§ Order of the Day for the House to be put into Committee read.
§ Moved, That the House do now resolve itself into Committee.—(Lord Arnold.)
§ On Question, Motion agreed to.771
§ House in Committee accordingly:
§ [The EARL OF DONOUGHMORE in the Chair.]
§ Clause 1:
§ Extension of right to widows' pensions.
§ 1.—(1) A widow shall, subject as hereinafter provided, be entitled to a widow's pension payable in accordance with the provisions of the Widows', Orphans' and Old Age Contributory Pensions Act, 1925 (in this Act referred to as "the principal Act") relating to such a pension, if she has attained the age of fifty-five and is the widow of a man—
- (a) who died before the fourth day of January, nineteen hundred and twenty-six, and as respects whom it is shown either—
- (i) that he was at some time within three years before his death, or, if he lived to attain the age of seventy, within three years before the date on which he attained that age, registered as a member of an approved society or as a deposit contributor; or
- (ii) that his normal occupation was at some time within the said period employment in respect of which contributions under the principal Act would have been payable if that Act had been in force at that time; or
- (b) who died between the third day of January, nineteen hundred and twenty-six, and the first day of January, nine teen hundred and thirty-one, and as respects whom it is shown that at some time within three years before the date of his death or the date on which by reason of his age contributions ceased to be pay able in respect of him, his normal occupation was employment of such a kind as is specified in paragraph (f) or paragraph (g) of the First Schedule to the Insurance Act; or
- (ii) the widow of a man mentioned in paragraph (b) of this subsection shall not, if the marriage took place after the twenty-fifth day of July, nineteen hundred and twenty-nine, become entitled to a pension unless at the date of his death three years have elapsed since the date of the marriage or unless immediately before the marriage she was, or but for the provisions of subsection (1) of Section twenty-one or of Section twenty-four of the principal Act would have been, in receipt of a widow's pension:
- (iii) in the case of a man who was an exempt person, or a person employed in an excepted employment, paragraph (b) of this subsection shall apply subject to the prescribed modifications:
§ (4) Section eighty-nine of the Insurance Act (which provides for the determination by the Minister of questions relating to employment) shall apply to any question arising under subsection (1) of this section whether employment which was, or is alleged to have been, the normal occupation of any person was employment in respect of which contributions under the principal Act would have been payable if that Act had been in force.
§ THE EARL OF ONSLOW moved, at the beginning of subsection (1), after (" A "), to insert "necessitous." The noble Earl said: Your Lordships will see that besides this Amendment there is another in my name on the next page of the Marshalled List, and your Lordships would wish perhaps to take the general discussion now upon this first Amendment. When I had the honour of addressing your Lordships on the occasion of the Second Reading of this Bill I dealt at some length with this question. I pointed out to your Lordships the very great importance of it, and I think it is desirable that Parliament, both your Lordships and, if you are pleased to accept my Amendment, another place, should have an opportunity of giving expression to clear cut opinion on this absolutely clear issue.
§ The issues are very plain indeed. To my mind there are four main issues. The first is: Does Parliament wish to give a pension of 10s. per week, not to everybody, of course, but to certain people who have an income of £250 a year or more than £250 a year? That is the first issue which I submit for your Lordships' consideration. The next one is this: When there are so many claims upon the public purse, are we justified in giving pensions to people who are not in need of them? Then, even if those two points are accepted, are we justified, as Parliament, when money is so scarce, in making expenditure upon any matter unless it is an absolute necessity? That is the third point which I bring to your Lordships' attention. The fourth point is rather a different one: Are we justified in asking the taxpayer with less than £250 a year, a poor man or a comparatively poor man, to contribute to largesse to people richer than himself, and who may be a great deal richer than himself? Is Parliament justified in asking such a person to make that contribution? Those are the points which I hope your Lordships will consider in connection with these Amendments.773
§ I do not think that anybody would say for a moment that as a Party the Conservative Party have not devoted a large amount of the time when they were in office to measures of social service. This country now spends, I believe, 78s. or something of that kind per head upon social services. That is a larger sum than—I think it is double the sum—any other country spends upon those services. As during the last few years a Conservative Government has been in office, it is clear that the Conservative Party is a Party which favours the principle of legislation for social service. We all want to see every man obtaining such things as medical attendance, medical insurance, pensions, and the matters which are dealt with by education and by social legislation, as easily as he possibly can. Upon that, I think, we are all agreed. But when we legislate for social service we have to be very careful indeed to base that legislation upon sound and just principles. And three of the most important principles upon which, I think, social legislation should be founded are these. The first is sound finance. The second is that our social legislation should tend to encourage thrift. The third is that we should go upon the principle that people should receive their benefits under these measures as a right which they can claim and that they should not be given to them as a "dole," or as charity. Those, I venture to say, are sound principles upon which to base your social legislation.
§ If you base social legislation upon unsound principles, you are not really legislating for social services at all. At best, your proposals and measures are ill-considered charity. At the worst, they are mere vote-catching. I have read the Reports of the debates in another place and have studied the speeches in your Lordships' House dealing with this particular matter, and I would ask your Lordships to consider what are the objections which have been raised to these principles? So far as I can read them they are two; at any rate there are two main objections. One is the old mixim, de minimis non curat lex; that is to say, that it is not worth bothering about; it is so small a matter as not to be worth bothering about. But I submit that any bad principle introduced into legislation is worth 774 bothering about. It ought not to be put there. You ought to keep your legislation, your Bills and Acts of Parliament, free from any mischievous or possibly mischievous, unjust or unnecessary provisions. That is one of the cardinal points in good legislation, it seems to me.
§ Then we are told that if there is this provision, the expense, the trouble and all the rest of it of examining people's claims would be so great as to cost more than it was worth. How can that possibly be sustained for an instant? All the people who make claims for pensions will have to come forward and fill in their demands. All they will have to say is, "I declare that I am not in receipt of an income of £250 a year or over." Surely there is nothing easier or simpler than that. We have to fill in countless forms for Income Tax and that sort of thing which are far more complicated and as to which it is far more difficult to tell whether we are right or not. Then, it is one form for everybody, and those concerned must know whether they have £250 a year or not. It is a simple question and I should have thought there would not be the slightest difficulty or hardship in answering it. I submit that the simple declaration can be made with the utmost ease, and that there would be no difficulty whatever in carrying out the provisions of my Amendment. If you say that I am putting in, possibly, a high test, and am giving the pension to people who cannot be considered altogether necessitous, I would reply that you are at any rate freeing this Bill from the reproach which has been levelled at it of giving sums of money to people who are in no need of them whatever, and have never asked for them. I trust your Lordship will give favourable consideration to my Amendment.
Page 1, line 6, after (" A ") insert (" necessitous ").—(The Earl of Onslow.)
§ THE PAYMASTER-GENERAL (LORD ARNOLD)
The noble Earl referred to this matter in his speech upon the Second Reading. I then pointed out that this Amendment really is not, if I may use the term, a business proposition. It is not something that this Government could do, nor is it something which any 775 Government could do; as a matter of fact the noble Earl knows very well that the late Government did not do it in their Act of 1925 so far as a considerable section of the community was concerned. The noble Earl speaks about the enormity of introducing a bad principle into your legislation. When I heard those words I thought my memory must be at fault, but I know that it is not so. He was a member of the late Government. If the bad principle was introduced, it was introduced then by his Government. The noble Earl knows too much about these matters. I cannot tell him anything he does not know, and he knows perfectly well that as a matter of fact this principle, if it is so to be called, was introduced into the Act which they passed in the case of widows with children under 14, who, without any means test at all, were to receive a pension to which they had not contributed. He will not deny that.
The position is that of all the recipients of the widows' pensions, only a small fraction of 1 per cent. are in question in this matter of the means test. I would submit that the real qualification for the widow's pension, according to this legislation, is whether the husband was of the insurable class or not. That test, if I may so call it, is either right or wrong. If it is right then there is no justification for superimposing this means test. If it is wrong, then the late Government themselves erred and committed the first offence, because they incorporated this so-called principle in their Act. Let me enlarge upon one aspect of the matter, and it is this. The vast bulk of these persons will never get anywhere near an income of £250 per year even of earned income, and the number who have unearned income of that amount is of course quite infinitesimal. It would require a capital, speaking broadly, of about £5,000 to produce this income of £250 a year from unearned income. The noble Earl knows well that most of these people have not 5,000 pence. I do not want this to be taken as an official figure—it is my own estimate after a study of certain publications—but probably not more than 250,000 people in the country are worth £5,000. A very large proportion of those would be men, and the vast 776 majority of the remainder would be women with very considerable incomes, so that merely as a matter of practical administration, although the noble Earl seems to inveigh against this consideration, I do suggest it is not worth doing.
He says that all you have to do is to sign a form. That is not all you have to do; at least, that is not the view of the Department. There would be cases of unearned income, and it might be difficult in one way or another to investigate these cases. You have to differentiate between one kind of income and another. You would have to decide whether the claimant is in receipt of an allowance from relatives, whether the amount of income was from investment, from land, property and so on—all these things would have to be taken into account. You would have to differentiate carefully between various kinds of income, and if it is going to be done properly—and if it is not to be done properly it ought not to be done at all—you would have to do this, not once but over and over again. You might have widows whose incomes at one time are below this limit, and at another time, as a result of gradually increasing income, above the limit. The Department estimates that the cost involved in the first year of investigating all these claims would be somewhere in the neighbourhood of £50,000, which is, in all probability, considerably more than any saving that would ensue to the pensions scheme. I submit that the cumulative weight of these objections is sufficient.
The noble Earl lays down certain broad principles. He asked: "Does Parliament want to give pensions of 10s. to people with £250 or more? "If you put it broadly like that there may be much argument for it. Few cases would be entertained, and some of those would be due to the Act of the late Government. Therefore I do not think the noble Earl is on very strong ground in making that point in that way. He also asked "Are we justified in asking the taxpayer to contribute taxes to provide pensions for persons who are richer than himself?" There the noble Earl is going into infinitesimal minutiae which almost baffles comprehension. He must know perfectly well of the statistical computations showing that the amount 777 these persons are contributing to these new pensions is so very small that it would almost defy an estimate. He further asks: "Is it right to do this?" In my view it is right in all the circumstances to do what this Bill does. It is only doing, in another form, precisely the same as the 1925 Act. I very much hope the noble Earl will not press this Amendment.
