Orders of the Day — Clause 15. — (Construction, saving, short title, commencement, and duration.)

– in the House of Commons on 6th April 1922.

Alert me about debates like this

(1) In this Act, unless the context otherwise requites,— The expression "a dependent child" means any child under the age of sixteen years who is maintained wholly or mainly at the cost of the person entitled to benefit, or any child between the ages of fourteen and sixteen who is under full-time instruction in a day school and is so maintained as aforesaid:The expression "child" includes a stepchild, an adopted child, and an illegitimate child.

Photo of Mr Thomas Macnamara Mr Thomas Macnamara , Camberwell North West

I beg to move, in Subsection (1), to leave out the word "sixteen" ["under the age of sixteen years"], and to insert instead thereof the word "fourteen."

The Bill as it went upstairs contained the provision which we had laid down last November in the Unemployed Workers' Grants Scheme in respect of the age up to which children should receive the allowance. The age was originally 14. Many hon. Members at that time moved to substitute 16. We compromised by a suggestion of mine to pay up to 16 if they go to school. That gives some encouragement to them not to run on the streets. That is how the thing has stood for six months. In Committee the word "sixteen" was inserted in lieu of "fourteen," so that now my scheme under which they get Is. up to 16 if they went to school has gone and they will get 1s. up to 16 in any case. I am asking the House with every confidence to restore the Bill to its original form, and I think that is a very sound and common-sense proposition. I have been appealed to in most pathetic terms in view of my early days as a schoolmaster, but I ask the House to go back to the form in which it has been operating for six months under the Unemployed Workers' Dependants Grant. I think that is sound, and I call upon the House to restore the Bill to that form.

Photo of Mr John Robertson Mr John Robertson , Bothwell

I hope sincerely that the House will retain the Bill in its present form. I have always a great respect for the schoolmaster, but unfortunately he does not stand on the pedestal on which he used to stand, not that he is any less clever than formerly, but because the general level has been raised and the scholar sometimes can argue with the schoolmaster. I think that the weakness of the right hon. Gentleman's position is this. The Government themselves have laid down the proposition that between the ages of 14 and 16 the individual is a child because they are not insuring him, and consequently this is a section of the population which are left out. If they were going to school now no one would be more delighted than I, if they were going to a proper school under a proper schoolmaster. But I come from a mining area, a large industrial area, and the right hon. Gentleman has put this forward from the standpoint that if the boy leaves school at 14 and is unemployed he will be running the streets if he does not go to school. I can assure the right hon. Gentleman that that is not the case. You will get scores of boys who leave school at 14 and are unemployed, and who will tramp from one colliery to another, mile after mile, and from one steel and iron works to another, trying to get employment and doing harder work by looking for employment than if they were employed, and these boys would be penalised by refusing them this benefit. I submit that fair play, justice, and common sense are all on our side, and I sincerely trust that the House will stand by the Amendment which has been made.

Photo of Mr Robert Richardson Mr Robert Richardson , Houghton-le-Spring

May I point out to the right hon. Gentleman that he will find it very difficult to carry out even his own proposals. It is very difficult now for education authorities to find school accommodation for children under 14 years of age, and the question of continuation schools, which would have been of some advantage to those children between 14 and 16 has been dropped completely by the Board of Education, so that the right hon. Gentleman is holding out a hope that if these children go to school he is willing to pay them when there is no provision made for them to get into a school. I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Bothwell (Mr. Robertson) that these are the children who ought to be well looked after, for they are near the earning period when they are likely to do something for the benefit of their neighbours. If you are going to undermine them between the ages of 14 and 16 you will at once begin to become a C.3 nation. There is no hope, so far as I can see, of the present Minister of Education getting the money from the Board of Education to take these children into schools. There is no hope even of getting teachers. You are asked to cut down every service inside education, and that is being done, and children already are running the streets because of the lack of places in schools. If he has children between 14 and 16, and they are refused places, we might as well say, "Thank you for nothing" as say, "Go to school between 14 and 16." There is no hope in what the right hon. Gentleman is asking.

