(1) The contributions payable in respect of employed contributors shall be at the rate specified in Part I. of the Second Schedule to this Act (hereinafter referred to as the employed rate), and shall comprise contributions by the contributors and contributions by their employers at the rates specified in that part of that Schedule, and shall be payable at weekly or other prescribed intervals.
(2) The employer shall, in the first instance, pay both the contributions payable by himself (in this Act referred to as the employer's contributions), and also on behalf of the employed contributor the contributions payable by such contributor, and shall be entitled to recover from the contributor by deduction from his wages or otherwise the amount of the contributions so paid by him on behalf of the contributor in accordance with the rules set out in the Third Schedule to this Act.
(3) An employed contributor who is temporarily unemployed shall not, whilst so unemployed, be under any obligation to pay any contributions which if he were employed would be payable in respect of him, but nothing in this Section shall prevent such a contributor paying such contributions for the purpose of avoiding falling into arrear.
(4) Contributions in respect of employed contributors shall cease to be payable on their attaining the age of seventy.
(5) The employer of a person who though employed within the meaning of this Part of this Act is not insured under this Part of this Act by reason either—
shall be liable to pay the like contributions as would have been payable as employer's contributions if such person had been an employed contributor, and such contributions shall be carried to such account and dealt with in such manner as may be prescribed.
I beg to move, in Sub-section (1), after the word "contributors" ["employed contributors"], to insert the words "other than those employed in agricultural industries."This is the first of a series of Amendments which have been put on the Paper by myself and a considerable number of other Members representing agricultural industries, with the object of reducing the uniform rate of 7d. to be paid by employer and employed in the case of those engaged in agricultural industries. In order to make apparent what the scope of the Amendment is, I propose to read this Clause with the proposed Amendment added, together with the other consequential Amendments. (1) The contributions payable in respect of employed contributors other than those employed in agricultural districts shall be at the rate specified in Part I., and as regards persons employed in agricultural industries shall be at the rate specified in Part II. of the Second Schedule to this Act, and shall comprise contributions by the contributors and contributions by their employers at the rates specified in that part of that schedule, and shall be payable weekly. In view of the enormous importance of this Amendment to a very large section of this House and to the country generally, I should like to ask you, Sir, whether it is not fit and proper that the Chancellor of the Exchequer should be in his place? I am not even aware who is to answer the arguments which we shall address to the Government this afternon.
May I rise on a point of Order? I wish to ask you whether it is possible for this Amendment to be discussed, raising one of the largest questions connected with this Bill, in the absence of the Minister who is in charge of it, or of anybody who directly represents the Treasury?
I am bound to say I feel myself under a considerable handicap in proceeding with this Amendment under these circumstances, and all I can hope is that very early during the Debate the Chancellor, or someone representing the Treasury, will put in an appearance.
If the hon. Gentleman will allow me, may I explain that the Chancellor of the Exchequer is unavoidably engaged, but we expect he will be here immediately, and those of us who are here will represent him in the meantime.
I accept that explanation. In addition to the Clause there is a second proviso which will be added to the Sub-section, making it clear that the expression "persons employed in agricultural industries" will include farm labourers, market gardeners, and all other persons employed wholly or principally on the land. That definition is taken, subject to the omission of the word "farmers," which would not be quite clear from the valuable actuarial report of Mr. Alfred Watson, of the Manchester Union of Odd-fellows, to whom the Group A statistics to be found in that book exclusively relate. In addition to the Amendment to which I have referred, there is a proviso at the end of the Clause to the effect that in cases of doubt the Insurance Commissioners shall determine whether or not persons claiming to be employed in the agricultural industry are actually so employed. At the outset I would like to ask the Government why it is that in every scheme of national insurance which is in existence to-day, there is a differentiation made between those engaged in agricultural industries and those who are not so engaged, and as regards this particular National Insurance Bill, why no such difference is made. Germany is taken as an example, which in some respects the Government were copying in framing the Bill. But one very material difference in the German scheme from anything to be found in this Bill is that in Germany there is no uniform rate of premium to be paid by those engaged in the industries or the country generally. The amount of the premium there is according to the wages received by those in the several employments and the same applies, as I understand, to the other continental nations which have a national insurance scheme.We say emphatically that the agricultural labourer is entitled, and his employer also, because they stand together in this respect, to be treated on a different basis from those who are engaged in other industries, for two reasons, first of all on the ground of the lowness of their wages, and the small profits to be derived from the industry, and secondly, and perhaps more convincingly on the ground of the better standard of health which these persons enjoy. If I take first the question of wages, it is a little difficult to estimate accurately what is the difference between the average of the agricultural labourer's wages and the average wage enjoyed by persons engaged in industries other than agricultural. I have studied the Government returns as far as I can, and the Board of Trade returns, and I do not think I am overstating the case when I say that the wages which are enjoyed by workmen other than agricultural labourers are, roughly, very nearly double what the agricultural labourers are receiving on the average in this country to-day. On that basis I find that under this National Insurance Bill the agricultural labourer will be paying something like 2 per cent. of the whole of his wages by way of premium for the benefits provided in this Bill, whereas those engaged in other industries will be paying 1.1 per cent., a very material difference. But the case of the agricultural labourer can be put more strongly, for whereas the remuneration of those employed in other industries has increased, I may almost say by leaps and bounds, very substantially during the last twenty years, the remuneration of the agricultural labourer has increased to a very small extent indeed. I believe I am correct in saying that, whereas the cost of living during the last twenty years has increased by something like 10 per cent., the increase in the agricultural labourers' wages amounts only to something like 5 per cent., and therefore the purchasing power of his wages is lower than it was twenty years ago. We listened to an extremely interesting speech from the hon. Member for Leicester (Mr. Ramsay Macdonald) on Thursday last, in the course of which he talked about the unfairness of compelling men to insure against sickness at the cost of the standard of living. I entirely agree with what he said, and it applies more to the very poorest people in the agricultural villages than it does to the people in the industrial towns. A very large number of the poor people in our villages to-day are unable to enjoy the benefits of the existing friendly societies, because they cannot afford the small amount of 3d., 4d., or 5d. which would enable them to go into these societies, and if you are going to take out of the pockets of these people compulsorily anything more than is going out at the present time it is not the man who will suffer but the unfortunate wife and children. 4.0 P.M. The agricultural employer is not making anything like the profits out of his business which are being made by those who are interested in large urban industries. I do not think it would be an exaggeration to say that a farmer has to be satisfied, and, generally is satisfied, if he can make anything like 5 to 8 per cent. upon the capital employed in his industry. I am sure hon. Members opposite, who are interested in large urban industries, would admit that no capitalist who puts his money as an employer into an urban industry would be satisfied with anything like 5 to 8 per cent. on his money. On the other hand, we all know that these men expect at least 8 per cent., and in many cases are receiving 10 to 20 per cent. out of the employment of the men who are engaged in their industries. If that is so that is the very strongest reason for putting not merely the agricultural labourer but the agricultural employer upon a different basis from those engaged in other industries. I will go further. We often have land questions discussed in this House with, I think, a little too much prejudice directed against those who derive an income from agricultural land. It is an uncontrovertible fact that during the last thirty years the income derived from agricultural land in this country has decreased by something like 10 to 20 per cent., and during the last twenty years the income derived from every other source of property has exactly doubled. Is not that rather a strong and convincing reason why some alteration should be made in the terms of the bargain that is being made with the Government in the case of agricultural employers as distinct from those who are engaged in other industries. I turn at once to the much more important consideration—because we have chapter and verse upon which we can base logical arguments—of the higher standard of health which undoubtedly is enjoyed by those who are employed in agricultural industries. I think every one of the large friendly societies will admit that the agri- cultural labourer is the very backbone of their societies. Whereas I suppose not even one-third of the workers in the towns to-day are members of any registered friendly society, or indeed of any friendly society at all, I think something like two-thirds of the most respectable and thrifty men to be found in the country districts are members of friendly societies. [An HON. MEMBER: "No."] I should like to know what the figures are. These are the figures which to the best of my ability I have obtained from recognised sources. The hon. Member (Mr. Ramsay Macdonald) said:—
I am quite prepared to take that as the text of any remarks which may be made this afternoon, not merely by myself, but by other persons, I hope on both sides, who represent agricultural constituencies, and upon that basis we are prepared to stand. The facts are best shown by the returns which have been made by the Manchester Unity of Oddfellows, covering a period of something like thirty years past. These returns, published in the very admirable works, to which the Chancellor of the Exchequer has repeatedly referred, of Mr. Alfred Watson, their chief actuary, show that for their purposes those employed in various industries are split up into seven different groups. These groups are as follows: (a) agricultural and allied industries, including also, as I understand, those persons who are living in the villages and who enjoy a higher standard of health than the average population; (b) the outdoor building trades and dock labourers; (c) railway men; (d) those engaged in seafaring and shipping; (e) quarrymen; (f) steel and iron workers; and (g) miners. As a result of something like thirty years' experience, we are given figures by the actuary of the Manchester Unity which show the following rather remarkable results. At any age from thirty-five to fifty-five there appears to be, when you come to consider the number of members who are sick in a year amongst a hundred members of that society exposed to risks—that is, their Table 15—something like 25 per cent. less persons who are sick in a year amongst the agricultural community than there are in either of the groups b,c, or d. There are 50 per cent. fewer members sick in a year than there are in groups e and f and there are 100 per cent. less than amongst those engaged in mining. That is to say, take the mining population at the other end of the scale, there are just double the number of persons during those ages, which represent the best part of a man's life, engaged in mining, who come upon their club for sick pay than are to be found amongst those engaged in agricultural industries. Those figures alone present a very strong case indeed why there should be differential treatment in the case of the agricultural labourer."Insurance, properly so-called, involves the payment of a contribution which is proportionate to the risk which the insurance is intended to cover."
Do these figures mean that there is double the amount of time of sickness? There may be double the number of members sick, but it may be for very different periods.
