Clause 53. — (Rules and Regulations.)

Orders of the Day — Unemployment Bill. – in the House of Commons on 10th May 1934.

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4.21 p.m.

Photo of Mr David Grenfell Mr David Grenfell , Gower

I beg to move, in page 49, line 15, to leave out from "and" to the end of the Subsection, and to insert "approved by Parliament."

We propose that the rules made under the Clause shall not only be laid before Parliament but shall not become operative until Parliament has approved of them. This may appear to be a very small matter on looking at the Clause itself, but when one traces the application of these rules one finds that important powers are to be given to the Unemployment Assistance Board, who will, in the main, operate under rules drawn up by themselves. They are to be given great powers of decision. They will draw up their own rules of administration. It is true that the Minister will have to be consulted, and that afterwards the rules must he laid before this House, but we feel that this is much too important a power for the House to assign to others without an opportunity of checking and controlling each separate set of rules. Under Clause 36 the Unemployment Assistance Board are given these very important functions : The functions of the Board shall be the assistance of persons to whom this Part of this Act applies who are in need of work and the promotion of their welfare and, in particular, the making of provision for the improvement and re-establishment of the condition of such persons with a view to their being in all respects fit for entry into or return to regular employment, and the grant and issue to such persons of unemployment allowances (hereinafter referred to as "allowances") in accordance with the provisions of this Part of this Act. When one comes to Clauses under which allowances are to be made we find repeated references to rules which are to be made by the board itself. The first reference in this part of the Bill is in Clause 37 (2), where it says : rules made under this Part of this Act may provide that a person shall, in such circumstances as may be specified in the rules, be deemed to be capable of and available for work notwithstanding such periods of occasional sickness or incapacity as may be specified therein. The whole of the able-bodied industrial population who are not entitled to standard benefit but are in some way connected with insurance—who are contributors to the national health insurance scheme—are now to be brought within the scope of the Unemployment Assistance Board, and there will be various conditions of entitlement, and I think it is well that the attention of the House should be drawn to the Clause and, at a later stage, to the rules. We should realise how much power we are giving to the Unemployment Assistance Board to draw up rules which do not need the confirmation of this House, but only the confirmation of the Minister. There are rules which are to determine whether people who are in every other way entitled to unemployment benefit or to unemployment assistance who have been ill for a fortnight or a month are to be entitled to further benefit, or whether any short or long period of sickness will disqualify them from benefit under this part of the Measure. The rules will be drawn up by the board, and no attention need be given to them by this House; they will simply be laid before Parliament. We shall be told what the rules are, but have no opportunity of checking or examining them. The next reference to rules is in Clause 39, where it says : Subject to the provisions of this Act an allowance may be granted thereunder to any person to whom this Part of this Act applies, if he proves in accordance with rules made under this Part of this Act—

  1. (a) that he is registered for employment in the prescribed manner and has made application for an allowance in the prescribed manner; and
  2. (b) that he has no work or only such part-time or intermittent work as not to enable him to earn sufficient for his needs; and
  3. (c) that he is in need of an allowance."
All these rules are to be determined not by this House and not by the Minister, but by the Unemployment Assistance Board. The question whether a person is in need of an allowance is to be subject to the rules, without any reference to this House. There is a further reference to the rules in Clause 40 : In order that an applicant for an allowance may be given an opportunity of becoming fit for entry into or return to regular employment, any such determination may, subject to and in accordance with rules made in that behalf under this Part of this Act, grant an allowance for the maintenance of the applicant at a training course or course of instruction and provide for the issue of payments to him during his training thereat, and also, where the needs of any member of the household of which he is a member have been taken into account in determining the amount of the allowance, provide for the issue of payments to such of those members as may be specified in the determination. There we find a wide range of possible inquiry into family circumstances, into the relation of an individual applicant to other members of the family, into the question of whether he is likely to need training before he is able to return to employment, possibly after a medical examination. All that is to be made subject to rules over which this House will have no control. In Sub-section (3) of Clause 40 we find : Where an applicant for an allowance is dependent on or ordinarily supported by another member of the household who is also an applicant for an allowance, any determination granting an allowance to the first mentioned applicant may, subject to and in accordance with rules made in that behalf under this Part of this Act, determine that the allowance granted to him shall be issued wholly or in part to the second mentioned applicant. If a person living at home makes an application for unemployment benefit, he will be entitled to benefit, in so far as permitted by the rules drawn up by the Unemployment Assistance Board for granting relief, not to that person himself, but to some second person in his family who may be held to be in the position of guardian or responsible person. The next reference, in Clause 40 (6) is : Rules may be made under this Part of this Act—(a) as to the date as from which determinations made under this and the next following Section by officers of the Board and by appeal tribunals shall have effect, and as to the period for which such determinations shall remain in force. The references follow each other in almost every Clause—rules every time. Hon. Members who represent unemployed workmen will have no voice at all in the matter, and there will be no elected public assistance committees or any such responsible body. The Unemployment Assistance Board, with its advisory committees spread all over the country, will operate according to rules drawn up by the board, confirmed by the Minister and laid before Parliament after they have become operative. Parliament will not be able to say that the rules are too harsh or operate unfairly. That right will not be left to Members of this House, who will have to accept the rules which the Minister will have confirmed, and the rules will be operated in all the cases to which I have referred. Hon. Members will find another very important reference in Clause 44, in these terms: If any person who has attained the age of eighteen years, being a person to whom this Part of this Act applies, proves, in accordance with rules made under this Part of this Act— The young person has to furnish his proof in accordance with rules made not by the Minister, or by anybody who is interested in seeing that the claimant gets his legal rights, but by the Unemployment Assistance Board, which is responsible for the administration of this large scheme of poor relief, and which is detached from Part I of the Act. The board will have the strongest temptation and inducement to practise economy at the expense of the recipients. The board will operate with funds supplied by the Treasury and kept in existence year by year by direct grant of the Treasury itself. The board will probably be amenable from the outset to Treasury pressure, and will have every inducement to cut down the conditions of benefit to the lowest possible level.

In the Clause with which I am now dealing, a young person who has attained the age of 18 years will have to prove under rules (a) that he is registered for employment in the prescribed manner; and(b) that he has no work. How can a young man give proof that he has no work except that he has been refused work, and that he has been seeking work? There is the possibility of rules being drawn up which will lead the young person into all kinds of interrogative tests which will require his seeking external support for his application. This may be the not-genuinely-seeking-work provision all over again, and in its worst form. Rules drawn up by the board may not be satisfied by the simple claim for benefit put forward by the young person, and by the time he will be able to satisfy the board, his claim may be very much greater.

There is an infinity of rules. The last one to which I would draw attention is in Clause 52 : Rules may, within twelve months after the passing of this Act, be made by the Treasury after consultation with the Minister of Health with respect to the superannuation rights of persons who, being officers or servants of local authorities with pensionable local authority service, become officers or servants of the Board. The board will probably employ a very-large staff, and will need to borrow men who are already engaged by local authorities or who are in the national Civil Service. Such people will have their pensionable rights secured to them only under rules drawn up by the board. If I am wrong in that I will welcome cor- rection, but that is what I see in the Bill. I would be very happy to be assured that pensionable rights are secure, apart from the rules. Even if such rules are not to be drawn up by the Unemployment Assistance Board, I have nevertheless referred to a sufficient number of other rules to show that there are very important circumstances in which an unemployed person's claim to benefit may stand or fall. His claim to benefit may not stand up to the rules made by this utterly irresponsible body. I say that without offence, because no personal offence is intended in the remarks that I have made. Those persons will be there, and their business will be to see that no money is wasted. They will know exactly how much they have to spend, and they will be doing their work the more successfully. The more economically they discharge their function. The whole tendency from the very outset will be to draw the rules closer and closer, so that nobody will be able to receive public assistance without having undergone very close examination. It is like using a tooth comb to discover which working people are entitled to benefit and which are not. We believe that rules made in those circumstances ought not to be confirmed. Whatever other rules may be drawn up by the Unemployment Assistance Board, all the rules under this part of the Bill should not have full effect and should not be operative until not only has the Minister given his approval but this House has had an opportunity of discussion, perusal and examination of the rules.

4.38 p.m.

Mr. HUDSON:

In moving this Amendment, the hon. Member for Gower (Mr. D. Grenfell) was, I think, labouring under a misapprehension as to what the rules are to be. The rules will not be regulations having legislative effect, but will be purely rules of procedure; for example, laying down the type of form that a man has to fill up—that, and nothing more. It is quite impossible at the beginning of a large scheme like this to anticipate all the possible rules that will require to be made, but it is clear that the rules for the day-to-day procedure may require to be altered in a large number of individual cases almost from week to week.

Photo of Sir Percy Harris Sir Percy Harris , Bethnal Green South West

If they are just ordinary day-to-day rules, have they to be laid before Parliament every day?

Mr. HUDSON:

They will be laid upon the Table of the House and will come into operation in the ordinary course, unless objection is taken. They will, of course, be subject to the publication conditions, laid down in the Rules Publication Act, 1893, which provides that a draft of the rules must be published, and must remain open for objection for 40 days. Any public body who consider they have any representation to make will be at liberty to make representations to the board, and the board must consider any representations made to them. It will only be when the whole of that procedure has been gone through, and, in addition, when the Minister has approved them, that the rules will come into operation, except in cases of objection.

Photo of Mr William Cove Mr William Cove , Aberavon

What action can Parliament take?

Mr. HUDSON:

In the 40 days, Parliament can take no action because the rules have not been made. Draft rules will remain open to objection for 40 days, and after objections have been considered and the rules have been either confirmed or amended by the Minister, the rules will be operative, and they will then be laid upon the Table and be open to Prayer.

Photo of Mr William Cove Mr William Cove , Aberavon

Do I understand that, in the course of the 40 days, the rules may be amended, but that Parliament itself will have its hands tied? I understand from the Parliamentary Secretary that interested outside bodies will be able to make representations regarding the amendment of the draft rules and may obtain modifications of them, but Parliament will have no voice in the matter, and will only be faced with the situation after all those representations have been taken into consideration and the verdict of the Minister has been given?

Mr. HUDSON:

Surely that is the practical procedure. One of the main objects of this form of procedure is to disembarrass Parliament of unnecessary detail which would otherwise fall upon it. The idea that Parliament should be asked to consider draft rules while they are still in draft, and before the board have considered any objection, seems to me to be going beyond the bounds of reason. We had a very full discussion on the subject in the Committee stage, and I hope that the House will now be ready to come to a decision on the matter.

4.43 p.m.

