Clause 2. — (Contributions by juvenile contributors, their employers and the Treasury.)

Orders of the Day — National Health Insurance (Juvenile Contributors and Young Persons) Bill. – in the House of Commons at on 16 November 1937.

Alert me about debates like this

The Deputy-Chairman:

Mr. Leslie.

Photo of Mr Arthur Greenwood Mr Arthur Greenwood , Wakefield

On a point of Order. As a matter of procedure, Captain Bourne, may I ask how you propose to take these Amendments, some of which hang together?

The Deputy-Chairman:

As far as I can ascertain, the Amendments in the name of the hon. Member for Sedgefield (Mr. Leslie) are really one scheme; that is to say, the object is to make the payment of contributions fall solely on the employers and not on the employés. Therefore, if the hon. Member moves his first Amendment, the others will fall. With regard to the Amendment standing in the name of the hon. Member for Aberavon (Mr. Cove)—in line 32, to leave out "two," and to insert "four "—that, I take it, is a separate point, and I think it is in order, though I would hesitate to give a Ruling on it at present.

8.4 p.m.

Photo of Mr John Leslie Mr John Leslie , Sedgefield

I beg to move, in page 2, line 27, to leave out "the contributors and contributions by."

If this Amendment were carried, the Clause would then read: The contributions payable in respect of juvenile contributors shall comprise contributions by their employers… This means that the contributions shall not be paid by these juvenile employés. There is no new principle involved in this, because, if I remember aright, the original Act of 1911 contained a provision to the effect that the whole of the contributions should be paid by the employers in the case of low wages. That, of course, was subsequently withdrawn, when wages were increased and the employers did not want to be exposed as paying low wages. I contend that these young people ought not to be asked to pay contributions from their very meagre wages, especially in view of the fact that they will get no monetary benefit out of the Act but only medical benefit. We may ask why these young people are employed at the early age of 14. The main reason undoubtedly is the poverty of their parents. Unfortunately, their education has to be sacrificed to add to the scanty incomes of poverty-stricken homes. These children are a sort of cheap labour, and that is the real reason why they are employed at this early age. Therefore, we contend that the employers ought to make the necessary provision for this juvenile labour when sickness overtakes these boys or girls. To take a single copper from the meagre earnings of these juveniles is something to which we certainly object, and I hope the Government will see the wisdom of our claim and agree to this Amendment.

8.6 p.m.

Photo of Mr John Tinker Mr John Tinker , Leigh

I wish to support the Amendment, and in doing so to draw the attention of this Committee to a picture. I bought on Sunday a paper called the "News of the World," and on the front page of it was a picture of the Minister of Health and a boy, the latter having on a new suit of clothes. It said underneath the picture, "Insurance for all," and the Minister of Health was saying: Ah, and I will put something in his pocket too. Here is a grand opportunity for the right hon. Gentleman to put something in the lad's pocket. All that we are asking is that the 2d. per week that will have to be taken out of a boy's earnings should be kept in his possession so that he will have something more in his pocket at the week-end. It is a very modest appeal, and I am sure the Minister is trying to do something to improve the conditions of these young people, so why should he not go a little further and make things better for them? The small contribution that he is asking could easily be borne by the employers, and I think it would be worth the right hon. Gentleman's while to make a good job of it while he is at it.

8.8 p.m.

Photo of Sir Francis Acland Sir Francis Acland , Cornwall Northern

I am sorry that I cannot support the Amendment. I know that in many of these juvenile employments wages are lower than they ought to be. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear !"] Of course they are, but I think the cure is to get them higher, not to make this a matter of charity. I think the sooner we get young people, even from the age when they will be entitled to leave school following the age of 14, to recognise that they have some duties as well as some rights as citizens, the better it will be for the whole country. I hate the idea that because wages are not high enough, as they are not, we have got to favour these young people with an extra 2d. by relieving them of this contribution. It is worth 2d.—nobody suggests that it is not—and unless we make the whole of the insurance scheme a purely charity scheme, it seems to me that people ought to begin to enter into it en a reasonable basis and make their contributions as soon as they can. I hate to do anything under this Bill which will make the attempts which I, along with others, will always, I hope, try to make to raise wages, ineffective by enabling anyone to say, "At any rate, they do not have to pay their health contributions." They ought to pay their health contributions, and they ought to get decent wages out of which to pay them. I cannot support the Amendment.

8.10 p.m.

Photo of Mr James Griffiths Mr James Griffiths , Llanelly

I am amazed at the argument that we have just had from the Liberal benches.

Photo of Sir Francis Acland Sir Francis Acland , Cornwall Northern

You want charity—everything for everybody.

Photo of Mr James Griffiths Mr James Griffiths , Llanelly

It is amazing to speak about wanting charity for boys of 14 who are employed in industry. The charitable thing would be to take them out of industry altogether.

Photo of Sir Francis Acland Sir Francis Acland , Cornwall Northern

Hear, hear, but you cannot do it in this Bill.

Photo of Mr James Griffiths Mr James Griffiths , Llanelly

The right hon. Gentleman himself belonged to a Government which had ample opportunities of doing that, but which did not do it.

