident, to continue to receive sickness or disablement benefit, and that a person resident out of the United Kingdom shall not be disentitled to maternity benefit in respect of the confinement of his wife, if his wife at the time of her confinement is resident in the United Kingdom.
§ Dr. MACNAMARA
I tried to say that. I referred to the societies, and stated that it had been their practice, before this Act came into operation, to make these payments. The original Act gives them the power to make these payments under the provisos the hon. Gentleman has just read. What I feel about the matter is that this puts the man who is away for a period of time with wages in a better position than the man at home with no wages. If we could ascertain what these people think would be the best way to arrange for their cases, some Consideration is due to them. I am not prepared at the present time to say what we should do, but it is a matter to which we shall give attention. We certainly could not adopt the proposal that the man who is probably getting full wages shall be absolved of his payments.
§ Mr. GOULDING
I have Amendments on the Paper dealing with this question which are an extension of what my hon. Friend has moved by introducing the word "temporarily," and at the end of the suggested Amendment saying that "in the course of employment which is ordinarily carried on in the United Kingdom." I think the right hon. Gentleman makes less of this Amendment than it deserves. It affects far more people than domestic servants. For instance, there is a class of people who are sent abroad to erect buildings or for other classes of employment, and it equally affects them. You have to recollect that the employer is not legally liable to pay any part of the contribution. That is specifically laid down in the First Schedule to Part I. of the principal Act. He is entirely exonerated from all liability, but these individuals, if they come back, are legally liable not only to pay their own contributions, but their employers' contributions as well.
§ Mr. GOULDING
Of course, it will be limited to that extent, but they will be liable to pay the whole of their own, though not their employers' contributions.
§ Mr. GOULDING
I think I am correct in saying that they will be liable to pay both, which certainly cannot be claimed to be just. During the period they are thus liable to pay the whole contributions themselves, for benefits which they may not be able to receive. It is undoubtedly a two-fold liability to which—
§ Mr. MASTERMAN
I do not wish the hon. Gentlemen to argue under a mistaken apprehension. If they are employed out of the United Kingdom, that is not employment under the Act, and this Clause exempts them from paying the employers' contributions.
§ Mr. GOULDING
Surely if they come back into this country they are liable for the employers arrears. [AN HON. MEMBER: "They are not."] Why should they be liable even for their own arrears if they have had no possibility of receiving any benefit from the Insurance? I have been trying to remove a grotesque injustice. No one is going to claim that it is not a grotesque injustice that these people should be liable for contributions from which they cannot get benefit because they are employed abroad. Take the case of domestic servants. A person has to go abroad for employment, and servants during this precarious time, be it weeks or months, have this liability. I do urge upon the right hon. Gentleman to look upon this in a considerate way, and see whether he can meet us by some modification of the Amendment moved by my hon. Friend.
§ Dr. ADDISON
I sincerely hope that the Government Will not accept the Amendment moved by my hon. Friend opposite. He said he spoke on behalf of domestic servants of which society I am a co-trustee with himself.
§ Dr. ADDISON
Well, I will not say society either. His proposal is quite a mistake because it proceeds upon a wrong assumption. Why do insured persons go abroad? They go abroad because they are employed abroad, during which time they are receiving their wages. If a person is likely to come under this Clause at home, why does he come under the Clause? It is because he is unemployed. If an insured person is in arrears, it is because he is unemployed and getting no wages. This Amendment would place a person who goes 2903 abroad, and who is receiving good wages all the time, in a better position than an insured person who remains at home and does not receive any wages at all. I do not see how the proposal can possibly be defended, for it would make an unfair inroad on the funds of societies. The right hon. Gentleman says, with respect to medical benefit that he will consider the matter. The Amendment as moved would be grossly inequitable both to persons insured and to the societies.
