§ Order of the Day for the House to be put into Committee read.
§ Moved, That the House do now resolve itself into Committee.—(The Lord Chancellor.)
§ On Question, Motion agreed to.
§ House in Committee accordingly:
§ [The EARL OF DROGHEDA in the Chair.]
§ Clause 1 agreed to.
§ Clause 2:
§ Source of funds.
§ 2.—(1) For the purpose of providing the funds required for paying benefit, and for making any other payments which under this Act are to be made out of the National Insurance Fund established under this Act, contributions shall be payable by insured persons, by employers and out of moneys provided by Parliament in accordance with the following provisions of this section.
(2) Subject to the provisions of this Act—
(c) every self-employed person of any description set out in the first column of
Part III of the said Schedule, shall be liable, as from the said day, to pay weekly contributions at the rate respectively set out in the second column of the said Part III;
§ 2.40 p.m.
§ LORD MESTON moved at the end of subsection (2) (c) to insert "or at any lower rate as the Minister may by order from time to time determine." The noble Lord said: I rise to move the Amendment which stands in my name. It is a matter of satisfaction that the Government have included self-employed persons in the new State insurance scheme, and I am sure we should all be very grateful to the Government for having taken this line. At the same time, I would point out the difference in the scale of contributions between self-employed and employed persons, namely, the difference between 6s. 2d. and 4s. 7d. a week. Many self-employed persons will have difficulty in paying the present suggested contribution. What is required is a lower scale of contribution, say, of 4s. to 4s. 6d. a week, with rates of benefit reduced on a similar scale, or a sliding scale of contributions.
§ The effect of the present high contributions on certain self-employed persons, such as ditchers, hedgers, and other similar people, will be to drive them into the employed class. These rural craftsmen are going into the insurance scheme for the first time. I understand there are a considerable number of self-employed persons, including small shopkeepers, who are not only willing but able to pay the suggested higher rate of contribution. At the same time there are a considerable, and even greater, number of self-employed persons, not only ditchers and hedgers, but also people employed in the fishing industry, who may find difficulty in paying the higher rate of contribution. I hope, therefore, that the Government will be able to give this matter sympathetic consideration. I beg to move.
Page 3, line 15, at end insert ("or at any lower rate as the Minister may by order from time to time determine.").—(Lord Meston.)
We appreciate the concern that the noble Lord has shown for self-employed people, and more particularly those with low incomes, whose case he has just put to us. I should make it plain that the Exchequer supplement in respect of the benefit payable to self-employed persons is the same amount 196 as that in respect of the corresponding benefits payable to the employed class. In these circumstances it would clearly be wrong (and I am sure the noble Lord would agree with this) that we should reduce the contributions without reducing the benefits in the same fashion. I take it from his remarks that the noble Lord realizes that. At the same time, I do not think that the noble Lord, when he turns the whole matter over in his mind, will seriously desire to alter the whole basis of the scheme, which is essentially one for flat rates of contribution and flat rates of benefit, as distinct from the usual practice in other countries where there are proportionate contributions and proportionate benefits.
The best we have been able to do is to permit certain classes of persons who are unable to pay the contributions to be exempted from the scheme. I would mention this to the noble Lord. The fact that a person is not compelled to pay contributions under the Act, that is to say, that he is outside the scheme, does not necessarily mean that the Minister is precluded from receiving non-employed contributions from such a person under conditions to be arranged. I would stress that last phrase—under conditions to be arranged. In view of that last indication, I hope the noble Lord will see fit to with draw his Amendment.
I am very much obliged to the noble Lord for his explanation, and I hope it will go at all events some way towards meeting the point. I beg leave to withdraw my Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Clause 2 agreed to.
§ Clauses 3 to 19 agreed to.
§ Clause 20:
§ Retirement Pensions.
§ 20.—(1) Subject to the provisions of this Act, a person shall be entitled to a retirement pension if—
- (a)he is over pensionable age and has retired from regular employment; and
- (b)he satisfies the relevant contribution conditions.
§ (2) For the purposes of this Act—
§ (5) Where the earnings of a beneficiary who is less than five years over pensionable age have exceeded twenty shillings for the week preceding any week for which he is entitled to a retirement pension, the weekly rate of 197 his pension shall for the last mentioned week be reduced by one shilling for each complete shilling of the excess:
§ 2.44 p.m.
LORD LLEWELLIN moved in subsection (5), after "excess," to insert
Provided that where at the expiration of any calendar year such beneficiary shows that the total of the reductions made under this subsection during such period exceeds the total of the reductions which would have been made if the earnings of the beneficiary for each week of such period had been the weekly average of the total of the earnings of the beneficiary for such period he shall be entitled to a refund equal to the amount of such excess.
§ The noble Lord said: In this Amendment I seek to amend subsection (5) which, as I understand it, means that if a person is regularly in employment and is earning more than twenty shillings a week, he will get a reduction in pension. The Amendment I am now proposing to your Lordships would have this effect, that a man could average his earnings over the period of a whole year. The person I am trying to cater for is the person who comes to work for a fortnight or three weeks, say, to help in harvest work. He may come in for two or three weeks and in those two or three weeks have quite substantial earnings—at any rate for a retired person—which would drop him down for each of those weeks. When he has helped in the harvest he goes back to his retirement position for the remainder of the year. That is the kind of case I had in mind. What I want to emphasize is that although he may have these reductions for those four weeks if, at the end of the whole year, he can show that he would not have had any deductions made if he had worked throughout the year, he could then take the average and get a refund. I think there are quite a number of cases where we want people in this country to be able, without any drawback or financial disadvantage, to come in and help in periods when we need occasional extra help which does not flood out the market and which merely applies to seasonal occupations such as I have mentioned. My idea in putting this forward is that where a man in three or four weeks earns too much he can then get a refund over the whole of the period because perhaps during the remaining forty-eight weeks of the year he may have done no work at all. That is the object of my Amendment. I hope it is 198 one which will commend itself to your Lordships' House.
Page 21, line 20, at end, insert the said proviso.—(Lord Llewellin.)
I confess that when I first saw the Amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Llewellin, I wondered if something could not be done along the lines that he suggested, but having examined it very closely with the Ministry I am quite clear that it would be exceptionally awkward to work and I must therefore in a moment or two ask him to see fit to withdraw it. I am not sure whether the noble Lord and the House are aware that at present, under the provisions of the Bill, the Ministry will not be concerned with and will have no record of earnings in any week where they are below 20s., since the pension will not be affected. They will not have any record of any earnings over 46s. a week since, by a calculation which your Lordships will have no doubt made, no pension will be payable for the following week and it is immaterial in such circumstances, whether the earnings are 47s. or 57s. If the earnings were to be averaged over the whole year, it might theoretically have some attractions but it would add enormously to the burden of work involved.
§ LORD LLEWELLIN
I do not want to interrupt the noble Lord, but will they not have any record of earnings over 46s.?
Because it does not matter. If you have over 46s. you will not get the pension. You might be a millionaire or someone with 47s. a week and your earnings will not be recorded.
Yes, weeks in which you have over 46s. In other words, the wages will not be recorded for very rich people or for those only just over 46s. a week. That is the administrative point, but the noble Lord will perhaps agree that logically—if we are going to apply logic—if the pensioner is allowed to choose the system to his advantage, 199 the Ministry should really in fairness be allowed to choose a system which would be to its own advantage. What I have in mind is this. If you have a man earning £4 a week for forty-eight weeks, but only 15s. a week for four weeks, at present he would get four weeks' pension at 26s., but if you averaged it both ways, and not only in the way the noble Lord suggests, he would not get any pension in those circumstances. So some people would gain under the Amendment if it were extended logically and some would lose. I am informed it is rather hard to know whether on balance the group of old-age pensioners would receive more or less if the Amendment were logically extended in that fashion.
I should just call the attention of the noble Lord, to console him a little, to Clause 78 (5) of the Bill where there is power to enable a person's earnings to be calculated on a prescribed basis. It is contemplated that this should be used to permit averaging in exceptional cases, where for example the earnings of a particular week cannot really be isolated as in the case of a shopkeeper, or where, owing to the circumstances of the employment, they are bound to fluctuate very markedly, for example, an agent on commission. I hope the noble Lord will feel therefore that a genuine attempt is being made if not to meet this case completely, at any rate to deal with the kind of problem which might arise from the consideration that he has mentioned. I do ask him whether, in the circumstances, he will be able to withdraw his Amendment.
§ LORD LLEWELLIN
If, as the noble Lord has said, this kind of case is going to be dealt with under Regulation, under Clause 78 (5), that is good enough for me. I only want to see that there is no discouragement to the man who is occasionally going to give a helping hand with purely seasonal work. If this is going to be dealt with in these Regulations, I am completely satisfied. If that is the effect of what the noble Lord has told me, then I certainly do not wish to press my Amendment any further. I have indicated what I want to secure, and as to the way in which I secure it I really do not mind.
I am anxious to placate the noble Lord but not to mislead him. I do not think that the particular 200 case of, for example, an agricultural labourer would be covered according to present intentions. The relevant illustrations are those which I have mentioned; they are illustrations with which I have been provided. As your Lordships will recollect, I have cited the cases of the shopkeeper and the commission agent. I am bound to tell the noble Lord that it is not felt to be possible at present to throw these facilities open to the agricultural labourer, though we have a great deal of sympathy with his position.
§ LORD LLEWELLIN
I am afraid, then, that the noble Lord's reference to Clause 78 (5) does not help very much in what I was seeking to do. I do not see why, if this is going to be done for the grocer, the candlestick-maker and who- ever else it may be, the noble Lord should not take steps to see whether it cannot be done in other exceptional cases under Clause 78 (5) for the purely seasonal worker. Will the noble Lord say that he will go into this with the Department, and see whether it cannot be made to fit these cases, which, I think, have the sympathy of everyone in the House, for it is the kind of case we want to meet? We do not want to see deductions made in the case of this sort of man because he goes in to give a helping hand where it is most needed—in the harvest for instance. If the noble Lord can look into this, I shall be glad to give him occasion on the Report stage, to put down, on Clause 78 (5), something to cover the case of the seasonal worker. If the noble Lord will say that he will look into it and try to get something done, then I will withdraw my Amendment.
I will most certainly look into it. I hope, at the same time, that the noble Lord will decide whether he desires to extend the logic of his argument both ways, up and down. Again, being anxious not to mislead, I must not be held to be holding out any indication that a change is likely. But I will, as I say, look into the case. It seems to me a most interesting point.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Clause 20 agreed to.
§ Clause 21:
§ Special provisions as to women.
§ (4) A woman shall not be entitled for the same period to more than one retirement pension, whether under this section alone or 201 under this and the last foregoing section, but if she would be so entitled but for this provision may, on such occasions and in such manner as may be prescribed, choose which she shall be entitled to.
§ LORD PAKENHAM moved, in subsection (4), to leave out "whether under this section alone or under this and the last foregoing section." The noble Lord said: This is a drafting Amendment only. I beg to move.
Page 22, line 19, leave out from ("pension") to ("but") in line 20.—(Lord Pakenham.)
§ On Question, Amendment agreed to.
§ Clause 21, as amended, agreed to.
§ Clause 22:
§ Death Grant.
§ 22.—(1) Subject to the provisions of this Act, a person shall be entitled to a death grant in respect of the death of any person (hereafter in this section referred to as "the deceased") if—
§ (a) he has reasonably incurred or reasonably intends to incur, in connection with the deceased's death, expenses to which this section applies; and
§ (2) The expenses to which this section applies are any expenses, of an appreciable amount, in connection with the funeral of the deceased, or with the claimant's attendance thereat, or with the attendance thereat of other persons, or with the purchase of mourning; and for the purposes of this subsection—
- (a) the expression "funeral" includes any memorial service or similar observance; and
- (b) references to expenses in connection with attendance at a funeral include references to any loss of remunerative time due to the attendance.
§ 2.58 p.m.
LORD LLEWELLIN moved in subsection (1) to leave out "to a death grant." The noble Lord said: On the Second Reading debate, as those of your Lordships who were in the House may remember, I dealt with the point that under Clause 22, as I read it, before a person can actually collect a death grant he will have to show that he has paid out expenses to which the Clause applies—expenses which are defined in subsection (2) as
any expenses of an appreciable amount, in connection with the funeral of the deceased, or with the claimant's attendance thereat, or with the attendance thereat of other persons, or with the purchase of mourning.
And then it says what "funeral" shall include.
§ The object of my Amendment is to make certain that a person, after having a death in the family, shall not have to go to all the trouble of sending in accounts to satisfy somebody somewhere—it may perhaps be at Newcastle-on-Tyne, I do not know. As the clause stands, as I understand it, in order to get the grant he will have to show that he has incurred or is about to incur these expenses which have to be defined, and which fall within the categories laid down by Act of Parliament. My Amendments to this clause, though at the moment I am only moving the first one, are all designed to ensure that a person is entitled to death grant of such of the amounts set out in Part II of the Second Schedule as is applicable (there are different death grants for different ages of persons) and that he shall get that amount. I looked through Clause 22 and I saw no reference in it (perhaps somebody else has been more fortunate) to the Schedule at all. It may be that it is covered by the words "subject to the provisions of this Act," but that is not the usual way of referring to a particular matter in a Schedule. So I thought it would be as well to get this clause connected with the Schedule by saying definitely that persons concerned are entitled to such of the amounts set out in the Schedule as may be applicable.
§ Subsequent Amendments of mine deal with who shall get the grants. I think, if I may say so, that in drafting the clause in the Bill as it stands, the draftsmen were trying to ensure that only the right person got the death grant; and it seems to me that they have not gone the right way about it. So I provide that the man or woman concerned has not to show on the death of a relative that he or she has had this, that or the other expense to meet, but has only to show that he or she is the next of kin of the deceased, or is such other person as, in the circumstances of the case, has the duty of making the funeral or other arrangements in connexion with the death of the deceased person. Such persons would have to show that it is on them that the duty falls of making the arrangements in order to get, without question or deduction, the amounts they have contracted to receive. For this is not just a case of a benefit from the State. This is a scheme into which people are going to pay money in order to get a particular sum, and it really cannot be administered by having some 203 administration in the background, some little man the persons concerned never see, who may declare: "Oh, in this case you are not entitled to it. What you have applied for does not all come within Clause 22 (2), so we cannot pay you the full death grant."
§ I want these people to know what they are going to get; to know that if they have subscribed they will be entitled to the grant without deductions which might otherwise be made. I do not want people who have just suffered a bereavement to have to cope with all the difficulties, which may be very distressing in the circumstances, of collecting bills and so forth, and going through all these formula before any death grant is paid to them. That is the object which I have in moving this series of Amendments. I believe that they would effect a great improvement on what is at present set out in the Bill. It is solely with the idea of improvement that I have put them down. If the noble Lord is not going to accept them, I hope he will be able to satisfy me that the words as they stand will not lead to all this submitting of bills to which I have referred, and to a lot of cross-correspondence with a remote office, before a person who is only trying to get what he or she is entitled to has a just claim satisfied.
Page 23, line 3, leave out ("to a death grant").—(Lord Llewellin.)
§ 3.0 p.m.
I hope it will be for the convenience of the House if, with the permission of the noble Lord, Lord Llewellin, I deal with the four Amendments on this clause in two stages. I will take the first two together, and then the last two together.
I will try to proceed on those lines. At the Second Reading stage, the noble Lord rather startled the House by declaring that this death grant, which appeared to be a fixed sum, was really a maximum and I feel that until other sources of information were available, he did not at once make that prompt withdrawal which one might expect on these occasions. It was not at 204 once obvious to everybody in the House whether his statement was right or wrong. That being so, I am inclined to agree that as it stands the clause is not completely clear. Anyone who knows the Bill by heart, would at once jump back mentally to Clause 10, where they would find a general reference to the Schedule, so that when it came to Clause 22 they would turn back to Clause 10. There they would see the reference to death grants under subsection (1) (g) and would then pass on to the Schedule. I agree with the noble Lord that that is a mental operation which we cannot expect everybody who reads this Bill to undertake. Therefore, speaking for the Government, I am anxious to meet the noble Lord, and to include words which will satisfy him that this is a fixed sum and not a maximum. To that extent, I am prepared to meet the point in the Amendment.
I do not know, if I pass over to him a form of words, whether he would care to move them in manuscript at this stage, whether he would prefer to move them on the Report stage, or whether he will leave it to us to move them. I am entirely in his hands in this matter. The words we would propose are these:Clause 22, page 23, line 7, after ("applies") insert ('of an appreciable amount but not necessarily of an amount equal to or exceeding that of the grant').Those qualifying words must be put in to guard against the case where the contribution conditions have been only partially satisfied. Those words would suit us, and we should desire to acid to them, consequentially, a further Amendment as follows:Line 18, leave out the words ('of an appreciable amount').The noble Lord may ask why do we not do it in the way he has proposed? The answer is, that we should be making an exception if we referred to the Schedule in this particular clause dealing with death grants, and not in any clauses dealing with other kinds of benefit. I think he would agree that, from the point of view of drafting, it would be rather strange to refer the reader to the Schedule for death grants but not for other benefits. I hope that the noble Lord will look favourably on these words, and if he chooses to move them now, I have authority for saying that the Government will accept them.
