(1) Notwithstanding anything in—
Provided that that supplementary allowance, increase or additional allowance, shall become payable in respect of any such week as aforesaid if and when it has been found by revision of the award, or by an express decision under Section five of this Act, that the allowance under this Act awarded in respect of the child did not accrue during any part of that week and, in the case of an award or of a decision of the Minister, the time for making an application to have the matter referred under that Section has expired or the matter has been referred there under and the Minister's award or decision has been affirmed.
(2) Where a supplementary allowance, an increase in weekly rate of benefit, or an additional allowance, has been paid in respect of a child under any of the enactments aforesaid in respect of any period before the making of an award of an allowance under this Act in respect of the child, the Minister may in his discretion treat any sums which may subsequently become receivable on account of the allowance so far as accruing during that period as reduced for the purposes of this Act by an amount not exceeding such an amount as he is satisfied to have been paid as aforesaid by way of supplementary allowance, increase or additional allowance, under any of those enactments, and—
(3) Sub-section (1) of Section three of the Workmen's Compensation (Supplementary Allowances) Act, 1940, shall have effect with the substitution for the words "Any employer against whom a claim for supplementary allowances is made may by notice in writing require the workman to make a declaration in such form as may be prescribed by the Minister of National Insurance and containing such information as may be necessary for the purposes of this Act as to any children in respect of whom allowances are claimed" of the words It shall be the duty of an employer against whom a claim for supplementary allowances is made by notice in writing to require the workman to make a declaration in such form as may be prescribed by the Minister of National Insurance and containing such information as may be so prescribed as to any children of his," and it shall be the duty of an employer to transmit to the Minister a copy of any declaration made to him by a workman under the said Sub-section (1).
(4) The committee of management of, or other person administering, a scheme duly certified under Sub-section (1) of Section thirty-one of the Workmen's Compensation Act, 1925, by the Registrar of Friendly Societies may submit to the Registrar proposals for amending the scheme with respect to the benefits there under in respect of children, and the Registrar, if satisfied that the effect of amending the scheme in accordance with the proposals will not be to render the benefits under the scheme (after discounting any additional benefits arising as a result of contributions by the workmen) less favourable to the -workmen than the benefits provided by the Workmen's Compensation Acts, 1925 to 1943, may amend the scheme accordingly, and the certificate given by him in respect of the scheme shall continue to apply to the amended scheme.—[Mr. Hore-Belisha.]
I beg to move, "That the Clause be read a Second time."
It would perhaps be convenient to the House if I were to make a statement on the two new Clauses which appear in my name on the Order Paper. On the Committee stage of this important Measure, which my right hon. Friend and predecessor so creditably introduced, many suggestions and criticisms were made. In the natural course of events these would have been carefully and sympathetically considered, particularly where promises were given, before any further stages of the Bill were taken. It so transpired, however, that the Government was changed, the impending Dissolution was announced, and in consequence the prospects of survival of this Bill became meagre. Discussions were held, strong representations were made to the Government from all quarters, and as a result it has been found that by artificial respiration we can keep this Bill alive. I am very glad of that, not only for my right hon. Friend's sake, but for the sake of those who will ultimately benefit.
How do these two new Clauses fit into the Bill? The Bill itself provides universally for every family which includes two or more children an allowance in respect of each child in the family other than the elder or eldest at the rate of 5s. a week. To that provision there are no exceptions. Every family in Great Britain will benefit, whether the breadwinner be at work or not. This Bill, however, was introduced by my right hon. Friend only as a part of a comprehensive scheme, and it is very difficult to judge it except in the wider context. When that more comprehensive scheme, described in the White Papers, is. in operation, anomalies will have been removed. There will have been a consolidation of all the benefits under the insurance code. It was always intended, and has been repeatedly stated, that the benefits to the second and subsequent children in every family will then be payable under this Bill, whereas under the other insurance schemes which will then, we hope, be consolidated, increased benefits will be given to the insured adults and their first children. It is in that framework that we must look at this Bill. In some cases the improvements of the more comprehensive scheme have been anticipated. That is the case, for instance, with unemployment insurance.
