§ 4.45 p.m.
§ The Chairman
Perhaps I should inform the Committee that I have placed a list of the Amendments selected in the "No" Lobby. I hope that will be for the convenience of Members.
§ The Chairman
The next Amendment is that to the First Schedule, page 3, line 10, column 1, to leave out "18" and insert "21". This Amendment can be discussed with those in lines 13, 18 21 25 and 26, which are in exactly the same terms, and also that page 3, line 27, at the end to add:
|11. Employed men between the ages of 18 and 21||1||11|
|12. Employed women between the ages of 18 and21||1||5|
|13. Self-employed men between the agesof18 and21||2||3|
|14. Self-employed women between the ages of 18 and 21||1||9|
|15. Non-employed men between the ages of 18 and 21||2||3|
|16. Non-employed women between the ages of 18 and 21||1||9|
§ Mr. Ross
I beg to move, in page 3, line 10, column 1, to leave out "18" and insert "21
". We now come to the First Schedule and the actual amounts of money that are to be collected from individuals who hold National Insurance cards in the various categories. Much as we should like item by item to wash out these 714 contributions altogether, we are, of course, faced with this procedure and the rules of order. The best we can do—and I say this in general explanation of all our Amendments—in view of the Money Resolution is to increase each category in order to limit the increase as much as possible; in many cases we are leaving it at a halfpenny.
In this first series of Amendments we are dealing with young people. In the tenth line of the First Schedule we find a category of employed men between the ages of 18 and 70, and, similarly, in relation to employed women, another category between the ages of 18 and 65. We are following that trend right through. The higher contribution in the case of a man will be 2s. 81d. per week, and in the case of a woman 2s. 0½d. per week. We seek to make a change that will bring them in not at the age of 18 but at the age of 21, which would mean, of course, creating a new category of people between 18 and 21 at a halfpenny above the present rates. That is the effect of what we seek to do.
The Minister will obviously ask why we should want to create these new categories, and I do not doubt that in reply the hon. Lady the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Health will say that it will destroy whatever chance there was of the Government accenting the Amendments, because of administrative inconvenience. She may tell us that these categories follow exactly the categories in the National Insurance Act. Let hon. Members look at the matter to see exactly what happens here. We get a category who will be paying, if 715 this proposal becomes law, Is. 4½d. per week for employed boys and girls under the age of 18, who, on their 18th birthday, will suddenly jump to a payment of 2s. 8½d. per week. I do not know what exactly is the logic of this financial basis in relation to the people who actually have to pay. There would seem to be an assumption that at the age of 18 young people in industry immediately get adult wages, but that assumption is not borne out by the facts. There are many young people well beyond 18 and right up to 21—
§ Mr. Ross
—whose wage rates are far below what is assumed in relation to this Bill. That is one of the strongest points in support of the suggestion that there should be this reduction and restriction of the problem for young people.
Over the past year or so the Government have been making a certain play of their concern for the young people of this country. Here is a way in which they can demonstrate their sympathy for the young people. By acceptting this Amendment they will be freeing young people, so far as is possible under our procedures, from this increase in National Health Service contributions.
The fact that we have used the categories of National Insurance in the past does not mean that we should automatically and slavishly follow them in this instance. The higher the contribution becomes—and we must remember that this is the third time since 1957 that it has been raised—the more illogical is and the less reason there is for piling it on to young people at the age of 18. A contribution of 2s. 8½d. a week cannot be laughed off. The answer of the Minister used to be "it is only another 4d.", but now it is 2s. 8d., and we have to appreciate what that means to people of these ages who have to pay it
There is another good reason for making the age 21. Civil wars have been caused through lack of representation at times of taxation. Here is taxation of a character which has been attacked from this side of the Committee and which, I am sure, is not very popular among hon. Members opposite applied to young people of 18 who have no 716 guarantee of any benefits. We suggest that the age should be the same as the voting age. The Government should try to convince young people of voting age that they should pay this increase. If the Government think they cannot do that and must adhere to the National Insurance categories, I remind them that when they introduced their graduated scheme they did not then stick to the National Insurance categories.
The graduated scheme does not start with insurable employment but at the age of 18. There might be an argument, I think we disputed it in Committee, for that because at that age they begin building a pension for themselves, but they do not start building anything for themselves by this increased contribution. They become subject to this increased tax.
I hope the Economic Secretary will address himself to the serious arguments against subjecting young people to this kind of tax, bearing in mind that there is no rush into manhood at 17 or 18 and certainly no rush into adult wages at those ages. The Minister used the argument, when the country first heard of these extra charges, that they were to help to get hospitals built. I hope this affluent society will not claim that the only way to get hospitals built is to have these increased charges. Young people of 18 to 21 will have to pay 2s. 8½d., an extra 10d. a week. The hon. and learned Member for Surrey, East (Mr. Doughty) spoke of following leaders, but no one can say that in this affluent society we have to penalise young people of 18 to 21 in order to finance hospital building.
§ Mr. Doughty
I listened with great interest to the hon. Member for Kilmarnock (Mr. Ross). Had I not had the Schedule before me and served on one of these Committees, I might have thought that some hardship was being inflicted on employed young people because the Schedule refers to employed young people between 18 and 21. When I go to the Smoking Room to buy a packet of cigarettes of the cheap brand which I smoke I find that I pay 2s. 0½. for ten. People are smoking a great deal too much. If they smoked a little less it would be to their benefit and to the benefit of the country.
§ Mr. A. C. Manuel (Central Ayrshire)
In his tirade against smoking by young men, does not the hon. and learned Member for Surrey, East (Mr. Doughty) realise that they are—wrongly in my opinion, but very effectively—contributing more in that way to the Exchequer than by these charges? Is not that something he should deplore and not uphold?
§ Mr. Doughty
I think it was said many years ago when we had a dollar shortage that we should import tobacco from America for that reason, and, of course, from a financial point of view that would be welcomed, but probably today people smoke too much. I am not condemning smoking by a long way, but hon. Members can bear out what I say.
The operative word in this instance is "employed". It is employed persons between the ages of 18 and 21. As the hon. Member for Kilmarnock said, of course, people of 18 do not earn so much as those over 21 who have attained their skills.
§ Mr. Houghton
Is the hon. and learned Member saying that the proposed contributions are not high enough for these young people?
§ Mr. Doughty
I never had it in mind nor suggested it. I merely said that they did not earn so much in wages between 18 and 21.
§ Mr. Doughty
I did not want to stop them smoking, but merely said that they smoke too much. I should be interested to know if anyone would contradict that as a general rule, for I believe it is perfectly true. While young people between 18 and 21 do not, of course, earn so much as those of adult age, they do not have the same responsibilities. We cannot lay down fixed rules, but they do not have the expense of bringing up children, providing homes and so on which those who are older have. I have forgotten which Report it was—it was not in the Albemarle Report, but in another Report—that said that the average amount of spending money of teenagers was about £3 a week. I would not challenge that figure. I am certain that out of £3 a week an extra 718 10d. for National Health would be well spent.
It is not a question of an affluent society not being able to afford hospitals, but of the ever-increasing cost of the Health Service. We either have to cut down the quality of the Service and continue with old hospitals, or improve the quality of the Service and build new hospitals. I am sure that all hon. Members will agree with the Government in saying that we should not cut down the quality of the Service and we should build the new hospitals which are so much needed.
§ 5.0 p.m.
§ Dr. Barnett Stross (Stoke-on-Trent, Central)
Will the hon. and learned Gentleman answer me this question? We are going to increase the capital expenditure on hospitals in the next year by £5 million and the year after by a further £5 million. By this method we are transferring from one section of the community to another, by changing from one method of taxation to a poll tax, much more than £5 million. It is £49 million. How does the hon. and learned Gentleman defend his position?
§ Mr. Doughty
This money has to be found because of the increased cost of hospitals and the increased salaries paid to nurses. This is one of the methods which, quite rightly, the Government intend to use in order to get new hospitals and to maintain the National Health Service. The young people, no less than the others, will reap their full advantage.
In view of the fact that the young people enjoy, as indeed does the rest of the country, full employment and high wages and do not have the financial responsibility of their seniors in age, I see no reason why they should not pay this small increased charge. If the Amendment is forced to a Division I shall vote against it.
§ Mr. Ron Ledger (Romford)
We have heard a most extraordinary argument from the hon. and learned Member for Surrey, East (Mr. Doughty). We have heard, of course, that the Conservative Party has made considerable efforts to attract to itself the youth of the country, and we in the Labour Party have done exactly the same. But it seems to me that the Conservative 719 Party has not tried to understand what young people are about and what they are preparing for in the future. The hon. and learned Gentleman's main argument was that young people of 18 years of age could afford to pay this increase because they had not the responsibilities of older people. This is a rather old-fashioned idea and, therefore, I should think, rather a contemporary idea in the Conservative Party.
Our main argument, and our reason for asking that the increase should take place at the age of 21 instead of at the age of 18, is that at the age of 18 young people are beginning to look ahead and see the responsibilities which they will have when they get married. They are preparing to get married, they are getting engaged and they are thinking in terms of saving money and preparing for the homes and the families which they are going to have. Surely the hon. and learned Gentleman accepts that this period of preparation, when their wages are not all that high, is a very important period indeed if their future responsibilities are to be met and if they are to get a reasonable start in married life.
It is this complete misunderstanding by the Conservative Party of young people which makes it so difficult for us to persuade its members that these increases in contribution are absolutely wrong. We who are in contact with young people in industry know full well that their wages are nowhere near the maximum which they will expect to reach at the age of 21, and yet here we have this poll tax which they are expected to pay.
The hon. and learned Gentleman also argued that he buys a cheap brand of cigarettes. He sees young people on trains and buses smoking these cheap cigarettes, and he thinks that they smoke too many and should give them up. Supposing that they gave up smoking a packet of cigarettes and supposing that the hon. and learned Gentleman himself did the same, our point is that both the young persons earning, say, perhaps £6, £7 or £8 a week and the hon. and learned Gentleman whose income from Parliament is considerably more would then be making exactly the same contribution to this fund.
720 The point that we are making is that young people and the older people, people on small incomes and people on large incomes, are going to make exactly the same contribution to the Exchequer. That is why we have called the proposed increase a poll tax and it is for that reason that we are opposing it.
One of the main reasons why we on this side of the Committee are supporting the Amendment is because at 18 years of age young people can ill afford to pay the increase owing to the fact that they are preparing to meet their future responsibilities. The opposition of hon. Members opposite to the Amendment shows quite clearly how completely they misunderstand the needs of young people.
§ Sir Douglas Glover (Ormskirk)
I do not propose to detain the Committee very long, but this is one Amendment which I shall have no difficulty whatever in voting against. The hon. Member for Kilmarnock (Mr. Ross) must have moved it with his tongue in his cheek. We are not debating whether there should be a contribution at all but whether the full weight of that contribution should be borne by people between the ages of 18 and 21. If, therefore, the contribution is to bring in the same amount of money, the logic of the Amendment, if carried, is that the contribution for those of 21 years of age and upwards would have to go up. [HON. MEMBERS: "Why"?] It would have to go up in order to bring in the same amount of money. If there is any segment of the population which is able to bear this contribution without hardship it is that of the teenagers between the ages of 18 and 21. They are certainly not going to have any less burden when they reach the age of 21. It is then that their increased responsibilities in life begin to accumulate.
It could be argued that those between 18 and 21 years of age should pay 2s. 10d. a week and those over 21 years of age should pay something less. I have some knowledge of this because in business I am connected with the retail trading side of the country. The most lucrative market is that of the teenagers who have more money to spend with less responsibilities on their shoulders than any other segment of the population.
721 The teenagers have just had a good education, and I welcome and applaud the fact that they should have had it. They have come out of the schools and gone into industry and full employment, all of which has been provided by the rest of the community. If we want a good Health Service I should have thought that these young people, who have a great sense of responsibility, would be the ones who would say quite honestly, "Yes, we think it is quite fair that we should bear our proper burden." I do not think we shall find those between the ages of 18 and 21 objecting to the increased contribution which they can afford to pay without any hardship. I shall have great pleasure in voting against the Amendment.
§ Miss Jennie Lee (Cannock)
We all know that there is neither sense nor logic in proposing these charges. We are speaking against the clock, so I do not want to go over the points made with great clarity and cogency by my hon. Friend the Member for Kilmarnock (Mr. Ross) and which, I hope, will be answered. I ask the Economic Secretary to explain to me by what process of reasoning the Government have come to decide that young men and women who are earning a living between the ages of 18 and 21 are the new privileged grades in our community. It is a most extraordinary argument
The hon. and learned Member for Surrey, East (Mr. Doughty) talked about those broad, affluent shoulders that can most easily carry additional burdens. If the argument is going to be that the more we can afford the more we should pay, then, obviously, I must point out that generations of our countrymen have striven to work out taxation proposals which are in keeping with that argument. The broader the shoulders and the higher the income the more people should pay. But all young men and women between the ages of 18 and 21 are not earning a living wage. Some of them are doing nothing. They are merely consuming. Some of them are students, and good luck to them. They do not pay any contributions. I know of students at colleges and universities with higher incomes, more pocket money and a pleasanter and more congenial life than young industrial workers.
§ Miss Lee
And apprentices, or young workers going down the pits, or working on the railways and buses, etc. I do not want to be misunderstood. I have always been opposed to a means test for university students. I do not want there to be a means test, even if the student's father is a millionaire. Education should be paid for by more direct taxation. I do not begrudge the fact that youngsters who are to be the future dentists, doctors, etc. are not asked to pay part of this tax. Some of them will start earning their living when they are 25. Others will not start earning until they are 30. Others will never start earning. However, when they start earning they will not be asked to pay any additional taxation, because in this modern State, with the help of the youngsters who have gone into industry, they have been financed for many pleasant years of their lives.
I am not trying to make logic or sense of this discussion, because from its very nature that is impossible. I hope that the Economic Secretary will try to answer this point. Why have the Government decided to single out young men and women who are carrying the main industrial burden and whose lives are not all that pleasant for an extra piece of mean taxation?
§ Mr. Cyril Bence (Dunbartonshire, East)
I wholeheartedly endorse everything said by my hon. Friend the Member for Cannock (Miss Lee). It has always seemed to me an extraordinary contradiction that one section of society accepts it as right that some young people should undergo the process of education up to about 25 or 26 whilst other young people enter industry and receive less money but pay tax.
My hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent, South (Mr. Ellis Smith) was right to interject and mention apprentices. I served an apprenticeship for five years, during which time my income was less than the income of my daughter whilst she held a scholarship at a university a few years ago. A boy entering industry today and earning a small income has to bear this taxation burden from the time he is 18, whilst his contemporary can go to a university and enjoy all the social amenities which that involves but pay nothing. 723 I take a different view from that taken by the hon. Member for Ormskirk (Sir D. Glover) and the hon. and learned Member for Surrey, East (Mr. Doughty). I want to encourage young people of 16 to spend the next five or six years of their lives, not earning as much as they can but learning as much as they can. That should be the aim of society today. If we want young people to learn, we must ensure that they can do so and not be a burden to their fellows who in our walk of life are often not able to bear the burden. We know that plenty of people can rear six or seven children and send them to the finest finishing schools in the world without any hardship, because they have a sufficient income. If Britain is to hold her place amongst the nations the number of people receiving a good education up to 21 or 25 must be increased.
We should encourage young people between the ages of 18 and 21 to demand more and more learning instead of demanding more and more wages. We ask that the Government should make some contribution towards achieving this by relieving youngsters between 18 and 21 of some of the taxation being imposed upon them either directly or indirectly. The hon. and learned Member for Surrey, East said that youngsters between 18 and 21 smoke and drink too much.
§ Mr. Bence
The hon. Gentleman said that they smoke too much and spend too much money in one way or another. The more money they spend the more revenue the Exchequer receives. If the working youth of this country became very abstemious and thereby reduced their contribution to the Exchequer, we might live to see another National Health Service Contributions Bill to increase the contributions to make up the money the Exchequer lost.
The hon. Member for Orsmkirk said that my hon. Friend the Member for Kilmarnock (Mr. Ross) was talking with his tongue in his cheek, because if youngsters from 18 to 21 are relieved of taxation somebody else will have to pay it. We know that. If one section of the community has to pay less tax, another form of taxation must be imposed to bridge the gap.
§ Sir Alexander Spearman (Scarborough and Whitby)
Is the hon. Gentleman quite right there? It all depends on how the money is employed. If the money is saved, there is no need to impose more taxation. The whole point is the balance between total resources and total expenditure.
§ Mr. Bence
I do not know whether it is in order to discuss this, but this facet of our economy has always been a mystery to me. If people have the power to save money, they save it to invest it. If they invest it, they expect to receive interest on it. If they invest it in Government Bonds, the Government have to pay interest on it and impose taxation to raise money to pay the interest. Perhaps I had better not pursue that topic, because I believe I shall be out of order.
§ The Temporary Chairman (Mr. W. R. Williams)
I encourage the hon. Member to believe that he is right there.
§ Mr. Ellis Smith
I will try to assist my hon. Friend. You, Mr. Williams, have reminded us that the discussion is limited to what is in order on the Amendment. I wonder if my hon. Friend will inform the Committee about the effect these proposals will have on the young men employed at John Browns and the young women employed at Singers. They have to travel miles and purchase their own tools.
§ Mr. Bence
I am very grateful to my hon. Friend, because in his trade and in my trade we had to provide our own tools. We had to do so when we were 16 to 18. In order to do it we had to save every week over the years to acquire sets of tools, which even in these days cost up to £100. A patternmaker's tools were sold recently for £120 secondhand. Boys aged between 16 and 21 who are apprenticed in skilled trade have to save a great deal of their weekly income to acquire tools to use by the time they become journeymen.
The apprentices at John Browns and Singers are on very low wages. The remuneration of an apprentice in his first two years is often less than some of the monetary awards at universities. Yet working boys are being asked to pay the extra contribution, whereas students with scholarships will pay nothing. The parents of boys and girls apprenticed in 725 skilled trades often make a great sacrifice, although the wages are now much higher than they used to be.
I ask the Economic Secretary to reexamine this matter. The Government should relieve youngsters in this age group from some of the burdens of taxation so that they can be encouraged not only to learn a skilled trade but to go further into technology. In that way we should broaden the base of our technology and strengthen our position in this competitive world.
§ Mr. Gower
I think there is a good deal in what the hon. Member for Romford (Mr. Ledger) said about young people of 18 to 21 having calls on their earnings in the sense that in many cases they are preparing for responsibilities in later years, but, with respect, while I have a good deal of sympathy with what has been said on the benches opposite, I suggest that there has been a good deal of exaggeration. After all, the difference is quite small. It is the difference between what they would pay at 21, that is to say, 2s. 8½d. according to this proposal, and what they would pay under 18. I think the difference is 1s. 4d.
Moreover, this amount which is payable weekly is payable only if the person is in employment. I accept that in most cases a person between 18 and 21 is likely to earn less than someone who is 21 or over. Nevertheless, while it is true that a person of 18 may well be preparing for the responsibilities of later life, someone of 21 or over will often have those responsibilities already.
§ Mr. Gower
But the responsibilities are in many cases a much greater burden than mere preparation for those responsibilities. That is the point. A man who is married with, perhaps, one child has a much bigger drain on his earnings than a young fellow and his girl friend who are, perhaps, both working and putting something aside for their married life. I suggest that in most cases the call on the earnings of the person who is 21 or over is immeasurably greater.
§ Mr. Gower
We are dealing here solely with the impact of the comparatively small amount—I do not say it is a negligible amount—that is to say, about 1s. 4d. a week, on the earnings of a person who, after all, is in employment and in most cases will not have the responsibilities of a married man. Therefore, while I have a good deal of sympathy with the views expressed by the hon. Member for Romford, I feel there is a great danger of exaggerating the impact of this comparatively small amount on the people concerned.
The hon. Member for Dunbartonshire, East (Mr. Bence) said that we should encourage youth. If he were speaking of a sum like 10s. or even 5s. a week, I could understand him waxing so eloquent.
§ Mrs. Harriet Slater (Stoke-on-Trent, North)
The hon. Member for Barry (Mr. Gower), as he usually does, tried to sit on both sides of the fence. But, when it comes to the vote, he always falls on the side of the Government. He is a great defender of the "Establishment".
§ Mr. Gower rose—
§ The Temporary Chairman
I hope that hon. Members will not encourage hon. Members who have spoken to interrupt too often. There are many who wish to take part in the debate.
§ Mrs. Slater
Earlier today at Question Time the Home Secretary was asked how far he intended to encourage youth to go out on adventurous work, and he said that he should have to wait and see how the American scheme went. It is not only "wait and see" that the Government 727 want. They want to penalise these young folk as well by putting poll taxes on them. This, of course, is only one of several things which happen now.
It is very easy for hon. Members opposite, when a matter of this kind arises, to throw across the Floor talk about the increase being only the cost of a packet of cigarettes. We have had this sort of thing in Committee upstairs, and we had it again this afternoon. It is a slur upon youth. It goes on in the Press, on television and in the House of Commons. We hear these cheap jibes thrown out against youth.
I find it very difficult to reconcile that sort of comment by hon. Members opposite with the amount of money which they will possibly spend after their dinner tonight on one cigar.
§ Mr. Doughty
The hon. Lady is looking at me. The answer is nil. It was nil last night, it was nil the night before, it was nil a week ago and it was nil before that. I intervene, Mr. Williams, only because I was encouraged to do so by the hon. Lady. Accusations of that kind are wholly inaccurate.
§ Mrs. Slater
I am very glad that the hon. and learned Gentleman can say that, because he has not been smoking expensive cigars.
§ Mrs. Slater
As my hon. Friend suggests, his custom is not in keeping with what is done generally by members of his party.
§ Mrs. Slater
I shall not give way again. As I say, I find it difficult to reconcile the sort of cheap jibe I have described with my knowledge of what hon. Members opposite spend on themselves. Many of these young folk are earning quite low incomes. There are many who are endeavouring to fit themselves for responsible positions in industry in future. They are taking evening classes. Very often, they are apprentices and their earnings are by no means luxurious. The consequence is that they will be taxed very much more heavily than those who are 21 and earning more money.
Upstairs in Committee today, the hon. Lady the Parliamentary Secretary to the 728 Ministry of Health on the other Bill we are discussing said that young folk under 21 receive free dental treatment.
§ Mrs. Slater
Yes, she did; and they do. If it is logical that young people under 21 should not have to pay for dental treatment, is it not logical also that they should not be charged these extra amounts on their contributions?
Another argument is that this is a very small contribution. We had this from the hon. Member for Barry. He said that it is a small one, a negligible one. Of course, it may look negligible when considered as a weekly contribution, but what matters is how much it is a year and the year after that.
§ Mrs. Slater
I like the qualification. The fact is that this is cumulative. It is one of many others which are likely to be threatened in the near future in other spheres. We must look at the matter in that light.
We are told by the Ministers with almost sorrow in their voices that these increases are needed because we want an extended hospital service. But, as my hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central (Dr. Stross) pointed out, £49 million will be raised from these increased contributions whereas only £5 million is needed for the extended hospital programme. If, as has been said by hon. Members opposite, these young people must pay their share because it is so necessary that we should have an extended hospital programme and that they can afford to pay an increased contribution, why are the employers to pay only 2d. more? They are the people who make most out of young people's labour. It seems illogical to me that people between the ages of 18 and 21 should pay 10d. more and that almost the same argument should be used to persuade us that the employer should pay only 2d. more.
729 These young people have their responsibilities. Many of them are contributing towards the upkeep of their homes. We therefore cannot judge where responsibility begins and where it ends and who has the biggest responsibility. People in this age group need encouragement and consideration, and we should give them some sense of equality. They do not get the vote. Why should we penalise them further? I hope that the Committee will accept the Amendment.
§ Mr. John Wells (Maidstone)
The hon. Lady the Member for Stoke-on-Trent, North (Mrs. Slater) said that she could not understand why people under the age of 21 should have free dental treatment and at the same time should have this small increase imposed on them. Surely the object of free dental treatment is that is should be a preventative measure. When people are young and their teeth are still maturing, it is important that they should have preventative rather than curative dentistry. I think that everyone agrees with that.
This increase in the charges is relatively small. Any hon. Member whose constituency has a large main road going through it which is used by young people almost as a race track for high-powered, motor cycles is acutely aware every day of the week of the spending power of young people. My hon. Friend the Member for Ormskirk (Sir D. Glover) rightly said that young people have a high sense of responsibility and would gladly pay a small extra contribution towards the national requirements.
§ Mr. Willis
After the four speeches we have had from the other side of the Committee, I am left wondering what are the arguments against the Amendment. The hon. and learned Member for Surrey, East (Mr. Doughty) began by pointing out that young people smoke too much. I was not sure about the relevance of that, unless he wishes to stop them smoking. If that was his object, it seems to me that the logical thing to do is to table an Amendment to increase the contribution still further. As I say, I do not know the relevance of that argument. Perhaps it has something to do with the second argument which was advanced by three hon. Members opposite, namely, that young people have plenty of money to spend. 730 The hon. and learned Member for Surrey, East also said this. The hon. Member for Ormskirk (Sir D. Glover) said that he was busily engaged in exploiting them and therefore he had some idea of the extent of the purchasing power which was available to them. The hon. Member for Maidstone (Mr. J Wells) said the same thing.
The effect of this argument is that if one can afford to pay then one should do so. But that is precisely what we have been arguing against throughout the whole of our debates, and not one hon. Member opposite supported us. We have been arguing this for days. The hon. and learned Member for Surrey, East spoke about boys smoking and having £2 or £3 a week to spend. I wonder how much more than these boys the hon. and learned Gentleman has. Is he not much more able to afford this increased charge than them? If his argument is correct, then the hon. and learned Gentleman should be paying more. The hon. Member for Ormskirk, who is busily piling up a fortune out of the money spent by young people, is in an even better position to afford it. Our argument is that he should be paying more. I have never heard so much nonsense in all my life. This is what has happened in the Chamber over this last two or three weeks.
It is said that if the Amendment is accepted, thus excluding from the Schedule boys under the age of 21, people over 21 will have to pay more. That is not necessarily the case. Our argument is that people should pay through national taxation in accordance with their ability to pay. The point is whether 18 or 21 is the suitable age at which people should start to pay these contributions. There are boys who go into apprenticeships and undergo various kinds of training. They are not all going around with £4 or £5 in their pockets, dashing up and down the road in the constituency of the hon. Member for Maidstone on high-powered motor bicycles.
§ Mr. Willis
We are trying to expand schemes for boys' training. We are concerned with the tremendous school bulge and the fact that we have not the places 731 available for them to be trained. We are trying to develop their skills in order to fit them into industry and that the country might reap the benefit of properly trained youths. The question that we have to ask is: at what age are they likely to be in a position to pay this countribution? I think that we should say that 21 is a more suitable age than 18. We on this side it may be that the Tories do not hope for this—want them to be engaged in developing their skills and ability. Anyone who is concerned about the future of this country is worried about this matter. We might at least try to plan our finances in accordance with what we are trying to do socially, industrially and economically. It is for those reasons that I think that 21 is a more suitable age than 18 at which these contributions should be paid.
§ Mr. A. E. Cooper (Ilford, South)
During the last three-quarters of an hour we have listened to street-corner tub thumping of a fairly low order and political sophistry at its highest. For a few moments, we should try to address ourselves to the fundamentals behind this Measure and to the Amendment in particular.
It seems to be agreed at last by hon. Members opposite that the age group from 18 to 21 is a rather affluent section of the society. [HON. MEMBERS: "Not all of them."] I concede that. If, as the hon. Member for Edinburgh, East (Mr. Willis) admits, what hon. Members opposite have for days been seeking to persuade the House of Commons to do is to secure that those able to afford a contribution should be made to pay it, there is no argument which they can adduce in support of their Amendment, for the simple reason that report after report has been published to show that the teenage spending power is no less than £900 million a year—[Interruption.] —which is a very large sum indeed. If one wants evidence—[Interruption.]
§ The Temporary Chairman
I do not mind comments outside in, say, a football match, but I do not want a running commentary during this debate.
§ Mr. Manuel
Is the hon. Member for Ilford, South (Mr. Cooper) aware that many of his hon. Friends boast that 732 they earn sums of the kind to which he has just referred?
§ Mr. Cooper
I have never heard of anybody on this side earning £900 million a year.