§ LORD LLEWELLIN
It would be rather difficult for me to accept something 205 coming in at the end of subsection (1) (a) when the Amendment of mine, to which the noble Lord has not yet referred, seeks to delete the whole of paragraph (a) and to substitute something else. Therefore, I think I had better wait and see what happens about that. I had overlooked that the matter is dealt with in Clause 10. I think it is an inconvenient way of dealing with the matter, because it means that the reader has to keep looking back; it would be better to have each clause self-contained. I agree, however, that it would be wrong to insert words with regard to death grants if you do not do so with regard to any other grants. The whole gravamen of my Amendment is to make certain that people do not have to send in small claims for this, that or the other. If people are entitled to these grants, I want them to receive them. I am very much obliged to the noble Lord, Lord Pakenham, for what he has said.
If a contributor on a sea voyage falls overboard and his body is not recovered, would his representatives not receive the grant?
Such a person would be outside the United Kingdom. The case of territorial waters would require special consideration. If the noble Lord is raising that case specifically, I am afraid that I must ask for more time to examine the position. But we can meet the broad points made by the noble Lord, Lord Llewellin. We are as anxious as he is that there should not be any question of having to satisfy someone that the precise sum has been spent. There will not be any haggling about the amount to be paid. The sum paid will be a lump sum, in the largest case £20, and it will not be necessary for the recipient to prove that he has spent £20. He will have to prove that he conducted the funeral in the proper manner, and incurred substantial expense. He will not have to prove that he spent £20. It might be £15, or it might be £25. We are clear that it is better to allow the claim to come from the individual who has actually paid for the funeral, rather than from the next-of-kin. When all is said and done, the man who has paid for the funeral is the man who should get the money. In any case, the next-of-kin may be a long way away, and it may be extremely hard to find them. We are as anxious as the noble Lord to make sure that there will not be any long delay 206 about proving what are the precise expenses. All that will be necessary, in fact, is to prove that a decent funeral has been paid for.
§ THE EARL OF IDDESLEIGH
It does not seem quite as simple as has been represented. There may easily be cases where no funeral can take place; for example, if the victim has been drowned. It need not be in territorial waters, or outside the United Kingdom; it might be off Westminster Bridge. In such a case, would the next-of-kin draw nothing in return for all their contributions? Would they be allowed to pay for a memorial service in return for all those contributions? Perhaps the noble Lord will look into these points.
Refinements have been introduced, to which I do not pretend to have a complete answer to-day—particularly the point about a memorial service; or it might be a celebration in some cases. I think the object of the clause is plain to all of us and is accepted by all of us, but if noble Lords feel that more information about a memorial service or—
—or wakes—should be available at the next stage, perhaps they would raise the matter again. I am anxious, that the noble Lord, Lord Llewellin, should realize that there will not be this difficulty about proving the case in any ordinary circumstances.
§ LORD LLEWELLIN
The noble Lord, if I may say so, has been very forthcoming, and perhaps he and I might have a talk between now and the Report stage with regard to these words which he has been good enough to suggest. What I think both of us want to ensure is that the right person gets the grant. I certainly do not want the wrong person to get it. The second thing is to ensure that there will not be a lot of unnecessary trouble in getting it. Once there is proof that a person is entitled to the grant, he or she should get the whole of the grant. I do not know that my words are very effective to secure that, but I still have a sneaking suspicion in my mind that the words in the Bill are not quite the right ones. I think if the noble Lord and I had a talk we might between us find 207 words that would put the matter beyond all doubt. I hope that the noble Lord will respond to that.
I will respond with alacrity. What will interest the noble Lord more is that the Lord Chancellor has signified his intention of joining us for the purpose.
§ LORD LLEWELLIN
I am much obliged to the Lord Chancellor. I think we are certainly likely to improve the wording. After that I beg leave to withdraw my Amendment and, if it is convenient for me to say so now, I do not propose to move the other three Amendments standing in my name.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Clause 22 agreed to.
§ Clauses 23 to 42 agreed to.
§ Clause 43:
§ Determination of claims and questions.
§ 43.—(1) Subject to the provisions of this Act, regulations may provide for the determination by the Minister, or by a person or tribunal appointed or constituted in accordance with the regulations, of any question arising under or in connection with this Act, including any claim for benefit, and subject to the provisions of the regulations the decision in accordance therewith of any such question shall be final.
§ (3) Regulations under subsection (1) of this section shall not provide for the determination by the Minister of questions as to the right to benefit, but shall provide—
- (a) for the submission of such questions in the first instance to an officer appointed by the Minister;
- (b) for authorising the said officer either himself to determine any such question or to refer it to a local tribunal, and for enabling appeals to be brought from the officer's decisions to such a tribunal;
- (c)for enabling appeals to be brought from such a tribunal to a Commissioner (to be called "the National Insurance Commissioner") or deputy Commissioner appointed by His Majesty for the purposes of this Act or to a tribunal presided over by the National Insurance Commissioner or a deputy Commissioner:
§ Provided that this subsection shall not apply to questions—
- (i) whether the contribution conditions for any benefit are satisfied, or otherwise relating to an insured person's contributions; or
- (ii) as to entitlement to a death grant; or
- (iii) which of two or more persons satisfying the conditions for an increase of benefit, whether of the same or a different description, shall be entitled to the increase
208 where by virtue of some provision of this Act not more than one of them is entitled to the increase; or
- (iv) as to the class of insured persons in which a person is to be included.
(4) Regulations under subsection (1) of this section may provide for the reference to the High Court for decision of any question of law arising in connection with the determination of a question by the Minister, and for appeals to the High Court from the decision of the Minister on any such question of law; and—
(a) provision shall be made by rules of court for regulating references and appeals to the High Court under this subsection and for limiting the time within which appeals may be brought thereunder;
§ 3.15 p.m.
Before the noble Lord, Lord Beveridge, rises to move the first Amendment to this clause, I should like to make a suggestion with regard to the business of the House. It seems to me that as we now have a number of Amendments dealing with the same question—namely, the position of the friendly societies in connexion with the proposed scheme—it would probably be for the convenience of the House that there should be a general discussion about these various Amendments. It is the main point with which we have to deal this afternoon.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR (LORD JOWITT)
I was going to make exactly the same suggestion. I am sure that is the convenient course. We have got a series of Amendments which raise this point, although they are very different Amendments because there is a difference between the responsible agent and paying agent. I think the course which the noble Viscount suggests is a convenient course. We might use this first Amendment as a peg on which to hang the general discussion, and at an early stage I shall take the opportunity of speaking to your Lordships with regard to the position and giving your Lordships the Government view.
§ 3.17 p.m.
LORD BEVERIDGE moved, in subsection (1), after the second "regulations," to insert
or (as regards sickness benefit maternity benefit widow's allowance or death grant of or in respect of a member of a friendly society) by any officer of a friendly society authorized for that purpose by the friendly society with the approval of the Minister.
§ The noble Lord said: May I at once associate myself with what has been said as to procedure? I was going to ask leave, in moving the first of this series of Amendments on Clause 43, to speak with regard to the whole series which have a common purpose, the common purpose being that of securing that the friendly societies are used as responsible agents for the administration of specified State benefits, with their own benefits, to their own members. That is the common object of these Amendments, and in moving the first of them I am glad that I shall have permission to explain the object of them all.
§ The friendly societies to which these Amendments relate are defined in a proposed Amendment to Clause 78. That definition excludes deliberately the industrial life offices which do the business of collecting life insurance. It excludes the trade unions, not if I may say so, so far as I am concerned, deliberately, but because the trade unions up to the present have not shown any desire to come in, and, as I shall argue later, the position of the friendly societies and the trade unions in relation to the problem before us is in fact quite different. I will come to that in a moment. The specified benefits which it is proposed that friendly societies should administer as responsible agents are those four which are named in the Amendment—sickness benefit, maternity benefit, widows' allowance, and death grant. The most important of them, of course, is sickness benefit, but they are all benefits with which the friendly societies have been largely concerned in their voluntary system of insurance. The specified benefits which I suggest the friendly societies should administer exclude many of the most important—unemployment benefit, retirement pensions and industrial injury insurance. They are concerned with what I may call friendly society benefits, and are limited to them.
§ This proposal, I need perhaps hardly remind your Lordships, is in accord with the proposal made by Sir William Beveridge three or four years ago. I do not attach any importance to that fact. To me what Sir William Beveridge said was not a matter of plenary inspiration and I do not imagine it is so to your Lordships' House. Indeed, I have been reading the debates in another place, and I very much 210 agree with what was said by an honourable Member there, that Mount Sinai and Tuggal Hall are different places; so I shall not press my argument at all on the argument of the Beveridge Report. But your Lordships will realize that what I am proposing is also in accord with the pledges that were given in the recent General Election by a large number of members of the Liberal and Labour Parties, and it may be also of the Conservative Party. Once again I am not going to stress that point particularly. I think we in this House have all admired the disarming gracefulness with which the noble Lord, Lord Pakenham, disengaged himself from that pledge when he spoke on the Second Reading of this Bill.
§ I would also add that there are, of course, very important members of the Government who were in no way committed on this matter in the General Election. One in particular was the Minister of National insurance. From the beginning he has always taken the line of a centralized administration down into the homes of the people. He made a speech on those lines when the Coalition White Paper was under discussion in another place. I used to cite that speech a good deal in the General Election as a reason for voting Liberal rather than voting Labour. My advice was not taken, but I did use it in that way. That particular weapon in my armoury was somewhat spiked by the election pledges given by a large majority of the Labour Members. I accept completely what the noble Lord, Lord Pakenham, said, that you can, and indeed you must, if reason compels you, alter your mind on a matter of this sort. I hope the noble Lord, Lord Pakenham, and the members of the Government will also agree with me that to alter your mind on a matter of this sort, when election pledges have been given, should be done only if it is absolutely necessary; in other words, that the Government should be seeking means of carrying out those pledges rather than seeking and finding bad reasons for not carrying them out. I want here to try to persuade them that all the reasons they have yet given, and also the reasons they may give in future, for the line they are now taking, are bad reasons—bad in relation to what I am proposing in these Amendments.211
§ What is being proposed in these Amendments? First the Amendments are not designed to maintain in any way the approved society system; they are not concerned with the approved societies at all. They exclude all the industrial life offices and many others. If your Lordships have refreshed your minds, as I have, by reading what was said on the Committee stage in another place when this matter was under discussion, your Lordships will have realized that two Amendments, one about approved societies and one about friendly societies, were taken more or less together, and that the argument turned upon the approved societies. Then the Minister of National Insurance said that we could not have the approved society system as it gave unequal benefits for equal contributions. I agree, of course, and I am sure your Lordships agree. But that is not the issue before us. What happened in another place on the Committee stage was that the discussion turned upon approved societies, and when that Amendment had been defeated another Amendment dealing with friendly societies was defeated also, with very inadequate discussion. I am not concerned with approved societies but only with friendly societies.
§ Secondly, these Amendments are not concerned with all benefits. I have already said they are not concerned with unemployment insurance, with retirement pensions, with industrial injury and so on. That makes it to me a little more remarkable that the noble and learned Lord, the Lord Chancellor, on the Second Reading, should have used, as one of his strongest arguments for the attitude of the Government, a quotation from Sir John Anderson. It is quite obvious that the reason why he used that quotation from Sir John (Anderson is because Sir John Anderson has the name for being a great authority upon insurance. He also is more nearly associated with the noble Lords who sit on this side of the House than with the noble Lords on the other side.
§ LORD BEVERIDGE
Yes. What Sir John Anderson said, and what was then quoted by the noble and learned Lord, the Lord Chancellor, was that it would be 212 harmful to the friendly societies to call them in to administer benefits which they had never before administered, namely unemployment insurance benefits. I do not know whether Sir John Anderson's criticism was intended as a criticism of what was proposed in the Beveridge Report, or of what I am proposing now, but if it was meant as a criticism of the proposal to use the friendly societies as responsible agents for administering sickness benefit, then one can only say that Sir John Anderson criticized a report without having read it and without understanding it. That is the reference the noble and learned Lord, the Lord Chancellor, used—that it would be harmful to the friendly societies to ask them to come in and do a thing which they have never done. I am not asking that they should come in and do a thing they have never done. I am asking only that they should deal with sickness benefit and certain allied benefits, about which they knew one hundred years before anybody else in this country knew anything about it.
Thirdly, I am not asking that the friendly societies should do the whole of the work in relation to the sickness benefit and the other specified benefits. I must here enter into a rather technical problem in regard to sickness benefits, and I hope your Lordships will excuse me. In relation to any claim for sickness benefit you have broadly to determine questions of two types. You have to determine whether the person who wants sickness benefit when he is sick is in the class entitled to benefit and has contributed—he has to satisfy certain contribution conditions—and you have to determine whether he is sick and taking the proper steps to get well again. Those are the two kinds of condition—contribution condition and personal condition—which have to be satisfied in dealing with a claim to sickness benefit. The contribution condition under this system can only be dealt with centrally, because you have only one card for all the various benefits. The insurance card with the stamps, which is the record of contribution, does not, under this system, belong to the friendly societies as now it belongs to the approved societies. I am not proposing that, and if I were proposing it I would be breaking up central administration.
But when you come to what I may call the personal conditions that have to 213 be satisfied—is the man sick; is he taking the reasonable steps necessary to get well again?—that is not going to be dealt with centrally. That has to be dealt with locally. There is not the slightest reason in the world why all sick persons should have that personal test applied to them by the officials of a Government Department rather than by the officials of a friendly society. You do not, by adopting the latter method, break up your administration, or multiply your administration or make it more difficult. Remember what the Government are themselves doing, quite rightly, in regard to unemployment insurance. The satisfying of the contribution condition is going to be tested by a divisional register. Testing whether a man is really unemployed and able to work and looking for work is going to be done locally, and it will be done by people other than the ordinary national social insurance officials.
This distinction between contribution condition and local personal condition is of the essence of the proposition I am making here today. Let me make it also clear that the proposition I am making is not one by which the friendly societies become a mere channel for posting money under orders to the recipient; it is a proposition that they shall be the responsible agents for deciding in regard to one particular set of conditions about which they know everything, namely, whether a man is sick and is behaving satisfactorily. I want them to be the responsible agents for that purpose. Let me say that that is the point of proposing the Amendment to Clause 43, and not waiting till Clause 45 is considered, because the Amendment to Clause 45 merely says how the money shall be paid, and it is quite consistent with the Government's attitude that they should accept the Amendment to Clause 45 and make the friendly societies the channel for just posting the 15s. a week, the 40s. a week, or the 26s. a week, under orders, without taking any responsible part in the decision. The Amendment I propose, however, would make them responsible agents and not mere channels for sending the money.
I am not proposing that this should be done automatically by every friendly society. As you know, under this Bill a great deal is left to regulations, and I think rightly. If need be, I should very strongly support the Government's attitude 214 that they must proceed by regulation. But let them make regulations which will authorize the making of arrangements with friendly societies on specified conditions. One would be that they must either have themselves, or make available for their members, district visiting, wherever those members might be. Another, of course, would be that they should be paying sickness benefit of their own. On that proposition we have had in the past a variety of arguments which I still venture to call bad arguments. In the White Paper we had the argument that we could not use the friendly societies because they covered perhaps only a quarter of all the insured persons. But that is no argument at all, because every one of the 20,000,000 or 30,000,000 insured persons, whatever the number may be, is an individual and has to be dealt with individually. The fact that only one quarter of insured persons are dealt with by the friendly societies, while three-quarters are dealt with by officers of the State, is no argument at all against using the friendly societies.
I come now to another argument, one which was used in the Second Reading debate by the noble and learned Lord, the Lord Chancellor, and that is that you cannot really trust the friendly societies to be careful in their administration because after they have given a substantial benefit for twenty-six weeks, a year, or whatever it is, they cut it down, and it may come down to as little as 2s. 6d. at the end. May I, with all respect, say to the noble and learned Lord that in using that argument I think he was badly briefed—misled by his officials? The nature of sickness insurance finance is such that for every individual insured person you have to get contributions which will cover the whole of the sickness and all that you need to give him. You can go bankrupt as completely by not allowing sufficiently for the 2s. 6d. at the end of a period of sickness benefit as by not allowing sufficiently for the 15s. or the pounds at the beginning of the period. I do not think you need be afraid that the argument about the redaction of the benefit to a very small amount at the end of the period is a very serious one.
I will go further and say this. We can all recognize that when sickness or un-employment has gone on for a long time, there may be a case for taking special steps to see whether something better can 215 be done to heal the sick person or to restore the unemployed person to work. I think it would be quite reasonable to say that after a person had received sickness benefit for a year, two years, or whatever it may be, and before the benefit was reduced to this small amount, he should have a second medical inspection, or something of that sort. There would be no difficulty in doing that, and it would be very desirable in the interests of the man himself. But the fact that you may think such a course is necessary in a long period of sickness, is no reason at all for not using the friendly societies to give benefit during all the earlier period, when the benefit is large and substantial. I agree that you cannot necessarily automatically use all the friendly societies—some of them might not wish to come in—but I do not believe that you need exclude many of them.
