§ Amendments made: In page 27, line 24, column 3, at end insert "(2)".
§ In page 27, line 25, column 3, after "(4)", insert "(5)".—[Mr. Boyd-Carpenter.]
§ 9.2 p.m.
I beg to move, That the Bill be now read the Third time.
This is a fairly detailed and somewhat complicated Measure which, I think it is fair to say, has had a full and careful examination both on the Floor of the House and in Standing Committee. It may be that we have not been able to accept all the Amendments which the Opposition wished us to accept, but at least the hon. Member for East Ham, North (Mr. Prentice) has the satisfaction of having made legal history by introducing skylarking into the statutes for the first time.
It has been the desire of both sides, consistent with our duty to give careful consideration to a Bill of this scope and complexity, that the Bill should be passed into law with as little delay as possible. We have particularly in mind the provisions in Clause 1 which will give extra help to at least some of the old workmen's compensation cases. It would be churlish not to thank hon. Members on both sides for their cooperation and forbearance when perhaps at times their speeches were cut short. The result is that, provided all goes well in another place, we hope that the Bill 553 will receive the Royal Assent before the House adjourns for the Christmas Recess.
With that proviso, I can say that it is intended to put the allowances for the totally disabled under the Workmen's Compensation Acts into payment from a date in the third week in January. Allowances for the partially disabled will depend on amending schemes which require an affirmative Resolution of both Houses. It will not, therefore, be possible to pay the allowances for the partially disabled until a little time after the payment to the totally disabled has been put into effect. I think that the House will understand why it is not possible for me to be more specific at this stage, but I can give the assurance that it is my right hon. Friend's intention to put these allowances into payment as soon as possible.
With regard to the other main provisions of the Bill, we hope that insurance contributions will start to count towards pension increments under the new provisions in Clause 5 from a date some time in January. The new provisions for family allowances for incapacitated children will come into force immediately the Bill receives the Royal Assent. It is planned to bring the family allowance changes for apprentices into effect some time early in April.
Finally, I wish to pay tribute to the help and advice that we have received from the National Insurance Advisory Committee and from the Industrial Injuries Advisory Council over the years. They have given us the benefit of their advice and experience in finding solutions for the complicated problems which we have had to examine. I think that this help and advice is appreciated, not only by those connected with the Ministry, but by all right hon. and hon. Members who interest themselves in these matters.
I commend the Bill to the House and ask hon. Members to give it a Third Reading.
§ 9.6 p.m.
§ Mr. Prentice
It is only just over a month since the House gave the Bill a Second Reading. I think that we on this side deserve the compliment that the Joint Parliamentary Secretary paid us. We did exercise restraint in 554 Committee and we did curtail many of our speeches and did not say things that we should have liked to have said on various aspects of the Bill—a Bill many of whose aspects we disapprove of—because we wanted to see it passed in order that the supplementary allowances in Clause 1 could be paid at the earliest possible date. However, the fact remains that we are disappointed with many aspects of the Bill. We are disappointed with the inadequacy of some of the reforms that it makes. We particularly disapprove of Clause 8.
Clause 1 provides some modest improvement in the allowances for the old casualties of industry. We on this side have been pressing for this for a considerable number of years. We have taken every possible opportunity to move Amendments to previous Bills to try to get something done for these old cases. Many of my hon. Friends have brought forward Private Members' Bills on the matter. As I say, we welcome this modest improvement, but we think that it should have gone a great deal further.
We are considering people who were injured before 1948. Many of them were injured in industry in the 1920s or even earlier when safety precautions were a great deal less adequate than they are today. Many people were permanently incapacitated and have suffered for the greater part of their lives as a result of industrial accident which should not have happened. The debt that the community owes to these people is great. It is one which we have never properly discharged and which we still shall not properly discharge by this Bill. In so far as the Bill makes a modest improvement in their lot, we are anxious to speed it on its way.
We welcome the Joint Parliamentary Secretary's assurance that the new allowances to the totally incapacitated will begin to be paid in January. We promise him that we shall watch the progress concerning the partially incapacitated people very closely. We shall table Questions on the subject if we do not think that that progress is fast enough.