Photo of Mr James Griffiths Mr James Griffiths , Llanelly

We welcome the Bill that has been brought forward, small and meagre as it is, to bring these boys within the scope of the National Health Insurance Act, but boy labour is cheap labour in every industry. There are at this time about 38,000 or 39,000 boys employed in the pits under 16 years of age, and I think that an employer who employs boy labour ought to pay an extra price for it. Therefore, in asking the employer to pay the whole of this contribution, we are not asking for charity, but merely asking the employer to have some extra responsibility towards these boys. The right hon. Gentleman talks about teaching these boys responsibility, but the fact that they work at the age of 14 is in itself responsibility enough, and they do not need to pay 2d. to make them feel that responsibility.

Photo of Mr James Griffiths Mr James Griffiths , Llanelly

Citizenship? A boy of 14 ought not to be assuming the responsibilities of citizenship, but ought to be playing about and in school. None of us who are here would think of sending our boys into industry at the age of 14, and we have no right to speak about other boys, who are compelled by poverty to go into industry, paying these contributions. Take the mining industry. Boys in large numbers are employed by colliers. I myself began my working life as a boy of 13 with a collier. Who pays these contributions? It is the colliers. Deductions are made from the total wages earned for the men and for the boys. I worked as a boy with an old collier named Tom Jones. He has gone now—he paid the price in the pit—but I shall always remember him kindly, because he paid me my wage in full, and I never suffered a single deduction. The chance is that the collier will pay this 2d., and I say that the employer, not the collier, ought to pay it. Make these employers who employ boy labour pay these contributions. These boys go in at 14, but they go out at 16, and that is how they are taught the responsibilities of citizenship. I think we ought to place a premium upon boy labour and make it as difficult as we can by making the employers pay for it. I therefore support warm-heartedly this Amendment compelling employers who employ these young people in industry to pay their contributions. They have a special responsibility, and they should be asked to pay the total contributions provided for in this Bill.

8.14 p.m.

Photo of Mr Thomas Sexton Mr Thomas Sexton , Barnard Castle

I am delighted to support the Amendment. I have spent a good deal of my life among boys and girls. The chief objection we have to boy and girl labour is that it is cheap labour. An hon. Member belowe the Gangway said that boy labour is cheap. Girl labour, however, is cheaper. We want to save these boys and girls who are ruthlessly torn from school to serve the purposes of financiers who want cheap labour. The rightful place for them is at school. It is no charity to enable them to keep the 2d. which the Government are demanding. If the Government had been worthy of the name they would have spent more than they propose to spend under the Bill, which works out at ½d. per boy and girl per week. With the 2d. that the employers have to contribute you get the wonderful sum of 2½d. It is a "tuppeny-ha'penny" Bill introduced by a "tuppeny-ha'penny" Government.

When we examine the Bill and the question of contributions we find a big anomaly. In the principal Act of 1936, the second Schedule states that in the case of low wage-earners not exceeding 3s. per working day, the employers must pay the whole of the contribution. It is, therefore, possible for boys or girls of 17 or 18 earning 15s. a week to have their contributions paid by the employer. Under this Bill we shall have boys and girls of 14 to 16 earning 5s. a week who will be mulcted of 2d. The percentage of the 2d. to 5s. is much greater for them than the percentage of the contributions to the wages of the men and women in the bigger scheme. It is no charity to allow these boys and girls to be exempted from the 2d. It is only right and just that they should be exempted. It is no charity when we give pensions to ex-Prime Ministers. They are not even mulcted of 2d. a week for that. Therefore, there should be no charge upon boys and girls who have been deprived of their further education. In fact, instead of depriving them of 2d. a week they ought to have a contribution from the Government to supplement their meagre wages.

8.17 p.m.

Photo of Captain Bertie Kirby Captain Bertie Kirby , Liverpool Everton

I should like to say a few words on this point because I have my name to a further Amendment—in page 2, line 32, to leave out "two," and to insert "four"—and I am afraid that if the present Amendment is not carried I shall not have an opportunity of referring to it. The point I want to bring before the Minister is that of the boy who starts work at a low wage.

The Deputy-Chairman:

I do not know whether the hon. Member for Everton (Mr. Kirby) wishes to reserve the question of increased contribution until his Amendment is reached, because it seems to me a little difficult to associate the two Amendments. I think perhaps the hon. Member had better leave his point until later.

Photo of Captain Bertie Kirby Captain Bertie Kirby , Liverpool Everton

If you are going to keep the Amendments separate, it may be difficult for me to express myself in the right way. I see in this Amendment a suggestion which affects the contribution of the boy or girl, and for that reason I feel that what I have to say will be in order.

The Deputy-Chairman:

Perhaps I may help the hon. Member. As the Amendment stands the effect of it will be to reduce the contribution on behalf of the boy or girl who comes under the Bill to the 2d. from the employer, and there will be no question of an increased contribution. If the hon. Member's Amendment is moved the effect will be that the boy and girl will pay 2d. and the employer 4d. If, however, he likes to argue on this Amendment that a further contribution be placed on the employers, I think that this will be the most suitable occasion.