In that connexion, let me refer to what I think was another bad argument used in another place by the Minister of National Insurance. He said that the only people who could satisfy the conditions of having long benefit, of having district visiting and so on, were the big centralized societies, and they were no more human than the Civil Service would be. Even if you could use only the big centralized societies, I should still think it important to bring them in, because they do bring in a different element, something in competition with the Civil Service, and a different approach, which is, I still think, useful. But, of course, it is not the case that you would be driven by any reasonable conditions of administration to use only the big centralized societies like the Hearts of Oak, or the National Deposit Friendly Society. There are the Foresters, the Oddfellows, and the Loyal Shepherds, to which I belong, which have branches all over the country and which keep in human and intimate touch with their own members. You could use them. If you want to use the friendly societies, you can, but you must not make the terms on which they are allowed to come in too hard. If you want to use them, you can do so, and there will be no difficulty in discovering whether you are in fact losing money by doing so, because you can compare their sickness experience with that of everybody else. If you decide not to use them, you will never learn what you have lost by not using them.
216 The question really comes to this: Do you want the friendly societies, for voluntary sickness insurance, to continue as an important element in the community? Do you want it, or do you not want it? Of course, every Government spokesman will say, "Yes, we do want it; we think it is going to be their most important task." Then I go on and ask: "Do you propose that sickness benefit by the State, which the friendly societies are not to be allowed to administer, shall be sent to insured persons through the post, or shall be brought to them in their homes?" With equal lightheartedness the Government spokesman will say: "Of course, we are going to send it to them in their homes." I suggest that if there is to be a great friendly society movement, with 8,000,000 people insured voluntarily for sickness benefit, as well as a State system, and if you are going to pay the sickness benefit under a State system in the home, and if you are going to say at the same time that the man who pays out the State benefit may not touch the voluntary benefit, and the man who pays out the voluntary benefit may not touch the State benefit, then you are insisting on duplication in the home of every friendly society member whenever he is sick. The idea that that can be anything but utterly extravagant in manpower does not stand scrutiny at all. Of course, if you ask the Government spokesmen: "Do you believe in keeping the friendly societies strong?" they say, "Yes," but they do no: really mean it. May I suggest that their attitude is really rather that which is mentioned in Clough's Decalogue: they do not wish to kill the friendly societies, butThou shalt not kill; but need'st not strive Officiously to keep alive.They will not stir a finger to keep them alive. This brings me to the last of the arguments which, although it has not yet been used may be used. It is this: Why do the friendly societies make such a noise about this? Why, when the industrial life offices have sat down under the Government proposals and the trade unions have accepted them, do the friendly societies make such a nuisance of themselves? Why cannot they be as reasonable as the industrial life offices and as reasonable as the trade unions in this matter? There is a very simple answer to that. The industrial life offices are not 217 mainly concerned with sickness benefit; in fact they do not themselves give sickness benefit. They have another line of business, and although they are dealing with sickness benefit and health insurance, for them it has been only a sideline. They will not be badly damaged by this and they will find some other employment for their great army of collectors. I think you will find they will develop themselves very well indeed. Having built themselves up on the approved society system they can accept the Government's decision and they will go on quite happily.
The same consideration applies to the trade unions. The trade unions are mainly industrial and political organizations. This is not their whole livelihood; it is only a small part of their interest which is affected by this Bill. But the friendly societies' sickness benefit, maternity benefit, provision for death and for widows is the whole of their interest. It is the whole of that which the Government are invading. They are told that they can go on and do that voluntary work, but must not touch this State money.
I have dealt with the technicalities and before I finish I should like to make a general appeal, not on technicalities at all, to the Government. I feel very strongly in this matter, and I hope even now to be able to persuade the Government to modify their attitude. What many of us—and I think most of us—feel is being done by this great Bill is to show that in Britain we can build security without totalitarian methods, without everything being done by the State. We are proud of this country as a country which can get economic security and yet not get everything done by the State. If a country is to be kept from being totalitarian it is essential to have a very large field of activity which is not part of the State. We have organizations and institutions in which people who differ violently on political issues can meet and be active together. In this country there are three great democratic working-class movements of self-help which have grown up; they are the trade unions, the co-operative societies and the friendly societies. Two of them, I regret to say, have become rather unduly political. The trade unions and the co-operative societies are in fact associated with a particular Party in the State. The 218 third remains unassociated with any Party in the State, and for that reason, because they are outside any politics, I beg the Government to strive most carefully to keep the friendly societies a real place in the machinery of the State.
But there is something else wanted if a country is not totalitarian but yet has to do many things through State action. There are many things we can do only by State action in this country, and it is of vital importance that the State and voluntary agencies should co-operate. I am asking your Lordships to take the opportunity of bringing about this co-operation between the State and voluntary agencies in relation to sickness benefit and in relation to the other friendly society benefits. I hope that the spokesmen of the Government are not just going to give us another wooden answer turning away sense, but will give us some indication that this Amendment which I have endeavoured to put purely on the ground of reason, will, in some form or other, be accepted. I beg to move.
Page 36, line 35, after ("regulations") insert the said word.—(Lord Beveridge.)
§ 3.47 p.m.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
I gather it would be convenient to your Lordships if I at once make some observations on this question and give your Lordships some of the relevant facts. May I say this at the outset. I have had very many months in which to consider this matter—I might almost say years. If I may, I would like to tell noble Lords that I am not really dependent upon what is written in the brief in this matter because—having given, as I say, great consideration to the matter—I have some views of my own. I formed those views a very long time ago, and I maintain those views although I quite realize that great minds have nothing to do with consistency. The man who adheres to his opinion is not necessarily wooden and every argument which is advanced against the course we recommend is not necessarily bad or rotten. The noble Lord himself stated that the Beveridge Report was not like the tablets of stone from Mount Sinai. It does not necessarily follow that everybody who differs from the tentative conclusions is suffering from some kind of mental instability.
219 Let me say this at once. Every single motive the Government have for dealing with this matter would lead us to accept this Amendment. It would get us out of a very awkward political difficulty. I am being quite candid with your Lordships. As you all know, a large number of members of my Party gave pledges that they would treat these societies as responsible agents. I hope to goodness I did not give one. I am certain that if I signed anything I never read it. It is not my usual habit to sign things without reading them. Possibly what happened is this. At the time of an Election I always used—and I did this time—to suggest to my opponents that we should make a common bargain to sign none of these documents, and I think it is much the better way. You come back tired after a series of meetings and your agent meets you with a lot of these documents. He says he has gone through them and they are in accordance with the Party programme and you should sign them. If you are young and inexperienced you sometimes do sign.
It would be very convenient for us to accept this Amendment because we should get out of our political difficulty—I am being quite frank about that. But would the noble Lord want me to get out of a political difficulty at the price of setting up an administration which I honestly believe to be thoroughly unsound? I could get out of my difficulty, and I could set up this administration, but if I am right (I will give my reason presently) and it is unsound, the whole scheme, in due course, would be brought into discredit. That would be too big a price. Therefore, I am going to stand absolutely firm on this—I did before when I was Minister of National Insurance—that if my colleagues had imposed this scheme on me, I would not have remained responsible for carrying out the scheme. I take absolutely the same stand today. I believe that this would be a thoroughly unsound method of administration, and I would be no party to adopting it.
Now perhaps it would be convenient—these are rather technical matters and I am afraid that I have to make rather a long speech on them—if I were to deal with some of the relevant facts. The insured population today is round about 20,000,000. The possible insured population 220 as it will be when this scheme comes into operation (it will of course bring in many new classes of insured persons) will be of the order of about 28,000,000. It is generally stated that about 8,000,000 of the present 20,000,000—I do not think it would be a much larger number out of the 28,000,000—are members of friendly societies. My own view is—and I do not get this from a brief—that that figure is considerably watered; it is increased by the fact that there are many men who are members of more than one friendly society. They do not put all their eggs in one basket, but they take out policies in more than one friendly society. A man who does that, of course, would count as two in the relevant statistics. That I mention by way of warning, but I accept 8,000,000 as a working figure. I do not want your Lordships to think that I believe it is entirely correct, but, as I say, I will accept it as a working figure. So we will take it that 8,000,000 out of the 20,000,000 or 28,000,000 is the proportion.
What are these friendly societies? Let me deal with them. I have not a word to say against the administration of any one of them. The idea that the friendly societies to-day are like they used to be in their early days, like for instance the Rochdale Weavers or something of that sort, I consider, would be a complete fallacy. There are some 2,000,000 of the 8,000,000 to whom I have referred in three large centralized societies—the Hearts of Oak (whose head office is in London) the National Deposit Friendly Society (I think their head offices are also in London though I believe they have been temporarily established at Shepton Mallet) and the Cooperative Wholesale Society at Manchester. They are completely centralized societies. Then there are 1,000,000 persons in centralized societies with a membership of between 50,000 and 150,000. Again these societies are completely centralized. Then there are another 2,000,000 individuals in centralized societies with less than 50,000 members each. And there are 3,000,000 in societies with branches. I would ask your Lordships to remember that figure of 3,000,000 in societies with branches—that is, little local branches dealing with their own affairs, effectively self-governed and self-controlled. That is 3,000,000 people out of the 28,000,000.
221 I will take one of the great centralized societies. I have nothing to say against any of them, and the Hearts of Oak will do as well for my purpose as any other. Compare that society with the Prudential. The conclusion I have come to, having heard and talked with many deputations, is that there is no doubt that for home service, and for efficiency of management (by efficiency of management I mean prompt management and consideration of the people concerned in the homes) the service rendered by the Prudential will compare very favourably with any other service at all. It may be awkward for me to make that admission, but it is only right that I should do so as I believe it to be true. So far as personal attention is concerned you will find that in fact you will get home service in a greater proportion of cases from the Prudential than you will from the average friendly society. No doubt your Lordships who have studied this will know about the matters of which I am now speaking, but it may be that there are some of you who are not so fully acquainted with them.
In these large centralized friendly societies I should say that something like fifty per cent. of the cases are dealt with by post. They come to the notice of the local agent who has to refer to headquarters, and then they go on to the centre and are in due course referred back to the local agent. That is the sort of thing which in my view happens in a very large majority of cases. It is, however, one of these topics on which unfortunately there are no statistics. In connexion with the whole of this topic one finds an absence of statistics that is quite deplorable. But, as I say, I believe that in a very large number of cases service is by post, whereas the service of industrial approved societies in the vast majority of instances is at home. And that, of course, is for a very simple reason: it is because a collector is going round in connexion with his other business; he finds himself at the home, and accordingly he deals with the matter at the home.
§ LORD BEVERIDGE
I do not know whether the noble and learned Lord will forgive me for interrupting him, but there are statistics relating to the proportion in the Hearts of Oak of the sickness benefit payments which are paid by agents in the 222 home and not by post. These show that about ninety per cent. are paid by the agents in the homes, and not by post.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
We will certainly look at the statistics. But in my belief, so far as centralized friendly societies are concerned, you will find, for the reason which I have just given, in a far larger number of cases services by post and not in the home than you will find where the industrial approved societies are concerned. So much for the facts. The next proposition is that as we are going to have 28,000,000 people to deal with it is obviously necessary for us to set up a service which covers the whole country. You cannot get away from that. You must have your central register, and you have to set up a service which covers the whole country. Adding to that service some separate service dealing with a comparatively small section of the community will not save you anything at all. You have to set up a complete service. When we started to examine this matter in the first instance, in the days of the Coalition Government, we all set out with the view that we wanted to bring in the friendly societies if we possibly could.
The other day Lord Rushcliffe revealed a secret which ought perhaps not to have been made known, but it is a fact that the Committee which considered this matter consisted of Sir John Anderson, whose knowledge on this matter is monumental, the noble Lord, Lord Woolton, who is certainly a very good administrator—you will all agree about that—Mr. Butler, myself, and representatives of all Parties. We all started off with the desire to help friendly societies and we were all impressed with the fact that it would be an enormous advantage if we could use friendly societies since, when a man has a voluntary policy of insurance, he would then be able to draw from one source both the sickness benefit received under this scheme and the sickness benefit received under his voluntary insurance. Your Lordships may think that I have some feeling against friendly societies. I can assure you that I have not. I recognize that they have done very fine work. I do not suppose that anyone would think my collaborators in this work had any feelings against the friendly societies. But we all came to the conclusion, and we set it out in the White Paper, with our reasons, that it was impossible con- 223 sistently with good administration, to use friendly societies in this scheme.
I have already shown your Lordships that there must be a complete administration covering the whole country. I have endeavoured to suggest that you would save nothing by taking out a certain section of people for particular benefits. I propose now to propound a few questions which we have to consider in looking at this matter. I am dealing with these Amendments generally. The first question is this: Are the societies which you propose to use to be responsible agents or are they to be mere paying agents? I am afraid this is rather elementary, but may I say what I mean? By responsible agents I mean agents who take decisions, who authorize payments and who make provision for sickness visitation, subject only, of course, to Government supervision. Such agents would take responsibility. For instance, a man falls sick and a question arises whether A or B is a dependant within the meaning of the Act. Or there may be a question whether a man is sick or unemployed. Is this officer of the friendly society the responsible agent, to be entitled to take decisions which put the Government under an obligation to pay money? The alternative view is that if you have no responsibility of that kind, the officers are merely paying agents.
As I understand the Amendment which the noble Lord, Lord Llewellin, is to move shortly, the proposal is that they are not to be responsible agents, but merely paying agents. If the noble Lord will refer to the ninth day of the Committee proceedings in another place, he will see that Mr. R. A. Butler made a most well-thought-out and constructive speech in which he prayed us not to make these people responsible agents. He stated that that would break up the unity of the scheme altogether. He hoped these people would be used as paying agents, and if they were he stated that there was no reason why we should not also have other approved societies, such as industrial societies in the scheme. With that I agree. That is the first question we have to discuss.
The next question is this. Are these agents to deal with all benefits, or are they to confine themselves to sickness benefits or some other range of benefits? The noble Lord, Lord Beveridge, has 224 come to the conclusion quite recently that they should have a wider scope than he has ever suggested heretofore. He now wants them to deal with maternity benefits and, I suppose, attendance grant, widows' allowance and death grant. In his Report, and as recently as his speech in your Lordships' House the other day, if I understood him aright, he was dealing entirely with the special matter of sickness benefit. If he will let me give him a reference to his own speech, I would refer him to Column 1109 of Hansard, where he in terms limits himself to sickness benefits. That was as recently as 25th June. Today is 8th July. Maternity benefit, widows' allowances and death grants have all been added to us since 25th June. The noble Lord, Lord Llewellin, was equally specific. The noble Lord, Lord Pakenham, asked him a question, and in Column 1130 the noble Lord, Lord Llewellin, makes it quite plain that he wants this to be confined to sickness benefit. I am referring to the last paragraph of the page. He now proposes to add other benefits.
The third question is, are these societies to be confined to friendly societies, or are they to embrace approved societies connected with industrial insurance companies? On this matter the Liberal Party are becoming ideological. They would leave out any societies connected with industrial insurance societies, because they work for profit. Perhaps I am rather heretical about this, but I have always thought that working for profit is not harmful so long as the conception of profit does not supersede other motives and that it takes its right place. If you have a society which is rendering efficient service—more efficient service, if you like, than another—I would not rule it out because it worked for profit in favour of a less efficient society which did not. If you are to make these agents paying agents, and not responsible agents, I see no reason why all types of societies should not be included. If I understand it aright, the Amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Llewellin, proposes to make these societies mere paying agents. I am surprised at that, and surprised that he does not propose what Mr. Butler thought of such value, bringing in all classes of societies. I am against doing that, but, if I may say so with respect, I see no point whatever in making them paying agents and leaving out one section.
225 Another point I would raise is whether the Minister is to be entitled merely to avail himself of the services of such societies, or is he bound to do so? An Amendment in another place on the Committee stage merely gave the Minister the right to avail himself. As I understand the Amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Beveridge, he would make that compulsory. Let me go in rather greater detail into some of the points. The first question, of course, if there is to be responsibility, is what conditions are you to impose? In the Beveridge Report the author suggested five conditions, and I think these five are perfectly reasonable if the societies are to be responsible agents. The words in that Report were these:… gave a substantial disability benefit from its own resources, i.e. from the voluntary contributions of its members.Why did he insist on that? For this reason. You cannot have anybody other than a servant of the State dispensing State money and giving decisions whether payments should be made in certain cases or not, unless he also has to pay money out of his own pocket in the event of a decision to pay money. That is quite certain. In our Coalition White Paper, we said that the incentive to efficient administration is one to which the Government attach the utmost importance. Supervisory measures, such as Government inspections and audit, are normal features of any scheme involving a public expenditure of Government funds, but they are subsidiary to and in no way substitute for the safeguard of direct financial responsibility. Therefore you insist as your first condition that they must be paying substantial disability benefits out of their own private funds before they give a decision that the Government are to pay.