I admit that the table from which I am quoting is a table showing the number of persons sick in a year amongst 100 members exposed to risks. My argument will be sufficiently supported if I refer to another table entirely, and that is the sickness per year per member. I am quite prepared to base my case upon the data I have relating to that. I find that at the age of thirty-five the sickness per year per member in the case of those engaged in agriculture and similar industries is 1.052. In the case of building and railway men and similar employments, the amount of sickness is 1.34, in the case of those engaged in the steel and iron trades and in quarrying the amount of sickness is 1.55, and in the case of mining it is 2.10. At the age of forty-five—I suppose that is the middle of a man's life, and a period when you are better able perhaps than at the earlier ages to gauge what the insurable value of a man's life is—I find that the amount of sickness per year per member in the case of the agricultural labourer is 1.64, in the case of those engaged in building or on the railway the amount is 2.05, in the case of those engaged in the iron and steel industries and in quarrying the amount is 2.34, and in the case of mining it is 2.96. It must be admitted that the figures are not very different in the case of this table from what they are in the case of the table to which I originally referred. It is also possible to take for this purpose, though I do not know that it is quite fair, out of these tables the average of sickness in the case of the whole of the members, whatever industry they may be engaged in, and the average of illness in the case of agricultural labourers, and that will show a very substantial increase in every case, though, of course, not so great as the increase which is shown between those engaged in the most risky industries and those engaged in the healthiest industry, namely, agriculture.I want frankly to confess to the House that there is one modifying factor which must in fairness be taken into account, and that is that although the rate of sickness is very much lower in the case of the agricultural community than it is in the case of those differently employed, the rate of mortality is also lower, and because it is lower—and I rather expect in the ordinary course this will be the answer of the Chancellor of the Exchequer—because, in fact, on an average an agricultural labourer enjoys four years more life than those engaged in other industries, therefore at the later ages there is a larger amount to be paid out of the general fund in respect of the agricultural labourer. But even as regards that, looking at the tables, I find that right up to the age of 69 or 70, which is, after all the limit of age for the purpose of this Bill, the figures in relation not merely to the other industries, but the average of the whole are substantially higher than those relating to the agricultural labourers. Let me take the age of 69. I find as regards 69 the number of persons sick in a year amongst 100 members exposed to risks is in the case of the agricultural group 47.4 and the average is 49.2, so even upon that basis it is only fair to say there is less sickness at the older ages amongst agriculturists than there is amongst those engaged in other industries. These tables are not really a sufficiently good guide for our purpose as agriculturists. The agricultural community has been the backbone of the friendly societies. A very much larger proportion of the agricultural community come within the figures of the Manchester Unity, the Ancient Order of Foresters and other similar societies than are to be found in the other industries, and the result is that when you now, under the Government scheme, bring in practically every workman in the country, and to a much greater extent those who are employed in other industries than those who are already largely engaged in agricultural industry, the figures would necessarily be construed as much more favourable to the contention that we are putting before the House. The Chancellor of the Exchequer and his advisers have provided a most generous margin of 11.3 per cent. to provide for what may be called unforeseen eventualities—to provide for that great uncertain crowd who are to be brought in under the Bill, and about whom the friendly societies have no experience whatever. We can accurately measure the risks as regards the agricultural population, and therefore we say, and I think we say with fairness, that there is no necessity in the case of the agricultural labourer to have any margin whatever for unforeseen eventualities. The great friendly societies are perfectly able to give you precise figures with regard to the agricultural population, such as they are unable to give you as regards the inhabitants of overcrowded towns. For our purpose we are going to ask you to deduct the 11.3 per cent. entirely in arriving at an estimate in respect of what should be paid in the case of the agricultural labourer. Then the Chancellor of the Exchequer and his advisers have also provided most liberally for what he calls reserve value. He has provided a sum of 15–9d. to be added to what would otherwise be paid in respect of the employed contributor in order to provide for the actuarial deficiencies which would otherwise occur in taking a flat rate in respect of all per sons of an age above sixteen. I am advised by the actuary of one of the large friendly societies that there is no necessity in the case of the agricultural labourer to provide anything like 15–9d. by way of reserve value, and that in fact if 13–10d. were provided, it would meet the reserve value in the case of all agricultural labourers coming into the scheme up to the age of twenty-five. That is to say, if no reserve value has been provided for persons engaged in agriculture beyond twenty-five, that would be a fair deduction to make which would bring down the amount to be provided to 1.3d. I do not want to burden the House with the very detailed calculations which I and others have been making in order to arrive at a fair premium to be paid in this case, but, summing the matter up, if the margin of 11.3 per cent. is unnecessary, and the reserve value be reduced from 15–9d. to 13–10d., then you bring the total to 4.7 for benefits and 1.3 for reserve, making up a total of 6d. instead of 7d., which is the flat rate provided by the Bill. There is another factor which, I think, the Chancellor of the Exchequer ought to take into account, and that is that the object of this reserve is to provide certain additional benefits, of which, perhaps, the most important is what is called sanatorium benefit. I am sorry I have to admit that tuberculosis does actually exist in our villages, but you have only to refer to the returns coming to us as the result of the medical inspection of school-children to find that tuberculosis is far less serious in the agricultural areas than it is in the crowded towns. Therefore, as regards sanatorium benefit, there cannot be the same need for putting aside in respect of persons engaged in the agricultural industry anything like the same amount which is to be provided in the case of those engaged in urban industries. To sum up the whole case, what we say is that if you have a flat or uniform rate the agricultural labourer and his employer will between them be paying, not merely for the benefits of those engaged in agricultural employment, but a large portion of the benefits of those engaged in far more profitable and far more highly paid industries. This injustice, under which we say the agricultural labourer and employer will suffer, is for the same reason aggravated by certain clauses in the Bill which it would be out of order at present to refer to in detail. Clause 9 limits the agricultural labourer's benefit to two-thirds of his wages, however small those wages may be, and Clause 30 would have the effect of diverting from the agricultural branch of one of the large approved societies at least half the balance which might result from the higher standard of health into the coffers of the urban branches of the same society, where health is not so good, and that would deprive the agricultural labourer of a great many of the benefits to which otherwise he would be entitled even under the flat rate system. The Government have answered all the objections which have been made on behalf of the agricultural labourer by saying that the proper course is to belong to societies restricted to agricultural districts only. Societies are dotted all over the country districts in large numbers. They are perfectly solvent friendly societies, in which the labourers, not only take great pride, but as to the existence of which they are most tenacious. The right hon. Gentleman may say that they are absurdly conservative in this matter. But you are not going to persuade these men, whatever argument and pressure you choose to bring upon them, to forego their own corporate existence and enrol themselves with a large number of other villages which may be forty or fifty miles away in one large society. I go further than that, and say that within anything like the limit which the Chancellor of the Exchequer is now proposing, namely, 5,000, it is absolutely impossible. If you reduce the limit to something like 1,000, a successful effort might be made in a great many country districts, but if the limit remains at 5,000 it is utterly impossible to bring agricultural labourers together in a society which would enable them to derive the full benefits under the premium which they and their employers will have to pay. Hon. Gentlemen on both sides of the House have agreed to accept what they call the principle of this Bill. I do not know what is meant by the principle of the Bill. If it means the well-intentioned object of the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the Government, if it means the idea of national insurance, I am in entire sympathy with the principle as defined in that way, but if the principle of this Bill means the flat-rate principle, if it means a uniform payment to be made by employers and employed in the case of all industries, irrespective of the standard of health, irrespective of the standard of wages, and irrespective of the profits of those industries, all I say is that I shall not approve of the principle unless substantial Amendments are made in order to meet the well-founded grievance in the agricultural divisions, and I for one, unless that is done, shall oppose the Third Reading of the Bill.
I have to apologise for not being present during the first few minutes of the hon. Member's speech. It was quite impossible for me to be here. I have heard most of his speech, and in what I have heard he stated his case most temperately and fairly and with very great ability. I am sure there is nothing to be said in favour of the Amendment but what has been stated very cogently by the hon. Member. As far as I understand his case he makes a request for reducing the contribution by a penny. That is the effect of the Amendment, though it does not appear on the face of it. He proposes to reduce the contribution from 7d. to 6d. If that could be done and the same results procured, of course we should be most happy to do it. The whole point resolves itself into the question whether with 6d. you could guarantee the benefits under the Bill to the agricultural labourer. It is, of course, an actuarial question, but we have some experience to go upon. The hon. Member has referred to the rural societies. I remember the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Strand Division (Mr. Walter Long), in the course of a Debate on old age pensions, referred to the wreckage everywhere of little friendly societies. I remember a little society in my own district which disappeared after a few years. The society was wound up. Unfortunately there is—I will not say hardly a village, but there is hardly a county where you do not find that several of these societies which existed a few years ago have now disappeared. After agricultural labourers have paid during the best part of their lives and made great sacrifices, they find when they reach the period when they stand in need of 5s., 7s., or 10s. a week their society is gone. I have here a list from the Registrar of Friendly Societies of the various agricultural societies in this country. They guarantee what appear to be very good benefits at a reasonable sum, but I wonder if the hon. Gentlemen opposite in the course of his investigations has discovered how many of these are solvent. Let me quote a few figures which have been given to me showing in various counties the number of societies which have a surplus and the number which have a deficiency:—
|With surplus.||With deficiency.|
I am not asking the right hon. Gentleman to retain any society that is insolvent.
No, I will come to that later, but what I want to point out is that there is no use in referring to the experience of these societies, the vast majority of which are on their showing insolvent at the present moment, and will, unless we come to their relief, leave their members without any provision for old age, sickness and invalidity. But there is a society of which I think you may say that it is solvent. I am not sure that it is solvent to the extent that if it were wound up now it would produce twenty shillings in the pound. It depends on the branches. One great society that has got a rural branch is the Foresters. The hon. Gentleman made a very ingenious calculation. He said instead of paying 15–9d. per week 13–10d. would do. Really, if it comes to this, that we have got to base the whole of our scheme upon that mere conjecture of fractions, I think it is unfair to ask the agricultural labourers of this country to invest their finances in promised benefits unless you have got something on which we can depend much more than that.
It was only to spare the House that I did not give the actual details. There is no conjecture about these figures. They have just as much foundation as the actuarial calculations on which the right hon. Gentleman relies.
I think that the hon. Gentleman is wrong. If he will follow my argument he will see that we cannot depend upon them. Nothing would suit the Government better than to knock off 1d. in the case of agricultural labourers. It would be an advantage for us to go down and say "for 3d. we are guaranteeing you so much." It would be ever so much better from our point of view. It is surely because I cannot honestly say that it can be done that I am here to plead with the House not to knock that 1d. off without a full consideration of what it means. Let me take the case of the Foresters. The Foresters, building upon the belief that the rural districts are so much healthier than the towns, set up a rural branch. What has happened? I believe there is a saving, but only to this extent, that in the town they charge 6¾d. per week, and in the country it is 6½d. There is a difference of just one ¼d. And this is not an actuarial calculation. It is the experience. That is the only experience we have got.
Surely part of the benefit for agricultural insurance goes to the central fund.
The hon. Gentleman, is quite wrong. The whole of the benefit which was derived from the improved health of the rural branches is entirely devoted to them, and the only difference is that single farthing. The hon. Member will find in any great order like the Foresters some societies which are insolvent, while others have got a surplus because their funds are absolutely settled. That was my impression, and I am now told absolutely that that is so. But if the hon. Gentleman will follow he will see that better health in a community means a profit to life insurance companies, but a loss to sickness societies. That is one of the axioms which one discovers the moment he enters into the question. All the insurance companies have profited within the last few years by the improved health of the community, while all the sickness societies have lost by it. This appears to be a paradox, but if the hon. Member will follow me he will see that it is so, and that it is based on reason. Therefore I would not be a bit surprised if the whole of the ¼d. difference came in there because, of course, there are fewer funerals and more sickness. Sickness comes later in life. That is really what it means; and the later you prolong life the heavier you make the sickness charge. If the right hon. Gentleman will just turn to the actuarial tables at page 40 they are very remarkable in that respect. There is much more information in these tables than has been dug up yet; they are extremely interesting.If the right hon. Gentleman looks at the number of weeks of sickness in a year he will see that at sixteen or seventeen they are decimals. You do not arrive at one week until you get to thirty. You go on then until you come to forty-eight before you come to two weeks' sickness. You go on to fifty-four before you come to three weeks' sickness. When you come to sixty you get five weeks' sickness, and when you come to sixty-two you get six weeks' sickness. After that sickness multiplies, and it gets on to seven, eight, nine, ten, and eleven, and leaps up to thirteen weeks. That means, paradox as it seems to be, the healthier the community, the more sickness there is in it. It only means really that the longer we live the more sickness we have got to provide against. Therefore the mere fact that you say such-and-such is a healthy occupation does not really mean that it is less of a burden upon sick societies, but it means that the charge for sickness is heavier, because of the life being longer. Take old age pensions. You have a much heavier charge in respect of old age pensions in rural districts, in proportion to population, than you have in towns where life is shorter. Therefore there is more sickness in the country, and you cannot take 1d. off for that very reason. That is really why so many rural societies have been bankrupted. They have never been able to persuade themselves to get hold of that one truth. They say: "This is a thoroughly healthy community, why should we pay as much as the towns?" It is because they are a healthy community, and that life is therefore longer, that they have to pay more.