Photo of Mr David Mason Mr David Mason , Edinburgh East

The Amendment strikes me as being very reasonable. The Sub-section states very specifically that the rules are for the purpose of "carrying out this Part of this Act."

Mr. HUDSON:

I assume that when hon. Members suggest that the House should give its approval they mean that the House should discuss the rules. If the House is only to give its approval without discussion, the procedure that hon. Members suggest is not very different from that suggested in the Bill.

Photo of Mr David Mason Mr David Mason , Edinburgh East

That is a subtle way of getting out of the difficulty. I think the position as the Amendment gives it is very proper, because it embodies the right of Parliament to approve or disapprove certain rules. It is specifically laid down that the rules are for the purpose of "carrying out this part of this Act." Surely the House of Commons is entitled to express approval or disapproval, and to palm us off by saying that the rules will be laid before this House, which is a purely formal procedure, does not give us the right to which we are entitled. It is a very important principle. The rules are drawn up by the Unemployment Assistance Board and are confirmed by the Minister. Not only so, but later on, unless they are approved by the Minister, they are to have no effect. That gives the Minister immense powers, and the only redress that we have is to discuss them, if we have any complaint, on the Minister's salary.

Mr. HUDSON:

These rules will lie on the Table of the House, and hon. Members can move a Prayer against them at any time.

Photo of Mr David Mason Mr David Mason , Edinburgh East

There, again, the hon. Gentleman does not do himself justice. We know that we may pray, but I compliment the Mover of this Amendment on having moved it, because this is not a party question. It is for the Whole House to consider whether we should part with our rights as a deliberative assembly in either approving or disapproving of rules drawn up in order to carry out an important Act of Parliament. I hope that many hon. Members will have something to say on this matter, irrespective of where they sit, because this is a matter that concerns the rights of the House of Commons. I have said very little on this Report stage, because the ground has been so well gone over by many other speakers, including several of my colleagues on these benches, but I feel that this is a matter on which all of us should have something to say as to the rights of Parliament.

4.47 p.m.

Photo of Mr William Cove Mr William Cove , Aberavon

The Parliamentary Secretary skillfully tried to persuade us that the power of Parliament was not being impaired in the least and that Parliament still had full power of control. This particular provision is just one of the details that is fitting into the general structure and is carrying out the main object of the Government in this Bill, and that is to remove from Parliament any power of effective criticism and control over the Unemployment Assistance Board. The Parliamentary Secretary said, "You can have a Prayer," but anyone who has been in this House for some time knows how difficult it is to get enough Members who are prepared to pray. It is always extremely difficult to get sufficient Members to stay behind late at night in order to offer a prayer to the Government, and indeed, with the National Government in power, most of them would feel that it was a most ineffectual kind of offering to make to them, and they would begin by feeling that it was no use praying to the National Government, especially late at night.

The hon. Gentleman knows very well that it is a most ineffective power that Parliament has over the Government of the day. A Prayer is taken late at night, when Members have been discussing other business and feel a natural desire to go home and not to remain to pray about anything at all. We are all busy men, and there is a danger that even the most obnoxious rules and regulations which may be made may pass by unnoticed. There is no need for the Government themselves to provide time for their discussion. It is the Opposition which will have to be alert all the time and to watch every draft rule that is made, and it is the Opposition that will have to try to get any provision of time in order to discuss them. This Amendment would make it incumbent upon the Government to find time for these things to be discussed, and that would create a very different situation and would give Parliament a much more effective power over the Government and over the rules that might be made. We ought to make it doubly sure, in a Bill of this kind, that the powers of Parliament are retained.

This is a new procedure with regard to the vast mass of the unemployed, and we cannot be too careful about every detail in protecting their rights. We know what the general intent of the Government is and that the whole Bill has been designed to take the problem of unemployed persons and the poverty of these millions of people out of the hands of Parliament. There are over 1,000,000 now, and with their dependents many more, and the Government are trying to make sure that we shall not be able to discuss these matters as we ought to discuss them, and to make sure that the Government are not brought to that Box to answer for their deeds or those of their servants. They are taking the board clean out of our control. We shall jealously watch every provision and see how it works out, and I am very glad that this Amendment has been moved. I should have imagined that the hon. Member for Gateshead (Mr. Magnay) would support this Amendment. I understand that he was a Liberal, but he may have forgotten his democratic days.

Photo of Mr Thomas Magnay Mr Thomas Magnay , Gateshead

I will speak for myself.

Photo of Mr William Cove Mr William Cove , Aberavon

I should have thought he would have got up and said, with us, that rules with regard to the interests of the unemployed and everything affecting them should be discussed in this House. I should have thought he would have said that the initiative ought not to lie with the rank and file in bringing such matters on to the Floor of the House. He is supporting something which prevents the initiative and responsibility being exercised by the Government, and he leaves it to us to get some discussion, late at night, when the House is at its most ineffective. I shall wel- come the opportunity of going into the Lobby against such a provision as this.

4.53 p.m.

Photo of Mr Thomas Magnay Mr Thomas Magnay , Gateshead

It has taken me all my time to sit still and hear the many speeches made by members of the Opposition, who, if I understand their political philosophy aright, are Socialists and, therefore, believe in State control. How, in the name of reason and logic, they can oppose State control is beyond me, and this tender regard for Parliament, coming from those benches, makes me wonder if they have not taken into consultation their real leader, the hon. and learned Member for East Bristol (Sir S. Cripps), who has made it plain that if they come into power, they will have such ruthless instruments as Orders in Council, which will make it unnecessary for Parliament to sit at all. As a democrat of the democrats, I rejoice with great rejoicing that they have seen the light of reason at last and are standing up for the rights of democracy. I welcome that very much.

I do not see any difficulty in this matter at all. There are to be 40 days and 40 nights. If I remember my Biblical history aright, the deluge was for 40 days and for 40 nights, and I imagine that, if there were any harsh infringement of the rights of the working men whom we represent, in 40 days and 40 nights there would be another deluge in this House, of questions. At any rate, I think I would be there when it was done to stand up for the rights of my constituents and the working class whom I represent, and proudly represent in this House. I suggest that this is all a sham fight, and I suggest that as a democrat who believes in my very bones that the best thing that can happen to this country is that we should have, as we have to-day, a free Parliament, because that is what democracy means to me. I repeat that the leaders of the Opposition have pledged themselves on major Measures to bring into practice Orders in Council to do what they like, without the consent of Parliament.

Photo of Mr William Cove Mr William Cove , Aberavon

Will the hon. Member tell us exactly what leaders and where they have said that?

Photo of Mr Thomas Magnay Mr Thomas Magnay , Gateshead

It is in the knowledge of every intelligent Member of this House and it is common knowledge in the public Press, and if I had known that such an interjection would have been made, I would have brought with me the pamphlet in which the hon. and learned Member for East Bristol said that in so many words, and the reply of the Foreign Secretary to that pamphlet. I, as a democrat, rejoice that hon. Members opposite have seen the light of reason at last and that they are coming back to their "first love," and they will do well to "repent, and do the first works." There is not the slightest doubt that this House, when the rules and regulations are tabled here for 40 days, will have ample time to see how they affect the unemployed and to deal with them. When all is said and done, the great force in this country is public opinion, and if there were any harshness in the regulations, there would be such a power of public opinion aroused that Members of this House would not be capable, if they had been sound asleep before, of refusing to bow before it. I suggest, with all respect to the hon. Member for Gower (Mr. D. Grenfell), that this Amendment is just a sham fight and that there is no reality in it, and I support the Government and the Parliamentary Secretary in his remarks on this question.

4.58 p.m.

Photo of Mr Charles Brown Mr Charles Brown , Mansfield

The hon. Member for Gateshead (Mr. Magnay) seems to be very indignant that this Amendment has been moved. I have noticed in the course of similar debates that supporters of the Government have repeatedly referred to the writings of my hon. and learned Friend the Member for East Bristol (Sir S. Cripps) and have called attention to the fact that in some of those writings he has suggested that we should proceed by Orders in Council and things of that description. During the course of these Debates we have given hon. Members opposite ample opportunities to go into the Lobby and support continued Parliamentary control over these very important matters, but in spite of that they have not availed themselves of those opportunities. Obviously, therefore, their criticism of the hon. and learned Member for East Bristol is unreal. It is sham criticism, and they do not really object to anything he has written.

Photo of Mr Charles Brown Mr Charles Brown , Mansfield

They have had opportunities nearly every day to go into the Lobby in support of Parliamentary control, and they have refrained from doing it. It cannot be gainsaid that we on these benches have done everything in these Debates to maintain Parliamentary control over an important sphere of our social life. In spite of all our efforts, supporters of the Government who criticise the hon. and learned Member for East Bristol, not only here but on public platforms outside, have repeatedly failed to avail themselves of the opportunity of maintaining Parliamentary control. Obviously the whole criticism of the hon. and learned Member is a sham criticism and hypocrisy. Hon. Members do not believe in their own criticism or they would follow us into the Lobby. I see the Minister of Labour is present and I am very glad. He has repeatedly told the House, as he did last night with a good deal of feeling, that this system of State relief—I am using the word he has repeatedly used himself—which he is setting up under Part II of the Bill will be the best thing of the kind we have ever had in this country, better than transitional payment, uncovenanted benefit and all that has been in vogue in the last two and a-half years. It will be more inclusive, and iron out the anomalies that have existed, and he takes great pride in having invented this new system of machinery. After all what we are discussing at this moment is purely machinery. I do not say at this stage whether it is good or bad. In my view it will not be as good as he thinks, but we do not want to have new machinery to deal with this problem. We want a new spirit, a new attitude of mind and outlook.

All that, however, is by the way. The Minister has set up a piece of new-machinery, and here, in one respect, we are seeking to alter the character of the machinery. We want to put in these words, "approved by Parliament" in connection with the rules. We on these benches stand for the rights and authority of Parliament, and I say again that I shall be glad if Members on the other side are going to support us in the Lobby. I am afraid we shall find them in the other Lobby, but we feel that, as far as possible, this new machinery is a great experiment. I do not think the Minister would make any other claim at this stage than that he hopes it will work out all right. I think he is actuated by the best motives, but he has been misled by his advisers. [Interruption.] I know what the hon. Member for Darwen (Sir H. Samuel) said, but I am not going into the question of Cabinet secrets. The Minister has fallen into a trap and I think he imagines that this machinery will be a good thing and operate better than anything we have had before. We do not think so, and consequently we want as far as possible to maintain Parliamentary control over the new body and the various things it will do.

5.5 p.m.