Let us apply this to friendly societies. What happens in their case? Their rules are very varied. You often find that all benefit stops after fifty-two weeks; sometimes it stops after twenty-six weeks. In a deposit society a man pays in so much money and his benefit stops when he has exhausted his money. Just consider what happens from the point of view of administration. I am confining myself to sickness benefit Assume I hand over the administration of the sickness benefit to a friendly society, and at the end of (twenty-six weeks, if it is one of these 226 cases where a society ceases to pay after that period, I have to take it back again, and a new man has to come in and deal with it. How is the administration to work? I do not believe it is practicable.
What does the noble Lord mean by "substantial disability benefit"? It is a very common thing for the disability benefit to drop, as he said, to 5s. or 2s. 6d., and there is a time limit on that. But the disability benefit we are dealing with here for a man and his wife and child will be 49s. 6d. Is it really to be said, as a matter of good, clean, healthy administration, that some person who is not a State servant but is a servant of one of the friendly societies is to give a decision that the Government are to pay 49s. 6d. a week, when the only control over the possibility of lax administration is that he himself is paying 2s. 6d.? What did the noble Lord mean by saying "substantial disability benefit"? Is 2s. 6d., as compared to 49s. 6d., substantial? Is 5s., as compared to 49s. 6d., substantial? I admit that we must, on the one hand, avoid an inhuman administration, but for goodness sake do not let us have an administration which is lax. Do not let us have people handing out large sums of public money without any incentive for them to administer it on a strict basis.
And there is one other point which deserves consideration. Your Lordships know how dispersed these societies are. If I may take Reading as an illustration, there are 361 societies. Some of them would be approved societies, but it might be proper to say that half of them were friendly societies. In Reading, therefore, there are something like 180 friendly societies, many of which probably have only one officer, and the effect of the noble Lord's Amendment would be that in that town there would be 180 people who would be entitled to require the Government to make payment. And there would be this most unfortunate situation. One officer would get the reputation of being more kind-hearted than another. An officer of the A Society would perhaps let through a dependant, and an officer of the B Society would turn him down. Then there would be the most unfortunate result that these minor officials of friendly societies would be competing with each other to see who was the most kindhearted at the expense of the fund.
227 That is the first condition. The second condition is that the society had an efficient system for sick visiting its members, wherever they might be; and the third is that it was effectively self-governing. What does the adverb mean—"effectively" self-governing? Every-company in this country is self-governing. If I buy a share in I.C.I., I am a member of it, but I cannot control it very well. If I have a policy with one of these great centralized societies, such as the Hearts of Oak, it is perfectly democratic but I cannot control it. It is self-governing. But what is meant by the adverb—"effectively" self-governing? I am really not sure. Then the fourth condition is an ideological reason, that it did not work for profit and was not associated with any body working for profit; and the fifth is that it was registered under the Friendly Societies Act.
Well, in those circumstances I am asked to set up a separate administration for some of the benefits—some only—for a section of the community which, at the most, numbers 8,000,000 out of 28,000,000, and I strongly suspect in fact very much less, if only for this reason: that the 8,000,000 are people who belong to friendly societies; but how many of the people who belong to those societies have effective policies in existence, how many have ever had them, and in how many cases have they lapsed? The noble Lord frowns and looks confused.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
One of the troubles in this case is that we have no statistics. How many of the 8,000,000 does the noble Lord think have voluntary insurance policies of their own now current? No one knows. They may have had them; they may have lapsed. They may never have had them, having joined the friendly society as their approved society because their father did. We have not the least idea how many of these 8,000,000 have effective policies today; and therefore in how many cases the friendly societies will have any obligation whatever to make a payment under policies we simply do not know. So the proposition is that for a section of the community, at the outside one quarter, we have to set up a different system dealing with particular benefits, and you get this odd result. As I said, one feature which 228 will arise is this question of dependence. Who decides the question of dependency in the case of an unemployed man? An officer of the Minister. He makes a quasi-judicial decision. If the man is dissatisfied he applies to a local tribunal, and from there can appeal to a Commissioner. That is the scheme.
But the unemployed man falls sick, as some unemployed men do. Who then has to decide on the dependency? A different officer, who may come to a different conclusion—an officer of the friendly society now—and you may have one decision that the man is unemployed and another decision that the man is sick, which shows how appalling is the position you will get into if you have this sort of duplication. That proposition, therefore, is one which I could not possibly accept.
I come to another proposition—that of paying agents. If they are paying agents then, as I see it, we can dispense with the five conditions—there is no point in having them. We can include all classes of societies. I am not going to quote, because I do not think I shall be in order, but I should refer the noble Lord, Lord Llewellin, to the speech of Mr. Butler on the Committee stage. I ask the noble Lord this question, and he will be able to answer it when he comes to speak. Does he agree—because I have the quotation handy—that it is impossible to have a unified scheme and to delegate one aspect of it to one section of approved societies? Would he give me this exhortation: Stick at all costs to Your unified scheme; centralised control must be under the Minister; there must be no question of these societies remaining financially autonomous; the assets if they are to be used must be under direct Government control? Therefore, said Mr. Butler—giving those propositions in the unequivocal way I have stated them—the friendly societies must be merely paying agents; accordingly, you can dispense with the five conditions. He went on to add that there must be some drastic reduction in the number of societies.
If I have had one deputation about this matter I must have had twenty or thirty, and I was a little amused to hear the noble Lord say to your Lordships that the industrial societies had taken it all so quietly. I wish he had been with me in those early days and heard them take it all so quietly! That was not the 229 position at all. The approved societies put up to me a proposition including these very points. They realized that with a vast number of societies with scattered memberships (I remember in Glasgow there were ninety-seven societies and each with one officer, and you can duplicate that all over the country) this thing was impossible, and they wanted to form a lot of what I may call synthetic societies, each with its own area. But that would have completely got away from the old touch. That was their suggestion, and we turned it down.
Let me say that I am most anxious to work with the friendly societies. I believe we can help them to a very considerable extent. I attach enormous importance to voluntary insurance. I think the fact that we have given a fellow something good with which to start is a reason why he is more likely to increase it by voluntary insurance. We hope to work in this way. When we get a medical certificate from the applicant for benefit, which we shall have to do, we are quite prepared to provide a certificate to that effect for the man to send to the friendly society. I welcome the friendly societies, too, because I think they will be a check on our administration. They will be in very close touch with the Minister and we shall co-operate with them wherever we can. But I do say, quite sincerely, that in the old days if this proposal had been carried I would not have remained responsible for the Ministry of National Insurance. I would not have been a party to a scheme which I believed was thoroughly unsound, the administration of which was bound to break down and which involved, to my mind, crossing the wires at every stage. In any case you have to set up your central organization, and then you have to set up your regional offices, and you must have your local agents. Somebody falls ill or becomes unemployed in, say, Merthyr Tydvil. What is going to happen? A local agent of the Ministry will go into the case. He has to communicate with the centre to find out what the contribution position is, and that sort of thing. The centre tells the local agent that it is all right, and that the man is qualified. What does the local agent then do? Let us suppose this man is a co-operative society member. The Government agent, who has been round to the man, who has investigated his case and is in the home, has to say to him: 230 "My dear fellow, I am very sorry but I cannot pay you; it is the duty of the co-operative society to pay you." Then off goes another letter to Manchester, and a letter comes back from the co-operative society authorizing this fellow to pay. It is crossing the wires altogether. I do not believe you will get any efficient administration at all by that method, and, that being so, I want to make it quite plain to your Lordships that the Government cannot accept it, although the politics of the thing would lead us to say "Yes."
It is thought this is the popular thing, but I do not think myself there is much in it, from that point of view, and I will tell you why. When I was Minister of National Insurance, I never received a single protest from any insured people against not using the friendly societies, and I have not received one to this day. I have received a lot of protests from the officers of the friendly societies, but I have not received a single protest from any insured person. The Minister of National Insurance is, I think, in exactly the same position. I do not really believe there is very much in the politics of the thing. But whether popular or unpopular, I do sincerely and honestly believe that the system of making these people either responsible agents authorizing payment on behalf of the Government or paying agents, would cross the wires and would make administration ineffective, lax and impossible. The Minister feels exactly as I felt in the old days.
Let me make this quite plain. The conclusions to which we came in the Coalition Government White Paper, and the reasons for them, were set out in detail in Appendix II, and I would ask your Lordships to refer to that. It is Command Paper 6500. They were the conclusions of the Coalition Government. When this Government came in the Minister of National Insurance considered the whole thing again. He went into the matter with an open mind. He went into the matter with a strong inducement, because since then the election had taken place and the pledges had been given. We, in the old days, knew nothing about pledges or elections in this matter. He has come to exactly the same conclusion. The Government will not be responsible for the administration of a scheme which the Minister, the past Minister, this Government and the last Government believe is not practical. 231 The consequences are unfortunate of course.
Your Lordships, if you so desire, can carry against the Government either the Amendment making these people the responsible agents, or the Amendment making them paying agents. We can accept no such Amendment. The result will be that we shall not be able to get the Royal Assent to this measure this month, and the consequence of that will be that we shall be unable to start paying increased old age pensions next October, as we shall have no legislative authority to do so. I do not say that by way of a threat, but it is the fact, and it is one which I, and I am sure we all, should regret. Frankly, I should feel very sorry if the responsibility for that was placed upon this House—I am not talking about parties. It would be said that although increased old age pensions had been promised, they could not be paid as a result of a House of Lords' decision. The people will, not understand why, and that will not endear us particularly to them. But the consequences must be taken. I ask your Lordships to believe that I have no motive whatever in this thing except that I care passionately about this scheme, and I recognize that the success or failure of it depends upon the administration. If wires get crossed, and if there are weeks of waiting while one person argues with another person, then the whole thing will be brought into discredit. I believe the only thing we can do is to set up our central administration and have our organization extending over the whole country; and do not, for goodness sake, refer one set of questions to one set of people and another set of questions to another set of people to give decisions.
I thought it just as well at this stage to talk to your Lordships about this, and to tell you how we stood. I have tried to be perfectly frank about it, because there is nothing to be gained by hedging. I thought it right to tell your Lordships how the Government stood, and we regret to say that this is a matter on which we intend to stand absolutely firm.
§ 4.30 p.m.
§ LORD LLEWELLIN
I am certain the whole House will believe that the noble and learned Lord was quite sincere in all that he addressed to us; but I must say that on looking at the approximate 232 length of the Chamber in which we are now sitting, I began to think that the noble and learned Lord was setting up quite a number of skittles. I counted seven—I believe there are normally nine—and then, with considerable skill, he knocked them all down. But a lot of them did not concern the points we are discussing; a lot of them seemed to me to be beside the very direct point of these Amendments. The whole of the speech of the noble and learned Lord seemed to be made on the basis that we are setting up something new. We are doing nothing of the sort.
These friendly societies have been administering sickness benefit since 1911, and the only thing that is sought to do now is to allow them to continue to do that in respect of those persons who are members of the particular societies concerned. It is said that there are only 8,000,000 members. The societies, I believe, claim 9,000,000, but whether it is 8,000,000 or 9,000,000 (and we will not argue about that) quite a number of the population have been receiving their benefits through the societies in the past, and all we are suggesting from this side of the House is that they should be allowed to continue do so in the future. Then we hear that the administration may be lax, but it has not been lax in the past, and indeed the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack started off to-day by saying that he was not making any charge about their poor administration of the scheme in the past. That was quite the right attitude. Let us see what the criticism of this new method amounts to.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
Will the noble Lord forgive me? In the past they have been financially autonomous; they have been administering their own money; they could go bankrupt, and they had every inducement to be careful because they declared bonuses and so on. This is a wholly new scheme and they would have to administer State money.
§ LORD LLEWELLIN
I appreciate that in so far as it will concern these benefits under this Act it will be State money, but I hope (as I believe the Lord Chancellor hopes) that in many cases they will be administering an additional amount of their own money at the same time. What are the three factors really involved in administering these different benefits? The first is to see that the person's con- 233 tributions have been paid. How is that going to be done? I believe that the only way of doing that efficiently and effectively, so that you get a quick reply, is not to have it all done at the centre, but to have it, to a large extent, regionalized, so that you can immediately get a return from the local office. That, at any rate, can quite easily be done by the State at the same time as the friendly societies take on either one or both of the two functions about which I am going to speak. It is merely a mathematical calculation as to whether a particular contributor qualifies for benefit or not. There is no question of the human touch about that; it is simply mathematics.
Then we get down to what is covered by the Amendment that is now technically the one before the House, moved by the noble Lord, Lord Beveridge, as to whether they should have any part in saying whether, because a man is disabled by sickness or other causes, he is entitled to benefit. Why should not these people be entrusted with that task? The gravamen of the charge is that it is State money, not the money of the societies, and that there is nothing to control them in making too lax a payment of it. That is really the whole charge. An employee of a friendly society will be in exactly the same position in administering these funds as an official of the Government Department, except that he would act, not on the orders of the head of the Government Department, or of the senior man in the region, or whoever the orders come from, but on the orders of the head of the friendly society concerned. Each of those senior people, whichever scheme you have, will have to give overriding instructions to his representative in the different neighbourhoods. Does anyone think that the overriding instructions, if we still continue to use the friendly societies, will not be in every case proper instruction for the societies to give to their officers? If the friendly societies are used, they will obviously have to show those instructions to the Ministry, out of common sense if out of nothing else, and they will that far be approved all down the line.
Is there any reason whatever to think that the employee of one of these friendly societies will not be as strict in his duties as he would if he became a Government official? I do not believe the people of 234 Great Britain are made that way. I believe they will be absolutely strict in interpreting what they should do and in taking the right course in the administration of these benefits, whether they are civil servants or whether they are officers of friendly societies. If it came to the knowledge of the Ministry that a particular man was being lax, all that would have to be done would be to report his name to the headquarters of the Ministry. The Ministry would take it up with the head office of the friendly society, and I do not suppose that any responsible friendly society would keep that lax employee any longer in its employment. So you have the complete remedy.
In our view the advantage of still using the friendly societies is that they have got people who have practical experience at the moment of administering National Health Insurance. The other people you recruit will not come in with that built-up experience. The friendly societies have got the experience of administering to some 8,000,0000 people. There will be also this great advantage. The noble and learned Lord, the Lord Chancellor, himself told us that he wanted to have people still going on with voluntary insurance and that he could make available a copy of the medical certificate, which I must say is a very proper thing to do. But if we really want to see, as a lot of us do want to see, thrift encouraged in this way by people providing for their old age and for the other accidents of life which may befall them, the way to encourage that is to have a man who is there to collect subscriptions, going into the home under the Health Insurance scheme. He would not come as a stranger but as a trusted man who comes in and says, "Would you not like to have rather more security than you have got at the present moment?" If we want to encourage that kind of thrift and greater provision for old age and sickness, the way to do it is by still giving these men an excuse to go into those homes and to be in a position to collect the extra subscription. I feel there can be no doubt whatever about that.
The names have been given so I can say I was not one who was at all concerned, as the noble Lord knows, with any of the working up of this national insurance scheme. I had quite enough—if these are appropriate words—on my stomach as 235 Minister of Food without having that burden put upon me as well. But what is the ideal scheme from the Whitehall point of view is not always the right one to adopt. After all, we pride ourselves in this country on being a democracy and my Amendment, as noble Lords will see, does not deal with the right of the friendly society of its agent or collector, but deals with the right of the contributor. If a person wishes to have what is due to him or her paid through his or her society, that person can fill up a form and apply for it to be paid in that way.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
I am very anxious to get this plain. Do I understand that the Amendment is merely to make these people paying agents and not responsible agents? That is what I want to understand.
§ LORD LLEWELLIN
I was going to deal with that. That of course is the effect of my Amendment. I want quite clearly to show by that Amendment that these people have this as of right. They have subscribed all their lives and if they want the payments made through the friendly societies they should be able to have their payments so made, especially those who have done it for years in this way. On the other hand, that is an alternative to the Amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Beveridge, under Clause 46. I much prefer to see the people get it as of right laid down in black and white in the Statute rather than have it prescribed in some sort of way by regulation, which is the form in which the noble Lord, Lord Beveridge, puts it down.
§ VISCOUNT SAMUEL
I was not quite clear on that. Was the noble Lord speaking of receiving the friendly society benefit or the friendly society benefit and also the State benefit? Should they be allowed to receive that through the friendly society?
§ LORD LLEWELLIN
I was referring to the State benefit paid through the friendly societies. Of course there is no other channel which could pay out the friendly society benefit. I was dealing with the contributors getting this State benefit and any extra voluntary insurance they may have through the same channel, the friendly society. I hope that is quite clear.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
I am sorry, but the noble Lord has not made it plain to me. The point I want to get clear is this. Does the noble Lord's Amendment contemplate that the officers of the friendly society are going to adjudicate? That is the difference between responsible agents and mere paving agents.