§ Mr. BOOTH
I do not think the hon. Member for the Wilton Division (Mr. C. Bathurst) would claim that in this idea he is representing the general opinion of approved societies. As far as I have been able to learn an overwhelming majority of them hold a view against him on this point. It is in no sense a hardship. It is the better class of servants who will go abroad. People do not take servants abroad if they are sick. Apart from that, I want to put this: If societies are in the utmost difficulty to preserve their funds and keep solvent, they are entitled to this contribution. The hon. Member opposite tried to impress upon the Committee that a man would get no benefit, but really, that is a very exaggerated way of putting it. He would be entitled to definite benefits under the Act, only one of which would be stopped. The society has paid the doctor, paid the contribution for sanatorium benefit, and is liable for permanent invalidity and for maternity benefit. The only possible thing you can say that the society is relieved of, for a short time, is temporary sickness. I do not think the domestic servants would expect to have two per cent. of these people on the funds for temporary sickness. Certainly, they would not have more than two per cent. of the people who would be well enough to go abroad. Therefore, because they are gaining one-fiftieth part of the sickness pay, they are to lose the man's contribution. I am perfectly certain it would be admitted, in view of the fact that the man wants to keep in benefit for all the benefits of the Act, which last him until after he is seventy, it is too narrow a view to take about temporary sickness pay, which it is very unlikely he will ever claim.
§ Mr. ASTOR
At a meeting on 21st July, of the Amendments Committee of the Association of Approved Societies, it was 2904 resolved heartily to endorse and support this Amendment. Therefore, I think we may take it that the approved societies do support the Amendment. The Secretary to the Admiralty said just now that persons temporarily out of the United Kingdom continued to receive sickness or disablement benefit.
§ Mr. J. H. THOMAS
I do not know what was the representative character of the body whose Resolution the hon. Member has quoted. Let me assure him that it does not represent one-tenth in comparison with the representative body who uses the following words in reference to this Amendment:—The difficulty of calculating arrears is at present very great, but the calculation would be impossible if Amendments of this character were introduced.
§ Mr. THOMAS
(reading)Since societies are unaware when the member is absent front this country, and no notice need be given by the member of the society of such absence.
§ Mr. THOMAS
This is a society representing the National Conference of Friendly Societies, the General Federation of Trade Unions, the National Union of Deposit Societies, the National Union of Holloway Societies, the National Union of Dividing Societies, and the National Association of Approved Societies. Seven millions out of thirteen millions insured persons were represented at the Conference which expressed the opinion that I have just quoted. Apart from that, a moment's consideration of the case ought to prove to hon. Members how impossible this proposal is. In the first place, no one who supports this Amendment can suggest that the people whom it is intended to benefit are really in difficulties. They are neither sick nor unemployed. I think it will be generally conceded that they are in the most advantageous position they can possibly be in. If they are domestic servants abroad with their families—I do not know anything about them myself, 2905 because I neither take servants nor have I been a servant abroad, but I conclude that servants under these circumstances would certainly be not less favourably situated than in this country. But let us keep in mind that this will apply not merely to domestic servants. Take the thousands of people who, at this period of the year, leave this country for the Channel Islands for the summer service there. They earn better wages during that period than they do here. They will be exempt from their contributions while they are away. They will then come back, and perhaps immediately go on the fund. I submit that it is an outrageous proposal. It is not in the interests of the insured persons. It must create enormous difficulties for the approved societies who have to calculate the arrears, and any benefit that is obtained will be at the expense of the people who themselves have to pay it in the end. For these reasons, I would urge the hon. Member opposite to withdraw the Amendment.
I beg to move, as an Amendment to the proposed Amendment, after the word "period" to insert the words "after notice to his approved society."
I think the point made by the hon. Member for Derby (Mr. J. H. Thomas), can be met. I quite appreciate the difficulty there would be in regard to the calculation of arrears. The arrears question is quite difficult enough without adding any fortuitous or, so to speak, accidental difficulties. But that would be met if notice were given to the approved society before the person left the United Kingdom, and from that date only the arrears should not accumulate against the insured person. The difficulty is notice. The Joint Committee of Approved Societies have given their reason for objecting to this proposal. They say:—The difficulty of calculating arrears at the present moment is very great. The calculation would be impossible if Amendments of this character were introduced since societies are unaware that a member is absent from the country.That is the reason.