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
The noble Lord has not given my noble friend very much satisfaction in the answer he has given to this very moderate Amendment. What weighs with us is the enormous expenditure on the commitments which the Government are inducing the country to accept. One would almost think from the noble Lord's speech that he did not at all realise the very formidable prospect that is in front of this country if we go on, without reason, committing ourselves to very heavy charges. I say "without reason," not because I am not sorry for these particular widows, whom the noble Lord and the Government desire to help—of course I am sorry for them—but if you are going to administer the affairs and the resources of this country prudently as good stewards of the business of the country, you must have some idea where you are going to draw the line.
The line drawn by the Government seems to me to be of the most arbitrary description. I do not see in the least why on their principle they have stopped where they have stopped, and we defy any Government who succeeds them to find out any reason at all. Why should they fix the age at 55? There really is nothing in it at all. There is no reason why any Government should not alter it, and what is true of that figure is true of all the figures in the proposals of the Government. When we were responsible for affairs—with an exception about which I will say a word in a moment—we drew a very sharp distinction between that which was contributory and that which was not contributory. There was a broad line. I am quite aware that you can show that the one fades into the other to some extent—that is inevitable in nearly all human affairs—but at any rate the broad principle is clear, that we would grant pensions where there was a contributory element and that beyond 778 that we would not go. The Government have found one exception to that and they make the most of it. They say: "Take the case of the children of pre-Act widows who were specially favourably treated by the late Government." I would point out to begin with that the pre-Act widows were not treated as the post-Act widows. A broad distinction was drawn between the two cases. In the one case the widows were pensioned and pensioned for good, if I may use the phrase; in the other case the children were pensioned and only pensioned temporarily.
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
But only temporarily. They were not treated in the same way. Therefore a broad distinction was drawn between them. If the noble Lord says: "Well, you broke the principle and therefore the principle is for ever gone," that is hardly an argument which is likely to convince us at all, for if it be true that the late Government made a mistake that is all the more reason for not continuing it. The argument is really a very feeble one indeed. I think anybody will see that whether we erred or did not err at any rate the children of the pre-Act widows were a very difficult case to deal with indeed, and if exception was to be permitted it might be permitted in their case rather than in any other. But when you go beyond that and say: "We are going to allow pensions to all widows who might have been in the position in which the post-Act widows are had the law been different when they became widows," then you are entering upon an uncharted sea which may lead anywhere. It already has led you to a very large expenditure—£5,000,000 immediately, £8,000,000 shortly, £101,000,000 altogether. That is a tremendous addition and we who are very much frightened at the headlong increase of the commitments of this country are bound to do our best to draw some line, a very wide line.
The noble Lord has made it, as it were, a charge against us that we have put the figure so high as £250. Well, we wanted to be as moderate as we could and above all we wanted, if possible, to allow public opinion and the House of Commons to reconsider the matter. I am not going to suggest to your Lordships that this is the kind of Amendment which you 779 ought to put in or one which ought to be forced, if possible, upon Parliament and the country, whether the House of Commons like it or not. I do not say that; but I do say that there is a case for letting the House of Commons, when the Bill goes back to another place, have an opportunity of considering it. If they adhere to it, and if they will not make any means test at all and say that all these widows must be included, then, as far as I am concerned, I shall not personally resist the wishes of the House of Commons in a matter of this kind. There are occasions, as your Lordships very well know, when this House in its experience thinks it necessary to stand by Amendments whether the House of Commons wishes it or not. Very respectfully to the other House and with great care and consideration we sometimes find it necessary to do that. I do not say this is one of those occasions; but I do say it is an occasion for laying down some principle which shows that the House of Lords at any rate protest against these unlimited commitments of the country, and for asking the House of Commons to reconsider the point.
§ LORD BUCKMASTER
I have thought for a long time that the whole basis upon which these pensions are based is wrong. I do not think you ought merely to give a woman a pension because she is a widow. I think she ought to have a pension because she is in need. The thing which I feel very strongly is that it is a wrong thing to assume that a woman is so situated that she cannot earn her own living. If that is true the sooner we set ourselves to alter the circumstances which prevent her earning her own living the better. I certainly disagree very strongly with the hypothesis that directly a woman has become a widow she is therefore to be a charge upon the State. That being my feeling in the general case one has to face this particular Amendment. I feel rather embarrassed about that for this reason. I cannot share the noble Marquess's view that this Amendment is going to stem the flood of extravagance under which I do not doubt we shall all
§ before long be submerged. I very much doubt whether you will save as much as I think you would certainly incur in expense in the investigations that will be involved. That reason leads me to think it is much better to leave this thing as it stands and support the Government in their view that you have gone too far now to go back along these lines. Had the Amendment been something more far-reaching, which had challenged the whole basis upon which these pensions are granted, I should have felt differently, but I honestly believe that there is nothing in it. You would cause an enormous amount of trouble and a multiplication of Government Departments, and I hate multiplying Government Departments more than I hate multiplying widows. I had far rather let the thing stand as it is than involve people and Government Departments in the trouble that would certainly take place if this Amendment were passed.
§ LORD PARMOOR
I hope your Lordships will accept the view put forward by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Buckmaster. It is quite true, as he says, that the infinitely small saving which might arise from this Amendment would be more than counterbalanced by what is called investigation—both the investigation itself and also in the sense of having a larger Department in order to deal with this matter. After all, if the House of Lords carried this, it would be nothing more than a statement on their part, because the noble Marquess has said, quite frankly, that it is not a matter of principle on which they would like to stand against the opinion of the House of Commons. I must state quite clearly that so far as the Government are concerned we shall have to restore the Bill in another place if the alteration is made here. I do not say that as a threat but as a fact, and I hope that in the circumstances we shall not have a Division on this question.
§ On Question, Whether the word "necessitous" shall be there inserted?
§ Their Lordships divided: Contents, 37; Not-Contents, 16.781
|Salisbury, M.||Eldon, E.||Lucan, E. [Teller.]|
|Halsbury, E.||Midleton, E.|
|Abingdon, E.||Leven and Melville, E.||Onslow, E. [Teller.]|
|Cranbrook, E.||Lindsey, E.||Stanhope, E.|
|Bertie of Thame, V.||Alvingham, L.||Hayter, L.|
|Brentford, V.||Banbury of Southam, L.||Howard of Glossop, L.|
|Burnham, V.||Carson, L.||Leigh, L.|
|Chaplin, V.||Clifford of Chudleigh, L.||Lovat, L.|
|Churchill, V.||Cushendun, L.||Newton, L.|
|Falkland, V.||Danesfort, L.||Queenborough, L.|
|FitzAlan of Derwent, V.||Darling, L.||Redesdale, L.|
|Novar, V.||Daryngton, L.||Tennyson, L.|
|Sumner, V.||de Clifford, L.|
|Sankey, L. (L. Chancellor.)||Russell, E. [Teller.]||Clwyd, L.|
|Parmoor, L. (L. President.)||Mersey, V.||Marks, L. [Teller.]|
|Beauchamp, E.||Amulree, L.||Sudley, L. (E. Arran.)|
|Buxton, E.||Arnold, L.||Thomson, L.|
|Liverpool, E.||Buckmaster, L.|
On Question, Amendment agreed to.
§ Resolved in the affirmative, and Amendment agreed to accordingly.
§ EARL BEAUCHAMP moved, in subsection (1), after "fifty-five," to insert "or is permanently disabled from earning her livelihood." The noble Earl said: I hope that, whatever action His Majesty's Government may take with regard to this Amendment, they will at any rate show some sympathy towards it. Some of us feel that the Amendment would make the Bill more in harmony with the various promises that were made by prominent members of His Majesty's present Government before the General Election, and that is one of the chief reasons why I have put it down. Your Lordships will, of course, realise that it would add somewhat—though not, I think, a great deal—to the charge caused by this Bill, but those of your Lordships who have any experience of the work of this House will know that it is quite possible that the House of Commons should waive their privilege in the matter and accept the Amendment if they wish to do so. The Bill is not certified as a Money Bill, and I therefore have the less compunction in moving this particular Amendment. I do so with particular hope, because those of your Lordships who have been here during the last three or four years remember how often the noble Lord who is in charge of this Bill accused the Government of the day of never accepting any Amendments that were moved from this side of the House. I hope that, now that he is in charge of an important Government Bill, he will show a better disposition in that matter than was shown by the late Government, and I shall count myself particularly fortunate if my Amendment is the first to be the subject of this better treatment on his part.782
§ Quite evidently, the age of 55 is a purely arbitrary limit. If people are in distress they ought to be helped, even if they are younger than 55. The age of 55, chosen in this way, is really a reduction of the age for old age pensions to 55. Its practical effect is that everybody up to 55 is eligible, whether in necessitous circumstances or not, and that people under 55 are not eligible. I have little doubt that very few people would be affected by this alteration, if it is accepted; very few of these unfortunate widows will receive pensions; but there are no doubt extremely hard cases of this kind for widows below the age of 55. I therefore move with the double object in my mind that this concession would not in my opinion cost very much money and that it would make the Bill approximate a good deal more closely to the pre-Election pledges of the Government.
Page 1, line 11, after (" fifty-five ") insert (" or is permanently disabled from earning her livelihood ").—(Earl Beauchamp.)
§ THE EARL OF HALSBURY
My Lords, I disagree entirely with the noble Earl's opinion that possibly in another place Privilege may be claimed for this Amendment. I demy that there can be any Privilege claimed for this Amendment, and I want it to be quite certain in your Lordships' House that it is not admitted that Privilege could be claimed in another place.
§ LORD ARNOLD
My Lords, I will deal with the speech of the noble Earl, Lord Beauchamp, and not for the moment enter into this other matter. He says this is an Amendment with which many people will have sympathy. When the position is explained, I think it will 783 be seen that in many oases the position of these unfortunate women is not so adverse as the noble Earl indicated, though we all wish to do something, if it can reasonably be done, to help women, or other people, who are permanently disabled from earning their livelihood. But let me take first one or two practical difficulties. The Amendment would clearly impose upon the Minister the duty of determining whether the disablement of the woman was permanent, because, if there was any possibility of the widow recovering sufficiently to earn her own livelihood, then, on the words of the Amendment itself, a pension should not be granted. Further, a definition is needed of the words "earning her livelihood." What do they mean? She might be able to earn 4s. or 5s. a week by a little sewing or something. Is that earning a livelihood? Is that to be taken into account?
But the main point which I want to put is this. If the woman has been earning her own livelihood—and I think, on the words of the Amendment, that in many cases that would be the position, though she is now in very dire circumstances—then in all probability she has been an insured person; and if she has been an insured person, at any rate for two years, and becomes permanently incapacitated, then she gets the disablement benefit under the Health Insurance Acts, varying from 7s. 6d. a week up to 9s., or perhaps even 10s. a week in the case of a woman who is insured with an approved society which is giving good additional benefits. So that I should hope that large numbers of these women are to some extent helped in that way.