Photo of Captain Bertie Kirby Captain Bertie Kirby , Liverpool Everton

I am much obliged to you, Captain Bourne. That is the point I wish to take up. I support this Amendment because for 15 years before coming to the House I was an official of an organisation which had in its membership a large number of juvenile employés. I found that a high percentage of them commenced work at a weekly wage of about 10s. a week. In the conditions that exist in Liverpool that 10s., although paid by the employer, never reaches the home of the boy. In most cases the boy is supposed to contribute 6d. to some welfare fund in the works where he is employed. Then there is a bill for tramway fares amounting to 2s. a week and a further 2s. 6d. per week for his dinners. That means a net amount of only 5s. to take home. In cases where there is unemployment in the family and relief from the public assistance committee was being drawn, the family might lose from 2s. to 4s. a week in relief owing to the boy taking home the net sum of 5s.

I recently came across a case of such a boy who started work eight weeks ago. It was necessary for the parents to use that 5s. for the first six weeks in order to buy an overcoat for the boy. Probably for the next six weeks they will have to save the 5s. in order to buy him a suit to make him fit for his new work. That means that although the family have lost 3s. a week of public assistance relief the boy is taking home nothing towards the support of himself and the rest of the family. In this Amendment we are not asking for charity in the sense that we are asking for any monetary contribution, but we are asking for charity in the sense that we want a change of mind and a new outlook on the benches opposite in regard to those matters which affect so vitally the small incomes of the poorest of the poor.

8.22 p.m.

Photo of Mr Valentine McEntee Mr Valentine McEntee , Walthamstow West

I feel that when I address a plea to the right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Health I shall get a courteous and civil reply but that I shall get nothing else. I like to hope, however, that on this occasion, because of the smallness of the request we are making, and because of the persons for whom the plea is made, namely, the children in industry, he will be more favourably disposed to our request than he usually is. I dare say that a good deal of consideration has been given by his Department and by himself to the matter we are discussing, but I would put it to the Minister that he does not understand industry as we do. He does not understand the homes of the working people as we do. He does riot understand that, although the sum involved is very small, when a boy goes to work the small income earned is a big consideration to a family in which perhaps the father is getting public assistance after a-ving been out of work for a long time. Reference has been made to the conditions prevailing in Liverpool. When my hon. Friend was speaking I was thinking that in London the conditions were very much worse than they are there.

I live in and represent one of the dormitory towns outside London, Walthamstow. Most of the population there earn their living in London. The wages paid to juveniles of 14 or thereabouts are not very high, particularly in the case of girls, and in some cases the wages are very low. I know of instances where after the expenditure on their fares to London and the small sum they spend daily on a meagre meal there is nothing to take home at the end of the week. In circumstances like that it is not asking too much, it certainly is not a matter of charity, to ask the employers to pay the small contribution required to insure those juveniles. Frankly, I am surprised that in the general circumstances applying to young people in industry to-day they should be asked to pay these contributions. I agree with the right hon. Member for North Cornwall (Sir F. Acland) that wages to-day are too low, and there can be no charity in asking employers who pay those low wages to pay the insurance. The only people who can compel them to do it are those who are responsible for this Bill, the Government, and I hope the right hon. Gentleman will concede this small point, and so enable the 2d. to go into homes where it is very often badly needed.

8.27 p.m.

Photo of Mr William Gallacher Mr William Gallacher , Fife Western

I want to weigh in along with the others in this matter, and should like to remind the Minister that for a day and a half we have been discussing the protection of the people of this country as a whole, and in the course of that discussion using the most high-flown sentiments. But how much are we doing for the protection of boys and girls who have to go to work at 14 years of age? If the Government show as much care for the people in connection with air-raid precautions as they are showing for these children, then the air-raid precau- tions will not go very far—and I do not expect them to go any further than the Government are going in the present case. I am convinced that the Government are not concerned about protecting the health of these boys and girls. If they were the Government would not ow them to go into factories at 14. The right hon. Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill), at the conclusion of his speech this afternoon, was making some play with what had been said by the spokesman for the Opposition, and said no language was sufficiently expressive to reply to it. I am prepared to say that no language is sufficient to express the meanness exhibited here in the treatment of these boys and girls. I am convinced that the spirit which animates this proposal for the insurance of boys and girls is the same as that which animates the Government in the defence of the people from air raids, and that means that there will be no defence. The Minister will agree with us in our sentiments, but when it comes to a question of hard cash he draws the line.

It has been mentioned that boys and girls travel long distances to work and in that way are put to expense. Hours of labour are different nowadays, but for many years I got up at half-past four in the morning in order to reach work at six o'clock. As to my wages, by the time I had paid tram and ferry fares and met all the odds and ends of liability which arise when one is away from home all day, I had practically no wages left to take home. A friend in my constituency has a child out at work, and by the time car fares have been paid and other odds and ends of expense met she comes home with no wages; but in the conditions prevailing there it is felt to be just as well that she should remain in that job, because it will probably give her a chance to get into some other job. What a condition of affairs ! If the Minister cares to consult the leaders of the Young Communist League, who are experts in this matter, they will give him thousands of cases of blind-alley jobs filled by boys and girls. They can get jobs at 14, and can keep those jobs till they are 16 or 17, and then other young people of 14 are brought in—

The Deputy-Chairman:

I cannot see that what the hon. Member is saying is relevant to the question whether the children or the employers should pay the insurance.