In Committee we spent a lot of time on Clauses 2 and 3, and many of us feel that here again some very modest improvements have been made that ought to have been made a long time ago. Clause 2 extends the scope of the 555 National Insurance (Industrial Injuries) Acts to some extent, particularly in relation to those who are injured in the course of their employment as a result of what have been called common risks—people who suffer from assaults, from being struck by lightning or, as the Clause puts it, "by any object", and people who suffer as a result of the presence of animals, fish, insects and so on. This seems a rather bizarre collection, but it has a very real meaning for people in industry, and a great many cases have been rejected under the National Insurance (Industrial Injuries) Acts in the past because of failure to legislate in this way.
I remember some years ago as a trade union officer helping to draft a memorandum on many of these points, and the fact that it has taken from 1948 until 1961 for these requirements to be brought forward is an indication of the very slow and timid approach of the present Government towards any reform in social legislation.
We still feel on this side of the House that Clause 2 does not make all the improvements we want. We feel that transport workers in particular will suffer disabilities compared with other workers in the sense that nothing has been done to extend the scope of employment in the way that we and the trade union movement have been requesting for many years. This again is a matter to which we shall have to return as soon as possible.
Perhaps I may at this point refer to the Industrial Industries legislation. In the course of our discussions in Committee there were occasions when we put down Amendments on which the Minister said that he could not go all the way with us because he felt that the wording which we had chosen was not correct, and it was difficult to devise a form of legislation which would meet some points of substance that we had in mind. Clause 2 makes an improvement and it will fall to be interpreted by the National Insurance Commissioner. Here I think it is worth saying what has been said on another occasion, that a new National Insurance Commissioner has taken on the work recently and we all wish him well. Many of us hope that in interpreting Clause 2 he will find the opportunity to ensure that the scheme is operated as widely as possible.
556 In a scheme like the Industrial Injuries Scheme a borderline has to be drawn somewhere. This Bill shifts the borderline a little. There will still be disputed cases and fine points of law to be decided. We all hope that what is contained here will lead to a substantial improvement in the operation of the Scheme and that the decisions made in the future will give the widest possible expression to the Scheme.
Having said that we welcome the contents of Clauses 1, 2 and 3 and, indeed, some of the later Clauses, though we wish they went further, I am afraid we cannot say the same of Clause 8. This is a Clause which we regard as being entirely bad, at least as far as its main provisions are concerned. We wish that it could be put into a separate piece of legislation so that we could express exactly what we feel about it.
The Minister has failed to meet the main point made by hon. Members on this side of the House and, indeed, made in Committee by at least one hon. Member on his own side. He failed altogether to take account of the practical effect of this proposal so far as it will affect apprenticeships. There are many families in which the decision as to whether or not a boy or girl can undertake an apprenticeship is very marginal indeed. In families where the father is earning a low wage, or where there is a widowed mother, or where there has been a great deal of sickness particularly on the part of the father—in such families which have had a struggle to make ends meet, the decision as to whether or not a boy or girl should undertake an apprenticeship may well depend on whether or not the family allowance is payable in respect of that boy or girl up to the age of 18.
When this House is asked to legislate in such a way as to reduce the number of family allowances being paid in respect of apprentices, it is in fact legislating in such a way as to cut down the total number of apprentices. During the Committee stage, the Minister said that he did not think that in the majority of cases the withdrawal of family allowances would lead to a decision against a boy or girl having an apprenticeship. This may be correct, but we are not concerned with the majority of cases. We are concerned with a minority of 557 cases, and probably a very substantial minority, in which it will make a difference. We want to urge once more upon the House that the economic position of this country at the moment does not permit us to do anything that would reduce the number of young people undertaking industrial training. It is a matter of the greatest possible urgency that we should have the highest possible quantity and quality of industrial training.
If, as I believe it will, the effect of the Clause will mean that perhaps some hundreds of young people do not undertake apprenticeships, and perhaps some further hundreds who are now in apprenticeship training may withdraw, I think it is quite indefensible in the context of this country's economic problems. It seems to me that the Minister and the Department drafted this Bill without any proper consultation whatever with the other Government Departments concerned with the economic problems involved. Certainly, neither on Second Reading nor during the Committee stage, could the Minister give us any assurances on our doubts on this problem. I urge him at least to give us some reply and to recognise the simple fact that this country lives by its skill, that it is desperately short of skilled workers, and that it will need more of its young people in apprenticeships. No Minister in any context should do anything to reduce the number of young people in training.