I have simply stated that there are reports which show beyond doubt that the teenage spending power is about £900 million a year. If anybody wants evidence to support that contention, one has only to look around at the enormous numbers of young people riding about on Vespas or Lambrettas or in bubble cars, spending money in considerable volume on dinghies and spending a large number of weekends away at the coast —and good luck to them. Having said that, however, let us at least face the fact that they can afford a few extra coppers a week to make a contribution to the maintenance of the National Health Service.
The hon. Lady the Member for Cannock (Miss Lee) put her finger on the difference in thinking between the two sides of the Committee. The hon. Lady said that this expenditure should be raised by direct taxation and none of it by indirect taxation. I speak not for my hon. and right hon. Friends in this context but only for myself. I have long held the view that we should completely reverse that trend and that we should get to a situation in which there was little or no tax earnings but a substantial tax on spending. I recognise that in the complex economic society in which we live, that is not practical politics. Therefore, we must try to bring about a sensible balance between the two. I do not believe that it is possible to argue that the new impositions which the Bill places upon young people between the ages of 18 and 21 can be regarded as penal and I shall have much pleasure in supporting my hon. Friends in the Lobby.
§ 5.45 p.m.
§ Mr. Manuel
I was surprised that in his opening remarks the hon. Member for Ilford, South (Mr. Cooper) should say that we on this side were indulging in tub thumping. I should like the hon. Member to take it from me that points of considerable principle are involved in our arguments concerning the raising of the age to 21.
The hon. Member for Maidstone (Mr. J. Wells) tried to educate us about the preventive aspect of dental treatment 733 and suggested that the cost should be allowable. He supported his hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary, who in the seclusion of the Committee room uptairs developed that theme at some length.
§ The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Health (Miss Edith Pitt)
In the seclusion of the Committee room, I was putting right the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, North (Mrs. Slater) who is now sitting beside the hon. Member, and who, apparently, was not aware that dental treatment was available without charge to young people under the age of 21.
§ Mr. Manuel
The trout has taken the fly. If that is the argument, how can the Government in any way justify the considerable impact of the increases in price of welfare foods for the youngest in the community—the 1s. for cod liver oil and fruit juice and 6d. for vitamin pills, all of which are preventive items for nursing mothers and babies?
§ Mr. J. Wells
I did not divert myself to cod liver oil, orange juice and the like, because I was endeavouring to keep within order.
§ Mr. Manuel
Those are on the preventive side. The hon. Member should study these things a little.
I support the excellent case made by my hon. Friend the Member for Kilmarnock (Mr. Ross) in introducing this series of Amendments. We on this side are making a remarkably modest request in asking only that the age should be increased from 18 to 21 so far as the increased payments for National Health Service contributions are concerned. We would have had an equally strong case in saying that if should be raised to 23 or 24. Because of the opportunities created in the main by the Labour Government in the fruitful years from 1945 to 1951, we have made available to young people added opportunities for more education over longer periods and have opened up university courses which hitherto were not available to them. The effect of this is that a remarkably large number of people now finish their education at a much later stage. Consequently, they enter industry and the professions with much higher educa 734 tional qualifications. That is a fact which nobody can gainsay.
Because of the low wages rates in industry—not in the professions—we all know that despite higher educational qualifications, there are youngsters who, because of the attraction of a bigger wage, take up dead-end labouring jobs instead of apprenticeships. I have protested about this in my own industry on many occasions. I have often felt very sorry that youngsters of tender years were using their physical ability more than they should in heavy labouring jobs instead of taking an apprenticeship for which their qualifications fitted them. That is to be deplored.
§ Mr. Ellis Smith
if there is any doubt about it let the Financial Secretary ask the Minister of Labour.
§ Mr. Manuel
I am sure that the Minister of Labour would support me. I say, in passing, that this applies with great effect to what is happening in Scotland. It is very right that young people should want to help their parents who are unemployed, and there is still unemployment in many areas in Scotland. I am very disappointed that a Minister from the Scottish Office is not present during this debate. These charges apply to Scotland and we should have a Sc6ftish Minister present to look after the Scottish side of this matter.
I was surprised that two of the hon. Members opposite who have spoken seemed to have remarkably little knowledge of affairs in Scotland. They spoke about the affluent position of young people. It is a common saying in Scotland that during the years 18 to 21 young people are getting their bottom drawer ready for marriage, but to do that they have to save every penny they can each week. A large number of marriages today take place between people under 21 and therefore we have this spectacle of the Government starting something which in many cases will eat into the apprenticeship wage of a married man. There is a considerable marriage rate before the age of 21 is reached.
I was intrigued when the hon. Member for Ormskirk (Sir D. Glover) said that if we did not collect these increased contributions between the ages of 18 and 21 this would mean an increased 735 contribution for other wage earners. That is not the philosophy of the Government Front Bench. I am sure that the Economic Secretary is aghast at that suggestion. Is the hon. Member for Ormskirk aware that the National Insurance Fund surplus last year which was invested in gilt-edged stock decreased in value by no less than £338 million? We have lost that on investment because of the Government's fiscal policy. Therefore, according to his argument, we should now have to increase the contributions of each worker by about 7s. a week to make up that leeway. I hope that he will alter his philosophy, because I do not believe that it can be the philosophy of his party or of the leaders of the Government.
I hope that we shall have some success over these Amendments. The Economic Secretary listens to our arguments, although I know that it is difficult for him to concede them. I think that he will agree that we have tried quit:, sincerely to put the case which we uphold, and I am sure that he must, in the case that I have mentioned, disagree with his hon. Friend. Obviously to impose an extra 7s. would be ridiculous and would never get the support of this Committee or the country.
§ Mr. W. A. Wilkins (Bristol, South)
You, Sir William have been present in the Chair recently and I am sure that you will agree that we have heard fascinating arguments both in defence of the Government's proposals to increase the contributions and in support of the Amendments which we seek to make.
I have been amused by some of the proposals coming from the Government benches as to the reasons why these contributions should be increased for young people between 18 and 21. The hon. Member for Ilford, South (Mr. Cooper) said that these young people are so affluent that they are able to contribute about £900 million a year to the revenue of this country.
§ Mr. Wilkins
I accept that, but if it is spending power they are certainly paying their due proportion of taxes in this country before they come to the 736 point of paying their insurance contribution.
We have had a number of arguments from the Government benches that this is, after all, only a matter of a packet of cigarettes. That has been the medium of expression during almost the whole of the time we have been discussing these Amendments. I want to put one question to the Economic Secretary which I think is relevant to the arguments advanced this afternoon.
§ Notice taken that 40 Members were not present;
§ Committee counted, and, 40 Members being present—
§ Mr. Wilkins
I hope, Sir William, that the observations of the hon. Member for Kidderminster (Mr. Nabarro) were not lost upon you. He merely wished to ensure that the Tory Party 1922 Committee meeting could go on uninterrupted. That is why he called attention to the fact that there were not forty Members in the Chamber.
§ Mr. Charles Loughlin (Gloucestershire, West)
On a point of order, Sir William. Is it in order for an hon. Member to utilise the procedures of the House of Commons to enable a private meeting outside the Chamber to take place uninterrupted, walking into the Chamber and, after waiting one minute, making his point and then walking out again.
§ The Deputy-Chairman (Major Sir William Anstruther-Gray)
I have no cognisance of motives or private meetings. It is within the right of any hon. Member on either side of the Chamber to draw the attention of the Chair to the fact that fewer than forty Members are present. The hon. Member for Kidderminster (Mr. Nabarro) drew my attention to that fact, and I had no option but to count the Committee.
§ 6.0 p.m.
§ Mr. Wilkins
When we were interrupted I was on the point of calling the attention of the Committee to the fact that the proposed increases will yield an additional £49 million a year. I understand that this will be in the form of relief to the Chancellor of the Exchequer. This is, I believe, where the relevance comes in of the suggestions 737 that we have been receiving from hon. Members opposite to the effect that the increased contributions could easily be met by the sacrifice of one packet of cigarettes per week.
I want to ask the Economic Secretary—he may not be able to answer the point at this moment, but I hope he may be able to give us some advice about this before we end our proceedings on the Bill—what it would mean in loss of revenue to the Exchequer if all smokers sacrificed one ounce of tobacco or one racket of cigarettes a week to meet the increased contribution? We have been alleging all the way through in defence of our proposals that this poll tax is being imposed on the workers, the insured people, in order to save £49 million for the Exchequer. If there was a loss of revenue to the Exchequer through habitual smokers making this sacrifice, how much more would the contribution have to be increased to meet the loss?
§ Mr. Edwin Wainwright (Dearne Valley)
I am surprised at the views which have been expressed by hon. Members opposite. When they talk about preventive measures, they do not take account of what our young people have to spend. The figure of £900 million has been mentioned. Hon. Members opposite do not realise that young people between 18 and 21 today have a great deal of responsibility in making a contribution in support of their own families. When I was 18 I was, being the oldest boy, the main supporter of my family. Many young people are not merely supporting their parents but helping to maintain a family of younger brothers and sisters. When hon. Members opposite talk about these young people being easily able to afford the extra contribution, they show that they have no experience which will enable them to make proper comparisons.
One hon. Member said that a cigar cost far more than a young man would spend on cigarettes. Cigars are not the only things which are bought by hon. Members opposite, who are, when all is said and done, the rich people in this affluent society of ours. Thus, hon. Members opposite are unable to make a comparison between their income and the income of younger people. Some hon. 738 Members opposite have never made the contribution which young men and women are today making to the country's economy.
§ Mr. Wainwright
We may be accused of tub-thumping on an issue of this kind, but I am proud of the efforts made by my right hon. and hon. Friends in struggling against this atrocious Bill.
§ Mr. Wainwright
That was necessary because of the kind of society which those who have governed the country year after year have allowed to exist. I do not know how they can adopt such a complacent attitude towards this proposal when it means an extra contribution from our young people. I know young people who are not only working but studying in the evenings—
§ Mr. Willis
There are no hon. Members opposite even to consider this subject. Does not my hon. Friend think that that is a very practical demonstration that hon. Gentlemen opposite are not really concerned about this matter?
§ Mr. Wainwright
Yes. It shows the kind of interest that they have in the Bill, and especially in the Amendment, and the interest which they have in the youth of the country.
I hope that even at this late stage the Economic Secretary will give full consideration to the points of view which have been expressed by my hon. Friends and will accept the Amendment.
§ Mr. Barber
As the hon. Member for Kilmarnock (Mr. Ross) has said, the purpose of the Amendment and the related Amendments is to establish a new class of contributors between the ages of 18 and 21, who would pay more than the juveniles but less than the adults. The Government's proposals are set out in the First Schedule, and I need not refer the Committee to them in detail. It is apparent from the First Schedule that the increases range from 10d. down to 8d. in respect of individuals between 18 and 21.
The hon. Member for Kilmarnock referred in the main to the 10d. increase, and I will deal with that a little later. I should like to draw the attention of the 739 Committee to the fact that the Amendments would reduce the increase to ½d. in the case of the employed man and woman between the ages of 18 and 21 and to ld. in the case of the self-employed and non-employed between 18 and 21.
It was suggested by an hon. Member opposite that the contributions should start with voting age; in other words, at 21. That seems to me to be completely irrelevant because, even if these Amendments were to be accepted, it is apparent from the First Schedule that boys and girls under 18 also pay contributions in certain circumstances.
I should have thought that in the end the question which the Committee has to decide is whether or not it is reasonable for people between 18 and 21 to pay this increase. The hon. Member for Kilmarnock pointed out that there would be certain administrative difficulties if his proposals were accepted. That is so, but I want to rest the Government's arguments against the Amendments not on administrative difficulties but rather more on principle. The cost of accepting this series of Amendments would be about £2¾ million a year. The hon. Lady the Member for Stoke-on-Trent, North (Mrs. Slater) referred to the amounts spent on the Health Service. I wish to mention only two figures to the Committee. The estimate of gross Health Service expenditure in 1949–50—the first full year of operation of the Service—was £336 million; in 1961–62 the estimate is £850 million—more than double. The second point I would make is that nobody here if he was being frank with the Committee would deny that the flat-rate contribution is an appropriate way of financing at least part of the Health Service.
§ Mr. Barber
The hon. Member says that he denies it. I was not here in 1946 when the Act was passed, but if the hon. Member did not support the Labour Government when the principle was adopted perhaps he will say so.
§ Mr. Silverman
The hon. Member was not a Member of the House in the year to which he refers. If he had been he would have found that during the passage of the social security Measures between 1945 and 1950 I was often 740 critical of my own side and that most of my points have been adopted since, and this was one of them.
§ Mr. Barber
I asked the hon. Member whether he voted against this provision and he has not answered.
§ Mr. Barber
That is all right. All I say is that the vast majority of the Labour Party supporting the Government adopted this principle.
§ Mr. Barber
It is that the Health Service should be financed partly from the Exchequer and partly from the National Insurance contribution. That was accepted in 1946 by the Labour Government and the Labour Party. What I am trying to put simply, and I hope fairly, is that this is not an issue of principle but an issue based on the question whether or not people between the ages of 18 and 21 can afford to pay this increased contribution.
The hon. Lady the Member for Stoke-on-Trent, North, said that the employers should pay more. It is fair to say that the amount paid by the employer in relation to the employed person is greater now than the corresponding part of the Health Service element under the 1946 Act. The hon. Lady the Member for Cannock (Miss Lee), who is not here at the moment, asked why we decided to single out people between 18 and 21, but one has only to look at the First Schedule to see that they are not singled out. This is part of a scheme.
§ Mr. Barber
I come back to the question whether the increase is reasonable. I ask the Committee to consider the position of those between 18 and 21 and I agree with those of my hon. Friends who have said that in general they are well able to pay this additional increase. Most people between those ages, I should have thought, are at least as well able to meet these contributions as older people. Many of them are beginning to earn adult wages.
§ Mr. Barber
Although they are preparing for their responsibilities, not many of 741 them have the responsibilities of adults. While some of them marry young, as a whole there is a bigger proportion of unmarried in this age group than among those who are over 21.
§ Mr. Loughlin
In view of the statement which the Economic Secretary has just made about those who at 18 years of age are beginning to earn adult wages, may ask whether he can give the percentage of Wages Council orders and Joint Industrial Council agreements which provide for adult wages at 18? If he can do that he will give us a much better picture of what he means when he says that they are beginning to earn adult wages.
§ Mr. Barber
I said that many of them are beginning to earn adult wages, and I will give the figures for wages in a moment.
§ Mr. Barber
I appreciate that full well. As I cannot deal with each and every individual, the best I can do is to give the figures that are available. Under the 1946 Act, the Health Service element, for an employed man was 8½d. The proposal in this Bill is 2s. 8½d., in other words an increase of only 2s. in a period of thirteen years since the Health Service began, which I should have thought was not unreasonable.
According to figures published in the Ministry of Labour Gazette average earnings in October. 1948, of youths and boys under 21—and this includes people under 18, the significance of which the Committee will appreciate—were £2 18s. 9d. a week. The latest figures I have available show that in October, 1960, the average earnings of this same group had risen to £6 10s. a week, that is an increase of £3 11s. 3d. or more than double. They are being asked to pay by way of Health Service contribution 2s. more than in 1948, and I should have thought that in the circumstances it was not unreasonable that they should be asked to make that contribution.
§ 6.15 p.m.
§ In the end, this is not a matter of principle, it is a matter of judgment and of taking into account all the circumstances—the growing cost of the Health Service, the lesser responsibilities in general of those who are between 18 and 21 years of age and the increases in wages and salaries. I do not think that the Government's proposals are unreasonable and I must therefore invite the Committee to reject the Amendment.
§ Mr. Houghton
That reply is thoroughly unsatisfactory. The Economic Secretary has given us a rehash of some of the things about the 1946 scheme which were adequately dealt with in earlier debates. There was no assurance, and no intention as far as I can see, that the Health Service element in the National Insurance contribution would be progressive or that it would increase as time went on. In any case, the Health Service contributions today are a higher proportion of the combined contribution than they were in 1948.
My hon. Friend the Member for Central Ayrshire (Mr. Manuel) said that he hoped for some success and that hon. Members opposite listened to our arguments. Now he knows that they do not. On the benches opposite we find only a brick wall where the heads of hon. Members ought to be. They have erected a Guillotine on top of it and now they have gone to a party meeting, leaving the Economic Secretary to hold the fort alone. In these circumstances, we can only reject the hon. Gentleman's arguments with contumely and express our disapproval of the impertinent intervention a short while ago of the hon. Member for Kidderminster (Mr. Nabarro) who came in to move that a Count be called, presumably for his personal convenience. Therefore, we have no hesitation in dividing the Committee right away on the Amendment.
§ Question put, That "18" stand part of the Schedule:—
§ The Committee divided: Ayes 260, Noes 201.743
|Division No. 88.]||AYES||[6.18 p.m.|
|Agnew, Sir Peter||Atkins, Humphrey||Barter, John|
|Aitken,W. T.||Barber, Anthony||Batsford, Brian|
|Allason, James||Barlow, Sir John||Baxter, Sir Beverley (Southgate)|
|Bell, Ronald||Hamilton, Michael (Wellingborough)||Nicholson, Sir Godfrey|
|Bennett, Dr. Reginald (Cos & Fhm)||Hare, Rt. Hon. John||Noble, Michael|
|Bevins, Rt. Hon. Reginald (Toxteth)||Harris, Frederic (Croydon, N.W.)||Nugent, Sir Richard|
|Bidgood, John C.||Harris, Reader (Heston)||Oakshott, Sir Hendrie|
|Bingham, R. M.||Harrison, Col. J. H. (Eye)||Orr, Capt. L. P S.|
|Bishop, F. P.||Harvey, Sir Arthur Vere (Macclesf' d)||Osborn, John (Haliam)|
|Black, Sir Cyril||Harvey, John (Walthamstow, E.)||Osborne, Cyril (Louth)|
|Bossom, Clive||Harvie Anderson, Miss||Page, John (Harrow, West)|
|Bourne-Arton, A.||Hastings, Stephen||Page, Graham (Crosby)|
|Box, Donald||Heald, Rt. Hon. Sir Lionel||Pannell, Norman (Kirkdale)|
|Boyd-Carpenter, Rt. Hon. John||Heath, Rt. Hon. Edward||Partridge, E.|
|Boyle, Sir Edward||Henderson-Stewart, Sir James||Pearson, Frank (Clitheroe)|
|Bromley-Davenport, Lt.-Col. Sir Walter||Hendry, Forbes||Peel, John|
|Brooke, Rt. Hon. Henry||Hicks Beach, Maj. W.||Percival, Ian|
|Brooman-White, R.||Haley, Joseph||Pilkington, Sir Kenneth|
|Browne, Percy (Torrington)||Hill, Mrs. Eveline (Wythenshawe)||Pike, Miss Mervyn|
|Bryan, Paul||Hirst, Geoffrey||Pilkington, Sir Richard|
|Bullard, Denys||Hobson, John||Pitman, I. J.|
|Bullus. Wing Commander Eric||Holland, Philip||Pitt, Miss Edith|
|Burden, F. A.||Hollingworth, John||Pott, Perolvall|
|Butler, Rt.Hn. R.A.(SaffronWalden)||Hornby, R. P.||Powell, Rt. Hon. J. Enoch|
|Campbell, Sir David (Belfast, 8.)||Howard, John (Southampton, Test)||price, David (Eastleigh)|
|Carr, Compton (Barons Court)||Hughes Hallett, Vice-Admiral John||prior, J. M. L.|
|Carr, Robert (Mitcham)||Hughes-Young, Michael||Prior-Palmer, Brig. Sir Otho|
|Channon, H. P. G.||Hulbert, Sir Norman||Proudfumo, Rt.Hon. John|
|Chichester-Clark, R.||Hutchison, Michael Clark||Proudfoot, Wilfred|
|Clark, Henry (Antrim, N.)||Iremonger, T. L.||Quennell, Miss J. M.|
|Cleaver, Leonard||Irvine, Bryant Godman (Rye)||Redmayne, Rt. Hon. Martin|
|Cole, Norman||Jackson, John||Rees, Hugh|
|Cooper, A. E.||James, David||Renton, David|
|Cooper-Key, Sir Neill||Jenkins, Robert (Dulwleh)||Renton, David|
|Cordeaux, Lt.-Col. J. K.||Jennings, J. C.||Robertson, Sir David|
|Corfield, F. V.||Johnson, Dr. Donald (Carlisle)||Robson Brown, Sir William|
|Costain, A. P.||Johnson, Eric (Blackley)||Roots, William|
|Coulson, J. M.||Johnson Smith, Geoffrey||Ropner, Col. Sir Leonard|
|Craddock, Sir Beresford||Joseph, Sir Keith||Royle, Anthony (Richmond, Surrey)|
|Critchley, Julian||Kaberry, Sir Donald||Russell, Ronald|
|Crowder, F. P.||Kerans, Cdr. J. S.||Seymour, Leslie|
|Cunningham, Knox||Kerby, Capt. Henry||Sharples, Richard|
|Curran, Charles||Kimball, Marcus||Shaw, M.|
|Dalkeith, Earl of||Lagden, Godfrey||Shepherd, William|
|Dance, James||Lambton, Viscount||Smith, Dudley(Br'ntf'rd & Chiswick)|
|d'Avigdor-Goidsmid, Sir Henry||Lancaster, Col. C. G.||Smyth, Brig. Sir John (Norwood)|
|Dighy, Simon Wingfield||Leather, E. H. C.||Spearman, Sir Alexande|
|Donaldson, Cmdr. C. E. M.||Leavey, J. A.||Stanley, Hon. Richard|
|Doughty, Charles||Lewis, Kenneth (Rutland)||Stevens, Geoffrey|
|du Cann, Edward||Lilley, F. J. P.||Steward, Harold (Stockport, S.)|
|Duncan, Sir James||Lindsay, Martin||Stodart, J. A.|
|Duthie, Sir William||Linstead, Sir Hugh||Stoddart-Scott, Col. Sir Malcolm|
|Eccles, Rt. Hon. Sir David||Litchfield, Capt. John||Studholme, Sir Henry|
|Eden, John||Lloyd, Rt. Hn. Geoffrey (Sut'nC'dfield)||Summers, Sir Spencer (Aylesbury)|
|Elliot, Capt. Walter (Carshalton)||Longbottom, Charles||Sumner, Donald (Orpington)|
|Elllott, R. w. (Nwcstle-upon-Tyne, N.)||Low, Rt. Hon. Sir Toby||Taylor, Edwin (Bolton, N.)|
|Emery, Peter||Lucas, Sir Jocelyn||Taylor, W. J. (Bradford, N.)|
|Errington, Sir Eric||Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh||Teeling, William|
|Erroll, Rt. Hon. F. J.||MacArthur, Ian||Temple, John M.|
|Farey-Jones, F. W.||McLaren, Martin||Thatcher, Mrs. Margaret|
|Farr, John||McLaughlin, Mrs. Patricia||Thomas, Leslie (Canterbury)|
|Fell, Anthony||Maclay, Rt. Hon. John||Thomas, Peter (Conway)|
|Finlay, Graeme||Maclean, SirFitzroy (Bute&N.Ayrs.)||Thompson, Richard (Croydon, S.)|
|Fisher, Nigel||Macleod, Rt. Hn. Iain (Enfield, W.)||Thornton-Kemstey, Sir Colin|
|Fletcher-Cooke, Charles||MacLeod, John (Ross & Cromarty)||Tiley, Arthur (Bradford, W.)|
|Fraser, Hn. Hugh (Stafford & Stone)||McMaster, Stanley R.||Turner, Colin|
|Fraser, Ian (Plymouth, Sutton)||Mscmillan, Rt. Hn. Harold (Bromley)||Tweedsmuir, Lady|
|Freeth, Denzil||Macmillan, Maurice (Halifax)||Vaughan-Morgan, Sir John|
|Galbraith, Hon. T. G. D.||Macpherson, Niall (Dumfries)||Vlekera, Miss Joan|
|Gammons, Lady||Maddan, Martin||Wakefield, Edward (Derbyshire, W.)|
|Gardner, Edward||Manningham-Butler, Rt. Hn. Sir R.||Walker-Smith, Rt. Hon. Sir Derek|
|Gibson-Watt, David||Markham, Major Sir Frank||Wall, Patrick|
|Glover, Sir Douglas||Marlowe, Anthony||Ward, Dame Irene|
|Glyn, Dr. Alan (Clapham)||Marples, Rt. Hon. Ernest||Watkinson, Rt. Hon. Harold|
|Glyn, Sir Richard (Dorset, N.)||Marshall, Douglas||Watts, James|
|Godber, J. B.||Marten, Neil||Webster, David|
|Goodhart, Philip||Matthews, Cordon (Meriden)||Wells, John (Maidstone)|
|Goodhew, Victor||Maudling, Rt. Hon. Reginald||Whitelaw, William|
|Gough, Frederick||Mawby, Ray||Williams, Dudley (Exeter)|
|Gower, Raymond||Maxwell-Hyslop, R. J.||Wills, Sir Gerald (Bridgwater)|
|Grant, Rt. Hon. William||Mavdon, Lt.-Cmdr. S. L. C.||Wilson, Geoffrey (Truro)|
|Grant-Ferris, Wg Cdr. R.||Montgomery, Fergus||Wise, A. R.|
|Green, Alan||More, Jasper (Ludlow)||Wolrige-Gordon, Patrick|
|Gresham Cooke R.||Morgan, William||Woodhouse, C. M.|
|Grlmston, Sir Robert||Morrison, John||Worsiey, Marcus|
|Grosvenor. Lt.-Col. R. G.||Mott-Radolvffe, Sir Charles|
|Curden, Harold||Nabarro, Gerald||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.|
|Hall, John (Wycombe)||Heave, Airey||Mr. J. E. B. Hill and|
|Mr. G. Campbell.|
|Abse, Leo||Henderson, Rt.Hn. Arthur (RwlyRegis)||Pentland, Norman|
|Albu, Austen||Herbison, Miss Margaret||Popplewell, Ernest|
|Allaun, Frank (Salford, E.)||Hewitson, Capt. M.||Probert, Arthur|
|Allen, Scholefield (Crewe)||Hill, J. (Midlothian)||Proctor, W. T.|
|Awbery, Stan||Holman, Percy||Pursey, Cmdr. Harry|
|Bacon, Miss Alice||Holt, Arthur||Randall, Harry|
|Bence, Cyril (Dunbartonshire, E.)||Houghton, Douglas||Rankin, John|
|Benson, Sir George||Howell, Charles A.||Reid, William|
|Blackburn, F.||Hoy, James H.||Rhodes, H.|
|Blyton, William||Hughes, Cledwyn (Anglesey)||Roberts, Albert (Normanton)|
|Boardman, H.||Hughes, Emrys (S. Ayrshire)||Roberts, Goronwy (Caernarvon)|
|Bowden, Herbert W. (Leics, S.W.)||Hughes, Hector (Aberdeen, N.)||Robinson, Kenneth (St. Pancras, N.)|
|Bowen, Roderic (Cardigan)||Hunter, A.E.||Rogers, G. H. R. (Kensington, N.)|
|Bowles, Frank||Hynd, H. (Accrington)||Ross, William|
|Boyden, James||Irvine, A. J. (Edge Hill)||Royle, Charles (Salford, West)|
|Braddock, Mrs. E. M.||Irving, Sydney (Dartford)||Shinwell, Rt. Hon. E.|
|Brockway, A. Fenner||Jay, Rt. Hon. Douglas||Silverman, Julius (Aston)|
|Brown, Alan (Tottenham)||Johnson, Carol (Lewisham, S.)||Silverman, Sydney (Nelson)|
|Brown, Rt. Hon. George (Belper)||Jones, Dan (Burnley)||Slater, Mrs. Harriet (Stoke, N.)|
|Butler, Herbert (Hackney, C.)||Jones, Elwyn (West Ham, S.)||Small, William|
|Butler, Mrs. Joyce (Wood Green)||Jones, Jack (Rotherham)||Smith, Ellis (Stoke, S.)|
|Castle, Mrs. Barbara||Jones, J. Idwal (Wrexham)||Snow, Julian|
|Chapman, Donald||Jones, T. W. (Merioneth)||Sorensen, R. W.|
|Cliffs, Michael||Kelley, Richard||Soskice, Rt. Hon. Sir Frank|
|Collick, Percy||Kenyon, Clifford||Spriggs, Leslie|
|Corbet, Mrs. Freda||Key, Rt. Hon. C. W.||Steele, Thomas|
|Craddock, George (Bradford, S.)||King, Dr. Horace||Stewart, Michael (Fulham)|
|Cronin, John||Lawson, George||Stanehouse, John|
|Crosland, Anthony||Ledger, Ron||Stones, William|
|Crossman, R. H. S.||Ledger, Ron||Stones, William|
|Cullen, Mrs. Alice||Lee Miss Jennie (Cannock)||Strachey, Rt. Hon. John|
|Davies, G. Elfed (Rhondda, E.)||Lever, L. M. (Ardwick)||Strauss, Rt. Han. G. R. (Vauxhall)|
|Davies, G. Elfed (Rhondda, E.)||Lever, L. M. (Ardwick)||Strauss, Rt. Hn. G. R. (Vauxhall)|
|Davies, Ifor (Gower)||Lipton, Marcus||Stross, Dr. Barnett (stoke-on-Trent, c.)|
|Deer, George||Loughlin, Charles||Swain, Thomas|
|de Freitas, Geoffrey||Mabon, Dr. J. Dickson||Swingler, Stephen|
|Delargy, Hugh||McCann, John||Sylvester, George|
|Dempsey, James||MacColl, James||Symonds, J. B.|
|Diamond, John||McKay, John (Wallsend)||Taylor, Bernard (Mansfield)|
|Dodds, Norman||Mackie John||Taylor, John (West Lothian)|
|Driberg, Tom||McLeavy, Frank||Thomas, George (Cardiff, W.)|
|Dugdale, Tom Hon. John||MacMillan, Malcolm (Western Isles)||Thomas, Iorwerth (Rhondda, W.)|
|Ede, Rt. Hon. C.||Mallalleu, E. L. (Brigg)||Thompson, Dr. Alan (Dunfermline)|
|Edelman, Maurice||Mallalleu. J.P.W.(Huddersfield,E.)||Thomson, G. M. (Dundee, E.)|
|Edwards, Rt. Hon. Ness (Caerphilly)||Manuel, A. C.||Thornton, Ernest|
|Edwards, Robert (Bilston)||Mapp, Charles||Timmons, John|
|Edwards, Walter (Stepney)||Mason, Roy||Tomney, Frank|
|Evans, Albert||Millan, Bruce||Wainwright, Edwin|
|Finch, Harold||Milne, Edward J.||Warbey, William|
|Fletcher, Eric||Mitohison, G. R.||Watkins, Tudor|
|Foot, Michael (Ebbw Vaie)||Monslow, Walter||Weitzman, David|
|Forman, J. C||Moody, A. S.||Wells, Percy (Faversham)|
|Fraset, Thomas (Hamilton)||Morris, John||White, Mrs. Eirene|
|Fraser, Thomas (Hamilton)||Moyle, Arthur||Whitlock, William|
|Gaitekell, Rt. Hon. Hugh||Mulley, Frederick||Wigg, George|
|Galpern, Sir Myer||Neal, Harold||Wiloock, Group Capt. C. A. B.|
|George, Lady MeganLloyd (Crmrthn)||Neal, Harold||Wilkins, W. A.|
|Ginsburg, David||Noel-Baker, Rt.Hn. Philip (Derby, S.)||Wiley, Frederick|
|Gordon Walker, Rt. Hon. P. C.||Oliver, G. H.||William, D. J. (Neath)|
|Gourlay, Harry||Oliver, G. H.||Williams, D. J. (Neath)|
|Greenwood, Anthony||Oram, A. E.||Williams, LI. Ednburgh)|
|Grey, Charles||Oswald, Thomas||Willis, E. G. (Ednburgh, E.)|
|Griffiths, Rt. Hon. James (Llanelly)||Owen, will||Woodburn, Rt. Hon. A.|
|Griffiths, W. (Exchange)||Padley, W. E.||Woof, Robert|
|Grimond, J.||Paget, R. T.||Wyatt, Woodrow|
|Gunter, Ray||Pannell, Charles (Leeds, W.)||Yates, Victor (Ladywood)|
|Hall, Rt. Hn. Glenvil (Colne Valley)||Pargiter, G. A.||Zilliacus, K.|
|Hamilton, William (West Fife)||Parker, John (Dagenham)|
|Hannan, William||Parkin, B. T. (Paddington, N.)||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|Hart, Mrs. Judith||Pearson, Arthur (Pontypridd)||Dr. Broughton and Mr. Redhead.|
|Hayman, F. H.||Peart, Frederick|
§ 6.30 p.m.