§ LORD LLEWELLIN
I was coming to that. I was just saying that my Amendment on Clause 45 is really an alternative to the one on Clause 46 proposed by the noble Lord, Lord Beveridge. Those with whom I have consulted on these Benches prefer that way of dealing with this part of the question rather than the way the noble Lord, Lord Beveridge, deals with it. On the other hand, that does not preclude us from supporting the noble Lord, Lord Beveridge, on the Amendments to Clause 43. For myself, I do not see why we should not try and see how this works under Clause 43 and give the friendly societies a chance of proving themselves. They have done this work for the State now for thirty-five years or something like that. It is true a society has only one member here or one member there and that you have two systems running side by side, but you have no more two systems than you have in the General Post Office.
The General Post Office runs a part of its business through the paid civil servants who are in the main post offices in every large town and city in the country. But if you go to the village, it is a completely different system. It is not the civil servant at all, but the woman who keeps the grocer's shop or the woman who keeps the little general village store, or whatever else it is. Without those people the system would break down. Because they are not civil servants they do not steal the stamps and they are no more lax in their administration than any responsible member of this community. All we are asking is that if you want to encourage thrift and keep the expanded scheme going you should still employ these people who have done good work in the past.
As I was saying, it may be that in Whitehall there is absolutely good administration, and I can certainly see Sir John Anderson—a man for whom I have the greatest admiration—taking the view that it is administration which really counts. But I believe we can serve the 237 people better by continuing to employ these friendly societies. I have been no party to any of these kind of pledges. I was—as I have no doubt was the noble and learned Lord, the Lord Chancellor—too old a hand to give any pledge about this at the last Election. The noble Lord who replied to the Second Reading was good enough to tell us that he was in the category who had given a pledge on this matter.
I do not hold it against him, because he was not returned, and he has, therefore, got nothing to answer for in that way. All I would say is "Let's give it a trial." When the noble Lord, Lord Pakenham, was asked the question: "If elected to Parliament will you support the friendly societies' claim to be retained as responsible agents of the Government in the new scheme of national insurance in the administration of sickness and allied benefits "I am credibly informed that Lord Pakenham answered, "Yes, a hundred times yes." I only hope that before the end of this debate he will just say "Yes" once.
§ LORD LINDSAY OF BIRKER
I rise with considerable hesitation to address your Lordships on this subject, partly because my noble friend Lord Beveridge, at the end of his speech, expressed what I call the substance of my political faith. I start by believing it to be of enormous importance to the democracy of this country that it should have an independent working-class movement, that the voluntary societies, the friendly societies, organizations such as the Workers' Educational Association and the co-operative societies should be strong and active. That is the prejudice with which I start. I have not only been for forty years closely associated with that great voluntary organization, the Workers' Educational Association and other working-class societies, but it was also my business for about ten years to be chairman of the unemployment committee of the National Council of Social Service. In that capacity, I learned a great deal as to the difference between what happens from the Government end and what happens from the end of the people concerned.
Therefore, there is one Amendment of my noble friend, Lord Beveridge, which I would support, whatever anyone said on this side of the House. That is his 238 Amendment at page 83, line 32, where he proposes to insert "after consultation with an organization or organizations representative of friendly societies; and". I think it is of great importance that there should be in the Bill something to say that the friendly societies have a locus standi in this matter. I also wish to say this, arising out of my experience with voluntary organizations. I do not think that it will be necessary at all for them to disappear when the State is extending its activities. On the contrary, I think, as the result of my experience, that as we extend the work of the State there is more to be done by voluntary organizations. I am also sure, as the result of my experience, that it is the fate of voluntary organizations to be prepared to change their activities as State activities change, and it is of enormous importance that they should do the things for which they are peculiarly fitted.
What was impressed upon me very strongly in administering quite a fair sum of money provided by the State through the National Council of Social Service (one year we distributed something like £150,000 to unemployed clubs) was how different is the account of what happens given by the very best administration from what it feels like at the other end. This was the position. We had this committee and the Ministry of Labour was represented upon it. I was completely satisfied that the representatives of the Ministry were humane, sympathetic, efficient people. They described what happened in the giving-out of money for the unemployed, that is to say they described what was supposed to happen. They did not in the least realize how the ordinary simple person does not understand forms, how he is suspicious of them and frightened at them. I am quite certain that no Government administration, however well it is carried out, and no bureaucratic administration, can ever be successful unless the beneficiaries have behind them agents of voluntary associations who are not the people who are giving out the money.
I think that the part to be played by the friendly societies in the future is the part which was once played by the representatives of trade unions. One of the most dreadful things I saw happen in regard to unemployment was in those parts of the country where trade union assistance disappeared because men had 239 not been able to pay their unemployment contributions, and the trade unions consequently had not been able to help them. The ordinary unemployed person was frightened. He felt himself to be alone. What he wanted was someone to back him up against the person who decided against him. It will not help, I think, if you have the friendly societies mainly occupied with the distribution of a lot of benefit money. What you want to do somehow is to make such arrangements that there will be somebody who can stand up for the individual who is claiming benefit. You want someone who is trusted by the individual, someone who understands him and who will help to present his case against the State organization, however good, or any large bureaucratic organization, however good. I do not think that simply making these friendly societies part of the State machine is using the voluntary organizations in the right way. I would sooner that the State organization was used to pay the benefits of the friendly societies as well as its own, in order that there should be persons like these friendly society officials whose concern it would be to back up the individual, to help him with the letter which he gets, and to fight the decision adverse to him that is given. I think that if you mix up the functions of the different organizations in the way suggested in this Amendment you will be on the wrong path.
I have been treated with so much consideration by noble Lords opposite, so far as my personal position is concerned, that I certainly have no cause for any complaint on that score. I only say in all friendliness to those who have spoken of my past that I have at least had the frankness to come here and say that I have changed my mind. I cannot help hoping that before the debate concludes noble Lords opposite—I am not speaking of individuals but of the Conservative Party—through their spokesmen, will be able to tell us that they have changed their minds once and must support the Amendment, or that they have changed their minds twice and will return to the position they occupied when they were holding responsible office. You will not wish me to add to or comment on the tremendous effort on the part of the Lord Chancellor. There is something very odious in compliments thrown by 240 junior members of the Government to one of the pundits. But if I ever hear a finer speech than that in this House or anywhere else, I shall count myself a lucky man.
May I now, in a few sentences, try to clarify this issue, which, in spite of all that has been said, may not be absolutely plain to some of your Lordships who come fresh to it. There is only one point which the noble and learned Lord, the Lord Chancellor, did not mention in his survey. It concerns one special difficulty which arises under these Amendments, more particularly under the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Beveridge. One of the great objects of this scheme is that it shall be a unified scheme. That is desired from many points of view, but from no point of view more than that industrial injury and ordinary sickness benefit shall be dealt with under the same auspices. The Amendments separate these two benefits, with the result that when a man is injured or sick and it is not clear whether it is industrial injury or not, there may be a long wait, under those Amendments, before benefit is drawn.
Let me briefly explain how this scheme would work out, as I see it. Let us look at the point of contact, whatever the scheme, whatever the organization or organizations which are to pay the sickness benefit. First of all, the contributor pays his contribution to someone; secondly, someone keeps the record; thirdly, when the contributor goes sick, he forwards his application or medical certificate to someone; fourthly, someone has to discover whether his contribution record is in order fifthly, someone has to adjudicate on his claim and decide whether he is entitled to sickness benefit; sixthly, someone has to pay him; and, seventhly, someone has to visit him to decide if he is entitled to receive it. I suggest that these seven stages are worth careful consideration.
One point I wish to make this evening is that under the existing system, the approved society system, one kind of organization, the friendly society, deals with all seven points which I have mentioned. Under the Government's proposed new scheme one organization, the State organization, will deal with the contributor at all points. Under the Amendments proposed the contributor will be bandied about from one organiza- 241 tion to another. The noble Lord, Lord Beveridge, shakes his head, but under the scheme suggested by the Amendment, although not under the past system nor under the scheme which the Government suggest, the contributor is bandied about from one organization to another. I cannot honestly believe that an experienced administrator like the noble Lord, Lord Llewellin, the ideal chief, I should have thought, of any administrative organization, would be happy with a scheme of this kind. I will not say it is unworkable, but I do say, "God forbid any noble Lord who values his reputation ever being asked to work such a scheme."
Under the scheme suggested in the Amendments, the contributor comes under a State organization for the first two stages; then he goes back to the friendly society; then back to the State; then again to the friendly society organization. This chopping and changing between the two organizations is, to my mind, the critical defect of the scheme under either proposal, although the proposal of the noble Lord, Lord Llewellin, is not quite so bad as that of the noble Lord, Lord Beveridge. I am not quite clear, even at this late hour, whether Lord Llewellin is supporting the proposal of the noble Lord, Lord Beveridge, that the societies should be adjudicators as well as paying agents. Is he, in fact, supporting the noble Lord, Lord Beveridge?
If, as a result of his very informative speech, the noble Lord has not been able to make it plain to the noble and learned Lord, the Lord Chancellor, or to myself, whether he suggests the societies should be responsible agents or simply paying agents, and if he declines to tell us now which view he takes, I can only say that it is very unlike the noble Lord. Speaking for the Government, and expressing my own views, newly formed, if you like, but genuine, I beg your Lordships to decline to start this great scheme to which we 242 are all dedicated with provisions which we believe will do infinite harm, not to a few officials but to millions of people now and in years to come.
§ 5.5 p.m.
§ LORD BEVERIDGE
I should like to speak as shortly as I can. I feel bound to answer one or two questions put to me at the beginning of the speech of the noble and learned Lord, the Lord Chancellor. He asked, am I proposing a responsible or a paying agent? I propose a responsible agency for certain purposes, but not for all purposes—not for counting contributions, but for local dealings. I propose, broadly speaking, an agency which does for friendly society members through the friendly societies what will be done for non-friendly society members by the local offices of the Ministry of National Insurance. I agree that it would not be worth while putting forward anything except a responsible agency.
Secondly, I was asked with which benefits I am concerned. The main benefit with which I am concerned is sickness benefit, but if you give the administration of sickness benefit to friendly societies so far as it relates to their own members, then it is a question whether it is convenient to give also certain other benefits through those societies. On the whole, I think that maternity benefit, widow's allowance, and death grant, which have been so much bound up with friendly societies in the past, go more conveniently with sickness benefit than with other forms of benefit. Thirdly, I was asked: Is this to be mandatory upon the Minister, or at his option? In the Amendment which I have put down, I propose that it should be mandatory, because we do want to make sure, if the Amendment is adopted, that it is carried out. In normal practice, in a Bill the word "may" is used. If I felt sure that the Minister would accept it, I would use it here.
May I add that I have now looked up the figures of how, benefit is paid by what the noble and learned Lord, the Lord Chancellor, described as a highly centralized society, the Hearts of Oak? Looking up the figures, I find that 91 per cent. of their payments are made by the agents in the homes of the people. Nine per cent. of the payments are made by post, even in war. The noble and learned 243 Lord on the Woolsack spoke a good deal about the conditions which I proposed in my Report for arrangements with friendly societies. He wished to know what I meant by "effectively self-governing." In order to deal with debts it was a condition, even under the National Insurance Act of 1911, that before a society could be an approved society its affairs should be subject to the absolute control of its members. But it is quite notorious that the affairs of the great approved societies, run by the industrial life companies, are not effectively governed by the members. The word "effectively" is meant to suggest that the Parliamentary draftsmen and administrators should find something more effective than was found under the Act of 1911. I think I can also assure the noble and learned Lord, the Lord Chancellor, that in my view the Hearts of Oak friendly society is effectively self-governing, because it has an effective delegate meeting.
I come to what is perhaps the main question. What did I mean by "substantial benefit"? I did not mean 2s. 6d. a week from the beginning. I cannot say exactly how much I meant, but I meant enough to give the society a real interest in careful finance. In my earlier speech I tried to suggest that if, after giving twenty-six weeks' benefit of perhaps 20s., or 30s., you then come down after a time to something much lower, it does not follow that you are not interested in the financial soundness of your scheme. Actually under the way finances work in a friendly society you still go on being interested in your final half-crown as much as in your early payment.
I do not think at this hour it is necessary for me to follow all that the noble and learned Lord, the Lord Chancellor, said about scattered membership in Glasgow and in Reading. I know all those figures. He knows all those. They all relate to approved societies, not friendly societies, and indeed there did seem to be a good deal of crossing purposes. I was trying to argue solely about friendly societies as distinct from approved societies, as distinct from the industrial life offices, but all these arguments have been produced about industrial life offices, about bringing in approved societies as paying agencies and so on. Those things are not in my proposal at all. What I am concerned with 244 is that the 8,000,000 or 9,000,000 people in friendly societies, the people who are contributing voluntarily from their own resources, shall have something through their own voluntary subscriptions in addition to what they get from a state insurance scheme.
What is to happen when one of those people falls sick? Under the Government proposal he has to fill in two separate forms, one through his friendly society and one through the State machine. He has got to have two visits. He has got to have his money sent to him or brought to him by hand by two separate people, because the Government make great play of the fact that they are going to pay money in the home. That is what is going to happen to the 8,000,000 or 9,000,000 when they fall sick under the Government scheme. What is going to happen under my scheme? The noble Lord, Lord Pakenham, has tried to describe it—I am going to suggest in a moment entirely wrongly—as one which bandies people about from one place to another. What is going to happen under my scheme is that a man is going to make application through his friendly society, and he will deal only with a friendly society man. The friendly society man will have to send his form to get the contributions checked through a central office, just as if he were not a friendly society man; it would go from the local office to some central office, to have the contributions checked, but when it comes back it will not be bandied about by anyone. It will come back with the decision that benefit is payable while he is sick and behaving properly, or that it is not payable. He will have one person to deal with and through that one source he will get both benefits or none. There is no question of being bandied about.
In any scheme of national insurance you must have local action for dealing with the individual man, and you must have central action for keeping his records and checking his contributions. All I am proposing is that since you must have local offices which will not have authority to deal with this contribution question, which will in fact have to refer him continually to headquarters, you should have local offices for the friendly society members which will be the local offices also for the friendly society benefits. I come back again and again to this point. If you really believe that the 245 friendly society movement has to go on, if you have a vision of 28,000,000 people insured altogether, of whom at least 9,000,000 are members of friendly societies, then you should do something to prevent the duplication of the 9,000,000. If you do not do it, then the friendly societies, rightly or wrongly, will think that they are threatened. I think they are threatened. I think they were very much afraid at an early stage of having high benefits given for sickness. At one time they wanted to keep them down to the figure of subsistence level so that men should have a motive for joining the friendly societies. I persuaded them out of that, and they have given it up, and they support the giving of adequate State benefits.
There was, I think, a great show of grace on their part in sacrificing their sectional interest to the national purpose. If you accept my proposal you do not now do anything whatever except slightly add to the work of a few officials. That is all you do. Instead of having 2,000 local offices you will have 2,500, or whatever may be the extra number, from which they will get applications for sickness benefit. It is no good going on and on with this question of administrative difficulty. I think we all realize that the art of an administrator is to get rid of administrative difficulties. You must find some administrative solution if you want to achieve a real purpose. I believe, given co-operation between the State and the friendly societies, there is a great purpose to be achieved for which it is worth the sacrifice if necessary of administrative convenience, although I do not believe that any real sacrifice would be needed.
§ On Question, Amendment negatived.
§ 5.23 p.m.
§ LORD MESTON moved, in subsection (4), to leave out "may," where that word first occurs, and insert "shall." The noble Lord said: There are three Amendments to Clause 43 which stand in my name, and it will be convenient if I speak about them together. The object of the first is to make subsection (4) mandatory instead of permissive. Your Lordships will observe that subsection (1) gives the Minister power to make regulations for various matters therein specified, as for example "determination by the Minister, or by a person or tribunal appointed or constituted in accordance with the regulations." It is therefore 246 quite clear that everything depends upon the regulations. The Minister may not make any regulations at all. On the other hand, the Minister may frame his regulations so as completely to exclude any appeal to the High Court. If I may say so with respect, I do not understand why the words "High Court" are not mentioned in this Bill at all. I can understand an Act of Parliament saying that there shall be an appeal to the High Court; I can understand an Act of Parliament saying that there shall not be an appeal to the High Court, but I cannot understand an Act of Parliament saying that a Minister may decide questions one way or the other by means of regulations.
§ The second Amendment arises in this way. It will be seen that subsection (3) enables various persons to decide a case. An officer appointed by the Minister can then refer it to a tribunal and the tribunal can then refer it to the National Insurance Commissioner or the deputy Commissioner. But there is no further appeal from that, because apparently that is not the Minister's decision. As a result, there may be varying decisions from varying National Insurance Commissioners and deputy Commissioners all over the country. If you exclude the High Court it will mean that there will be no uniformity of decisions in these matters.
§ Let me refer for a moment to the recent series of decisions in appeals from the pensions appeals tribunals in which the judges have laid down the principles which are to govern determination of claims in cases where the injury or disease was not mentioned in the claimant's medical report at the commencement of his war service. I think that may be regarded as a classic case where an appeal to the High Court has been found to be the only means of obtaining any kind of uniformity in dealing with these difficult questions of law. By way of reply the Government may say that the National Insurance Commissioners will be lawyers, and they will be assisted by two assessors who will also be lawyers. That will only make the position worse. As your Lordships know, lawyers are paid to disagree and not to agree. I think it is essential that in all Acts of Parliament where you have a number of tribunals governed by commissioners or deputy commissioners there should be some Judge of the High Court to whom an appeal can be made on a point of law, and who can 247 collect and collate the facts and give a binding decision on all the points which may arise. I beg to move.