In 1944 the benefits for single men were raised from 20s. to 24s., for a married man from 30s. to 40s., for the first child the payment was increased from 4s. to 5s., for the second child from 4s. to 5s. also and for the third child from 3s. to 4s. Therefore, the ultimate advantages contemplated by the comprehensive scheme have already been anticipated in that case. Likewise with Workmen's Compensation. When the late Home Secretary introduced the Bill which increased the children's allowances he specifically stated that the intention was that the increases should fit into this Bill when it was introduced. The Widows', Orphans' and Old Age (Contributory) Pensions Act is to be entirely remodelled. In the meantime, under this Bill the children's allowances are increased in respect of the second and subsequent children from 3s. to 5s. Therefore it is not unreasonable that the first Clause that I am introducing should reiterate the principle, which was clearly enunciated in the White Papers and accepted by the leaders of all parties, that there should be no duplication. It will be seen that the intentions of the White Papers have been forestalled in some measure by this Clause. We stand upon that principle and I do not think that anyone falling under the Clause is put at a disadvantage.
It was on the second Clause, the old Clause 13, that the major criticism came: Fears were expressed because it began with these words:
The Minister may make Regulations for the reduction or withholding of an allowance under this Act in respect of a child for whom an allowance or other addition to emoluments is being paid by the Navy, Army, Air Force and certain other Services.
It was felt that His Majesty's Forces would be deprived of benefits which were coming to other sections of the community. The Government take the view that the Forces are as much entitled to benefits as any other wage-earners. They are indeed wage earners engaged in the most honourable, and at this moment the most indispensable, of all professions. It is on that footing, therefore, that they will receive these allowances or equivalent benefits in addition to any allowances which are paid to them by the respective Departments which preside over their fortunes. They will get this as an addition. It is a mere matter of chance that the soldiers' or sailors' pay is divided up into packets and distributed as between the man, his wife and his children, and the proportions in which that distribution is made are equally fortuitious. To discover what a soldier is paid you must look at the conditions as a whole. That brings in at once the consideration that it is part of the terms of his engagement that, if he be killed or wounded, his dependants should be cared for by payments from the State. We therefore include in this Clause as entitled to allowances, not only the soldier and his dependants but also his orphan children. I know that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for East Edinburgh (Mr. Pethick-Lawrence) and others feel, particularly if we are going to give a considerable benefit to war orphans, it is anomalous that we should leave in Clause 12 the civilian orphan on a much lower basis. It is the intention of the Government to give 12s. to that orphan instead of the present 7s. 6d., but we cannot accept the Amendment to leave out that Clause because it would mean recommitting the Bill, and there are so many benefits in it that we will not jeopardise its passage.
I only wanted to say that I was aware of the anomaly. The benefits which will result under the Clause are as follow: The serving soldier's first child will continue to receive 12s. 6d. His second and subsequent children will receive 17s. 6d. each, or an equivalent benefit of 17s. 6d. The first child of a sailor's, soldier's or airman's widow will receive us. and his second and subsequent children 16s. each. The 100 per cent, disabled soldier's first child receives 7s. 6d., and now the second and subsequent children will receive 12s. 6d. each, and, by analogy, the child of a civilian casualty will also receive 12s. 6d. for the second and subsequent children. The orphan will receive 18s. 6d. if it qualifies as a member of the family. If it is the first child it will receive 13s. 6d. as now, and, if the second, third or subsequent child in the family, 18s. 6d. So the Government has more than met the desire of the House, and I hope hon. Members will accept this new and forthright Clause which confers these benefits without any question on the Service man or woman and his or her dependent family.
There are two periods envisaged in the Bill. In the first, which is an interim period, the Minister must be satisfied that the relevant Department is paying these allowances in addition to the present allowances, either in the form prescribed by the Bill or in some other form which gives an equivalent advantage for the family, in order that the purposes of the Bill may be fulfilled. They may be the paying authority, but I must be satisfied that the soldiers' and sailors' children get the full benefit under the Bill, and the House itself must be satisfied, because before the allowances can be withdrawn the House must approve that withdrawal by affirmative Resolution. So there is a double safeguard, and there is no doubt that the children will get the benefit.
There is an ultimate period envisaged when I receive a certificate from the Treasury that the pay has been revised, because it is contemplated in the end that all second and subsequent children in the State should come under the provisions of this Bill. That will mean a revision as between the basic pay and the family allowances in certain departments. We have extended this Clause beyond its original scope. We have for instance included the orphan, who was excluded before. We have left out the police and firemen on the de minimis principle. There are only about 1,000 of each, and if a few duplicated pensions are paid for a while to a few people it does not matter, because these pensions are also to be revised, as are others, in the light of this Bill. I beg to move the first Clause standing in my name.