Has the right hon. Gentleman taken into consideration cases over seventy?
The figures which are given stop at sixty-nine. I have not even gone to seventy.
But the friendly societies, the Foresters, are paid sick benefit over the age of seventy.
Yes, and they are in the towns also. Therefore, for the purpose of comparison, there is nothing in it. You cannot have it both ways. I hope that that satisfies the hon. Gentleman. If not I have got a few more facts. I have given the figures to bear out the statement made by the right hon. Gentleman in the course of his speech on old age pensions which struck me very much and remained in my memory, and which is really the argument here. It is that these rural friendly societies are bankrupt at the present moment because they have gone on the very assumption that the hon. Gentleman advances in his speech. Undoubtedly it is because they have under-estimated the whole problem and ignored the essential, fundamental fact that the burden becomes heavier upon them because of the increased length of life. One result of the Bill is—and this is a fact which has never been dwelt upon, though I have verified it—you make all these societies solvent, or at least you are giving them a fresh start, because if they go on on the same principle they will be bankrupted again. But you are taking upon yourself the whole burden of the ages between sixty and sixty-nine, at the rates of the Bill, making the 2d. of the State go to pay the whole burden. These little societies, which now raise false hopes in the minds of hundreds of thousands of people within their ranks, for the first time have got an assured hope, a firm hope, something resting practically on a Government guarantee, that when the evil day comes there will be something at any rate to keep them from hunger and starvation in the hour of sickness and trial. That is a very great deal. I am not going to anticipate the argument about the number of societies.
I do not base my case upon the small societies at all. I quoted the small societies as showing the difficulties of aggregating all these persons into one society, but I base my case entirely upon rural members of the large friendly societies.
If the hon. Member will do me the justice of following me he will see that I am taking his points in turn. I first of all took the larger societies; I quoted the Foresters. Then I went on to the smaller societies. I am just simply answering his argument, and I must answer the argument of the small societies just to meet the point. With regard to the small societies, there is a great deal to be said from the point of view of the hon. Gentleman as to the difficulty of federation. It is a difficulty which I am sorry cannot be overcome. The societies would be very much stronger if they could be persuaded to federate. It is very largely a question of local jealousy, but "jealousy" is not the proper word.
Yes; a sort of feeling that their society is so much better than the society of the adjoining parish. They do not want it to be mixed up with others. That is really what it means. I think it would be a very good thing if they could be persuaded not to entertain that feeling, and once the State puts them all on the same solid basis there is not the same reason for their doing so. At any rate there is one thing which, I admit, would be worse than failure, and that would be to drive them out of their societies. I think there has been enormous advantage derived from this feeling of local pride. It is pride in the parish, pride in the great achievements of that parish, pride in thinking they have founded a society into which money has been paid, and which has gone on for forty or fifty years providing against sickness. That is something really to be proud of. I think it would be a very disastrous thing if any provision in this Bill were to imperil even for a moment the efficiency of these great societies—I mean great, not in the sense of numbers, but in what they have achieved. I would appeal to the House to bring every pressure to bear to induce these societies to federate, if they possibly can. It would be of enormous advantage, because when an epidemic in one district occurs the cost would be spread over the whole; and besides great advantages in administration, it would undoubtedly save expense in administration. There are other reasons, but all I ask the Committee is to at any rate preserve an open mind until we come to those cases. Let us not prejudge them. In Germany, as the Committee knows very well, the agricultural labourer was at first kept out of the national scheme of insurance; he was kept out for twenty years. The result was that this operated as one of the reasons to induce the agricultural labourer to leave the country altogether. There were of course many other inducements for his doing so, such as better wages and a life generally more attractive. But in the judgment, not of the German industrial classes, but in the judgment of the German landlords and of German farmers, this one thing took the agricultural labourer away from the agricultural districts. The agricultural labourer said that if he got employment in the town he was, at any rate, provided for. The conclusion was come to that it was necessary to introduce the rural community into the scheme. The pressure came not altogether from the agricultural labourers, but from landowners and farmers, and the Government introduced into its new insurance scheme the whole of the agricultural labourers of Germany.
Is the rate for the agricultural labourers the same as in the towns.
No, it is very much higher than here.
I beg the right hon. Gentleman's pardon for interrupting him. My hon. Friend asked whether the rate for the agricultural labourer is as high as for the industrial classes. I think the right hon. Gentleman misunderstood the hon. Member.
I have not got the figures, but the rate is very much higher than the rate here. Let me show what the charge is in Germany and in this country. I begin with the employer. Where the wages are 20s. the farmer here pays 3d., and in Germany 5¼d. Where the wage is 18s.—and that is the average wage in this country—the farmer pays 3d., and in Germany he will have to pay 5d. Where the weekly wage is 15s. in the United Kingdom the farmer has to pay 4d., and in Germany 4¼d. Where the wages are 13s. 6d. the farmer pays 4d., both here and in Germany. When you get down to 12s. a week in this country the farmer pays 5d., and in Germany 3¾d. On the very lowest wages, therefore, the charge is heavier in this country than in Germany, but down to 15s. a week the charge to the farmer is higher in Germany than it is here. I come to the agricultural labourer. Where the wages are 20s. a week—and that is generally the wage in Scotland and in most parts of Wales—the agricultural labourer in the United Kingdom will pay 4d., and in Germany the agricultural labourer will be called upon to pay 9d. Where the wages are 18s. a week, the payment will be 4d. here and 8¼d. in Germany. The average wage of this country is 18s. Where the wages are 15s. in the United Kingdom the payment will be 3d., and in Germany 7d. When you come to 13s. 6d. a week in the United Kingdom the agricultural labourer pays 3d., and in Germany 6¼d. When you come to 12s., in this country he pays 2d., and in Germany 5¾d.
What benefits are they entitled to under the German scheme?
I cannot now give the hon. Gentleman the information. I would point out to him that I am answering the hon. Gentleman opposite with regard to payments, and I am showing that the payment by the agricultural labourer in the United Kingdom is infinitely less than the payment made by the agricultural labourer in Germany. [An HON. MEMBER: "What is the value of the comparison without the benefits?"] If the hon. Member would only listen and not interrupt, he would gather that I am replying to the hon. Gentleman on his own side, who certainly seemed to hold the view that the agricultural labourer could not pay at all. I am pointing out that the agricultural labourer in Germany has to pay two and three times as much as the agricultural labourer does here. I would not mind saying that if the agricultural part of the scheme in Germany be compared with that now proposed, the agricultural labourer is getting better benefits in this country than in Germany, for the simple reason that the German scheme includes old age pensions. But here we are finding the whole of the pensions, and that is the difference. In this country we find thirteen millions of money for pensions, and six millions for this scheme. They are only finding two-and-a-half millions in Germany for pensions, for invalidity, and for sickness. That is why we are able to provide better benefits in this country than in Germany. I only want to point this out: If you reduce the amount of the contribution, I am certain that no responsible person would get up at this box—I go further, and say no responsible person would stand up at that box—and guarantee the same benefits to the agricultural labourer as they are getting under this Bill. Therefore the only alternative is this. If you are prepared to go to the agricultural labourer and say to him you must have less, then if he takes less you charge him less. Let that issue be clearly understood. You cannot guarantee him these benefits under the scheme and at the same time reduce the contribution by a penny. The hon. Gentleman asked how the farmer could afford to pay who was not making any profit. But the farmer is doing very much better than he was a few years ago. This penny is nothing compared to the improvement in his position.
I never laid any emphasis on the point about this penny. I never referred to the penny in my speech. I was referring to the aggregate payment made by the employer and employed, and I never made any reference to the penny. I carefully avoided it.
Surely I understood the right hon. Gentleman wished to reduce the contribution by a penny?
If the right hon. Gentleman will look at our schedule, he will find that the object of our Amendment is to reduce the total contribution by a penny, and that the reduction should be shared by the employer and employed.
What I want to point out is this: After all, you cannot get poorer land than in many parts of Scotland, where there are also difficulties owing to the markets being remote. The same thing undoubtedly applies to parts of Wales, where they have poor mountain land. Yet in both countries the wages are 18s. and 20s. a week, including board and lodging. Why should farmers, paying lower wages in other parts of the country, not be able to find the penny, while farmers in other parts of the country can pay wages at the rate of 18s. to 20s. a week, notwithstanding that their farms are in remote parts and far removed from any of the great centres of population. In some parts of Carmarthen the farms are eighty and 100 miles away from the nearest market, and yet the farmers there are able to pay 18s. and 20s. a week, including board and lodging. Surely farmers who are now paying 11s., 12s., and 13s. a week in other parts of the country, and whose lands are near some of the greatest markets in the world, should have no difficulty in finding the extra penny for agricultural labourers.
There is no alteration made by our Schedule. Whatever we may think about it on this side of the House, there is no alteration in regard to the penny. In regard to lower wages the penny is still retained exactly as it is under this scheme. We have not altered it in our Schedule by one iota.
I am very glad to hear that from the hon. Gentleman, who represents the agricultural interest in a very special sense.
I will challenge the point when the time comes.