What does the noble Earl mean? Does he mean that if a widow is now getting, under the Health Insurance Acts, weekly disablement benefit of 7s. 6d. or perhaps even 10s., she is now to get another 10s. a week under this Bill? Is she to get two of these weekly payments? If he says "Yes," then the reply to that is that that is going a long way, having regard to the urgent need for money for so many social objects. The noble Earl seemed to think that the Amendment would not cost much. I am not sure that he is right there. It is impossible to say; there might be a fair number of these women. I do not think the cost would be inappreciable. But on the other hand, if 784 he says "No, I do not mean that; what I mean is that in future the liability in the case of an insured woman who is getting her disablement payment shall be transferred from an approved society to the taxpayers," then that is a position which it is very difficult to defend. Looking at the matter all round, I really would suggest that the case for this Amendment has not been made good. There are many things in connection with our social insurance which we should wish to be different. It was said on the Second Reading, and it is one of the commonplaces of these discussions, that various hard cases have to be taken into consideration. Many of them are being taken into consideration by a Cabinet Committee which is now sitting.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ VISCOUNT BERTIE OF THAME moved, in paragraph (a) (i) of subsection (1), to leave out "at some time" and to insert "for a period in the aggregate of not less than six months." The noble Viscount said: In moving this Amendment I wish to point out that no definition of this loose language has been given. In another place, owing to the procedure, the right hon. lady in charge of the Bill was unable to give a definition. When, on the Second Reading, I asked the noble Lord, Lord Arnold, he said it was quite obvious what the words meant. But a good many people in the House of Commons did not understand them, and I believe that some of your Lordships do not. It is quite possible that this phrase may come up in your Lordships' House for legal decision. It is very indefinite and very loose language. If a day is meant I submit that it is too small a minimum. I do not think six months is excessive, as it is more or less a compromise with the Amendment which was moved in another place by my right hon. friend Mr. Neville Chamberlain, when he moved to insert a year.
I want to draw your Lordships' attention to paragraphs (iii) and (iv) of this subsection. Paragraph (iii) lays down:
that during the late war he served in the naval, military, or air forces of the Crown, or as a master or seaman, for a period of not less than two years and was
entitled to be insured while so serving, and died within three years of the termination of that period.
Then the language of the next paragraph is as follows:—
(iv) that having volunteered for temporary service abroad in the naval or military forces of the Crown in connection with any naval or military operations previous to the late War, he served during those operations as a man of those forces for a period of not less than one year and died within three years of the termination of that period.
In that case those who served their country have a high minimum period imposed upon them, whilst others engaged in ordinary occupations have, as I take it, only to have been employed for a day. Therefore widows of conscientious objectors who did not go to the War may be in a better position than widows of those who served in His Majesty's Forces.
Page 1, line 16, leave out (" at some time ") and insert (" for a period in the aggregate of not less than six months ").—(Viscount Bertie of Thame.)
§ LORD DANESFORT
I should be glad if the noble Lord in charge of the Bill could tell us what these words mean. Does "some time" mean a day, or an hour, or a minute, or does it mean some substantial time? Really, in putting in these vague words I think your Lordships' House ought to have some regard for the Judges who have to interpret them. As they stand I defy any Judge to say what they mean.
§ LORD ARNOLD
I think I can give an entirely satisfactory reply upon that point to both the noble Lords. These words "at some time" have to be read in conjunction with the context. Take the first Amendment of the noble Viscount, Lord Bertie of Thame. As regards that, a man must have taken steps to join an approved society, and if you read on you will find that the paragraph says: "registered as a member of an approved society." Anybody with any knowledge of these matters knows perfectly well that a man would not join an approved society if he were only in the occupation for a day. The very fact of his being a member of an approved society is strong evidence that he has been engaged in that occupation for a reasonable length of time.
§ LORD ARNOLD
That might be a matter for argument, but I think the Bill in itself is quite sufficiently watertight to cover anything to which objection can be taken, because people do not join an approved society in a hurry. It means that this is the man's normal occupation, and that is the reply to Lord Bertie's second point.
§ LORD ARNOLD
The second subsection does say so. The next Amendment applies to paragraph (a) (ii), the words of which are "normal occupation," which connotes occupation extending over some time. Otherwise, a man would not get his pension. It is proposed by the Amendment to make the words different, so that the period in the aggregate shall not be less than six months. I suggest that the words in the Bill are better from the first point of view, and better from the necessities of the case, because the Amendment of Lord Bertie of Thame would mean that if within a period of three years quite short periods of employment aggregated six months, then the man would be qualified. There is really more protection in the words of the Bill than in the words of the Amendment. I do not think you can make these words better for the purpose than they are. I submit that every reasonable consideration is met, and that as a matter of fact the Bill as it stands is really preferable to the Amendment.
§ LORD DANESFORT
Perhaps the noble Lord, who has already introduced the phrase "reasonable time," will tell the House what "reasonable" means? Apparently it is necessary to introduce some word, and he introduced "reasonable." What does "reasonable time" mean?
§ LORD ARNOLD
I suggest that my reply fully covers that point. The noble Lord, as a lawyer, knows what an Act of Parliament means, and I submit that every reasonable consideration is covered by the Bill.
§ LORD DARLING
I have listened to the debate, and to the noble Lords explanation, and I confess that I do not 787 know what the paragraph means, even with the noble Lord's explanation; but as I feel certain that when it comes before the Judges they will give a much better explanation, I am quite content to leave it to them.
§ On Question, Amendment negatived.
§ LORD CRAIGMYLE moved, in paragraph (a) (i) of subsection (1), after "society," to insert "or of the Navy, Army and Air Force Insurance Fund." The noble and learned Lord said: The result of my Amendment would be that a widow whose husband did not happen to be registered as a member of an approved society, but was a member of the Navy, Army and Air Force Insurance Fund, would equally be entitled to the benefit of the provision. It seems to me that that is a very sensible thing, but the Government seem to have fought shy of this question. The question of the widows of men serving in the field was brought forward in another place, and I understand that the noble Lord who is in charge of the Bill in this House thinks that this case is met by the Bill. I do not think so. If your Lordships will look at paragraph (a) (i) you will see what is meant, for in the enumeration of persons it uses the words "registered as a member of an approved society." I propose to add "or of the Navy, Army and Air Force Insurance Fund."
When Parliament first dealt with this subject it did not go about it by any circuitous language, and I think it would be instructive to the House if I read how the matter was dealt with in the National Health Insurance Act, 1924. When the question as to widows of members of the Forces came before Parliament then Parliament dealt with it in this way:—
by or in respect of an insured person being a member of an approved society,
and these words were used:—
shall have effect as if the references therein to approved societies included a reference to the Army, Navy and Air Force Insurance Fund.
That was a plain statutory declaration that by the use of the words "approved society" you did include the Forces' Fund. I cannot understand why that simple and clear procedure should not have been embodied in this Bill which does not happen to be a Health Bill but
a Widows' Bill. I understand that the Government are conscious that these widows ought to be included within the beneficial scope of the Bill. I can hardly imagine that any Government would decline to recognise their right. Their husbands died as members of the Forces' Insurance Fund and now they are to be told that they are not expressly included in this Bill, but by this circuity, in the third paragraph of subsection (1) of Clause 1—
that during the late War he served in the naval, military or air forces of the Crown, or as a master or seaman for a period of not less than two years and was entitled to be insured while so serving, and died within three years of the termination of that period.
All that is thought to meet the case; but the information which is given me is that unfortunately it does not meet the case at all.
§ What is the use of telling the widow of a man who had fallen early in battle that she is precluded from getting any benefit under this Statute which she would have got had her husband survived two years before he was unfitted or disabled? There is no reason or sense in a distinction of that kind which is supposed to be drawn. I am instructed that there are very many cases in which soldiers and sailors who were hit early in the course of the War have resumed, in their disablement, partial employment, have married and died and have left widows. I can hardly imagine that any Government, on the point now stated before them, would fail to include those widows whose husbands were members of the Insurance Fund of the great Forces of the Crown. I do not argue the matter. It seems to me to be beyond argument, and if the noble Lord who will reply to me agrees with me that the object in view is the same, I cannot see why he should hesitate to accept the words which I am moving and which would put the matter beyond doubt. I beg to move.
Page 2, line 4, after (" society ") insert (" or of the Navy, Army and Air Force Insurance Fund ").—(Lord Craigmyle.)
§ LORD ARNOLD
I think that a consideration of the actual words of the clause will show that every good case is already covered. I think it is not necessary 789 to put these words into the Bill. Indeed, to do so would open the door to the admission of claims from a large number of women on behalf of their deceased husbands where no sufficient justification at all could be made for giving pensions. Having regard to the fact that these pensions are given on certain principles and regulations under the Act of 1925 and under this Bill, what is the position? The cases of men of the insurable class who were in the Army, Navy and Air Force for not less than two years and who died within three years of the termination of their period of service are covered, and their widows will get pensions. But the noble and learned Lord says that two years is a long time. I would point out to him that the vast majority of these men when they were not in the Army, whatever the reason may be, were insured men in some other occupation, and that the amount of insurance would account for the aggregation necessary in this matter of pensions. Then I do not think he spoke about regular soldiers, but they clearly are covered under the normal occupation clause.
But there are a certain number of people left who would be covered by the Amendment of the noble and learned Lord, whose service in the Army might only have been for a few days, and they would come in. It is well known that under the Derby scheme certain men were called up and were passed by the doctor, and it was found in about a week that because of flat feet, or something like that, they really were not suitable and they were very soon returned to civilian life. But according to these words of the noble and learned Lord, such men, if they died within three years of the termination of their period of service—though their service may only have been a few days—would have established a case so that their widows could get pensions. Surely the noble and learned Lord does not mean that? If I may say so, I have already been rather inveighed against—I am not complaining—because it was thought that we were giving pensions to people who have not done any—
§ LORD CRAIGMYLE
I am afraid I do not follow the noble Lord. Does he mean that a case should be excluded because a man was early hit in the War? Is that what the noble Lord means?