I have read the two new Clauses on the Order Paper with a great deal of care, and I have listened to the explanation which the right hon. Gentleman has given, and I am sure that he will agree that this is an exceedingly difficult and complicated subject. Clause 13, with which the main change is principally concerned, was dealt with pretty fully by the House in Committee, and on all sides views were put forward representing a fair measure of unanimity and a desire to see considerable changes made in the Clause. Speaking for myself and, I think, for those who sit with me, I can say that we welcome the decision of the Government to bow to the wishes of the House expressed in Committee and that the Amendments which are embodied in this new Clause therefore commend general assent. As I understand your Ruling, Sir, I can to a slight extent discuss the other new Clause, but any remarks I make with regard to the rest of the Bill must be brief. I think, therefore, that I can best meet your wishes and the views of the House by putting into a few words my general attitude and the attitude of the Opposition on this question.
This is a question on which there has been considerable agitation in the country for many years and which culminates in this Measure, and though the Bill is very important in itself, it is, nevertheless, only one piece in the picture of social insurance. Not only is it only one piece, but all the other pieces have not been before the House so far in any shape or form. Indeed, some of them are probably still in the making. The nature of the grand plan as a whole, therefore, cannot be fully appreciated, because, until all these pieces in the jigsaw puzzle have been put together, the House cannot envisage the picture as a whole. If time had permitted, those of us who sit on these benches would have liked to present our views at greater length as to the precise shape of this particular piece which is to fit into the whole plan. If our views had found favour with the House and the Government, particularly on Clauses 12, 13 and 14, the Government would, no doubt, have amended the Bill in accord with our suggestions.
But the fact from which none of us can escape is that we have not time to expound our views now. We are working to very close time. The twelfth hour, not of the clock, but of the Session and of this Parliament, is in the act of striking, and, therefore, in order that the Bill may be placed on the Statute Book before the Dissolution, I am prepared to say, speaking for the Opposition, that we will assent to the Bill being carried in the form in which the Government are now asking us to carry it. We must then wait until the other sections of the social security scheme are fashioned in order that, together with this piece, the other pieces may make up a tidy and satisfactory whole of which this House and the country can be reasonably enamoured. It is in that spirit that I hope the proposals of the Government may be accepted, in order that this Bill, which is greatly desired by the country as a whole, whatever minor points there may be which could be improved and which the Minister himself has said the Government will, no doubt, consider before the whole scheme is introduced, may be carried on to the Statute Book before the Dissolution takes place.
I want to express my satisfaction that this Bill has been saved and to point out what I believe to be the moral of this incident. As so often during the course of this Parliament, Measures have made good progress until we have come up against the problem of the Forces. Over and over again the Government have stumbled when they have reached that point. In the long Debate which took place recently, when the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Ashton-under-Lyne (Sir W. Jowitt) was in charge of the Bill, there were three or four hours of heated controversy, all because the Government refused to realise the feeling on all benches that the Service man must have fair play in all these Measures. I am glad that some sort of agreement has been reached on this admittedly difficult problem of non-duplication. It is doubtful whether there is any hon. Member who feels that the ideal solution has been reached.
My own view is that these new Clauses represent a complicated, almost clumsy, method of dealing with the matter; but, at any rate, it is a method of sorts, and, as the right hon. Gentleman the Member for East Edinburgh (Mr. Pethick-Lawrence) has said, we have now reached a stage in the history of this Parliament when we cannot afford to look a gift horse in the mouth. It is much better that this Bill should reach the Statute before the Dissolution and the end of this Parliament, imperfect as we feel it to be. I should like to congratulate the new Minister on his appointment and to thank him for the lucid exposition he gave of these complicated Clauses. I am glad that almost the last Bill which we are passing is this one and that it is new assured of a passage to the Statute Book. I agree with the right hon. Member for East Edinburgh that there are many pieces of the jigsaw yet to be fitted, and I am sure that when the Government and the right hon. Gentleman return in a few weeks time to the Treasury Bench, reinforced and refreshed by their contact with the electorate, they will press forward to that desirable end.
I, like previous speakers, welcome this solution, because I feel it would have been a great misfortune if this Bill, to which millions of people have been looking forward so eagerly, had got so far and had then fallen down and its passing had been postponed. We are all making great sacrifices in accepting the compromise, but we are glad that a possibility of getting the Bill through should have been arrived at by agreement between the parties.