Photo of Mr James Hogge Mr James Hogge , Edinburgh East

Apart from the merits of the Amendment, it must be borne in mind that this Bill has come from a Standing Committee. The Standing Committee discussed the Bill, and made two alterations in it. On that Committee the Government had a majority of the Members, but in spite of that fact the commonsense of the Committee made two alterations in the Bill. Those two alterations are the only proposals that are resisted by the Minister now that the Bill is downstairs. In the name of common-sense, what is the use of referring Bills to a selected number of the Members of this House if on Report we are to be deprived of what we gained upstairs? The Chair would inform the House, I am sure, that when a Bill has gone upstairs and has come back here on Report, we are not entitled to discuss again at any great length questions which have been discussed upstairs, even though there is in a Standing Committee less than one-seventh of the membership of the whole House. That being so, there is the more reason why decisions made upstairs ought to stand downstairs unless some substantial reason is given or unless we are to hold up the whole of Parliamentary procedure to ridicule. I do not think it is fair to the House or that it is right for the Minister on the Report stage, when he has a majority at his back who have not heard the discussion upstairs, to bring his battalions down and to reverse the decisions upstairs.

I am glad to see that the Minister of Pensions is present. In the case of children of men killed in the War, pensions are granted up to the age of 16. Under this Bill you do not propose to deal with the child beyond the age of 14, whereas in the case of the child of the soldier killed in the War the pension may run from the age of one to the age of 16 and cover 16 years. Under this Bill you give the child Is. a week, but the pensioned child of a soldier receives 7s. 6d. a week. The Admiralty do much the same thing. I appeal to the Minister of Labour as a House of Commons man. Just now he assumed the role of teacher. If he has taught himself anything, he has taught himself that the one unfair thing that any Government can do is to take advantage of an ignorant majority downstairs to reverse the decision of an informed majority upstairs. I hope my hon. Friends will go into the Division Lobby against this proposal.

Photo of Mr Granville Wheler Mr Granville Wheler , Faversham

When the Division on this point was taken in the Committee, there were only 23 Members present.

Photo of Mr James Hogge Mr James Hogge , Edinburgh East

Whose fault was that?

Photo of Mr Granville Wheler Mr Granville Wheler , Faversham

I am not apportioning the fault, but there were very few Members present, and that is all the more reason why the matter should be debated now.

Mr. MACLEAN:

Is it not the case that there were as few supporters of the Government attending the Committee upstairs as there are attending here now?

Question put, "That the word 'sixteen' stand part of the Bill."

The House divided: Ayes, 51: Noes, 128.