§ LORD ARNOLD
Not at all. A man was taken into the Army, perhaps under the Derby scheme, for a very short time, it might be for as little as a week. If he was then found for one reason or another to be unsuitable and was returned to civilian life, under the noble and learned Lord's Amendment a claim would be established to a pension if he died within three years of that week. That is what I am putting forward. I do not think the noble and learned Lord really wishes to cast the net as wide as that, but that would be the effect of his Amendment. I really think, having regard to the various regulations under these Acts, that the good cases which ought to be admitted on the regulations, the basis being what it is, are covered already and that the proposed words ought not to be inserted. I assure the noble and learned Lord that, so far as the Government are concerned, we should certainly have to resist his Amendment because it is casting the net, as it seems to us, altogether too wide in certain cases.
§ EARL BUXTON
That is a very important point. The noble Lord who is in charge of the Bill has endeavoured to show that all the cases to which my noble friend referred would be included and covered by the Bill, but as I understood by noble friend proof is required, under paragraph (iii) of subsection (1) of Clause 1, from the widow that her husband had served for not less than two years. My noble and learned friend has asked what is going to happen in the case of those who were hit early in the War. I think there is some justification for what the noble Lord said with regard to those people who were only brought into the Army under the Derby or some other scheme, were only there for a few days and were discharged for some physical disability. In such cases I think there should be no claim. But supposing a man had been killed before the two years expired, is he to be excluded? It appears to me under the Bill as it now stands that that is the case.
§ LORD ARNOLD
This is a point which I think, without reference, is governed by the fact that if he has been killed his widow will get a Service pension. That is the reply. In a later Amendment by Lord Clwyd there is a reference to that 791 point. We are all glad to think that the Service pensions were certainly not ungenerous.
§ On Question, Amendment negatived.
§ LORD ARNOLD moved, in paragraph (b) of subsection (1), before "the First Schedule" to insert "Part 1 of". The noble Lord said: This Amendment is necessary to correct an inadvertent omission in subsection (1) (b) of the clause as at present drafted. There are two Parts of the First Schedule to the Insurance Act, and it is necessary to define to which Part the paragraph refers. Paragraphs (f) and (g) in Part 1 of the First Schedule of the National Health Insurance Act, 1924, were added to the Schedule by the National Health Insurance Act, 1928. For those reasons I beg to move.
Page 2, line 34, after (" of ") insert (" Part 1 of ").—(Lord Arnold.)
LORD REMNANT moved, in subsection (1), after paragraph (b), to insert the following new paragraph:—
(c) who was a member of a police force and whose widow would have been entitled to a widow's ordinary pension under Section three of the Police Pensions Act, 1921, but for the fact that her husband retired on pension from the police force on or before the first day of September, nineteen hundred and eighteen.
The noble Lord said: When the Bill was before your Lordships' House for Second Reading I am afraid I wearied your Lordships by going into this matter in detail. The noble and learned Lord in charge of the Bill then promised me, in view of what had taken place in the other place and what was said in this House, that he would consider the subject before we got into Committee, and see whether anything could be done to include this class of old police pensioners' widows. I do not know whether he is able to-day to give a favourable reply to this appeal, and to say that this class is going to be included. I hope he has some favourable answer to give me. I am reluctant to take up any time in further discussing this matter beyond saying that on reading the OFFICIAL REPORTS of the other House I saw that the Minister himself, in talking about these police pensioners' widows, said "the hardest ease is that of the pre-Police Pensions Act widow"—that is the 1918 Act. He went
on to say that those widows are within this Bill. It is quite true that in the subsequent discussion of the matter he qualified that statement, but it is obvious, I think, to everybody that his intention was to include these widows. There are not many of them now, and, that being so, I hope the noble Lord in charge of the Bill is able to accept the Amendment which I have on the Paper, or an equivalent one, which will put beyond all doubt the question that these old souls are at last being included for pensions.
§ I see present the noble Viscount, Lord Brentford, the last Home Secretary, who did so much for the police. I know we have his sympathy, and he will corroborate me when I say that for many years now we have endeavoured to get these old police pensioners' widows included for pensions. It was a bad stroke of luck that they were left out of the Act of 1918. When the 1921 Act came before the other House it was passed unanimously by the Committee—it is true against the Government—and it passed through Report stage and Third Reading in the other House without opposition; but when it came to your Lordships' House the Home Secretary of that day, Mr. Edward Shortt, was able to raise the question of economy, and your Lordships were persuaded to reject what had been a unanimous decision in the other House. The matter of economy was raised then, I think, without due consideration to all the facts and figures of the case. Your Lordships will remember that they started in those days by saying that there must be somewhere about 20,000 of these old souls, and that it would cost something like £575,000 the first year. By the time it got to your Lordships' House the 20,000 had been reduced to 15,000, and the cost in the first year was then put at £300,000 instead of £575,000. That was in 1921. An enormous number of them have died since then. The widows of the old pensioners who had retired before 1918 and joined other occupations which were insurable will be looked after, so that the number left must be very small. I do appeal to the noble Lord to accept this Amendment and so remedy the great injustice which has been inflicted on these poor people through no fault of their own.
Page 2, line 35, at end insert the said new paragraph.—(Lord Remnant.)
§ LORD ARNOLD
I have given the most favourable consideration to this as also has the Department and my right hon. friend, but I very much regret I am unable to do what the noble Lord wants, and I will tell him why. As he knows, widows of policemen who died before September 1, 1918, are covered by the Bill under Clause 1. Prior to that date police service ranked as an insurable occupation. The noble Lord, while he will agree with that, wants more. He wants a pension for the widows of policemen who retired before September 1, 1918, but who died at some time after that date.
§ LORD ARNOLD
Under Clause 1 your Lordships will see that a title to a pension depends upon a deceased husband's status sometime during the three years before his death. Therefore, so far as a policeman who died within three years of the termination of his service is concerned, although he retired before September 1, 1918, his case is covered also. If a policeman died, not within three years of the termination of his period of service, but at a date subsequent to that, the question is: What was his insurable occupation, if any? If he had an insurable occupation his case also will be covered by the Bill. But if his occupation was not insurable, or if he had no occupation, the test will not be satisfied except in one case, which is this, that if a policeman was permanently incapacitated from earning his livelihood, then in that case he would have been adjudged to satisfy the test and his widow will get a pension. The normal occupation would be regarded as that of a pre-1918 policeman, if I may so put it.
But the noble Lord surely appreciates that what he is wanting to do is this: he wants to put the widows of these particular men—a small class, I admit—in a preferential position as compared with the widows of other men. That would be the effect of the Amendment. He is wanting to put these widows in a preferential position as compared with the widows of other men, because under the regulation the widows of other men would not be able to get pensions unless they complied with the regulation that I have 794 outlined, while the noble Lord wants these particular widows to get these pensions. It really is a matter, as the noble Lord himself indicated, for the Police Pensions Act, if it is to be done at all. It is not a matter for this Bill, it is a matter for the Police Pensions Act if it is to be done. The noble Lord says: "But what about deferred pay, do you not regard deferred pay as really part of the running remuneration of the man? Is he not therefore, so to say, in a sense engaged in this occupation and would he not therefore become insured?" I think it is a very ingenious argument, which, if I may say so, does more credit to the noble Lord's ingenuity than to the practical qualities of his mind, because if you were to take that into consideration I think we should be getting into very great difficulties.
§ LORD REMNANT
May I interrupt the noble Lord for a moment? I do not know any other pension comparable with this case, where the pension period is also an extended service period. These men are liable during the whole period to be called up for service and some were quite recently called up.
§ LORD ARNOLD
If the noble Lord will allow me to say so, that is not the point that we are on. We are considering the question of deferred pay. In a matter of that kind, as your Lordships know, you must move very carefully, very warily, because otherwise we may find ourselves up against all kinds of questions which have nothing whatever to do with the Bill. I really think looking at the matter all round that the case for the Amendment of the noble Lord cannot be substantiated. Naturally, everybody would like to give pensions to these widows and to a great many other widows, but this Bill is founded on certain principles and his Amendment, as I think I have shown, is going beyond the principles of the Bill, beyond the principles of the Insurance Act. Therefore, I am obliged, with regret, to resist the Amendment.
§ On Question, Amendment negatived.
§ LORD ARNOLD moved, in proviso (ii) to subsection (i), after "paragraph (b)" to insert "or paragraph (c)." The noble Lord said: This is a drafting Amendment. In the Bill as it left the Committee of the House of Commons the 795 present paragraph (c) was designated (b) and the present paragraph (b) was added on the Report stage. Proviso (ii) of the subsection applies equally to the added paragraph.
Page 3, lines 14 and 15, after (" paragraph (b) ") insert (" or paragraph (c) ").—(Lord Arnold.)
§ LORD PARMOOR moved, in proviso (ii) to subsection (1), to leave out "the provisions of subsection (1) of Section twenty-one or of" and insert "any disqualification for the receipt of a pension contained in subsection (1) of Section twenty-one or." The noble Lord said: This is a drafting Amendment. I am glad to see the noble Earl, Lord Halsbury, present, because he very properly raised certain questions on Second Reading. He began, as a matter of fact, at Clause 5, but the same point arises here. We have considered these matters very carefully and I hope we have met the views of the noble Earl. Certainly, the Government draftsman has considered the matter very carefully and provided us with these Amendments which we are willing to insert. I hope the noble Earl will be very grateful for the attention we have given to the matter.
Page 3, lines 22 and 23, leave out (" the provisions of subsection (1) of Section twenty-one or of ") and insert (" any disqualification for the receipt of a pension contained in subsection (1) of Section twenty-one or ").—(Lord Parmoor.)
§ THE EARL OF HALSBURY
I should like to say that I am very grateful to the Government for the trouble they have taken and the consideration they have given to what I said on Second Reading. All I can say is that for a considerable number of years I have endeavoured to put before your Lordships' House the very great danger that there is in legislation by reference. For the first time I have found a Government willing to meet me in any way. Up to now I have been told that the whole thing was nonsense. I am very grateful, therefore, to find this Government for the first time willing to meet me.
Page 3, line 28, leave out (" paragraph (b) ") and insert (" paragraph (c) ").—(Lord Arnold.)
THE EARL OF ONSLOW moved, in subsection (1) after proviso (iii), to insert:—
(iv) For the purposes of this section the expression ' necessitous ' means a person whose annual income from all sources is less than two hundred and fifty pounds.
The noble Earl said: This is really a consequential Amendment.
Page 3, line 30, at end insert the said new paragraph.—(The Earl of Onslow.)
LORD ARNOLD moved to add to subsection (4):
or, as the case may be, was employment of such a kind as is specified in paragraph (f) or paragraph (g) of Part I of the First Schedule to the Insurance Act, in the like manner in either case as if the question were a question arising under paragraph (a) of subsection (1) of the said Section eighty-nine.