Page 37, line 43, leave out ("may") and insert ("shall").—(Lord Meston.)
I am obliged to the noble Lord for explaining so clearly Amendments which on the Paper may not convey a great deal to the House. I hope the noble Lord will allow me to reply to all three Amendments together, which I think will be for the convenience of the House. The total effect of these three Amendments would be to establish an appeal on points of law in all cases to the High Court from the decision of the Minister or from the decision of the National Insurance Commissioner. In reply to those three Amendments perhaps your Lordships will allow me to make three points. I do not say the first point relates to the first Amendment, the second point relates to the second Amendment and the third point relates to the third Amendment, but I think those three points will be found to deal fairly with the three Amendments.
I would say to begin with that under the Bill in almost every case where the Minister makes the decision there will be the possibility of appeal to the High Court on questions of law. It will not be quite true to say that there will be appeal from the Minister's decision in every case. Hence the word "shall" is unacceptable. There is only one case of any substance where there would not be an appeal on a point of law to the High Court. That is the case of the death grant. In a fashion, that is unique in the Bill. In the case of the death grant the Minister is given an initial right to determine a question of benefit and to answer "Yes" or "No" to someone who applies for benefit. That is unique in the Bill and it is accorded to the Minister in the case of the death grant in the interests of speed. In that case there is an appeal, but the appeal, following the general rules for benefit determination, passes to the Commissioner. It is really that exception that makes it impossible for us to say that there will be in every case an appeal on a point of law from the Minister's decision.
Secondly, I would point out that ordinary claims for benefit will not be 248 decided by the Minister but by the statutory authorities running up to the Commissioner. We follow the practice observed hitherto in the unemployment insurance scheme in making the Commissioner the final court of appeal in such cases. That has been found to work very well and I do not think anybody has objected to it in the case of the unemployment insurance scheme. Therefore in the case of this benefit the last word will always rest with the Commissioner. In those cases, therefore, there will not be an appeal on a point of law to the High Court. But it should be clear that the Commissioner could not be described as a Ministerial tribunal. He is not appointed by the Minister. I should like to make a feature of that and to stress it. He has come to be regarded, following the experience of the Unemployment Insurance Acts, as a high judicial authority. He is himself a barrister of high standing and is to have pension rights that are, I believe, the same as those of a County Court judge. I hope the House will not take the view that the Commissioner is some kind of bureaucrat appointed by the Minister. We are simply following and "extending, as the scheme extends, the practice which has been so successful in the unemployment insurance arrangements.
I promised to lay three points before the House, but perhaps I might add a fourth. The noble Lord need have no fear that there will be a lot of contradiction and conflict between decisions arrived at by various deputy Commissioners. In all the crucial cases the Commissioner himself will make the decision, and in other cases the deputy Commissioners will act under his supervision and co-ordinating authority.
I hope that the noble Lord (who has obviously, if I may say so, given a great deal of thought to these Amendments) will feel that the points I have sought to lay before the House are sufficient to enable him to withdraw the Amendments he has put before us, or which he is about to move.
I am very obliged to the noble Lord, Lord Pakenham, for having put the matter so clearly, but it does appear to me that if in point of fact the regulations are going to be framed in such a way that there is going to be an appeal to the High Court except in one 249 or two specified cases, the matter might have been put in that way in the Act of Parliament.
The only other comment I would make is that I think there will be a great number of conflicting decisions by different Commissioners, as indeed there have been in cases arising in connexion with pensions, and that therefore it would have been eminently satisfactory if all these matters could have been referred to and decided by a Judge of the High Court. I beg leave to withdraw my Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Clause 43 agreed to.
§ Clauses 44 and 45 agreed to.
§ LORD LLEWELLIN had given notice that he would move after Clause 45 to insert the following new clause:
§ Payment of benefit to Members of Friendly Societies.
§ Any insured person who is a member of a friendly society may by notice in writing in the prescribed form addressed to the Minister elect that on and after the date specified in such notice he or she will receive any payments to which he or she may at any time be entitled in respect of sickness benefit, maternity benefit, widow's allowance and death grant through the friendly society of which he or she is a member and payment shall be made accordingly.
§ Provided that any insured person may at any time by notice in writing in the prescribed form revoke such election.
§ The noble Lord said: We have had, by general agreement of the House, a discussion covering all these clauses. I rise only to say one thing, and that is that we on this side of the House wish very carefully to consider what the noble and learned Lord, the Lord Chancellor, said in his speech, which covered this clause as well as the one immediately then before the House. We all realize that the noble and learned Lord was the one who had the foundation of this scheme in his particular charge, and we would, therefore, like to take further time to consider his remarks. I hope that before the Bill leaves this House we shall be able to do something, by common consent, to associate, rather more fully than we are doing at the present moment, the friendly societies with some of these new activities. That, I think, should be the aim of us all. We wish to consider what the noble and learned Lord said and to see if there is any way in which we can do it by general agreement, because, after all, this is a Bill that has come forward by general 250 agreement. At this stage I do not propose to move my Amendment, although I leave it open to raise this topic again at a later stage.
§ Clauses 46 to 58 agreed to.
§ Clause 59:
§ Married Women.
§ 59.—(1) Without prejudice to the generality of any other power to make regulations, the Minister may make regulations modifying in such manner, subject to the following provisions of this section, as he thinks proper the provisions of this Act in their application in relation to married women, and in relation to women who have been married and during their marriage were affected by any such regulations:
§ Provided that, save as expressly authorised by the following provisions of this section, regulations there under shall not modify any provision of this Act which has any special application in relation to a married woman or widow as such.
§ (2) Regulations under this section shall provide, subject to any prescribed conditions and exceptions—
- (a) for excepting a woman, if she so elects or if she does not elect otherwise (as may be provided by the regulations)—
- (i) from insurance during any period during which she is married and is a non-employed person;
- (ii) from liability to pay contributions as an insured person for any period during which she is married and is not excepted from insurance;
- (b) for crediting to a woman, for the purpose of her right to a maternity allowance, contributions as an employed or self-employed person for periods in respect of which she would have been liable to pay such contributions but for the foregoing provisions of this subsection.
§ (3) Without prejudice to the generality of subsection (1) of this section, regulations thereunder may in particular provide—
- (a) for making it a condition for the receipt of benefit by a woman, or in respect of her insurance, that she shall have been an insured person at such time, or during such period, as may be prescribed;
- (b) for determining the manner in which references to entry into insurance are to be construed in relation to a woman who has been an insured person for two or more distinct periods.
THE LORD CHAIRMAN
I think there is an error in the marshalled list of Amendments. Of the three Amendments standing in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Balfour of Burleigh, the first one printed should have been the last. I believe it is customary for Amendments which aim at leaving out a clause to come last, and therefore I would ask the noble Lord to deal with the Amendment to line 30.
§ 5.35 p.m.
§ LORD BALFOUR OF BURLEIGH moved in subsection (1) to leave out "and in relation to women who have been married and during their marriage were affected by any such regulations."
§ The noble Lord said: I regret that the Lord Chairman has noticed the irregularity in the order of these Amendments, because it would have been extremely convenient for me to have dealt in a general way with proposals to leave out the clause. I hope that your Lordships will permit me, as I cannot put forward my general arguments on that Amendment, to deal rather generally with the question on this Amendment.
§ My objection to this clause is that it is delegated legislation of the worst kind. It has been claimed that this is a universal, national Bill, but it is, of course, nothing of the kind If your Lordships have the figures of the actuary, you will see that in 1948 it is anticipated that there will be about 9,600,000 married women and 16,200,000 men in the three classes, employed, self-employed and non-employed. Of those 9,600,000 women, only 1,400,000 are going to come under the Bill, and they will do so because they come under the heading "employed under contract of service." It really is a ridiculous claim to say that this Bill is national and universal when it leaves out 8,000,000 married women. These women, 8,000,000 of them, are going to be classed as non-employed. Did you ever hear such a ridiculous description to apply to the housewives of this country, particularly after all they have done in the war? I agree, however, that it is a little better than the classification these women used to have in the Census not so very long ago, when they were classed as "unoccupied."
I am sorry to interrupt the noble Lord, but I do so simply in the desire not to let him proceed on a false assumption, which I am sure he would not wish to do. They will not be classed as non-employed, unless they so opt. If the great majority of them choose to stay outside the machine and rely on their husbands' insurance, they will not come into any of the three categories. They can come into the non-employed category in certain circumstances, but I think the noble Lord is assuming that the vast majority of women will be described as non-employed. I am not trying to 252 spoil his humour, because it can apply to a certain category of woman under the Bill, but it will not apply to the 8,000,000.
They may come in as non-employed, or they may come in as self-employed, or as employed under a contract of service.
§ LORD BALFOUR OF BURLEIGH
Do let us get this quite clear. I thought it was perfectly clear under the Bill that the only women who come in as of right are the gainfully employed women. That was a concession made by the Minister at a very late stage of the Bill in the other House, under pressure from a certain section of his own Party. The noble Lord will contradict me if I am wrong, but I understand that the only married women who are in this Bill by right, without the rules of the Minister, are the gainfully employed married women under a contract of service. Is that not right?
I think the matter is particularly complicated. I am going to reply to the noble Lord in one moment, but I think, having corrected him on one point, I will not attempt to proceed along antiphonal lines.
§ LORD BALFOUR OF BURLEIGH
The noble Lord says he has corrected me, but I still think I am right. If the advice I have had is correct, then unless a married woman is gainfully occupied under a contract of service, she does not come under this Bill at all, except by an administrative decision taken in Whitehall. The beginning of Clause 59 says:Without prejudice to the generality of any other power to make regulations, the Minister may make regulations modifying in such, manner, subject to the following provisions of this section. As he thinks proper the provisions of this Act in their application in relation to married women. …That is contrary to Clause 1 of the Bill, which says:every person who on or after the appointed day, being over school leaving age and under pensionable age, is in Great Britain, and fulfils such conditions as may be prescribed as to residence in Great Britain, shall become insured under this Act and thereafter continue throughout his life to be so insured.I am advised that there is a principle of law which may mean that the making of 253 such regulations really is ultra vires, because it is entirely contrary to the main principle of the Bill. This is, of course, a matter for the lawyers, but I am told that in one of the best law books, which is called Law and Orders, there is this statement about interpretation:The rule on interpretation is that if subordinate legislation is directly repugnant to the general purpose of the Act which authorizes it, or is, indeed, repugnant to any well-established principle of statute or common law, it is either ultra vires altogether, or must be so interpreted as not to create antinomy.I am not going to delay your Lordships long with what is a purely legal point. I shall be most grateful if the Lord Chancellor would tell us whether there is anything in that point. I am much too frightened of lawyers to say there is, except that I feel there must be something in it. That is a debating point and I do not wish to stress it.
What I do wish to stress, however, is that this is class legislation of the worst kind. We in this country have given up legislating as a class against Jews and Dissenters, and I think it is all wrong that we should legislate as a class against married women. The consequences, I think, are, serious. It means, unless I have understood it wrongly, that no married woman other than a woman who is gainfully employed under contract of service can come into this Bill except by a decision in Whitehall. I am not arguing that it is unfair that there should be unequal benefits and unequal contributions, although I regret that there should be unequal contributions and benefits. I would much rather see the married woman and single woman and the single man and married man all on the same footing as adult citizens. I am not arguing about that. What I am saying is that the unequal benefits and contributions are laid down in the Schedule and they cannot be altered. But this clause is putting the whole of these married women at the mercy of the Minister, and putting them at the mercy of the Minister means putting them at the mercy of civil servants sitting in Whitehall. That is delegated legislation of the worst order.
It is not so very long since the Opposition saw fit to keep another place pretty well all night on a question of delegated legislation because it is a thing about which we feel very strongly. Members of the Opposition, whether they sit on this side of the House or the other 254 side of the House, feel very strongly that delegated legislation is a bad thing. The actual matter which kept another place up so late was the price of cucumbers. I think it is not unfair to suggest that the status of married women in this country is just as important as the price of cucumbers. Consequently, I was hoping I would get the support of my noble friends on both sides of the House in pressing one or two of these Amendments. I must not talk about the other Amendment to the clause, but I must deal with the particular Amendment about which I am talking, which is, in line 30, to omit the words "in relation to women who have been married and during their marriage were affected by such regulations."
§ LORD BALFOUR OF BURLEIGH
Then I shall deal now with my Amendment to omit the two lines from "elects" on line 39. The fact of the matter is that married women under this Bill are in a less favourable position than unmarried women. A gainfully employed married woman—the Schedules are terribly complicated, but I think I am right—would get 20s. a week unemployment benefit and 16s. a week sickness benefit. If unmarried she would get 26s. unemployment benefit and 26s. sickness benefit in her own right. A woman who becomes a widow very often goes out to work, and she ought to be able to go back to the insurance status of a single woman with 26s. a week benefit. A widow is a single woman, and these two lines seem to me to put it in the power of a civil servant sitting in Whitehall to turn a widow into a married woman. It really is ridiculous. It keeps under the power of the Minister, with this delegated legislation, not only women who are married, but women who have been married; that is to say, a woman widowed or separated from her husband by divorce remains "married" at the whim of the Minister—I use that expression in the general sense—and nothing that she can do gives her the right to recover her status as a single woman. You will recollect that all professional women and all women with independent incomes come under the Bill unless and until they marry. After that they are only brought in if they are under 255 contract of service. I think it would be perhaps convenient to give the noble Lord his opportunity of replying, and I therefore beg to move.
Page 50, line 30, leave out from ("women") to the end of line 32.—(Lord Balfour of Burleigh.)
§ 5.47 p.m.
§ LORD BEVERIDGE
May I contribute my reasons for thinking that, on the whole, in a rather difficult matter the Government have really found the right words for dealing with this problem of married women, and in fact have given married women, by the words of this clause, the choice of deciding their own fates. All that this says is not that the Minister or officials may determine whether a married woman shall be insured or not, but that he must make regulations giving her a choice either to be insured or not. There are those governing words: "excepting a woman, if she so elects, or if she does not elect otherwise." In other words, I should say that the whole purpose of this clause is to give married women the maximum of choice in determining how they will stand in relation to insurance. Those surely are the important words. She is given either a positive or a negative choice, but in either case it is her choice. Therefore I feel, after trying to make the best study of this as carefully as possible, that on the whole, in a very complicated matter, the Government have come to the right decision. I wish they always came to decisions as right as this.
I hope that once again the House will allow me to reply to three Amendments together, although I am not quite sure whether they have all been moved or will be moved.
I am not precluding the noble Lord from replying to me, but I think it would be of general convenience 256 if I replied to them all because the noble Lord has discussed the whole position of married women. There are two things I wish to say as a start. First of all, Clause 59, as the noble Lord, Lord Beveridge, I think was arguing, confers an option. It is giving them something as married women which people who are not married do not possess. It is therefore a clause which adds to the opportunities which would otherwise exist for them in the Bill. Secondly, I would point out, that when the noble Lord talks of delegated legislation he should appreciate that, as provided in Clause 76, this Clause 59 is one of those where the regulations must be laid before Parliament and be approved by affirmative resolution of both Houses of Parliament, so that it is subject to proper safeguard.
Now may I set out the position of married women under the scheme? Putting it briefly, a married woman may adopt one of three courses. First she may remain insured and pay contributions in whatever class is appropriate, that is employed, self-employed or non-employed. In this case the only substantial difference between her position after marriage and her position before marriage is, as the noble Lord, Lord Balfour of Burleigh, says, that she will receive 20s. unemployment or sickness benefit after, instead of 26s. which she would have received before marriage, and she will receive 16s. sickness benefit in her own right, instead of 26s. before marriage.
§ LORD BALFOUR OF BURLEIGH
What I mean is, would it be the same contribution she would have paid for the bigger benefits if unmarried?
The answer is yes. I must pause here to explain that, in our view, it is hopeless—I think everybody who has looked at this agrees, including Lord Beveridge and members of the late Coalition Government—to treat a married woman as though her husband did not exist. I would add that she would receive the full rate of benefit if her husband were totally incapacitated or 257 unwilling to support her. So when saying that she gets less benefit for the same contribution after marriage, we are assuming that she has a husband to support her. I would suggest (and this is a matter which has received a great deal of consideration in recent years) that you cannot ignore a woman's husband. You must assume that the husband brings a certain responsibility along with him when he marries, and also that he brings certain resources. If he does not in fact provide resources, the woman does not have her benefit reduced. The scheme is an insurance scheme to abolish want, and in deciding what a married woman requires to abolish want it would be unrealistic and against the facts to assume that although she has a husband there is no support forthcoming. So there is this lower rate provided for married women than for women who have no husbands.