Photo of Mr William Gallacher Mr William Gallacher , Fife Western

I was going to show that employers who make a practice of employing cheap labour in the form of boys and girls ought to pay. In a supplementary question to-day one of the hon. Members on these benches drew attention to the fact that profits own no nationality, and if these boys and girls are used as cheap labour in order to make profits the least we can do is to ask the employers to pay the necessary insurance to guarantee them against the consequences should they fall ill or be thrown out of employment. The employer is not employing them out of charity, or because he is a philanthropist, but in order to make profits, and the Minister of Health, especially, ought to see to it that everything is done to guard their health and well-being. Is it possible to ask the Minister of Health to make himself responsible, so far as he can within the scope of this Bill, for guarding the health and well-being of these boys and girls without cost to them? We hope that in this small matter he will be prepared to put the consideration of the boys and girls before that of the employers.

8.35 p.m.

Photo of Mr David Logan Mr David Logan , Liverpool Scotland

I had not intended to speak on this matter, and did not know that any Amendments were to be put down. The right hon. Gentleman must be aware that under the principal Act all low-wage earners over 18 years of age and earning less than a stated sum are exempt, and the employers must pay the total amount of 9d. per week. I want to point out one or two exceptions which take place, and in which preferential treatment has been given to industrialists to obtain cheap boy labour. I remember well starting out at 4s. a week and continuing until I was 21 at 10s. a week as an indentured apprentice. The same applies to a boy leaving school to-day at 14, when he goes into the labour market. The lad who stays at school will not get any benefit. I agree that a boy leaving school will get the benefit by being able to get an additional period added on, but employers will again get the benefit of that labour.

A few moments ago my hon. Friend the Member for Everton (Mr. Kirby) dilated upon the question of income. Anybody with any knowledge of child labour will know that if a boy goes out at 14 years and three months of age, or 14 and four months, into employment, it must be because of necessity in the home. He is not able to go to a secondary school and continue his education until 16 years of age, because money is needed. As a member of the Liverpool municipal authority I would point out to the Minister that the full total of 10s. earned would be taken as income into the home, but there might be 3s. or 4s. travelling expenses and that meals have to be taken into consideration. I assure the right hon. Gentleman that in many instances this cheap boy labour would go home with only about is. 6d. or 2s. a week. That would be the most they could possibly take.

Child labour goes out at an early age to take the place of adult labour. These boys go out into casual employment only to become derelicts later on. I know that the right hon. Gentleman is anxious to guard against this kind of thing. The standard rate for boys of 16 years of age is naturally higher than for boys of 14, but if the employers get this cheap labour of from 14 to 16 years, these boys will be thrown on the scrap-heap by the pressure of competition and many of theta will be added to the numbers of the unemployed. I am told by responsible persons that we have in this country at least 250,000 boys and girls of 14 years of age. That is a tremendous number and if they could get this grant it would be very beneficial to them.

In regard to the solvency of the fund, I think it would not affect the societies from the actuarial point of view. You would have to consider only the contracts which you had entered into with the doctors and what agreements you had with the societies for administration. Those would be the two principal points in the financial work of the Bill, not taking into account the extra benefits during the two years or 18 months that these persons get the benefits. Those are the only two things to be borne in mind. In view of the better state of employment of this country and of the shortage of child labour to-day, and in view of the fact that we are allowing these young boys to go into the labour market and are giving the employers a commodity which they cannot possibly purchase unless it is released from school, it is surely not asking too much that the employers should bear the whole cost. It is a small amount and when the boy be- comes a wage-earner and gets higher rates of wages at 16 years of age, the contribution could be raised pro rata. I am sure that hon. Members will agree that this is a right and proper Amendment and that the Minister might wisely grant the concession.

8.41 p.m.

Photo of Sir Kingsley Wood Sir Kingsley Wood , Woolwich West

I appreciate the points of view which have been put forward by hon. Gentlemen opposite. They have counselled me in this matter and invited me to look at the question with a new outlook. Perhaps they will allow me to say that I am looking at it with a new outlook and that that is why the Bill has been brought in. The opportunity of bringing in this Bill has, of course, rested with a number of Governments and a number of Ministers of Health, but I think I am entitled to claim, I hope wihout arousing controversy, that this Measure marks a considerable step forward, as hon. Gentlemen opposite have admitted, and that I am the first Minister of Health to bring this proposal before the House of Commons. Therefore, I do not think anyone is entitled to challenge my outlook upon this matter or my desire to assist these young people and to fill the gap which it is so necessary should be filled. I say in my own defence that hon. Gentlemen opposite have no cause to reproach me, having regard to the considerable measure of improvement that this Bill will make.