The noble Lord said: This Amendment is really, in a sense, consequential on paragraph (b) of subsection (1) which was introduced into the Bill at a late stage. There are two occupations of share fishermen and contractors which were not insurable until January 1, 1929. Without this Amendment the Minister would not be empowered in considering cases in which employment was carried on between 4th January, 1926, and 1st January, 1929, to take into account the fact that they are now insured. I do not think that the matter is at all contentious. I beg to move.
Page 4, line 16, at end insert the said words.—(Lord Arnold.)
§ THE EARL OF HALSBURY
If I may venture to put it in that way, the Government, having accepted my suggestion in other cases, have been rather naughty over this case. Just let us see how it reads:(4) Section eighty-nine of the Insurance Act (which provides for the determination by the Minister of questions relating to employment) shall apply to any question arising under subsection (1) of this section whether employment which was, or is 797 alleged to have been, the normal occupation of any person was employment in respect of which contributions under the principal Act would have been payable if that Act had been in force.And now we go on:—or, as the case may be, was employment of such a kind as is specified in paragraph (f) or paragraph (g) of Part I of the First Schedule to the Insurance Act, in the like manner in either case as if the question were a question arising under paragraph (a) of subsection (1) of the said section eighty-nine ".Now, surely, that might be put a little more clearly. It is rather hard to expect a person to read all through that and go through other Acts to find out what it means. I am not suggesting that it ought to be altered now, but I do suggest that before the Report stage is reached noble Lords opposite might find a way of putting it a little more simply than that.
§ Clause 1, as amended, agreed to.
§ Clause 2:
§ Extension of right to old age pensions in the case of certain women.
§ 2.—(1) A woman who has attained the age of sixty-five but has not attained the age of seventy shall, subject as hereinafter provided, be entitled to an old age pension payable in accordance with the provisions of the principal Act relating to such a pension if she is the wife of a man who is entitled by virtue of section twenty of that Act to an old age pension under the Old Age Pensions Acts, 1908 to 1924:
§ Provided that a woman shall not be entitled to a pension under this subsection unless or until three years have elapsed since the date of the marriage or unless immediately before the marriage she was, or but for the provisions of subsection (1) of Section twenty-one or of Section twenty-four of the principal Act would have been, in receipt of a widow's pension.
§ LORD PARMOOR moved, in the proviso to subsection (1), to leave out "the provisions of subsection (1) of Section twenty-one or of" and insert "any disqualification for the receipt of a pension contained in subsection (1) of Section twenty-one or." The noble Lord said: This is the same point again.
Page 4, lines 28 and 29, leave out (" the provisions of subsection (1) of Section twenty-one or of ") and insert (" any disqualification for the receipt of a pension contained in subsection (1) of Section twenty-one or ").—(Lord Parmoor.)
§ Clause 2, as amended, agreed to.
§ Clause 3:
§ Provisions as to pensioners and insured persons in His Majesty's dominions outside Great Britain.
§ 3.—(1) The provisions of this section shall have effect with respect to persons who are in any part of His Majesty's dominions outside Great Britain, whether they left Great Britain before or after the commencement of this Act, that is to say—
§ EARL BUXTON moved, in subsection (1), after the first "Great Britain," to insert "or are working in the employment of a British firm in any part of the world." The noble Earl said: It may be that there is some explanation in regard to this matter. Under Clause 3 of this Bill the case of an insured man who is not resident in Great Britain at the time of death, is covered as regards the man employed in the Empire itself, but there seems to be no provision in that clause regarding men who appear to have an equal claim—namely, men employed on some job outside the Empire. Such men are just as much entitled to claim their pensions as the others, though for the time being they are not resident in Great Britain, if they are doing work on behalf of an English contractor. I do not quite know why such a man should be excluded from the Bill, and I shall be glad if my noble friend can tell me the reason.
Page 5, line 13, after (" Britain ") insert (" or are working in the employment of a British firm in any part of the world.")—(Earl Buxton.)
§ LORD ARNOLD
Of course the broad reply to the noble Earl is that the presumption is that men who go abroad to work—perhaps on some undertaking such as the construction of a big steel bridge in Buda-Pest or in China or wherever it may be—are temporarily absent. Such men are not away very long, and persons already in receipt of pensions who go abroad for a period not exceding three months are not deprived of their pensions, while if the period of absence exceeds three months arrears may be drawn on their return up to a maximum of three months' payment. The other point, which perhaps, if I may say so, requires more explanation, is why there should be a 799 differentiation in regard to the future payments of insurance stamps and so forth as between those who are in the Dominions and those who are working in some foreign country for a British contractor. I think the position is quite reasonable. One object of this clause is to encourage emigration to the Dominions. If a man goes to work for a British firm in a foreign country (the object of the clause is not to discourage him) he can keep up insurance under the voluntary scheme for a long time—for some years, if his job should last so long, which is very unlikely—and I think the noble Earl, who is very cognisant of all these matters, will agree that you cannot have a compulsory insurance scheme for men at the other end of the world. It would be impossible. It must be a voluntary scheme, and accordingly the only practicable method is to keep it voluntary.
I do not know if the noble Earl wants to go into the matter further. There are other points that I might discuss. It is quite true, as regards the emigrant to the Dominions, that in future, if he pays at all, he will pay only for widows' pensions and old age pensions, whereas the man who has gone abroad on some contract will, if he is a voluntary contributor, have to pay for all three—health, widow and old age. I do not think, however, that there is a great deal in that point. If a man has gone to the Dominions, clearly he is outside the scope of this Act so far as the medical benefits are concerned, and if he goes simply to Budapest and is coming back in a few months, it may be true that we cannot give him medical attention, but, when he gets back, if he still needs it, he has preserved all his insurance rights. That is the point. If the provision for keeping up insurance under the voluntary scheme for some years were not there, the man's insurance would lapse, and when he returned he would have to start again and might have to contribute for two years until, for instance, he got disablement benefit. I have given very careful thought to this matter. I do not say that the position is entirely defensible logically, but as a matter of administration I think that everything that can well be done has been done. I hope that I have satisfied the noble Earl.
§ EARL BUXTON
I am obliged to the noble Lord for his explanation. I do 800 not think that it is quite sufficient, but I will withdraw the Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Clause 3 agreed to.
§ Clause 4 agreed to.
§ Clause 5:
§ Amendment as to right of widows or wives of men who had attained sixty at date of marriage to widows' or old age pensions.
§ 5. For the words "was immediately before the marriage in receipt of a widow's pension," where those words occur in proviso (c) to subsection (1) of Section three, in the proviso to subsection (1) of Section seven and in the proviso to subsection (1) of Section twenty of the principal Act, there shall be substituted the words "immediately before the marriage was, or but for the provisions of subsection (1) of Section twenty-one or of Section twenty-four of this Act would have been, in receipt of a widow's pension," and in the proviso to subsection (1) of the said Section twenty, for the words "five years" there shall be substituted the words "three years."
§ LORD MARKS moved to leave out "the provisions of subsection (1) of Section twenty-one or of" and insert "any disqualifications for the receipt of a pension contained in subsection (1) of Section twenty-one or ". The noble Lord said: I beg to move this Amendment on behalf of my noble and learned friend Lord Parmoor. The same arguments apply to this Amendment as to the previous Amendments standing in my noble and learned friend's name.
Page 9, lines 5 to 7, leave out (" the provisions of subsection (1) of Section twenty-one or of ") and insert (" and disqualifications for the receipt of a pension contained in subsection (1) of Section twenty-one or ").—(Lord Marks.)
§ Clause 5, as amended, agreed to.
§ Clause 6 agreed to.
§ LORD ARNOLD moved to insert the following new clause after Clause 6:—
§ Amendment of Section 1 of principal Act with respect to duration of additional allowance and orphans pensions.
" . For subsection (2) of Section one of the principal Act, which fixes by reference to the age of a child the date at which any additional allowance or orphan's pension ceases to be payable in respect of him, there shall be substituted the following subsection:
' (2) The specified age in relation to any child shall be the age of fourteen or, in the case of a child under full time instruction in a day school, the date on which he ceases to be under such instruction, or the thirty-first day of July next following the date on which he attains the age of sixteen, whichever is the earlier '.
§ The noble Lord said: This is a new clause which I can explain in a few seconds. In view of representations which have been made of the hardships of terminating children's allowances and orphans' pensions at the age of 16 in the case of children under full time instruction in a day school, where the parents of children attending secondary schools are required to give an undertaking to keep children at school until the end of the school year in which the sixteenth birthday occurs—your Lordships will remember the change that was made which I explained on the Second Reading—it has been decided to extend the provision to meet these cases. July 31 is chosen as being the normal date of the end of the school year in the case of secondary schools. I beg to move.
Page 11, after Clause 6, insert the said new clause.—(Lord Arnold.)
§ Clause 7 agreed to.
§ Clause 8:
§ Amendment with respect to persons employed in excepted employments.
§ 8.—(1) If, in the case of any person employed in an excepted employment to which paragraph (iv) of subsection (1) of Section nine of the principal Act applies, contributions under that Act either cease to be payable or become payable at the rates mentioned in Part IV of the First Schedule to that Act instead of at the ordinary rates, that person shall, for the purposes of subsections (3) and (5) of Section fifteen of that Act, be treated as if he had ceased to be employed in an excepted employment to which that section applies.
THE EARL OF HALSBURY had given Notice to move to omit subsection (1). The noble Earl said: If there is no Amendment proposed to Clause 8 I should very much like to call your Lordships' attention to that clause. I rather gathered that the suggestions I had made were going to be attended to on Clause 8. If subsection (1) of the clause is not to be amended, I should like to know what it means. It runs as follows:—
If, in the case of any person employed in an excepted employment to which paragraph (iv) of subsection (1) of Section nine of the principal Act applies, contributions under that Act either cease to be payable or become payable at the rates mentioned in Part IV of the First Schedule to that Act instead of at the ordinary rates, that person shall, for the purposes of subsections (3) and (5) of Section fifteen of that Act, be treated as if he had ceased to be employed in an excepted employment to which that section applies.
I ask your Lordships quite frankly, do any of you know what that means? I do not mind telling you that it took me a whole day to find out what I thought it meant, and I do not know now whether I am right. But now may I suggest what I think it means? It means that if anybody is employed in an employment which is excepted under a certificate by the Secretary of State under the Act of 1924, and after that his contributions cease to be payable, or cease to be payable at the actual rate that is given in that Act, then he is entitled to become a contributory member under this particular measure. Is that really the case or not? This subsection is impossible to construe, and to ask your Lordships to construe it without giving the House the slightest idea of what it is supposed to mean is absurd. We ought not to pass it without knowing what it moans.