§ The Deputy-Chairman
It might be for the convenience of the Committee if, with this Amendment, we also discuss the following Amendments:
§ In page 3, line 10, column 1, leave out from "70" to end of line 12.
§ In line 13, column 1. leave out "65" and insert "60".
§ In column 1, leave out lines 14 and 15.
§ In line 18, column 1, leave out "70" and insert "65".
§ In column 1, leave out lines 19 and 20.747
§ In line 21, column 1, leave out "65" and insert "60".
§ In column 1, leave out lines 22 and 23.
§ In line 27, at end add:
|11. Employed men between the ages of 65 and 70, not including those who have retired from regular employment||1||11|
|12. Employed women between the ages of 60 and 65, not including those who have retired from regular employment||1||5|
§ In line 27, at end add:
|11. Self-employed men between the ages of 65 and 70, not including those who have retired from regular employment||2||3|
|12. Self-employed women between the ages of 60 and 65, not including those who have retired from regular employment||1||9|
§ Mr. Houghton
That would be convenient, Sir William, because most of those Amendments are either consequential or are related to the main point which I wish to put before the Committee.
This batch of Amendments relates to employed men and self-employed men between the ages of 65 and 70 who have not retired, and to employed women and self-employed women between the ages of 60 and 65 who have not retired. There is no need to cover non-employed men and women because, in either case, contributions are not payable after normal retirement age.
As my hon. Friend the Member for Kilmarnock (Mr. Ross) explained earlier, we are governed by the Money Resolution which provided far increases in the National Health Service contributions. It is out of order to move Amendments which would reduce the contributions below their existing level. Indeed, the Money Resolution compels us to go further, and in our Amendments we must provide for some increase. That is why in all these Amendments we have provided for the smallest convenient increase, in some cases ½d., and in some cases ld. The purpose of the Amendments is to stop the proposed increases from applying to certain groups of contributors.
We have a scheme of flat-rate taxation which, at its inception, was only a few pence. It was increased by a second instalment and further increased by a third instalment, and it will yet 748 be increased by a fourth instalment. I do not often read my speeches—I am not satisfied enough with them—but I happened to notice that when speaking on the 1958 Bill I confidently predicted that that was not the end of the story and that there would be another Bill to propose further increases, and here it is.
I need not trouble the Committee with all the minute details of these Amendments, because they vary the contributions for each of the groups. To achieve our main purpose, as I have already explained, they provide for some increase because the rules of order require us to do so, but they provide for the minimum increase we can make.
The Schedule exempts retired persons from paying any contributions. That has been so from the beginning and that relief for people receiving National Insurance retirement pensions is continued. We approve of that because, in considering the ability of groups of contributors to pay we have to think of those who, on the whole, will be less able than others to bear the burden. We have just disposed of an Amendment which sought to reduce the increase in contributions by young people, because we judge them as a group less able to bear the full increase than other groups. In the same way, we all agree that retirement pensioners should be left out.
What the Schedule does is to impose this flat-rate tax on those who have postponed their retirement. What is the good of all this blarney about encouraging people to postpone their retirement when the Government are to impose on them an additional charge which is not imposed on those who have retired? We have to look for the principle of the Bill to one simple method of paying this tax, namely, all who pay National Insurance contributions must pay National Health Service contributions. Circumstances connected with National Insurance may vary from one Group to another and reflect similar variations, but without the same logic behind them, in the imposition of the Health Service charge.
Retired persons—men over 65 and women over 60—are out, but those who have postponed their retirement are in. Those who have retired and have chosen to re-enter full-time employment and who have elected to pay National Insurance 749 contributions in order to add still further to their retirement pensions are in. Those who, for their own reasons, have elected not to pay National Insurance contributions are out.
That is the sort of variation which one gets in this kind of taxation when the Health Service contribution is related to the National Insurance scheme and not to the claims of the contributors upon the Health Service or upon their ability to pay the contributions. Those men who are over 70 and those women who are over 65 will not pay insurance contributions whether they have retired or not, and nor will they pay Health Service contributions, because they are not paying the others.
There is no rhyme or reason in this form of taxation which is related only to the incidental question of whether a person is paying National Insurance contributions. We shall later come to another class of persons who may or may not pay National Insurance contributions according to their own option. They are married women. Those who elect to pay them will also pay Health Service contributions, while those who, for their own reasons, elect not to pay them will not pay Health Service contributions. We are confronted with a Schedule based on that principle and we can only seek to exclude from the increases categories of persons upon whom it is not reasonable or equitable for the additional payments to fall.
Those hon. Members who sit on the benches opposite but who are not in the Committee at the moment need not even bother to read the speech I am making now for at col. 299 of the OFFICIAL REPORT for 11th March, 1958, they will find that I made a most convincing and persuasive speech in support of the Amendment, because I had the pleasure on that occasion of moving precisely the same Amendment. The arguments then made no impression upon the Minister and I do not expect that they will now.
The Government have set their hearts on having the Bill as it is, and nothing that we can do or say will make them alter it. That makes us all the more truculent and angry, because we know that we are talking to people whose minds are not open to argument or persuasion. Looking back, I think that my hon. Friends and I made one mistake—we ought to have fought the earlier Bills 750 much harder than we did. We were gulled into thinking that, like the barmaid's baby, the contributions were very small and would not grow. Now we find that they have and we have reached the point at which the size of the contributions is a shock to those who in the past have, perhaps tacitly, accepted this imposition without grumbling too much.
We think that, as far as the rules of order permit, it would be equitable and proper for all persons over retirement age to be excluded from the increases proposed in the Schedule. It is unfair to break up this age group as between those who have retired, those who have postponed retirement and those who have retired and may re-enter full-time work, and put this charge on them according to different circumstances related to National Insurance which may have no bearing on their ability to pay. This form of taxation is crude in its operation and unfair in its incidence. It is not even proportionate, much less progressive, in relation to total earnings when one looks at the National Health Service contribution in conjunction with the National Insurance contribution.
We are not shirking the question of paying for the National Health Service. Neither in the last Amendment nor in this are we saying that people should not pay for the National Health Service. We are saying that the fairest way they can pay is by a tax which is adjusted to their personal circumstances and their incomes, and which will more closely fit the shoulders of those who have to bear the burden.
The country should he made aware of the speeches of hon. Gentlemen opposite. They are not only in favour of what the Government are doing but are in favour of carrying it still further. They are giving the country fair warning of the methods the Government propose to follow in all possible ways in connection with financing the welfare services. This is a serious matter. It shows the big difference between the two parties. We believe that taxation should be according to ability to pay. The Government believe that it should be a flat-rate tax spread over a wider tax base. The Government intend to press down the pyramid of taxation, reduce taxation on the higher income groups and spread the burden more thickly over a wider base. That is their intention, and the 751 next few weeks will show that to be the case.
I moved the Amendment in the forlorn hope that my arguments would make some impression on the few hon. Gentlemen who have remained in the Chamber. It is strange that in the earlier debates when there was no time limit hon. Gentlemen had nothing to say. Not a single idea came from them on anything connected with the Bill. We are now getting a little more co-operation from hon. Gentlemen towards an effective debate on these Amendments and on the Bill. For our part, we want more hon. Gentlemen to say what is in their minds because the more they talk the more they will disclose a philosophy which is markedly different from ours and, when the time comes the country will be able to decide which it prefers.
§ Mr. Cooper
I hope that the hon. Member for Sowerby (Mr. Houghton) will excuse me from his strictures because during an earlier part of the passage of the Bill I endeavoured—and I stressed the word "endeavoured"—to make a speech at about 2 o'clock in the morning, but by that time hon. Gentlemen were not disposed to listen. Although the hon. Gentleman may have some reason for criticising attendance on this side of the Committee, I hope that he will not go into rapturous excitement at the extraordinary array behind him. There are nine hon. Members on the benches opposite.
§ Mr. Cooper
There may be four times as many in quantity, but certainly not in quality.
6 45 p.m.
We are now going to the other end of the scale. On previous Amendments we discussed the age group 18 to 21. We are now discussing the age group 65 to 70. A Conservative Government did not introduce these age limits into the National Health Service contributions or into the National Insurance contributions. They were embodied in the original Act which was passed by the Labour Government when they were in office after the war, and there is no variation in the Bill compared with the original Act. All that is happening is that contributions are 752 being raised for individual classes of people.
The hon. Gentleman referred to the retirement age. What does he mean by the retirement age? What is it? It is laid down in an Act of Parliament that it is 65 for men and 60 for women, but, as the hon. Gentleman rightly says, it is possible to work on for a further five years and earn a higher pension. But that relates only to the State pension. It bears no relation to pensions which may be earned in employment or in various spheres of activity. I am open to correction, but I believe that Her Majesty's judges go on to the age of 75. At certain levels in the Civil Service 60 is the recognised age for retirement, and in many industrial concerns 60 is the compulsory retiring age. It therefore seems difficult to lay down a figure of 65 as the age at which a man should be considered to be retired.
§ Mr. Houghton
The hon. Gentleman must realise that part of my argument was based on equity between those who had retired after the age of 60 and 65 respectively for women and men, and those who had postponed retirement. I had to look at the age limits in this matter according to those laid down in the National Insurance Scheme.
§ Mr. Cooper
The hon. Gentleman will agree that hard cases make bad law and that it is difficult to differentiate between classes of people like that. I agree that the provisions made in the original Act as the basis of the Welfare State were right, but it is difficult to differentiate between the ability to pay of a man of 65 who prefers to retire and that of a man of 65 who prefers to work on until he is 70. That is the burden of the hon. Gentleman's argument.
Surely he will not argue that when a man reaches 65 and decides to work on until 70 his income is reduced? In fact, because of his usefulness to his company, there is a distinct possibility of an increase, and many people get higher rates of wages above that limit. They certainly do not get any less, and when a man stays in his employment after 65 and works on to 70 his ability to pay the higher contribution is in no way reduced.
§ Mr. Woodrow Wyatt (Bosworth)
Can the hon. Gentleman produce statistics 753 for that statement? It is an astonishing one. I thought that the whole experience of business and industry was that when people went on working after the age of 65 they were more likely than not to have their wages and salaries reduced.
§ Mr. Cooper
That might be so in certain instances. In the companies with which I have been associated, however, that has not been the case. I have always found that the older a man gets the more valuable he is to the company, by virtue of his wisdom and experience. We are not disposed to get rid of people and put them on a pension simply because they have reached a certain age. Although I was guilty of generalising, and perhaps should not have done so in this connection, I believe that what I have said is a fair appreciation of the position.
§ Mr. Ross
Is the hon. Member aware that he is generalising upon a very narrow basis? Is he aware that, as a Member of Parliament, he assented to an Act which will affect Scottish teachers, to the extent that although they are allowed to stay on after reaching the age of 65 they automatically give up promoted employment?
§ Mr. Cooper
I cannot understand why the hon. Member for Edinburgh, East (Mr. Willis) should imagine that he is the repository of all knowledge in the Committee.
Although it is not germane to the question, I would point out that many of us are pressing upon my right hon. Friend proposals relating to teachers in England and Scotland. In the context of those discussions we may be able to do something to help the Scottish situation. However, the sole point which we have to consider now is whether, when a man continues in employment until he reaches 70, his ability to make a higher contribution is reduced. I do not think that it is, and for that reason I support my hon. Friend.
§ Mr. Willis
I was interested in the argument put forward by the hon. Member for Ilford, South (Mr. Cooper). Hon. Members opposite have now got into the habit of talking about the Act of 754 1946 as though it included a specific health contribution, whereas it did nothing of the kind. Arguments on this point have been put in the House over and over again, but we still have hon. Members opposite, including spokesmen for the Government, who do not seem to have grasped the fact that there was no specific health contribution in 1946.
The remainder of the hon. Member's argument was linked to the proposition that men who went on working past the age of 65 were able to pay the extra 10d. That is not the point. We suggest that they should be excluded, because the more people we exclude the more the Government will have to depend on national taxation to find the money, and if they have to do that, the better off a person is after reaching the age of 65 the more he will contribute. We are seeking to carry out the very thing that the hon. Member argues is right. The person with the large income should pay, even if he is 70 years of age.
That has been the whole burden of the case made by hon. Members on this side of the House throughout our debates on the Bill. It was reiterated by my hon. Friend the Member for Sowerby (Mr. Houghton). We believe that the Service should be paid for in accordance with people's ability to do so. If that principle were accepted there would be no difficulty about the gentlemen with whom the hon. Member was concerned, namely, those who are over 65 years of age and who go on earning very large incomes. Our argument throughout has been that we should carry the proposition put forward by the hon. Member to its logical and just conclusion. I have not noticed any hon. Member opposite voting in our Lobby.
As has been pointed out, the men of whom the hon. Member for Ilford, South was speaking form a very small proportion of our society. The numbers of directors and judges who carry on in employment after the age of 65 is very small. The great bulk of people retire at that age, although some of them carry on until they are 70. One of our great concerns has been to try to persuade people who are able to contribute something to the community to carry on after 65. We have increased the amount that people are allowed to earn precisely for this purpose. 755 I suggest that if a person reaching the age of 65 found that he would not have to continue to pay his contribution he would have an incentive to carry on. When we were discussing the last Amendment I asked the Government to consider our wider social and economic policies in relation to the Bill, but the Government have not done so. Our proposition will provide an incentive for people to remain at work after reaching the age of 65. By the time a man has reached that age he has paid his full contribution for forty-seven years. He has given his life to the community, and there cannot be any harm in telling him that at the age of 65 we think he has done a good job of work and will not ask him to continue to pay. That would be in keeping with the nation's desire to give elderly people a better time, with a little more comfort, and if would provide a small incentive for them to continue in work if they felt able to do so. It would not make nonsense of the Bill: indeed, it would get nearer the principles we desire.
I am in a difficulty over the Amendments, because I do not think that the hon. Member has it in his power to accept any of them. The Chancellor is the one with the power.
§ Mr. Willis
He was here at the start, but he is not here now. I am convinced that the hon. Member has no power to accept anything at all. He is 'tied to a brief. The Government are reducing our debates to a farce and a meaningless performance, and we have every right to protest against this as vigorously as we can.
§ Mr. Bence
I wish to enter this debate because of what the hon. Member for Ilford, South (Mr. Cooper) said. We often hear men speaking of their experience at professional levels, but I speak as one who has worked in industry all my life. I have never worked on piecework, because I am a craftsman. I am a toolmaker, and I know what it is to work on a lathe. But piecework has been the general practice in all the industries in which I have worked. It is a question of payment by results. I have seen thousands of men in the motor car industry, light engineering and many other industries working until they were 756 65 years of age, with a basic wage varying from 56s. when I was young to about £8 now. In my young days these people earned about £4 10s. in bonuses and piecework on top of the basic wage: today those additions bring the basic wage of £8 up to about £15 or £16. But when these people reach the age of 65, although their employers are prepared to keep them in employment, the speed of the machinery and the slowness of their reflexes mean that they have to be put on jobs on the day rate and taken off piecework.
Hon. Members could go down the Clyde and see thousands of men, aged between 65 and 70 who have worked in the shipyards on piecework all their lives and now are reduced to receiving wages which do not amount to much more than are paid to apprentices of 20 years of age. Hon. Members opposite must get this right. If a man continues to work in the engineering trades from the age of 65 to 70, more often than not his pay is reduced by anything from 30 per cent. to 50 per cent. I hope that the hon. Member for Ilford, South will accept that.
§ 7.0 p.m.
§ Mr. Cooper
Of course I accept that, in part. But I think that the hon. Gentleman is making the same mistake of which I was guilty, that of generalising. There are an enormous number of factory managers in this country. I cannot tell him how many company directors there are, certainly many thousands. Under the terms of this Amendment all those people, irrespective of their incomes, which may in some cases reach five figures, will be relieved from paying anything. I consider that to be morally unjustifiable.
§ Mr. Bence
As an employee of the British Motor Corporation for many years I assure the hon. Gentleman that there are thousands of men between 65 and 70 working in the Midland plant of the corporation and only one director. That means that there are about 500 or 600 times as many people in industry working under the conditions to which I have alluded as there are directors. The directors are a small minority compared with the mass of the workpeople, and the hon. Gentleman knows that as well as I do. 757 The majority of the people of whom we are speaking are not company directors; they are the workpeople in industry. I am anxious that these people shall get justice, but I will give the hon. Gentleman an example which will support his argument. It is true that draughtsmen in the engineering industry might be over 65 and that their wages would not be altered because they would be on the staff, but whereas 20,000 men might be employed on the factory floor only about 300 draughtsmen would be employed, and of those only half a dozen might be aged between 65 and 70.
The basic wages which are negotiated for workers in industry are not the £14 and £15 a week which are average earnings. The basic day rate wage is between £7 10s. and £9, to which is added the piecework rates. The men to whom I am referring will lose the piecework rates. Were I a foreman in charge of a machine shop I should not be prepared to employ men of that age on fast-running automatic machines. I think that eight hours a day in such an occupation is often too long for a man in his forties because such work is attended by inherent dangers, despite all the safety precautions which are taken. I feel deeply about compelling men between 65 and 70 to continue to pay this increased contribution. I should like to see a reduction in the National Insurance contributions paid by such people because of the tremendous drop in their wages.
I agree that this situation may be progressively changing, but for many years the average workman, however diligently he worked, has had no chance to save. I am referring to those who are near the age of 65. I am getng near that age myself. I was married and my children were born at a time when I, and others like me, were fortunate if we did not spend six months of the year out of work. Today there are thousands of men aged 60 or 65 whose only chance to recover from the monetary difficulties which they had experienced all their lives came during and after the war period.
Many men have been compelled to work on, having reached the age of 70, not because they wished to but because they could not afford to retire. Many of them had obligations which they had to discharge. I have friends and constitu- 758 ents in that situation. I know of one case where three children suffering from tuberculosis were supported for years by their parents before new developments, new research and the provisions of the National Health Service helped to relieve the parents of that burden. I have friends who are well over 60 years of age who have not yet been able to discharge obligations which they undertook 30 years ago.
An acquaintance of mine, who is aged 67 and who has not retired, bought a house before the war. But because of the rising interest rates he has never been able to pay off the mortgage. Many people reach the age of 60, 65 or 66 but are unable to retire. There are many young people who, because of rising interest rates, will have to continue working to keep up the mortgage repayments on their houses. It will not be easy for such people to retire at 65 because of the increasingly heavy financial burden that they have to bear. It will take people thirty or forty years to buy their homes. The financial burdens placed upon young people through this system of a poll tax, high interest rates and increases in land values and in rents, mean that fewer people in the industrial world, in which I spent most of my life, will be able to retire at 65. They will have to go on working at 70. I hope the Minister will examine this matter again to see whether it is possible to make some concessions to those aged 65 to 70.
§ Mr. Manuel
My hon. Friend the Member for Sowerby (Mr. Houghton) made a strong case in support of these Amendments and the principle behind them, that the increase in the National Health Service contribution should not apply to people who are over 65. I was astonished that the hon. Member for Ilford, South (Mr. Cooper) should say that there was no difference between these increases and what is in the original Act. The big difference is the increase. Had there been no increase in the National Health Service contributions, I do not think that many hon. Members on this side of the Committee would have had much to say. The hon. Member should remember that while it may be possible to have an initial contribution which is paid without much demur, when there is an 759 increase, as there was in 1957, and another in 1958, and now another increase—three increases since the days of the last Labour Government—there comes a stage when resentment builds up against a principle which allows these increases to take place.
The hon. Member for Ilford, South indicated that many of these men who are affected would retire on fairly decent pensions at the age of 65. I take it that the hon. Member was referring to those industrial workers by whom this increased contribution will have to be paid. Surely he is aware, and is not so out of touch with industrial conditions in Britain today as not to know, that by and large the very large body of the smaller wage-earners retire with no pension at all, other than the pension for which they have contributed, but which they will not draw if they continue in employment after 65 years of age?
The hon. Member for Ilford, South must recognise that this is a salient feature, and that it is a definite hardship if we are now to have this imposition on wage-earners who have no pension. What my hon. Friend the Member for Dunbartonshire, East (Mr. Bence) has said is quite true. It was very often a very painful thing for me to see men with whom I had worked for long years in the railway service as locomotive drivers—and nobody can say they ever had high wages; their wages were never above £13 a week—driving express passenger trains with large gleaming locomotives, and with terrific responsibilities, who had to retire compulsorily at 65, and are now doing less well paid jobs. Because of long years on low wages, there has been no buildup of sufficient size to take them over the evening of their lives.
One of the sorrows that affected me very much was to see old comrades with whom I have served on the footplate as a youngster reaching the age of 65 and taking labouring jobs in the depot, where they are employed as a much lower wage than they had earned during their years of express train driving. Alternatively, and this was much oftener the case, they had to look for some job outside, such as 760 that of watchman on a housing scheme. Is it not a most degrading thing that, when these people have had to suffer an indignity such as that, we should now be impinging further on them by the imposition of these further increases in the National Health Service contributions?
Like my hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh, East (Mr. Willis) I am really disturbed, because I am favourably disposed towards the Economic Secretary. 1 have said that twice, and I hope that he now believes it.
§ Mr. Manuel
I was coming to that point. What I was about to say was that I think that the Economic Secretary tries to apply logic to the arguments he produces, and tries to answer the logic that we put forward from this side, but the hon. Gentleman is in the difficulty instanced by my hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh, East. The difficulty that disturbs me in this democratic society, when the Mother of Parliaments here is trying to arrive at a decision on a principle embodied in a Bill that will ultimately go on the Statute Book, is that we have no one sitting on the Treasury Bench who is sufficiently powerful to make a decision or to answer authoritatively the arguments on this series of Amendments. While I pay tribute to the Economic Secretary, I certainly cannot say that he has that power tonight. I do not think he has.
Will he deal with this point? Does he think that it is correct that the Committee should be treated in this way? Could we not have the Chancellor, who could make a decision if he felt that the reasoning and the logic employed by this side had been of a sufficient quality to produce a change of mind about the ideas embodied in these Amendments? We ought to think more about this for future legislation. I hope that, despite what I have said, the hon. Gentleman can give some answer to the points we have put. I hope that he can say that the Government will not apply their ideas as rigidly in future as they apply them in this Bill.
§ Mr. Barber
I should like first to deal with the important point which the hon. Member for Central Ayrshire (Mr. Manuel) has just raised, which was also 761 raised by the hon. Member for Edinburgh, East (Mr. Willis). I think that the Committee, on reflection, will appreciate that, as far as my position is concerned, if I felt as a result of the arguments which have been put forward that the proposals of the Government as contained in this Bill were not right and ought to be modified in some way as a result of what has been said, there are certain steps that I could take. It would be possible to report to my right hon. and learned Friend the Chancellor, and there would be no difficulty in putting matters right, if that were the conclusion I reached. I do not think it can be said—indeed, I am convinced that it cannot seriously be said—that this Committee is in any way prejudiced or inhibited from successfully putting forward points of view merely because the Chancellor is not here at the moment.
If 1 may now deal with the series of Amendments now before the Committee, the combined effect of the series would be to reduce the contributions payable by employed men over the age of 65 and employed women over the age of 60, who have not retired from regular employment but have decided to postpone it beyond the age at which they would receive the retirement pension, and by so doing would earn increased retirement pensions when they do eventually retire. The proposal is to reduce the figure of 2s. 8½d. for an employed man and 2s. 0½d. for an employed woman to Is. 11d. and 1s. 5d. respectively, and there are similar comparable proposals for the self-employed men and women.
The hon. Member for Sowerby (Mr. Houghton) remarked in moving the first Amendment of this series that he was compelled by the rules of order to provide for some increases in the contributions, and I quite appreciate that, but I do not think that anybody in the Committee is under any illusion as to what he really wishes or what he had in mind. Like the hon. Gentleman, I, too, am hound by the rules of order, and must confine myself to these Amendments.