Photo of Mr Edward Mallalieu Mr Edward Mallalieu , Colne Valley

I was interested to hear the hon. Member for Mansfield (Mr. C. Brown) criticising supporters of the Government for having let slide opportunities of retaining Parliamentary control. There is no doubt that supporters of this Government have been excessively lax in allowing opportunity after opportunity to slip by and allowing bureaucratic as opposed to Parliamentary control to come into force in this country. I can remember an occasion when a Motion was moved by my right hon. Friend the Member for Darwen (Sir H. Samuel) and the Government supporters were followed by Members of the Labour party into the Lobby against a proposal to keep the control of the courts over orders made by a bureaucratic body. Clearly then it is not for the party above the Gangway to criticise the Government on that score. The only people who can do so with real passionate sincerity are surely the hon. Members on these benches. I should like to challenge anybody to point to a single case when the Members on these benches have not solidly upheld control by the courts and by this House.

It will be said that the Orders we are now discussing will only affect procedure. There are at least two Members on the Front Benches who know that procedural actions can be exceedingly important to the litigant and can be effective in depriving him of his rights. We have heard a speech from the hon. Member for Gateshead (Mr. Magnay) which shows quite clearly that in spirit he is with this Amendment, but at the same time he seems to be under a delusion that the House will have control during 40 days and 40 nights as he rather picturesquely said. But the control of the House will be illusory. We can pray until we are blue in the face and we shall have no effect, because, as I understand the Rules of Procedure, if a private Member prays the Government to do anything the prayer can only be taken after 11 o'clock if the Government gives time, if it is made in pursuance of an Act of Parliament. I would ask the Government to meet this point because it is serious. If the Government does not choose to give time Members are effectively barred from any criticism whatever of the Orders placed on the Table. Lying on the Table means nothing unless we have time for discussion, and we cannot have time unless the Government gives it. The Government has, therefore, power to stop any criticism effective or otherwise.

5.8 p.m.

Photo of Mr John Banfield Mr John Banfield , Wednesbury

I want to support this Amendment because on the Second Reading of this Bill I drew the attention of the House to what I thought was the worst possible feature in it. I was more afraid of the way in which it would ultimately be administered than of the changes which the Bill itself brought about. The success or otherwise of this Bill will depend almost entirely on the spirit of its administration. It is all very well for the smiling Parliamentary Secretary to get up and make an explanation and to smile and smile like the villain of the piece, but no one knows better than himself that the effect of this procedure is going to be to take out of the hands of this House any effective control of the administration of the Act.

What do 40 days and 40 nights mean? Nothing at all. Let me remind hon. Members of the effects of Orders which lie on the Table. If the Home Office tomorrow decided to issue an Order making Regulations affecting, let us say, factory administration, of which I know something, the draft Order would be laid on the Table and Parliament could do nothing whatever regarding it. The draft Order is sent round to the parties interested for their observations. They make certain comments. There may even be a meeting with the officials of the Home Office. After all that has taken place, the ultimate power lies in the hands of the Minister himself, who just does what he proposed to do and takes notice, it may be, by saying : "Everything you have said will be carefully considered and all the relevant facts will be taken into consideration." Then he proceeds to carry out the Order precisely as he had intended, and so far as Parliament is concerned there is no control whatever.

All of us know the difficulties of this unemployment question, and I think there could be nothing more fatal to the prestige of Members of this House than for it to go forward that they are pleased at a chance to wash their hands of the responsibility of administering this Act. If these rules, which are to govern the lives of 1,500,000 or 2,000,000 people, with their wives and dependants, are to be made by this irresponsible body, the Unemployment Assistance Board, in the first place, surely it is not asking too much that this House should have some say as to what those rules should be. The Parliamentary Secretary said that it was a difficult job, that the Unemployment Assistance Board would ultimately evolve its methods of procedure, but it might be altered day by day.

Surely some of the Members of this House on both sides who have had practical experience in the administration of unemployment benefit and know something about the administration of the Acts in the past, have a knowledge and experience as to the effect of the rules which might be taken into consideration. In spite of all that may be said about the desire of Members on this side of the House to take certain things out of the control of Parliament, the fact remains that, if we stand for State control, we mean by it control by Parliament. Our reading of democracy is that this House is the ultimate expression of the will of the people of this nation, and in so much as we back up State control we mean the control of this House, of representatives of the people.

It seems to me that we are losing a most vital thing in our Constitution in allowing an outside body to fix rules and regulations over which we shall have no control whatever. It is because I believe that this House should be very chary indeed in parting with its powers that I believe this Amendment is absolutely necessary. It is all very well to say that we can make a petition against rules and regulations and come along after eleven o'clock and do certain things, but it all depends on the will of the Government as to whether we have an opportunity of doing it, and even if we do, what effective action can we take We cannot move Amendments; we have either to accept the rules or reject them as they stand; and for the Minister to say that the House is safeguarded by this method of procedure seems to be unreasonable.

It gives colour to the opinion of many of us that all that the Government are concerned about is to take all the difficulties of transitional benefit, and all the troubles that arise in connection with it, away from the Floor of this House, to wash their hands of the matter and give it to some body outside, and then to declare that unfortunately they cannot help it, because the matter is now out of the hands of Parliament altogether. I feel that the unemployed people in the country, constituents of ours, will want to know why their Members cannot voice on the Floor of the House their grievances with respect to the administration of the Act.

I have never looked upon this matter as the prerogative of one particular party, but have rather considered that it was the right and privilege of every Member of the House to see to it that we do not part with that control which, after all, is an essential part of the duties of the House. I am afraid that the Minister of Labour is not quite as simple as is suggested. He knows very well what he is doing, and, although we on this side of the House have always paid tribute to his honesty of purpose, and have always believed that he occupies a very difficult position in dealing with the question of unemployment, we feel that, as this is our last chance in the proceedings on the Bill to put our point of view as regards the necessity for our keeping control, in some respect at any rate, of the methods of procedure under the Bill, we are justified this afternoon in making this last protest.

It is not reasonable or fair to say that so far as we are concerned this is a sham fight. It is not a sham fight; it is a sincere expression of opinion, and, we believe, an expression of opinion which will find support throughout the country. We believe that our point of view, that this matter should not be taken out of the control of the House of Commons, will find support, not only among our own supporters, but among men and women of good will throughout the country; and it is because we believe sincerely that on this point we are expressing the best traditions of the House in doing all that we possibly can to preserve the control of Parliament, that we are supporting this Amendment.

5.19 p.m.

Photo of Mr Jack Lawson Mr Jack Lawson , Chester-le-Street

I think the House really should regard this Amendment seriously. I know that the Parliamentary Secretary has replied that the rules will be laid upon the Table, and we can pray after that. If any Members of the House have had experience of prayers and of praying in this House, they are the Members for Bedwellty (Mr. C. Edwards) and for Chester-le-Street (Mr. Lawson). If anybody knows anything at all about it, they do, and as a matter of fact experience shows that it is perfectly futile and means nothing at all. I wish the House could have been full when we were discussing this matter. My hon. Friend the Member for Gower (Mr. D. Grenfell) introduced the Amendment in a speech full of thought, in which he covered meticulously the Clauses which make arrangements for rules on various subjects, and it is very important, particularly after last night's Debate, that the House should give serious attention to this question of rules being approved by the House.

What was the position of the right hon. Gentleman last night? The House has been seriously disturbed about the operation of the means test, and the right hon. Gentleman has not been satisfied with it himself. Indeed, he has given us a regulation including certain words upon which he stakes almost his reputation as regards the successful operation of Part II of the Bill. The one thing that hon. Members said all through the Debate was that they hoped the right hon. Gentleman's rules were going to be so watertight and so clear that there could be no mistake about the matter, and the right hon. Gentleman has said that he is going to see that these words in Clause 39 are not only given effect to, but that they are so much alive in actual fact that those for whom the rules are to operate, and for whom the board exists, are going to get a fair deal—a fairer deal than the present system has given. The right hon. Gentleman says that he is going to make rules, and the Parliamentary Secretary says that of course those rules must have a chance of being tested. The rules are to be submitted to the right hon. Gentleman, he is to make any amendments that he wants to propose, they are then to be sent back to the board, the right hon. Gentleman will then confirm them, and then they will come to this House. But in the case of regulations they are not only thrown back from the board to the Minister until he is satisfied that they are right, but he lays them before the House, and they are to be approved by Parliament. The rules, upon which the success of the operation of Clause 39 particularly rests—

Photo of Mr William Spens Mr William Spens , Ashford

May I point out that in Sub-section (3) of Clause 39, which deals with the means test, it is "regulations" all through? They are not rules at all.

Photo of Mr Jack Lawson Mr Jack Lawson , Chester-le-Street

That is far too general, because the right hon. Gentleman knows that rules are going to be made, or, at least, I hope they are. I think he will have sufficient regard for the dignity of the House to give a thought that it was going through without any real discussion, and, therefore, I do not think he really went into the merits of the case. No one has more regard for the Parliamentary Secretary than I have, but I do not think he expected that so much serious consideration would be given to this matter. In Clause 37 (Application of Part II of Act), Sub-section (2) says that : rules made under this part of the Act may provide that a person shall, in such circumstances as may be specified in the rules, be deemed to be capable of and available for work.… That is really very important indeed. Then, in Clause 39, rules are referred to dealing with the allowances and training. It says : Subject to the provisions of this Act, an allowance may be granted thereunder to any person to whom this part of the Act applies if he proves, in accordance with rules made under this part of this Act—

  1. (a) that he is registered for employment in the prescribed manner and has made application for an allowance in the prescribed manner; and
  2. 1301
  3. (b) that he has no work or only such part-time or intermittent work as not to enable him to earn sufficient for his needs, and …"
Then there are rules to be made giving power to permit training to be given to persons over 18 who are not in need. There is a number of Clauses and Subsections dealing with matters of that kind. I do not think that hon. Members will have the guarantee which they desire that the new Clause 39 will have quite the effect they want unless these rules are considered, and I think that, as hon. Members were so keen last night, particularly in connection with the operation of the test, the allowances, and all the rest of it, that wrongs which undoubtedly exist should be righted, if ever there was a time for giving effect to what they wanted last night, it will be when these rules are considered in the House. I hope, therefore, that the right hon. Gentleman, or at any rate the Solicitor-General, is going to meet the Debate, and to consider seriously the points which have been put this afternoon. The subject is a very important and serious one if the working of the Act is to be successful.

5.28 p.m.