§ LORD PARMOOR
I am sorry there should be any misunderstanding in the mind of the noble and learned Earl about this clause. He proposes to leave out the subsection, and he stated very accurately in regard to some clauses that he took great care to put in Amendments in the direction of avoiding legislation by reference. As regards Clause 8, I can only say that I do not think the noble and learned Earl gave any indication of the direction in which he wished the subsection to be amended, but he merely proposes to leave it out. That was submitted to the draftsman, and having had some experience with draftsmen, I took care to go with the draftsman through it, and we thought there could be no amendment to this clause which would improve the drafting. As we could not improve the drafting we let it stand as it was.
§ THE EARL OF HALSBURY
I still feel rather doubtful. I have asked a perfectly 803 plain question as to what Clause 8 (1) means, and I have not got an answer.
§ EARL BEAUCHAMP
I think it would be convenient if I were to say something on the *Amendment in the name of the noble Earl, Lord Buxton, which immediately follows this. Lord Buxton unfortunately was obliged to leave the House. Your Lordships may remember that some reference was made in the course of the Second Heading to this clause, and it was then referred to as a particularly bad example of legislation by reference. Lord Buxton took expert advice, and he tried to set down in his Amendment what this clause meant. The question which I put to the Government is this: Was my noble friend right, or was he wrong? If the clause means what he thinks it means I should have thought it would be just as well to insert it in the Bill. But if this is not what it means, then my noble friend, in spite of the expert advice which he sought, has been unable to find out what it means.
§ LORD ARNOLD
I think I can make clear what this subsection means. A person engaged in an excepted employ-meant who leaves it or has his salary raised to over £250 a year, has the right to become a voluntary contributor. There are some people, however, who do not leave such employment, but whose conditions of service in that employment are changed in such a way that they cease to be liable for all or some of the pensions' contributions previously payable; and the purpose of this subsection is to secure that for these people there shall be the same right to voluntary
[* Earl Buxton's proposed Amendment was as follows:—
In subsection (1) to leave out all words after "If, in the case of any person employed in an excepted employment" and insert (" in respect of whom contributions are being paid at the ordinary rates, such contributions either cease to be payable or become payable at the reduced rates applicable to persons in respect of whom adequate provision for benefits by way of old age pensions is made otherwise than by this Act or by the principal Act, the contributions paid on behalf of such person prior to their termination or reduction shall not entitle him or her to be regarded as continuously insured without further contribution during any immediately subsequent period or to become a voluntary contributor under the Insurance Act."]
§ insurance as if the employment had ceased altogether. I think that this is as plain as it can be made. When the noble and learned Lord calls attention to the difficulty of interpreting these involved clauses, this legislation by reference, he knows as well as I do that it is inherent in this kind of legislation. I remember very well the case of the late Government's Unemployment Insurance Bill, a Bill that was rushed through. The noble and learned Lord, Lord Carson, was very angry about certain things, and he quoted a very eminent lawyer to the effect that it was unintelligible. But the late Government did not give way. They said that was the best that could be done. We have met the noble and learned Earl opposite on about five out of six of his suggestions, and I am definitely informed—and I have inquired again—that in the circumstances this is the best form. I am quite sure, if it would give the noble and learned Earl any satisfaction, we could cite plenty of precedents from previous Acts for a clause of this kind.
§ THE EARL OF HALSBURY
I absolutely and completely disagree with the noble Lord as to what this subsection means. To begin with, there is nothing in this subsection that tells you straight away that it applies to a man only if he is 65 years of age. That is the first thing. You have to look in another Act to find that. Only by referring to the principal Act—referred to in the second "that Act" and the third "that Act "—can you find out what this subsection means. It took me a day, very carefully looking up every Act, to find what it meant, and after the reply of the noble Lord I do not think he knows now what it means.
§ LORD HANWORTH
May I, as a detached student, make a suggestion? One thing that would make this subsection plainer would be if the references to "that Act" and "that Act" and "that Act," which successively follow one another in the subsection, were always to "the principal Act." The words "that Act," I am bound to say for my own part, appear rather indeterminate. That would make it read as follows:—(1) If, in the case of any person employed in an excepted employment to which paragraph (iv) of subsection (1) of Section nine of the principal Act applies, contributions under the principal Act either cease to 805 be payable or become payable at the rates mentioned in Part IV of the First Schedule to the principal Act instead of at the ordinary rates, that person shall, for the purposes of subsections (3) and (5) of Section fifteen of the principal Act, be treated as if he had ceased to employed in an excepted employment to which that section applies.It would at least prevent any ambiguity arising as to which Act is last referred to, and which is described as "that Act." I merely venture to offer that as a suggestion, and it might be possible to accept it on Report.
§ LORD BANBURY OF SOUTHAM
In order to expedite business, why not accept the Amendment, and then on Report stage bring up a new subsection (1) which people can understand.
§ LORD PARMOOR
I am quite willing, so far as this clause is concerned, to accept the suggestion made by Lord Han-worth, who has very large experience in dealing with Acts of Parliament and in ascertaining, in his judicial capacity, what is their proper interpretation. If there be any doubt whether "that Act" in this clause means the principal Act, let us put in "principal" between now and the Report stage. I am very much obliged to the noble and learned Lord for his assistance, and if your Lordships will look at Clause 25, subsection (3), you will see that it says:—…., any reference in this Act to the principal Act or to any enactment contained in that Act shall be construed as a reference to that Act or to that enactment as amended by this Act.It is made, I think, quite clear, if we use the words "principal Act." We accept that Amendment, and undertake to see that it is put in on the Report stage.
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
I think it is really rather important that your Lordships should not let legislation go through without being very clear that we understand what we are doing. If there was going to be a reasonable interval between the stages of the Bill, then perhaps the course suggested by the noble and learned Lord would be the right one. We would not press the matter now, and the Government would bring up a proper Amendment upon Report, and we should consider it, and if it were not considered satisfactory there would be another interval and the Amendment could be brought up in a 806 final form upon Third Reading. That is the normal procedure in this House, and the procedure that we ought to follow. In this particular case we are presented with a subsection the obscurity of which is such that even the Law Lords of the House do not seem to understand it. Of course the noble and learned Lord opposite is no longer quite impartial, but the other noble Law Lords seem to be puzzled.
I think the best course is to allow the subsection to be struck out now and to let the Government put it in a proper form. The House will then be in a position to judge whether it shall let the Bill go through in the next couple of days or not. Otherwise, if, to-morrow, we meet and the noble and learned Lord moves to suspend the Standing Order, and we are asked to deal with the Bill finally to-morrow, and all the combined acumen of the learned Lords cannot understand what the subsection means, we may be put in a very great difficulty. I think the most workmanlike course—and I say this not in any spirit of hostility to the Government, but in a reasonable spirit—is to leave this incomprehensible subsection out of the Bill and to bring it up in another form at another time.
§ LORD DARLING
Might I ask this question, which I put to the Government in the most friendly possible spirit? It seems to be admitted that we none of us, not even the noble Lord in charge of the Bill, understand this subsection.
§ LORD DARLING
Then only the noble Lord himself understands it, and I would ask this. The noble Earl who leads the Liberal Party has told us, in the place of Lord Buxton, that Lord Buxton took expert advice upon the meaning of this particular subsection. He himself has given attention to it, and he and the expert have come to the conclusion that it means what is set out in an Amendment standing in the name of Lord Buxton. I would like to ask the noble Lord in charge of the Bill when he replies to tell us whether it is the opinion of the Government Bench that Lord Buxton and his expert are right, and the subsection really means what is set out in Lord Buxton's Amendment.
§ THE EARL OF HALSBURY
Before the noble Lord replies I would like to point out this, that Lord Parmoor was good enough to reply to Lord Hanworth that he thought there was an excellent way of getting over the difficulty, if they looked at Clause 25, subsection (3). I would point out to the noble and learned Lord that he does not appear to have noticed that I have an Amendment to leave out that subsection.
§ LORD PARMOOR
I am sorry that we should have further controversy. I thought that Lord Hanworth made an excellent suggestion, and I accepted it. We could put it in the Bill now in the form of an Amendment, and if noble Lords wished to consider the matter before Report stage they would be able to read the clause in the amended form. If Lord Hanworth will move his Amendment we shall be pleased to accept it.
§ EARL BEAUCHAMP
I feel bound to point out that the admirable Amendment suggested by Lord Hanworth does not cover all the points included in the subsection, and I am sure that the suggestion made by Lord Darling just now is one which ought to commend itself to us. If the interpretation which we have put down in an Amendment in the name of Lord Buxton is right, then let the Government tell us so, and if it is wrong, then I venture to say again that it is only an example of the difficulty of understanding the subsection.
§ Resolved in the negative, and Amendment agreed to accordingly.
THE LORD CHAIRMAN
The first line of Clause 8 is omitted from the Bill. As a consequence, I must put the Question that lines 11–19 stand part.
§ LORD ARNOLD
If Lord Buxton or the noble Earl, Lord Beauchamp, is going to move the Amendment I think it would be perhaps more in order if I kept my observations upon the matter until the Amendment is moved, when I shall be pleased to discuss the matter at full length; but whatever the merits or demerits, I shall have no difficulty in convincing your Lordships that the Amendment of the noble Earl goes far beyond anything which could have been intended by the clause. In reply to the specific question I wish to make it quite clear that we cannot for a moment agree that the words of the Amendment of the noble Earl are equivalent, or can be taken to be in any way equivalent to Clause 8.
§ THE EARL OF HALSBURY
In the circumstances I propose to move the Amendment in my name, to delete subsection (1).
Page 12, line 10, leave out subsection (1).—(The Earl of Halsbury.)
THE LORD CHAIRMAN
In order to save other Amendments in case this Amendment is not carried, I will put the Question in this form, that line 10 stand part of the clause.