I should like to say, because it is very important that the Committee should appreciate what the scope of these Amendments is, that in regard to the 762 First Schedule and the Government's proposals in the Bill, there are two categories of persons who are excluded in any event. The first is men over 70 and women over 65, even though they have not retired from regular employment, so that in these Amendments we are not concerned with them.
§ Mr. Barber
That is so. I was trying to make it clear, because some hon. Members seem to have been under a misunderstanding that these Amendments apply to all men over 65 and all women over 60, and, of course, they apply only to men and women within a five-year period.
The second category of persons who, as I understand it, are excluded from the scope of this Bill are men over 65 and women over 60 who have retired from regular employment but are still working within the limited earnings and hours allowed which do not disqualify them from a retirement pension. As the hon. Member for Sowerby has said, the people in these two categories—in the second as in the first—do not pay National Insurance contributions, and equally do not pay National Health Service contributions, and so are outside the scope of the Bill.
As I understand this series of Amendments, it is directed only to those men between the ages of 65 and 70 and those women between the ages of 60 and 65 who are in regular employment and hope to earn a higher pension.
In moving the Amendment, the hon. Member said he took the view that this increase would act as a deterrent to men and women who stay on at work after the ages of 65 and 60 respectively. I should have thought it very doubtful indeed whether any significant proportion of those people would be deterred from staying on at work by an increase of only 10d. in the case of men and 8d. in the case of women. I think the point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Ilford, South (Mr. Cooper), when he indicated that the appropriate age of retirement— using the word "retirement" in a general sense—varies from person to person, was very important.
I ask the Committee to consider the reasons which motivate men and women N3 763 to stay on in employment after the age at which they could draw a retirement pension. In many cases it is because they want to go on earning a higher income. I had hoped that I might be able to get some figures of earnings for this group of people, but it was not possible to get separate figures. I think no one will deny, however, that while people in this category may not have Shared to the same extent as people under 60 and 65, their real earnings have certainly increased over the last few years.
§ Mr. Manuel
Would not the hon. Gentleman agree that a large number of industrial workers over 65 continuing in employment until 70, such as the railway workers to whom I referred, receive a much lower wage than they received up to 65?
§ Mr. Barber
Yes, I certainly accept that there are people in that position. I was about to say that although, as the hon. Member has said and as the hon. Member for Dunbartonshire, East (Mr. Bence) also said, some people when they reach 65 and continue to work are somewhat worse off, as my hon. Friend tile Member for Ilford, South said, others are somewhat better off. It is impossible to generalise about these cases.
There is another aspect of importance. People are also encouraged to stay on after the ages of 65 or 60 in many cases because they wish to earn a higher pension when they eventually retire. For example, if a man works these additional five years he can increase his retirement pension by no less than £1 a week. Also. let us face it, we all know of people who simply prefer, if they are fit and well, to continue in regular work.
§ Mr. Stan Awbery (Bristol, Central)
Is the hon. Gentleman aware that during those five years the Government save the pension which they would otherwise he paying to those men who are continuing to work?
§ Mr. Barber
I was concerning myself only with the motives of a person considering whether or not to stay on after 65. I certainly think that the fact that he will increase his retirement pension by £1 a week is a factor which normally he would take into account.
The hon. Member for Sowerby, quite rightly, said that this involves a matter 764 of equity. I ask the Committee to consider whether it is not a fact that generally—in so far as we can speak generally about a category of persons like this—those men who continue in regular employment after 65, and women who continue after 60, because they are in regular employment, are not in any significantly different position from other persons in regular employment. Of course we can all point to cases of individuals in certain industries and firms who are worse off, but we can point to others who are better off.
This category referred to in the Schedule is one which remains unchanged. While that in itself is not an argument for leaving it alone, I am bound to say, having listened carefully to the arguments put forward, that I have not changed the view I had when I came to the Committee this afternoon that the proposal of the Government is reasonable, bearing in mind that it applies only to those men and women who are in regular employment, at any rate so far as the proposal is affected by this Amendment.
For those reasons, I am afraid that 1 cannot advise the Committee to accept the Amendment.
§ Dr. Stross
Will the hon. Gentleman answer one brief question? It is a fact, is it not, that although the expectation of life has risen enormously in the last fifteen years, if we take the age of 60 for women and 65 for men and look at the expectation of life now made possible from those ages until death, the rise is not significant? It has become about eighteen months in the last twenty-five years. That means that those who stay on at work are conferring a tremendous benefit on the Treasury because so many of them never draw anything at all after having contributed all their working lives.
§ Mr. Barber
I certainly accept what the hon. Member has said about the advantages to the country and the economy generally of older people staying at work when they are fit and able to do so, but I do not think that reason in itself would be sufficient to relieve those persons of the proposed increase in contributions.
§ Mr. Ross
Constantly we are hearing our arguments about increased contributions answered by hon. and right hon. 765 Members opposite on the basis of "Well, they are able to pay". On the prescription charges they say, "They are able to pay. It is only so much". In relation to the spectacles charge they say, They are able to pay. It is only so much "In relation to dentures they say, "They are able to pay. It is only so much". Now again we are told, "They are able to pay. It is only 10d." All these sums added to what has happened under previous Measures related to this subject make an accumulation in relation to the payments made by the people of whom we are speaking
Not one hon. Member opposite has addressed himself to the real argument. It is not whether these people are able to pay but whether it is right that they should be asked to pay in this way. The hon. Member for Ilford, South (Mr. Cooper) said that my hon. Friend the Member for Dunbartonshire, East (Mr. Bence) was guilty of generalisation and he took some of that guilt to himself, but does the hon. Member for Ilford, South appreciate that what is wrong with this Bill is that it generalises upon categories of people?
In this group of Amendments we are concerned about people who stay on at work from 65 to 70 and hold an insurance card by which they pay full insurance. I do not think the Economic Secretary appreciated exactly what we were talking about. He said we should bear in mind that we were dealing only with those between 65 and 70 who were fully employed. We could not be dealing with anyone else because the people who are fully employed are those who have what attracts this extra penalty, a National Insurance card. Hon. Members have to address themselves to the question of justice. It is automatic that men retiring at 65 and women retiring at 60 do not pay contributions, but if they stay on at work to meet the national need for extra workers or to get a better pension because of the poverty of the flat-rate pension they pay for something which is not related to pensions.
What hon. Gentlemen do not appreciate is that it is a combined contribution. There are three elements in it. 766 One element is National Insurance, on which the pension and the benefits are calculated. Another element is industrial injuries. The third element is the National Health Service contribution, which the Government invented and put on the Statute Book in 1957 If a person stays on at work because the Government hold out to him the attraction that they will contract to pay him additions to his pension, which I think work out at about 1s, for every twelve contributions, is it right for the Government then to add to the combined contribution something entirely unrelated to pensions? That is what is happening. It is the third time it has happened. It is tantamount to fraud.
§ Mr. Ross
After July if a man works beyond the age of 65 until he reaches 70, for the extra £ 1 on his pension he will pay an extra 10d. a week and his employer will pay an extra 2d. a week. That is 1s. per week in respect of each man. It is 52s. per year for five years, making a total of £13. By this addition alone to the supposed National Health Service contribution he will pay while he stays at work thirteen weeks of the promised addition to his pension. Does the Economic Secretary think that that is fair? Can it be justified, and not on the basis of ability to pay? The man pays Income Tax like everybody else He pays national taxation if required.
The Economic Secretary rather scoffed at the argument that it would act as a deterrent. He said that there is no reason to suggest that the extra 10d. will be a deterrent. It is not an extra 10d. It is the accumulation of the three increases, two of which were made in 1957 and 1958 and now this one.
Has the Economic Secretary read the Report by the Government Actuary on the Second Quinquennial Review, paragraph 14 of which contains these words:There are also indications that from mid-1957 onwards "—I ask hon. Members to note the date The National Health Service contribution was invented in May, 1957—there was an acceleration of retirement, both among those reaching age 65 and amongst those who had reached that age previously and had deferred retirement…I have not the slightest doubt that there is prima facie evidence that this has an 767 effect. It is bound to have a cumulative effect, but whether it has an effect or not is beside the point.
§ Mr. John Hall (Wycombe) rose—
§ Mr. Ross
Whether or not it has an important effect is beside the point. The point is whether it is right and just. Is this the way to provide for hospital development?
The Government's own argument is that people must be persuaded to stay on at work and pay extra contributions. In the First Schedule the amounts are 2s. ½d. for men and 2s. 0½d. for women. This is Tory affluence and justice. I
§ certainly hope that my hon. Friends are not prepared to accept this kind of thing, tricked up as it is in increases in the National Health Service contribution. There was not a single word of relevance in what the Economic Secretary said. That was mainly because he did not understand the position.
§ One hon. Member said that the retirement age of judges is 75. What has that to do with it? A judge aged 75 will not pay an extra penny, because after the age of 75 no one holds a National Insurance card. On the question of ability to pay, the hon. Member who employed that example should be on our side, because the only way fairly to test the argument of ability to pay is in relation to the graduated and generally accepted fairness of our taxation system.
§ Question put, That "70" stand part of the Schedule:—
§ The Committee divided: Ayes 243, Noes 200.771
|Division No. 89.]||AYES||17.37 p.m.|
|Agnew, Sir Peter||Crowder, F. P.||Harvey, John (Walthamstow, E.)|
|Aitken, W. T.||Cunningham, Knox||Harvie Anderson, Miss|
|Allason, James||Curran, Charles||Hastings, Stephen|
|Ashton, Sir Hubert||Dalkeith, Earl of||Heald, Rt. Hon. Sir Lionel|
|Atkins, Humphrey||Dance, James||Henderson-Stewart, Sir James|
|Balniel, Lord||d'Avigdor-Goldemld, Sir Henry||Hendry, Forbes|
|Barber, Anthony||Deedes, W. F.||Hicks Beach, Maj. W.|
|Barter, John||Digby, Simon Wingfield||Hiley, Joseph|
|Batsford, Brian||Donaldson, Cmdr. C. E. M.||Hill, Mrs. Eveline (Wythenshawe)|
|Baxter, Sir Beverley (Southgate)||Doughty, Charles||Hirst, Geoffrey|
|Bell, Ronald||du Cann, Edward||Hobson, John|
|Bennett, Dr. Reginald (Cos & Film)||Duncan, Sir James||Holland, Philip|
|Bevins, Rt. Hon. Reginald (Toxteth)||Duthie, Sir William||Hollingworth, John|
|Bidgood, John C.||Eccles, Rt. Hon. Sir David||Howard, John (Southampton, Test)|
|Bingham, R. M.||Elliot, Capt. Walter (Carahalton)||Hughes Hallett, Vice-Admiral John|
|Bishop, F. P.||Elliott, R.W.(Nwcstle-upon-Tyne, N.)||Hughes-Young, Michael|
|Black, Sir Cyril||Emery, Peter||Hulbert, Sir Norman|
|Bossom, Clive||Errington, Sir Eric||Hutchison, Michael Clark|
|Bourne-Arton, A.||Erroll, Rt. Hon. F. J.||Iremonger, T. L.|
|Box, Donald||Farr, John||Irvine, Bryant Codman (Rye)|
|Boyd-Carpenter, Rt. Hon. John||Fisher, Nigel||Jackson, John|
|Boyle, Sir Edward||Fletcher-Cooke, Charles||James, David|
|Bromley-Davenport, Lt.-Col. Sir Walter||Fraser, Hn. Hugh (Stafford & Stone)||Jenkins, Robert (Dulwich)|
|Brooke, Rt. Hon. Henry||Fraser, Ian (Plymouth, Sutton)||Jennings, J. C.|
|Brooman-White, R.||Freeth, Denzil||Johnson, Dr. Donald (Carlisle)|
|Browne, Percy (Torrington)||Galbraith, Hon. T. G. D.||Johnson, Eric (Blackleg)|
|Bryan, Paul||Gammans, Lady||Johnson, Eric (Blackley)|
|Bullard, Denys||Gibson-Watt, David||Johnson Smith, Geoffrey|
|Bullus, Wing Commander Eric||Glover, Sir Douglas||Joseph, Sir Keith|
|Burden, F. A.||Glyn, Dr. Alan (Clapham)||Kerns, Cdr. J. S.|
|Butler, Rt.Hn. R.A.(Saffron Walden)||Glyn, Sir Richard (Dorset, N.)||Kerby, Capt. Henry|
|Campbell, Sir David (Belfast, S.)||Godber, J. B.||Kimball, Marcus|
|Campbell, Gordon (Moray & Nairn)||Goodhart, Philip||Lagdon, Godfrey|
|Carr, Compton (Barons Court)||Goodhew, Victor||Lambton, Viscount|
|Carr, Robert (Mitcham)||Gough, Frederick||Lancaster, Col. C. G.|
|Channon, H. P. G.||Gower, Raymond||Langford-Holt, J.|
|Chichester-Clark, R.||Grant, Rt. Hon. William||Leavey, J. A.|
|Clark, Henry (Antrim, N.)||Grant-Ferris, Wg. Cdr. It.||Leburn, Gilmour|
|Cleaver, Leonard||Green, Alan||Lewis, Kenneth (Rutland)|
|Cole, Norman||Gresham Cooke, R.||Lilley, F. J. P.|
|Cooper, A. E.||Grimston, Sir Robert||Lindsay, Martin|
|Cordeaux, Lt.-Col. J. K.||Gurden, Harold||Linstead, Sir Hugh|
|Costaln, A. P.||Hall, John (Wycombe)||Litchfield, Capt. John|
|Coulson, J. M.||Hamilton, Michael (Wellingborough)||Longbottom, Charles|
|Craddock, Sir Beresford||Hare, Rt. Hon. John||Low, Rt. Hon. Sir Toby|
|Critchley, Julian||Harris, Reader (Heston)||Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh|
|MacArthur, Ian||Partridge, E.||Steward, Harold (Stockport, S.)|
|MoLaren, Martin||Pearson, Frank (Clitheroe)||Stodart, J. A.|
|McLaughlin, Mrs. Patriots||Peel, John||Stoddart-Scott, Col. Sir Malcolm|
|Maclay, Rt. Hon. John||Percival, Ian||Studholme, Sir Henry|
|Maclean, SirFltzroy (Bute&N.Ayrs.)||Pickthorn, Sir Kenneth||Summers, Sir Spencer (Aylesbury)|
|Maoleod, Rt. Hn. Iain (Enfield, W.)||Pike, Miss Mervyn||Sumner, Donald (Orpington)|
|MacLeod, John (Ross & Cromarty)||Pilkington, Sir Richard||Talbot, John E.|
|Macmillan, Rt. Hn. Harold (Bromley)||Pitman, I. J.||Taylor, Edwin (Bolton, E.)|
|Macpherson, Niall (Dumfries)||Pitt, Miss Edith||Teeling, William|
|Madden, Martin||Pott, Percival)||Temple, John M.|
|Manningham-Buller, Rt. Hn. Sir R.||Powel, Rt. Hon. J. Enoch||Thatcher, Mrs. Margaret|
|Markham, Major Sir Frank||Price, David (Eastleigh)||Thomas, Leslie (Canterbury)|
|Marlowe, Anthony||Prior, J. M. L.||Thomas, Peter (Conway)|
|Marples, Rt. Hon. Ernest||Prior-Palmer, Brig. Sir Otho||Thompson, Richard (Croydon, S.)|
|Marshall, Douglas||Profumo, Rt. Hon. John||Thornton-Kemsley, Sir Colin|
|Matthews, Gordon (Meriden)||Proudfoot, Wilfred||Turner, Colin|
|Maudling, Rt. Hon. Reginald||Quennell, Miss J. M.||Tweedsmuir, Lady|
|Mawby, Ray||Rameden, James||Vaughan-Morgan, Sir John|
|Maxwell-Hysiop, R. J.||Redmayne, Rt. Hon. Martin||Wakefield, Edward (Derbyshire, W.)|
|Maydon, Lt. Cmdr. S. L. C.||Rees, Hugh||Walker-Smith, Rt. Hon. Sir Derek|
|Montgomery, Fergus||Renton, David||Wall, Patrick|
|More, Jaener (Ludlow)||Robson Brown, Sir William||Ward, Dame Irene|
|Morgan, William||Rodgers, John (Sevenoaks)||Watkinson, Rt. Hon. Harold|
|Morrison, John||Roots, William||Watts, James|
|Mott-Radclyffe, Sir Charles||Ropner, Col. Sir Leonard||Webster, David|
|Nabarro, Gerald||Royle, Anthony (Richmond, Surrey)||Wells, John (Maidstone)|
|Heave, Alrey||Russell, Ronald||Whitelaw, William|
|Nicholson, Sir Godfrey||Seymour, Leslie||Williams, Dudley (Exeter)|
|Nugent, Sir Richard||Sharples, Richard||Wills, Sir Gerald (Bridgwater)|
|Oakahott, Sir Hendee||Shaw, M.||Wilson, Geoffrey (Truro)|
|Orr, Capt. L. P. S.||Smith, Dudley (Br'ntf'rd & Chiswick)||Wise, A. R.|
|Osborn, John (Hallam)||Smyth, Brig. Sir John (Norwood)||Wolrige-Cordon, Patrick|
|Osborne, Cyril (Louth)||Spearman, Sir Alexander||Woodnutt, Mark|
|Page, John (Harrow, West)||Spelt, Rupert||Worsley, Marcus|
|Page, Graham (Crosby)||Stanley, Hon. Richard|
|Pannell, Norman (Kirkdale)||Stevens, Geoffrey||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|Mr. Noble and Mr. J. E. B. Hill.|
|Abse, Leo||Edwards, Rt. Hon. Ness (Caerphilly)||Jones, T. W. (Merioneth)|
|Albu, Austen||Edwards, Robert (Bilston)||Kelley, Richard|
|Allaun, Frank (Salford, E.)||Edwards, Walter (Stepney)||Kenyon, Clifford|
|Allen, Scholefield (Crewe)||Evans, Albert||key, nt. Hon. C. W.|
|Awbery, Stan||Finch, Harold||King, Dr. Horace|
|Bacon, Miss Alice||Fletcher, Eric||Lawson, George|
|Bence, Cyril (Dunbartonshire, E.)||Foot, Michael (Ebbw Vale)||Ledger, Ron|
|Benson, Sir George||Forman, J. C.||Lee, Miss Jennie (Cannock)|
|Blackburn, F.||Fraser, Thomas (Hamilton)||Lever, L. M. (Ardwick)|
|Blyton, William||Galtskell Rt. Hon. Hugh||Lipton, Marcus|
|Boardman, H.||Galpern, Sir Myer||Laughlin, Charles|
|Bowden, Herbert W. (Lelcs, S.W.)||George, Lady MeganLloyd (Crmrthn)||Mahon, Dr. J. Dickson|
|Bowen, Roderic (Cardigan)||Ginsburgh, David||McCann, John|
|Bowles, Frank||Gordon Walker, Rt. Hon. P C.||MacColl, James|
|Boyden, James||Gourley, Raymond||McKay, John (Wallsend)|
|Braddock, Mrs. E. M.||Greenwood, Anthony||Mackie, John|
|Brockway, A. Fenner||Grey, Charles||MaLeavy, Frank|
|Brown, Alan (Tottenham)||Griffiths, Rt. Hon. James (Llanelly)||MacMillan, Malcolm (Western Isles)|
|Brown, Rt. Hon. George (Belper)||Griffiths, W. (Exchange)||Mallalieu, E. L. (Brigs)|
|Butler, Herbert (Hackney, C.)||Grimond, J.||Mallal'eu, J.P.W.(Huddersfield, E.)|
|Butler, Mrs. Joyce (Wood Green)||Gunter, Ray||Manuel, A. C.|
|Castle, Mrs. Barbara||Hall, Rt. Hn. Clenvil (Colne Valley)||Mapp, Charles|
|Chapman, Donald||Hamilton, William (West Fife)||Mason, Roy|
|Cliffs, Michael||Hannan, William||Mellish, R. J.|
|Coltick, Percy||Hart, Mrs. Judith||Millan, Bruce|
|Corbel, Mrs. Freda||Hayman, F. H.||Milne, Edward J.|
|Craddock, George (Bradford. S.)||Hendarson, Rt.Hn. Arthur (RwlyRegis)||Mitchison, G. R|
|Cronin, John||Herbison, Miss Margaret||Mitchison, G. R.|
|Crosland, Anthony||Hewitson, Cant. M.||Monslow, Walter|
|Creasman, R. H. S.||Hill. J. (Midlethian)||Moody, A. S.|
|Cullen, Mrs. Alice||Holman, Percy||Morris, John|
|Davies, Rt.Hn. Clement (Montgomery)||Holt. Arthur||Moyle, Arthur|
|Davies, G. Elfed (Rhondda, E.)||Houghton, Douglas||Mulley, Frederick|
|Davies, Ifor (Gower)||Hog, James H.||Neal, Harold|
|Davies, S. O. (Merthyr)||Hughes, Cledwyn (Anglesey)||Noel-Baker, Francis (Swindon)|
|Deer, George||Hughes, Emrys (S. Ayrshire)||Noel-Baker, Rt.Hn, Philip (Derby, S.)|
|de Freltas, Geoffrey||Hunter, A. E.||Oliver, C. H.|
|Delargy, Hugh||Hvnd, H. (Accrington)||Dram, A. E.|
|Dempsey, James||Irvine, A. J. (Edge Hil)||Oswald, Thomas|
|Diamond, John||Irving. Svdney (Dartford)||Owen, Will|
|Dodds, Norman||dormer, Sir Rarnett||Padiey, W. E.|
|Driberg, Tom||Jay, Rt. Hon. Douglas||Paget, R. T.|
|Dugdale, Rt. Hon. John||Jones, Dan (Burnley)||Pannell, Charles (Leeds, W.)|
|Ede, Rt. Hon. C.||Jones, Jack (Rotherham)||Pargiter, G. A.|
|Edelman, Maurice||Jones, J. Idwal (Wrexham)||Parker, John (Dagenham)|
|Parkin, B. T. (Paddington, N.)||Small, William||Tomney, Frank|
|Pearson, Arthur (Pontypridd)||Smith, Ellis (Stoke, S.)||Wainwright, Edwin|
|Peart, Frederick||Snow, Julian||Warbey, William|
|Pentland, Norman||Sorensen, R. W.||Watkins, Tudor|
|Popplewell, Ernest||Soskice, Rt. Hon. Sir Frank||Wells, Percy (Faversham)|
|Probert, Arthur||Spriggs, Leslie||Wells, William (Walsall, N.)|
|Proctor, W. T.||Steele, Thomas||White, Mrs. Eirene|
|Pursey, Cmdr. Harry||Stewart, Michael (Fulham)||Whitlock, William|
|Randall, Harry||Stonehouse, John||Wigg, George|
|Rankin, John||Stones, William||Wilcock, Group Capt. C. A. B.|
|Redhead, E. C.||Strachey, Rt. Hon. John||Wilkins, W. A.|
|Reid, William||Strauss, Rt. Hn. G. R. (Vauxhall)||Willey, Frederick|
|Rhodes, H.||Stross, Dr.Barnett (Stoks-on-Trent, C.)||Williams, D. J. (Neath)|
|Roberts, Albert (Normanton)||Swain, Thomas||Williams, LI. (Abertillery)|
|Roberts, Goronwy (Caernarvon)||Sylvester, George||Willis, E. G. (Edinburgh, E.)|
|Robinson, Kenneth (St. Pancras, N.)||Symonds, J. B.||Woodburn, Rt. Hon. A.|
|Ross, William||Taylor, Bernard (Mansfield)||Woof, Robert|
|Royle, Charles (Salford, West)||Taylor, John (West Lothian)||Wyatt, Woodrow|
|Shinwell, Rt. Hon. E.||Thomas, George (Cardiff, W.)||Yates, Victor (Ladywood)|
|Short, Edward||Thomas, Iorwerth (Rhondda, W.)||Zilliacus, K.|
|Silverman, Julius (Aston)||Thompson, Or. Alan (Dunfermline)|
|Silverman, Sydney (Nelson)||Thornton, Ernest||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|Slater, Mrs. Harriet (Stoke, N.)||Timmons, John||Mr. Howell and Dr. Broughton.|
§ Mr. Ross
I beg to move, in page 3, line 11, column 1, after men "to insert:whose earnings for the relative contribution week do not exceed nine pounds and".This Amendment deals entirely and quite simply with the position of people whose earnings are less than £9 a week. Whereas on the last Amendment we tried to relieve the Prime Minister of having to pay his burden but failed in our efforts, I hope that we shall receive a little more sympathy on behalf of workers whose wages are so low. I do not think that there is very much I need say about this Amendment. No one can justify placing an additional burden on workers whose wages are as low as that. Of course, there is the question, Are there any?
§ The Temporary Chairman (Mr. W. R. Williams)
Perhaps I should explain to the Committee that with this Amendment can also be taken the Amendments in page 3, line 14, column 1, after "women," insert:whose earnings for the relative contribution week do not exceed nine pounds andand in page 3, line 27, at the end to add:
|11. Employed men whose earnings for the relative contribution week do not exceed nine pounds||1||11|
|12. Employed women whose earnings for the relative contribution week do not exceed nine pounds||1||5|
§ Mr. Ross
Yes, Mr. Williams, they are related to the same point and are consequential upon the first Amendment.
The last figure I saw of workers with £9 a week and less was just over 7 million. the greater number of these being 772 women. It is true that this figure includes many part-time workers and the like, but nevertheless anyone with such earnings who holds a National Insurance card and pays the contributions will feel the full brunt of these new increases, and he above all people should not be asked to bear any such burden.
Not long ago we had protracted and heated debates in the House about a graduated pension scheme, and I recall debates before then about increasing old-age pensions. One of the answers always put to us, and one of the realities we had to face, was the fact that, if one increased the pension, this might automatically mean—and certainly with a Tory Government did mean—an increase in rates of contribution. The flat-rate contribution bears as heavily on the man earning £6 a week as it does on the man earning £40 a week. We are limited by what we can do because the flat-rate contribution bears heavily on the lower paid workers.
I have here some speeches made on this matter by hon. Gentlemen opposite. [HON. MEMBERS: "Where are they?" J It may well be that the shadow of the Guillotine has borne more heavily upon them than upon us. It seems that the short run which we have had on the Bill has worn, not this side of the Committee. but that side, into the ground.
§ The Financial Secretary to the Treasury (Sir Edward Boyle)
Surely it is accepted convention in the Committee that allotted days are Opposition time and that when there is a time-table Motion it is not the custom for Government supporters to take a very large share of the time for that reason?
§ Mr. Ross
We were threatened a few days ago that Conservative back bench Members would wear us into the ground. It rather looks as though we have worn them into the basement.
I was about to quote a speech made by an hon. Member opposite when the light suddenly broke that the flat-rate contribution was getting to such a point that it could not be raised any higher. I quote from the speech of the hon. Member for Stroud (Mr. Kershaw):If increased contributions are exacted by law from people, without consent on their part. the effect certainly will be to stimulate demands for higher wages in order to make good the increased weekly contribution …that would certainly be a consequence of increasing the flat-rate demand over and over again.The hon. Member had previously said:I do feel…that at the moment our flat-rate contribution is about as much as they are willing to pay "—[OFFICIAL REPORT. 11th November, 1958: Vol. 595, c. 291.]How can the Government justify a further increase in the flat-rate contribution of people earning £9 a week and less? The hon. Lady, the Parliamentary Secretary will remember the arguments and speeches that we had on this matter. I do not know whether she would like me to quote some of the speeches that I have here which were delivered in Committee on the same point. The Government say that the flat-rate contribution should be increased by 10d. for a man and 8d. for a woman, irrespective of their wages. We believe that, irrespective of what he does with the rest of his money, no one earning £9 a week or less should pay any more than a halfpenny increase. We would wipe the increase out altogether if we could, but the rules do not allow us to do that.
I hope that some hon. Members opposite will see the force of our argument, will appreciate the justice of it and will support the Amendment. We are con- 774 cerned with an increase in the flat-rate contribution. At the last election the Conservative Party issued pamphlets stating that the lower paid workers would pay less and would get more for their money. It proclaimed that the flat-rate contribution paid by the lower paid workers would be reduced to 8s. 4d. Instead of that, in the first week of July the lowest paid workers in the scheme will pay 10s. 7d. and those who are outside the scheme will pay the present 9s. 11d. plus 1s. 5d., plus 10d. To my mind, 12s. 2d. is just a bit much. There may well be people outside the scheme who are earning a lower wage than £9.