Photo of Mr William Spens Mr William Spens , Ashford

I only rise to make two points. The first one I hope the party opposite will forgive my making this afternoon. I think it was only two nights ago that I addressed the House on the subject of the procedure under Clause 18—which is exactly the procedure that the hon. Member for Gower and those who are supporting him now desire to have put in by this Amendment—and I was severely rated by the hon. Member for Limehouse (Mr. Attlee) and by the hon. Member for South West Bethnal Green (Sir P. Harris), and was told that it was a perfectly useless procedure for giving Parliament any control of any sort or kind. All I can say is that, if this is an instance of consistency on the part of either the Labour party or the Liberal party, I hope that the House and the country will look for a better example of it in days to come.

It has not been pointed out to the House that under this part of the Act there is a double machinery—machinery by rules and machinery by regulations. The machinery by regulations is exactly the machinery which hon. Members want the rules machinery to be, that is to say, the regulations are to be brought in in draft, they are to be brought before the House, before they are altered there are to be explanations of the reasons for their alteration, and they are to be approved by both Houses of Parliament—very similar machinery to that under Section 18. Inasmuch as both parties opposite are in favour of the Amendment, presumably they are satisfied with the machinery under Section 18 and with the regulations under this. The criticism of this matter goes far beyond the Rules under this Act. As far as I could gather, the hon. Member for Colne Valley (Mr. Mallalieu) is against any sort of procedure for making rules unless on every occasion they are brought before Parliament and affirmatively approved by both Houses. The congestion in this House and the other place would be ten times worse than it is to-day. We should be spending our whole time affirmatively approving rules made under this and the 101 other Acts under which rules have to be made and laid on the Table.

The only real question on the Amendment is whether there are any matters in this Section of the Act which the Bill provides should be made by rule which some people think ought to have been made by regulation. One would have expected to find, not the Amendments on the Paper, especially after the criticism of two nights ago, but Amendments substituting "regulations" here and there for the word "rules" and, if we had those Amendments, we might have had some useful discussions on the matter. But to suggest that on a Measure such as this we are not to adopt this procedure, which has been adopted in hundreds of other Acts of Parliament, is ill-advised and misconceived.

5.32 p.m.

Photo of Mr David Kirkwood Mr David Kirkwood , Dumbarton District of Burghs

I do not agree with a good deal of the tribute that is paid to the Minister of Labour. I do to a certain extent but, when they begin to say he is a superman, I demur. Last night he dared to challenge no less a personage than the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Darwen (Sir H. Samuel), who is one of the most powerful men in the country. There are no two ways about that. That was evidence to me, if I required it, that he is about as able a man, and knows his way about as well as anyone else. He is not so simple. But it is a very serious thing that we are considering, and that is why we take such a serious view of this board. When we bring something forward and expect the House to take an interest in it, we find that there never was such a dead House of Commons as there is at present. In the midst of that the Government decide further to abrogate the power of Parliament, to take business away and to curtail further our power of criticising the Government. If there is anything that stands out pre-eminently in the British Constitution, it is the fact that the Government are not conducted by any party and the laws of the land are not made by any party, but are made on the Floor of the House of Commons. The outstanding distinction of this organisation that we call the British House of Commons is supposed to be that every section, every group if you like—because we are breaking up into groups—is rendering its quota of criticism, and out of that come the laws that are put on the Statute Book. If anyone has a distinct point of view to put, he will be permitted to put it. Here we are surrendering this outstanding characteristic. We are doing away with the power of the House of Commons, and giving it to a board.

We have discussed this very seriously, and have decided to have no part or parcel with this board, and will have nothing to do with nominating any member of it because we believe, as a party tapping every section of the working class, that the working class detests the Bill. We believe it is one of the worst Bills that have come before Parliament in our time. The Parliamentary Secretary was not very ready to-day in replying to a question regarding the 40-hour week. I put it on behalf of a quarter of a million organised engineers, and the hon. Gentleman did not think it worth while to pay any attention. It always pays to be courteous. The hon. Gentleman may be smart, but he makes mistakes sometimes, and that is one that he made with me to-day. I believe that the only opportunity we are going to have of bringing this board to book—it will have the fate of millions of people in its control—is by a Prayer after Eleven o'Clock. I asked whether we should be able to get at the matter by question and answer, and it was pointed out that we could.

It is placing the board out of our reach and out of the Minister's reach. We talk about Hitler and how he created such an atmosphere at the last election that there was no other way out for the Germans but to vote for him. Here we are doing the same thing. We are abrogating our power. It is the highest honour that can be conferred on a Briton to be made a Member of Parliament, and it is not for the hon. Gentleman to give away that honour. It is for him to guard it. I remember when there was no Minister of Labour. I remember when there was no unemployment as we know it to-day. There are circumstances that demand more careful handling than ever before instead of relegating our power to an outside body. I can remember when the unemployed, on the average, were those who were not just fit or were old or infirm, but a new set of circumstances has arisen and now the unemployed are quite different See yonder poor o'erlabour'd wight,So abject, mean and vile,Who begs a brother of the earth,To give him leave to toil;And see his lordly fellow-wormThe poor petition spurn,Unmindful the a weeping wifeAnd helpless offspring mourn. That is not the case to-day. It is not the poor abject individual, it is the youth for whom they are making provision here. Here the Minister of Labour is going to deal with hundreds of thousands of the finest of our youths. There is no work for them, and neither he nor employers of labour nor the Government can find work for them. The job of the Minister of Labour has been one of the most unenviable and uncomfortable in this House. We set about the Minister of Labour, and naturally blamed the Ministry of Labour because they were not finding work, until we received information that it was not the job of the Minister of Labour to find work but of the President of the Board of Trade. It was simply the job of the Minister of Labour to administer the Unemployment Insurance Fund. The Minister of Labour, the nice, mild, quiet Minister of Labour, to whom everyone is paying tribute, has scientifically designed this Measure in order to get rid of criticisms from these benches. The Government are putting the duty upon this board, over whose conduct we shall have no power other than in the manner I have stated. What is the function of the board? Take Clause 36.

Photo of Mr Dennis Herbert Mr Dennis Herbert , Watford

I hardly think that the Amendment can be said to admit a discussion of Clause 36; it applies only to this particular Clause.

Photo of Mr David Kirkwood Mr David Kirkwood , Dumbarton District of Burghs

I am following the exact line which the hon. Member for Chester-le-Street (Mr. Lawson) took, because he quoted from certain Clauses, and I think I have just as good a right to make those references as the hon. Member, although he happens to be a Front Bencher.

Photo of Mr Jack Lawson Mr Jack Lawson , Chester-le-Street

Is it not within the limits of this Amendment to quote the particular rules to which the Amendment refers? My hon. Friend the Member for Gower (Mr. D. Grenfell) pointed out that rules have to be made under several headings, and the Amendment deals with the approval by Parliament of those rules

Photo of Mr Dennis Herbert Mr Dennis Herbert , Watford

Perhaps the words I used just now were not very carefully chosen. The hon. Member for Chester-le-Street (Mr. Lawson) was not out of order in making reference to previous Clauses, and there are certain references to those Clauses which may properly be made. Possibly I was a little hasty in drawing conclusions as to what the hon. Member for Dumbarton Burghs (Mr. Kirkwood) was going to say.

Photo of Mr David Kirkwood Mr David Kirkwood , Dumbarton District of Burghs

I assure you, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, that I accept your apology. You are not the only one who makes mistakes in this House. I want to draw the attention of the House particularly to Clause 44. On the Second Reading of the Bill I made a speech relating to this Clause. I view with alarm the power which is to be given to this board. I know the frame of mind and the outlook, not only of the Minister, but of the Department before they framed Clause 44. There has not been a Minister of Labour or a Parliamentary Secretary since I came to this House over 12 years ago with whom I have not had both public and private dealings on this very matter—the employing of the youth. I hold very strong opinions on this question. The Clause says : If any person who has attained the age of eighteen years, being a person to whom this Part of this Act applies, proves, in accordance with rules made under this Part of this Act—

  1. (a) that he is registered for employment in the prescribed manner; and
  2. (b) that he has no work."
They will have the power to send those youths to training centres. This is the most scientific machine for conscription yet invented. For what are these youths going to be trained? I put a supplementary question to the Parliamentary Secretary to-day with regard to trainees being brought from those training centres and taken into engineering shops. I am going to give him cases, as he has asked for them. They are displacing skilled men. They are getting 30s. a week, and displacing men receiving £3 a week. That is what is being done.

Photo of Mr Dennis Herbert Mr Dennis Herbert , Watford

I think that the hon. Member has by this time realised that this hardly has to do with the question of whether those Rules have to be approved by Parliament or not.

Photo of Mr David Kirkwood Mr David Kirkwood , Dumbarton District of Burghs

I agree, but we are discussing the matter with a view to doing what we possibly can to modify those Rules, and I am trying to put before the House what is actually in operation. So we need not expect anything better from the present dispensation either from the Minister or the Department. This is not a case where we have a change of heart or a change of outlook. They are the same permanent officials. How Labour Ministers could have been in favour of training centres is beyond me. I know that there are individuals who claim to be Socialists, and that the present Prime Minister created a Department of Unemployment, but they had to do away with that Department because it could not find employment. The Secretary of State for the Dominions at that time said that there were 1,250,000 men and women in this country for whom neither the Government nor employers of labour could find work. The number has nearly been doubled since then.

Therefore, the Minister should have inserted here that which he has the power to insert, and should have instructed the Board as to the lines along which they should go, instead of condemning youths over 18 years of age to training centres such as we have to-day. The young men and women of the working classes have now the opportunity of enjoying educational facilities which formerly were the preserves of the rich. The Ministry could have provided for sending these young persons to universities in order to enable them to get the best education that this country can give, instead of adopting the present course. The Minister knows that that is the line that we would take, but he has relegated the business to this board, which is to be all powerful. Therefore I hope that this House, for the sake of itself and the sake of our Parliamentary system, will not throw that system to the winds as they appear to be doing.

The present Government is so powerful that we are overweighted. Every time that Members on these benches rise, the Government have so many supporters that they outweigh us. We have not the numbers to support us when we happen to get up against hon. Members on the other side, or if we happen to collide with the Chair. I have noticed many times that the House is not as kindly disposed to hon. Members on these benches as they were when our numbers were greater. In stead of making allowances and encouraging the discussion of business on the Floor of the House of Commons, the Government are sending it away to a Committee, to a board, so that Parliamentary discussion will be stifled. Then they talk about the hon. and learned Member for East Bristol (Sir S. Cripps), because he has said that we would bring in Orders-in-Council It has been said that he has threatened a sort of dictator ship and that he was going to do away with Parliamentary procedure, on the ground that it would take too long to get Bills through Parliament. Tory Members and prominent Members of the Tory party have made great play with that statement, not only in the House but in the country. I do not apologise for anything that the hon. and learned Member said. I support him all the way that he goes on this matter. It is not so much because the hon. and learned Member for East Bristol has said these things that the Tories are objecting, but it is because it is Labour that is going to do it. If it was the Tory party that was going to put these Orders-in-Council through—

Photo of Lieut-General Edward Fitzroy Lieut-General Edward Fitzroy , Daventry

That has nothing to do with the Amendment before the House.