Division No. 87.]AYES.[11.43 p.m.
Adamson, Rt. Hon. WilliamHartshorn, VernonRobertson, John
Ammon, Charles GeorgeHenderson, Rt. Hon. A. (Widnes)Rose, Frank H.
Banton, GeorgeHenderson, Lt.-Col. V. L. (Tradeston)Sexton, James
Barker, G. (Monmouth, Abertillery)Hogge, James MylesShort, Alfred (Wednesbury)
Barnes, Major H. (Newcastle, E.)John, William (Rhondda, West)Sitch, Charles H.
Bowerman, Rt. Hon. Charles W.Johnstone, JosephSpencer, George A.
Bromfield, WilliamJones. J. J. (West Ham, Silvertown)Swan, J. E.
Cairns, JohnJones, Morgan (Caerphilly)Thomson, T. (Middlesbrough, West)
Cape, ThomasLawson, John JamesWalsh, Stephen (Lancaster, Ince)
Carter, W. (Nottingham, Mansfield)Lunn, WilliamWatts-Morgan, Lieut.-Col. D.
Davies, Evan (Ebbw Vale)Maclean, Neil (Glasgow, Govan)Williams, Col. P. (Middlesbrough, E.)
Davies, Rhys John (Westhoughton)MacVeagh, JeremiahWilson, James (Dudley)
Edwards, C. (Monmouth, Bedweilty)Naylor, Thomas EllisWood, Major M. M. (Aberdeen, C.)
Finney, SamuelParkinson, John Allen (Wigan)Young, Robert (Lancaster, Newton)
Gillis, WilliamRaffan, Peter Wilson
Griffiths, T. (Monmouth, Pontypool)Richardson, R. (Houghton-le-Spring)TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—
Grundy, T. W.Roberts, Frederick O. (W. Bromwich)Mr. Walter Smith and Mr.
Guest, J. (York, W. R., Hemsworth)Roberts, Rt. Hon. G. H. (Norwich)Kennedy.
Hancock, John George
NOES.
Amery, Leopold C. M.S.Davidson, J. C. C. (Hemel Hempstead)Jones, J. T. (Carmarthen, Llaneily)
Armstrong, Henry BruceDawson, Sir PhilipKing, Captain Henry Douglas
Atkey, A R.Doyle, N. GrattanLocker-Lampson, Com. O. (H'tingd'n)
Baird, Sir John LawrenceEdnam, ViscountLorden, John William
Baldwin, Rt. Hon. StanleyElliot, Capt. Walter E. (Lanark)Lort-Williams, J.
Balfour, George (Hampstead)Evans, ErnestLoseby, Captain C. E.
Barnett, Major Richard W.Eyres-Monsell, Com. Bolton M.M'Lean, Lieut.-Col. Charles W. W.
Barnston, Major HarryFalcon, Captain MichaelMacnamara, Rt. Hon. Dr. T. J.
Bell, Lieut.-Col. W. C. H (Devizes)Faile, Major Sir Bertram GodfrayMacpherson, Rt. Hon. James I.
Beilairs, Commander Carlyon W.Fisher, Rt. Hon. Herbert A. L.Manville, Edward
Benn, Sir A. S. (Plymouth, Drake)Forrest, WalterMoore-Brabazon, Lieut.-Col. J. T. C.
Bird, Sir R. B. (Wolverhampton, W.)Fraser, Major Sir KeithMoreing, Captain Aigernon H.
Blades, Sir George RowlandFremantle, Lieut.-Colonel Francis E.Murray, John (Leeds, West)
Blane, T. A.Ganzoni, Sir JohnNeal, Arthur
Berwick, Major G. O.Gibbs, Colonel George AbrahamNewson, Sir Percy Wilson
Boscawen, Rt. Hon. Sir A. Griffith-Gilmour, Lieut.-Colonel Sir JohnNewton, Sir D. G. C. (Cambridge)
Bowyer, Captain G. W. E.Goff, Sir R. ParkNicholson, Brig.-Gen. J. (Westminster)
Breese, Major Charles E.Green, Joseph F. (Leicester, W.)Nicholson, Reginald (Doncaster)
Bridgeman, Rt. Hon. William CliveHacking, Captain Douglas H.Oman, Sir Charles William C.
Brittain, Sir HarryHall, Lieut.-Col. Sir F. (Dulwich)Parker, James
Broad, Thomas TuckerHannon, Patrick Joseph HenryPease, Rt. Hon. Herbert Pike
Brown, Major D. C.Harmsworth, C. B. (Bedford, Luton)Perkins, Walter Frank
Bruton, Sir JamesHennessy, Major J. R. G.Pownail, Lieut.-Colonel Assheton
Buckley, Lieut.-Colonel A.Hilder, Lieut.-Colonel FrankPratt, John William
Campion, Lieut.-Colonel W. R.Hohler, Geraid FitzroyRamsden, G. T.
Carew, Charles Robert S.Holbrook, Sir Arthur RichardRandies, Sir John Scurrah
Casey, T. W.Hood, Sir JosephRees, Capt. J. Tudor- (Barnstaple)
Chamberlain, Rt. Hn. J. A. (Birm., W.)Hopkins, John W. W.Remer, J. R.
Chamberlain, N. (Birm., Ladywood)Hurd, Percy A.Roberts, Samuel (Hereford, Hereford)
Clay, Lieut.-Colonel H. H. SpenderInskip, Thomas Walker H.Roundeil, Colonel R. F.
Coats, Sir StuartJameson, John GordonSamuel, Samuel (W'dsworth, Putney)
Colvin, Brig.-General Richard BealeJodrell, Neville PaulSanders, Colonel Sir Robert Arthur
Coote, Colin Reith (Isle of Ely)Johnson, Sir StanleyScott, A. M. (Glasgow, Bridgeton)
Scott, Leslie (Liverpool Exchange)Sutherland, Sir WilliamWilson, Col. M. J. (Richmond)
Seddon, J. A.Thomson, Sir W. Mitchell- (Maryhill)Winterton, Earl
Shaw, William T. (Forfar)Townley, Maximilian G.Wise, Frederick
Shortt, Rt. Hon. E. (N'castle-on-T.)Townshend, Sir Charles Vere FerrersWood, Hon. Edward F. L. (Ripon)
Smith, Sir Allan M. (Croydon, South)Ward, William Dudley (Southampton)Wood, Sir H. K. (Woolwich, West)
Smith, Sir Harold (Warrington)Watson, Captain John BertrandWood, Major Sir S. Hill- (High Peak)
Stanton, Charles ButtWheler, Col. Granville C. H.Young, E. H. (Norwich)
Stephenson, Lieut. Colonel H. K.Willey, Lieut.-Colonel F. V.
Strauss, Edward AnthonyWilliams, C. (Tavistock)TELLERS FOR THE NOES.
Sturrock, J. LengWilliams, Lt.-Col. Sir B. (Banbury)Colonel Leslie Wilson and Mr.
Sugden, W. H.Wilson, Lt.-Col. Sir M. (Bethnal Gn.)McCurdy.