Can there be any justification for what the Government propose to do? I am sure that some hon. Members opposite would rather that the Amendment were acceptable to them. If that is so, why do not they do something about it? If they believe all that they say about sheltering the weak, they should join us in the fight against the Treasury. Is this the only way that we can get the hospitals that we need—by a discriminatory tax which falls just as heavily on women earning £5 or £6 a week as it does on the hon. Lady the Parliamentary Secretary? I believe that certain hon. Ladies opposite are considered to be non-employed persons. I checked upon it. But even a self-employed person pays less than an employed person. I think that the hon. Lady will agree with that. I would be glad if she would tell me exactly what are the rates of increase in the contribution paid by self-employed and non-employed persons. It is 10d for an employed man, 8d. for a self-employed man and 6d. for a non-employed person. The person who is self-employed and fairly well off is paying less than an employed person at the bottom of the scale. We are talking about the increases. That is what the Bill is about. Did not the hon. Lady know that? That is the purpose of the Money Resolution and of the Bill.
Hon. Members opposite should start thinking about what they are doing. It will not affect units. It will affect the ordinary people, those earning less than £9 a week. I hope that while my hon. Friends are discussing these Amendments a few more hon. Members opposite will be present to hear what they have to say. It may be shame that is 775 keeping them out of the Committee. That is the kindest interpretation I can put on their absence.
§ Mr. J. Grimond (Orkney and Shetland)
As the hon. Member for Kilmarnock (Mr. Ross) said, there are still many people earning fairly low wages. I am afraid that in my constituency we have our full share of them, as we have of self-employed people, who are dealt with later.
I think that it will be agreed that there are people who are not on National Assistance but are earning a fairly low wage who will be badly affected in a variety of ways by these new measures. I feel sure that most hon. Members wish to press the Government to ascertain whether some assistance can be given to them. I think that a good case has been made out for them. There are many people who, by today's standards, are earning little money, but, taking all in all, they have to pay a fairly high contribution. It may be said that this proposed increase will not add much to the contribution, but it is already quite severe for the people with whom we are concerned. Naturally, any further increase makes it more severe on them.
I wish to ask two questions. Will the Minister tell us what this will cost and the number of people who might be affected? Secondly, how does he visualise that these contributions will work? As was suggested by the hon. Member for Kilmarnock, the Government's proposals may lead to claims for higher wages.
§ Mr. Grimond
I apologise. That is what I want. It was a forceful quotation.
Is it expected that employers, in one way or another, will meet at least some of the increase? I should like answers to these questions. I hope that the Government are not shutting their mind completely to any possible alleviation for those in employment, whether self-employed or wage earners, who will be badly hit, not only by the increase in contributions, but by the additional charges in the Health Service generally.
§ 8.0 p.m.
§ Mr. H. Hynd (Accrington)
I wish to make a general point and a particular point on the Amendment, although I am afraid that I am wasting my breath when I look at the empty spaces on the benches opposite. Nevertheless, these are points which should go on record. The first concerns the general proposition in the Bill that everyone, whatever his earnings, should pay the same amount. In nearly every foreign scheme which I have studied, contributions are fixed on a percentage basis. When we began our original scheme, I was prepared to support the proposal that we should follow the Lloyd George idea of 9d. for 4d., because that was a relatively small amount. When the cost of the stamp was small, from the viewpoint of simplicity it may have been best to have everybody paying the same amount, particularly as the benefits were the same for all. Now that the cost of the stamp has reached the present level, however, it is a very different proposition. Although this is not the moment to propose a percentage basis, the Amendment is the next best thing. I submit that a strong case has been made for having a lower rate of contribution for people on the lowest incomes.
My particular point is that people on the lowest rate of income are paying more for their stamps than people with higher incomes, for the simple reason that those who come within the Income Tax scales receive an allowance in respect of what they spend on their National Insurance stamps. Those who are below the Income Tax level do not get that allowance and, therefore, pay more for their stamps than those who are liable to Income Tax. This is a point to which, I hope, the Government will give attention, because it adds to the general feeling of unfairness throughout the country about these newly increased contributions.
For these two main reasons, I support the Amendment.
§ Mr. A. Woodburn (Clackmannan and East Stirlingshire)
I should like to say a few words, although my voice is not in good condition. The Financial Secretary to the Treasury has never explained why the Government have chosen this 777 method of raising the money. When 1 said something on this subject earlier, I agreed that if we are to build hospitals and develop the Health Service, we must raise the money. The question is how it should be raised. The simplest way to raise it is in the normal way, as a percentage under the Income Tax laws, which is the best way of sharing the burden according to ability to pay. The Financial Secretary has never explained why the Government rejected this idea. As the hon. Gentleman has admitted, this is a new method of imposing taxation, but giving it a label to suggest that it has something to do with the Health Service. The hon. Gentleman admitted that in reality it was simply a method of raising so many millions. Nothing can justify doing it in this unfair manner.
The worst and most shocking of the Government's proposals concerns prescriptions. In our first debate, the noble Lord the Member for Edinburgh, North (The Earl of Dalkeith) showed how distressed he was at the hardship that these schemes would bring upon people with low incomes. I was surprised that, without investigating what would happen as a result of the promises given by the Government, the noble Lord accepted their proposals in a later debate. I am sure that, on reflection, he realises that these hardships will not be avoided by so-called measures which are impracticable and incapable of being carried out.
The Earl of Dalkeith (Edinburgh, North)
A great deal depends upon the definition of "impracticable" and whether the assurances that we were given the other night are capable of being worked out in practice. I fully admit that we should see that they are worked out in practice over the next few months or, perhaps, the next year. Then, perhaps, we should consider whether a change should be made. In the meantime, I regard those assurances as satisfactory.
§ Mr. Woodburn
I accept the noble Lord's assurance that he is genuinely concerned about this. He would, however, agree that nobody should be expected to pay 2s. in bus fares to go to the National Assistance office to collect 2s. to take back to the chemist. From 778 that viewpoint, the procedure is impracticable, as the noble Lord, if he looks into the matter again, will realise.
§ Mr. Woodburn
I was using that example to show that if we are concerned for the people with low incomes, there was another method by which to alleviate the burden that will be put upon them.
In the old days, hospitals were built very largely with the contributions of wealthy people, including mine owners, and charities. I am sure that most wealthy people today would not want to dodge their responsibilities for the building of hospitals merely because it is being done by the State. The Financial Secretary should consider what he could do to meet the wishes of the people with money. I am sure that lots of them would be anxious to help.
§ Mr. John Diamond (Gloucester)
On a point of order. Would it be in order for me, Mr. Williams, without being misunderstood and without embarrassing you, to cross the Floor and sit on the bench behind the Financial Secretary? It is grossly unfair that he does not have even a P.P.S. to help him. I am practised in the duties of a P.P.S. and I should be glad to enable the hon. Lady the Parliamentary Secretary to return to her seat on the Front Bench.
§ The Temporary Chairman
I assure the hon. Member that nothing will embarrass me. Secondly, hon. Members may sit wherever they like. Thirdly. that was not a point of order for me.
§ Mr. Woodburn
I am addressing myself to the Financial Secretary, because he has already shown by his actions that he has the moral courage to stand up even to his own Government when he thinks that they are doing wrong. If we convince him that they are doing wrong in this respect, it may be that, even at this late hour, he will be prepared once more to stand up for what is right and proper.
I suggest again that what the Government are doing under the Bill is by far the wrong way to achieve their aims. I have had some experience in regard to the costs—
§ Mr. Kenneth Lewis (Rutland and Stamford)
On a point of order. May we assume that the hon. Member for Gloucester (Mr. Diamond) and the hon. Member for Accrington (Mr. H. Hynd), who have crossed the Floor to sit behind my hon. Friend the Financial Secretary, support the Government's proposals in full measure?
§ Mr. Woodburn
It would be a change to suggest that anyone on the benches opposite supports the Government no matter what they do.
When we reach the lowest-paid workers, we reach those who need all their wages to buy food and subsistence for their families. If another burden is added to the contributions that they must pay, the result is that they are deprived, not of something marginal, but of something which is an absolute necessity. If that is done then, sooner or later, it will either reduce the efficiency of these people or they will have to ask for increased wages.
In industry, this continual round of wage increases can be very awkward because a firm making a tender for business a year or two ahead must be able to rely to some extent on its present costs. If. by Government action, the costs are forced up, because it is necessary for the workers to recover wages, that means that the tenders submitted by the firm become useless, and it embarrasses both the firm and its customers if they have to be changed. After the last war this made business almost impossible for many firms.
I gave particulars of a case in a previous debate where an engineer received a £50 reduction in his Income Tax—which, I suppose, is the purpose of these proposals in the long run—yet he had to spend far more than that in going up and down to York to discuss wage rises to compensate for the abolition of the food subsidies. The Government do not seem to know what is going on in industry and I wish that they would consult industry on the best way of dealing with this matter.
Increased contributions involve many problems for industry in clerical labour and other ways. I deplore the fact that 780 the Government are going back on all their experience since and before the war and are reverting to customs and habits of thought which were pre-war and which the modern Conservative Party might be assumed to have given up. They have gone back to the means-test complex. except concerning contributions. We agree that there should be a means test in respect of contributions and that people should pay according to their means. I see no reason why, if the Government believe in that, they should not realise that people with very small incomes of under £9 a week ought to be relieved of this imposition because, if it is put upon them, it will deprive them not of a surplus or the fringe of their income but of the very vitals of their income and do great harm. I hope that the Government will reconsider some of the policies that they are carrying out.
§ 8.15 p.m.
§ Mr. Ellis Smith
I wish to make some observations within the limits allowed by considering three of these Amendments, in line 11, column 1 line 14, column 1; and line 27.
I am sorry that any Government of this country have been responsible for introducing a Bill of this kind. For the second time in my lifetime I have seen promises made during war-time repudiated in peace-time. This is another example of that. In my view, there should be no contribution charges at all. That is what is involved in our Amendments. We are pleading for the man earning less than £9 a week. I say that there should be no contributions at all because of the promises that have been made.
I give an example of the repudiation by the Government of promises made to people who have been paying contributions for years. For many years I was a voluntary contributor under National Health Insurance. I, along with thousands of others, contributed regularly to retain my pension rights and other non-cash benefit rights. In the approved society of which I was a member we received all our nom-cash benefits without paying a Penny. This seems to have been forgotten by most people. Friendly societies and trade union approved societies which were run on a business-like footing, and which 781 were fortunate enough to have a relatively small proportion of their members requiring sickness and industrial disease benefits, had relatively high incomes and could provide all the non-cash benefits without the members paying a penny.
When the new scheme was brought into operation, all those balances were incorporated in the new scheme. I cannot speak with any degree of accuracy because it is so long ago, but I believe the State inherited millions of pounds from the approved societies of those days. The same people responsible for building up those huge balances of millions of pounds through running their approved societies successfully are now being asked to contribute to the extent required in the Bill. If we are not very careful people will lose confidence in promises made.
I was a Member of this House throughout the war. The promises that were then made we thought would be fulfilled. One promise to which all political parties were committed was that the National Health Scheme would be run without a penny being paid by the people of this country. We now find in this Bill that the lower-paid workers receiving under £9 a week will have to pay the contributions proposed in the Bill. One would have thought that, with all the political parties being committed, no one party would have had the audacity to introduce a Bill involving the low paid workers, especially those receiving under £9 a week.
I remember that when Sir William Beveridge published his Report we seized upon the proposals under the heading National Health Scheme, and it was suggested that it would be a non-contributory scheme. The result, as I said a few weeks ago, was that this made a great impact upon our men serving in the Armed Forces. They welcomed it wholeheartedly, and when they came home the Labour Government implemented it. It was looked upon as the finest scheme in the world For the first time in 2,000 years this country proved that it would go to the aid of the sick. We now find that repudiated in the Government's proposal. The Opposition suggest that the Government ought not to impose increased contributions on persons earning less than £9 a week. I am very pleased at the efforts of those who were responsible for framing our Amendments
782 If the Financial Secretary or any other hon. Members disagree with what I am about to say, I hope they will be good enough to intervene, for 1 have in my pocket copies of all replies given on this subject by the Financial Secretary and his predecessor. In the main, the increased expenditure on the National Health Scheme has been caused by increased salaries for the professions engaged in the scheme. I am not uttering one word of complaint about that, but—
§ The Temporary Chairman
I have great sympathy with the points which the hon. Gentleman is putting forward, but I should like the weight of his argument now to be directed to the class of people whose earnings are less than £9 per week.
§ Mr. Ellis Smith
Thank you, Mr. Williams. If you will be good enough to glance at the Amendments that we Are discussing, which include the fifth Amendment to page 3 line 27, you will find that they cover the observations which I am making. The purpose of my observations is to give the Financial Secretary concrete evidence that he should accept the Amendments Am I correct, Mr. Williams?
§ The Temporary Chairman
No. I cannot agree with the hon. Member. The third Amendment which we are discussing is not the one to which he referred but the seventh one to page 3, line 27. The principle is the same in all three Amendments. The Amendments relate to a certain category of people. and it is to that category that I should like the hon. Member now to apply the weight of his argument.
§ Mr. Ellis Smith
Am I correct, Mr. Williams, in putting this interpretation on what I am saying? I should like your advice. It is whether those who are receiving less than £9 a week should contribute a penny to the increased salaries.
§ The Temporary Chairman
It is not for me to argue who should or should not contribute. All I am called upon to do is to ensure that the debate is in accordance with the Standing Orders and try to get hon. Members to speak to the Amendment which is before the Committee at a certain time.
§ Mr. Ellis Smith
Thank you very much, Mr. Williams. I am glad of your 783 help. It has pulled me up sharp and made me come nearer to the point. I thought that those earning under £9 per week should not be involved in payments of this character, which should be the responsibility of the Exchequer. I am glad that we have it right now. We are now on a good foundation and can proceed. [Laughter.] This is a serious matter.
I hope I can carry every hon. Member in the Committee with me when I say that anyone who is now receiving less than £14 a week has nothing to play with. Do we all accept that?
§ Mr. Ellis Smith
Therefore, we are not overdoing it when we talk about the people receiving under £9 a week. I am sure that on this we have the sympathy of everyone present in the Committee. I appreciate that the Financial Secretary has his responsibilities and will have his instructions, but in view of the reasoned case that we have put he ought at least to give an undertaking that before Report the points made in the debate will be considered and that, if possible, an adjustment will be made before the Bill goes to another place.
The final point that I was seeking to make when you, Mr. Williams, were good enough to correct me was that, in the main, the increased expenditure results from the increased salaries being paid to those who are engaged in administering the scheme. I appreciate that there are other details, but I do not want to become too involved in them. Nevertheless, if anyone challenges me I have with me all the replies given by Ministers. I should have been delighted if we could have had the Government benches packed with hon. Members opposed to us, because our case is so strong and reasonable that I believe we should have carried almost everyone with us on this issue.
§ Mr. Ellis Smith
My hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent, North (Mrs. Slater), whose philosophies are more advanced than mine, says that I am under a misapprehension. On general political questions I accept what my hon. Friend says, but I am optimistic enough to believe that, speaking in a reasoned way within the limits of the Amendments which we 784 are discussing, we should have been able to carry a large proportion of hon. Members opposite with us. Unfortunately, they are not here.
My main point is that as, in the main, the increased costs of the National Health Scheme arise from increased salaries and wages, they should be the responsibility of the Exchequer and not those earning less than £9 a week.
While sitting here I have been trying to analyse the bargain which is being made by the Government with men earning less than £9 a week. I am more concerned about the man of over 65 who is earning £9 a week. I am staggered at the audacity of the Government in going to the man who decides to remain on, at the request of the Government, to produce for the community and charging him 2s. 8½d. more for his stamp.
Let us see what this bargain amounts to. For five years the man will contribute 2s. 8½d. a week—£30 to £35 during the five years. The Government will save £3 a week in respect of his pension, which is roughly £600. Consequently, the Government save the pension, receive contributions from the man and then offer him at 70 an extra £1 a week. I should like the Minister to give us some idea of the number of men who continue to work after 65 and die before they are 70. The man who works after 65 and dies before 70 will have paid substantially in increased contributions, and he will have saved the State hundreds of pounds in pension, and yet no one receives anything from this except the State.
I say that an examination of the position will show that the Government are audacious in asking a man at 65 who is earning less than £9 a week to make this contribution. If I paid contributions into an ordinary insurance society for twenty years I should receive what is called a free policy, but here, instead of giving the man a free policy at 65, the Government intend to increase his contribution by 2s. 81d. If the Government did the right thing by these men who have contributed to industry up to the age of 65 they would introduce the same scheme for them as applies to the man who is 70 and they would do away with the contribution altogether. As has been said. 785 the man should be insured by the State and the State should meet all the responsibility. The Government are dealing very harshly with all men who are earning under £9 a week, and particularly with those of that category who are over 65 years of age.
§ 8.30 p.m.
§ Mr. Cooper
I think that most of us will have a great deal of sympathy with the principle behind the Amendment, but, unfortunately, as I see it, it is thoroughly impracticable administratively. In the first place, we have to consider that we are dealing in the Amendment with a rate of wage. The rate of pay can apply to people equally from the age of 18 to 21, young people who perhaps in the majority are unmarried and have few responsibilities, and the man perhaps near retirement age who, unfortunately, and in many cases probably through no fault of his own, is still on only a very modest rate of wage and therefore would find it difficult to pay any higher contribution. I do not think that anybody would deny that this is so.
§ Mr. Ellis Smith
Will you he good enough, Mr. Williams, to check the number of Members in the Committee?
§ The Temporary Chairman
I do not think that I can call for a Count so soon after the last Division.
§ The Temporary Chairman
I am sorry, but I cannot tell the hon. Member when I shall be prepared to do it. I cannot do it just now.
§ Mr. Ellis Smith
In view of the fact that we are relying on Standing Orders, can we be told when the last Count was taken?
§ The Temporary Chairman
I did not say "so soon after the last Count" but "after the last Division".
§ The Temporary Chairman
Order. Every Chairman must deal with one point of order at a time and not two.
§ Mr. Ellis Smith
Is it not a fact that it is now three minutes past dinner time and do not the Standing Orders provide that a Count may be taken now?
§ The Temporary Chairman
I have not based my Ruling on whether it is within the dinner time or not. I have based it on the fact that the time now is not quite long enough after the last Division.
§ Mr. Cooper
I was saying that the Amendment would prove administratively impracticable and I want to give one or two examples showing why I think this to be so. It often happens in industry that a man may be on a certain weekly wage or hourly rate which provides him with an income of about £8 15s. a week and which brings him within the limits of the Amendment. Then he is required to work two, three or four hours' overtime and that immediately takes him over £9 a week. The problem from the emnloyer's point of view is virtually insoluble, because it means that he would want one stamp for one week and another kind for another week.
§ Mr. Willis rose—
§ Mr. Cooper
I think that it would be rather nice if I could pursue my argument for more than one minute without interruption.
§ The Temporary Chairman
If the hon. Member for Ilford, South (Mr. A. E. Cooper) has not given way he must be allowed to hold the Floor.
§ Mr. Cooper
I am prepared to give way. Hon. Members know me well enough to know that I do so very frequently, but I think that it would be for the convenience of the Committee if I were allowed to develop an argument for more than a minute at a time.
§ Mr. Willis
I am grateful to the hon. Member for giving way. I wish to ask him whether this distinction was not being made already in the superannuation scheme.
§ Mr. Cooper
That is not quite the same thing, because the graduated pension scheme does not work on a week to week basis in exactly the same way. The Amendment deals with a fixed sum 787 of £9 paid weekly. Any deviation from that, up or down, will force the employer to put on stamps of a variable kind. That is a thoroughly impracticable administrative problem not only for the employer but for the Treasury, which will have no idea of what sort of revenue it can expect over a given time.
Having talked about the administrative side, I want to address my remarks now to the question of the weekly contribution paid by the lower paid workers. I am not opposed in principle to the proposition that we should all pay a contribution towards the National Health Service, but I believe, on the other hand, that the proposals contained in the Measure we are now discussing mean that with the lower-paid worker we have reached the limit. I have made this point on a number of occasions in this Committee, and I see no reason to depart from my previously considered opinion.
If we go too high in this direction we must face the probability of demands for higher wages at the lower level, with its possibly dangerous effects upon our competitive ability. Therefore, I find myself with a certain sympathy for the underlying principle behind the Amendment, but I cannot support it for the reason that I think it is administratively impractical.
§ Mr. James Dempsey (Coatbridge and Aidrie)
I wish to support the Amendment because I regard the Government's proposal as a tax on the lowest income earners. Those of us concerned with employment in general realise that in certain sectors throughout the country we have low income groups. For instance, among local authority employees and light labourers hundreds of thousands earn less than £9 a week. I always lik3 to remind Tory Ministers that when one lives in an area which not only ha, unemployment but also substantial under-employment, hundreds of thousands of workers who are on a short working week will be asked to pay this contribution.
The Government must face up to the responsibility of being answerable for the consequences of pursuing a campaign of this nature. In many parts of Scotland we are used to what is called flat weekly rates of wages. Now many 788 workers are down to a four-day week and, in some parts, to a three-day week. Indeed, it is nothing new for men to work for two months and say be unemployed for the third. Employers are finding it more economical to close down certain mills, than have them working part of the week.
Hundreds of thousands suffering such variations in their employment are to be asked to pay this extra contribution imposed on them very unfairly by the Government. It is, I repeat, a flat-rate contribution. It means that the low wage earners will pay proportionately a much larger share of their income than is paid by others in the better off classes.
Yet the better-off classes, the Surtax payers who are insurable under the National Insurance Act and who will be paying this same contribution as the low wage earners, will receive the same benefits. A flat-rate charge with regard to income for a service which should be available to all men, women and children who require it is an unfair way of redistributing the wealth of the country. That is why I support the Amendment. It is ludicrous for the Front Bench opposite, and even Tory back benchers to argue that the scheme would be utterly unworkable.
§ Mr. Dempsey
I heard one Tory back bencher saying a short time ago that he was in sympathy with the principle of the Amendment but thought that it was wholly unworkable.
Yet the same Tory back bencher and the same Tory Party only recently decided that the principle was not unworkable for the new graduated pension scheme which is to come into operation in April and from which persons earning less than £9 a week are to be excluded. Hon. Members opposite found pearls of wisdom somewhere when they were able to separate that category of insured persons from those who are to pay the increased insurance contribution. If they can accomplish that with the graduated pension contribution, they can accomplish it in this instance. Where there is a will there is a way, but the will is absent in this case and an unfair and immoral tax is being imposed on 789 those least able to bear it. That is one of my main reasons for supporting the Amendment.
The quicker the Tory Ministers realise that this is not the only tax that working people in low income groups have to pay, the better. They pay several other taxes, or charges, about which we hear week after week. What has happened to this great halo of the principle of ability to pay? We have recently heard from hon. Members opposite and the Government that subsidies should be applied to people's incomes and not to bricks and mortar. Why not apply the same principle to this scheme?
We are marching far from the days when the principle of the contribution was founded. In those days, the contribution was very small, and yet dentures, spectacles, prescriptions, hospital services and the general Health Service was free. I can recall as an office worker deducting from the wages paid by my firm 4s. 11d. a week for those charges. My hon. Friend the Member for Kilmarnock (Mr. Ross) has said that the cost will soon be 12s. 2d., and dentures, spectacles and prescriptions have now to be paid for. Four shillings and elevenpence a week and free cod liver oil has now become a shilling a bottle for cod liver oil and 12s. 2d. a week for a stamp. This method of providing for the interests and needs of the human frame is unjust, because it imposes crippling burdens on those least able to bear them.
As an hon. Member of the Opposition I believe that when we enter the Division Lobby in support of the Amendment we will do so not only on behalf of those who are least able to afford these charges, but in an effort to make the Tory Party keep the promises they made at the last General Election. They said they would reduce the overall contribution from 9s. 11d. to 8s. 4d., and that they would give more for less. That was their election philosophy. That was the propaganda used by them at the election. Today the converse is the truth. Instead of getting more for less, people are to pay more and receive less in return.
§ Mr. Dempsey
I agree. That is an appropriate term to apply to shady tricks, to dishonest politicians, and to hypocrites who have mastered the art of deceiving people. If ever the nation was deceived, it was deceived before the last election. If before the election hon. Gentlemen opposite had told working people that their insurance stamps would be increased, that the element allocated for Health Services would be increased, that they would pay more for subscriptions, that they would pay more for welfare foods and cod liver oil, and more for spectacles and dentures the election result might have been different—
§ Mr. Dempsey
I am trying to defend people in the low income groups. They were the people to whom these infamous promises were made. The promises have not materialised. Hon. Gentlemen have reversed their policy, and in doing so they have disillusioned many people.
As I said before, when we enter the Division Lobby we will not merely be defending the rights and interests of those who are least able to bear these charges, but will be focusing attention on a Government which have misled the people, on a party which has neglected them, and on a propaganda machine which has dishonoured them in every respect. Those are some of the reasons why I support the Amendment
I regret that time does not permit one to make long speeches, because one could quote fact after fact to show that those whose need is greatest are those who will suffer the most. I belonged to the low income group for many years. and so did many of my hon. Friends. That is why we have the interests of those people at heart. I hope that this debate will make the people to whom I am referring realise that they have no friends among hon. Gentlemen opposite, and that the Tory Government of today have no hesitation in breaking the promises of yesterday.
I hope that these low income earners realise that it is the Labour Opposition which is championing their cause. If there are any hon. Members on the Government benches prepared to protect the interests of 791 the low wage earners as they promised prior to the last General Election, I will expect to see them in the Division Lobby supporting the Opposition Amendment.
§ Mr. Loughlin
The Government could easily accept this group of Amendments. The hon. Member for Ilford, South (Mr. Cooper) suggested that there might be some administrative difficulty in applying the provisions of the Amendments. It is generally accepted that if the Government can accept the underlying principle of Amendments, there is no earthly reason why they should not come along on Report and correct inadequacies. The Government have already accepted the principle embodied in the scheme laid down in the Amendments. The graduated pensions scheme allows for the omission of those people who are earning less than £9 a week. There can be only one explanation of that: the Government assume that people earning less than £9 a week are incapable of paying the additional graduated payments for which they receive graduated benefits.
If the Government exclude people in a given wage category on the ground that the wages they receive are insufficient for them to meet the commitments laid down under the pensions scheme, it would be relatively easy for them to accept that people earning under £9 a week are incapable of meeting the additional charges imposed by the Bill.
This principle has been accepted in regard to the additional prescription charges imposed by the Government. I do not say that it relates solely to people earning £9 a week or less, but the Minister of Health indicated that the Government were prepared to repay the prescription charge to people who were earning wages described as being in a low category—a little higher than the £9 a week to which we are referring here. If the Government can accept the principle of the issue of a refund of prescription charges to people in low wage categories there is nothing to stop them from accepting the same principle in relation to the scheme embodied in the Amendments.
Some of us are a little more appreciative of the burdens falling upon the type of people who will be called upon 792 to pay these additional charges in spite of the fact that they are earning less than £9 a week. Some of us have had experience in looking after people in low wage groups in British industry. There are great numbers of people whose total weekly earnings are less than £9 a week. Many agricultural workers are in that category. I know the difference between the basic rate and the definition of earnings as laid down in the Amendment. Many people earning less than £9 a week, and who are affected by Wages Council Orders in various sectors of the distributive trades, have little chance of augmenting their wages either by overtime or by bonus payments.
In every sector of the distributive trades, from food right through to furniture, boots and shoes, clothing, stationery and tobacco, there are work-people earning less than this sum without the opportunity of augmenting it in any way.
§ Mr. Randall
The Financial Secretary will be aware that many civil servants earn less than £9 a week because of the incremental scale. He should know that this operates even in the Civil Service.
§ Mr. Loughlin
I have dealt only with agricultural workers and shop assistants, and I thank my hon. Friend for his intervention.