Photo of Mr David Kirkwood Mr David Kirkwood , Dumbarton District of Burghs

Our Amendment protests against the appointment of the board because it means abrogating the power of the House of Commons. We have put down our Amendment in the usual fashion and I have no doubt that you have seen it. We put it down in order to raise a discussion. The whole proceeding of Parliament is involved.

Photo of Lieut-General Edward Fitzroy Lieut-General Edward Fitzroy , Daventry

The hon. Member was going a great deal further than I can allow.

Photo of Mr David Kirkwood Mr David Kirkwood , Dumbarton District of Burghs

I thank you for your ruling. We fear this idea of the criticism of the Government by the Opposition being done away with. It is one of the most serious things that could happen in the political life of this country. I was saying that in this Debate certain utterances that have fallen from the lips of the hon. and learned Member for East Bristol have been criticised. He stated that he was in favour of Orders-in-Council for the purpose of facilitating and getting through Parliament the business which the Party he represents might wish to get through. He did not want the business to be held up unnecessarily. There has been a great noise about that and a great deal of effort made to show that when Labour comes in there will be a sort of dictatorship. That has been stated. I back that idea. The present Government do not back that idea. They are against it. Why? Because Labour, through the mouth of the hon. and learned Member for East Bristol, says that it will do certain things. The present Government are doing those things to-day.

It is all right if the Tories do it. You may call them the National Government or any name you like. A rose by any other name smells as sweet. It is the Tory machine that dominates the Government. What about the Prime Minister? The Land Taxes have to go. That is the last of his Socialism that has been washed out. He is away with the Tories and I believe he is going to join the Tory Party. There would be no word about it if it were the Tories who were suggesting the idea of dictatorship, but if it comes from one who sits on these benches, it is all wrong. The Government are taking away the power that we ought to retain, the right of the representatives of the people to come to a British House of Commons and to criticise the Government, and to assist in making the laws of the country. That is our function. The laws are not made just for the Government. The laws are not made by the Cabinet. The Government submit Bills in order that we may all give our quota of criticism, and out of that criticism there emerges eventually an Act of Parliament. That has always been the rule of this House until the present Minister of Labour arrived. He is of that nice disposition which can get round tight corners. He is second to none in this House in that respect. He is the man to introduce this novel, this revolutionary idea. Revolutionary means something that has never been done before.

The board that is to be appointed will hold in their hands the future welfare of tens of thousands of citizens of this country. They will lay down certain rules and regulations. The way in which the unemployed are treated is a standing disgrace. We know how they are being treated at the moment. Fifteen and threepence a week—

Photo of Lieut-General Edward Fitzroy Lieut-General Edward Fitzroy , Daventry

There is a Standing Order, No. 18, from which I have just refreshed my memory. It deals with irrelevance or tedious repetition. That applies to the remarks of others as well as to those of the hon. Member. I have warned the hon. Member already about irrelevance. He cannot go on like this.

Photo of Mr David Kirkwood Mr David Kirkwood , Dumbarton District of Burghs

I do not think that I have repeated myself since you came in. All I can say is that somebody must have told tales out of school. I leave it at that. We shall go into the Lobby on this question because we are supporting the British Constitution. The Cabinet have to take the responsibility of being the first in this country to show us the way, to show us how to break the Constitution within the Constitution, how to mould it, how to bend it just to our will. They can go ahead. They are all-powerful at the moment. They ought to be using that power with discretion, but they are not doing so. They are showing us the way, and from that point of view I thank them. We shall go into the Lobby against their proposal, but we shall use it against them on future occasions.

6.10 p.m.

Photo of Mr Frank Griffith Mr Frank Griffith , Middlesbrough West

I should like to reply to an argument of criticism against the Amendment used by the hon. and learned Member for Ashford (Mr. Spens). He suggested that this Amendment was not properly brought forward by hon. Members above the Gangway or supported from these benches because we had said, with regard to other parts of the Bill, that the mere approval of Parliament was not a power we think anything of, and that unless there was power of amendment it was no good to have the mere power of approval. I think he is making a purely verbal point. There are, quite obviously, three different stages of Parliamentary control. There is the first stage, in which a matter is brought before Parliament and submitted to Parliament to be moulded by the Members present, who may move their Amendments and make themselves responsible for the ultimate form which the rule or regulation, or whatever it may be, shall take. That is the highest degree of control, and on the most important matters in the Bill, the regulations, for instance, as distinct from the rules we, and I think hon. Members above the Gangway, will be satisfied with nothing less. On the second stage, mere approval without power of Amendment is not as good as the first one, but it is most certainly better than being left with the power of making a Prayer, and nothing else.

Photo of Mr William Spens Mr William Spens , Ashford

It was stated, two nights ago, by the hon. Member's own party that it was quite worthless. They are now supporting that procedure.

Photo of Mr Frank Griffith Mr Frank Griffith , Middlesbrough West

I imagine that the hon. and learned Member has followed my argument. A thing may be comparatively worthless, but there may be something lower than that. The hon. Member is dealing with a phrase, and nothing else, and making not the slightest attempt to get at the obvious meaning behind the words. If I say that a particular speech made in this House is worthless, I do not mean that I have never heard a worse one. It is an expression of strong criticism and disapproval, and nothing more. With regard to the most important matters, the full power of amendment is the only thing that is any good, and anything else may be described as worthless, but when you come to the rules and you have a more modified form of Parliamentary control, any form which gives an expression of approval is better than pro- cedure by Prayer, which, as hon. Members have previously shown, means giving the House no power at all.

The hon. and learned Member went on to say that this power of making rules which were only the subject of Prayer existed with regard to 101 Acts of Parliament. I think he has misunderstood the feeling that exists on these benches, and, I think, the feeling that exists on the benches above the Gangway. This Bill is not like the other 101 Acts of Parliament. This is legislation of a very particular kind in regard to which we believe that it is necessary that Parliament should have very particular control. The object of this legislation, it has been said, is to take the question of unemployment out of politics, a thing which we do not desire, and we desire to exercise a much closer scrutiny over matters of mere formality and procedure than we should with regard to legislation of another kind. I admit that this particular Sub-section deals with procedure rules, not with the more vital regulations, but even procedure rules may be of the greatest moment to thousands of people who will come under their operation. The Amendment, therefore, rightly requires that this House should have the power of expressing its assent to them, although in regard to the more vital matters we require a much greater degree of control.

6.17 p.m.

Photo of Mr George Buchanan Mr George Buchanan , Glasgow Gorbals

This is really a matter of some substance and importance. The argument has been used that this procedure has been adopted in other Acts of Parliament, under the Anomalies Act, in which case the House of Commons by an overwhelming majority said that it should be done by a Prayer. But it is a practice that is not to be commended. If there is one thing more than another which should make us think twice about it, it is what has happened under the Anomalies Act. The Government have now made the anomalies subject to the approval of Parliament, because by experience they have found that too great a power has been given to what are commonly called the bureaucrats. There is one argument which should make Parliament reverse what the Government are proposing to do here. You set up a board of five persons. It is an experiment in unemployment insurance. For the first time we are giving a board powers in relation to able-bodied relief and at the same time we are abolishing the public assistance committees. The board is to operate the Bill. This is said to be a matter of procedure and does not necessarily involve policy, and that the board should therefore be allowed to make their own rules of procedure.

These rules are to be put before Parliament by a board whose composition we do not know. Nor do we know how it will approach this problem. It is most important, apart altogether from the question as to whether the procedure is right or wrong, that the House of Commons should have some say as to the line of approach the board shall adopt. The Amendment if it was carried would give the House of Commons the first opportunity of reviewing the board and its outlook on the question. The hon. and learned Member for Ashford (Mr. Spens) says that an hon. Member of the Liberal party has described the proposal as worthless, and that therefore it is inconsistent for them to ask for it now. It may have been worthless in regard to the particular matter under discussion at that moment, but I do not think it worthless in this particular case. It will give the House of Commons an opportunity of reviewing the work of the board so far as they are laying down rules of procedure. It may be that after the first rules have been made Parliament will trust the board with the work, but it is an experiment.

We have a new board, untried and unknown, and therefore Parliament should express its view. Procedure can be very important. It may indeed govern the policy which follows, and therefore Parliament should have an opportunity of reviewing the work of the board at the earliest opportunity. It may be said that it can be done by a Prayer after Eleven o'clock at night. That means that the work of this board, which will be one of the most important bodies in Great Britain, perhaps more important than Parliament itself, with a power of life and death, will be discussed at eleven or twelve o'clock at night, which would be neither complimentary to the board nor to the House.

Photo of Mr Edward Mallalieu Mr Edward Mallalieu , Colne Valley

I think the hon. Member is under a misapprehension. Unless the Prayer is put down in pursuance of an Act of Parliament an ordinary Member of this House is unable to secure time after Eleven o'clock at night unless the Government gives time, and unless the Government gives time it is impossible even to discuss it.

Photo of Mr George Buchanan Mr George Buchanan , Glasgow Gorbals

I am not sure about that. I was thinking of the procedure in regard to other Prayers. Under the Anomalies Act we dealt with these matters after Eleven o'clock. I have no doubt that an opportunity could be made to get a discussion in some roundabout fashion. But that is not the point. This board is an important body, and I think the House should insist that at the first opportunity it should get to know its approach to the problem, and if it is going to be harsh or unbending it is just as well that the House of Commons should say what it thinks of it. If it is only a minority, the minority should express its views right away rather than let the board be unaware of the strong feeling against its general lines of conduct and approach.

6.24 p.m.