Then that shows my argument is very relevant to the whole thing. I have got one other word to say with regard to the agricultural labourer. There is a class of agricultural labourers which, I think, is entitled to special consideration. I am not only dealing with the agricultural labourer, but the farmer as well. There is a kind of agricultural labourer who is entitled to special consideration, that is the case of the agricultural labourer who has got a time contract, a six months' contract, which is the case in Scotland and in the North of England. I had a deputation last week which told me that it was the same in the East of England. There is the case of agricultural labourers who are paid for six months or a whole year, and get paid whether they are sick or not. That is a special case, and when we come to it, I am prepared to consider it. The same thing applies to domestic servants, the same thing applies to sailors, the same thing applies, I think, to the nurses and one or two other classes where the contract covers the case of sickness. It applies also to clerks. In many cases the clerk is paid by many firms whether he is sick or not. I think there there is a grievance. The employer pays the clerk whether he is ill or not, the farmer pays the agricultural labourer whether he is ill or not. In Scotland I believe he is by law compelled to pay six weeks' wages. The same system applies in Northumberland, Durham, and Yorkshire; I hear it is the same in some parts of the east, and in certain contracts even in the west, and I know also it is the case in parts of Ireland. In those cases I think there is a special case for consideration. It was raised by the Leader of the Opposition last week. I received one or two deputations on the subject. I had one from Scotland, and another introduced by an hon. Member in respect of England from the Farmers' Union of England and Wales. That is a case for consideration, and I suggested to the Leader of the Opposition last week, that what you wanted to discover there was the actuarial equivalent of what it cost the scheme to provide for temporary sickness. For instance, the agricultural labourer wants sanatorium benefits, the hon. Member admitted that there was a good deal of tuberculosis amongst them, the agricultural labourer naturally wants medical benefit, and the only benefit which in those cases he does not require is that of temporary sickness, because he gets from his employer at present something which is a very fair equivalent, and the same thing applies to the other classes.In those cases the Government are prepared, we are considering the actual form now, to exclude temporary sickness from benefit and to confine it to permanent sickness, to sanatorium, and medical benefits, and how much of a reduction that would involve, it is very difficult to ascertain, that is the actuarial equivalent. As far as I am able to ascertain now, the actuarial equivalent to that would be about 2d. That is a greater reduction than that mentioned by the hon. Gentleman. That involves a further contract on the employer to provide something which is equivalent for temporary sickness. If the farmers are pre- pared in those parts of the country, where there is no guarantee of any payment during sickness, to undertake as part of their contracts some sort of provision in the way of wages during the time of sickness, then there is a reduction not of 1d. but of 2d., which is charged on the Fund at present. I respectfully suggest to the hon. Gentleman, and to those associated with him, that that is a much better way of dealing with the question than by our assuming that you can do things for 6d. which the actuaries advise you must got 7d. for. That is a very dangerous thing to do. You will only be guaranteeing something to the agricultural labourer which you cannot perform, and that is the worst thing in the world. I suggest to hon. Members who are supporting this Amendment, that they should rather accept that other alternative, which, I think, will satisfy the Scottish farmers, the Northumberland and Durham, and, I believe, the Yorkshire farmers, and the farmers, I believe, in a good many other parts. Of course, the hon. Gentleman is much better acquainted with the problem than I am—I frankly admit that. As he knows there are parts where a weekly wage is not universally prevalent, and where you get half-yearly contracts, and if the farmers are prepared in those parts to undertake some liability as their brethren do in other parts of the country then it will be quite possible to reduce the total charge, not by 1d., as he suggests, but by 2d. May I point this out to the Committee, that the very parts of the country where the farmer undertakes this liability are the parts where he pays better wages. There is not a single corner of this country where good wages are paid by the farmer to the labourer, where he does not. In addition to that, undertake to pay when the man is sick—temporarily I mean, not permanent sickness. Permanent sickness I still suggest should be a burden on the Fund, and temporary sickness, I suggest, might be undertaken by the farmer. If the agricultural labourer is so very much healthier, and if there is so much saved owing to them being so much healthier, is it not a good bargain for the farmer to say, "I will take my chance. I will give you, say, six weeks' wages during illness." I do not suggest that he should pay during a protracted illness, but that he should pay something equivalent to the benefits paid under the Bill during temporary illness. If he does that I think the hon. Gentleman will find that this is a suggestion which will meet the case. You eliminate temporary sickness altogether, and you make it part of the contract. You make the mere fact that a man is paid under this special rate, the proof of the contract that he has undertaken to pay the equivalent. I suggest that a special order should cover each of those cases, and that there should be an inquiry as to certain classes of cases; you cannot take the eases of individuals, it must be the class, as otherwise you would have thousands of inquiries. Where there is a class of the community which has got special terms as part of its contract of service whereby it receives during sickness a payment which is equivalent to the benefits of the Bill, then those cases by special order should be exempt from paying for temporary sickness. That, I believe, would be equivalent to a reduction of 2d. You will ask, what will happen as far as the State is concerned? The State now undertakes two-ninths of the benefits, and that looks on the face of it as if it were a reduction on the State liability. I do not suggest that at all. As a matter of fact, I am advised we could not reduce the charge by 2d. unless the State undertook the full contribution, the equivalent of 2d. I suggest that in those cases of the exempted classes, that they should get the full benefit of the State contribution exactly in the same way as those classes which are not exempt. That will enable us to reduce the charge. I suggest to the hon. Gentleman I am offering him very much better terms, terms which are much more practical, and which in the long run will benefit the farmer and the agricultural labourer to a much larger extent, and enable the farmer to get his 1d. and the agricultural labourers to get his 1d., instead of a ½d. being given to the farmer and another ½d. to the agricultural labourer. I suggest this is a very much better plan, and therefore that at the present moment he should not press his Amendment to a Division, otherwise it would preclude us from considering the thing fairly afterwards. May I also say that it must be done, not by way of Amendment, but by way of special Clause. Therefore, if the hon. Gentleman is satisfied that at any rate there is something there which is worth discussing and considering—
I am not prepared to withdraw straight away. I must see something in black and white.
Then the hon. Gentleman must take the full conse- quences. He is challenging a Division which will involve a negative. I say that is a great mistake, and a very great mistake. it is a great responsibility for him to take. When that Clause is submitted and I have already said it is under consideration—
Will the agricultural labourers be treated as a separate class?
Yes, that is it. I would not object if there were districts or areas. For instance, I could well understand agricultural labourers in one district being inside and in another district being outside. What I do object to is that you should have to consider at all the individual cases; that would break down any machine. You might have, for instance, to consider hundreds and thousands of cases. So long as it is confined to areas.. I do not mind. I do suggest this matter very earnestly to the hon. Gentleman. It is not as if he were precluded later on, and I undertake to submit it for consideration before it appears on the Paper. He can always move a reduction, he, cannot move an increase. I suggest to him that it is far better for him not to challenge the Division, and that he should consider the suggestion I am making, and that for the moment he should withdraw his Amendment, and if, when we submit our Amendment, it is unsatisfactory to him, then he will be again in a position to move.
How will the 2d. be divided?
My own suggestion is that it should be divided equally, a 1d. to the agricultural labourer and a 1d. to the farmer.
The speech to which we have just listened from the Chancellor of the Exchequer has carried the matter a great deal further than any of us expected when my hon. Friend (Mr. C. Bathurst) moved his Amendment in that able speech to which we all listened. I confess, although I have done my best to give some consideration to the proposal which the Chancellor of the Exchequer adumbrated in the closing part of his speech, that special arrangement should be made for special classes of wage-earners, I was rather taken by surprise when I heard him suggest that this proposal should be applied to the great body of those who are engaged in agriculture. But I am bound to say I think my hon. Friend would be well advised to take into very serious consideration the proposal which the Chancellor of the Exchequer has made. After all, if the Chancellor of the Exchequer is right, he offers, at any rate, some prospect of an advantage of 2d. The reduction in contribution which my hon. Friend has in view is a reduction of a 1d. Looked at solely from that point of view, the proposal of the Chancellor of the Exchequer is one that we must weigh very carefully before we reject it. My hon. Friend says very naturally and properly, "I cannot form a final judgment on the Chancellor of the Exchequer's proposal until I see its terms in black and white." He naturally feels reluctant to lose what he regards as his only possible chance of pressing his proposal to a Division. But I think we shall have another opportunity, supposing we are not satisfied with his proposal, of pressing our views upon the Chancellor of the Exchequer when we come to the Schedule. It will then be in order for us to restate our case and, in the event of our not being satisfied, to press the proposal to a Division. I thought it right to make that suggestion to my hon. Friend, because I am sure that he is animated wholly and solely by the desire to benefit the agricultural labourers, and that he would not allow any natural disappointment at the Chancellor of the Exchequer's professed inability to entertain his suggestion to weigh unduly in his mind.I listened to the speech of the Chancellor of the Exchequer with a great deal of interest and a certain amount of disappointment, because, while the Chancellor of the Exchequer gave us a great many statistics, and he always speaks on this question in a manner which interests the Committee, he did not really touch one of the arguments upon which my hon. Friend based his case. The argument of my hon. Friend was that the proportion of the contribution which the Bill takes from the agricultural labourers bears a much higher ratio to the ordinary level of their wages than the proportion taken from nearly any other class of workman in the country. My hon. Friend pointed out that the agricultural labourers will be called upon for nearly double the percentage of their wages that many better paid men will have to pay. He also pointed out that while they pay a so much higher percentage of their wages, they will get precisely the same benefit as those who pay a lower percentage. The Chancellor of the Exchequer never gave any kind of answer to that argument. I was disappointed, because I would have liked to have heard him grapple with that particular problem, and to have seen what ingenious answer he could supply. As he has provided none, I suppose there is no answer to be made. The particular ground on which the Chancellor of the Exchequer was compelled to refuse acceptance of the Amendment was that you cannot guarantee the benefit for a less contribution than the Bill lays down. He says that no one standing at that box or at this would be willing to guarantee it. I am happy to think that we have not to guarantee it. It is not the business of those who sit on this side to undertake responsibility for the scheme to the extent to which the Chancellor of the Exchequer has to do. That brings me to a point which I made last week when we were debating the Financial Resolution. As by the terms of that Resolution we are prevented from proposing anything that would lead to an increase of the contribution of the State beyond two-ninths of the benefit and the other proportions laid down in the Resolution, our hands are tied when we come, to the consideration of these proposals purely from the financial aspect. As we are driven to accept the limits which the Chancellor of the Exchequer has chosen to place upon the financial part of the scheme, our hands are tied from the financial point of view. When he informs the Committee that his financial advisers tell him that his scheme will not be financially solvent if we insist upon anything like a large reduction in the contribution which the agricultural industry will have to make, it renders it very difficult for any of us to advocate the diminution of the agricultural contribution to the extent that we should like. We have all to remember, whether we like it or not, that it would be folly for the country, madness for us, and doing a great disservice to the agricultural community themselves if we were to advise them to embark upon a scheme which was not actuarially sound. We cannot leave that consideration out of account however desirous we might be of doing so. The Chancellor of the Exchequer drew a comparison between the contribution which he is asking from the agricultural community and the contribution exacted in Germany. I could not quite see what the reference to Germany had to do with my hon. Friend's argument, hat as the right hon. Gentleman has taken us to Germany I am quite willing to follow him for a few minutes. He reminded us that one of the reasons why the contribution in Germany is so high is that they have a contributory system of old age pensions. I have forgotten for the moment what proportion of the workman's contribution is made necessary by the old age pensions scheme, but it is something very considerable. The Chancellor of the Exchequer pointed out that in this country we have a non-contributory scheme of old age pensions, and that the workman does not have to provide by way of weekly contributions any part of the financial liability under the Old Age Pensions Act. That is why the contributions are lower here than in Germany. But that does not meet the argument of my hon. Friend; as far as I can see it has nothing on earth to do with it. The right hon. Gentleman said that if the Committee were willing to follow him in the method which he suggested of dealing with the special classes of persons affected by the Bill, advantage must be taken of his proposal by each class concerned—that is to say, the clerks, the labourers, and the farmers. I see one difficulty in dealing with the whole of the agricultural industry in the way suggested, namely, that of securing a plain statement of their wishes from all the persons in the class in question. As far as I can see, it would be difficult to ascertain whether all the farmers in the country would be willing to enter into a contract with their workmen, under which they would provide the workmen with either full wages or a proportionate part of their wages during six weeks' sickness. Supposing only three-fourths of the farmers in the country were willing to enter into this arrangement: we have not had time yet to think out what is to happen to the remaining fourth. It will be the same in the case of the employers of clerks, and so on. Obviously you cannot come to any definite decision in the matter to-day. The question must be held open for further consideration. If that is done, I think we ought to be able to find a way of dealing with the matter. We have to remember one thing when we are asking the farmers, for instance, to undertake under contract the legal responsibility of providing some portion of the wages for six weeks' sickness. We are no doubt offering him the advantage of a reduction in the contribution that he has to make, but at the same time we are saddling him with the respon- sibility of undertaking himself the insurance of his men against temporary sickness. We shall have to go very carefully into the actuarial aspect of the matter from both points of view. We shall have to see which will pay the agricultural community the better. If on examination from the actuarial point of view we are able to show the farmer that he stands to gain rather than to lose by accepting the suggestion of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, I am sure that as business men they will be the first to appreciate it and to come into line. They will look at it purely and simply as a business matter, and we shall have to put it before them as such and nothing else. The closing part of the right hon. Gentleman's speech has led the whole consideration of this question into such a different channel from that which it first entered that I do not think it would be much use examining some of the arguments that the Chancellor of the Exchequer used in the earlier portions of his speech. I am bound to say, however, that there is something very attractive to me in the idea that in. all parts of the country there might grow up a system which has answered so well as that which has prevailed for many years in Scotland, in the north of England, and in some other parts of the country—a system which brings man and master into a closer relationship than exists at the present time. I am one of those who are most anxious to do everything possible, not only in the House of Commons, but everywhere else, to bring men and masters into close and harmonious relationships in every walk in life, and if we are able to work out a satisfactory scheme, I look forward to good results from it in that connection. I will not follow the Chancellor of the Exchequer into his arguments with reference to rural friendly societies being insolvent in so many cases, beyond reminding him that one of the most potent causes of insolvency on the part of small rural societies is the fact that they are so apt to divide their profits without due consideration of the actuarial position. I think that if you put to one side the dividing societies you will find the proportion of small rural societies—
It is the bad in-vestments they have made.