I remind him, as we have reminded him before, that his right hon. Friend the Minister of Labour has toured the country asking industrialists to take on more apprentices. I remind him that, only a few months ago, we celebrated Commonwealth Technical Training Week, in which a great deal was said on this subject. I ask the Minister to recognise that today he is doing something, perhaps, in regard to only a few cases, but nevertheless, something that will damage the structure of industrial training in this country, and it is wrong for any Minister to do anything on those lines.
On other occasions, we have put the case in this House that the Government are not doing enough to encourage and expand industrial training. Be that as it may, it is wrong for the Minister or anyone to do anything which will make 558 the situation worse. This Clause is a bad Clause. We think that the rest of the Bill is unsatisfactory, because it does not go as far as we should like it to go, although it contains some modest improvements for which many of us have pressed for many years. Therefore, we shall feel bound to support the Third Reading tonight, although with a great sense of disappointment at the inadequacies of the Bill generally, and particular disappointment about Clause 8.
§ 9.18 p.m.
§ Lady Megan Lloyd George (Carmarthen)
Before the House passes this Bill, I should like to follow my hon. Friend the Member for East Ham, North (Mr. Prentice) in saying a few words about apprenticeships. Quite apart from the social inequity which we must recognise, I agree with my hon. Friend that there has surely never been a more inappropriate moment at which to discourage apprenticeship schemes than this moment, and yet this, in fact, is what the House is being asked to do in giving the Bill a Third Reading.
To cut off family allowances from apprentices at this moment, of all moments, seems to me to be a most shortsighted policy. No one can say that this is an encouragement. It certainly is not an inducement to young men and women to enter apprenticeships, because, as my hon. Friend has said, the decision whether they go in for apprenticeship schemes is in a great many cases a very marginal decision indeed, and this will just tip the scale.
We are told that there will be a saving to the Exchequer. But the loss to the country in terms of skill and technical training will be incalculable. This will occur at a time when the Russians and the Americans are doubling, trebling and even quadrupling educational facilities of all kinds to train and equip their young people. Everyone must deplore this part of the Bill.
In spite of the short-comings, omissions and blind spots to which my hon. Friends have referred, I welcome the part of the Bill which refers to what the Parliamentary Secretary calls the "old cases". Together with my right hon. Friend the Member for Llanelly (Mr. J. Griffiths), I represent a mining area in which there is a tragic incidence of 559 pneumoconiosis. I welcome the increases under the Bill, particularly the increase for the totally disabled under the old Workmen's Compensation scheme before 1948, although I regret that their rates are still lagging painfully behind.
We on this side also welcome the increased compensation for the partially disabled. It is not much. It falls very far short of what we on this side would like to see. However, we acknowledge that it is an advance. It is a small mercy, but I suppose that we must describe it as a mercy. We also welcome the increase of 7s. 6d. in benefit for those suffering from pneumoconiosis who had left the industry and did not qualify for compensation.
These were all anomalies, and we are very glad that they have been put right. Although these changes are small in scope, I hope that they will be the precursors of wider, further and much needed legislation to deal with the injustices and inequalities which still exist.
§ 9.22 p.m.
§ Mr. Dempsey
I want to comment briefly on some of the provisions contained in the Bill. I welcome some of the modest improvements, but I am extremely disappointed that the Bill has not gone far enough. It has not brought about something which is crying out for achievement, namely, parity between certain types of benefit. The Bill, like the proverbial curate's egg, can be described as being good in parts. Unfortunately, there are disadvantages in other parts.
I am particularly concerned with Clauses 1 and 8. Clause 1 is very disappointing because, in spite of the increases to those in receipt of workmen's compensation as totally disabled, it would seem that they will still be approximately 15s. worse off than similarly injured persons who come within the provisions of the National Insurance (Industrial Injuries) Act. This is really most regrettable. This would have been a splendid opportunity for the Minister to display his generous approach by bringing about parity of treatment.
There are a number of disabled miners and many disabled steel workers in my 560 constituency. There is also a concentration of heavy industry there, and, frankly, it is almost impossible to persuade the recipients of workmen's compensation that the Minister's suggestions are reasonable and sound, for they see that, at the end of the day, they are worse off than others similarly disabled. It is difficult, therefore, to persuade these ex-miners and ex-steelworkers that there is any justice in Clause 1.