Photo of Mr Aneurin Bevan Mr Aneurin Bevan , Ebbw Vale

I simply want to reinforce what has been said by the hon. Member for Gorbals (Mr. Buchanan) with one or two observations of my own. We had a discussion on this subject in Committee and the reply of the Solicitor-General was very unsatisfactory. The point has been made that the rules which are now being discussed are merely matters of procedure; in other words, that they are merely to give effect to the powers given to the board in the Bill, and to the regulations, which will have to be positively approved by Parliament. It seems to me to be a somewhat unnecessarily cumbrous procedure for the rule's to be confirmed by the Minister and laid before Parliament, while the regulations have to be approved by Parliament. If the rules have to be made so clear and positive that the Minister must approve of them, it cannot be very cumbrous for Parliament to have positive approval or disapproval of them. I cannot see why the Minister, who is the servant of this House, should have the power to approve or disapprove of these rules and for that power to be withheld from the House.

On this matter I should have thought that we should have had some support from hon. Members opposite who represent industrial constituencies. The welfare of their constituents is deeply concerned in what this board does. They have approved in principle of the setting up of the board and of the main structure of the Bill, but, nevertheless, the manner in which their constituents are going to be treated will entirely pass out of their hands unless these rules are submitted to Parliament for positive approval. There is nothing cumbrous about it. It means that before they can be carried out Parliament has to sanction them.

It is said that the main portion of this work will be carried out by regulations and that we have power to approve or disapprove of the regulations. But the regulations apply to a very limited part of Part II of the Bill; they apply only to the conditions under which allowances are to be granted, and the actual content of the allowance procedure, the important matter, is the manner in which the regulations will be interpreted by rules. Last night the Minister said that it was their desire to have uniformity in the administration of unemployment insurance benefit, with flexibility. What does "flexibility" mean? It means, in sc far as conditions are uniform, that the regulations are determined; and in so far as the conditions are flexible that the flexibility will be determined by rule. In point of fact, what will decide how much this and that man will receive will be determined not by regulation but by rule.

The argument has been advanced, both inside and outside this House, that there is so much work devolving upon Members of Parliament in these days that it is not merely inexpedient but inefficient to place upon them the duty of having to amend Bills in Committee, and that, consequently, what we ought to do is to approve of legislation in principle and allow it to be carried out by the Civil Service, or by boards specially appointed for the purpose. I am prepared to admit that there is a great deal of weight in that argument and that, as a matter of fact, this House has to determine between legislation by Bill and legislation by decree. At the moment we are pausing midway between the two positions, and we are not efficient in either. Certainly, if that argument is correct it means that a vast amount can be done by the Civil Service without the House knowing anything at all about it in the first place. We are faced with an accomplished fact—the evil is done and we have to undo it. These rules are important and hon. Members cannot contest that statement. If they are merely put upon the Table of the House they may pass into law without the House noticing them at all. The time of Members is very fully occupied and they have vast numbers of documents to read.

Photo of Mr George Buchanan Mr George Buchanan , Glasgow Gorbals

But the Rules begin to operate the moment they are laid on the Table and before it is possible to challenge them.

Photo of Mr Aneurin Bevan Mr Aneurin Bevan , Ebbw Vale

Yes I understand that, but we would have the right to put down a Prayer.

Photo of Mr George Buchanan Mr George Buchanan , Glasgow Gorbals

But they would be working already.

Photo of Mr Aneurin Bevan Mr Aneurin Bevan , Ebbw Vale

Nevertheless, they are to be laid on the Table of the House as soon as is practicable, and before they could do much mischief we might have an opportunity of abrogating them, if we could persuade the House to do so. I know how difficult it would be, but I am giving the maximum weight to the Government's argument. But hon. Members must realise that these rules could inflict considerable hardship upon our constituents before we were alive to the position. We ought to be protected against that eventuality. It would be all very well if we were giving the Minister power to make rules under an Act of Parliament. That would not be too bad. I disapproved of the Anomalies Act but under that Act it was the Minister who made the rules. In the case of that Act and in the case of other legislation we had one check. We could put Questions on the Order Paper from day to day checking the administration, and we could direct the attention of Parliament to what was happening in the administration. But here is a board concerning which we are not to have that power. We will not be able to direct the attention of Parliament to any abuses that may arise and, that being so, it is all the more important that before a rule is carried into effect it should receive the scrutiny and criticism of the House of Commons.

Then perhaps the board would be protected from the everlasting curse of the bureaucrat. That is where lay representation is so useful. The expert always makes mistakes. All experience of civil administration shows that it is the layman who protects the bureaucrat and the expert against blunders. We are the repository of a vast amount of human experience and knowledge in this House, which experts cannot possibly obtain. This is a most unusual experiment. You are destroying hundreds of public authorities and setting up a body of five people who have no contact with the men whose lives they are to govern, except through permanent officials. It seems to me that the House ought to protect itself against the possibilty of this legislation breaking down. I prophesy that the greatest danger to which the board will be exposed will arise out of the separation of the board from the individuals who will come under the board. The old Poor Law administration had this to be said for it, that the Poor Law guardian was in immediate personal contact with the person whom he had to assist. That personal relationship often prevented the guardians from committing brutalities or administrative errors.

But in this case we are to have five people sitting in London who will have no contact of any sort with the people over whom they are to exercise these powers. Indeed it is considered to be a good thing that they should not have any such contact. They will have no means of communication with the people concerned except through the "yes men." I use that term advisedly. It is a marvellous American introduction into our language. All the "yes men" will be employed by the board and it is a very serious matter if the board is to be put into that insular position. If there are too many shock absorbers it will never get into touch with reality.

Photo of Mr Arthur Caporn Mr Arthur Caporn , Nottingham West

Are the "yes men" the people who attend Labour conferences and do as they are told?

Photo of Mr Aneurin Bevan Mr Aneurin Bevan , Ebbw Vale

I am always prepared to be courteous and to give way to hon. Members who wish to make interjections if the interjections carry forward the Debate, but I do not like to be interrupted by silly interjections of that sort, which have nothing to do with the serious argument before the House. When I said "yes men" I meant the unemployment assistance officers appointed by the board. The board will have in their own hands the employment of those men and men in that position are always inclined to be "yes men" no matter how good they are. I am not using exaggerated language. These men will not even be in a position to advise the board. They will merely be executive officers and they will represent the only contact of the board with the people affected. There will not even be advisory committees with any power. If that is the machinery which is to be set up, is it not desirable that, at one point, there should be some contact with the layman—with the elected person? Is it not desirable that there should be some scrutiny by the man who is only concerned about the protection of the individual from harshness and the protection of the board from extravagances or intemperances.

If hon. Members wish to launch the scheme under the best auspices they ought to see to it that not only the regulations but the rules get the positive approval of the House of Commons. If not, it does not require much public administrative experience to realise that hon. Members will find themselves face to face with circumstances in their own constituencies which will compel them to take action. But what action can be taken under the Bill? A Member will have to wait for a year until the Minister's salary comes up for discussion before he can raise the matter in any form in this House. In the meantime, abuses and brutalities may go on and a Member of Parliament will only be able to say, "I am sorry, but the board has almighty power and I can do nothing until I get a Parliamentary opportunity." Having had some experience of Poor Law administration I assure the House that they are very unwise indeed to launch this board upon uncharted seas, with no guidance and with no experience behind it, except the sinister experience of a similar board about 1838 which broke down. I therefore hope that in this case hon. Members will not take the party view but will ask the Minister whether it is not possible that not only he, but the House of Commons, should have the opportunity of scrutinising the rules before they are passed into law.

Photo of Mr John Wallace Mr John Wallace , Dunfermline District of Burghs

May I ask whether the fact that under Clause 53 rules are to be confirmed by the Minister does not give us the right to raise any question upon them in the House of Commons?

Photo of Mr Aneurin Bevan Mr Aneurin Bevan , Ebbw Vale

I understand that we shall not have power to put questions of any sort concerning the rules. I speak subject to the correction of the Minister or the Solicitor-General. I understand that our power will be confined to the right to put down a Prayer.

Photo of Mr Aneurin Bevan Mr Aneurin Bevan , Ebbw Vale

The Solicitor-General shakes his head, but all this discussion has proceeded on that basis and if that is not the case the hon. and learned Gentleman would have assisted the House if he had stated the actual position long before now.

6.42 p.m.

Photo of Mr John Wallace Mr John Wallace , Dunfermline District of Burghs

I wish to ask the Minister to deal specifically with the point which I have just raised. We are all aware that it is necessary to have rules, but some of us would view with considerable misgiving the abrogation by the House of all rights regarding those rules. I certainly understood, however, that we would still have the right to bring up in this House any debatable question which arose out of the rides. I thought the fact that the rules are to be confirmed by the Minister, would give us the right to put questions in this House at any time concerning them.

6.43 p.m.

Photo of Mr Henry White Mr Henry White , Birkenhead East

Arising out of the point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Dunfermline (Mr. Wallace), may I ask the Minister whether it is not the case that when a rule or regulation has been placed before the House and has been the subject of an affirmative resolution, from that moment the Minister himself has no further control over it? I have searched the Bill carefully and there appears to be no initiative on the part of the Minister or anybody else, to raise any question about any regulation, to recall it or criticise it or take any action whatever regarding it, if it has left the House. I would ask the Minister to look into this point and to consider whether it is not necessary that he should protect the House and himself by altering the Bill in this respect.

6.44 p.m.

Photo of Mr Donald Somervell Mr Donald Somervell , Crewe

The last point does not, I think, arise on this Amendment. When this matter was discussed during the Committee stage I ventured to suggest that the, sort of criticism then made in support of a similar Amendment ought to be considered in relation to criticisms which were made, with some vehemence at that time, that the House was not getting sufficient time in which to discuss this Bill. Complaints that certain matters are being removed from full discussion in Parliament must be considered side by side with complaints that Parliament is not being given sufficient time to discuss large questions such as those which have had to be considered in connection with this Bill. In a large administrative measure of great importance such as this, obviously those who frame it are faced with the problem which faced those who framed this Bill and which is raised by the Amendment. First of all, certain things have to go into the Bill. Then there are certain things which are obviously proper to be dealt with by rule or regulation drafted by the board or the Statutory Committee, as the case may be, subject to the approval of the Minister. In this Bill there is a procedure for regulations, which must have the affrmative approval of the House. There is the procedure of the Rules, which have to be laid on the Table subject to a Prayer—and I will say a word shortly as to the specific point raised by the hon. Member for Colne Valley (Mr. Mallalieu).

It is fair to say that the indignation in some of the speeches this afternoon has a certain air of unreality about it when one reminds oneself that under the Anomalies Act the late Administration did not provide for the express approval of the House. Faced by the problem with which, as I say, all framers of Measures such as this are faced, they drew the line in a certain place at that time. Hon. Gentlemen opposite say they have learned, and I hope it is true, but it is a little difficult to attach a great deal of importance to this very violent indignation when we have clearly drawn the line very much more in the direction of preserving the powers of this House than it was drawn by hon. Gentlemen opposite when they were in office. The principle on which we have gone is this: We have taken the regulations which affect the assessment of need, and we have taken the anomalies regulations and said that they must have affirmative approval.