I should have thought that if you put on one side the dividing societies the proportion of friendly socie- ties who are not insolvent is not so heavy as the proportion which the Chancellor has told this House. However, as I said a moment ago, he has made a suggestion that makes it almost unnecessary to examine the arguments in the earlier part of his speech, and I can only say, speaking for myself, and I think I can speak for my hon. Friend behind me, that we are willing to give the most careful and most anxious consideration to the suggestion which the Chancellor has made to us. Under these circumstances I feel sure we shall not need to press the matter to a Division.
I would like to thank the Chancellor of the Exchequer for the way he is attempting to deal with the special case of the agricultural labourers of Scotland. As I understand by the suggestion which he has put before the House this afternoon, he intends to divide the benefits which are applicable to the agricultural labourer, and so get rid of the difficulty which has been pointed out to him in that the agricultural labourer of Scotland has provision made for him in relation to temporary sickness. I only wish to make one or two suggestions which the right hon. Gentleman may consider while dealing with this question. I hardly think that the division of benefits which he has suggested is quite fair to the Scottish farm servants. The right hon. Gentleman says that the Scottish farm servant at present receives temporary sickness benefit, and that he does not receive the benefit that it is suggested he should now receive. But I would point out that the temporary sickness benefit which the farm servant at present receives is more than he will receive under the Bill, in that he receives full wages for six weeks. I think the Chancellor of the Exchequer admitted—
I know; but what the hon. Gentleman must bear in mind is that the sickness benefit extends; to twenty-six weeks.
I quite agree that a farm servant is very seldom ill for more than six weeks, and temporary sickness benefit in a majority of cases would not be for more than six weeks. But if the farm servant gets full wages for six weeks that is surely equivalent to more than the benefit granted under this Bill? The next point I would make as to the division of the benefit is this, that permanent sickness benefit is not of so great consequence to farm servants as to other classes of the industrial community, because in. a great majority of cases the farm servant would not become entitled to permanent sickness benefit until he was over seventy years of age. It is only in a very small minority of cases that the farm servant would become entitled to permanent sickness benefit until after seventy, and we know that after seventy this Bill ceases to apply.In these circumstances I hardly think the Chancellor of the Exchequer is making sufficient allowance for what the farm servant at present receives when he offers the reduction of 2d., an amount recently calculated by a large farmer as to what the existing benefits cost him. As to the existing allowance for full wages during six weeks the right hon. Gentleman said that he had averaged this over a number of years and found that it was practically the equivalent of the contributions he would make under this Bill. Some hon. Member says 3d. a week, not 2d. So that actually, in the experience of the farmer of Scotland, what he has been giving his servants in the way of temporary sickness benefit is equivalent not to 2d. but to 3d. I think the Chancellor should bear that point in mind. There is a further point which I should like to raise. In the Financial Resolution which we passed last week it was decided that the Government contribution was to be two-ninths. Now that the Chancellor is going to make this 2d. reduction—which is the suggested amount—in the case of the farm servant referred to, is the State contribution still to be two-ninths?
I have already explained. I made it quite clear, and at some length, that the agricultural labourer will get exactly the same contribution from the State as any other person.
Then in that case it is infringing upon the Financial Resolution which we have passed.
It is not. But this is not the time to raise that question. When it comes to be raised I shall be prepared to contend that there is no infringement. But if there is there will be no difficulty at all in the matter.
I thought it was really inconsistent with the Resolution passed, but I only wished to mention it. The points I have made were the only ones I desired to make. While those who represent the agricultural labourer in Scotland welcome the arrangement which the Chancellor of the Exchequer is offering, we think it is not quite adequate as a substitute for what the agricultural labourer there at present receives.
The Chancellor of the Exchequer has answered the general case put forward by my hon. Friend by quoting again a special part of England, where perhaps he has a large number of supporters. He persists in holding the pistol at the heads of the agricultural members, and has said that if we do not accept this we may get nothing at all. For my part—and I have agriculturalists in my Constituency—I am quite prepared to take the chance of the pistol missing fire. I hope sincerely that my hon. Friend will not withdraw his Amendment, because it is one which I hold will be of the greatest importance to the proper working of this Bill. The contention which my hon. Friend put forward, and which I do not think that the Chancellor has answered a bit, was that the flat rate was making the-agricultural labourer pay a far greater proportion than was fair to the general cost of the Insurance scheme. I cannot see, first of all, why the Chancellor of the Exchequer should not accept the Amendment of my hon. Friend, because surely that does not preclude his Schedule or his extra Clause coming in afterwards? I do-hope that he may see his way even now to accept it.What is the general case which we have put forward? It is that the agricultural labourer is going to pay a higher proportion. The Chancellor of the Exchequer answered that in two ways. He pointed out that the present contribution in the bigger societies, in the case of the Foresters, for instance, where they have a separate agricultural branch, is only a farthing less. As regards the large societies, let me mention what one of the largest of them, the Manchester Unity of Oddfellows, have done in this matter. They have sent, I think, to nearly if not all the Members of this House a list of Amendments which they wish put down for discussion. In the case of one of the Amendments they add a note which, I think, answers the very point which the Chancellor of the Exchequer put forward:—
That is the view of the Oddfellows:—"The object of the Amendment is to remove serious inequalities arising under this Bill. In a large affiliated order surpluses will always appear in some of the localities, e.g., the agricultural; whilst in other manufacturing localities deficiencies will always appear."
That is the point of view that the Oddfellows have put forward, and what I have said is one of the amendments they desire. They say that unquestionably surpluses will continually be transferred from agricultural districts to manufacturing districts. That I think absolutely bears out our point. Therefore the farmer and the agriculturist will be paying too high a rate compared with other people. The next point is the small friendly societies. One of the things which the Chancellor left out—which is perhaps not taken into consideration—with regard to these small friendly societies is in respect to what has caused so many of them to be in a bad financial condition. That is the growth of large societies which will take younger men, and will not take the older men. The younger men drop out of the small societies, whether dividing or otherwise, in the rural districts, and join the big societies. Thus you will find that the small societies are left frequently with the aged to whom they have got to be paying benefits, and so, gradually, they get into a worse financial position each year. But you cannot deduce from that that therefore the risks of the agricultural districts are as great, or greater, than those in other districts. This problem is a very big one indeed. Of the 13,000,000 people who are, according to this Bill, to come under its operation, about 2,000,000 are employed in agriculture, which is still the largest of our industries. Hence the question is one of enormous importance, at present and in the future. It obviously divides itself into two parts, the first is in respect to the contribution of the men, and the second in respect of the contribution of the employers. I think the Chancellor of the Exchequer only dealt with the. contribution of the employers, by making some remarks as to the high wages in one part of England, and the low wages in another. First of all, as to the employers. The Chancellor, in making his statement on either the First or Second Reading of the Bill, said that the reason for the employer having to pay a higher rate of contribution where wages were low was that because low wages meant high profits. I absolutely disagree with the Chancellor in that. I do not believe, in the case of agriculture, that low wages mean high profits—"The result under the Bill will be the constant passage of a large amount of surplus from one group of localities to another group of localities, and this hardship will be intensified by the fact that the members required to compulsorily surrender their surpluses are the low wage classes, receiving on an average much less than those to whom their surplus is to be given."
Quite the reverse. I have said so before, and I say so now. I am perfectly certain that it is the well paid man that is the good, effective labourer.
I am sorry if I misconstrued the meaning of the right hon. Gentleman. I understood him to say what I have said. I quite accept his statement. At any rate, the employer in the agricultural districts is going to have to pay a higher amount—obviously, in the Southern counties—than the employer engaged in other trades. I think that the Chancellor said that agriculture on the whole had been doing very much better during the last few years. If the right hon. Gentleman was in the position of the farmer who during the last few months has been selling his corn at 2s. and 3s. cheaper, and his sheep at 10s, per head less than for three or four years past, I do not think he would be so ready to talk about the very prosperous state of agriculture in this country. I think on the contrary, that the growing competition is cutting the farmer handed than anyone else. I do not think farmers have done very much better during the last two or three years. I think it is admitted that in many trades, if not most of the trades of this country, the employers think they are going to pass on the cost of this insurance to the consumers. The farmer will not be able to do that. The farmer is not in a position to put his commodities up in the way that the ordinary producer can do. His price is dependent upon varying conditions all over the world. He may get frost in Canada at a certain time, rains in Australia, and something else in Russia. All these things affect the prices of what the farmer has to sell. It is perfectly obvious that the farmer has only two alternatives. Either he has got to pay his contribution himself—he is not in the position of the manufacturer One Noble Lord said the other day that the cost could be, passed on to the consumer. The farmer is not in the position to pass it on to the consumer. He has to pay his contributions himself or put it on the back of his employé. [An HON. MEMBER: "Put it on the rent."] How do you propose to do that? We are arguing on entirely different bases. Some hon. Gentlemen opposite are considerably opposed to this Bill now.
I am opposed to the landlords much more.
That is a different state of affairs. We are arguing now against the Bill as it stands at present, and I say that the general effect is that this is to come out of the pockets of the farmers or of the labourers. In many cases the farmers will be in favour of passing it on to the labourers, and these labourers will have to pay the same contribution as men who get 30s. or 40s. a week. We know that in many parts of England labourers only get 12s. or 14s. a week, yet they will have to pay exactly the same contribution as men who get far higher wages. If they get 15s. a week they will pay exactly the same as men who earn £3 a week.
If they get over 15s. a week they will have to pay exactly the same as men who get £2 10s. or £3 a week, though they will not get the same amount of benefit. My belief is that they will be very hardly treated under this Bill. Their lives are better and they live longer, and therefore they will have to make a larger number of contributions than is the case of people living in towns, where life is shorter, and therefore the balance of difference as between the two is against the agriculturist. I think this is going to prove a very great hardship indeed to the agricultural labourer, and unless the Chancellor of the Exchequer can see his way to reduce the contribution taken from the agriculturists, I think it will strike a very great blow at that class.It will also strike a blow at the small holder. Many of these people depend upon the additional wages earned by working for farmers, and the farmers will be much less ready to employ them than heretofore owing to the fact that he will have to pay a contribution for them. I certainly hope the Chancellor may yet see his way not merely to yield on this anomalous concession which in effect comes to this, that the employer will have to pay one penny per week to ensure his workmen against six weeks' sickness. I do not believe that is possible. I do not believe any insurance company will take the risk at this low rate. Twopence is taken off. I believe that in the country districts where the Scottish system does not prevail at present you will find that this system will have no effect. I do not think any employer is going to take this risk. I do not think the Chancellor of the Exchequer could find any insurance company that would take a risk at such a low rate and for these reasons I hope my hon. Friend will press his Amendment.