There is the option by which she may decide to be insured and pay contribution and there is technically an option whereby she is insured but does not pay contributions—but that is a technicality and we do not need to consider that now. She may decide to rely solely on her husband's contribution, which means that she gets an extra 16s. through her husband in certain contingencies, as for instance when he becomes sick or unemployed. He is not paid any extra money in respect of contingencies in her case, except in respect of maternity or death. Broadly speaking if a woman relies on her husband's insurance, extra income comes in when the earned income fails. I have endeavoured to point out to the noble Lord, Lord Balfour of Burleigh, with regard to his suggestion that most women under this part of the scheme would be called non-employed, that he is perfectly right in his suggestion in so far as he thinks that that would be an unfortunate term to apply. But it is assumed that the majority of such women would probably prefer to rely on their husband's insurance, in which case they would be outside the scheme except for drawing benefits out of his insurance. Clause 59 is intended to offer a special option to married women.
I might just add that I am not quite clear whether Lord Balfour of Burleigh has conceived correctly the meaning of lines 30 to 32 in Clause 59. He seems to feel that some limitation of benefit 258 rights incurred by a woman during marriage are, by the regulations, to continue to apply to her after widowhood. In fact the intention is the opposite. The intention of these two lines—which I admit may require some assistance to interpret correctly—is to give the power to modify the general provisions in relation to a widow in these cases, and this modification is required to save her from losing the benefit for retirement pension purposes of her pre-marriage contributions and the contributions of her husband during marriage. Without such provision a widow who had elected not to be insured during marriage would have a deficient life record of contributions, and suffer consequent loss or reduction of retirement pension.
If a woman's husband died to-day and she reached pensionable age in a few years' time, were it not for these two lines she would not receive her pension, or, at any rate, her full pension, because it would probably be found that over a long period of years she had not kept up her contribution. These two lines enable the widow to receive her pension after her husband's death in the same way as if her husband were alive. She receives it without her husband having retired—unless of course you look upon death as a retirement to another and better sphere. This is needed to enable a widow who has not kept up her contributions during marriage to receive pension after her husband's death in the same way, broadly speaking, as if he were still alive.
§ LORD BALFOUR OF BURLEIGH
May I ask the noble Lord a question, the answer to which must affect my attitude? Supposing, as a single woman, a woman accrues a good deal of benefit to her credit and then she marries and her husband dies. As a widow, will she get the benefit of what she paid in when single?
Yes, but if she has failed to keep it up for a great number of years, it might be that her record would be deficient—
She might not have acquired enough contribution record. Without the inclusion of these 259 lines widows might find that they had failed to acquire the right to an old age pension.
§ LORD BALFOUR OF BURLEIGH
Can the noble Lord tell me what expressly is intended by lines 33 to 36? I cannot understand them and they have a bearing on both Amendments.
Well, briefly, the position is that special arrangements regarding married women are envisaged under this Clause 59, and they are also further indicated in the Second Schedule. Clause 59 gives the Minister power to make regulations in a broad way, but in issuing these regulations he has, you may say, two kinds of directives. He has a negative directive in the sense that he must not contradict other parts of the Bill, and a positive directive in that he has to make special provisions along the line of Subsection (2).
§ LORD BALFOUR OF BURLEIGH
I am very much obliged to the noble Lord. I hope I shall understand what he has just said when I have read it two or three times in Hansard. With regard to his reply generally, I must say that I do not think it is quite a fair way of putting it to say that this Clause confers an option—that is what the noble Lord said—which others do not possess. What they will have is the right to continue making the same contribution for substantially less benefit. That is not in the ordinary way what one would call a very good option. I have listened to what the noble Lord said, although I cannot accept his argument. In the circumstances, however, I beg leave to withdraw my Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
I am very grateful to the noble Lord. The option I have referred to, which is contained in Clause 59, does not include the lower benefits that the noble Lord has mentioned. They are to be found in the Schedule which would, of course, be independent of Clause 59. When he reads my remarks in Hansard, I think he will see that it is perfectly true that Clause 59 contains a welcome option.
§ 6.2 p.m.
§ LORD BALFOUR OF BURLEIGH moved in subsection (2) (a) to leave out[...] does not elect otherwise (as 260 may be provided by the regulations). "The noble Lord said: From what the noble Lord, Lord Pakenham, has said, I think it is more than likely that I have got this wrong. What I understand the Bill to mean, as it is drafted, is that these women have the right to insure only by opting in. This Amendment is intended to twist it the other way, so that women who are not insured under the Bill, whether they are gainfully occupied or not, should have what I consider the right of every adult citizen. That is, if they are not to be in, they must opt out. We had a good deal of discussion in another connexion about contracting in and contracting out. If I remember rightly, in the most notorious case which we recently discussed, the Government believed it is fairer to make people contract out than to contract in. I only ask the Government to apply the same principle here. The married woman is an adult, as we agreed in our discussions the other day on the Motion by my noble friend, Viscount Samuel, and I think that she ought to have the right to this insurance unless she opts out. All that would happen is that the single woman who gets married would continue her insurance under the Bill unless she opts out. Under the Bill, as I understand it, if the woman wants to continue insurance, she has to opt in. I think that is all wrong. I hope the noble Lord will accept my Amendment. I beg to move.
Page 30, line 39, leave out from ("elects") to the end of line 41.—(Lord Balfour of Burleigh.)
I should like to be able to make some small concession to the noble Lord, because he has obviously put a great deal of thought into these Amendments. I am afraid that there can be no question of doing so, however, and I hope that on reflection he will feel there is more to be said for our point of view than he supposes. The Government propose that a woman who marries and stays in employment should be assumed to continue as an insured person. That is obviously quite convenient from the administrative point of view; there is no great difficulty, and no harassing of anybody. But we do feel that a self-employed woman, and still more, perhaps, a non-employed woman, would not wish to be forced to continue in insurance 261 after marriage. And whereas she could be given the option of contracting out, we feel that if she were given the preference she would much prefer to be allowed to do as we propose.
The noble Lord is obviously looking at the matter, as we are, from the point of view of the woman. From the point of view of the scheme you may say that it would be more convenient if it were assumed that she continued in insurance. I very much doubt if that is so. In the case of the self-employed woman, and of course, of the ordinary housewives of the country, it would mean sending round inspectors to make sure that these women had complied with the regulations. If I may put it quite simply, it would mean that when this Bill came into force, about 8,000,000 women would have to fill up a form saying that they desired to opt out or opt in, as the case may be. Under this scheme you assume that the self-employed woman and non-employed woman prefer to remain outside, unless they indicate that they wish to come in. Whether you look at it from the point of view of the woman, or that of the Government, what we propose is the fairer and more sensible course.
§ LORD BALFOUR OF BURLEIGH
I am afraid that I am entirely unconvinced by what my noble friend has said. He says that all these women would prefer to make their own decision, but you are depriving them of the opportunity of making their decision in the sense that I argued it, because you are assuming, for administrative reasons, that they will make the decision that you want them to make. Apparently, for administrative reasons you assume that these women do not want to come in. From my point of view, the point of view of the citizen, it means denying to widows their true status. They are no longer regarded as single, although obviously they should revert to their true status of single women. Now you are going to say, "Once a married woman, always a married woman; always small contributions; and always smaller benefits." I cannot understand the noble Lord offering a gross injustice such as that—unless I have got it wrong. Through marriage, a woman has no right to revert to her status. That is what I cannot understand. I would be glad if the noble Lord could enlighten me a little further.
I cannot offer the noble Lord much more enlightenment on this point. He does appreciate that the right to which he refers would be the right to have a form. These women would be told that they must choose whether they will stay in or stay out. That is the right the noble Lord thinks that we are denying them. We, on the other hand, are not bothering these women to make this decision unless they decide that they wish to make it. There is no question of denying them the opportunity of staying in the scheme.
§ LORD BALFOUR OF BURLEIGH
May I just ask the noble Lord this question, and if he can give me the right answer I shall be satisfied. Will a widow, who is in fact a single person, pay the contributions and have the benefits which she would be entitled to as a single woman?
Yes. I understand that a widow would be able to resume her position as a single woman.
§ LORD BALFOUR OF BURLEIGH
That is quite definite? A widow would be able to resume her position as a single woman, both for contribution and benefits? I suppose there is no catch about a widow?
I should hesitate to say that there will be no catches about anything in a Bill of these dimensions. I do want to make it plain to the noble Lord that a widow would be able to revert to her status as a single woman. Of course it should be brought out that these two lines referred to in an earlier Amendment do confer on a widow a position which she would not have obtained unless she had been married and in that respect she has an advantage.
§ LORD BALFOUR OF BURLEIGH
I am much obliged to the noble Lord for his kindness. In the circumstances I beg leave to withdraw my Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Clause 59 agreed to.
§ Clauses 60 to 66 agreed to.
§ Clause 67:
§ Compensation for displaced employees.
67.—(1) Regulations shall provide, subject to any prescribed exceptions or conditions, for compensating out of the National Insurance Fund, for loss of employment or for loss
or diminution of emoluments or of superannuation or similar rights where the loss or diminution is shown to be directly attributable to the passing of this Act or the making of any regulations, persons of the following classes, namely—
(a) persons who were employed full-time, during such periods and on such date before the commencement of this Act as may be prescribed, either—
(i) by an approved society; or
§ 6.10 p.m.
LORD SALTOUN moved, in subsection (1), to leave out "directly." The noble Lord said: I shall deeply regret if my failing voice causes any of your Lordships to strain your attention. I shall do my best. What I am asking for appears to me to be a simple act of justice. I am asking that the relieving officers of this country who will lose their positions by reason of the passing of this Bill should receive compensation under Clause 67, in the same way as other persons who are displaced. I do not want to repeat anything that I said on the Second Reading, but I should like to express the hope that the views of His Majesty's Government have changed a little since that time. On that occasion I quoted the Minister in another place as saying that the relieving officers did not stand high on the list, and I am going to quote the reasons he gave for that remark because I wish to answer them by giving your Lordships the facts. He said:
With regard to the local authorities, it is not unfair to say that local authorities have a duty to staffs, who have served them for twenty or thirty years, to absorb any redundancy that arises.
He also said:
They are not as a rule ruthless in discharging members of their staffs.
And then he said:
It may be said that the responsibility is upon local authorities to absorb their own redundancy.
I pointed out to your Lordships on the previous occasion—and I gave you chapter and verse for it—that the relieving officers are not, strictly speaking, members of local government staffs. They are employed by them but they have a position that is entirely independent either of the Civil Service or of the local government service. They date from the reign of Queen Elizabeth. They are functionaries who are charged by the State with an executive duty to the people under their charge. In a sense they may say about
the local government service that they are in the position of the "Mona Lisa," they are older than the rocks amongst which they sit. They came before the local government service in most cases. They are also most carefully put under the Minister. These men are specialists, they are trained and they pass examinations to enable them to perform certain functions for the State. They are not really fitted for ordinary local government jobs.
§ I should also like to point out to His Majesty's Government that the local authorities cannot be held responsible for solving questions of redundancy which are put upon them by the action of His Majesty's Government through Parliament. It can hardly be said to be the duty of local authorities to absorb employees who become redundant for that reason. In any case I may cut short the argument by saying that I expect His Majesty's Government know that a large number of local authorities have already made preparations to discharge relieving officers, who become redundant by reason of the passing of this Bill, when it is passed. If they do not know that, perhaps my noble friend will accept it from me that that is the case. Think of what is going to happen. One will have these relieving officers at the age of fifty forced to accept premature and reduced pensions, and unable to take any other work because they have been precluded by their occupation from training for any other work. They have devoted all their time and attention to gaining the qualities requisite for the service of the State. I think, when I have said that, that the noble Lord will admit that I am asking for simple justice.
§ There is this further point. The noble Lord suggested on the last occasion that it is quite possible that there will be no redundancy. I have tried to show that there is certain to be some redundancy and that relieving officers are certain to lose their occupation by reason of the passing of this measure. That will be the position as soon as this measure is passed. If there is to be no redundancy and no reduction of staff, then the Amendment will merely act as a guarantee of good faith by His Majesty's Government. It will practically be inoperative and will not hurt anybody. If there is going to be this reduction, then I think that I have said enough, as far as these 265 men are concerned, to show that it is a simple act of justice for which I am asking. These men—I think I am authorized to put their position for them—say: "We possess unique experience in dealing with poverty and in the relief of distress in this country, and we would far rather be used when this Bill, which is now going through Parliament, is passed. We are members of a dedicated profession. Nobody comes into our profession for the sake of money."
§ Those who enter that profession do so because they are dedicated to the service of mankind. It is a strange thing that, in spite of what their position may be by the passage of this Bill, I know of men leaving the Services who are entering this service even now, simply in the hope of being of use to their fellow-men in spite of the possibility of their losing their employment. It is a dedicated profession. They would far rather be employed, but, if they are not employed, then they are entitled to compensation. They take the attitude, that they wish to be employed in the relief of poverty and distress and in any way in which they can be of service to the State under this Act. In the wonderful speech made by the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack, he indicated that under this Bill we will need a very large number of people who are capable of taking decisions on the spot. Those relieving officers are the very men you really could use for that purpose, because it is part of their function that they must decide; they never refer things further back; they have to take their own decisions.
§ To turn to the question of distress, in spite of the hopes expressed by His Majesty's Government, I do not believe that this Bill, even if it passes, is going to do away with poverty and distress, and I do not think that even the most sanguine of my noble friends opposite really think that either. You will always have persons who, somehow or another, fail in their subscriptions, which after all are very heavy under this Bill. When those people come for benefits, of course they will find themselves in a difficult position. There will be other cases. There will be thriftlessness in the world, just as there always has been. Those misfortunes in my view are very much better dealt with by the relieving officers we have, than by any other method. The point about the relieving officer is that he 266 resides in the locality. He can be got at any moment. His hours of the days are twenty-four. He can give an answer; he can act at once and give money if necessary.
§ To show that Parliament intended his hours to be twenty-four, I would just remind your Lordships of one point about these relieving officers, and that is this. As you know, a relieving officer has to give notice within three days when a case of suspected mental deficiency is reported to him, and in those cases Sunday counts as one of the three days. That indicates that Parliament has always envisaged these officers as being employed in an all-time service round the clock. That is how these men stand. As you know, many persons have been removed from the charge of these relieving officers, who were formerly under their charge. I have tried to investigate this matter. I will tell your Lordships what I have done, amongst other things. I have made friends with more than one relieving officer. I have gone for a week at a time and sat in their offices as a young officer goes under instruction in order to learn something of their work. I really do know something about it.
§ I am absolutely convinced that it would be possible for me to give your Lordships cases of real distress which in former times would never have been allowed to occur because they would have immediately been succoured by the relieving officers. I could give your Lordships in a starred question, to which the Government could have no answer, bad cases all over England every day from now until Christmas. I do not believe the old people are being looked after as well as they used to be; in fact I am convinced they are not. There are only two things which prevent me from doing that, and one of them is obvious. If I were to produce a case from a parish in Manchester the relieving officer there would "get it in the neck" as soon as the question was put down in your Lordships' House. The other is that it would be good propaganda at the next election to produce a series of 150 starred questions which passed without satisfactory answer by His Majesty's Government. But I am convinced that every member of His Majesty's Government is as earnest and eager for the relief of poverty as I am myself. While I cannot do that for the first practical reason I have given—and I would not do it for the 267 second reason I have given—I can give your Lordships something to show that I am not making a wild statement in this matter. Many of your Lordships have probably recently read an article in The Times upon the unfortunate pressure that exists upon old people in institutions, and how they cannot now find the places which they so obviously need in institutions.
§ I would like to remind your Lordships of the position. Some six years ago these old persons were removed from the care of relieving officers. They come under them for medical appliances and things like that, but in the ordinary way they are not under the relieving officer except when they go back to go into an institution. It is an onerous duty on the relieving officer to provide a place in an institution for everyone who wants it, and action can be taken against him if he fails to do that. Not only that, but if death ensues thereby he may have to meet a charge of manslaughter. The expenses of that will not be paid for by his employer but he will have to pay them himself. It is a monstrous position, but it exists to-day and causes a good deal of uneasiness. I have had a good deal of experience in visiting old people in the city of Glasgow. There are two classes there. There is the school that believes in keeping people in their own homes as far as possible, where they have had their joys and they have had their sorrows of life, and where, in our phrase, they can "have their bits of things about them." There is the other school which says that these people can be much more economically and much more efficiently looked after in Homes. The larger number of us always prefer to keep the people in their own homes. The point I am making is this. In the days when the relieving officers had the care of the old people, as I told your Lordships on the last occasion, they always regularly visited, they were well known to the old people under their charge, and they gave by their friendliness and by their companionship the moral stamina to these people to preserve their own homes for themselves while they could. When conditions arose under which these people had to go into an institution they prepared the ground, and they used to work off the people who must go to an institution by the places at their disposal 268 and get them away, because they were always aware of the onerous duty upon them. Since that time these people have been removed from their charge. Although the war has aged us all very considerably I do not think it has added to the number of our years, and I do not suppose there are many more old people coming along than there were ten years ago. But the fact is that these people are now all being brought in a heap to the relieving officers, who are asked to get places for them. That indicates that old people are not being so well looked after now as they used to be by the constant care from relieving officers.