It is the only reason given. I want to meet it if I can. That somebody else has to pay for the benefit is a totally different point. The only difficulty here is the question of notice. I propose to insert the words, "after notice to his approved society," and then, with a subsequent Amendment, the Amendment as amended would read: 2906An employed contributor shall not be deemed to be in arrear in respect of any period after notice to his approved society during which his employer is not required to contribute on his behalf, nor authorised to make any deduction from his wages, by reason of the fact that such employed contributor is in employment outside the United Kingdom, in the course of the employment ordinarily carried on in the United Kingdom and for a period not exceeding one-fifth of the time during which he has been in Insurance.There is another point there. If a man were to be in insurance for a short time, say a few months, then went abroad for many years, and came back perhaps in broken health, it might be a serious draft on the funds of the Society.
I will deal with that in a moment. I want to deal with the difficulty by giving leave of absence without contribution limited to one-fifth of the time that the insured person is in insurance. I am dwelling on this somewhat in detail, because I hope the Government will consider it. If they say that they will consider it seriously, I do not say that I should be disposed to press the Amendment. There is a grievance, and it does not rest only on domestic servants. There are miners, engineers, and others who go abroad. For instance, there are engineers who go abroad with machinery to try and start. They come back and take out other machinery to various parts of the Continent, or perhaps further abroad. Every time they go abroad they get into arrears, and when, they come back they have to pay up their contributions.
That is a case and a real case which ought to be met, and under the Act as it stands to-day cases of that kind are not met, and it is no answer to the point to say that there are difficulties. It is our duty to meet those difficulties if we can. The first difficulty we can meet by saying that the period of exemption shall only start after notice to the societies. The second point is, you can prevent any exceptional case of men being abroad a long time and then coming back on the funds by limiting the period for which they could go to one-fifth of the time that they are in insurance. I know that that would cut out some people who ought to be in, but at the same time it does provide against any gross case; and the other limitation would be such people as go 2907 abroad in the course of their employment, which they are ordinarily carrying on in this country. I believe that with those three limitations the acceptance of this Amendment would be perfectly safe from the approved societies' point of view, and also that it would be a real advantage to the people who come under this Act. I beg formally to move this Amendment to the Amendment of my hon. Friend. But I say at once that if the Government will say that between now and the report stage they will seriously consider this, and if there is any other limitation necessary they can put that limitation in—I do not think there will be—then I will not press it now because I quite feel that there may be some other limitations also required before this is actually watertight, although I do not believe that there is.
§ The CHAIRMAN
I think that it might be for the convenience of the Committee to have those verbal Amendments to the Amendments made now, as otherwise the discussion cannot he general.
§ Amendment to proposed Amendment made: After the word "period" the words "after notice to his approved society," inserted.
§ Further Amendment made: At the end of the proposed Amendment add the words "in the course of employment ordinarily carried on in the United Kingdom, and for the period not exceeding one-fifth of the time during which he has been in insurance."