My hon. Friend the Member for Wiltshire has brought forward figures to show that the agricultural risks could be covered by a penny a week less than the risks in towns. The Chancellor of the Exchequer replies to that by saying he has better figures, better than the estimate of the actuary, because his figures are the result of experience of many years of the Foresters' Society. I understand the Chancellor to say that the agricultural labourer's risk requires only a farthing a week less to cover it than does that of the townsman. He does not make it quite clear why the agricultural labourer, who is the poorest-paid class in the country, should pay a farthing a week, or 1s. 1d. a year, towards his richer neighbour in the town.
That is a fundamental mistake. Why should he pay towards his richer neighbour in the town? All he has got to do is to join a rural society, and he will get the benefit.
The difficulty is to join a rural society. There is only one big society, the Foresters, that, has a rural branch. Except in Ireland, the Chancellor gives no facility under his Bill for the formation of these rural societies.
You can form societies anywhere.
But there is a limit of 5,000 on the agricultural labourer in forming rural societies. The Foresters give benefits over seventy years of age. The State proposes not to give benefits over seventy years of age. It is admitted there are many more agriculturists over seventy years of age than dwellers in towns, and, therefore, the benefit that the Foresters give to agricultural labourers is more than it would be in the towns. That seems to suggest the probability that my hon. Friend's figures are more nearly accurate than the Chancellor will admit. As regards the proposal about the reduction of 2d. in return for certain responsibilities undertaken by the farmer, I do not know what that proposal would amount to. My hon. Friends round me are not more clear on the subject than I am. I should like to suggest to the Chancellor that as regards these smaller societies, some of which are solvent, could they not be saved by extending to the whole country the proposal which I see in his Irish Clause, that is of allowing county associations to be formed to amalgamate the small societies, and with no limit of 10,000 or 5,000. Why should that be done away with in Ireland and required for Great Britain and Scotland? Why not allow a similar basis of amalgamation here? I should like to ask the Chancellor, in conclusion, if he cannot see his way to accept the Amendment of my hon. Friend. All I understand the Amendment suggests is that the agricultural industry should be differently dealt with to the rest of the community, and that, it should be eliminated from Part I. of the Second Schedule of the Bill. I should like the Chancellor to accept this Amendment, and await another opportunity for going into details.
On a point of Order. The Chancellor of the Exchequer a moment ago asked me to withdraw a statement which I attributed to him, and now on looking the matter up, I find I was right, and that what the right hon. Gentleman did say was, "We have come to the conclusion that the difference ought to be made up by the employer by his profits on cheap labour."
I must point out to the hon. Member that that is not a point of Order, but one of personal explanation.
I should like to ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer to clear up one or two points in his new proposal. It would be a great advantage to the agricultural community if they could really know what this suggestion really is. The right hon. Gentleman's own language is that for a reduction of the farmer's contribution of benefits he will have to take on the temporary sickness benefits given under the Bill, or the proposal of the Scotch system should be adopted, by which six weeks' full wages are paid. The two things are not the same.
The proposal I made was that the employer, whether farmer or shipowner or other person, must pay something that is equivalent to the benefits under the Bill. For instance, my hon. Friend behind me said that six weeks is more than equivalent. At any rate, the employer must undertake to do something which is equivalent to the benefits of temporary sickness, and then he will have exemption from paying the amount, whether 2d. or whatever it may be which would be necessary to insure temporary sickness under the Bill. The suggestion is that you should divide the reduction between the employer and the employed.
That makes it rather more difficult for us to have the opportunity of correctly explaining this matter. This, after all, is a business proposition, and we want to know exactly what it is. Unless the Chancellor can give us something more clear than the mere words equivalent it will be very difficult to explain what the actual position is. The farmer is rather a suspicious person, and if you talk to him about mere equivalent you do not get much further. If you could explain to him what he is to get in return for his contribution of 1d. we would get to business, and the matter would be much simpler.
Before the Chancellor answers, perhaps he will tell us whether he proposes to make some special arrangement for Ireland or Wales, because, if so, why should he not extend the same arrangement to the agricultural districts of England?
I certainly never heard of it. The only thing I heard: about Ireland was the suggestion that it should he cut out altogether. I agree with the hon. Member. It is important that the farmers should know what the proposition exactly is, but I think it is far better to-deal with special cases by the Commissioners subject to Parliament. You might find forty or fifty other suggestions. A further suggestion is that we should demand simply an equivalent.
It seems to me that this proposal is likely to cause an infinite amount of trouble to the agricultural community, but we shall see how it works out. I do not think the right hon. Gentleman will find it is a system which is likely to be successful. I would like to know in this county system who is going to check malingering?
Again the whole onus, of this proposal is going to be placed on the farmer.
In this case it will be done by the whole county, and the farmer in each case will soon detect if a man is shirking. This is done in Scotland, Northumberland, and Durham, and it is done by the largest county in England, where the farmers themselves check malingering. The farmer only needs to say, "you are shamming, you are not ill, and you must come back to your work." This has worked very successfully in the cases I have mentioned, and I think it ought to work well in this country. The man who is shamming is not likely to be engaged a second time, and therefore you have an effective check upon him.
But they have no court of appeal.
I am told it works very well in Scotland, where there is no appeal either for the agricultural labourer or the farmer. I have no hesitation in saying that I think it will work very well in this country.
The right hon. Gentleman is basing his conclusion on false premises. He says this practice has been adopted in Yorkshire.
I do not think I mentioned Yorkshire.
The right hon. Gentleman said it was adopted in the largest county in England, and Yorkshire is the largest county.
I mentioned Northumberland and Durham, and although I do not say it is universal in Yorkshire, it prevails in some parts of Yorkshire. I am told it applies to the North Riding of Yorkshire, but if the hon. Member says it does not I am willing to accept his statement.
I cannot speak for Northumberland or Durham, and I think it applies to the North Riding and to the East Riding of Yorkshire. It only applies, however, to particular cases, such as the shepherds, and it does not apply generally to the agricultural labourer. Therefore, the right hon. Gentleman is arguing upon false premises when he says that it is the common practice in England. In the greater part of England it does not prevail at all, and it prevails only in a part of Yorkshire. In the West Riding of Yorkshire it hardly prevails at all. I think there will be very considerable difficulty unless these suggestions are made perfectly clear in getting farmers together in sufficient numbers to be able to classify them into districts. I think the right hon. Gentleman, will be wise if he considers more carefully this Amendment before he applies his suggestion as an alternative, because it is really not an alternative at all.The right hon. Gentleman is going to make this apply to other classes. We suggest that the agricultural class have special conditions, and that is the reason for moving this Amendment. We gladly welcome the suggestion made by the right hon. Gentleman that we shall be able to favour the federation of existing societies and keep them going with the same men. If this scheme is to be made successful it must be done by legalising societies, as they are now utilising the same people to run them. That is the only way in which you will induce agriculturists to take up this scheme. I think the right hon. Gentleman was wrong in his allusion to the German scheme as regards a flat rate. Under the German scheme the contributions go steadily down according to the wages that are paid, and I am sure the right hon. Gentleman will not find that in. Germany agriculture is treated exactly in the same way. I think ho will find that an allowance is made for the special conditions of the agricultural industry. I hope the right hon. Gentleman will consider whether it is possible to do in this country to a certain extent, what is being done in Germany, for which excellent reasons have been given by the Mover of this Amendment.
My hon. Friend the Member for Wiltshire is in a very difficult position. This Amendment has not been carelessly put down, nor is it one for which my hon. Friend desires to maintain any special right of parentage. It has been put down in the interests of a very large class after much consultation with large representatives of the agricultural industry. My hon. Friend has made a definite proposal and he naturally feels, if he withdraws his Amendment and abandons the position he has taken up, he ought not to do so without definite assurance as to what we are going to get in exchange. But before my hon. Friend abandons his position, we must press the Chancellor of the Exchequer for more information than we possess now. With regard to the position in our counties generally, undoubtedly anybody who knows the country villages of England will admit that there is a considerable amount of poverty and suffering to be borne by the wage-earning classes. I can speak with some knowledge of the country districts and some of the poorer of those districts. I have also some little knowledge of the slum areas in big towns, and I do not think anyone can deny the justice of the position we are taking up in regard to this question.We all admit and recognise the immense ability which the Chancellor of the Exchequer has brought to bear on this question which enables him to talk with accuracy and knowledge upon a variety of detail. There are a great many details and some of them have escaped his attention. It is true that there were in our country districts a number of small societies which were improperly managed. As he says, their investments were bad, and in some cases the actuarial calculations were unsound. In addition to this there was an abominable system existing in many instances where at the end of a good year the profits accruing were divided amongst the members, and when they experienced a bad year this practice probably brought about their downfall, and produced a great deal of misery. That was the case some fifteen or twenty years ago, but out of all that trouble there has come good and advantage. As a result of that bitter experience, and as a consequence of the failure of those societies to meet their obligations, the sounder and larger societies have guarded against this. The right hon. Gentleman referred to Wiltshire. We have in that county the Wiltshire Friendly Society, started some seventy years ago, and, I believe, it is absolutely sound. Every year we are getting into that society more and more young men, and consequently there is a larger number every year of the young men in our country villages joining this sound society. What is the position at this moment? The labourers, whether rightly or wrongly, and their employers—because there is no division of opinion between master and men—believe that the proposals of the Chancellor of the Exchequer are not fair. They think burdens will be laid upon them heavier than they ought to bear, having regard to their position and the existing advantages which they get from the societies to which they now belong. This is not a question which is going to affect us individually as employers. I speak as one who employs a good many labourers, both of the artisan and the agricultural class. After all, so far as we are concerned, we have a large balance between our expenditure and our income. Therefore this can- not be called a class question, but it will affect the farmer, and more especially the small farmer. It will also affect, in every case, the labouring man. Therefore, the responsibility which my hon. Friend who moved this Amendment has to bear is a great one, because he is responsible for the interests, not only of all these farmers, but also the great mass of agricultural labourers, and if the decision to-day is adverse to them they will have to bear all the burden and the suffering. Therefore, it would not be reasonable to ask him to abandon his position until something a little more definite is known than we know at present. I venture, therefore, to address a question or two to the Chancellor of the Exchequer. I think he is right, if I may say so, in the answer he has just made to my hon. Friend behind me, the Member for Yorkshire (Mr. Lane-Fox), upon the question of the successful working of his system. For my part, I decline to believe or to admit we cannot work as effectually in the county of Wilts a new system as they have been able to work the same system in Durham or Northumberland. I do not think that difficulty is one which need be feared. We do want, however, to know much more definitely what is in the Chancellor's mind. I do not ask him to put the Amendment on the Paper now, but I ask him to tell us a little more definitely what is in his mind, and what is the form of proposal he contemplates making to us on behalf of the labourers. The suggestions divide themselves into two. They are, in the first place, that there should be, as he properly described it, a special contract on the part of the employer towards the men involving on the employer the obligation of giving his men certain terms which are better than they have now; and, secondly, that these contracts are not to be advanced as existing only in the case of certain individuals, but they must come from certain recognised areas. The Chancellor of the Exchequer indicates counties as being in his mind. With regard to the first, my hon. Friend behind me raises the question of malingering. The Chancellor tells us it would be the business of the farmer to check that. Some of us have experienced a system