On an examination of the Amendment it must be clear that it would be impossible for the Committee to accept it. If you take the first two Amendments together, the effect would be to make the total contribution for the juveniles of this country, 2d. a week, payable by the employers. If that were adopted, as hon. Gentlemen know who are concerned with the administration of approved societies, it would be impossible to pay the benefits which it is proposed under the Bill to give to juveniles. My first objection to the Amendment is, therefore, a purely technical one. I agree that it might be put right, on further reflection, by the two hon. Gentlemen who put it forward, but no one could possibly vote for it at present because it would not allow a suitable contribution to be given. The contribution would not be sufficient to meet the cost of medical benefit pro- vided by the Bill and of its administration.

Photo of Mr John Leslie Mr John Leslie , Sedgefield

Can the Minister accept the further Amendment which mentions four?

Photo of Sir Kingsley Wood Sir Kingsley Wood , Woolwich West

I am afraid not. If the other Amendment were taken by itself—there is a series of Amendments which show a certain continuity in form—it would make the contribution 6d. per week, namely, 2d. by the employed contributor and 4d. by the employer, which is obviously not intended.

Photo of Captain Bertie Kirby Captain Bertie Kirby , Liverpool Everton

The Minister is saying that our Amendment would mean an increase in the contribution. I know that he is kind and generous and that he would not like any misunderstanding to take place outside the House. We believe that we should do away with contributions, so far as these employed people are concerned, and that the whole onus should be placed upon the employer.

The Deputy-Chairman:

If I may say a word on the point which has been made by the hon. Member for Everton (Mr. Kirby), I had very considerable difficulty this morning, in going through these Amendments, in trying to make up my mind whether the Amendment in the name of the hon. Member for Aberavon (Mr. Cove) was really part of a composite Amendment. Both Amendments could stand on their own merits, but I thought it possible that they were intended to be one composite Amendment. I have had considerable doubt on the matter in my own mind, and I think the Minister is absolutely justified in having a doubt in his mind. I should only like to say that it would be a great help to the Chair and to Ministers and other hon. Members of the House, if, when Amendments are intended to form part of a composite scheme, they could be put down on the Order Paper in the names of the same hon. Members in the same order. That would enable a preliminary survey to be made as to whether the Amendments were intended to form part of one scheme or not. If that is not done, it may be that, with the best will in the world and with every desire on the part of the Chair to be helpful to hon. Members in all parts of the House, difficulties may arise.

Photo of Mr Arthur Greenwood Mr Arthur Greenwood , Wakefield

Before the Minister resumes his speech, perhaps I may be allowed to say that our desire was to abolish the contributions of the juveniles, and, in order to make that possible, to increase the contribution of the employer from 2d. to 4d.

The Deputy-Chairman:

I fully appreciate what the right hon. Gentleman says; he was good enough to have a word with me, and I have allowed the discussion to continue on that basis; but if the Amendment at the top of page 414—in page 2, line 32, to leave out "two," and to insert "four"—had been put down in the names of the same hon. Members, I think the matter would have been clear both to myself and to the Minister. It will be of great assistance if that can be done in the future.

Photo of Sir Kingsley Wood Sir Kingsley Wood , Woolwich West

I quite understand the position of hon. Gentlemen opposite, and I have no doubt, Captain Bourne, that the observations you have been good enough to make will be taken to heart in all quarters of the Committee. The case, of course, for putting the whole contribution on the employer was made by the right hon. Gentleman on the Second Reading a few days ago. The scheme of National Health Insurance has contemplated from the very beginning a division of the contributions between employers and employed, with a definite proportion of the cost payable from the Exchequer, and, as was said by the right hon. Gentleman on the Second Reading, the only case in which the employer has to bear the whole contribution is where exceptionally low wages are paid to persons over the age of 18. It is worth noting, however, that no modification of the normal arrangement is made for young persons of from 16 to 18, even if they are paid low wages, and at no time has any Minister in any Government proposed any modification of that arrangement. Therefore, the suggestion does not really fit in with the proposals that are being made in this Bill. The division of the contribution between the employer, the worker and the State is normal in all schemes of sickness insurance, and I see that the National Convention on Sickness Insurance for Workers in Industry and Commerce and Domestic Servants, adopted at Geneva in 1927 and ratified by the Government of the United Kingdom, contains the following article—Article 7: The insured persons and their employers shall share in providing the financial resources of the sickness insurance system. Instances have been given of hard cases in which, for instance, a juvenile might be out of employment or ill; but the hon. Member who mentioned those cases forgot for the moment, of course, that arrangements are made under this Bill for contributions to cease in cases of that sort. In the circumstances I am afraid I must ask the Committee to reject the Amendment and to adhere to the normal arrangement which has been made. The hon. Member for West Fife (Mr. Gallacher) invited me to consult the Young Communist League. I have consulted on this proposal the representatives of the approved societies. So far as I am aware, no suggestion of this kind has come from them, and, with all respect to the hon. Member's friends of the Young Communist League, I prefer to rest upon the advice I have received from leaders of all branches of approved societies in the country. It is in such circumstances that the Government have brought forward their proposals in this Bill.