§ On Question, Whether the words proposed to be left out shall stand part of the Bill?:—
§ Their Lordships divided: Contents, 8; Not-Contents, 33.807
|Sankey, L. (L. Chancellor.)||Amulree, L.||Hay, L. (E. Kinnoull.)|
|Arnold, L.||Marks, L. [Teller.]|
|Parmoor, L. (L. President.)||Gorell, L. [Teller.]||Thomson, L.|
|Salisbury, M.||Burnham, V.||de Clifford, L.|
|FitzAlan of Derwent, V.||Fairfax of Cameron, L.|
|Beauchamp, E.||Novar, V.||Faringdon, L.|
|Cranbrook, E.||Sumner, Y.||Hanworth, L.|
|Halsbury, E. [Teller.]||Howard of Glossop, L.|
|Liverpool, E.||Alvingham, L.||Lawrence, L.|
|Lucan, E. [Teller.]||Banbury of Southam, L.||Melchett, L.|
|Midleton, E.||Clifford of Chudleigh, L.||Queenborough, L.|
|Onslow, E.||Clwyd, L.||Redesdale, L.|
|Stanhope, E.||Cushendun, L.||Ritchie of Dundee, L.|
|Danesfort, L.||Saltoun, L.|
|Brentford, V.||Darling, L.||Shandon, L.|
Page 12, lines 11 to 19, leave out the remaining words in subsection (1).—(The Earl of Halsbury.)
§ On Question, Amendment agreed to.
§ Clause 8, as amended, agreed to.809
§ Clause 9:
§ Amendment of Sections 18 and 19 of Principal Act.
9.—(1) The following shall be substituted for paragraph (d) of Section eighteen of the principal Act and for proviso (b) to subsection (1) of Section nineteen of that Act—
a widow's pension shall cease to be payable on the date on which the youngest child or the only child, as the case may be, attains the age of sixteen:
Provided that if the youngest child dies before attaining the age of sixteen and there is then living no other child under the age of fifteen years and a half, or if the only child dies before attaining the age of sixteen, the pension shall continue until the date on which the deceased child would have attained the age of sixteen, or until the expiration of six months from the date of the child's death, whichever period is the shorter.
LORD ARNOLD moved, in subsection (1), to add to the paragraph immediately preceding the proviso:
or, in the case of a child who on the date when he attains the age of sixteen is under full time instruction in a day school, the date on which he ceases to be under such instruction, or the thirty-first day of July next following the date on which he attains the age of sixteen, whichever is the earlier.
The noble Lord said: This Amendment deals with the point which I have already spoken about where the youngest or only child remains at school beyond the age of 16, and the widow's pension shall not cease until the child leaves school or until the 31st day of July next following the child's sixteenth birthday, whichever happens first. That is the purpose of the Amendment, and I beg to move.
Page 13, line 8, at end insert the said new words.—(Lord Arnold.)
§ On Question, Amendment agreed to.
§ LORD ARNOLD moved, in the proviso, to leave out "child dies before attaining the age of sixteen and there is then living no other child under the age of fifteen years and a half, or if the" and insert "or." The noble Lord said: This is virtually the same point. I beg to move.
Page 13, line 8, leave out from (" child ") to (" the ") in line 12 and insert (" or ").—(Lord Arnold.)
§ On Question, Amendment agreed to.810
§ LORD ARNOLD moved, at the end of subsection (1), to insert "without prejudice, however, in a case where the deceased child was not the only child to any further continuance of the pension to which the widow may be entitled in right of any older surviving child." The noble Lord said: This is the same point. On the death of the youngest child of the family, the next youngest shall become, for the purposes of the main pro vision, the youngest child. I beg to move.
Page 13, line 18, at end insert the said new words.—(Lord Arnold.)
§ On Question, Amendment agreed to.
§ Clause 9, as amended, agreed to.
§ Clause 10:
§ Disqualifications, &c.
§ 10.—(1) Such of the provisions set out in the First Schedule to this Act as are applicable to a pension of any class under the principal Act (including an additional allowance under that Act) or under the Old Age Pensions Acts, 1908 to 1924, shall have effect with respect to disqualifications for the receipt of a pension of that class in substitution for such of the provisions contained in the Third Schedule to the principal Actor in subsections (1) and (2) of Section three of the Old Age Pensions Act, 1908, as amended by any subsequent enactment, as were immediately before the commencement of this Act applicable to a pension of that class.
§ LORD PARMOOR moved, in subsection (1), to leave out "such of." The noble and learned Lord said: I regard this as a drafting Amendment. It was really put on the Paper to meet, as we thought, the view of the noble Earl, Lord Halsbury. At any rate this Amendment was intended for that purpose. I beg to move.
Page 13, line 28, leave out (" such of ").—(Lord Parmoor.)
§ On Question, Amendment agreed to.
§ Amendments moved—
§ Page 13, line 29, leave out from (" Act ") to (" shall ") in line 32.
§ Page 13, line 33, leave out from the first (" of ") to the end of subsection (1), and insert (" pensions under the principal Act (including additional allowances under that Act) and pensions under the Old Age Pensions Acts, 1908 to 1924, and accordingly subsection (2) of Section twenty-one of the principal Act and the Third Schedule to that Act (which relate to disqualifications for the receipt of pensions under that Act) and subsections 811 (1) and (2) of Section three of the Old Age Pensions Act, 1903 (which relate to disqualifications for the receipt of pensions under the Old Age Pensions Acts, 1908 to 1924) as amended by any subsequent enactment, shall be repealed ").—(Lord Parmoor.)
§ On Question, Amendments agreed to.
§ Clause 10, as amended, agreed to.
§ Clause 11 [Administration of pensions in case of certain lunatics]:
§ THE EARL OF CRANBROOK
I should like to ask the noble Lord whether he can explain to me something which occurs in Clause 11. As I understand it, this is meant to provide that the pension of a pauper lunatic under detention should be used for his own comforts, and the remainder paid to dependents who are not contributing to the expenses incurred by a Poor Law authority. It seems to me there will be nothing to prevent dependents who are comparatively well off from ceasing to contribute and thereby sharing in the pension, which presumably they are not intended to share. If the noble Lord can explain to me whether or not that is so I shall be grateful.
§ LORD ARNOLD
The noble Lord has given no notice of this, and I should not be doing right unless I gave him a perfectly correct answer. If he will bring it up to-morrow on Report I will do so then. It is a very complicated point and I could not reply to it off-hand.
§ Clause 11 agreed to.
§ Clause 12 agreed to.
§ Clause 13:
§ Amendment with respect to double pensions.
§ 13.—(1) Subsection (1) of Section twenty-four of the principal Act (which contains provisions against double pensions) shall have effect as if for the words "except where such a pension is payable in respect of the service of the pensioner's son during the late War" there were substituted the words "except where such a pension is payable in respect of the service of the pensioner's son or stepson during the late War."
§ LORD CLWYD moved, in subsection (1), to leave out all words after "shall" and insert "cease to have effect." The noble Lord said: It will not be necessary to take more than a short time in moving this. The point raised by the Amendment is one of practical importance. The Amendment is designed 812 to remove a distinction in regard to eligibility for benefits under this Bill in relation to separate categories of workmen. It may be desirable, with the permission of the House, that I should bring to the minds of your Lordships the two sections of the principal Act of 1925 which have a direct bearing upon this Amendment. They are Sections 24 and 25. By Section 24 of the principal Act it is provided that a pension under that Act shall not be payable to any person in respect of whom a dependent's Service pension is payable except in the case of a son killed in the War. In Section 25 it is enacted, in the case of all insured persons, if that event takes place after January 1, 1924, in respect of which compensation will be payable under the Workmen's Compensation Act, any additional allowance payable under that Act—namely, the Act of 1925—to widows or children shall cease, subject to a certain readjustment into which I need not go now.
§ The operation of those two sections in the principal Act is to provide against the payment of double pensions, but I would point out that by the operation of those two sections in the principal Act the prohibition in regard to the non-payment of double pensions is applied equally to the two categories of recipients. That is the point really raised by my Amendment. Coming to the Bill we are discussing this afternoon, your Lordships will see that by Clause 13 the benefit of a pension under the Bill to widows, except in the case of Service pensions, is upheld, subject to the extension of the exception to stepsons killed in the War. By the next clause of the Bill, Clause 14, Section 25 of the principal Act is repealed, and the general effect of this will be that widows of civilian workmen killed at their work will receive compensation under the. Workmen's Compensation Act and also a pension under this Bill, while the widow of a soldier or a sailor killed under similar circumstances will be entitled to receive only her Service pension. I have put down this Amendment for the purpose of removing this distinction. It may be possible that another form of Amendment would be deemed preferable in order to carry out the objects which I have in view, but that is 813 only a matter of drafting, and the particular form that the Amendment takes can be subject to further consideration.
§ What I want to press is the point really at issue in my Amendment. I want to amend this Bill in such a way as to provide that widows of both civilian and Service workmen shall be put on precisely the some footing in regard to benefits derivable under this Bill. I do not think it is really necessary for me to state the grounds upon which the Amendment is moved. There does not seem to me in principle to be any real justification for making this distinction between two classes of recipients. A concrete case was put to the House by the noble Earl who sits below me (Earl Beauchamp) in the speech he made upon the Second Heading, which, I think, illuminated the situation. Take the case of two men working together, one a civilian workman and the other a soldier or a sailor. They are both killed, say, by an explosion. If this Bill is passed in its present form the widow of the civilian workman will receive compensation under the Workmen's Compensation Act and whatever benefit she may derive under the provision of this Bill, whereas the widow of the soldier or sailor will be confined, so far as her benefit is concerned, to her Service pension.
§ I can quite understand why the two sections in the principal Act to which I have referred were enacted. The object was to provide against the payment of double pensions, and it is quite possible to argue upon strict financial grounds that such a prohibition is desirable. But I cannot understand why, when we come to this Bill, it should be right to remove the prohibition from one class and to keep it on in relation to the other. I notice that the Government in another place, in defending the distinction made in this regard, reminded us of the fact that the scale of pensions to War widows was fixed at an exceptionally high figure, and that on that ground it was equitable that they should not receive the same advantageous treatment under this Bill as widows of civilian workmen. All I would say in reference to that argument would be this. In the first place if it was fair and just in 1925, when the principal Act was passed, it continues to be fair and just in present circumstances.814
§ Further, I should like to make clear at all events my intention in moving this Amendment—namely, that it is not to confer any special benefit upon any particular class of War widows but to provide in regard to the future for equal treatment for all post-War widows, due to them as widows of insured persons who have directly, or indirectly, paid their contributions to the State. I will not detain the House longer. I think the issue is quite clear—namely, that it is not right to make this distinction in regard to this class of recipients. I hope that my noble friend who is in charge of the Bill will be able to give me such reply as will, at all events, give me ground for believing that in some measure the grievance of which I complain will be put right, and that without delay.
Page 15, line 10, leave out from (" shall ") to the end of subsection (1) and insert (" cease to have effect ").—(Lord Clwyd.)