The Minister should recognise that these men have given their life blood to the basic industries on which our economy depends. The right hon. Gentleman should appreciate the service and self-sacrifice which they have made, and the least that he could have done would have been to take advantage of this opportunity to establish parity. We are not asking for anything new. I understand that parity existed for a period of eighteen months to two years. It should have appeared to him that in the Bill a glorious opportunity now existed to restore it.
After all, the recipients of workmen's compensation must pay the same prices in the shops for the goods and foodstuffs which they purchase. There are no special prices for ex-miners or ex-steelworkers who are living on compensation. They pay the same as anyone else and the right hon. Gentleman should have some regard to their circumstances and offer them the same financial benefit as other totally disabled workers receive.
The subject of apprentices has already come in for a good deal of discussion. In the Bill there is a departure from all the principles I have heard enunciated, not only by the right hon. Gentleman but by previous Government spokesmen of both parties. This evening we have been treated to the usual dissertation—"This is what Labour Ministers said ten or twelve years ago", or "This is what a Labour Government did on that occasion". Then we were told what my hon. Friends said and did from 1945 to 1951.
We have heard all that before when dealing with problems of National Insurance, but surely the right hon. Gentleman realises that he has made certain statements over the years. I recall his words a few years ago when he said 561 that he recognised the importance of family allowances. The right hon. Gentleman, referring to apprentice incomes, used the phrase, "not in receipt of earnings which provide him, wholly or substantially, with a livelihood". That statement was the yardstick used to determine the element that could be incorporated in the income of a family for family allowances purposes with regard to apprentices.
We find that there has now been a complete departure by the right hon. Gentleman from that stand which he took just a few years ago. We discover that he has actually jettisoned the principles which he enunciated at that time and has introduced the provision in Clause 4 whereby 40s. will be the probable maximum for incorporation in incomes for family allowances purposes.
In essence, it means that whereas in 1956 the right hon. Gentleman argued that he was becoming generous—was extending the scope of family allowances to incorporate an additional 30,000 apprentices—we discover now that he is going to exclude 50,000 apprentices under the present Bill. Five years ago he brought 30,000 apprentices into the fold and now he proposes to exclude 50,000. The departure from that yardstick and those principles intrigues me. It is well known that on many aspects of National Insurance administration attempts have been made from time to time to declare just what is a reasonable income on which an apprentice might be regarded as being able wholly to maintain himself or herself.
It is equally true that it is difficult to arrive at an exact formula. We have seen several formulae in the past few years. In 1956, many of the referees agreed that up to 55s. of an apprenticeship income should be included in the family income for family allowance purposes. In 1959, the figure suggested—not by the politicians, but again by those independent authorities—was 67s. 6d. There is no need for me to mention the case which gained widespread publicity throughout the United Kingdom, upon which the judgment was based. That occurred only in 1959. Now, in 1961, it is proposed that the figure should be reduced to 40s. After a period of two years, when the value of the £ has fallen and the cost of living has risen, instead 562 of increasing the figure of 67s. 6d., it is being reduced to 40s.
What the Minister will succeed in doing, whether he likes it or not, is to encourage indifferent parents to dissuade young members of the family from entering apprenticeships because of family allowance restrictions of this nature so that they might earn better money in general employment.
I am the first to admit that the parent who is ready to sacrifice and keen to encourage his or her children to enter apprenticeships will continue to do so in spite of the Government's restriction. The Minister can, however, be assured that the indifferent parent will take an entirely different view and that the stream of potential apprentices will be diverted away from industry. Only in the last few weeks we have heard laments, especially from the Government side of the House, about the shortage of craftsmen in industry and in the building trade. It was one of the arguments adduced in the Scottish debate to explain why we are spending £1 million less on housing in Scotland next year. Only last week, in reply to a Question by me, the Parliamentary Secretary admitted that there was a serious shortage of engineering apprentices in industrial design, so much so that certain machines cannot be designed for factories by United Kingdom manufacturers.
This serious problem which confronts the nation will never be overcome by Measures of this type. The Minister is not saving money, because the finest type of capital in which the country can invest is, not finance capital or industrial capital, but human capital. Unless we recruit the men and women of the next generation in sufficient numbers to our crafts and industries, to our semi-professional and, indeed, professional bodies, the civilisation of tomorrow is bound to suffer.