where, when sickness comes, the employer gives to the man, not his whole wages, but the amount he would not get out of his friendly society. Supposing a man gets half his wages as sick allowance from his friendly society, the employer gives him an equivalent amount and keeps his wages up to the full amount. It is quite obvious it is to the interest of the employer the man should go back to work as soon as he is able to do so. I do not imagine for an instant the Chancellor of the Exchequer would allow a special contract of this kind to be set up unless it be subject to the approval of somebody. To whom are these contracts to be submitted? Who has he got in his mind? Is it the Registrar of Friendly Societies or what is the authority he proposes to set up? Is is to be local or central? I venture to suggest he has not considered this very carefully, and I hope he will be willing to consider the suggestion I make, that the submission should be to some local authority and not to a central authority. If a central authority, say his own authority in London, were to lay down certain regulations based upon rather broad principles, they would be the guide of the local representative authority, but, if they were all to be submitted to a central authority in London, I venture to say delay would be so hopeless that it would be impossible to carry out any system of the kind. If this arrangement were to be a failure, the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the Committee must bear in mind that by its failure the working men would be landed in a position which they would regard as unfair and unsatisfactory. They would naturally say: "You had an opportunity in Parliament under a proposal which was made to get better terms for us. You withdrew from that position, and you have now landed us in one wholly unsatisfactory." When we come to the area, the Chancellor of the Exchequer suggests counties. I do not know whether that is a chance or a considered suggestion, but I venture to submit it would be very difficult in some of our counties, which can be divided into two-thirds and one-third. In some parts you have a population similar in character, similar in its form of employment, and similar in its rate of wages, and in other parts of the county you find a different kind of industry entirely and a different rate of wages. I believe it would kill the scheme in its infancy if you attempted to make these two different parts come to some common agreement. I hope the Chancellor of the Exchequer will indicate to us that he has not fixed ideas upon this part of the subject at this stage, and I also hope he will be able to tell us even in general terms, a little more fully what is the method he proposes for the adoption of his scheme, because he is really—and I am sure he will appreciate it—leaving my hon. Friend and those who agree with him in a position of extreme difficulty when he puts the case to them as he put it just now. He admits the force and ability with which my hon. Friend presented the case. He very naturally selected that part of my hon. Friend's case which appeared to him to be the part he could deal with most effectively—a very proper course for any Minister who has to reply to adopt—and he did not deal with so much fulness and completeness with those parts of the case which presented greater difficulty, and which did not seem to him for the moment so well worthy his consideration or the consideration of the Committee. I think he admits there is a real grievance here, I think he admits the case of the agricultural labourer and farmer does deserve further consideration. I do not think he can ask us to abandon our position until, at all events, we have more definite information than we have at present. I do not want to say anything of a controversial character, but this is one of the many difficulties which will arise when we try to deal with an immense subject of this kind and of this extremely complicated character at a period of the Session when it is impossible to give it all the time it requires unless we sit until Christmas. I am very sorry we did not commence discussing this Bill two months ago. I hope the Chancellor of the Exchequer will assure us—if my hon. Friend's Amendment is not pressed to a Division—that he really means to present his scheme in a considered way and to put it on the Paper with as little delay as possible in order that not only we may digest it, but, what is much more important, that it may be fully considered by those whose interests are so vitally concerned and may be so seriously affected if we take a false step in this matter. I hope the Chancellor of the Exchequer will give us that further information now, and that he will give us, as he can easily give us, the assurance that he will hasten the preparation of his proposal and place it on the Paper in order that we may have the advantage I have described. If he will be good enough to give us any information of an actuarial character he may obtain, it will be so much the better for us and those we represent. I hope he will not regard this request as unreasonable. Unless we can have further information and a fuller statement than we have had yet, it will be impossible to expect us not to press in greater detail a case which is a very real one and of which we are only the trustees.
I think the request which has been preferred by the right hon. Gentleman is a very reasonable one, and I will endeavour to deal categorically with the questions which he has put to me. If I may deal in an uncontroversial spirit with a rather controversial question, I would say that, if we are to be occupied till Christmas, then this suggestion will not be decided for six months, and there will be ample time for the labourers and farmers from John O'Groats to Land's End to consider it in detail. I think I am now in a much better position to know what is the character of the criticisms which have been addressed against the scheme. After all, as everybody who has had any experience of the business of the House knows—and no one has had a greater experience than the right hon. Gentleman—you generally know in the first two or three days what it is in the main you have to contest against during the discussion of a Bill, and I know pretty well now what are the criticisms. I think they are pretty well narrowed down, and I have not heard a criticism yet which cannot be accommodated. I do not mean to say I can persuade the Members of the Committee to come to my point of view, but I think I shall be able to meet them and to meet them substantially. That is why I think it is not going to take so much time as one feared at first. This is one of the cases in point.The right hon. Gentleman, before he lets go this Amendment, naturally wants to know what he is going to get in return. I hesitate to read the actual Clause we have drafted, because I should rather like to have a consultation with the hon. and right hon. Gentleman especially interested before we put it down. May I say, first of all, that the very words we suggested did not confine it to the county. We use the word "locality," and that would really meet the right hon. Gentleman. I quite agree that in one part of a county you may have, say, a mining industry, or some other industry where wages go up and the whole character of the employment is different, and that in another part of the county you may have a purely agricultural area; and they may seem to be a thousand miles apart. It has always been a mystery to me why the agricultural labourer will never migrate from the districts where he is getting, perhaps, 12s. or 13s. a week, when, by a five-mile walk—just enough to make him a bonâ fide traveller—he would get 5s. or 10s. a week more. But he will not do it. I find the same thing in the county of Carnarvonshire. Wages are higher in Carnarvonshire than in Anglesey. Yet you cannot get the Anglesey labourer to cross the straits to get better wages. He prefers the county where he and his forefathers have lived ever since the flood. I can, therefore, quite understand what the right hon. Gentleman means by not making a county the whole area. The Amendment, as we have drafted it, uses the word "locality." I agree that will have to be defined later on, but I think, on the whole, the less stringent the definition the better it will be for the working of the scheme. The right hon. Gentleman puts this question to me: How is a man to decide in any particular case whether the terms of his contract of service are such as would bring him within the protection of the Act? My idea as to the working of that is this: When you come to hiring in any particular district, the contract of service in that district is just the same. You have certain terms of service which are always acknowledged at the hiring fairs. I do not know what the method is down in Wiltshire. It is done in our part of the world by fairs, but whatever the method the general terms of contract are pretty much the same in that area. I suggest the general terms of the contract should be settled in the same way in future, and that whatever the authority may be, it shall decide whether that general contract comes within or without the protection of the Act.
Labourers are not all hired at fairs. Those who are hired at fairs are called confined labourers. They are confined to a special class of labour, which in certain districts is hired for the year; but on the same farms there are other labourers, on the ordinary weekly or monthly hire. Thus you have two sets of labourers on different terms on the same farm.
Even in the case of those labourers who are not hired at fairs there is always some general term of contract with regard to wages and conditions of labour. If it is not the case it should be, and I suggest that, wherever you declare a locality, in that locality there should be some general form of contract settled, and that the authority, whatever it is, should decide whether that general form of contract is sufficient to justify the Commissioners in fixing the charge in that area at 2d. The right hon. Gentleman asks what is to be the local authority. I have suggested the Insurance Commissioners. My suggestion is, in fact, that in the first instance the local health committee should adjudicate, and if other parties to the contract consider it insufficient—it must not be merely one discontented person, but a substantial number of persons who are dissatisfied with the decision of the Committee—then there should be an appeal to the Insurance Commissioners. I think that that would produce some kind of uniformity throughout the country.I would like to point out one of the greatest difficulties in carrying out this suggestion. Agricultural labourers, after all, although in the main they remain in their district, do migrate sometimes into towns and mining districts. What are you to do in the case of such men in regard to sickness. It is necessary somebody should undertake the liability between the rate which is charged on entry at sixteen years of age and that which is charged at the age when the man migrates. My suggestion is that the State should undertake to pay the transfer money when the agricultural labourer passes from, it may be, Wiltshire to Oxford or Leicester, and will be working under different conditions. The State, in fact, should pay whatever is necessary to induce the society in the new district to which the man goes to take him over at his particular age, whatever it may be. I do not think there is any real substantial difference between us on this point. The difficulty is not confined to Northumberland and Durham, but it extends to Cumberland, Westmoreland, Shropshire, and many western counties. There are, indeed, many counties to which this system would apply, and I do not think any real hardship would arise if my proposal is applied to every county in England. We are all agreed that we cannot leave the agricultural labourer without any provision for sickness. You cannot leave him altogether without provision for temporary sickness, but there should be no difficulty in adjusting these things. I can quite understand the natural suspicions of hon. Gentlemen opposite of a Radical Chancellor of the Exchequer. I am not complaining of that, but I think it will be found that, on the whole, I shall be able to meet this point in the Amendment which I have drafted.
Does this arrangement apply to contracts for a lengthened term such as six months or more, or does it refer to men engaged on weekly wage?
My suggestion is that this reduction should apply to the general contracts whether it be a weekly wags or otherwise where the employer undertakes liability for temporary sickness. It is the rule to provide for temporary sickness by some contract between employer and labourer, and for permanent sickness by means of the national scheme of insurance I shall be happy to show the right hon. Gentleman the Amendment I have drafted before I put it on the Paper. I think it much better to do that, and to have it discussed in that form before it absolutely appears on the Paper.
I wish to put one question in connection with what the right hon. Gentleman has just said: Will this scheme of his apply to all labourers in respect of whom a contract is made between a farmer and a labourer. Do I understand that, in addition to full payment by the farmers themselves in respect of temporary illness running into more than six weeks, the parties respectively will have to pay 2d. and 3d. in respect of all permanent illness. Will employer and employed still have to pay in respect of permanent illness from which, as a matter of fact, the agricultural labourer does not very much suffer?
I am rather amazed to hear that the agricultural labourer does not suffer from permanent illness before he reaches the age of seventy. I think the hon. Member will find that that is not the case. On the contrary, I should say that on the whole the burden of permanent illness will be heavier in, these cases than in town cases, because life is so much more prolonged. My suggestion is that there shall be a reduction of 1d. for the employer and 1d. for the empioyed.
I think it is very clear the right hon. Gentleman will have to meet a good deal of discussion before he settles the terms of this Amendment. The more it is thought about the greater is the number of difficulties that crop up. Whether the proposal to make a definite contract is to apply to men who work only a day or two on one farm and then go on to another farm is one of the points that requires clearing up. I confess I do not see any serious difficulty in regard to the question respecting sick pay. Under the terms of the Bill, the sick pay amounts to 10s. per week. I do not quite know what is to happen in the case of the medical benefit. Suppose a farmer insures with an insurance company against the first six weeks of a man's illness. The contract is that during that time the insurance company shall pay 10s. What about the cost of medical attendance? It is not likely the insurance company would take on a serious contract of that kind.
I think I can clear that point up. This relates only to the sick benefit, and as there is no medical benefit arising, the question of the doctors does not come in.