I was about to refer to people in municipal employment. An enormous number of such people receive less than £9 a week. It may well be that there are some who work in the Palace of Westminster whose total weekly earnings are less than £9. Another category of workpeople who must be considered are the physically and mentally retarded. In every trade union agreement, wages council order or general industrial council order there is a clause allowing for the employment of such people at a rate which is lower than the minimum wage which has been agreed. Such people are employed in industries where the basic wage may be higher than £9 a week, but they will receive less because of their physical or mental handicap. I consider it the height of impudence to say that it is reasonable to impose an additional burden on people whose earnings are less than £9 a week. I speak from experience, because I was not earning more than £9 a week before I entered 793 this House. Someone referred to a wage of £14 a week, but if one has two children to maintain and one wishes to keep up a decent standard £14 a week leaves one still hard-up.
There are plenty of people who make demands on the Government and get what they ask for. Next week we shall be giving £3 million of subsidy to the white fish industry. It does not matter when industrialists come with their begging bowls. But when it is a case of ordinary working men and women, whose remuneration is insufficient to maintain a decent standard, the Financial Secretary cannot look us in the eye —he waves his head about. He is not concerned about them. On two occasions the hon. Gentleman has said that he did not wish to be discourteous to me, because I am one of his constituents. It is not my fault that I am one of his constituents, and I shall be discourteous to him when it comes to looking after people who cannot look after themselves and about whom the hon. Gentleman has no consideration at all. What will this cost? I think it incumbent on the Financial Secretary to tell us how much money would be involved were these Amendments accepted.
To return to the point with which I began, I say that there are no grounds on which the Financial Secretary can reject this series of Amendments, not merely because it would be morally unjust not to accept them, but because the Government themselves on two separate issues have accepted the principle underlined in these Amendments.
§ 9.0 p.m.
§ Mr. Arthur Holt (Bolton, West)
I am very glad to support the Amendment. I think that of all the Amendments on the Notice Paper, those in this group are the ones for which we might have hoped to get some support from the other side of the Committee.
The hon. Member for Ilford, South (Mr. Cooper) reached the stage at which he agreed that at the moment the contributions had reached the limit, and that is certainly going some way for an hon. Member opposite. It is a perfectly genuine and relevant point.
The hon. Member for Gloucestershire, West (Mr. Loughlin) has referred to those 794 people on low incomes who are in some way mentally handicapped, perhaps, and not able to earn a reasonable wage. I do not think there can be any doubt that the level of contributions which we have now reached is a discouragement to an employer who might be thinking of taking on a person who is on the margin of employment, either because he is a poor specimen physically, or, possibly, because he can do only light work.
Anyone who has had any experience in industry knows that there are more people who require light work than it is always easy to find jobs for; but if the employer has to pay what amounts to nearly £1 a week before he gets even five minutes' work out of a man in this category, it is not a great encouragement to an employer to take him on. This applies not only to people who are physically weak, but to persons who have only very low skills to offer to an employer. I think that, as the hon. Member for Ilford, South agrees, we have reached the stage where contributions have reached the limit. Indeed, I think that many hon. Members on this side of the Committee believe that they have passed the limit.
It is not true to say that here is no practical way out of the difficulty, and, in an earlier debate, I suggested one of the ways out. One of these ways is to recognise that the whole of the stamps and insurance scheme has got completely out of hand and completely away from what was originally intended. There is a very good case for considering its amalgamation with the general taxation system. This may be done in various ways, and one of them, which certainly warrants the closest examination now by the Government, is that of a social security tax, which would be on a sliding scale and on a percentage basis, and which would impinge least on those on the lowest wages.
If this could take place within a re-orientated Income Tax system—possibly, an Income Tax system cut in two, with one end amalgamated with the Surtax system and the other with part of the Income Tax system—it could be amalgamated with the insurance stamps scheme and turned into a social security tax. It is not my wish to go into the 795 details of this scheme now, but there certainly are ways out of the difficulty to which the hon. Gentleman has referred.
It is time we heard more from the Government about what they are going to do about that. It has got to the limit and beyond the limit, and steps should be taken to deal with it. The hon. Member is concerned about the effects of some of the other charges. It would be out of order to discuss them at any length now. He is concerned about their impact on people with low incomes. I believe that he has a Motion on the Order Paper about that. The Government themselves have said that they are concerned about this matter and are prepared to take all the action necessary to see that these increased burdens do not impinge upon people with low incomes.
I am sure that I should not be out of order in referring in passing to the fact that this is not being done, because in the Bolton Evening News of Monday last there was a letter which described the experience of an old-age pensioner who had to pay 10s. for prescriptions last week and has been unable to get that refunded from the post office. It would be extremely difficulf to say that all those on low income scales will not suffer by these increased charges, whether for prescriptions or contributions. Before we part with this new legislation we must he far more satisfied than we have been that the actions by the Government in this direction will be thorough to mitigate what otherwise undoubtedly will be a great hardship for many people with low incomes.
§ Mr. Ledger
We were hoping earlier that we might have of least something of a debate on the issues before us. Unfortunately, the hon. Member for Ilford, South (Mr. Cooper) rather spoilt that when he said that for the past three-quarters of an hour he had listened to street corner tub-thumping. It so happened that during that three-quarters of an hour four Conservative hon. Members had been trying to make their points. It seemed rather unfair that when at last hon. Members opposite got into the debate one of their hon. Friends should so describe their efforts.
It is quite obvious that Government supporters have reached a stage of con- 796 siderable embarrassment. Earlier they were arguing that they supported the principle that these contributions should be made according to ability to pay. One after the other they made that point. They said that teenagers could afford to pay extra contributions because of the wages they were earning and because of their extra spending power. That is a principle which we have been trying to introduce all the way through. There is a limit, and these extra charges should not apply to an income of under £9 a week. It follows that when we were joining in argument on that principle and hon. Members of the Opposition and of the Government side of the Committee were talking the same language and suggesting that we should consider the ability of workers to pay according to their income, we expected hon. Members opposite as a body to impress their views on the Financial Secretary and the Economic Secretary.
Many of my colleagues were fully expecting that on this issue the weight of the argument would have forced the Government to accept the Amendment. Obviously, Government supporters are embarrassed because they have supported this principle and are now faced with an Amendment which merits their support. Only the hon. Member for Ilford, South put forward an excuse for not voting for the Amendment. It was said earlier that young people have not the same responsibilities as older people with families. Millions of married men are earning less than £9 a week, and they have considerable family responsibilities.
The Amendment does not cover only those with a regular wage of less than £9 per week. This evening with some of my hon. Friends I interviewed some dock workers. They were most indignant because publicity had been given to the fact that the average earnings of the dock worker were £17 a week. One dock worker showed me his card, which contained a stamp indicating that there has been no employment for him since last December. His earnings have been less than £7 per week during the last two months. The exact words of the Amendment are:after 'men', insert whose earnings for the relative contribution week do not exceed nine pounds…797 Many people in industry earn good wages, but many others earn comparatively low wages. It is unfair that both groups should bear the same increase. All those who have spoken from the benches opposite have made it clear that they regard the level of earnings as important in deciding how much of the increased contribution should be paid.
The Economic Secretary said earlier that he had full authority to receive the recommendations and arguments of the Committee, and then to make any necessary Amendments to the Bill or to accept any Amendments which he thought had received the support of the weight of opinion in the Committee. I challenge him to say other than that all those Members who have spoken tonight have supported the principle of the Amendment. If the hon. Gentleman adheres to the undertaking he gave earlier, it is obvious that there will be no need for a Division on this issue, because he will accept the Amendment and so please not only the Opposition but his own hon. Friends.
§ 9.15 p.m.
§ Mrs. Slater
When I was waiting for the London train at Stoke-on-Trent station on Monday a railway porter said to me, "When you go back to the House will you ask them who the 'Mr. Average Britain' is who earns £14 a week, because I take home less than £9 a week?"
§ Mrs. Slater
No, he is not the head porter. He is a porter who is feeling very angry about the changes now being made. He approached me because great play has been made of the fact that the average worker is earning over £14 a week, and his wife is obviously worried about why he is not taking such an amount home. He asked me to ask someone who these people were and to make quite sure that people understood that many railway workers, unless they work Sundays and overtime on other days, take home less than £9 a week. Railway porters are one example, but there are others. Agricultural workers and some workers in other industries, even the coal mining industry, take home less than £9 a week. They are not all large wage earners.
798 9.15 p.m.
The basic wage of a building labourer is less than £9 a week. We shall want more building labourers if the Government put into operation their bigger hospital building programme, which is said to be the reason for these increased contributions. Yet, on his wage of £9 a week, the building labourer, in order that there will be a job for him in the increased hospital building programme —which may or may not be put into effect—will have to pay an increased contribution.
I turn now to the position of women under the Bill. I do not wish to be a feminist tonight, but I think that someone should put in a plea for women workers earning less than £9 a week. I have taken certain figures from the Ministry of Labour Gazette. In the food and drink industry, the average earnings of women are £6 18s. a week. In chemicals—let us remember that some of them will be working in drug companies which are making huge profits—women are earning £6 19s. a week. In textiles, the average is £7 3s. a week. In clothing and footwear it is £7 a week. In bricks, pottery and glass, it is £6 15s. a week.
All these women who earn considerably less than £9 a week will be asked to pay a contribution increased by 8d. The increase is only 2d. less than men will have to pay and the men in every one of the industries I have mentioned are earning nearly twice as much, on the average, as the women. There are two reasons, therefore, why what is proposed is unfair on women; they pay a much bigger part of the increase proportionately, and they earn very low average wages.
I could instance very many more industries where women earn under £9 a week, but, apart from those, in all the ones I have mentioned very many women are working. In my own industry, pottery. we depend on the women going to work and we always have done because of the kind of work which they do. If it were not for women employed in shops and in the food industry generally, we should be in a pretty poor way indeed. Yet we pay every one of them, on the average, under £9 a week.
Speaking not just of women now but of all people who earn £9 a week and less. 799 I stress that they are asked to bear a tremendous share of the burden of the increase. We have to make the point time and time again but, apparently, no impression is made on the Government benches. My hon. Friend the Member for Romford (Mr. Ledger) has much more faith in hon. and right hon. Members opposite than I have. I do not expect to make the slightest impression on them because I know that they have made up their minds. They have been instructed not to speak, if possible, and they have made up their minds that legislation of this kind is in keeping with Tory policy, that more and more of the burden of taxation should be removed from those who have and put on those who have little or less. That is the principle of present Tory taxation policy.
§ Mr. Ellis Smith
I hope that my hon. Friend has not lost sight of the fact that many hon. Members, including the hon. Member for Wycombe (Mr. John Hall), signed a Motion on the lines of the Amendment.
§ Mrs. Slater
I know very well that. when the Division comes, they will go into the opposite Lobby from us and, after all, that is the important fact. That is what tells. That is the test. It was the test on the original National Health Service Bill. When the Division came, they voted against it. They will do, because although their names may be to a Motion on the Notice Paper, when it comes to the action which they have to take ultimately, they will vote in the interests and according to the policy of the Tory Party.
§ Mr. John Hall
The Amendment is different from the Motion on the Order Paper in my name and that of my hon. Friends. Perhaps the hon. Lady would like to add her name to it. If we have an opportunity to discuss it on the Floor of the House, I assure her that she and I will find ourselves in the same Division Lobby.
§ Mrs. Slater
If the hon. Gentleman comes into the Division Lobby with us tonight, that will be a step in the right direction.
§ Mrs. Slater
I promise the hon. Gentleman that if his Motion is discussed I will 800 take part in the debate if I catch Mr. Speaker's eye.
Any man who earns less than £9 a week cannot possibly enjoy a decent standard of living, and his children must suffer in some way. If the Amendment is not accepted, these people will be asked not only to be satisfied for the time being with £9 a week or less, but to pay in proportion a much heavier part of the burden which these increased contributions will impose. I hope that tonight we shall have much more sympathy from the Government than we have had in the past.
§ Mr. J. B. Symonds (Whitehaven)
I support the Amendment. In 1957 the Minister of Health resigned his position at the Treasury because he wanted the Government to cut their expenditure by £50 million. He is now Minister of Health, but he has forsaken his responsibilties as Minister of Health and has passed them over to the Treasury. As a result, the Treasury will benefit to the extent of £49 million, just £1 million short of the sum by which the right hon. Gentleman wished the Government to cut expenditure in 1957.
Employees are being asked to pay an increase of 10d a week and employers 2d. a week. In general, the charges on both employer and employee in respect of other National Health Insurance contributions are almost equal. This time they are not. Is this because the Government will not have as much tax allowance to give as they would have if the figure—
§ Mr. Symonds
I am sorry, Sir Gordon, if I have strayed a little from it. I am dealing with the increase of 10d. and how it is made up and why there should be an increase of only 2d. on the employer's contribution.
There are over 13 million people who are receiving £9 a week or less. There are shipyard workers on plain time whose basic pay is £8. There are some tradesmen who are receiving only £8 a week. Miners working on the surface and men in the gas industry are receiving less than £9 a week. Some of the men and women working in my constituency receive less than £9 a week.
801 I remember that when one of the Health Service Bills was going through the House, an hon. Member opposite said that people must realise that the Health Service was not free and must be paid for. Is it to be paid for by those least able to bear the cost? What will happen to the family of a £9-a-week man who has to pay a fair amount for rent? At the last election, these were the people who were told that they had never had it so good. Now, on the night before pay day, the husband must do with bread and margarine and a little jam, because it will be impossible to afford anything better. Is this what is known as never having had it so good?
I was surprised that my hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent, North (Mrs. Slater) did not continue her argument when she said that women in industry have to pay an 8d. increase in contribution, or 80 per cent. of the man's contribution, but will get only 75 per cent. of the benefit. This does not fit the views of hon. Members opposite, who so often tell us that justice should be done to everybody.
There are disabled men and women working in Remploy who have served their country. The other night hon. Members opposite spoke of the valuable work they had done. Now, however, they have to pay an additional 10d. a week in addition to the extra 1 s. which starts in April. At the same time, those who get more than £9 a week will be paying 15s. 2d. a week in contributions.
It has often been said that it is a disgrace and a shame to take the penny out of the blind man's tin. Here, however, the Government are taking 10d. a week more from blind men who are hardly able to make £8 or even £7 a week. Is this what hon. Members opposite call justice? They should be ashamed of themselves for robbing the blind and the disabled so that in the Budget they can have an increase in the starting point of Surtax. I appeal to the Financial Secretary to consider our Amendment—I am sure that he will recognise the injustices and hardships that will be created—and to say that he will accept it and bring some consolation to the large number of people on whose behalf I have spoken.
§ 9.30 p.m.
§ Mr. Willis
I enter this debate because, once again, we have had one contribution from the Government side in support of the Government's proposals and against our Amendments. I hope that the Financial Secretary will realise how poor the support has been for the Government during this debate. These debates are being held in circumstances in which there need be no gag on hon. Members opposite.
The intellectual wanderings of the hon. Member for Ilford, South (Mr. Cooper) are most fascinating. At the commencement of the debate today he told us that certain people could afford to pay the contributions and therefore they ought to pay them; but on these Amendments he tells us that certain people cannot afford as much as others and that, therefore, the Government will have to watch and not go above the figure fixed in the Bill for the man with £9 a week. I do not think that is a misrepresentation of what the hon. Member said. The hon. Member is really stumbling and fumbling rather blindly towards the very case that we on these benches have been advocating over past weeks. We have said this over and over again. The hon. Member—and I am very glad about this—is finding his way slowly towards this solution. He may even find himself in the Lobby with us.
I was interested in what the hon. Member had to say. He was trying to ride two horses at once. He told the Government that they ought to look at the position of the £9 a week man; in other words, he was on the side of the £9 a week man. He did not think apparently that the present figure in the Bill was too high, but he warned the Government that they could not go any higher. His attitude was, "You can knock a man about until he is nearly dead, but you must not give him the final blow." That is the doctrine of the hon. Member—"You may knock a man unconscious but you must not finish him off." I am surprised that he should submit that kind of argument as a serious contribution to the debate. The hon. Member will have to do a lot better than that. He may get away with it at 803 Conservative Party conferences and Young Conservatives gatherings, but he will not get away with it in the House of Commons, and certainly not with Scottish Members. It is obvious that he has had no experience of the Scottish Grand Committee, otherwise he would never have come forward with these arguments on the Floor of the Committee.
§ Mr. Cooper
Unfortunately, I have served a small stint on the Scottish Grand Committee. I hope that it was the one and only occasion on which I shall ever be called upon to do so.
§ Mr. Willis
It must have been too short to have taught the hon. Member the very valuable lessons that it could have taught him. I advise him to apply again for membership, when we shall certainly do our best to help on the educational process.
The hon. Member also argued that we could not accept the £9 a week figure and that it would lead to all sorts of administrative difficulties. My hon. Friends have pointed out that the £9 a week principle has already been accepted by the Government and is to be administered by the Government. Why should he suddenly find these difficulties in the way? The Government have already accepted the principle in connection with their graduated pension scheme and have accepted the administration of it.
§ Mr. Willis
It is not quite different. If the hon. Member is frank with himself, he knows in his own mind that he has been excusing himself in his speech and not offering really serious arguments.
My hon. Friends have said quite rightly that this principle could have been adopted and have argued very cogently that it should be adopted. The man with £9 a week has not got so very much to live on. I wonder how hon. Members opposite would like to live on £9 a week. That would not be enough for their dinners in the House of Commons, never mind anything else. Yet other men are expected to live and keep their wives and families on that amount. Then we are told, in this very callous, indifferent and really cruel fashion, that, after all, 10d. is not very much. That was the argument used when the 1957 Act was going 804 through, when an increase of about 6d. was proposed. The argument was that it was a small increase and nothing to worry about. We are now having to pay 2s. 8½d. As my hon. Friend the Member for Sowerby (Mr. Houghton) says, it will go on increasing. That was also the argument used about the first Income Tax, and it is the argument always used on a first occasion. We drive in the tip of the wedge, and then before we know where we are the door has burst wide open to every kind of imposition that the Government care to levy on the individual.
There is no doubt that this proposal distributes the cost of a large part of the Health Service unfairly as between categories of people. There cannot be the slightest doubt about that. It is in line with the whole policy of the Government. What is more, it is a course of action for which the Government have no authority from the electorate. There was not a murmur in the election addresses I saw that the Government were going to do this. It is another Tory procedure. They make all sorts of promises before General Elections. They said, "If we get back into power we shall introduce our graduated pension scheme, and your contributions will go down from 9s. 11d. to 8s. 4d." That was the promise to the man with £9 a week. Instead, he now finds that he will have to pay very much more than 9s. 11d.
§ Mr. Willis
I cannot keep repeating it. If the hon. Gentleman will come into the body of the kirk he will be able to take part in what is going on.
§ Mr. Stanley
Is the hon. Gentleman so frightened that he cannot tell the Committee how much these people will have to pay?
§ Mr. Willis
The hon. Member for North Fylde (Mr. Stanley) ought to get back to the Smoke Room.
805 This is Tory procedure. Since that General Election, none of the promises—
§ Mr. Willis
—has been kept. We get all the class legislation imaginable for a couple of years. After that we get an easing off, and a number of other promises are made for the next General Election. This is what happens time and time again. These are the men who call themselves the gentlemen, members of the gentlemen's party. Really, they behave more disgustingly than anybody else I know. They are a crowd of hypocritical humbugs who come along here mouthing pious expressions of sympathy. Over and over again we have had all sorts of pious expressions of sympathy. They say "We are, of course, greatly concerned with doing what we can; we understand the difficulty." We hear it over and over again in the House. That is the kind of rubbish that we are served up with. Then we watch what they are doing. In six hours today only four Government back benchers have tried to justify what the Government are doing.
§ Mr. Cooper
If the Conservative Party is as permeated with political chicanery as the hon. Gentleman suggests, what reasons does he advance for the fact that since the day the Labour Party got into power in 1945 it has consistently lost votes and seats and three successive General Elections.
§ The Chairman
I hope that the hon. Member for Edinburgh, East (Mr. Willis) will not be tempted to go far beyond the Amendment.
§ Mr. Willis
I am very grateful for your guidance, Sir Gordon. I only wish to say that the hon. Member's historical knowledge is as faulty as his economic arguments, and I leave it at that. If the hon. Member will look at the figures he will see how far he is wrong.
My hon. Friends have cited a number of cases and have referred to all kinds of people who are in those categories of men who should have sympathy and support from all parts of this Committee. 806 Yet not a single soul on the other side of the Committee has expressed that sympathy. We do not have the sympathy of hon. Members opposite even for men in the Remploy factories, the blind, the people who are working four days a week, the men who are struggling along on £8 a week. It may be that the Financial Secretary to the Treasury will at least express some sympathy.
§ Mr. Willis
No doubt. The hon. Gentleman always comes here with a great brief, but he never comes in an endeavour to understand the arguments of this side of the Committee or to accept any of them. He sticks to his brief in a very charming and pleasant manner. I have no complaint about his manner. My complaint is that he does not try to understand the arguments put before him. I can, however, appreciate his position. These are his instructions. I do not think he has the power to do anything other than stick to a brief. That is why we would have been delighted to see the Chancellor of the Exchequer here. We are dealing with 10 million of the poorest working people in the poorest circumstances, and the Chancellor cannot be bothered to come here to listen to a plea that their lot should be lightened.
§ Mr. William Hamilton (Fife, West)
Would my hon. Friend address his remarks to the argument that workers in Scotland earn rather less and particularly the women in Scotland earn less than those in England?
§ Mr. Willis
I agree. I should like to go on longer on that subject, but I know that many of my hon. Friends want to make their contribution to the debate. It is, of course, true that in Scotland wages and incomes tend to be lower, but, whether it is in Scotland, England or Wales, if a man gets less than £9 a week we can be sure that he is not getting it very easily.
Hon. Members opposite should realise that and should realise that it is the duty of the House of Commons to protect these people and to try to place tax burdens on groups of people according to their ability to pay and not say to the £9 a week man, "You will pay as much as the Surtax payer." There is 807 nothing equitable or just about that. It is something of which any Government with any honour or principles at all would be thoroughly ashamed.
§ 9.45 p.m.
§ Dr. King
If I am brief in my intervention in the debate, it is partly because the shadow of the Guillotine is hanging over it and partly because many of my hon. Friends want the honour of taking part in a debate on what I think is one of the most important of the Amendments that we are discussing today.
I should like to say in reply to the recent interjection by the hon. Member for Wycombe (Mr. John Hall) that not only will many of us be pleased to sign the Motion in his name and in the names of some of his hon. Friends, but that if it is debated we shall be delighted to vote for it, and, indeed, to vote for anything which will alleviate the evils done by the Government in this Bill and in much of their treatment of the National Health Service.
It is remarkably significant—and I ask the Financial Secretary to take note of this—that even some hon. Members of his own side are worried about the impact of the various charges the Government are imposing, including this one, on the poorest in the country. It is remarkable that a considerable group of hon. Members opposite should have put down such a Motion. It is not remarkable that the hon. Member for Ilford, South (Mr. Cooper) will go into the Lobby against the Amendment with tears in his eyes. He will weep as the Walrus wept when he proceeded to devour the oysters.
This Amendment is the heart of the matter. The Financial Secretary is a fair and reasonable opponent. I have a feeling that he will be uncomfortable when he gets up to resist the Amendment. I know that he has a stock of alibis—for instance, that it is technically difficult, as the hon. Member for Ilford, South pointed out, to exempt a class from this new poll tax. That argument has never weighed with me. We have the most technically efficient Treasury in the world, and whenever it is a question of taking taxes from people in any form, then no matter how technically difficult the problem is the Chinese mathematicians—to borrow a phrase from my hon. 808 and learned Friend the Member for Kettering (Mr. Mitchison)—at the Treasury are always able to circumvent them. I am certain that if the Financial Secretary will concede what we ask for in principle, he has enough clever men at the Treasury to devise ways of carrying out the Amendment.
It is a truism to say that the poll tax element of taxation weighs heaviest on the poor, and that the new flat rate charges the Government are making, including this 10d. for men, must weigh heaviest on the poorest. Indeed, that principle is not even challenged by the Government, because they are making arrangements to alleviate the burden of the poorest—those on National Assistance—and the Minister of Health himself is going out of his way to extend the realm of National Assistance.
All we seek to do is to extend the principle which the Government already concede. We seek to relieve the burden from the poorest and to extend the alleviations of the new flat rate burden on those earning less than £9 a week.
I thought that it would be self-evident that it is morally wrong that someone earning £9 a week should pay the same contribution as the millionaire. I ask hon. Members to imagine how they themselves would live on £9 a week. Such a person has to have a home and must pay rent. If we are to talk in averages, then rents are now averaging at least 30s. a week. Indeed, in this great metropolis, rents are shooting high to such an extent that I wonder how the workers in London will some day be able to pay the extravagant rents which are called for from them. One thing is certain, and that is that out of £9 a week income or less a considerable amount has to go in rent. After paying 30s. to £2 a week for rent and rates, the married man with a wife and child and earning £9 a week has to provide food and clothing and fuel and luxuries —and no one will deny that every British citizen has a right to some luxuries. All that has to come out of £9 a week, and in many cases less than £9 a week.
If it is argued that there are not so many of the millions of people for whom we are pleading who are married and getting only £9 a week, then my experience from the letters I have received is that many of the single people who live 809 in lodgings find that the cost of lodgings is even more burdensome than the cost of renting a house is to a married man.
To put it in its simplest human terms, there is no hon. Member who can live for the five days a week that he is in London on £9. I emphasise that some of our own staff in the House of Commons are getting less than £9 a week. I hope that the day will come when they are 100 per cent. organised. If they were, some of the conditions in which they work would go and many of them would lift themselves out of the class which we propose to benefit by this Amendment.
It is common knowledge that we are against a poll tax on principle and against any extension of the poll tax. We do not agree with the hon. Member for Ilford, South that this is the limit. We think that the limit was reached long ago and that the figure should now be moving down. But, if we are against the poll tax in principle, we are profoundly against inflicting the injustice of a poll tax on the poorest. It is bad that a man earning £14 a week should have to pay the same contribution as the man earning £140 a week. But if that is true, it is even worse that the man earning £9 a week should have to pay the same contribution as the man earning £90 or £140 a week.
I hope that the Financial Secretary will address himself not only to our arguments, but to the feeling which has been expressed and which we will continue to express and to the simple fact that if the Amendment is not accepted, millions of people will be asked to bear a burden which no one in the House of Commons can defend their having imposed on them.
§ Mr. Manuel
We consider it an honour to take part in the debate on this Amendment, as my hon. Friend the Member for Southampton, Itchen (Dr. King) has said. We believe that those who earn £9 a week and less should not be called upon to pay the increased contributions.
No matter how much he may try to ride out the storm of argument, in his soul and conscience the Financial Secretary must be a very troubled man tonight. If he is not, there is something 810 wrong with him. Many hon. Members opposite must be extremely troubled about justifying what the Bill is doing. It is all very well for the hon. Member for Ilford, South (Mr. Cooper) to say that, although we had increases in contributions in 1957 and in 1958, as well as this, he will not support further increases and that this must be regarded as the final one. That was said each time there was an increase. We must never forget that it was the party opposite which in 1957 brought in this principle. It was a departure from what we envisaged when we introduced the National Health Service Act.
I want to relate my arguments to the thousands of people who are handicapped from birth. Because of their infirmity, their parents are faced with added expenses to get them educated. We ought to regard the Health Service as something which is intended to help weaker members of our community. People who are born cripples, or who become cripples, are under a handicap as regards earning capacity compared with normal people.
The majority of handicapped people come from the income group about which we are concerned. Because of their handicaps, in the present social order they are not able to earn as much as the normal worker in industry or in the professions. Consequently, because of this social order which is propped up by hon. Gentlemen opposite, these weaker members of the community go to the wall because it is considered right and proper that they should not as of right earn as much as ordinary people.
Should not the Financial Secretary have some regard for these handicapped people? The party opposite has shown little regard for them. We tried to do what we could to make it easier for these crippled people by providing free surgical boots to enable them to get employment. We provided support bandages for people who had varicose veins, but the party opposite has decided to impose charges on these weaker people. They must now pay for their surgical hoots and support bandages.
Instead of regarding these handicapped people as members of our family and part of our nation to be supported and helped and treated as members of our brotherhood, they are being ostracised. 811 Things are being made much more difficult for them, and they will inevitably be forced on to a lower standard of living. They will be forced to live under miserable conditions.