The Minister has taken a short-sighted view of the problem. For the sake of the infinitesimal sum involved, it would have been in his interests and in the interests of the House and of the country not to interfere with the system of allowing apprenticeship incomes to be included in the family income for family allowance purposes. By so doing, we would have stimulated the desire and the interest of 563 these young people to fit themselves for apprenticeships in all walks of life and all sections of indstury, for the good both of the industry, of themselves and of the nation.
Therefore, while welcoming the Bill and indicating that it will have my support, I very much regret that the Minister has been short-sighted in these respects. I hope that in the light of experience, he will come to realise that it will not pay dividends to the Ministry of Pensions and National Insurance to treat apprenticeship earnings in this fashion and that as a result of trial and error he will learn from his mistakes and we can look forward in the near future to adjustments on the lines suggested by hon. Members on this side of the House.
§ 9.35 p.m.
§ Mr. John Robertson (Paisley)
Most of what I wished to say has already been said. Therefore, I will not keep the House very long. I cannot feel as enthusiastic about the Bill as the Joint Parliamentary Secretary. The Bill provided me with my first experience as a member of a Standing Committee. I have a feeling that it went through altogether too quickly. It might have taken a little longer had it been before the Scottish Standing Committee.
My hon. Friend the Member for Coat-bridge and Airdrie (Mr. Dempsey) said that, like the curate's egg, there were good and bad parts of the Bill. I am reminded of the butcher—or was it the baker?—who was accused of making his rabbit pies with horse meat. He strongly denied it and declared that his pies were half and half—one horse to one rabbit. The "horse" of the Bill is Clause 8, in which the Minister is doing the wrong thing. Whatever may have been this reason for undoing what he did before, the effect will not be for the general good of the country.
I agree with my hon. Friend that in a large number of families the decision whether a young man becomes an apprentice or goes into a dead-end job is a marginal affair. The new description of apprentices as personsnot in receipt of earnings exceeding forty shillings a weekwill, from my investigations, exclude almost all the apprentices. At least, I 564 have not been able to find any apprentices who will not be excluded, and I would suggest that the numbers excluded will be many more than the numbers given by the right hon. Gentleman.
The effect of Clause 8 must be to make it much more difficult for families to apprentice their boys. I was reading the Report of the Commissioners of Inland Revenue the other day, and they were saying that the average expenditure on food for an adolescent was 34s. a week. If we take that as being true there will be very little left to pay all the other expenses which apprenticeship costs a family.
The real trouble though, about Clause 8, is that we do not really know what it means. I listened to the right hon. Gentleman on Second Reading when he said that this would be conditioned by certain allowable expenses, and I read the speeches made in Committee, but I am still not clear as to what exactly is intended by the Clause. We should be given a clear definition tonight.
Would the right hon. Gentleman say exactly what is meant byearnings being for this purpose calculated or estimated in such manner and on such basis as may be prescribed"?I think that that would be useful. I think that we should get it on the record, because we may be faced with many difficult cases of interpretation. I can see that trade union organisers will be very busy fighting cases over this interpretation in the future.
I am sorry that I cannot give the Bill a welcome. I have spent years dealing with the problems of skilled men and apprentices in industry, and it is my belief that the Bill will injure the country rather than help because of the inclusion of Clause 8. I am sorry that the right hon. Gentleman thought it was necessary to do this at this time.
§ 9.40 p.m.
§ Mr. Houghton
I am sure the House is very grateful to the Leader of the House for having rearranged the business for today to give us more time to consider the final stages of the Bill. It is true that, in Committee, we adhered to a self-imposed timetable in order to get the Bill back to the House in reasonable time for it to pass through all 565 stages and receive the Royal Assent before the Christmas Recess, and we are about to pass the Bill to another place in accordance with that intention.
We are grateful to the Minister for having secured a place in a crowded legislative programme for a Bill containing a number of improvements which have long awaited attention in this House. I am not at all sure that he would have found it so easy to get this favourable place in the legislative timetable in this Session if he had not included Clause 8. I think that must have warmed the heart of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and facilities were given to the Bill to come on early, because of the savings which Clause 8 will secure.