I only desire to say a word or two on the Clause. I regret that the principle of duplication should have been applied to contributory civilian widows. I do not wish to discuss the other cases which are dealt with in what used to be Clause 14 of the Bill, but I think the unemployment section is more difficult. Let me remind the House of the position as to the contributory widow. She is a widow who gets her present modest pension by virtue of the previous contributions of her husband, her employer and perhaps herself, so that five-sixths of the pension she has hitherto been paid has been paid out of contributions. What advantage does she now obtain from this Bill? She keeps 10s. for herself and 5s. for the child—they are not affected by the Bill—but the 3s. she gets under the contributory pensions scheme for second and subsequent children is now raised to 5s. so that she is 2s. better off for each child after the first one. That is a very poor result from benefits which are paid for by the general taxpayer. When we consider that the soldier's wife, who is much more liberally dealt with under this new Clause, already gets 12s. 6d. for the first child, the civilian wife would be a millionaire if she had been allowed to get 8s. for each of the later children. I wish some concession could have been made to the widows, but now we must look to the new Insurance Act to remedy this injustice.
I would like to follow my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Holder-ness (Lieut.-Commander Braithwaite) in congratulating the Minister on this Clause which affects the Forces in particular. Many of us have felt very strongly about this question of Service pay. I must confess that when the Clause was withdrawn I did not think it possible that the Minister could re-introduce any Clause of which I and some of my hon. Friends would approve. When I first read the Clause my misgivings were not entirely allayed because I found it quite incomprehensible, but after reading it several times and discussing it with the Parliamentary Secretary I began to see the light. As I understand it, the children of those who have been killed and injured will get this extra 5s. while they are of a proper age, and the children of those still serving will get it until there is a complete re-organisation of the terms of Service pay and allowances. When that time comes we may have something to say to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for War. However, that will be a different problem. I feel entirely satisfied and I congratulate my right hon. Friend on this rather strange Clause.
In spite of the general feeling of satisfaction concerning this Clause, it is hard for the ordinary layman to understand these discrepancies. I understand this was for the benefit of all the children in the whole of the country. It has been said to-night that it is part of the picture of the whole scheme. The hon. Member for the English Universities (Miss Rathbone) mentioned the case of the widow who, I think, has been harshly treated in the past, and she will only have her money made up to 5s. The unemployed people who are unfortunate enough to be out of work are not to receive these benefits. True, their money will be made up, but they will not get the benefits. One appreciates the fact that benefits are going to the Forces, but the unemployed man is only to be made up to 5s. at the worst part of his life. How are we going to explain to the industrial worker, the miner and so on, who, while he is receiving full wages of £5 or £6 a week, will receive family allowances—no one complains about that because it will be for the child—but who, when he falls on evil days and receives a bad injury which may last for years, must live on 30s. a week? In the past they have had to apply for poor law relief and we do not want that to happen again. The workers of the country will not understand why they are being left out. I have been in public life for many years, and I have never known the time to be opportune for any big scheme of reform. It appears that the same applies to this Measure. While I appreciate the distance we have gone there are a few anomalies which ought to be remedied.
We ought to be satisfied that this Bill has been saved. Obviously, with the present Parliament coming to an end, there has had to be some give and take, and but for that this Bill would not have been accepted. I am sure the right hon. Gentleman would not contend that this is the last word on a very difficult subject, but it is of satisfaction to all of us, and especially to those like my hon. Friends who have devoted their lives and have been pioneers in this matter of family allowances and who have had to stand up to criticism, that in the tenth year of this long Parliament we should have saved a Bill which contains so much excellence in principle.
Like other hon. Members, I welcome the fact that agreement has been reached in regard to the acceptance of the new Clause, but I would remind the House and especially the right hon. Gentleman the Member for South-West Bethnal Green (Sir P. Harris) that this agreement has been reached only under duress. The Prime Minister clearly stated last week that unless the Opposition were prepared to accept the new Clause as it would be presented to the House the Bill would be dropped.
Might I interrupt? I cannot allow that to be said. There was no duress at all. This Bill was introduced by the late Government. Hon. Members in all parts of the House came to the new Government and asked whether, despite the shortness of time, we could get the Bill through. We did the best we could with good will on all sides, as the right hon. Gentleman the Member for East Edinburgh (Mr. Pethick-Lawrence) has said. There was no duress.
I do not know whether my right hon. Friend was present at Question time when the Business of the House was being discussed and when the Prime Minister, in referring to these Clauses in the Bill, said most clearly that unless the Opposition and the House were prepared to accept the Amendment as it would be presented to the House the Bill would be dropped.
After discussions had taken place. Really it is very wrong to allow such an impression to go out. There has been complete good will on every side. The Bill was originally backed by Members of all Parties. We have done our best to save it and made certain concessions, but there is no duress whatever.
