Motion made, and Question proposed.
That, for the purposes of any Act of the present Session to make provision for the payment under the National Insurance Act 1965 of earnings-related benefit, it is expedient to authorise the payment out of moneys provided by Parliament, subject to the provision made by section 85 of the said Act of 1965 for reimbursement out of the National Insurance Fund or by section 61 of the National Insurance (Industrial Injuries) Act 1965 for reimbursement out of the Industrial Injuries Fund, of any increase attributable to that Act of the present Session in the expenses of the Minister of Pensions and National Insurance or any other government department which are so payable under either of those sections.—[Mr. Ifor Davies.]
Certainly. I thought that the Financial Resolution was so simple that it could have gone through on the nod, but if the right hon. Gentleman wants to know something about it I will explain it.
The Resolution authorises the payment out of moneys provided by Parliament for any increase in the cost of administering the National Insurance and Industrial Injuries Schemes due to the change for which the Bill provides. Under Section 85 of the National Insurance Act and Section 61 of the Industrial Injuries Act, administrative costs are met in the first place out of voted moneys, but the Treasury is reimbursed out of the respective funds. This arrangement ensures that the administrative costs are subject to Parliamentary control through the Estimates. That is what the Resolution is about.
Is the right hon. Lady telling the Committee that we are not to be free to discuss any of the points of substance in the Bill—the level of con- tributions, the waiting days, the duration of benefit, the level of benefit, the floor of benefit the ceiling of benefit, and the people benefited? Are we not to be free to discuss additional benefits not related to earnings? Can the right hon. Lady tell us how far we can discuss the substance of the Bill within the terms of the Resolution?
It is not for me, as Minister, to tell the right hon. Gentleman what Amendments will be accepted. The right hon. Gentleman has been sufficiently long in the House to know that it will be for the Chairman of the Committee to decide what Amendments will be accepted. The Resolution covers the administrative costs. Not a penny for the purposes of the Bill will come out of the Exchequer. Its provisions will be financed completely from contributions. I think that I have said enough in that last sentence to give the right hon. Member an idea of what he can do when it comes to Amendments.
Let us get this abundantly plain. The right hon. Lady has not answered my point. Subject, of course, to the Ruling of the Chair in Committee, are we free, so far as procedure, is concerned, to move any changes in substance in the Bill—
On a point of order. How far is it competent for hon. Members to debate with one another across the Floor of the Committee what is in order in discussing a Financial Resolution?
That point having been made, I will leave it.
As the Minister says, I have been long enough in the House to know that Governments take the trouble to frame Financial Resolutions to deal with what they want to discuss on the Bill. The right hon. Lady appears to have eliminated from discussion all points of substance on the Bill. I take it that that is not what she is telling us. May I, then, have the answer from her to the question of how much we can, within the rules of order governing the Financial Resolution, discuss the merits of the Bill? May I take it that we can discuss any point of substance on the Bill—
On a point of order. While it may be competent for the right hon. Gentleman to ask my right hon. Friend what opportunities there will be to discuss the merits of the Bill, I submit to you, Mr. Bowen, with all respect, that it is not competent for him to do so in the course of debating the Financial Resolution.
When my hon. Friend the Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. Sydney Silverman) intervened and said that the Minister was not competent to deal with this, he was making very clear a point which the right hon. Gentleman should have known.
I would direct to his attention—this is why I told him that he ought to know, from my making it clear—that the Resolution covers only the administrative costs which will later come out of the fund. I again told him—this is why I said that from his long knowledge and work in the House he should have known—that almost any Amendment could be put down to the Bill. Another Bill before the House at present does not deal with National Insurance, but Amendments have been tabled to it to use the National Insurance Fund.
I should have thought that the right hon. Gentleman would know how far the scope of Amendments could go. Indeed, if he likes to put down Amendments to bankrupt the National Insurance Fund, he may do so. That is how wide the scope of his Amendments could be. It is then for the Chair to decide, as I said at the beginning, which of the Amendments will be called.
We are debating the basic rights of the House. When I was Minister of Housing and Local Government, the present Foreign Secretary—and perfectly within his rights—frequently asked the Government of the day what was covered and was not covered in Financial Resolutions. That is all I am asking the right hon. Lady. If she says that we can move any Amendment to the Bill within the Financial Resolution—always subject to the Chair—then I am completely satisfied. But it is not at all odd that we should ask for this assurance.
I should like to offer two sentences in the situation which has developed. The right hon. Member for Leeds, North-East (Sir K. Joseph) says that when my right hon. Friend tells him that the Financial Resolution involves nothing more than money for administrative purposes and that none of the benefits of the Bill is covered by the Resolution, then he accepts that. I am beginning to wonder why he did not accept it 10 minutes ago, when my right hon. Friend told him in perfectly simple words of one syllable, when he first asked. Now he has been told three times, and at the third attempt he is ready to accept it. It is time that principal spokesmen for the Opposition knew the rules of order particularly as they affect Financial Resolutions.