During my years of service as convener of a public health committee, I discovered that, because of the strain put on sound limbs by crippled limbs. these unfortunate people were prone to more illnesses than normal persons. I do not want to get out of order by bringing in the question of the charges, but the type of person to whom I am referring—fully employed, but receiving a low wage—will have the added burden of paying 2s. per item on his prescriptions.
I feel deeply about this. I do not want to lambast hon. Members opposite and say that they have no souls or honour, but they did not say this sort of thing during the General Election campaign. They did not say that they would impose extra contributions. I do not know one hon. Member opposite who would be prepared to address a public meeting of wage earners and seek to justify the indignities. slights and denigrations experienced by the type of handicapped person of whom I have been talking. I could go on and refer to the money spent in trying to equip spastic children with an earning capacity, so that some part of their adult life can be spent in useful employment. They also come into this category, and hon. Members opposite ought to be heartily ashamed of this piece of legislation, which will have such an impact on people who are already far too hard-hit.
§ 10.0 p.m.
§ Mr. George Thomas (Cardiff, West)
My hon. Friends from Scotland have been giving the Committee some moving illustrations of the way in which this provision will operate if it is unamended, and have submitted considerations which the Financial Secretary and the Government should not ignore. The arguments they have put forward ought to be decisive. It is not merely the arithmetical argument which should influence the Government in coming to a decision on the question raised by the Amendment. There are humane considerations which are as important as the arithmetical calculations to which reference has already been made.
812 I realise the difficulties of hon. Members opposite. They find it difficult to believe that 10d. per week means much to a family. I understand that; it is difficult for them to realise just what it means. But this is the last straw. It is an additional burden which the party opposite is seeking to impose upon that very sector of our community which has a right to look to the House of Commons for protection. I believe that the hon. Member for Tynemouth (Dame Irene Ward) is nodding her head in approval. She is the champion of people with low pensions—
§ Mr. Thomas
—and I am sure that she will be ready to support the Amendment in order to assist people with in-comes of £9 a week or less. These people have not had an opportunity to cushion themselves against the other increases which accompany this Government proposal.
What would be the social consequences if the Amendment were accepted? What would be the effect among the trade unionists—the organised workers upon whom, at the end of the day, we all depend? I believe that there is a feeling in the country that to expect people earning under £10 a week—not £9—to pay this higher contribution is unjust, and that the rest of the organised workers would welcome the relief which the acceptance of this Amendment would give to their brothers in industry.
Where would the Minister look for the money which he would lose if those earning £9 a week were exempted from paying this higher contribution? I am not sure how much would be involved, but no doubt the Minister will tell us. I suggest there are other ways in which the money could be obtained from people who are better able to afford to pay it. It is absurd that the little shop assistant in Cardiff should have to pay the same contribution as the managing director of the firm. It is absurd that a porter on Cardiff station, and of course porters on any other station—
§ Mr. Thomas
Yes, the porter will pay the same as the station master. The plain truth is that there would be a wave of sympathy from the public in favour of this Amendment, because it offends the sense of fair play which characterises British people that we should impose an obligation on our lowest paid wage-earners merely in order to make it easier for those who are better off.
I have a special interest in disabled persons which I am sure is shared by my hon. Friends, and perhaps by some hon. Members opposite. We all express an interest and feel deeply for those folk less fortunate than ourselves. Almost every disabled person who is in employment will be hit by this proposal. Surely it is not unreasonable to say to the Government, "Find a formula to protect the weakest of all; to restore the principle, which we accept in this community, that the strong shall protect the weak." Through the centuries the House of Commons has been the custodian of the rights of the humblest people and we pride ourselves that they can get justice. This Amendment is designed to give the social justice to which they are entitled to those people who are unable to fight for themselves.
I hope that the Financial Secretary will not regard the Amendment as a formal affair. We have submitted it because we feel deeply that the Government are making a big mistake in hitting people who earn under £9 a week. Ours is an affluent society, and in such a society it is harder to bear poverty than it is where the poverty is shared by everyone. The people for whom we are pleading have a right to expect the Government to honour the promises which were made at the General Election about the contributions which they would pay, and I am convinced that we have public opinion with us. I ask the Government to look again at this proposal.
§ Sir D. Glover
We are having a very interesting debate on this Amendment. Certainly the hon. Member for Cardiff, West (Mr. G. Thomas) has given us a very interesting speech, though the hon. Member for Edinburgh, East (Mr. Willis) made the most incomprehensible speech which I have heard for a very long time. 814 [Interruption.] Perhaps I may be allowed to get on with my speech, because hon. Members opposite may not dislike what I am going to say.
I believe that there is more substance in the Amendments submitted by the Opposition than there is in all the Amendments that we are debating today; but, as usual with the Opposition, they are so inefficient and never do their homework that they put down Amendments which nobody in his right senses, bearing in mind the context of the Bill, could possibly support.
Let hon. Members opposite and also my hon. Friends have a look at this problem. Hon. Members opposite are in fact, saying that a single youth of 19, drawing £8 15s. a week, with no responsibilities shall receive special treatment, but that his father, drawing £11 a week, and with a wife to keep, shall get no special consideration. They are saying that all those in the lower income groups, who, by and large, are the youngest element of the population with the smallest amount of responsibility, should be given special consideration, but that even in that narrow group—and I believe there is a problem here—those earning between £8 and £10 or £11 a week, who have responsibilities, are not to be taken care of at all. I think that the Opposition have missed a very good chance of bringing before the Committee an Amendment which could have been very worth while.
Let me go on to deal with the Amendment. The national average of wages is £15 per week. [HON. MEMBERS: "No, £9 per week."] There are also 7 million people—let us come down to the people about whom one hon. Member opposite was talking to me the other day—who have an income after taxation of £6 or £7 per week. Everybody in this Committee, particularly all the trade union people, know perfectly well that no man under a trade union agreement is drawing £6 or £7 a week and, therefore, these 7 million people are in the teenage group. If they are drawing that lower income and if the average is so much higher, who, in fact, are we dealing with in these Amendments? How many people, who are seriously affected by these proposals are these Amendments designed to cover?
I should like my right hon. Friend at the Ministry to have a look at the 815 problem. I started by saying that I believed that there was a problem here, but it is a very narrow one, though I think that we should perhaps have a look at it. Certainly, we could not look at it under the Amendment now before the Committee. The Amendment has been put down without any thought. It does not cover the problem which it is designed to cover, and for that reason, I shall have no difficulty in opposing it.
§ 10.15 p.m.
§ Mrs. Judith Hart (Lanark)
It would have been better if hon. Members opposite who think the Opposition have a good idea but one which is not good enough were prepared to improve it. The hon. Member for Ormskirk (Sir D. Glover) has found himself in some difficulty, I think, in understanding how one can reconcile an attempt to provide the social minimum which in fact is what the Amendment seeks to do—
§ Mr. Loughlin
May I point out that my hon. Friend the Member for Lanark (Mrs. Hart) is falling for the same sort of thing as the hon. Member for Ormskirk (Sir D. Glover). We are discussing a series of Amendments, not just one Amendment.
§ Mrs. Hart
My hon. Friend the Member for Gloucestershire, West (Mr. Loughlin) will appreciate that I was about to come to the general context not only of the Bill but of the whole Tory social legislation. We on this side of the Committee are concerned not only to seek to amend this Bill but to amend a great deal of the other aspects of social and economic legislation which this Government have continued to carry through since the last General Election. One of the aspects to which we should like to draw attention in relation to this Amendment and the series of Amendments is the need to increase the proportion of direct taxation as against indirect taxation and poll taxes.
§ The Deputy Chairman (Major Sir William Anstruther-Gray)
I am sorry to interrupt the hon. Lady, but I think it would be better to keep to the Amendment we are discussing.
§ Mrs. Hart
I am sorry, Sir William, if I strayed, but I was endeavouring to show that along with this Amendment 816 there are other activities which, if the Opposition had its way, would completely cover any doubts which the hon. Member for Ormskirk may have.
During the course of debate on this Amendment, mention has been made of various groups of lower-paid workers. I have heard hon. Friends mentioning one after another of them, and 1 have realised that every one of those groups is widely represented in my constituency. Large numbers of agricultural workers on low wages are in my constituency, and there is a large number of the miners to which an hon. Friend referred who are not earning the fabulous sums imputed by irresponsible hon. Members opposite and the Tory Press. There are large numbers of railway workers and certainly a great many women workers in my constituency who are on extremely low wages. In the hosiery industry, which is covered by a set of agreements in Scotland rather different from those in England and Wales, the agreements are less generous to women workers in Scotland.
There is an enormous group of people on low wages. But there is another problem to which I want to direct the attention of the Financial Secretary. No doubt the Financial Secretary will have drawn to the attention of the President of the Board of Trade that in many areas of Scotland we have the difficulty of spending a much higher proportion of the average wage on travelling to work because there is inadequate source of work in the immediate area. That is one of the problems in many parts of Scotland and certainly in my constituency. There are families with low incomes in occupations in which the wages are low. In addition to bearing 'this new burden which we are discussing and many other burdens which the Government have imposed on them in the last year or so and will continue to impose, they have to pay out of their wages considerably more than other people for public or private transport in order to get to jobs a long way from their homes.
If the President of the Board of Trade were asked by the Financial Secretary when this Bill was under consideration to pay particular attention to employment needs in those areas, one might be a little more likely to be assured of the 817 genuineness of his concern for many of these people. One sees so little effort made to solve this aspect of the economic problem of the lower-paid worker who has no employment near at hand that one is compelled to doubt many of the assurances of concern made by hon. Members opposite.
In view of what we read about the philosophical background to this Bill in particular and to a great deal of emerging Tory Party legislation and Tory Party thinking, I wonder exactly what the objection of the Financial Secretary is to this Amendment and this whole series of Amendments. The Financial Secretary has his own rather definite and individualistic interpretations of the values of our society. For example, a few months ago in Oxford he made a speech in which he drew attention to the new values in our present society which indicated how healthy it was and indicated the virtues of the affluent society he likes to talk about. One of the criteria to which he drew attention—he clearly regards it as an important one, because it was one of only four which he mentioned—was the fact that the British population is consuming more wine. The hon. Gentleman regards this as a significant factor.
§ Mrs. Hart
I assure the Financial Secretary that if he came to my constituency or to the constituencies of my hon. Friends and said that he regards as the test of the affluent society and the social values of our society its ability to consume wine, as against its ability to maintain its health, he would find that his assumptions were severely challenged.
The Financial Secretary is very apt to prefer his own individualistic concept of the way to measure affluence to sets of measurements which can be produced for him, and are frequently produced for him, by his own staff. He and many hon. Members opposite, such as the hon. Member for Ormskirk spoke of the average wage. A long time ago there may have been no other kind of measurement than to quote the average, but as long ago as Charles Booth wrote his book in the 1880s we in this country began to realise that there are more 818 accurate ways of measuring the economic and social health of the country than to cite an average which may conceal many iniquities. In this day and age and in the context in which it is being used the average does conceal many iniquities.
A few minutes ago I was occupying myself by doing a little arithmetic. Arithmetic is not one of my strong points. I was so surprised at the results I obtained that I felt compelled to consult my hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Craigton (Mr. Millan), who is an expert in these matters. He confirmed that my arithmetic was right. If one tries to work out various ways in which an average wage of £14 a week can be arrived at, one finds that by taking 100 people earning £7 a week, 50 people earning £28 a week, and 10, 20, 50 or 100 people earning £14 a week, one arrives at the average of £14 a week. What is the use of such an argument if the average may represent a large majority of the population earning £14 a week, a large majority of the population earning only half that amount, with a small minority earning twice that amount, or any variation in the figures which one likes to employ?
§ Mr. Dudley Williams (Exeter)
I realise that the hon. Lady wants to be quite fair. I am sure that she will agree that since 1951 the consumption of food in this country has increased considerably—that is, since the Conservatives took over.
§ Mrs. Hart
I am sure that it has. I should be very surprised if during years in which technological developments have proceeded apace the consumption of food in this country had not risen. But in some parts of the country during the same period the standard of nutrition has not risen very much. Standards of health have not risen very much either. In the County of Lanark last year the infant mortality rate, which is generally reckoned to be a safe index of economic prosperity, was several points higher than the year before. During all the years in which the Tory Government have been in power the infant mortality rate in my county has dropped by very little indeed compared 819 with the amount it dropped between 1945 and 1950. [An HON. MEMBER: "Poor administration."] It is recognised that infant mortality is not an index of the efficiency of an administration in an area, but is an index of the level of economic well-being.
The question of standards of nutrition has been raised. The Minister of Pensions and National Insurance has expressed his unwillingness to find out accurately whether the standard of nutrition of the susceptible groups in this country will be seriously affected by the legislation now passing through the House. By the susceptible groups I mean the lower-paid workers, whose case we are now discussing, and others like the old, the chronic sick and families with several young children. I know, of course, that there is a National Food Survey carried out by the Minister of Agriculture, but this survey again is of the "umbrella" type which takes in everyone and really tells us nothing. It covers a large number of people. It does not select groups for special attention. It does not, for example, select old-age pensioners and take a representative sample of them to study their needs. It does not take a representative sample of lower-paid workers to discover whether they are adversely affected by the Government's legislation.
The Financial Secretary should advise his right hon. Friends the Minister of Pensions and National Insurance and the Minister of Agriculture that, if they really wish to assure the country with any certainty that this Bill will not have a serious adverse effect on the health of the people, they should undertake adequate, efficient social surveys.
The Financial Secretary will develop the argument which we hear from people like Professor Graham Hutton, the 820 editor of Crossbow, and others who have been writing in the papers during the last few weeks who advance the notion that not only should people pay more directly for the services they receive under the Welfare State but that a test of means should be the way to judge ability to pay. Here is the crucial difference between the two sides of the Committee in our discussion of the Amendments. Hon. Members maintain that they have sympathy for the people we are considering.
§ Mr. K. Lewis rose—
§ Mrs. Hart
No, I cannot give way. Hon. Members opposite, although they claim to have sympathy for the people we are discussing, cannot find it possible to vote for the Amendment. We, on the other hand, seek to establish a social minimum below which no family should be allowed to fall. Hon. Members opposite are not seeking to establish a social minimum. They seek to put through the rigours of a fairly minute means test any family which tries to escape or which deserves to escape the burden of the increased contributions levied under the Bill.
This is a very important difference. We on this side would dearly like to preserve the Welfare State which was built up by the Labour Party, in spite of opposition from the party opposite, in the years after the war but which at this stage is being attacked by hon. and right hon. Members opposite. In our efforts, we are faced with the desire of many of the philosophers, economists and back-room boys of the Tory Party to slash away the foundations of the Welfare State. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] If hon. Members doubt that, they should read more of their own literature. We seek in this situation at least to preserve the social minimum for those who without it will be forced to fall by the way.
§ 10.30 p.m.
§ Sir E. Boyle
I am more flattered than I can say that the hon. Lady the Member for Lanark (Mrs. Hart) should recall an obscure point in a speech which I made four years ago, in February, 1957, to the Oxford University Conservative Association. I think I should be out of order, Sir William, if I were to reply to the hon. Lady in detail. I would, however, say this to her. I am quite impenitent in my view—and 1 will debate it with her on any suitable occasion—that one of the advantages of a society which is growing in wealth is that ordinary individuals can enjoy for themselves experiences which were denied to the older generation. That is a view which I think she will find is held by many hon. Members on her side of the Committee who are in a rather different tradition from her own.
I should like at the beginning of my remarks to refer to one point which was made by the hon. Member for Edinburgh, East (Mr. Willis), who said that my right hon. and learned Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer has not been present today. My right hon. and learned Friend has been present at earlier stages of the Bill. He also asked me to apologise to the Committee for the fact that he has not been able to attend today's debate, for various reasons, but he certainly hopes to attend later stages of the Bill.
This has been a serious debate for the most part on what I recognise is a group of Amendments on which hon. Members opposite feel strongly. The hon. Member for Central Ayrshire (Mr. Manuel) said that he thought that I was probably feeling troubled in mind—
§ Sir E. Boyle
—troubled in conscience in opposing this Amendment. I say to the hon. Member that I do not feel troubled in conscience about it, for a reason which I gave on the Second Reading. I should like to read one short extract from my Second Reading speech, which I think is directly relevant to the group of Amendments which we are considering. I said:If we want to measure the effect of the Government's proposals, we have to consider the position of the ordinary citizen in three 822 aspects—as taxpayer, as contributor, and, and by no means least, as a recipient of the benefits of the social service. If we consider the main recipients of the social service benefits, that is to say, the ordinary wage earners, one fact emerges which cannot really be disputed. Not only have they increased their standard of living more rapidly in the 1950's than ever before, but they have also enjoyed a higher rate of social benefits than ever before. This applies to the lower-paid workers as well."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 15th February. 1961 Vol. 634, c. 1425.]That seems to me to be indubitably true.
The hon. Member for Central Ayr-shire gave what was, in fact, a very good example of this. The hon. Member asked how those who are handicapped will fare in the light of this new contribution. The hon. Member must recall that during the 1950's there has been a far more rapid improvement in education for the handicapped, both for the physically handicapped and for the educationally subnormal, than ever before. It is worth recalling that far more handicapped people in this country have a chance today to earn a decent livelihood than in any previous decade.
§ Sir E. Boyle
In the Ministry of Education this matter was my own special responsibility. I would say that there is a far bigger chance today for those who are handicapped to improve their earning capacity and to rise above the £9 a week standard than there has ever been before, as a result of the improved social provisions.
§ Mr. Symonds
The Minister has said that the opportunity exists for the handicapped person to earn more in the 1950's. Is he aware that today the blind person employed in industrial workshops has 6d. deducted for every 1 s. he earns above £2 10s. and his maximum is £7 5s? In what respect is his standard lifted above that of 1945?
§ Sir E. Boyle
I think it has always been recognised that blindness is in a special category of disability. The hon. Gentleman specifically referred to spastics, and I would say that people with a mild degree of cerebral palsy have better opportunities for training today than they have ever had before.
§ Mr. Manuel
The hon. Member has missed the point which I made. I referred to a handicapped person, a cripple or a spastic, earning £9 a week or less and having a greater outlay, because of his handicap, than a normal person earning more.
§ Sir E. Boyle
I recognise that. When considering these contributions and the total of what wage earners have to contribute one way or another through taxes and contributions towards the social services in general and the Health Service in particular, it is only fair to consider the improved standards of social benefits which have been developed since the war.
The hon. Member for Kilmarnock (Mr. Ross), who moved the Amendment in a short and moderate speech, made the classical and reasonable case for the Amendment when he said that the flat-rate contribution should be raised no higher. As I have said many times in these debates, the total flat-rate contribution, as a combination of this contribution and the insurance contribution, will impose a levy of 10s. 7d. a week on everyone earning £9 a week or less. The Government recognise that there is a point above which it would be socially unjust to raise this contribution. That point was made by my hon. Friend the Member for Ilford, South (Mr. Cooper), who said that we had reached that point. Certainly there is a point above which any further increase would be unjustified, but it must be a matter of judgment rather than of principle exactly when that point has been reached, and in the Government's view, when we consider the general level of earnings today and even the earnings of the lower-paid workers, we do not feel that a total flat-rate levy of 10s. 7d. a week is unreasonable on earnings of £9. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] I am not attempting to conceal the Government's view. Hon. Members opposite have stated their view and I am putting the Government's view.
I will cite an example. I do not think it unfair to take the example of the agricultural worker, who is typical among lower-paid workers. If we compare the proportion which the contribution bears to earnings for the agricultural worker in 1948 and 1961, we see that in 1948 the agricultural worker paid 4s. lid. in contribution on average earn 824 ings of 104s. 4d., which is 4.7 per cent. In the summer of 1959, the last period for which we have the earnings figure, the contribution was 9s. 11d. and the average earnings 204s. ld., which was 4.9 per cent. There has been an increase in agricultural workers' earnings of about 16s. between 1959 and 1961; I do not think that that is an unreasonable rate of increase to take. If we take the new flat-rate contribution and an increase in earnings of 16s. between 1959 and 1961, we get the same percentage. For agricultural workers one cannot say that that is an unreasonable proportion.
§ Mr. W. Hamilton
Does not the hon. Member know that the Scottish agricultural worker has a lower wage than the English agricultural worker? As he pays the same Hate-rate insurance contribution, the percentage will be quite different for him.
§ Sir E. Boyle
I am glad to admit that I was quoting the average figure for England and Wales, which, after all, are not a negligible part of the United Kingdom. I apologise to the hon. Member.
The hon. Member for Edinburgh, East referred to the Scottish Grand Committee. I have served on that Committee. The very first remarks I made as a Member were made in that Committee. I well recall the last time I served on it; the noble Lord, Lord Boothby raised a point of order, saying, "Could the hon. Members opposite speak a little less loudly because otherwise we cannot get on with our correspondence?" Listening to hon. Members opposite today, I remembered that story.
§ Mr. G. Thomas
Is the Financial Secretary aware that we are not talking about people with over £9 a week, whatever be the national average? We have confined our arguments—[Horn. MEMBERS: "The Government confine them."]—to the people who are getting £9 a week or less.
§ Sir E. Boyle
A number of hon. Members have cited the agricultural workers in their speeches. Many hon. Members have done that.
§ Mr. Morris rose—
§ Sir E. Boyle
No, I cannot give way now. I must get on. I want to give time 825 for the hon. Member for Sowerby (Mr. Houghton) to reply.
I should like to take one other point of the hon. Member for Kilmarnock. He referred to what was said at the last election about a flat-rate contribution. I think it is only fair to remember that at the time of the consideration of the graduated pension scheme the combined employee contribution was 9s. 11d. It is now to be 10s. 7d. It is true that the contribution has gone up on what it was to be, but, of course, benefits have gone up as well. It is only fair to remember, leaving out the rise in the contribution for the Health Service, that the increase in total contribution will pay for higher social service benefit.
§ Sir E. Boyle
No, but what we did say at the election was that pensioners would share in the benefits of an expanding economy.
§ Sir E. Boyle
I thought it was the hon. Gentleman the Member for Kilmarnock who was rather trying to have things both ways, but, at any rate, I have made my point and he has made his.
The Leader of the Liberal Party asked me two questions which I should like to answer. First of all he asked what would be the cost of accepting this group of Amendments. I can tell the Committee that it is difficult to estimate these things but it would be somewhere between £4 and £5 million.
The other question which the hon. Gentleman put was about employed people at or just above National Assistance levels and he said we might do something for them. I gathered from remarks in a number of speeches that hon. Members thought that we should be doing something on the same lines as relieving from prescription charges those just above subsistence levels. I think there are two difficulties about this. First, it would be impracticable except by some form of means test, because in some weeks people would qualify for the concession and in some weeks they would 826 not. And in any case there is the point —I am afraid I must repeat it again—on which we can agree, that there is a limit above which a flat rate contribution should not be raised, but I do not believe that has yet been reached, as I said just now, and I do not believe we should be justified in making the sort of concession which the hon. Gentleman had in mind.
§ Mr. Diamond
I am sorry to trouble the hon. Gentleman for the figures, but I am sure that he has got them handy. He has just told the Committee that the cost would be between £4 million and £5 million. Will he let the Committee know what reduction in the rate of Surtax would produce a similar figure of between £4 million and £5 million?
§ Sir E. Boyle
I think that all I can say to that is it may or may not be appropriate to discuss that fully on a future occasion.
The hon. Gentleman the Member for Accrington (Mr. H. Hynd)—I cannot see him here now—and other hon. Members in effect raised the question whether we could not go for some more graduated type of National Health contribution. The hon. Gentleman the Member for Bolton, West (Mr. Holt) raised the same point. I would only say two things to such a graduated pension. First of all, if we try to have a graduated health contribution on the same lines as the graduated employment insurance contribution it would favour unduly the contracted out and the self-employed. It would be impossible for administrative reasons to graduate their contribution according to income, and there would have to be a charge at an arbitrary rate. There is another difficulty, too. We have on a number of occasions discussed whether or not this graduated health contribution is in the nature of a tax. I think the last time we met in Committee we were really all agreed that of course a graduated health contribution would not be graduated according to total income including investment income. This is a point which would appeal to the hon. Gentleman the Member for Sowerby. It is one thing to ignore this for insurance purposes, but it would be very much harder to do it in the case of a contribution which, as we all agree on both sides, bears rather closer relations to a tax than a graduated insurance contribution.
827 I would reply to the hon. Member for Edinburgh, East by saying that the fact that we have adopted a £9 figure for the graduated insurance scheme would not help in any way administratively to carry out the Amendment. The point is that everyone pays a flat-rate contribution—those above £9 per week pay a graduated contribution as well—and there is, thus, no way of distinguishing the man below £9 per week from the man above £9 per week simply by virtue of his stamp.
I would say generally to the Committee on this point that of course the Government have not closed their mind for all time on the future of this question. Of course we shall consider continental experience and experience in other parts of the world. I do not rule out for all time the idea that we may move to some more graduated system. But the Committee should realise that it would not be possible to bring in a graduated health contribution bearing an exact analogy to the graduated insurance contribution.
I shall not detain the Committee much longer, because I know from past experience that anyone replying to a debate at a quarter to eleven on a Thursday evening is welcomed if he is fairly brief. I should just like to reply shortly to one or two more of the points raised.
The hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, South (Mr. Ellis Smith) said that all parties in the war were committed to the idea of a National Health Service without a penny being contributed by the people of this country. That is surely an unreal concept. The hon. Member was, I think, fairly and ably contradicted in a very thoughtful speech by the hon. Lady the Member for Cannock (Miss Lee) at an earlier stage in our debates, when she pointed out that all taxpayers today contribute a great deal towards the National Health Service. That is perfectly true.
The really important point to consider is the ratio between that part of the Health Service which is financed out of general taxation and that part which is financed out of contributions. I have given as my view that the present ratio of £148 million financed out of contributions and £600 million financed out 828 of general taxation is not an unfair proportion. I do not believe that we can carry this matter very far beyond what we have already done.
§ Mr. Ellis Smith
I wish to quote from a document which all parties accepted. It states that the restoration of a sick person to health is a duty of the State. It also says that the Service should be provided where needed without contribution conditions in any individual case.
§ Sir E. Boyle
The Economic Secretary reminds me of what was said in the 1946 White Paper, paragraph 7 of which said:The health Service is to be financed partly from the Exchequer, partly from local rates, partly from the help which part of the National Insurance contributions will give.These are the only possible sources of finance for the National Health Service. It must be a matter of judgment what the proportions between the various sources of finance are at any time.
The hon. Lady the Member for Stoke-on-Trent, North (Mrs. Slater) said tonight, as has been said on several occasions earlier in our debates, that the whole policy of my right hon. and hon. Friends was a policy of removing the burden of taxation from those who have to those who have little. All I can say to her, quite genuinely, is that looking at the figures for the last nine years since my right hon. Friends came into power, I do not believe that is true. If one grosses up the National Health Service contribution with the yield year by year from indirect taxation, one finds that the proportions of the total revenue in this country were 42¾ per cent. of total revenue financed out of direct taxation in 1951–52 and 43½ per cent. now.
I repeat the point that I have made on many occasions earlier in these debates, that we simply cannot accept for a single moment that the direct taxpayers of this country have not been bearing their full share of the cost of a growing social service system.
Of course we ought to think just exactly what we are doing in detail when we pass a Bill of this kind, and of course I quite agree with the hon. Lady the Member for Lanark that we should not ignore any evidence that social surveys can give us. But I think that it would be rather difficult for the most modern and up-to-date social survey to isolate what will be the exact effect of an extra 829 10d. on the employee as a means of financing the Service.
I do not believe, at a time when Health Service expenditure has gone up by £125 million in three years and when we are seeing next year not a smaller but a larger sum of money financed out of general taxation, that the lower-paid worker in our society is getting an unfair deal today. Just as more and more have been benefiting from economic expansion, an ever-growing number of them have been benefiting enormously from improved social services over a wide field. For all the reasons I have given I invite the Committee to reject the Amendment.
§ Mr. Houghton
We are grateful to two hon. Members opposite for having make sympathetic noises over our Amendment, although both of them have found excuses for not supporting us in the Division Lobby. The hon. Member for Ilford, South (Mr. Cooper) said that in his view the Amendment was administratively impracticable. I give two replies to him, one on principle and one on machinery.