With regard to the other matters, I am not saying that they are not important; what I am saying is that they are proper matters for the other procedure. The other matters which are dealt with by rules are in our opinion important, but proper matters to be dealt with by the procedure which we have provided for them.

Photo of Mr Aneurin Bevan Mr Aneurin Bevan , Ebbw Vale

Will the hon. and learned Gentleman tell the House what they are?

Photo of Mr Donald Somervell Mr Donald Somervell , Crewe

I have a list here, but at this time of the Debate, when everybody who has spoken has had a considerable opportunity of pointing out to the House what are the matters to be dealt with by rules, the hon. Member can hardly ask me to point out what indeed was largely done by the hon. Gentleman the Member for Gower (Mr. D. Grenfell), who opened the discussion in a very full and forcible speech. The specific point raised by the hon. Member for Colne Valley was whether, when the Statute does not expressly provide for a Prayer, a Prayer can be moved by a private Member unless the Government give time. I think the hon. Member is probably right about that, that is to say, that if no provision is made in the Bill a Prayer cannot be moved unless the Government give time. These matters, as I have said, in our opinion are really procedural and administrative matters which are proper to be dealt with in this way. My right hon. Friend tells me he will reconsider the position before the Bill leaves another place, as to whether this might be brought into the category of those Bills where there is express provision for a Prayer which entitles an hon. Member to move independently of whether the Government give time.

Question put, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Bill."

The House divided : Ayes, 260; Noes, 60.

Division No. 254.]AYES.[6.51 p.m.
Albery, Irving JamesFord, Sir Patrick J.Morrison, William Shepherd
Alexander, Sir WilliamFox, Sir GiffordMoss, Captain H. J.
Allen, Lt.-Col. J. Sandeman (B'k'nh'd)Fraser, Captain IanMunro, Patrick
Amery, Rt. Hon. Leopold C. M. S.Fuller, Captain A. G.Nation, Brigadier-General J. J. H.
Anstruther-Gray, W. J.Ganzoni, Sir JohnNicholson, Rt. Hn. W. G. (Petersf'ld)
Applin, Lieut.-Col. Reginald V. K.Gillett, Sir George MastermanNormand, Rt. Hon. Wilfrid
Apsley, LordGledhill, GilbertO'Donovan, Dr. William James
Astbury, Lieut.-Com. Frederick WolfeGlossop, C. W. H.Ormsby-Gore, Rt. Hon. William G. A.
Astor, Maj. Hn. John J. (Kent, Dover)Goff, Sir ParkPalmer, Francis Noel
Astor, Viscountess (Plymouth, Sutton)Goldie, Noel B.Patrick, Colin M.
Baillie, Sir Adrian W. M.Gower, Sir RobertPeake, Captain Osbert
Baldwin, Rt. Hon. StanleyGraham, Sir F. Fergus (C'mb'rl'd. N.)Pearson, William G.
Baldwin-Webb, Colonel J.Greaves-Lord, Sir WalterPeat, Charles U.
Balniel, LordGreene, William P. C.Penny, Sir George
Banks, Sir Reginald MitchellGretton, Colonel Rt. Hon. JohnPercy, Lord Eustace
Barton, Capt. Basil KelseyGrigg, Sir EdwardPetherick, M.
Beaumont, M. W. (Bucks., Aylesbury)Grimston, R. V.Peto, Sir Basil E. (Devon, Barnstaple)
Beaumont, Hon. R. E. B. (Portsm'th, C.)Guinness, Thomas L. E. B.Peto, Geoffrey K. (W'verh'pt'n, Bilst'n)
Betterton, Rt. Hon. Sir Henry B.Gunston, Captain D. W.Potter, John
Blaker, Sir ReginaldGuy, J. C. MorrisonPowell, Lieut.-Col. Evelyn G. H.
Blindell, JamesHacking, Rt. Hon. Douglas H.Procter, Major Henry Adam
Boulton, W. W.Hales, Harold K.Pybus, Sir Percy John
Bowater, Col. Sir T. VansittartHall, Capt. W. D'Arcy (Brecon)Ramsay, T. B. W. (Western Isles)
Bower, Lieut.-Com. Robert TattonHannon, Patrick Joseph HenryRamsbotham, Herwald
Bowyer, Capt. Sir George E. W.Harvey, Major S. E. (Devon, Totnes)Ramsden, Sir Eugene
Broadbent, Colonel JohnHaslam, Henry (Horncastle)Reed, Arthur C. (Exeter)
Brown, Ernest (Leith)Headlam, Lieut.-Col. Cuthbert M.Reid, David D. (County Down)
Brown, Brig.-Gen. H. C. (Berks., Newb'y)Hellgers, Captain F. F. A.Reid, James S. C. (Stirling)
Buchan, JohnHills, Major Rt. Hon. John WallerReid, William Allan (Derby)
Buchan-Hepburn, P. G. T.Hornby, FrankRemer, John R.
Bullock, Captain MalcolmHorsbrugh, FlorenceRickards, George William
Burghley, LordHoward, Tom ForrestRobinson, John Roland
Burgin, Dr. Edward LeslieHowitt, Dr. Alfred B.Ropner, Colonel L.
Burnett, John GeorgeHudson, Capt. A. U. M. (Hackney, N.)Rosbotham, Sir Thomas
Cadogan, Hon. EdwardHudson, Robert Spear (Southport)Ross, Ronald D.
Caporn, Arthur CecilHume, Sir George HopwoodRoss Taylor, Walter (Woodbridge)
Carver, Major William H.Hunter-Weston, Lt.-Gen. Sir AylmerRunge, Norah Cecil
Cayzer, Sir Charles (Chester, City)Hurst, Sir Gerald B.Russell, Albert (Kirkcaldy)
Cayzer, Maj. Sir H. R. (Prtsmth., S.)Inskip, Rt. Hon. Sir Thomas W. H.Russell, Alexander West (Tynemouth)
Cazalet, Capt. V. A. (Chippenham)James, Wing Com. A. W. H.Russell, Hamer Field (Sheffield, B'tside)
Chamberlain, Rt. Hn. Sir J. A. (Birm., W.)Jamleson, DouglasRussell, R. J. (Eddisbury)
Chamberlain, Rt. Hon. N. (Edgbaston)Jones, Lewis (Swansea, West)Rutherford, John (Edmonton)
Chapman, Col. R. (Houghton-le-Spring)Ker, J. CampbellRutherford, Sir John Hugo (Liverp'l)
Chapman, Sir Samuel (Edinburgh, S.)Kerr, Lieut.-Col. Charles (Montrose)Samuel, Sir Arthur Michael (F'nham)
Chorlton, Alan Ernest LeofricKerr, Hamilton W.Sandeman, Sir A. N. Stewart
Christie, James ArchibaldLambert, Rt. Hon. GeorgeSanderson, Sir Frank Barnard
Clarke, FrankLaw, Sir AlfredSavery, Samuel Servington
Clayton, Sir ChristopherLeckie, J. A.Selley, Harry R.
Cobb, Sir CyrilLeech, Dr. J. W.Shaw, Helen B. (Lanark, Bothwell)
Cochrane, Commander Hon. A. D.Leighton, Major B. E. P.Shaw, Captain William T. (Forfar)
Colfox, Major William PhilipLewis, OswaldSimmonds, Oliver Edwin
Colville, Lieut.-Colonel J.Lindsay, Noel KerSmiles, Lieut. Col. Sir Walter D.
Conant, R. J. E.Lloyd, GeoffreySmith, R. W. (Ab'rd'n & Kinc'dine, C.)
Cook, Thomas A.Locker-Lampson, Rt. Hn. G. (Wd. G'n)Somervell, Sir Donald
Cooper, A. DuffLockwood, Capt. J. H. (Shipley)Somerville, Annesley A (Windsor)
Copeland, IdaLoder, Captain J. de VereSomerville, D. G. (Willesden, East)
Courtauld, Major John SewellLumley, Captain Lawrence R.Soper, Richard
Courthope, Colonel Sir George L.Lyons, Abraham MontaguSotheron-Estcourt, Captain T. E.
Cranborne, ViscountMabane, WilliamSouthby, Commander Archibald R. J.
Croft, Brigadier-General Sir H.MacAndrew, Lieut.-Col. C. C. (Partick)Spears, Brigadier-General Edward L.
Crookshank, Capt. H. C. (Gainsb'ro)MacAndrew, Capt. J. O. (Ayr)Spens, William Patrick
Croom-Johnson, R. P.McCorquodale, M. S.Stanley, Rt. Hon. Lord (Fylde)
Cross, R. H.MacDonald, Rt. Hon. J. R. (Seaham)Stevenson, James
Cruddas, Lieut.-Colonel BernardMacdonald, Sir Murdoch (Inverness)Stones, James
Culverwell, Cyril TomMacdonald, Capt. P. D. (I. of W.)Strauss, Edward A.
Devies, Edward C. (Montgomery)McEwen, Captain J. H. F.Stuart, Lord C. Crichton-
Davison, Sir William HenryMcKie, John HamiltonSugden, Sir Wilfrid Hart
Denman, Hon. R. D.McLean, Major Sir AlanSutcliffe, Harold
Denville, AlfredMcLean, Dr. W. H. (Tradeston)Tate, Mavis Constance
Dickie, John P.Macmillan, Maurice HaroldTaylor, Vice-Admiral E. A. (P'dd'gt'n, s.)
Drewe, CedricMagnay, ThomasTempleton, William P.
Duckworth, George A. V.Manningham-Buller, Lt.-Col. Sir M.Thomson, Sir Frederick Charles
Duggan, Hubert JohnMargesson, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. D. R.Thorp, Linton Theodore
Edmondson, Major A. J.Marsden, Commander ArthurTodd, Lt.-Col. A. J. K. (B'wick-on-T.)
Ellis, Sir R. GeoffreyMartin, Thomas B.Todd, A. L. S. (Kingswinford)
Elliston, Captain George SampsonMason, Col. Glyn K. (Croydon, N.)Touche, Gordon Cosmo
Elmley, ViscountMayhew, Lieut.-Colonel JohnTryon, Rt. Hon. George Clement
Emmott, Charles E. G. C.Meller, Sir Richard JamesTufnell, Lieut.-Commander R. L.
Emrys-Evans, P. V.Mills, Major J. D. (New Forest)Ward, Lt.-Col. Sir A. L. (Hull)
Entwistle, Cyril FullardMilne, CharlesWard, Irene Mary Bewick (Wallsend)
Erskine, Lord (Weston-super-Mare)Monsell, Rt. Hon. Sir B. EyresWard, Sarah Adelaide (Cannock)
Erskine-Bolst, Capt. C. C. (Blk'pool)Morris, Owen Temple (Cardiff, E.)Warrender, Sir Victor A. G.
Fermoy, LordMorris-Jones, Dr. J. H. (Denbigh)Waterhouse, Captain Charles
Wells, Sidney RichardWindsor-Clive, Lieut.-Colonel GeorgeYoung, Rt. Hon. Sir Hilton (S'v'noaks)
Whiteside, Borras Noel H.Winterton, Rt. Hon. Earl
Whyte, Jardine BellWise, Alfred R.TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—
Williams, Charles (Devon, Torquay)Withers, Sir John JamesMr. Womersley and Major George
Wilson, Clyde T. (West Toxteth)Worthington, Dr. John V.Davies.
NOES.
Adams, D. M. (Poplar, South)Grenfell, David Rees (Glamorgan)Mason, David M. (Edinburgh, E.)
Aske, Sir Robert WilliamGriffith, F. Kingsley (Middlesbro', W.)Maxton, James
Attlee, Clement RichardGriffiths, T. (Monmouth, Pontypool)Milner, Major James
Banfield, John WilliamGrovel, Thomas E.Owen, Major Goronwy
Bevan, Aneurin (Ebbw Vale)Grundy, Thomas W.Rathbone, Eleanor
Brown, C. W. E. (Notts-, Mansfield)Hall, George H. (Merthyr Tydvil)Rea, Walter Russell
Buchanan, GeorgeHarris, Sir PercySalter, Dr. Alfred
Cocks, Frederick SeymourHicks, Ernest GeorgeSamuel, Rt. Hon. Sir H. (Darwen)
Cripps, Sir StattordJanner, BarnettSinclair, Maj. Rt. Hn. Sir A. (C'thness)
Daggar, GeorgeJenkins, Sir WilliamSmith, Tom (Normanton)
Davies, David L. (Pontypridd)John, WilliamTinker, John Joseph
Davies, Rhys John (Westhoughton)Johnstone, Harcourt (S. Shields)White, Henry Graham
Dobbie, WilliamJones, J. J. (West Ham, Silvertown)Williams, David (Swansea, East)
Edwards, CharlesJones, Morgan (Caerphilly)Williams, Edward John (Ogmore)
Evans, David Owen (Cardigan)Kirkwood, DavidWilliams, Dr. John H. (Llanelly)
Evans, Capt. Ernest (Welsh Univ.)Lawson, John JamesWilmot, John
Evans, R. T. (Carmarthen)Leonard, WilliamWood, Sir Murdoch McKenzie (Banff)
Foot, Dingle (Dundee)McEntee, Valentina L.Young, Ernest J. (Middlesbrough, E.)
Foot, Isaac (Cornwall, Bodmin)Maclean, Neil (Glasgow, Govan)
George, Major G. Lloyd (Pembroke)Mainwaring, William HenryTELLERS FOR THE NOES.—
Greenwood, Rt Hon. ArthurMallalieu, Edward LancelotMr. C. Macdonald and Mr. D.
Graham.