Question, "That the Clause stand part of the Bill," put, and agreed to.

Proposed word "fourteen" there inserted in the Bill.

Photo of Mr Thomas Naylor Mr Thomas Naylor , Southwark South East

I beg to move, in Subsection (1), to leave out the word "and" ["and an illegitimate child"].

If this Amendment be carried I shall propose to insert after the word "child" the words "a brother and a sister." This Amendment is so simple, is so undeniably just, and in its operation would prove so inexpensive, that it needs very little explanation. I hope to achieve the distinction of being the first Member this evening to win the approval of the Minister of Labour. The object of the Amendment is simply to secure that an employed person having a younger brother or a younger sister entirely dependent upon him shall be able to claim the dependants' grant of 1s. for that brother or sister. As the Clause stands in the Bill', it says that the expression "child" includes a step-child, an adopted child, and an illegitimate child. I put it to the Minister that surely a younger brother or sister of an employed person is just as much entitled to receive the grant as an illegitimate child? [HON. MEMBERS: "Why?"] That question is answered in this way, that the child that is dependent has no father, and possibly no mother, and the elder brother is responsible for the maintenance of that child. For that reason we consider that the State should provide for that child, just as the State provides for the illegitimate child of the father. Therefore, I hope we shall have the support of the Minister to this Amendment.

Mr. GUEST:

I beg to second the Amendment.

I would supplement, the appeal made to the Minister of Labour, who, neither as Minister nor as schoolmaster, has been over-generous with his pupils to-night. We have pleaded very diligently, and have been very like the fishermen who toiled all night and caught nothing. This is an Amendment which has the merit of being extremely modest, extremely just, and not very expensive. The principle of the Bill is that there shall be for the maintenance of a child under 14 years of age, or to assist in its maintenance, a grant or payment of 1s. per week. That will be paid without question when the father is head of the family and responsible for the maintenance of the child. Surely, no reasonable body of men would deny that payment when the elder brother was taking the responsibility of maintaining those of his brothers and sisters younger than himself. I think there is quite an equal, or even a larger, case to be made where the elder brother has taken upon himself the responsibility of this burden than when the father is the parent. I do hope that on this Clause, at all events, we may have the sympathy of the Minister of Labour.

Photo of Mr Thomas Macnamara Mr Thomas Macnamara , Camberwell North West

Perhaps I may be allowed to take the effect of this Amendment, which is drafting, and that of the subsequent proposal of the hon. Member at the same time. In the Clause the expression "child" includes step-child, an adopted child, and an illegitimate child, and then, if this Amendment were made, a brother and a sister. I wish to express my sympathy with the case of the hon. Member, but I am afraid it is not so simple as he thinks. Further, a younger brother, which is what he has in mind, would, I think, be covered by the phrase "adopted child," so that from that point of view I do not think it is necessary. To add the words "brother and sister" is to give an indication which might result in many anomalies.

Photo of Mr Thomas Naylor Mr Thomas Naylor , Southwark South East

If dependent. [HON. MEMBERS: "And under fourteen."]

Photo of Mr Thomas Macnamara Mr Thomas Macnamara , Camberwell North West

I think my hon. Friend has got all he wants in the words "adopted child," which can cover a younger brother or sister. I do not think I could go further, for the reasons I have stated.