§ LORD ARNOLD
The noble Lord has covered the whole ground of this matter so fully and, if I may say so, so lucidly, that I can confine my observations, I think, to a very few words. He is not really, as I understand it, discussing in this matter the major question of whether in ordinary cases the Service pension ought to be the pension, but is raising a point with regard to workmen's compensation. I have to say to the noble Lord at once that this is a point which deserves very great consideration. We admit that. There is, at this moment, a Committee of the Cabinet sitting reviewing the whole working of the Insurance Acts and this kind of legislation, and I can give him the assurance that the point which he has brought before your Lordships this evening will be most carefully considered by that Cabinet Committee with a view to seeing whether any arrangement can or should be made to meet the point. I do not wish in the least degree to prejudice the justice of what the noble Lord said, but I do not think I am doing wrong in calling attention to the fact—and we are very glad it is so—that in these cases, I think I am right in saying, the Service pension is not ungenerous. Therefore, in all probability the widow in this case is better situated than a widow of a civilian. But I would ask the noble Lord not to think I am saying this to prejudice the issue 815 he raised. I only thought it might be some satisfaction to him to know that, in view of his sympathy with these people, and I am sure we all have great sympathy with them. I do not think I can say more now, but what I have said is seriously meant and intended, and the point will be reviewed by the Cabinet Committee now sitting.
§ LORD CLWYD
I need hardly say that in view of the statement just made by my noble friend who is in charge of the Bill, that the matter is receiving the present consideration of a Cabinet Committee, I shall not press my Amendment to a Division. I thank him for his statement.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Clause 13 agreed to.
§ Clauses 14 to 19 agreed to.
§ Clause 20 [Extension of classes of persons who may become voluntary contributors]:
EARL BEAUCHAMP moved to insert at the end of the clause:—
(3) Any person who is not otherwise entitled under any of the provisions of this or of the principal Act to become insured, whether as an employed or as a voluntary contributor may, if he gives notice within such time as may be prescribed and in the prescribed manner that he desires to become a voluntary contributor for the purposes of the principal Act, become such a contributor subject to such modification of contributions or benefits, as the case may be, as may be prescribed.
§ The noble Earl said: This is an Amendment the object of which, as your Lordships will see, is to enable voluntary contributors to come in who are at present outside the scope of the Insurance Acts. They include a large number of people like small shopkeepers, craftsmen, small holders, and a number of black-coated workers who are unable to come within the insurance scheme as insured contributors because they are working on their own. As they form a very large class of people to whom, as I understand, pledges were given before the Election, I am not without hope that His Majesty's Government will look upon this Amendment of mine with some sympathy. The regulation could, I think, be quite easily applied without raising the question of bringing them under the Insurance Act with a panel and so on, with all the complications which might 816 be involved. The class of people who would be likely to take advantage of the Amendment are solid, respectable people who are what are called good insurance lives. Their inclusion would not mean the inclusion of a lot of bad lives likely to cause a heavy drain upon the Fund. Therefore, I hope that the Government may see their way to accept the Amendment.
Page 21, line 22, at end insert the said new subsections.—(Earl Beauchamp.)
§ LORD ARNOLD
This is, of course, a very important Amendment. It raises the whole question of universal voluntary insurance. I think that is what it comes to. Therefore, it is a very far-reaching Amendment. I wish to deal with it in a very frank and, I hope, comprehensive way, though not at great length, because I recognise that the noble Earl is raising a matter which is of very great public interest. It is true that voluntary insurance is limited at present and it does not include many of the people to whom the noble Earl referred, shopkeepers, hawkers and so forth. The fact remains that until 1925 voluntary insurance, in so far as it could be availed of—and I will indicate to your Lordships that that was a very wide field—had not been much resorted to. In fact, up to 1925 the number of persons concerned was only about 30,000. Then came the Act of 1925, and as the noble Earl knows that Act allowed persons who had been continuously insured for two years at any time since 1912 to come in as voluntary contributors. Altogether about 140,000 persons came in under that provision, so that the total number of voluntary contributors was materially increased. But, even so, no very large use has been made of the opportunity.
The fact is that there are large numbers of persons who do not readily come into a voluntary insurance scheme, as for instance young unmarried men. Bachelors, widowers and spinsters do not readily come into the scheme. If these large classes stay out and the only people you are going to get in are those who are most likely to draw upon the Fund, such as married men with families, then, if the scheme is to be actuarially sound, the rate of contribution must be high. For instance, at the present time, as your Lordships are aware, on the basis of beginning 817 at the age of 16 the contribution is 9d. a week. But if you made the minimum age not 16 but 21 the contribution would be 1s. 2d. Similarly if the age was 25 and you had a man and wife with one child, allowing for expectation of further issue, then the contribution would be about 2s. 3d. a week instead of 9d. If you carried the age higher, say to a man of 50 with a wife and one child under fourteen, the fair rate of contribution would be, I believe, somewhere about 8s. 6d. a week, which would be in a vast number of cases prohibitive. I see great difficulties because of the heavy selection against the scheme. The most difficult and costly cases would be those who mostly wanted to avail themselves of it.
Even so, as I have said, the numbers have not been very great. If we assume that the persons most desirous of falling under this voluntary insurance are married men, I believe the cases in question number about 1,700,000 altogether, and of these 1,050,000 have never had an opportunity of voluntary insurance, while of the 650,000 who have had that opportunity only about 100,000 have taken advantage of it. This seems to suggest that the demand is not a very urgent one, and certainly it is not very widespread. Nevertheless I have great sympathy with the noble Earl's Amendment. I know he is wont to say that we have not done this, that and the other, tout we have only been in office six months and we cannot do everything at once. I say again that this whole question of the extension of voluntary schemes of insurance is being most carefully considered by the Cabinet Committee that is now sitting. That is one of the things to which we are giving attention, and for the time being I am afraid I cannot say more than that. I hope that this will be satisfactory to the noble Earl. At any rate, it is as far as I can go.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Clause 20 agreed to.
§ Clauses 21 to 23 agreed to.
§ LORD ARNOLD moved to insert the following new clause after Clause 23:—
§ " . If provision is made by regulations under the Insurance Act for the payment of contributions, at the option of the persons 818 liable to pay, either by means of adhesive stamps or by some alternative method the use of which involves greater expenses in administration to the Government departments concerned than would be incurred if the contributions were paid by means of adhesive stamps, a provision may be included in the regulations for requiring any person who adopts the alternative method to pay to the Minister such fees as may be determined by the Minister, with the concurrence of the Treasury, to represent the difference between the expenses incurred by the said departments by reason of the fact that the alternative method has been adopted and the expenses which would have been incurred by the said departments if the contributions payable by that person had been paid by means of adhesive stamps."
§ The noble Lord said: I can explain this proposed new clause very briefly. It is really proposed at the instance of certain employers. There has been pressure in regard to the method of stamping cards. The normal method of payment, as your Lordships know, is by affixing stamps to a card, but machines have now been devised by which impressions are made on the card and the number of impressions recorded by a meter on the machine. The employer, instead of buying stamps, will pay at the Post Office the sum required to cover a certain number of impressions, and the record of the meter readings is kept at the Post Office. When these cards have been stamped in this way, they will be taken back to the Post Office with the machine and the cards will be checked and the machine set anew. In some cases this method is preferable, if there is a large number of fairly permanent employees. It involves a certain cost to the Government Departments concerned, though there is not very much in it. Setting the meter, recording the readings and checking the cards is a more complicated and lengthy business than selling stamps, so far as the Post Office is concerned, and this Amendment will authorise the charge of fees to cover the excess cost. Representations have been received to the effect that employers would be willing to pay these fees. A similar provision is in the Unemployment Insurance (No. 2) Bill, and in order that everything may be in conformity in the arrangements for health, pensions and unemployment contributions, we desire to insert this clause. It is not a matter of any great moment, but I hope that I have made it clear. I beg to move.819
Page 22, after Clause 28, insert the said new clause.—(Lord Arnold.)
§ On Question, Amendment agreed to.
§ Clause 24 agreed to.
§ Clause 25:
§ Short title, commencement, construction, extent and repeal.
§ (3) Unless in any case the context otherwise requires, any reference in this Act to the principal Act or to any enactment contained in that Act shall be construed as a reference to that Act or to that enactment as amended by this Act, and any reference in this Act to the Insurance Act or to any enactment contained in that Act shall be construed as a reference to that Act or to that enactment as amended by any other Act, including this Act.
§ THE EARL OF HALSBURY had given Notice to move to leave out subsection (3). The noble Earl said: I feel that the Government have been extremely reasonable with regard to the criticisms that I have made on this Bill, and therefore I do not want to be too arrogant in regard to this matter. This is a common form clause, and I hope that it will cease to be a common form clause. I hate the common form as it stands at present. I should like noble Lords opposite to consider it, if they would agree to do so, and when we come to the Report stage to see whether they would or would not adopt a different form. I do not propose to move the Amendment that stands in my name to-night and, if to-morrow noble Lords still feel that they do not want to alter the form, I do not intend to divide the House, but I should like them to consider whether some better form of words cannot be devised. If you only read the subsection you see that no widow could possibly understand it. You could quite easily put it in better language. As I say, I do not propose to move my Amendment now, and if tomorrow noble Lords desire to keep the subsection in its present form I do not intend to divide the House upon it.
§ Clause 25 agreed to.
§ First Schedule [Disqualifications for receipt of pension]:820
Page 24, line 5, leave out (" 1917 ") and insert (" 1919 ").—(Lord Arnold.)
§ On Question, Amendment agreed to.
§ First Schedule, as amended, agreed to.
§ Remaining Schedule agreed to.
§ An Act to amend the Widows', Orphans' and Old Age Contributory Pensions Act, 1925, Section three of the Old Age Pensions Act, 1908, Section three of the Old Age Pensions Act, 1919, and the enactments regulating the right to become a voluntary contributor under the National Health Insurance Acts, 1924 to 1928, and to provide for the exclusion of payments on account of widows' or orphans' pensions in the assessment of damages under the Fatal Accidents Acts, 1846 to 1908.
§ LORD ARNOLD moved to insert in the Title, after "1928", the words: "and the mode of collecting contributions under those Acts." The noble Lord said: I have to move a manuscript Amendment with your Lordships' permission. It is one which obviously could not be handed in earlier because it was consequential upon the new clause which your Lordships have been good enough to insert in regard to stamping cards by machines. That is the only reason why the Amendment was not handed in before. It is purely formal.
After (" 1928 ") insert (" and the mode of collecting contributions under those Acts ".)—(Lord Arnold.)
§ On Question, Amendment agreed to.
§ Title, as amended, agreed to.