Photo of Sir Fergus Graham Sir Fergus Graham , Cumberland Northern

I beg to move, in page 46, line 7, at the end, to insert : (3) Any person, being a person who fulfils the qualifications mentioned in subsection (1) of section thirty-seven of this Act, who persistently refuses or neglects to maintain himself or his family or who persistently contravenes conditions attached in accordance with determinations made under section forty-one of this Act shall be liable on proceedings taken by or on behalf of the Board on summary conviction to imprisonment for a term not exceeding one month. It is apparent that the Bill should contain its own provisions for dealing with persons by whom offences are committed under the new scheme. If a man should persistently refuse to maintain himself or his family, there is an appeal to the appeal tribunal, which may disallow any further allowance for a specified time. Such a man might obviously become a charge upon the local authorities. The local authorities feel that their only protection is the Vagrancy Act, 1824, which condemns a man to a term of imprisonment, if a first offender, as a disorderly person, for a second offence as a rogue and vagabond, and for a third offence as an incorrigible rogue. That places an odium which the local authorities quite naturally shun. Apart from that, there is real doubt whether the local justices or quarter sessions would be prepared to convict under such an Act. A man might be prepared to undergo a term of imprisonment in order to secure that his dependants would be looked after during his absence. Finally, there is some danger of transforming a public assistance service into a semi-penal service, to the cruel harm of very worthy people who must, of necessity, receive some aid from the rates.

4.9 p.m.

Photo of Mr John Hills Mr John Hills , Ripon

I beg to second the Amendment.

I want to find out the position of the local authorities in this matter. I want to know whether the unpleasant duty that the Mover of the Amendment has just detailed is to be performed by the Unemployment Assistance Board or is to be cast on the local authorities. I take it that if there is no power for proceedings to be taken by the board, it must fall on the public assistance committee of the local authority, and, the law being what it is, good or bad, they would be obliged to enforce it. It seems to me that this is a matter that has been omitted from the Bill. Local authorities are all extremely anxious to know whether this duty is cast upon them or not.

4.10 p.m.

Mr. HUDSON:

I am afraid that to accept this Amendment would cut right across the whole conception of the Bill. The Bill advisedly is designed in such a way as to leave the public assistance authorities as, so to speak, residuary legatees. This Amendment would create a new criminal offence. The Bill does not create any criminal offences at all, and we think that it is most desirable to leave affairs in the state in which they are, for the reason that an offence does not arise in present circumstances unless the man through his action causes himself or his family to become chargeable. The Amendment would create a new offence in cases where the family did not become chargeable, where the family had means of their own. It is very undesirable to create new offences of that nature, and we cannot accept the Amendment.

Photo of Mr Jack Lawson Mr Jack Lawson , Chester-le-Street

We appreciate the answer of the Parliamentary Secretary and his clear explanation of what the position is. I think the Mover of the Amendment did not quite understand the consequence of the Amendment. It would create not only a new offence, but an offence which it would be difficult to define, and it might bring in a large number of people whom the supporters of the Amendment would not like to bring in.

Photo of Sir Fergus Graham Sir Fergus Graham , Cumberland Northern

I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

4.12 p.m.

Photo of Mr John Tinker Mr John Tinker , Leigh

I beg to move, in page 46, line 7, at the end, to insert : (3) If it is found at any time that an application for an allowance bas been rejected or a reduced amount has been fixed by the non-disclosure or misrepresentation of a material fact, the applicant shall be entitled to recover from the board summarily as a civil debt either the allowance or the difference between the allowance which would otherwise have been determined and the amount he actually received, as the case may be, from the date of the original application, and if any question arises as to the amount to which the applicant is entitled, the question shall be referred in the prescribed manner to the appeal tribunal, and a certificate signed by the clerk of that tribunal, setting forth the decision of the tribunal upon the question, shall be conclusive evidence of the amount to which the applicant is entitled, and any certificate purporting to be signed by the clerk shall be deemed to be so signed unless the contrary is proved. The purpose of this Amendment is to protect applicants for benefit who may not have been treated properly owing to non-disclosure of material facts—who may not have received the amount that should have been given to them. The Clause deals with the obtaining of allowances by misrepresentation, and gives the Minister power to recover the money paid. If there has been any non-disclosure of facts the State can get the money back. We agree with that proposal; we do not think that any one should receive money wrongly. But the applicant for relief should have the same protection, and if some mistake is made by which he is deprived of what is his right, it is only fair that he should be able to get the money that is due to him. I am hoping that the Minister will do something to clear away the suspicion that we have. I do not think there was any idea when the Bill was framed of doing any wrong to any applicant, but this Amendment would rectify an omission.

4.15 p.m.

Photo of Mr John Banfield Mr John Banfield , Wednesbury

I beg to second the Amendment, and I do so chiefly because I wish to hear from the Minister whether he is able to do anything to meet the case there set forth. I think it will be generally agreed that if, through some mistake on the part of an official, an applicant has not had justice, there should be some means by which he can secure redress. I can imagine nothing which is more likely to cause bad feeling and bitterness than the knowledge that if an applicant makes a mistake, even unconsciously, action can be taken against him to recover any excess sum which he has received, whereas if a mistake should be made by an official of the Department which tells against the applicant there is no method by which the applicant can get justice. It is small points like these which often lead to a great deal of dissatisfaction, and we ought to make the machinery of this Bill run as smoothly as possible, so that people may have confidence in its administration.

4.16 p.m.

Mr. HUDSON:

This question arose in Committee stage, and I then promised hon. Members opposite that I would look into the matter to see whether any further words ought to be added to the Bill. I think the House will appreciate that it would hardly be appropriate to insert in the Bill words giving an applicant power to sue the board, because obviously there is no fixed amount to which the applicant is entitled. All that he is entitled to is what the board, in their discretion, acting within the regulations passed by the House, deem to be appropriate. But obviously there will be a certain number of cases in which, through a genuine mistake made either by the applicant or by the board's officer, payment is made at a less rate than would have been the case if the whole of the circumstances had been known. The appropriate action in that case will be an appeal either by the man, or by the man at the instance of the officer, and we are clear that under Clause 40 there will be ample power to make rules providing for the ante-dating of a decision by the appeal tribunal. My right hon. Friend has authorised me to give a promise that when the rules are drawn up he will see that provision is made in them, under Clause 40, to give the appeal tribunal power to ante-date their decisions in appropriate cases, and I think that meets the point which the hon. Member had in mind.

4.18 p.m.

Photo of Mr Jack Lawson Mr Jack Lawson , Chester-le-Street

I thank the hon. Gentleman and the right hon. Gentleman for the consideration they have given to this matter. Having heard their statement, I think that my hon. Friend will withdraw the Amendment.

Photo of Mr Donald Somervell Mr Donald Somervell , Crewe

I beg to move, in page 46, line 31, to leave out "three years," and to insert "one year."

This matter was discussed in Committee, and we undertook to look into it. As I explained to the Mover of the Amendment in Committee, this Subsection deals with summary proceedings for the recovery of civil debts due to the board, and does not cover the whole of the possible rights of the board. This Amendment proposes to reduce the period within which summary proceedings can be taken from three years to one year, and we agree that it is desirable in cases of this sort that if action is to be taken it should be taken as soon as possible.

Amendment agreed to.