On the principle of the matter, I would quote to him what his hon. Friend the then Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Health said in Committee on 1 1 th March, 1958. His words were:But I shall not make too much of the administrative inconvenience, because we are all agreed that if a thing is just and right we should not allow administrative inconvenience to prevent us from passing the right legislation."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 11th March, 1958; Vol. 584. c. 310.]On the question of machinery, I would say to the hon. Member that under the graduated pensions scheme, which is already law and will shortly be in operation, employers have to distinguish between those getting £9 a week and those getting more. I think that it would be a nuisance, but it would not be impracticable, for employers to fix a stamp of lower value on the cards of workers getting £9 a week or less, because already they have to take notice of those getting more than £9 for the purpose of the graduated pension.
The hon. Member for Ormskirk (Sir D. Glover) said he had more sympathy for this Amendment than for previous ones, but there were serious flaws in it and no one in his senses would support it. He gave as an example what the 830 Amendment would mean to a youth of 19 earning £8 10s. a week, and he said that he would pay less than his father who was getting £11 but who might have family responsibilities. But the Government's own scheme will make the boy of 19 earning £8 10s. a week pay less than his father by making the father pay Is. 10d. a week more under the graduated pension scheme. The hon. Member ought to do his homework, too, and see what the differences are under the graduated scheme.
The Amendment goes to the heart of the Bill. It is another attempt to get contributions related to some semblance of ability to pay. To us the importance of the Amendment is that it covers so many people. Its importance lies also in the fact that it is an attempt to safeguard the economic interests of the lowest-paid in our community. It will cover probably 7¾ million people getting £9 a week each or less.
When an Amendment was moved to the National Health Service Contributions Bill, 1958, the then Financial Secretary of the Treasury replied to the debate in a very different vein from the speech of the present Financial Secretary this evening. The Government's reply to our Amendment then was that it would introduce a new principle into the National Insurance Scheme by differentiating between those getting one rate of pay and those getting another and that, he said, was an undesirable principle to introduce into a Bill with the narrow purpose of a National Health Service Contributions Bill.
Since then, that principle of differentiating according to pay has been introduced into the graduated scheme. Our Amendment, as distinct from the one in 1958, identifies itself with the line drawn in earnings for the purpose of the graduated scheme. In 1958 we took £10 a week as our dividing line. This time we already have this significant division between those getting more than £9 a week and those getting £9 a week or less. We believe that that is a logical extension of the differential introduced in the National Insurance Scheme.
The increase proposed in the Schedule to the National Health Service contribution is the largest increase so far. Indeed, the increase proposed for men equals all of the National Health Service element 831 in the National Insurance contribution in 1946, and we keep hearing a good deal about the principle of a contribution to the Health Service having been embodied in the 1946 legislation. It was embodied in it as a National Health Service element, not as a specific or separate contribution. This Government introduced a separate and specific contribution in 1958. How many more times have I to say that?
This Amendment proposes to reduce the increase proposed to the limit possible within the rules of order. It would thus reduce the contribution for a man worker to the figure of 9s. 8½d., which would be -1½d. above the existing level of the combined contribution for a male worker. That would bring the Government within ½d. of the existing contribution.
The Financial Secretary has tried to wriggle out of the implications of the Conservative Party's General Election propaganda on this matter, but it is within the recollection of all who were Parliamentary candidates in 1959 that the Government promised that the flat-rate contribution would be reduced. It was then 9s. 11d., as it is now. The Government promised that it would be reduced to 8s. 4d. From next April it will be 9s. 9d. and from July 10s. 7d. a week—all since the General Election in October, 1959.
If the Government accepted our Amendment it would rub some of the tarnish off their political souls. Do Members opposite believe that their souls are shining bright? [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] Then they are bigger hypocrites than I took them for. How can they sit there laughing and guffawing when they promised millions of contributors that their National Insurance contribution would be reduced by Is. 7d. a week, whereas now it is going up by 10d.?
Some Members opposite have said that the flat-rate contribution has gone up as high as it should. The hon. Member for Ilford, South and the hon. Member for Bolton, West (Mr. Holt) said that the contribution was as high as it should go and that there should be some rethinking of the structure of the scheme if it was required to go higher still. The Financial Secretary agrees 832 that they are high. He agrees that there must be a limit, but he does not think that we have reached it. Of course he does not, because under the Act on the Statute Book there are four further increases to come on the flat-rate contribution. There are four increases of 5d. for employee and employer to come in quinquennial years 1965 to 1980. There is an increase of ls. 8d. in the flat-rate contribution still to come. The Committee ought to bear that in mind.
On the question of the equity of this form of taxation, we must look at one or two figures. Perhaps the hon. Member for Kidderminster (Mr. Nabarro) will give me his attention. He was very naughty earlier today. He came into the Chamber to call a Count, not because he was in the least concerned about how many hon. Members were present, but because he wanted to be allowed to continue his private business and ensure that he was not interrupted in the meantime. With respect to the hon. Gentleman. one of the least worthy reasons for coming into the Chamber is to call a Count.
The £9 a week man will pay 9 per cent. in contributions; the £15 a week man will pay 7½ per cent.; and the £20 a week man will pay 6 per cent. The £9 a week man pays Is. 2½d. in every £ in contributions, whereas the £25 a week man pays 7d. in every £. That is the progressive burden on the lower paid worker to which we object.
We cannot accept the Financial Secretary's belief that this additional imposition, taken in conjunction with others, on the £9 a week man is something which he can reasonably be asked to afford. It does not matter what proportion contributions bear to rising incomes, whether for the agricultural worker or for any other kind of worker. As one of my hon. Friends said, we are dealing with the contributions of those who are permanently on £9 a week or less; not necessarily the same people, but people on £9 a week or less. We cannot accept the level of contributions proposed as being tolerable to people in that category.
I do not want to detain the Committee any longer. We shall have further opportunities of dealing with these and other matters in the course of the debates next 833 week. I hope that we will have the co-operation of the hon. Member for Kidderminster, but in the meantime we must divide the Committee on this Amendment, and we hope that for once those hon. Members on the benches oppo-
§ site who sympathise with us will join us in the Lobby.
§ Question put, That those words be there inserted:—
§ The Committee divided: Ayes 186, Noes 239.835
|Division No. 90.]||AYES||[11.3 p.m.|
|Abse, Leo||Hart, Mrs. Judith||Pearson, Arthur (Pontypridd)|
|Albu, Austen||Hayman, F. H.||Peart, Frederick|
|Allaun, Frank (Salford, E.)||Henderson, Rt. Hn. Arthur (RwiyRegls)||Pentland, Norman|
|Allen, Scholefield (Crewe)||Herbison, Miss Margaret||Popplewell, Ernest|
|Awbery, Stan||Hewitson, Capt. M.||Probert, Arthur|
|Bacon, Miss Alice||Holman, Peroy||Proctor, W. T.|
|Bence, Cyril (Dunbartonshire, E.)||Hart, Arthur||Pursey, Cmdr. Harry|
|Benson, Sir George||Houghton, Douglas||Randall, Harry|
|Blackburn, F.||Hughes, Cledwyn (Anglesey)||Rankin, John|
|Blyton, William||Hughes, Emrys (S. Ayrshire)||Redhead, E. C.|
|Boardman, H.||Hunter, A. E.||Reid, William|
|Bowden, Herbert W. (Leics, S.W.)||Irvine, A. J. (Edge Hill)||Rhodes, H.|
|Bowen, Roderic (Cardigan)||Irving, Sydney (Dartford)||Roberts, Albert (Normanton)|
|Bowles, Frank||Janner, Sir Barnett||Roberts, Goronwy (Caernarvon)|
|Boyden, James||Jay, Rt. Hon. Douglas||Robinson, Kenneth (St. Pancras, N.)|
|Braddock, Mrs. E. M.||Johnson, Carol (Lewisham, S.)||Rogers, G. H. R. (Kensington, N.)|
|Brockway, A. Fenner||Jones, Rt. Hn. A. Creeeh (Wakefield)||Ross, William|
|Broughton, Dr. A. D. D.||Jones, Dan (Burnley)||Short, Edward|
|Brown, Alan (Tottenham)||Jones, Jack (Rotherham)||Silverman, Julius (Aston)|
|Butler, Herbert (Hackney, C.)||Jones, J. Idwal (Wrexham)||Slater, Mrs. Harriet (Stoke, N.)|
|Butler, Mrs. Joyce (Wood Green)||Jones, T. W. (Merioneth)||Small, William|
|Castle, Mrs. Barbara||Ketley, Richard||Smith, Ellis (Stoke, S.)|
|Chetwynd, George||Kenyan, Clifford||Snow, Julian|
|Cliffe, Michael||King, Dr. Horace||Sorensen, R. W.|
|Collick, Percy||Lawson, George||Soskioe, Rt. Hon. Sir Frank|
|Corbet, Mrs. Freda||Ledger, Ron||Spriggs, Leslie|
|Craddock, George (Bradford, S.)||Lee, Miss Jennie (Cannock)||Stewart, Michael (Fulham)|
|Crosland, Anthony||Lever, L. M. (Ardwick)||Stonehouse, John|
|Crossman, R. H. S.||Loughlin, Charles||Stones, William|
|Cullen, Mrs. Alice||Mabon, Dr. J. Dickson||Strachey, Rt. Hon. John|
|Davies, Ifor (Gower)||McCann, John||Strauss, Rt. Hn. G. R. (Vauxhall)|
|Davies, S. O. (Merthyr)||MacColl, James||Stross, Dr. Barnett (Stoke-on-Trent, C.)|
|Deer, George||McKay, John (Wallsend)||Swain, Thomas|
|de Freitas, Geoffrey||Mackie, John||Swingler, Stephen|
|Dekargy, Hugh||MacMillian, Malooim (Western Isles)||Sylvester, George|
|Dempsey James||Maltalieu, E. L. (Brigg)||Symonds, J. B.|
|Diamond, John||Mallalieu, J. P. W. (Huddersfield, E.)||Taylor, Bernard (Mansfield)|
|Dempsey, James||Mallalieu, E. L. (Bragg)||Symonds, J. B.|
|Diamond, John||Mallalieu, J.P.W.(Huddersfield, E.)||Taylor, Bernard (Mansfield)|
|Dodds, Norman||Manuel, A. C.||Thomas, George (Cardiff, W.)|
|Driberg, Tom||Mapp, Charles||Thomas, lorwerth (Rhondda, W.)|
|Dugdale, Rt. Hon. John||Marsh, Richard||Thompson, Dr. Alan (Dunfermline)|
|Edelman, Maurice||Mason, Roy||Thomsen, G. M. (Dundee, E.)|
|Edwards, Rt. Hon. Ness (Caerphilly)||Mellish, R. J.||Thornton, Ernest|
|Edwards, Robert (Bilston)||Millan, Bruce||Timmons, John|
|Edwards Walter (Stepney)||Milne, Edward J.||Wainwright, Edwin|
|Evans, Albert||Mitchlson, G. R.||Warbey, William|
|Finch, Harold||Moody, A. S.||Watkins, Tudor|
|Fletcher, Eric||Morris, John||Weitzman, David|
|Foot, Michael (Ebbw Vale)||Moyle, Arthur||Wells, William (Walsall, N.)|
|Fraser, Thomas (Hamilton)||Mulley, Frederick||White, Mrs. Elrene|
|Galtakell, Rt. Hon. Hugh||Neal, Harold||Wilcock, Group Capt. C. A. B.|
|Galpern, Sir Myer||Noel-Baker, Francis (Swindon)||Wilkins, W. A.|
|George, Lady Megan Lloyd(Crmrthn)||Noel-Baker, Rt. Hn. Philip (Derby, S.)||Willey, Frederick|
|Ginsburg, David||Oliver, G. H.||Williams, D. J. (Neath)|
|Gordon Walker, Rt. Hon. P. C.||Dram, A. E.||Williams, LI. (Abertillery)|
|Gourlay, Harry||Oswald, Thomas||Willis, E. C. (Edinburgh, E.)|
|Greenwood, Anthony||Owen, Will||Woof, Robert|
|Grey, Charles||Padiey, W. E.||Wyatt, Woodrow|
|Griffiths, Rt. Hon. James (Llanelly)||Paget, R. T.||Yates, Victor (Ladywood)|
|Griffiths, W. (Exchange)||Pannell, Charles (Leeds, W.)||Zilliacus, K.|
|Grimond, J.||Pargiter, G. A.|
|Hall, Rt. Hn. Glenvil (Colne Valley)||Parker, John (Dagenham)||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|Hamilton, William (West Fife)||Parkin, B. T. (Paddington, N.)||Mr. Howell and Mr. Cronin.|
|Hannan, William||Pavitt, Laurence|
|Agnew, Sir Peter||Balniel, Lord||Berkeley, Humphry|
|Aitken, W. T.||Barber, Anthony||Bevins, Rt. Hon. Reginald (Toxteth)|
|Allason, James||Barlow, Sir John||Bidgood, John C.|
|Arbuthnot, John||Barter, John||Bingham, R. M.|
|Ashton, Sir Hubert||Batsford, Brian||Bishop, F. P.|
|Atkins, Humphrey||Bennett, Dr. Reginald (Goa & Fhm)||Black, Sir Cyril|
|Bossom, Clive||Harvey, Sir Arthur Vere (Macclesf'd)||Pannell, Norman (Kirkdale)|
|Bourne-Arton, A.||Harvey, John (Walthamstow, E.)||Partridge, E.|
|Box, Donald||Harvie Anderson, Miss||Pearson, Frank (Clitheroe)|
|Boyd-Carpenter, Rt. Hon. John||Hastings, Stephen||Peel, John|
|Boyle, Sir Edward||Heald, Rt. Hon. Sir Lionel||Percival, Ian|
|Brooke, Rt. Hon. Henry||Hendry, Forbes||Pickthorn, Sir Kenneth|
|Brooman-White, R.||Hicks Beach, Maj. W.||Pike, Miss Mervyn|
|Browne, Percy (Torrington)||Hiley, Joseph||Pilkington, Sir Richard|
|Bryan, Paul||Hirst, Geoffrey||Pitman, I. J.|
|Bullard, Denys||Hobson, John||Pitt, Miss Edith|
|Bullus, Wing Commander Eric||Holland, Philip||Pott, Percival)|
|Butler, Rt.Hn. R.A.(Saffron Walden)||Hollingworth, John||Powell, Rt. Hon. J. Enoch|
|Campbell, Sir David (Belfast, S.)||Hornby, R. P.||Price, David (Eastleigh)|
|Campbell, Gordon (Moray & Nairn)||Howard, John (Southampton, Test)||Prior, J. M. L.|
|Carr, Compton (Barons Court)||Hughes Hallett, Vice-Admiral John||Prior-Palmer, Brig. Sir Otho|
|Carr, Robert (Mitcham)||Hughes-Young, Michael||Profumo, Rt. Hon. John|
|Channon, H. P. G.||Hulbert, Sir Norman||Proudfoot, Wilfred|
|Chataway, Christopher||Iremonger, T. L.||Quennell, Miss J. M.|
|Chichester-Clark, R.||Irvine, Bryant Godman (Rye)||Rameden, James|
|Clark, Henry (Antrim, N.)||Jackson, John||Redmayne, Rt. Hon. Martin|
|Cleaver, Leonard||Jenkins, Robert (Dulwich)||Rees, Hugh|
|Cole, Norman||Jennings, J. C.||Renton, David|
|Cooper, A. E.||Johnson, Dr. Donald (Carlisle)||Rodgers, John (Sevenoaks)|
|Cooper-Key, Sir Neill||Johnson, Erie (Blackley)||Roots, William|
|Cordeaux, Lt.-Col. J. K.||Joseph, Sir Keith||Hoyle, Anthony (Richmond, Surrey)|
|Corfield, F. V.||Kaberry, Sir Donald||Russell, Ronald|
|Costain, A. P.||Kerans, Cdr. J. S.||Seymour, Leslie|
|Coulson, J. M.||Kimball, Marcus||Sharples, Richard|
|Craddock, Sir Beresford||Lagden, Godfrey||Shaw, M.|
|Critchley, Julian||Lambton, Viscount||Shepherd, William|
|Crowder, F. P.||Lancaster, Col. C. G.||Skeet, T. H. H.|
|Cunningham, Knox||Langford-Holt, J.||Smith, Dudley (Br'ntf'rd & Chiswick)|
|Curran, Charles||Leather, E. H. C.||Smyth, Brig. Sir John (Norwood)|
|Dalkeith, Earl of||Leavey, J. A.||Spearman, Sir Alexander|
|Dance, James||Legge-Bourke, Sir Harry||Speir, Rupert|
|d'Avigdor-Goldsmid, Sir Henry||Lewis, Kenneth (Rutland)||Stevens, Geoffrey|
|Deedes, W. F.||Lilley, F. J. P.||Steward, Harold (Stockport, S.)|
|Digby, Simon Wingfield||Lindsay, Martin||Stodart, J. A.|
|Donaldson, Cmdr. C. E. M.||Linstead, Sir Hugh||Stoddart-Scott, Col. Sir Malcolm|
|Doughty, Charles||Litchfield, Capt. John||Studholme, Sir Henry|
|du Cann, Edward||Longbottom, Charles||Summers, Sir Spencer (Aylesbury)|
|Eden, John||Low, Rt. Hon. Sir Toby||Sumner, Donald (Orpington)|
|Elliot, Capt. Walker (Carshalton)||Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh||Talbot, John E.|
|Elliott,R.W.(Nwcstle-upon-Tyne, N.)||MacArthur, Ian||Taylor, Edwin (Bolton, E.)|
|Emery, Peter||MoLaren, Martin||Taylor, W. J. (Bradford, N.)|
|Errington, Sir Eric||McLaughlin, Mrs. Patriola||Teeling, William|
|Erroll, Rt. Hon. F. J.||Maolay, Rt. Hon. John||Temple, John M.|
|Farey-Jones, F. W.||Maclean, SrrFitrroy (Bute&N.Ayrs.)||Thatcher, Mrs. Margaret|
|Farr, John||McLean, Neil (Inverness)||Thomas, Leslie (Canterbury)|
|Fell, Anthony||MacLeod, John (Ross & Cromarty)||Thomas, Peter (Conway)|
|Fisher, Nigel||McMaster, Stanley R.||Thompson, Richard (Croydon, S.)|
|Fletcher-Cooke, Charles||Macmillan, Maurice (Halifax)||Thornton-Kemsley, Sir Colin|
|Fraser, Hn. Hugh (Stafford & Stone)||Macpherson, Niall (Dunfries)||Tiley, Arthur (Bradford, W.)|
|Freeth, Denzil||Madden, Martin||Turner, Cohn|
|Gammons, Lady||Manningham-Buller, Rt. Hn. Sir R.||Tweedsmuir, Lady|
|Gibson-Watt, David||Markham, Major Sir Frank||Vaughan-Morgan, Sir John|
|Glover, Sir Douglas||Marlowe, Anthony||Vickers, Miss Joan|
|Glyn, Dr. Alan (Clapham)||Marten, Neil||Walker-Smith, Rt. Hon. Sir Derek|
|Glyn, Sir Richard (Dorset, N.)||Matthews, Gordon (Meriden)||Wall, Patrick|
|Godber, J. B.||Maxwell-Hyslop, R. J.||Ward, Dame Irene|
|Goodhart, Philip||Maydon, Lt.-Cmdr. S. L. C.||Watts, James|
|Goodhew, Victor||Mills, Stratton||Webster, David|
|Gough, Frederick||Montgomery, Fergus||Welts, John (Maidstone)|
|Gower, Raymond||Moore, Sir Thomas (Ayr)||Whitelaw, William|
|Grant-Ferris, Wg. Cdr. R.||Morgan, William||Williams, Dudley (Exeter)|
|Green, Alan||Morrison, John||Wills, Sir Gerald (Bridgwater)|
|Gresham Cooke, R.||Mott-Radclyffe, Sir Charles||Wilson, Geoffrey (Truro)|
|Grimston, Sir Robert||Nabarro, Gerald||Wise, A. R.|
|Grosvenor, Lt.-Col. R. G.||Heave, Airey||Woodhouse, C. M.|
|Gurden, Harold||Noble, Michael||Worsley, Marcus|
|Hall, John (Wycombe)||Nugent, Sir Richard|
|Hamilton, Michael (Wellingborough)||Orr, Capt. L. P. S.||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|Harris, Frederic (Croydon, NW.)||Osborn, John (Hallam)||Mr. Edward Wakefield and|
|Harris, Reader (Heston)||Osborne, Cyril (Louth)||Mr. J. E. B. Hill|
|Harrison, Col. J. H. (Eye)||Page, John (Harrow, West)|
§ Mr. Houghton
I beg to move, in page 3, line 12, column 2, to leave out "2s. 8½d." and to insert "1s. 11d.".
This is a very short Amendment which deals with one rate of contribution only 836 —the one covered in paragraph one of the First Schedule,Employed men between the ages of 18 and 70, not including men over the age of 65 who have retired from regular employment.837 The present contribution for this category of contributor is 1s. 10½d. The Schedule proposes to raise it to 2s. 8½d. and this Amendment proposes to raise it, not by 10d., but by ½d., from Is. 10½d. to Is. 11d. I have already explained that the rules of order require us to propose some increase in the contributions, so we propose the minimum possible increase
This is part of our campaign against the Bill. We said that we would fight it line by line and that is what we are doing.
§ Mr. Houghton
I do not propose to be diverted from my theme on this Amendment by these irrelevant outbursts from the benches opposite. Throughout the course of the day my hon. Friends have been here in numbers when the benches opposite have been absolutely empty. [Interruption.] If hon. Members opposite will be quiet, I want to address myself to my only supporter on the benches opposite, the hon. Member for Ormskirk (Sir D. Glover). This Amendment is going to suit him admirably. It proposes to reduce the contribution of the father who is getting £11 a week.
§ Mr. Nabarro
What is the fight about? Where are the Scottish Socialist Members? Not one of them is on the benches opposite.
§ Mr. George Lawson (Motherwell): rose—
§ Mr. Nabarro
I shall give way in a moment. There are only eleven Socialists here and one Liberal. Where is all the fight the hon. Member is talking about? We have 280 Tories here.
§ Mr. Houghton
There were not 280 Tories in the Division Lobby. We are fighting this 13ill so hard and so long that hon. Members opposite went to the Leader of the House crying for mercy. Hon. Members opposite are now showing the bombastic courage of the Guillotine. But for the timetable—without the 838 prospect of going on until breakfast time tomorrow morning—hon. Members would not be here in such a brave state of mind. They know that the clock will beat me in a few minutes, the Guillotine will fall and we shall have to resume our debates on Monday. But for that, this fight would have gone on all night and all tomorrow as well
§ Mr. Houghton
I have just looked round and confirmed that I am. Sir Gordon, I was moving an Amendment. I have still got my eyes fixed firmly on the hon. Member for Ormskirk He said in an earlier debate today that it was a shame that a boy of 19, earning £8 10s. a week, should be paying less than his father on £11 a week possibly with family responsibilities. We now want to reduce the contribution for that father, so I am sure that in due course the hon. Member will join us in the Division Lobby.
§ Mr. Houghton
The hon. Member must wait and see. At the moment—[Interruption.] Sir Gordon, what a veritable godsend the Guillotine is. Hon. Members opposite would not be conducting themselves in this way if they did not feel protected by the time table. The is a serious Amendment and I want the Committee to give serious attention to it, We want to reduce the contributions for all the categories in the Schedule, except one. [Interruption.] The fact that hon. Members are there is enough for me—
§ Mr. Houghton
We are fighting hon Members opposite, and they are there to be fought. That is enough.
§ Mr. Michael Foot (Ebbw Vale)
On a point of order, Sir Gordon. From the way in which the proceedings are being 839 conducted on the opposite side of the Committee, would you not agree that the operation of the Guillotine is being used in order to turn the House of Commons into a farce?
§ The Chairman (Sir Gordon Touche)
I think it would be better if the hon. Member were allowed to move his Amendment.
§ Mr. Lawson
On a point of order, Sir Gordon. Since hon. Members opposite are so bright and apparently so interested in this subject, would you not agree to suspend the Guillotine and let the debate continue all night?
§ Mr. Houghton
We propose to reduce each of these new contributions to the minimum amount possible. Although all the arguments which have been deployed against the increases in general have been advanced time and again, on this Amendment we are dealing with the contribution which it is proposed to take from employed men between the ages of 18 and 70. We have already drawn the attention of the Committee to the fact that this Schedule contains increases which run directly counter to the promise held out to the great mass of the workers in this country at the time of the General Election.
§ The Chairman
Order. I hope that the hon. Member for Kidderminster (Mr. Nabarro) will not continue to make remarks in a seated position.
§ Mr. Houghton
I gave way to you, Sir Gordon, not to the hon. Member for Kidderminster.
There is no gainsaying the fact that at the time of the election great play was made with the proposed reductions in contributions without any mention being made of the possibility of an increase. 840 Moreover, as my hon. Friend the Member for Kilmarnock (Mr. Ross) pointed out, reference was made at the time of the General Election to the possibility of an increase in retirement pensions, but there was no accompanying warning, as far as I can remember, that that might mean either that the anticipated reductions in contributions would be cancelled out or that there might be an increase on the existing level of contributions. No such reference was made to existing contributions.
In those circumstances, we are entitled to complain that the proposals before the Committee at the moment are in direct conflict with the election pledges of hon. Members opposite. That is a serious matter.
§ Mr. Nabarro
Jolly good. Now I am in good order again, Sir Gordon. What the hon. Member says is totally untrue. I did not say anything of the sort in my constituency.
§ Mr. Nabarro
The hon. Member for Sowerby (Mr. Houghton) is putting up a fabricated story to suit the convenience of the debate.
§ Mr. Houghton
There is no fabrication in it. The fact that one Conservative Member, even the hon. Member for Kidderminister, did not make any such promise does not absolve the Conservative Party as a whole, and the Conservatives leading it, from their responsibility for holding out these expectations to the electorate in 1959. None on the Conservative benches can deny that those promises were held out. They were. There is no doubt that the reduction in contribution for the ordinary working man from 9s. 11d. to 8s. 4d. was a big factor in the election campaign. It was offered as an indication of the Government's feeling that the flat-rate contribution of the lower- paid was too high and should be reduced. We 841 wish to maintain the contribution at very little higher than it is now. The addition of graduated contributions will be payable by many persons covered by the Amendment, but we are here concerned with the level of the flat-rate contribution, and we hope that the country will take notice of the default of the Conservative Party on its promise at the time of the election.
§ Mr. Houghton
The hon. Member may not be anything, but the country does not look to him for its Conservative Party policy.
§ The Chairman
Order. If the hon. Member for Kidderminster (Mr. Nabarro) cannot keep quiet I shall have to ask him to leave the Committee.
§ Mr. Houghton
I hope that it is in order on this very narrow Amendment again to refer to our preference for a different form of taxation to support and expand the National Health Service. We must express continually and tirelessly our objection to tlis gradual transfer from general taxation to particular flat-rate taxation. I believe that that is the most important issue which has arisen in our debates. We want the country to appreciate this tendency. There are hon. Members opposite who proclaim loudly their preference for transferring more and more of the cost of the welfare services to those who use them or who benefit from them, but we object to the con- 842 tributory principle in relation to the National Health Service because it is not related to specific benefits.
§ The Chairman
Order. I am sorry to interrupt the hon. Member, but he is going far beyond the Amendment.
§ Mr. Houghton
In the conditions of the Committee at the moment it is a wonder that I am on my feet at all. It is extremely difficult to plough one's way through this morass of prejudice and ignorance with which I am confronted in the debate.
The contributory principle for the Health Service is objectionable because it is not related to specific benefits. Moreover, under the Health Service contribution a person who may evade paying his National Insurance contribution and at the same time evade the Health Service contribution is not thereby debarred from the benefits of the National Health Service. We do not wish such persons to be debarred; we want everyone to have the benefits of the National Health Service. I am illustrating the difference between the contributory principle for the National Insurance scheme and the contributions to the National Health Service. There are money benefits in the one case and benefits in kind in the other. We have shown in earlier debates, on Amendments which have been previously before the Committee, that the levying of the National Health Service contribution—
§ It being half-past Eleven o'clock, The CHAIRMAN left the Chair to report Progress and ask leave to sit again, pursuant to Order [6th March].
§ Committee report Progress to sit again To-morrow.