8.53 p.m.

Photo of Mr Arthur Greenwood Mr Arthur Greenwood , Wakefield

I expected this reply from the right hon. Gentleman—

Photo of Mr Arthur Greenwood Mr Arthur Greenwood , Wakefield

The right hon. Gentleman has introduced a very small Bill; and, when he is asked to make a very small concession in a very small Bill, he refuses to do so. He regards this Bill as a considerable measure of improvement, but it is nothing of the kind. It brings into medical benefit for two years young persons who have hitherto been outside insurance. I am glad that they are brought in, but all that they get out of it is medical benefit, and, if we had an effective school-leaving age of 16, they would get that medical treatment in the school clinics. It is really doing very little, and I do not regard it as a considerable measure of improvement. Now the right hon. Gentleman says that, if they do not get this wretched 2d. a week, they cannot give the benefits. The benefits are negligible.

Hon. Members on this side of the Committee have pointed out that 2d. per week matters a great deal where the wage is small. I am sorry that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for North Corn- wall (Sir F. Acland), having perhaps fluttered for the last time the flag of individualism, has fled. He was against our proposal; he talked about a peddling 2d. In the Debate on the King's Speech I referred to a speech made by a Minister of the Crown in which he said that there was only an increase in the cost of living of a penny in the shilling, a penny meaning nothing; but 2d. means an awful lot to the right hon. Gentleman. His scheme could not work without these two pennies. Have hon. Members opposite ever thought what a penny means to a hard-driven working family? I do not think that they realise the number of deductions of one kind and another that are made from wages, compulsorily or voluntarily, as in the case of hospitals. I do not think that they realise what is the obvious fact, that a child of 14 is not sent out to work because the parents want that child to be flung on the labour market. He or she goes out to work because those few shillings earned mean something important to the housewife, who is the chancellor of the exchequer in the home.

The right hon. Gentleman the Member for North Cornwall (Sir. F. Arland) talked about a charity scheme, and said he did not want a charity scheme. This is not a charity scheme. Health insurance never has been a charity scheme. We are not asking for charity when we ask for the inclusion of these new entrants into health insurance for a contribution. The right hon. Gentleman has not replied to the case I made on Second Reading, or to the speeches that have been made on these benches to-night. This House has recognised that in the case of low-wage earners there is no surplus to make any contributions, but the right hon. Gentleman says that that is only for persons over 18, and then he says that we are guilty of a grave illogicality in doing nothing for people between the ages of 16 and 18. But that is not our fault. The sub-title of the Bill makes it clear that the purpose of the Bill is to make certain persons under 16 eligible for benefit.

This kind of finicking Debate is merely avoiding the main point at issue. The main point is not this quotation which is made from an International Convention, because that Convention has been flouted by this Government. The idea that there should be joint contributions is abrogated by the law of this country in the case of people with low wages who are under 18 years of age. That, then, is the case for requiring, not for full benefit, but for very restricted benefit, contributions from immature workers, who are shamefully exploited, who, by the time they become eligible to enter unemployment insurance under the old Act, are ruthlessly dismissed because the employer does not want to pay the contributions. I say that there is no case for asking these young people who are shamefully exploited to pay a contribution for the most limited of benefits. They are exploited because they are used for blind-alley occupations, which end at the time of normal entry into health insurance. They are exploited because of the anxiety of parents to increase the family income. They are exploited because there are people a little better off who would be glad that their daughters should earn pin-money. It is not uncommon, as has been pointed out on these benches, because of the necessary cost of meals, transport and subscriptions that they have to pay from even these sweated wages, for their earnings to become almost negligible, yet, out of this very exiguous weekly payment that so many juvenile workers receive, the right hon.

Gentleman wants to levy a toll of 2d. a week.

This Bill can be described as mean. I think it is mean. The right hon. Gentleman cannot have it both ways. In a curious kind of reasoning, which I cannot understand, he defends low-wage earners under 18 not paying a contribution, but then goes on to argue that there is an International Labour Convention which says that everybody ought to pay. I am bound to say that this is a very small and mean Measure. If the right hon. Gentleman would give us this cons cession he would make a gesture to show his sincerity and his desire to make health insurance a good scheme. The right hon. Gentleman, I am afraid, will not make any kind of compromise, and in those circumstances we have no alternative but to ask the House to declare whether it thinks it right that juvenile workers, who ought not to be in industry at all, should, as the price of their employment, because of family necessity, contribute to a service which they ought to enjoy as school children, 2d. a week as workers. I hope the Committee—I am always an optimist—will take our point of view.

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

The Committee divided: Ayes, 194: Noes, 121.