We will leave the definition of that word on one side, and I will not press that word in the vocabulary of the right hon. Gentleman, I will agree with him that agreement has been reached, with good will on both sides of the House, but nevertheless there was the fact of what the Prime Minister said. That remains in HANSARD and cannot be disputed and must have some effect upon hon. Members and right hon. Members on this side of the House [HON. MEMBERS: "On all sides"]. On both sides, if you like. I am not claiming that we on this side were in a more meritorious position than hon. Members and right hon. Members on the other side. I want to thank the Minister of National Insurance for the improvement he has certainly brought about by the agreement that has been reached. As a matter of fact the right hon. Gentleman has it both ways. He was on these benches when the Opposition compelled the Minister of the day to withhold the Clauses. Now he gives the other side the credit of having introduced these new Clauses. Whatever may be said about the merits of the Clauses, we can at least claim that the opposition to the original Clauses has been fully justified by the introduction of these Clauses to-night. I am pleased to think that the opposition which the original Clauses received on this side of the House has resulted in a very fair improvement in the conditions pertaining to the families of Service men. If we are sometimes looked upon as His Majesty's Opposition, we can say that at least we did our part in protecting the interests of the children of the families of Service men, and the House will recognise the merits of the Minister's performance this afternoon. I would like to join the right hon. Member for South-West Bethnal Green in congratulating the hon. Lady who has been herself responsible for taking so much interest in this question, and I shall be glad if this Bill goes through with the two Clauses as amended.
I rather object to the Minister putting the point that we are all involved in this question, and that it has been accepted through the usual channels. Let us be candid about the matter. From the beginning of this Bill many of us on this side of the House complained about the taking away of certain allowances. I want to put in a word or two on behalf of the worker in industry who is injured. I want the Bill and, because of the shortness of Parliamentary time, I will support the Bill and these Clauses. I shall support the Clauses rather than lose the Bill. I think we had better be frank about it, that we are doing this under duress. Men in my district when they are working in the pit and are fit and well can go to the colliery office and draw £5 or £6 a week. But when they are injured they draw compensation money, and as a consequence of the time lost they fail to receive a family allowance. Let us look at this in the proper perspective. How can you have men when they are fit and well and drawing wages higher than compensation receiving family allowance and yet deprive them of it subsequently, particularly when they know full well that the compensation is a part levy upon their wages? In short, due to the ascertaining system in mining they are paying the overwhelming share of the premiums that go towards their compensation.
I said that we should support this Bill, but we had better be frank with the Government on this matter and the right hon. Gentleman in particular: whatever Members come back to this House we shall start, like Oliver Twist did, by asking for more as soon as we are returned. We cannot let these men who have accidents, and suffer shortage of income as a consequence, be deprived of the family allowance which by right is theirs. I am sorry to have to say this, but I believe there is an attempt here to split part of this nation by giving allowances and an opportunity for duplication to some and preventing it in the case of others. I am in favour of the Service men having duplication. The Service man gets his pension and I am in favour of his having this family allowance as well. Service men come back with pensions and find their way into industry, and I cannot for the life of me see why the very same calibre of man, but without pension, who enters industry and is injured should not be allowed duplication. We accept these Clauses and are glad of them and we support the Bill. We do so because many will derive advantage. At the same time that is not going to prevent many of us asking that the men excluded shall be brought within the scope of this particular legislation.
It would be inappropriate if I were not to give my blessing to the compromise which has been arrived at in regard to these two Clauses. The right hon. Gentleman, as I know full well, has a very difficult topic here. Starting from the top, there is the Serviceman being paid 12s. 6d. for each of his children. If he is killed, his widow gets 11s. for each of the children, if he is injured and is a 100 per cent. disability he gets 7s. 6d. for each of his children, as, does the civilian pensioner, and it is very difficult for me, at any rate, to account for all these discrepancies—12s. 6d., us., 7s. 6d. I cannot, and I have never been able, to give the rhyme or reason for any of them. To come to the matter which is now dealt with in the first of the two new Clauses, the civil case and the workman's compensation case, in which at present 5s. is received for each of the children, but only until the end of 1946, when the payment in respect of children comes to an end. In the case of a man on unemployment insurance he gets 5s. for his second child and 4s. for his third. Then there is the widow who, under the Widows' Contributory Pensions Act, gets 5s. for the first child and 3s. for the second and succeeding children. Finally, there is the man who is sick and who needs a children's allowance as much as any of the categories we have discussed, but who gets nothing at all.