THE LORD CHAIRMAN
I hope the noble Lord will forgive me for saying that he is going rather away from the Amendment.
I am trying to get the Government to say they will make provision for these people under the Bill, and I am saying how the poor are going to suffer. I am sorry if I did not make that clear. It seems to me a perfectly logical position. I am quite convinced of this, that you will have to retain people in the State service whose duty is that of these relieving officers, which is, as laid down by the Act of 1930, to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, visit the sick, harbour the homeless and bury the dead. That is what they have done in the past. They deserve better from your Lordships and they should be found employment.
Page 58, line 14, leave out ("directly").—(Lord Saltoun.)
Perhaps the House will allow me to answer this and the following Amendment together. I have been asked by the noble Lord to accept something from him. I can assure him that I will accept anything from him except these two Amendments. I am afraid they cannot be accepted but not, I assure the House, from any lack of concern for the old people on the part of the Government or on my part personally. I will not attempt to swap information about the position of the old with the noble Lord, although I have been concerned with the old in many different ways. I can, however, impart one piece of information to him which will be a consolation to him. The people of this country are living longer. There are 269 some rather striking statistics which recently appeared which show that, curiously enough, from 1942 onwards, which was just about the time the Beveridge Report came out—I do not know whether that was the reason—there was a sudden spurt in the figures of population. So the noble Lord must not imagine that the old people are dying off. I am glad to say they are living on.
Coming back to the Amendment, we appreciate the great services that the relieving officers can render. The noble Lord can be assured that everything possible will be done to look after them and to make use of them. But I should explain, from the formal point of view, that this Bill does not withdraw any functions from local authorities. In so far as the Public Assistance departments are affected by the Bill, that comes about simply because with increased benefits it is thought that the volume of work falling on these officers will certainly decrease. I think the House will agree that the proper place to include provision for compensating these officers—and certainly such provisions must be considered—is not in this Bill but the proposed Bill to deal with the break-up of the Poor Law. If the noble Lord raises the transitional point and says: "What about them when the Bill comes into operation?", I would point out that this Bill is not expected to come into operation until 1948, and by that time the proposals for the Poor Law should be far advanced. We certainly accept from the noble Lord that very great concern should be shown for the welfare of these people and for services they have rendered to the country, but I must ask him, in view of what I have said, to withdraw this and the following Amendment.
I must say that I have been very unfortunate on this Bill, because on both occasions I have been very anxious to get the support of my noble and learned friend on the Woolsack, because I know he has devoted special study to this point. I have told the noble Lord that local authorities are now making preparations to reduce their relieving officers staff owing to the approaching pattern of this Bill, and it is not really reasonable for him to say that these men who are going to be put on reduced pensions at an early age should wait until 1948 for their case to be considered. I know I have no hope of 270 carrying this Amendment in this House, but I want to put it on record that I think this is an act of gross and signal injustice on the part of His Majesty's Government. I am afraid that they may need the services of men like these when it is too late.
As the noble Lord has used strong language, I must say in one sentence that I think his final remarks are an example of a gross misconception on his part, a misconception of the intentions behind this Bill and of the intentions behind the Bill that is to follow concerning the break-up of the Poor Law.
I should be very happy to see the noble Lord's intentions carried out. It would give me great pleasure, and I should be the first to say so.
§ On Question, Amendment negatived.
LORD LLEWELLIN moved after subsection (1) (c) to insert:
Provided that the amount of compensation payable to any of the said persons shall not be diminished on the ground that such person has refused an offer of employment by the Minister unless the Minister proves to an arbitration tribunal to be appointed by the Lord Chancellor for the purpose of the determination of such disputes that such refusal having regard to all the circumstances including such person's domestic and personal circumstances was unreasonable.
§ The noble Lord said: It is quite true that in Clause 67 as drafted it is said that the Regulations shall provide certain things about compensation for persons who were previously employed full-time with the societies previously administering these services. It is also quite true that any regulation made under that clause requires an affirmative resolution, both of this House and of the other place. I may be told that if I do not like anything in it, that will be my opportunity to voice my opinion and throw the whole regulation back, but one does not want to do that, because there may be a lot of other particulars in it. All I want to ensure is that when it comes to a question of paying these men compensation, they shall not be debarred from receiving that compensation because they have refused to take up employment offered them by the State, and that if they have refused to take up that employment, it has to be thought to be an unreasonable act on their part by some body set up by the 271 noble and learned Lord before they are barred from receiving compensation. If people say, "No, I do not want to go on; it is quite true you have offered me this job, but I want to draw my compensation and to go into some other walk of life," I do not want to see them for that reason debarred from receiving compensation. If the noble Lord will say there is no intention to do that, and that the Government would not contemplate putting such a thing into the regulations, I shall be satisfied, but I do want some assurance that a man will not be penalized because he does not intend, in the new circumstances, to take on some other job. After all, the days of the Essential Work Order, except in one or two walks of life, are now finished, as are the days of direction into one employment or another. I hope it will be possible very soon to get rid of the Essential Work Order altogether, but at any rate we do not want it applied by a sort of side wind and to have it said, "If you do not take on this job you will lose your compensation." I hope the noble Lord will be able to give me some assurances on this point.
Page 58, line 36, at end insert the said proviso.—(Lord Llewellin.)
I do not know that I can give the noble Lord satisfaction in exactly the form he has mentioned, but I hope that none the less my answer will be of some assistance to him. I would point out that this question is one of those which is under consideration by a Committee representing the approved societies and their staffs which the Minister has appointed to advise him on the staffing problems arising out of the proposed takeover of the approved societies. The Committee (which I am sure the noble Lord will agree is a most proper kind of Committee in the circumstances) has not yet reported, and I think he would agree that it would be improper, before the Committee has made its report, to put anything detailed into the Bill on this matter. He can be sure, however, that it will not escape the attention of the Government, and even if there were any danger of that, I am sure the noble Lord would keep us up to the mark, because obviously this question of what is and what is not to be regarded as a reasonable refusal is one 272 on which we must try to secure justice and fair play.
§ LORD LLEWELLIN
One hopes that the Committee will take a reasonable view. I suppose that any kind of provision to make them take on this employment will have to be in one of these regulations.
§ LORD LLEWELLIN
Perhaps the noble Lord would be good enough to look that up between now and the Report stage. I do not think that any person who has a home in some part of the country, and who is told to take on employment in Newcastle, where the main headquarters are perhaps going to be, could be considered to be unreasonable if he said he did not want to do that. In those circumstances I think he should still be able to get his compensation, and that is the kind of case I have in mind. Perhaps the noble Lord would enquire whether it is certain to be in the regulations and would communicate with me. I want to see that justice is done to these men. At the moment I will withdraw my Amendment, but perhaps the noble Lord will be good enough to communicate with me, giving me enough time, if necessary, to return to the charge on the Report stage.
It will be a great pleasure to me to communicate the information to the noble Lord in a matter of, I should fancy, minutes rather than days.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Clause 67 agreed to.
§ Clause 68 [Consequential amendments and savings]:
LORD PAKENHAM moved, at the end of subsection (4), to insert
(5) The amendments made by this section and Part IV of the said Eleventh Schedule in section six of, and the Schedule to, the National Service (Armed Forces) Act, 1939, shall not affect any proceedings begun, regulations made or thing done under or for the purposes of the said section six before the appointed day, but the National Service Acts, 1939 to 1941, with the amendments so made, shall apply in relation thereto as if begun, made or done by, to or before, or with reference to, the umpire or any deputy umpire appointed for the purposes of the Reinstate-
ment in Civil Employment Act, 1944, or the chairman of a local tribunal or the panels appointed or constituted for the purposes of section forty-three of this Act, as the case may be.
§ The noble Lord said: I have no doubt that all of your Lordships, being far more experienced at interpreting clauses than I am, will make light of this. I am very proud of the Bill as a whole, and equally proud of the drafting of this clause, which presents few terrrors to the initiated. The point here is quite simple, although the actual phraseology is complicated. The procedure for appeals under the National Service (Armed Forces) Act, 1939, depends upon the Unemployment Insurance Act, 1935, because appeals from decisions of Military Service (Hardship) Committees are to the Umpire or Deputy Umpires appointed under that Act. By the present Bill we are repealing the Unemployment Insurance Act, 1935, and therefore we find ourselves in a small tangle which has to be straightened out. It is expedient, therefore, to make a small adjustment in this Bill.
§ In the Reinstatement in Civil Employment Act, 1944, Section 8, there is a provision for the separate appointment of an Umpire, and one or more Deputy Umpires, but the Umpire and Deputy Umpires under the Unemployment Insurance Act have been appointed for this purpose, so that what has happened hitherto is that the same Umpire has done duty for all three purposes; for the Unemployment Insurance Act, the National Service Act and the Reinstatement in Civil Employment Act. The long and short of it is that under the Amendment proposed we shall leave the Minister of Labour on the one hand and the Minister of National Insurance on the other to appoint separate Umpires if they desire to do so, but in practice it is intended that the same Umpire will do duty for all three in the future as in the past. I hope that that makes it as plain to your Lordships as it is to me.
Page 59, line 32, at end insert the said new subsection.—(Lord Pakenham.)
§ LORD LLEWELLIN
I gather that the noble Lord hopes he made it as plain to us as it is to him. I do not want in the least to insult him, but it is not at all plain to me. I have read through 274 these words in this new subsection quite a number of times, and I must say I am not much wiser now I have done so. I will take it that it is a necessary provision to keep something in being which otherwise will be repealed, and to keep some form of umpire going who otherwise might be abolished. I take it there is no deception, and I certainly have no objection to passing these words as they stand. Fortunately, they do not affect any contributors or recipients under the measure, so I think we are safe in passing them in this frightful form.
I am very grateful to the noble Lord and I will pass on his remarks to the draftsman. I can only say that if there is any deception we are deceived together.
§ On Question, Amendment agreed to.
§ Clause 68, as amended, agreed to.
§ Clauses 69 to 73 agreed to.
§ Clause 74 [Provisions as to non-contributory pensions]:
Page 67, line 21, leave out ("pensions") and insert ("pension").—(Lord Pakenham.)
§ On Question, Amendment agreed to.
§ Clause 74, as amended, agreed to.
§ Clause 75 agreed to.
§ Clause 76:
§ Regulations and orders to be laid before Parliament.
§ 76.—(1) No order shall be made under Section three or Section twenty-seven of this Act and no regulations shall be made under the following provisions of this Act, namely subsection (4) of Section thirteen, Section fifty-eight, Section fifty-nine, Section sixty-two or Section sixty-seven, unless a draft of the order or regulations has been laid before Parliament and has been approved by resolution of each House of Parliament.
§ LORD LLEWELLIN moved, in subsection (1), after "thirteen" to insert" Section twenty-eight." The noble Lord said: This Amendment seeks to put Clause 28 amongst those sections of this Bill which, when it becomes an Act, will need to have an affirmative resolution of each House of Parliament. The reason why I selected Clause 28 is a very simple 275 one. Under Clause 28, regulations may be made providing for disqualifying persons from receiving benefits for which they have contributed. Regulations need not be made once and for all. New regulations can be made from time to time under any of these clauses. No ordinary insurance company can alter a policy once it has been agreed and people have started subscribing to it. I know the difficulties many people have in filling up these applications in time, so when you are disqualifying people for receiving benefits because they are out of time I think it is a matter which needs the full publicity of each House of Parliament and a matter in which each of us should be concerned and should look into most carefully.
§ That is the sole reason for this Amendment and there is nothing else behind it at all. When once you are disqualifying people because their applications are not in time you have really got to be very careful what you do. I think it is the kind of provision which should come under the scrutiny of each House of Parliament by being presented to us for our approval rather than be bunched, as these regulations otherwise will be, with fifty or sixty in one of the Order Papers which may not catch the eye of anyone. I think it is an important matter for a lot of humble people in this country, and I would like to see this Amendment accepted and these regulations very carefully scrutinized.
Page 60, line 13, after ("thirteen") insert ("section twenty-eight").—(Lord Llewellin.)
Perhaps the noble Lord will allow me to point out what I know is in his mind already, the distinction drawn in the Bill between what you might call plain scrutiny of regulations and scrutiny plus affirmative resolution. The noble Lord is aware that there is provision for scrutiny under this Bill which is not provided under all Bills. There is rather an elaborate procedure with which he will not wish me to detain the House, but it would not be quite fair not to mention it at all as though these were simply regulations under an ordinary Bill where there was no special arrangement for scrutiny. The noble Lord knows that the National Insurance Advisory Committee are brought in and so on, so 276 there is in any case a fairly elaborate scrutiny. In addition to that, there is provision for submitting a considerable number of regulations to affirmative resotion. I will not go into that in detail unless the noble Lord wishes, but I would mention Clause 13 (4), Clause 58, Clause 59, which is the section about married women which the noble Lord, Lord Balfour of Burleigh, was concerned with, Clause 62, the important section about extending unemployment benefit, and Clause 67.
I was a little surprised that the noble Lord should have picked on Clause 28. I do not know that this is a safe argument by any means, but it roused no controversy in another place. There was no suggestion there that it should be subjected to affirmative resolution procedure. Anyhow, it is up to us to improve on what they do. The point I would make to the noble Lord is that the powers contained in this clause are almost entirely matters of machinery which have always appeared in regulations and therefore we are not doing anything in any way new in placing this clause in the Bill without affirmative regulation procedure. The powers here are those which have been left in this form for many years in the Insurance Acts which will be repealed by this Bill, so I do not think he need fear there is anything sinister or revolutionary in this proposal. It is simply carrying on arrangements which have existed for unemployment insurance for many years.
§ LORD LLEWELLIN
I am glad to hear that. I think it is a thing about which one ought to be very careful. All I would say to the noble Lord is that I do not slavishly follow what is raised in another place. We ought to show a little initiative ourselves and look at things here with a fresh mind because otherwise we are not very much good. With the assurance that this has been the form in the Unemployment Insurance Acts and the Health Insurance Acts for some time—and they have worked well, we all know—I beg leave to withdraw my Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.277
§ Clause 76 agreed to.
§ Remaining Clauses agreed to.
§ First, Second, Third and Fourth Schedules agreed to.
§ Fifth Schedule:
§ Constitution, etc., of National Insurance Advisory Committee
§ 1. The National Insurance Advisory Committee (in this Schedule referred to as "the Committee") shall consist of a chairman appointed by the Minister and not less than three nor more than seven other members so appointed. At least one member of the Committee shall be a woman.
§ 4. Of the said members, other than the chairman, there shall be appointed—
- (a) one after consultation with organizations representative of employers;
- (b) one after consultation with organizations representative of workers; and
- (c) if and when reciprocal arrangements with the appropriate Northern Irish authority are in force under this Act, one after consultation with that authority.
§ 6.50 p.m.
§ LORD BEVERIDGE moved, in paragraph 4, at end of sub-paragraph (b), to leave out "and," and insert "(c) one after consultation with an organization or organizations representative of friendly societies; and."
§ The noble Lord said: I will, if I may, begin not by simply moving this Amendment but by asking if His Majesty's Government will give further consideration to the matter of the personnel of the National Insurance Advisory Committee. I think that if earlier Amendments of mine had been carried it is very likely that I should not have felt it necessary to move this one. As those Amendments have not been carried I will detain the House, for a few moments only, to ask if the Government will consider my request concerning the membership of this Committee. It is based on the Unemployment Insurance Statutory Committee, of which I was chairman for some time. The provisions of paragraph 4 of the Fifth Schedule were all right when you were dealing only with unemployment insurance. On the committee of which I was chairman, representatives of the employers came from the Employers' Federation, representatives of the workers from the Trades Union Congress. That was all right when one was dealing with unemployment and with employees. Now you will be dealing not 278 only with unemployment benefits but with many others. You are going to bring in many new insured people who are not workers at all. Many of these people may be non-employed. I have drawn up this Amendment because I think it may well be useful to bring in the friendly societies in this way. I hope that the Government will be willing to consider this between now and the Report stage, for this committee is entirely different in scope and purpose from the committee on which it is based.
Page 83, line 32, leave out ("and") and insert—
("(c) one after consultation with an organization or organizations representative of friendly societies; and")—(Lord Beveridge.)
§ LORD LLEWELLIN
I very much hope that the Government may see their way to do more than merely consider this. It would be of great value if you had on this committee a representative appointed after consultation with an organization or organizations representing the friendly societies. These societies, as has been said over and over again this afternoon, have had very considerable experience, and it would be just as well that one of the members referred to in (a), (b) or (c) should be suggested by the friendly societies. I have no doubt the Government would be very glad to have the help of somebody with such experience. Whether this is a matter which wants looking at or not, I do not know. My noble friend Lord Beveridge has much greater knowledge of this subject than I have, but, looking at it in advance, I should have thought it would be well to tell him that one of the members of this committee can be suggested by the friendly societies.
I am authorized to say that the Government will give careful and friendly consideration to the weighty points which have been made by my noble friends Lord. Beveridge and Lord Llewellin before the next stage of this Bill is reached.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Fifth Schedule agreed to.
§ Sixth to Tenth Schedules agreed to.279
§ Eleventh Schedule:
§ Consequential Amendments.