Division No. 16.]AYES.[9.4 p.m.
Acland, Rt. Hon. Sir F. DykeClarke, Lt.-Col. R. S. (E. Grinstead)Fildes, Sir H.
Acland, R. T. D. (Barnstaple)Clarry, Sir ReginaldFindlay, Sir E.
Adams, S. V. T. (Leeds, W.)Conant, Captain R. J. E.Fleming, E. L.
Albery, Sir IrvingCook, Sir T. R. A. M. (Norfolk, N.)Foot, D. M.
Anderson, Sir A. Garrett (C. of Ldn.)Cooke, J. D. (Hammersmith, S.)Fox, Sir G. W. G.
Aske, Sir R. W.Cooper, Rt. Hn. T. M. (Enburgh, W.)Ganzoni, Sir J.
Assheton, R.Cox, H. B. T.George, Major G. Lloyd (Pembroke)
Atholl, Duchess ofCraven-Ellis, W.George, Megan Lloyd (Anglesey)
Baillie, Sir A. W. M.Crooke, J. S.Gledhill, G.
Baldwin-Webb, Col. J.Crookshank, Capt. H. F. C.Gluckstein, L. H.
Balfour, G. (Hampstead)Croom-Johnson, R. P.Greene, W. P. C. (Worcester)
Balfour, Capt. H. H. (Isle of Thanet)Cross, R. H.Gridley, Sir A. B.
Barrie, Sir B. C.Crossley, A. C.Griffith, F. Kingsley (M'ddl'sbro, W.)
Beauchamp, Sir B. C.Cruddas, Col. B.Grimston, R. V.
Beaumont, Hon. R. E. B. (Portsm'h)Davies, C. (Montgomery)Guinness, T. L. E. B.
Beechman, N. A.Davies, Major Sir G. F. (Yeovil)Hannah, I. C.
Bennett, Sir E. N.Denman, Hon. R. D.Hannon, Sir P. J. H.
Bernays, R. H.Denville, AlfredHarbord, A.
Blair, Sir R.Dodd, J. S.Haslam, Henry (Horncastle)
Boulton, W. W.Dorman-Smith, Major Sir R. H.Haslam, Sir J. (Bolton)
Boyce, H. LeslieDrewe, C.Heilgers, Captain F. F. A.
Braithwaite, Major A. N.Duckworth, W. R. (Moss Side)Heneage, Lieut.-Colonel A. P.
Brass, Sir W.Dugdale, Captain T. L.Hepburn, P. G. T. Buchan-
Briscoe, Capt. R. G.Duggan, H. J.Hepworth, J.
Brown, Cal. D. C. (Hexham)Duncan, J. A. L.Herbert, Capt. Sir S. (Abbey)
Brown, Brig.-Gen. H. C. (Newbury)Eastwood, J. F.Higgs, W. F.
Browne, A. C. (Belfast, W.)Eckersley, P. T.Holmes, J. S.
Bull, B. B.Ellis, Sir G.Hope, Captain Hon. A. O. J.
Butcher, H. W.Emery, J. F.Hopkinson, A.
Campbell, Sir E. T.Entwistle, Sir C. F.Hume, Sir G. H.
Cary, R. A.Errington, E.Hurd, Sir P. A.
Cazalet, Thelma (Islington, E.)Evans, E. (Univ. of Wales)Jarvis, Sir J. J.
Chapman, A. (Rutherglen)Everard, W. L.Joel, D. J. B.
Jones, Sir H. Haydn (Merioneth)Owen, Major G.Simmonds, O. E.
Keeling, E. HPeat, C. U.Somerset, T.
Kerr, J. Graham (Scottish Univs.)Peters, Dr. S. J.Somervell. Sir D. B. (Crewe)
Kimball, L.Petherick, M.Somerville, A. A. (Windsor)
Lamb, Sir J. Q.Pickthern, K. W. M.Spans. W. P.
Law, R. K. (Hull, S.W.)Ponsonby, Col. C. E.Stewart, J. Henderson (Fife, E.)
Lees-Jones, J.Porritt, R. W.Strauss, E. A. (Southwark, N.)
Leighton, Major B. E. P.Pownall, Lt.-Col. Sir AsshetonStrauss, H. G. (Norwich)
Levy, T.Radford, E. A.Stuart, Hon. J. (Moray and Nairn)
Lewis, O.Raikes, H. V. A. M.Sutoliffe, H.
Liddall, W. S.Ramsbotham, H.Tasker, Sir R. I.
Lipson, D. L.Ramadan, Sir E.Taylor, C. S. (Eastbourne)
Lletsellin, Lieut.-Col. J. J.Rathbone, J. R. (Bodmin)Titcifield. Marquess of
Loftus, P. C.Reed, A. C. (Exeter)Touche, G. C.
Lovat-Fraser, J. A.Reid, Sir D. D. (Down)Tree, A. R. L. F.
MacAndrew, Colonel Sir C. G.Reid, J. S. C. (Hillhead)Tufnell, Lieut.-Commander R. L.
Macdonald, Capt. P. (Isle of Wight)Reid, W. Allan (Derby)Turton, R. H.
Macquisten, F. A.Rickards, G. W. (Skipton)Ward, Lieut.-Col. Sir A. L. (Hull)
Magnay, T.Ropner, Colonel L.Waterhouse, Captain C.
Makins, Brig.-Gen. E.Ross Taylor, W. (Woodbridge)Wedderburn, H. J. S.