The right hon. Gentleman has, therefore, inherited in his position an extraordinarily difficult problem, which has grown up independently and piecemeal, and is to be defended on no logical basis, whether one deals with the subject matter of the first or second of the new Clauses. Even to-night, if I may say so, I have traced a very considerable measure of apprehension about what these Clauses are doing. The hon. and gallant Member for Holderness (Lieut.-Commander G. Braithwaite) said he was not a lawyer, and therefore he found it difficult to understand them. I used to be a lawyer, and I have found it exceedingly difficult to understand these Clauses. Having read them half a dozen times I am by no means sure that I now understand what they are about.
I want the right hon. Gentleman to realise that we accept these Clauses, but do not let him think they remove blemishes from the Bill, because they do not. I would give to him here publicly the word of advice which I previously gave to him privately. I am certain that the trouble in connection with these Clauses largely arises from the fact that instead of starting with the main scheme I tried to bring forward family allowances and workmen's compensation first, in order that I might show quick returns. Misapprehension which has been expressed in many speeches, even to-night, as the right hon. Gentleman will realise, is due to the fact that Members of this House cannot see the setting of the whole as he and I know it, because it has not been disclosed, and they do not know it. Therefore I hope that between now and the results of the Election, which is a good many weeks ahead, the available time will be used to get ready the main scheme, so that we may see this picture as part of a comprehensive whole.
Therefore, I find" myself assenting to the two new Clauses. Family allowances Bills have a habit of following each other in rapid succession, and though I assent to the Clauses I do not want the right hon. Gentleman to think that if I had a mischievous strain in me I could not make a good deal of trouble for him, even at this stage.
(1) The following provision shall have effect as respects allowances under this Act which apart from such provision would accrue during any period before such date as may be certified by the Treasury as the date on which a revision has taken effect of the scales of emoluments and other benefits to be paid in respect of the service of a member of the naval, military or air forces of the Crown (including such nursing or other auxiliary service as may be prescribed), that is to say, if the Minister is satisfied that provision has been made, by an authority by whom allowances or other additions to emoluments in respect of that period are payable in respect of any children by reference to such service as aforesaid, for the giving in respect of those children and of that period of benefits, in addition to those allowances or other additions to emoluments, equivalent to the benefits conferred by this Act in respect of those children and of that period, he may make regulations for withholding the allowances under this Act which would otherwise accrue in respect of those children during that period.
(2) The preceding Sub-section shall apply in relation to a revision of the scales of benefits to be paid—
As I did not take any part in the earlier stages of the Bill I wish, to say two or three words, if the House will permit me. I noticed a tendency, even in my right hon. and learned Friend, to attribute to me some credit for the new Clauses and for the Bill. There is no such credit attaching to me except for one Clause. The first Clause which I moved was identical with the Clause which my right hon. and learned Friend had been compelled to withdraw. I am therefore somewhat surprised: that he should come here and publicly avow that by the exercise of ingenuity he could pick holes in it. It is a pity that he did not exercise that ingenuity before he presented the Bill. But my purpose is not to make a retort to him on that small matter but to give him, as I desire to, his full credit for this Measure. It is true that I have been able to modify it, with the approval of the Government, and to extend the benefits of one of the Clauses, but the Bill is nevertheless his child. I may have given it a little tip on the road to school, but I have not done more than that. He may always be proud to feel that he introduced to the House of Commons this very important measure, which is a milestone in the history of social reform. Its full magnitude is not perhaps realised. I am particularly glad for his sake that we were able to save the Bill. It will always, I think, be borne in mind, when the Coalition Government which has just expired is referred to, that one of its principal Measures was this Bill. Not only did the late Government win the war in Europe, but it passed on to the Statute Book many important measures of legislation of which this is not the least important.
I would like to say what many hon. Members have found pleasure in saying previously, that the hon. lady the Member for the Combined English Universities (Miss Rathbone) may feel very proud when the Royal Assent is given to this Bill. She has done many years of hard work to popularise an idea which was sometimes looked upon with scorn. Hers, therefore, must be a large part of the credit. I can only hope that this Measure will bring comfort and relief to many families in this Realm.
We must all feel a great deal of satisfaction that at long last we are going to pass the Family Allowances Bill, and make it become an Act. As one who has had the privilege of working in very close liaison with the hon. Lady the Member for the Combined English Universities (Miss Rathbone) for some years in pressing for this principle to be adopted, and who therefore has had an opportunity of seeing at close quarters the indefatigable work she has continued to put into this matter for so many years, I would like also to point out what a very large measure of thanks is owing, not only by this House and the country, but particu- larly by the mothers of the country, to her for the work she has done.