§ Mr. MASTERMAN
I shall be very happy, of course, to consider anything between now and the Report stage with a view to any future Amendment of the Bill. But I want the Committee to be very clear as to what is the point, and when they are clear as to what is the point, I think that they will agree with me that we want certainly far more experience of the actual working of Clause 8 before we can really come to the conclusion as to what is the best way of treating these Amendments. It is a grievance that persons who are abroad should during the time they are abroad, not receive benefits that they now receive when they are at home, and it was to meet that grievance we put in the original Clause, as my right hon. Friend has described Clause 8, which gives them the right to maternity benefit and allows the society to give them sickness or disablement benefit while they are abroad. As my right hon. Friend says it has been the practice largely of friendly societies to give such 2908 sickness and disablement benefit on evidence that sickness and disablement benefit is really required by these persons, and we cannot at this stage on the six months working of the Act know whether the societies have followed the practice or not of giving sickness benefit—disablement benefit has not yet come on—to persons abroad, and I think that we want at least another six months or year of information as to how it deals with the finances of the various societies before we set ourselves lightly to change the provisions of the principal Act. On the other hand hon. Gentlemen must also remember this: If when members of approve societies are abroad they pay no contributions at all and they come back perhaps after three, four, or five years and join the societies under similar conditions, they will be on the way towards bankrupting the societies because they will receive a transfer value which then have not paid for appropriate to their age which has been passed abroad. That is a very serious matter for the approved societies to consider. A third point, which has also been pointed out, is that these men have really no claim for exemption from payment of arrears Ex hypothesi they are in employment, probably good employment. Ex hypothesi, these people who have been abroad in employment have no difficulty in saving up their own fourpences which is all that is required, which is paying up their arrears. Therefore, I submit there are only two ways of approaching this thing, either you should say every man who goes abroad must contract out of the benefits of Section 8, or maternity benefit must not apply to him, and when he comes back he must put on the full transfer value. That is one possible method. The other method is to say: "No, we will as far as possible while he is abroad, give him what benefits can possibly be given." That is what the friendly societies are setting themselves to do. Under these conditions, I submit in view of the enormous complications of administration which the hon. and learned Gentleman himself realises may be involved in his Amendment that the Gentlemen who are promoting this Amendment should be prepared to withdraw it until some further experience has been gained in the matter.
§ Mr. GOULDING
The right hon. Gentleman has stated that the approved societies, and more especially the friendly societies were accustomed to send these benefits abroad.
§ Mr. GOULDING
We are not dealing with the old past, we are dealing with the present, and under the present Act, they continue if they are in receipt of the benefits, to send them abroad, but I say you ought to apply some remedy for the fact that these young fellows who are liable to pay, if they fall ill while they are abroad, are absolutely prohibited from receiving any benefit whatever.
§ Mr. MASTERMAN
Certainly, under Clause 8, Sub-section (1) as we interpret it, sickness benefit is not the same as sickness payment. Members can continue to receive sickness benefit; that is, if necessary, receive payments if they are sick under Clause 8. If that is not quite clear, I am prepared to accept an Amendment to make it clear.
§ Mr. CASSEL
I understand the right. hon. Gentleman to accept the position that while they are abroad persons in the position of domestic servants or engineers ought not to have to pay the employers' threepence. He has suggested that, on the interpretation of the amending Act, they would not have to pay the employers' benefit, but I hope, at least, he will before the Report stage consider words that will make that clear. I venture to suggest to him, notwithstanding the provision of the first Schedule, that it really is not clear. I think it is very doubtful whether it would be regarded as a period of unemployment. I hope, at least, the right hon. Gentleman will before the Report stage consider an Amendment which would make that clear.
I do not propose, if my hon. Friend agrees, to press this Amendment. There is, un- 2910 doubtedly, a grievance, and I think it ought to be met. I am conscious that it is not an easy matter to meet this one grievance without creating others. I do think the Government ought to give it very serious consideration before Report.
§ Question proposed, "That the proposed words as amended, be there inserted."
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
The next Amendment opens up a new series of Amendments, and I propose to move now "That the Committee report Progress." It is half-past three; the Prime Minister is making a very important statement in the House this afternoon, and I feel that members of the Committee besides myself desire to hear that statement. I think it is abominable treatment on the part of the Government to postpone bringing in this amending Act until the end of the Session, and then to come here and say "We have no time, and you must sit clay after day and day after day, notwithstanding that the House of Commons itself is sitting." I think the earliest opportunity ought to be taken to make a strong and vigorous protest against the way in which the Government is treating the Members of the House. At any rate, I limit myself to moving to report progress for this afternoon, so that we may hear what the Prime Minister has to say.
§ Mr. MASTERMAN
I will not deal with the "abominable" way in which the Government have treated us, and I am not going to refuse a Motion of this sort if it is the wish of the Opposition. The hon. Gentleman is right in saying the next Amendment opens up a series of Amendments, and perhaps it would be better to go on with them to-morrow.
§ The Committee adjourned at 3.30 p.m. till 11.30 a.m. to-morrow (Wednesday).