Manningham-Buller, Sir M.Rowlands, G.White, H. Graham
Margesson, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. D. R.Royds, Admiral P. M. R.Whiteley, Major J. P. (Buckingham)
Markham, S. F.Ruggles-Brise, Colonel Sir E. A.Willoughby de Eresby, Lord
Mason, Lt.-Col. Hon. G. K. M.Russell, Sir AlexanderWilson, Lt.-Col. Sir A. T. (Hitchin)
Mayhew, Lt.-Col. J.Russell, R. J. (Eddisbury)Windsor-Clive, Lieut.-Colonel G.
Mellor, Sir R. J. (Mitcham)Russell, S. H. M. (Darwen)Womersley, Sir W. J.
Mellor, Sir J. S. P. (Tamworth)Salt, E. W.Wood, Rt. Hon. Sir Kingsley
Mills, Sir F. (Leyton, E.)Samuel, M. R. A.Wragg, H.
Mills, Major J. D. (New Forest)Sanderson, Sir F. B.Wright, Wing-Commander J. A. C.
Mitcheson, Sir G. G.Sandi's, E. D.
Munro, P.Selley, H. R.TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—
Neven-Spence, Major B. H. H.Shakespeare, G. H.Major Herbert and Major Sir
Nicholson, G. (Farnham)Shaw, Major P. S. (Wavertree)James Edmondson.
Adams, D. (Consett)Groves, T. E.Montague, F.
Adamson, W. M.Guest, Dr, L. H. (Islington, N.)Morrison, Rt. Hon, H. (Hackney, S.)
Alexander, Rt. Hon. A. V. (H'lsbr.)Hall, G. H. (Aberdare)Morrison, R. C. (Tottenham, N.)
Ammon, C. G.Hardie, AgnesMuff, G.
Anderson, F. (Whitehaven)Harris, Sir P. A.Oliver, G. H.
Bonfield, J. W.Harvey, T. E. (Eng. Univ's.)Paling, W.
Barnes, A. J.Hayday, A.Parker, J.
Barr, J.Henderson, A. (Kingswinford)Pethick-Lawrence, Rt. Hon. F. W.
Batey, J.Henderson, J. (Ardwick)Price, M. P.
Bellenger, F. J.Henderson, T. (Tradeston)Quibell, D. J. K.
Bann, Rt. Hon. W. W.Hicks, E. G.Richards, R. (Wrexham)
Benson, G.Hills, A. (Pontefract)Ridley, G.
Bevan, A.Hollins, A.Riley, B.
Broad, F. A.Hopkin, D.Ritson, J.
Bromfield, W.Jagger, J.Robinson, W. A. (St. Helens)
Brown, C. (Mansfield)Jenkins, A. (Pontypool)Sexton, T. M.
Brown, Rt. Hon. J. (S. Ayrshire)Jenkins, Sir W. (Neath)Shinwell, E
Burke, W. A.Johnston, Rt. Hon. T.Short, A.
Chafer, D.Jones, A. C. (Shipley)Silkin, L.
Cluse, W. S.Kelly, W. T.Simpson, F. B.
Clynes, Rt. Hon. J. R.Kennedy, Rt. Hon. T.Smith, E. (Stoke)
Cove, W. G.Kirby, B. V.Smith, Rt. Hon. H. B. Lees- (K'ly)
Cripps, Hon. Sir StaffordLansbury, Rt. Hon. G.Smith, T. (Normanton)
Dalton, H.Lathan, G.Stewart, W. J. (Hght'n-le-Sp'ng)
Davies, S. O. (Merthyr)Lawson, J. J.Taylor, R. J. (Morpeth)
Bobbie, W.Leach, W.Thurile, E.
Dunn, E. (Rather Valley)Lee, F.Tinker, J. J.
Ede, J. C.Leslie, J. R.Viant, S. P.
Edwards, A. (Middlesbrough E.)Logan, D. G.Walkden, A. G.
Edwards, Sir C. (Bedwellty)Lunn, W.Watkins, F. C.
Evans, D. O. (Cardigan)Macdonald. G. (Ince)Watson, W. McL.
Fletcher, Lt.-Comdr. R. T. H.McEntee, V. La T.Welsh, J. C.
Frankel, D.McGhee, H. G.Westwood, J.
Gallacher, W.McGovern, J.Whiteley, W. (Blaydon)
Gardner, B. W.MacLaren, A.Williams, E. J. (Ogmore)
Gibbins, J.Maclean, N.Williams, T. (Don Valley)
Gibson, R. (Greenock)MacNeill, Weir, L.Wilson, C. H. (Attercliffe)
Green, W. H. (Deptford)Mainwaring, W. H.Windsor, W. (Hull, C.)
Greenwood, Rt. Hon. A.Marklew, E.Woods, G. S. (Finsbury)
Grenfell, D. R.Marshall, F.
Griffiths, J. (Llanelly)Messer, F.TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—
Mr. Mothers and Mr. Charleton.

Question put, and agreed to.

Clause ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 3 to 7 ordered to stand part of the Bill.