Amendment negatived.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read the Third time."

Photo of Mr Robert Young Mr Robert Young , Newton

I wish to make an appeal to the Minister, not on any humanitarian grounds at all, but on grounds of justice. By the reintroduction of a Clause which was left out in Committee, the amount for administration expenses is raised from 10 per cent, to 12½ per cent.

Photo of Mr Robert Young Mr Robert Young , Newton

It did not come out in the discussion to-night that the Minister has issued a circular to trade unions indicating that their administration expenses were to be considerably reduced. Can the Minister give the House any information in relation to that matter? Up to now trade unions have been in receipt of one shilling for administration expenses in respect of each week of unemployment dealt with. I understand that is going to be reduced on a graduated scale down to something like 30 per cent, of one shilling. Why is the Minister seeking this extra amount for administration, and at the same time reducing the allowance to the trade unions in the way indicated? Has any scheme as to this reduction been formulated, and if so can it be given to the House?

12 M.

I appeal to the Minister, as I say not on humanitarian grounds but on grounds of justice to see if he cannot even yet, accept the principle of a proposed new Clause which was moved to-day during his absence from the House but was rejected. It seeks to do justice to a deserving class. As the right hon. Gentleman knows, there are certain individuals doing work in connection with this scheme and doing their best to help him in the administration of unemployment benefit. Will he see that they themselves are not placed in a less favourable position than others regarding unemployment? They are in receipt of 21s. or 23s. a week, and as a result receive no benefit. I ask the Minister to make up to them the difference—the amount which they lose by the very fact of doing this work. As compared with the benefits paid to a man with several children, these men are in some cases losing three, four or five shillings per week. As the principle has been introduced of boards of guardians having to take into account the income of the individual, something should be done to meet these cases. You ought not to take into account the amount paid to the man whatever be his subsidiary employment. If he gets 21s., he should receive the difference. Those who are helping the Minister to administer the Act ought not to be placed in the present invidious position. I would suggest that the right hon. Gentleman should consider the matter and get the Amendment made in another place.

Photo of Mr Thomas Macnamara Mr Thomas Macnamara , Camberwell North West

Under Section 17, the trade unions that administer the Act get Is. per week of benefit paid. The Geddes Report recommended that this arrangement should be reviewed. This was done by a Committee set up for this and other purposes, and they recommended that the grant should be substantially reduced—the grant of 1s. per week of benefit paid. The grant will be on a scale following the general rate of unemployment. It is proposed that if the rate of unemployment does not exceed 4 per cent, the grant should be 6d.; exceeding 4 per cent, and not exceeding 8 per cent., 5d.; exceeding 8 per cent, and not exceeding 12 per cent., 4d.; and exceeding 12 per cent., 3d. My hon. Friend says: "You are going to take more money for administration; why touch this?" The arrangement under Section 17 does not affect the costs of the Department in anyway whatever. If my hon. Friend and his friends want to have any communication with me in this proposal to review this 1s. per week of benefit paid to the trade unions for administering Section 17, I shall be very glad to hear their representations. The other point referred to we have had in Committee, and in this House. It has reference to the 3s. 4d. per day paid. It is asked that we should raise this to 5s. Decisions have been given on several occasions against it. I do not quite follow whether or not my hon. Friend thought I could alter the situation. I cannot.

Photo of Mr Robert Young Mr Robert Young , Newton

I did not ask that. What I asked my right hon. Friend was to make up by Amendment in another place the difference between 3s. 4d. and 5s. A man may lose 7s. a week by doing the work.

Photo of Mr Thomas Macnamara Mr Thomas Macnamara , Camberwell North West

I do not quite follow. I do not think I can make any change in the structure of the Act. Of course I must not give an undertaking which I cannot carry out. I have had the advantage of hearing what my hon. Friends have said and I will bear it in mind. I think in conclusion I ought to say that I fully appreciate the sympathetic way in which hon. Members have assisted me with this Bill. I know that many hon. Members and right hon. Members take the view that in many respects the thing ought to be done differently, but they have expressed their view in the Division Lobby and there has been nothing in the nature of obstruction. Although our views have been sharply divergent there has been every desire on the part of those who differ that I should get this Bill through at the earliest possible moment, and I think it is due to them that I should express my thanks for the way they have assisted me.