This is a miscellaneous Bill. There is no one theme running throughout, and we have to take each Clause and part of the Bill more or less by itself and consider it in the light of our experience and knowledge of respects in which reform is called for. The Minister has had detailed consultations with the Trades Union Congress and it has assisted him in bringing forward a number of these proposals. I am sure that has been for the general assistance and convenience of the House.
I suppose my hon. Friends and I could claim to have had some part in Clause 5 dealing with the younger widows. We seem to have given the National Insurance Advisory Committee a very complicated and baffling task. It was a long time producing its Report. I did make inquiries as to how it was getting on and was told that it was a very difficult job which had been assigned to it. Naturally, we are disappointed that the Report of the Committee did not clear the way to the removal of this sense of unfairness about wives under 60, whose husbands are older than they are and who defer retirement, but in respect of whose deferment the wife under 60 enjoys none of the increments in her pension which the husband earns to his pension in the period of deferred retirement during which she was under 60.
A small concession is given to the widow in these circumstances and the widow under 60 is now to receive one-half of her husband's increments for the period during which she was under 60 and he was deferring retirement. Perhaps this is the best that can be done 566 with this difficult problem, though in Committee we thought that there was still an improvement which could be made without giving rise to all the consequential difficulties which the National Insurance Advisory Committee feared. However, there it is, and Clause 5 gives something to these widows under 60 for the whole of the time when their late husbands deferred retirement.
The benefits to the old cases under the Workmen's Compensation Acts are naturally welcome, but, as my hon. Friends have pointed out, we had hoped that it would have been possible for the Minister to make more adequate provision for these long-standing casualties of industrial accident and disease.
Clause 8 is undoubtedly the blot on the Bill. As I said on Second Reading, the thin layer of jam spread over a rather wide area concealed this somewhat bitter pill in Clause 8. When the significance and the effect of the Clause become appreciated more widely, hon. Members on both sides of the House will hear an outcry from many of the parents concerned. Frequently, when these matters are being dealt with in Committee upstairs they do not receive the publicity which would flow from discussing them on the Floor of the House. It may not be known yet in many households that the family allowance which they are now drawing will be terminated when the new regulations are made with effect from the beginning of April.
Whether family allowances are, in any case, the best way of dealing with apprenticeship is perhaps a matter for debate. The whole field of extended education, apprenticeship and training for vocations and professions needs re-examination with a view to offering greater encouragement and inducements for our young people to embark on careers of skill. But since Her Majesty's Government have not yet tackled the matter in a comprehensive and radical way we have to rely on the family allowance scheme to offer an additional encouragement to many parents to consent to their boys and girls becoming apprentices.
I hope, however, that the parents of apprentices and the apprentices themselves who are adversely effected by 567 Clause 8 will not allow that to interfere with apprenticeship or with the parents' plans for the apprenticeship of others of their children. The interest of the young people themselves and of the country must triumph over this discouragement in Clause 8. Sometimes it takes a great deal to rise above the annoyance and sense of injustice that these changes bring about, but I am sure that those parents who allow it to make no difference will be glad of it in the days to come and that, especially, the young people themselves will be glad of it.
It is sad, that in this respect, the Minister is now changing the basis of the Family Allowances Act, 1945. How much should an apprentice earn and still enable his parents to qualify for family allowance? The various decisions of the Commissioners have raised the amount from time to time, until the more recent reward, when a Commissioner decided that a young person aged 16 could be earning £4 4s. 6d. as an apprentice and still not be in conflict with the conditions of the 1945 Act, seems to have goaded the Minister into taking drastic action. He is now reducing the qualifying earnings of an apprentice for the purpose of the family allowance below the level which has been in existence for some time. That is regrettable.
The right hon. Gentleman has not merely put right, in his view, the highest and most recent award. He has gone back over past awards and has fixed a level of 40s. a week, which is much lower than the figure which the National Insurance Commissioners recommended and which has been in operation for some years.
Other parts of the Bill have been referred to by my hon. Friends in varying degrees of contentment or dissatisfaction. There is no doubt that Clause 1 will remove a great deal of difficulty over accidents arising in the course of employment. Whether the introduction of this normal word "skylarking" in the Bill will make very much difference, I am not sure. If "skylarking" it is, then there will be no difficulty about its being covered by Clause 2, because the word is there and everyone knows what it means. I suppose that our legal friends may say that there is a difference between misconduct and "skylarking". If there 568 is, the Bill takes care of any doubt in that respect.