I have noticed that there has been a slight tendency, no doubt owing to the fact that a General Election is close upon us, for some of my hon. Friends on the Opposition Benches to claim the credit for all the good parts of this Bill and to disclaim any opprobrium for the parts which are not quite so good. It would be a great pity for them to bring party politics into this matter; if one looks back a short time, one will find that the Opposition would not be wise perhaps to try to take credit for this. I would remind the House that it is nearly three years since the hon. Lady and I put down a Motion, which was signed by over 200 Members of this House, asking for exactly the terms which have now been granted in this Bill. Most of the names were those of Conservative Members, and in refusing the demand the Minister at that time made his chief point the fact that he thought there would be considerable opposition from the trade unions. I am only pointing out that had we at that time had the same full measure of support from the Socialist Party as they are giving us to-day, no doubt we should have had family allowances some years ago.
May I just say that it was only just over two and a half years ago, and that the hon. Gentleman no doubt knows what the size of his party was in the House at that time?
Again I do not want to raise controversy, but we had the most astonishing speech to-night from the right hon. and learned Gentleman. He started by congratulating the Minister on the introduction of this Clause, which the Minister now tells us was in fact the Clause of the right hon. and learned Gentleman, and then he proceeded to say that, although he was a lawyer, he did not understand it. My own feeling is that the Clause is quite clear, and that it will go a very long way to meet this difficult problem. I think the House should really feel very happy that we have gone a long way towards putting this Measure on the Statute Book, with, a great deal of good will and with such a large measure of agreement. I, like many hon. Members, do not care for this Bill very much, but I am glad that we have got our toe in the door, and that we have now accepted the principle. I have not the slightest doubt that many of us who have worked for the cause of family allowances in the past will, if we are returned to this House after the Election, carry on this work in future as we have done in the past. We must all agree that, having started on this road, we shall eventually very much improve the conditions, and make family allowances something really worth while.
I do not rise to resume any of the arguments which have taken place during the discussion on this Bill, which has been brought to its final point. Neither do I wish to go into the history of the matter, except to join with other hon. Members who have referred to the satisfaction which we all feel that this work, on which my hon. Friend the Member for the English Universities (Miss Rathbone) was the protagonist for a long time, almost alone in this field, has been brought to success. It is not a complete success, it is true. There is no Bill, I think, connected with our social security system which has ever passed this House with complete satisfaction to everybody, and I think that is true of this Bill, but, on the other hand, there has, in previous Measures in this Parliament, been a considerable measure of agreement, and I hope that will be the case with this Bill.
I should like to express the gratification which is felt, I am sure, by everybody in the passage of this Bill, which goes back to the early days of the hon. Lady's fight for this cause. It does seem to me that there is still a place in English politics and in English political life for those rare persons like the hon. Lady who has fought this fight, and the hon. and gallant Member for Erdington (Group-Captain Wright), who had to fight very much against his own party to get acceptance of this principle; and when I think of the fight which the hon. Lady has put up, it seems to me that we ought to join, united, to-night in a tribute to one who has for 30 years fought a battle and finally won it.
I am really immensely touched and grateful for all the kind things said by nearly everyone who has spoken in this Debate—the Minister, the hon. and gallant Member for Erdington (Group Captain Wright), the hon. Member for Kilmarnock (Mr. Lindsay) and the hon. Member for East Birkenhead (Mr. Graham White). It makes me feel a little ashamed, although it is certainly true that I began this struggle a long time ago. I found the other day a pamphlet in which I was pressing, in rather timid and veiled terms, for a scheme of family allowances. It was dated 1912. I began still more actively after the last war, when the movement grew and spread. I would like to say that too much credit has been given to me, and I would like to refer to other people who joined in the fight. It is quite true that the majority of the workers have, from the first, and quite naturally, been women. Some of these women have already passed away without seeing the fruit of their labour. Many of the women, in quite humble positions, have done the donkey work, the hard clerical work and going round to meetings, but we have, as well, had distinguished men friends. The hon. Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed (Sir W. Beveridge) was one of my first converts, and I wish he was here to-night. My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Erdington has really been magnificent, for, when the support of his party was not forthcoming, it was largely due to him that he brought them round. We have had friends in every party and in every creed, and I never knew a question which cut so much across party differences, and, very often, very deep differences between people.
It is naturally a very great joy for me to see the end of the first stage in this fight, because I do want to make it clear, although it might seem rather ungracious, when somebody is being congratulated upon her baby, to point out the defects in the baby. Yet I feel I must point out that this baby is a very little one. We feel that it will have to be a good deal fattened and cossetted before it reaches its proper stature. To point out its defects, the whole thing is on too small a scale.