On the whole we must assent to the Bill being given its Third Reading. We regret that it is not more adequate in its beneficial Clauses, and we deplore the Minister's action in Clause 8. We sincerely hope that the result which many of us fear will not come about as a result of the worsening of conditions under the 1945 Act. We hope that the Minister, on another occasion, will get just as favourable a position for a Bill which will be more satisfactory to us and more agreeable to the House as a whole. We could have overlooked many of the Bill's defects had it contained the thing we most passionately desire—a general improvement in the whole range of National Insurance benefits.
§ 9.53 p.m.
§ Mr. Boyd-Carpenter
I had the privilege of saying the first few words on the Bill in this House a few weeks ago, and I should like, at much shorter length than on that occasion, to say what I have no doubt will be the last words about the Bill in this House.
As did my hon. Friend the Joint Parliamentary Secretary, I would like to thank the House for the way in which it has dealt with the Bill. I do not mean—and I do not think that anyone will misunderstand me in this—that either side has shirked its duty to give a Bill of this character proper consideration and discussion. On the other hand, it has been a very good example of the parliamentary process at its best in dealing with a complicated Bill.
There certainly have not been speeches for speeches' sake. On the contrary, there has been genuine good will between the two sides, although opinions on the matters at issue have differed a great deal. The good will has been there in getting on with the job of giving the Bill the discussion it needed, but not prolonging debate for its own sake. I thank the House. I would also thank the many people outside the House who have helped us in bringing about this complicated Measure—the National Insurance Advisory Committee, the T.U.C. and, nearer home, the people in my own Department, and the parliamentary draftsmen.
The Bill contains a mass of detailed provisions some of which there is not 569 time to mention now. Many of them are items of improvement in the scheme which I have wanted to make for some time but which have had to await the opportunity for legislation. I am very grateful that, with the co-operation of the House, it has been possible to deal with those matters in the Bill.
Naturally enough, the main discussion in this short debate has turned on Clauses 1 and 8. I realise, and the House appreciates, that Clause 8 is a very good illustration of the problem, which we meet when we try to alter the pattern of a particular social service, of redeploying resources in new circumstances and in new directions. It is a thing that we are always rightly urged to do, but it is also something which, when we do do it, naturally raises comment and criticism from those who are, or think they might he adversely affected by the change.
We should certainly not have brought Clause 8 forward if we had thought that it would have an adverse effect on the willingness of young people to take up apprenticeships or of employers to provide opportunities for them so to do. I agree with what the hon. Member for Sowerby (Mr. Houghton) and other hon. Members have said about the crucial importance to this country of our people training themselves, with every opportunity they have, in the skills and techniques of modern industry. But in bringing the Bill forward I came to the view, to which I still adhere, that this provision will not have such an adverse effect, and I ask the House to look at it in proportion.
I do not believe that, when we are dealing with the only people who will be affected by this—apprentices bringing into the home at least 40s. a week net—the question of whether family allowances at the present rate will or will not be issuable will be the decisive factor. I feel that when one remembers the purpose of family allowances—to provide for truly dependent children—it was right to make this change and to redeploy our resources in this way.
570 In reply to the hon. Member for Coat-bridge and Airdrie (Mr. Dempsey), who is not, I think, in his place, there is no inconsistency between this and improvements made in 1956. Those improvements involved increasing the age at which a person otherwise entitled either as a schoolboy or schoolgirl, or as an apprentice, would be eligible to qualify his family for family allowance. Of course that remains absolutely unaffected by this Bill. In my view, this restores the family allowance scheme to its true purpose of providing some additional payment to those families whose children continue to be dependent upon them because they are undergoing either education or skilled training.
In reply to the hon. Member for Paisley (Mr. J. Robertson), the words at the end of the Clause to which he referred indicate that we shall prescribe in regulations the conditions as to what shall be treated as earnings for this purpose. Those regulations will be laid before the House and will be subject to the Prayer procedure.
At this stage I say only this about this Bill. I am very glad to have had the opportunity of bringing it forward. It provides a considerable number of things which improve our social services. And I am particularly glad to be able to do it at a time when, for obvious reasons of finance and national economy, the making of improvements is not easy. That they are improvements I am sure, and I believe they will do some good.
§ Question put and agreed to.
§ Bill accordingly read the Third time and passed.