Five shillings a week for the second child may just tip the balance in homes where they want another child, but it is not going to do much to induce that general flow of larger families which—and I do want to make this point—is essential if this country is not gradually to sink into the position of a second-class Power.
I am often astonished to see how many people—not just spinsters like myself who might be expected to be indifferent to what happens to our country 30 years hence—but how many people who are parents, whose children themselves, may live to see a fairly far distant future, seem to think that, because a steep decline in our population is not due for 30 or 40 years, they need not bother about it. Everyone who is proud in his heart to be British must feel that much as they honour Switzerland, Sweden and other minor Powers, they do not want Great Britain in future to be in the same class. I must not enlarge further on that theme.
There are many other respects in which we feel that this Bill, this Act as we shall soon be able to call it, will have to be a bigger Act before it does its work. I would like to draw attention to one Clause in it which was not amended—Clause 24—which lays down the extraordinary rule that no child is to have an allowance unless it is the child of someone born in Great Britain. This is going to have a bad effect on the reputation of this country unless regulations are adopted by the Minister which will enable him to get rid of that unjustifiable restriction and extend the purview and interpret the Clause, so that naturalised aliens who have done good service, and people who happen to have been serving in India or some other country when they were born, are not to be excluded. I know that it was the intention of the right hon. and learned Gentleman the former Minister to draw up regulations which would be really generous, and I hope it will be one of the first cares of the right hon. Gentleman who sits opposite. I must not detain the House longer. We are all anxious to part, but I would only say that this is, to my mind, a great day, because it lays down a great principle. In early days I used to describe meetings of employers and employed, landowners and rentiers sitting round a table competing for their share in the national income with a woman coming from behind and holding out her hand, saying, "I am the mother, the future citizens and workers depend on me; where is my share? "This Bill gives the mother through her children her share, although it is only a very little share so far.
I would like to join in the general chorus of congratulation to the hon. Lady the Member for the Combined English Universities (Miss Rathbone), and I would like to congratulate my right hon. Friend the Minister upon the very favourable reception which his Bill has had from all quarters of the House. With the exception of the speech of the hon. and gallant Member for Erdington (Group-Captain Wright), all the speeches have been speeches which have not tried to capitalise party interests and have been friendly to the scheme. I think there has been a great deal of misapprehension about this matter. Even to-night, the hon. and gallant Member for Erdington did not seem to realise that there were two new Clauses which had been introduced into the Bill, one of which was identical with Clause 14 of the previous Bill and the other a new Clause. It was, I think, obvious to everybody, except the hon. and gallant Member, that when I said the Clause was difficult to understand, I was referring to the New Clause and not to the Clause in the previous Bill for which I was myself responsible.
All I want to say to the right hon. Gentleman is this. He will shortly have his Bill with the general good wishes of all parties. Now comes the question of getting on with the job. He has a considerably difficult task in order to construct his machine to get this Bill in operation, and we on this side of the House shall, if we are here, be patient with him for a time. However, we shall want to be satisfied that at the earliest practicable moment, when he has been able to construct his machine and get his list in order, that payments under this Bill begin to be made and we shall not want to be held up by any high-flown or high-falutin' economic theories. As soon as payments can be started, we shall hope that he will start them. I wish him, therefore, good luck in getting on with the job and, when we come back, if he is there and we are here, we shall be friendly, but determined to see that no time is lost to make this Bill an effective instrument of social well-being.
it is really refreshing to hear from the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Ashton-under-Lyne (Sir W. Jowitt) that he expects that my right hon. Friend will be in charge of this business after the General Election. [Hon. Members: "No."] That is the first quite candid expression of opinion we have had from the Opposition side of the House as to what is likely to be the result. [Hon. Members: "No."] I only rise—
I beg your pardon, Mr. Speaker, if I have transgressed the Rules of Order. I thought it desirable to say that I certainly shall not oppose this Measure. I realise it is right that it should be passed at the present time, in order, at least, that we should ascertain the result of it to see whether it is a principle which should remain permanently on the Statute Book. However, I think it is right to remind the House what a well-known historian wrote in a book quite recently, that it is because we forget our history, that we often have to re-live it. It appears to be forgotten that towards the end of the 18th century a system of family allowances was introduced, under the auspices of the then existing Poor Law, which reduced wages to a level much lower than they had been for many years, and it was in the light of that experience that for many years the trades union movement in this country has not been at all friendly towards this matter of family allowances.
In case that piece of quite astonishing history should go down in the pages of HanSard, may I ask the hon. Gentleman when was the system of family allowances introduced at the end of the last century?