There is medical attendance under the Bill, and if the benefit to be given by the farmer is to be equivalent to that given by the Bill it must also be equivalent to the medical benefit.
There are two benefits: the sick benefit and the medical benefit. The sick benefit is given by the farmer under his contract. The medical benefit will remain under the Bill.
I understand that the medical benefit will be derived from the 8d. paid by both the farmer and the labourer. But if the man belongs to no society no contract may be made. Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman will be good enough to clear that point up. I cannot help feeling that under this Bill agriculturists are not given proper benefits. They are not given benefits such as should be given under this Bill for the joint payment of 9d. per week—that is, the payment of 4d. and 3d. by employer and employed and of 2d. by the State. Take the case of a purely agricultural benefit society—one of the Holloway societies, which has been in existence since the year 1890. I will take the case of the Cirencester branch of the Holloway society. Take the position of the agricultural labourer who now belongs to that society and of a man who comes under the insurance scheme. In the Holloway society, if he joins between sixteen and thirty years of age, he would pay 7d. per week, and for every year after that he would pay an additional ½d. per month, so that by the time he arrives at sixty years of age his total contribution for agricultural benefit will come to 11¾d. per week. But, taking a rough average, the payment might be put down at something very near 9d., which is practically the same as the payment under this Bill. What is the benefit derived by these people. I think the benefits are very superior to those under the Act. The State gives a benefit of 10s. per week for thirteen weeks, and then 5s. sickness pay for another thirteen weeks. That is the benefit under the State scheme, and, beyond that, there is the medical benefit and the sanatorium treatment. The benefits of the society are 10s. a week, not for thirteen weeks but for twenty-six, and 5s. for another fifty-two weeks, and after the end of that year and a half 3s. a week. These are the actual cash benefits they receive. Besides that they get £10 on the death of a member, quite irrespective of the contribution that is paid, and £5 in respect of the death of a, member's wife—an extremely useful provision which is very highly valued by people in their circumstances. In addition to the distribution on such a scale, each individual member's contribution for the year is very much more than would pay for any ordinary average rate of sickness, and the rest of the contribution is put to the general fund of the society, which first goes towards the expenses of the society, and at the end of the year, after the sickness payments and the other benefits have been paid, the funds are divided and pooled, but not paid out; they are carried to the credit of the members. In the case of one society, people who joined in 1880 have a total sum to their credit of £81 12s. 9d., and one of the original holders who joined in 1860 has a total amount to his credit of £215. That shows that these societies are quite sound actuarily, and that in the case of a fair rural district it is possible in this way to give much better benefits for the total contribution than are offered under the National Insurance Bill. For that reason I do particularly urge the Chancellor of the Exchequer to see whether he could not really afford to reduce the payments in the case of employers and workmen who are engaged in agricultural labour. They are very healthy, their lives are far better, and I believe that by the payments under this Bill agricultural labourers will be paying for the townspeople to a large extent.With regard to the question of the number of day's sickness, I can give the right hon. Gentleman what has been the experience of this particular society. It was estimated when the society was started that the average sickness of people between the ages of twenty and forty would be four and a-quarter days in the year, and that up to the age of sixty the average would be fourteen. These figures have come out literally true. During the past twenty years that has been the actual average amount of sickness both for young people and old people. It must be taken as the figure from this society. I am giving the number of days as supplied me by the secretary. It is a rather good figure to rely upon with regard to proposals which the Chancellor of the Exchequer may make as to the amount which the farmer would have to pay for insuring his men for the first six weeks of sickness. That, of course, will depend upon what is the average amount of sickness among the agricultural labourers. I may also inform him that the experience of other friendly societies, such as the Rechabites, the Foresters and the Oddfellows, who give very similar benefits, bears out to a large extent the figures I have given already for the rate of sickness. If the insurance companies are able to rely upon them they will be able to give an adequate opinion as to what the farmer will have to pay for insuring his labourers for the first six weeks' sickness. My hon. Friend and myself, and others who act with us, will then be able to see what position we can take up with regard to the suggestion of the Chancellor of the Exchequer. It is purely a matter of pounds, shillings and pence. If the farmer finds it better to insure with some private company the man in his employ he will do that rather than pay the extra 1d. or 2d. under this Bill. I do not know how we shall be able to get in the short time available what the actual feeling of the farmer himself is upon this question. It is very difficult to get the whole body of farmers together. It can only be done at such meetings as those of the Chamber of Agriculture. Then we must have definite figures showing at what rate the insurance companies will accept this new risk. I cannot help feeling that the simplest way out of it, after all, would be to accept the proposal of my hon. Friend below me, and to agree to reduce the rate of payment to persons who are simply employed in agriculture, and then, if necessary, for the financial solution of the Bill, put an extra ½d. upon employer and employed, or people living in towns. They are much better able to pay than the people living in agricultural districts, and we should avoid sanctioning what would be an obvious injustice upon the rural population.
On a point of Order, I desire to submit a matter which was alluded to but on which you were not asked for a ruling, namely, the effect that this Amendment will have on the subsequent discussion on the Schedule. I presume that if this Amendment is put and negatived it would not be possible on the Schedule to move that special treatment be given to agricultural labourers. If this Amendment is not moved here, and if this Clause goes through as it is, will it still be possible on the Schedule to move variations of the rate of contribution in respect to agricultural labourers and other classes? I want to make sure that this will not be the last chance we will have. I have in my mind the case of unskilled labourers earning from £1 to 22s. a week in large towns. Their case is a very hard one and I should like to be assured, if it does not arise here, that will not stop the discussion on the Schedule. If this Amendment is negatived will it be possible to make special exemptions for the agricultural labourer on the Schedule and on other Clauses.
I understand that there is an arrangement in existence made in the House between the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the Leader of the Opposition on the question of the exemption of the farm labourers and other special persons, that it is to be held over until we come to deal with the Schedule. That is the point you are on now, and I wish to draw your attention to the fact so as to prevent anything being done now which would override the arrangement which they have come to. With regard to this particular question, if we divide on this Amendment now, and it will preclude the moving of Amendments on the Schedule, that is going entirely back upon the arrangement, which is a far more convenient method, because we could adjust the terms suitable to farm labourers and other special classes and then when we came to discuss the Schedule we could set forth all these terms. I suggest it would be consistent and much more convenient to have all these interests and special classes left open for the Schedule.
I do not know whether I had not better reply simply to the point first put to me. With regard to the speech of the hon. Member for Forfar (Mr. Falconer), so far as I understand his point, he said an arrangement had been made across the floor of the House. I am not sure what arrangement has been, made, but in any case, whatever arrangement was made without my consent, does not settle the point of Order. With regard to the point of Order, I certainly think that if this Amendment be negatived, it would prevent special treatment for agricultural labourers in anything like this form being raised again on the Schedule. But if this Amendment is withdrawn and no other Amendment or new Clause is carried, which would tie the hands of the Committee, there is no reason at all that I can see which would prevent hon. Members from raising the point or any other point on the Schedule.
Will you help me to make up my mind? Is this a proposal to enable agricultural labourers to continue to work at a low rate of pay by taking a bit off the insurance money and to allow him to be practically a serf, or to raise his wages in order to allow him to pay the contribution? That is the dilemma I am in.
It is the fact though.
I represent one of the largest agricultural constituencies in Scotland, and this matter of the agricultural labourer is in my opinion worthy of the most serious consideration. I can understand some of the difficulties of dealing with the matter, because the agricultural labourer is the healthiest part of the population and the largest number of the workmen, and therefore is the backbone of the whole insurance scheme. I was very glad to hear the Chancellor of the Exchequer making a suggestion that some reduction of the 4d. to the 2d. was to be adopted. I would like to see the actual figures upon which he has based his actuarial calculation. In any case, I would appeal to him not to come to any definite conclusion until he has given the agricultural people, or the labourers of Scotland, at all events, an opportunity of considering how they are going to be treated, and that they should be able to understand what burden is placed upon them. It is of the utmost importance that these men in Scotland at all events should not feel that it is an undue burden. We have had an increase of emigration, especially from the agricultural districts, and we are doing all we can to stop it by means of the Small Holdings Bill and such meas- ures. These men suffer under the greatest temptation already to go to Canada. Every local paper in the north contains alluring advertisements offering 8s. a day in Australia, and in Canada £3, and so forth. If you get it into the minds of these people that a burden is being put on them to which they should not be subjected, that is one more reason why they will accept the alluring terms offered by the Colonies. All I plead for is this, that whatever you do you will get them to understand, and enable us to convince them, that they are not being badly treated, but that for all the money that they are going to pay they will receive a good, substantial equivalent. The first thing which will strike them is this. Why should we, getting in wages, in money and in kind, something like £50 a year have to pay as much as men getting 45s. a week who are living in towns and therefore living less healthy lives? You can do that by showing that the advantages they will get in sick pay and allowances will be a fair equivalent for the money they are asked to subscribe. Once show them that, and I feel there will not be very much difficulty, but you have got to meet the case, and you should not hurry over it, but give everyone who has to deal with it ample time to explain it. I altogether protest against its being put in in an incomplete form without their understanding and without their consent. The Scottish Members are your most loyal supporters. The county Members for Scotland would not be here if these men did not vote for them. They deserve every consideration at your hands, and I hope you will give it to them.
As to the hope that has been held out that the agricultural community is going to be better treated under the proposal which the right hon. Gentleman has sketched out to us, I quite admit that where this scheme is carried out, and where a man is paid full wages in time of sickness by his employer, the proposal is a concession, but in other respects it amounts to very little. We uphold that the Chancellor of the Exchequer is right to reduce by 2d. the amount that the farmer and the labourer are to contribute. I ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer to make this concession to the agricultural community. I wish to ask the hon. Member (Mr. C. Bathurst) not to be in a hurry to withdraw his Amendment until we get a more definite promise that agriculture will be benefited by his proposal. We ought to have a chance of con- sidering the alternative that he proposed. He suggested that the Government could not give the full benefits under the Act if the subscription were reduced. Is it not right that the matter should still be kept open and that we should be told what benefits could be given and how much the subscription could be reduced? It seems entirely wrong to accept the proposal. I wish to get the best terms I can for the agricultural community, and I do not in the least wish to say I am satisfied with the promise which has been made to us. I am very far from satisfied. I do not think it is going nearly far enough to help the agricultural labourer. He is a man who is fairly free from sickness, and who earns a very low wage, and he is deserving of special benefits. I ask hon. Members not to let the question pass by until we get better terms for the agricultural labourer.I have already alluded to the fact that the Chancellor of the Exchequer said it might be possible to reduce the subscriptions and give less benefit. As regards that point, I think the agricultural labourer will not very much appreciate the gift of a sanatorium. I know it has been made a great point that more money ought to be devoted to this purpose, but I do not think the agricultural labourers' subscription to that is quite essential. If the subscription was reduced we should be conferring a benefit on the agricultural community, and not doing the societies any harm. Another point which of course arises is that a man is not going to get his full 10s. if his full wages are 13s. or 14s. He will only get two-thirds of his full wages. I am certain this will cause a great feeling of grievance, and if we are going to reduce his benefit it will be much better not to make him pay the full 3d. that he has to pay now. I do not believe he will understand getting the reduced amount of 7s. 6d. when he is paying as much as a man who is getting bigger wages. I shall certainly follow the hon. Member into the Lobby if he divides on the Amendment. Then we have the further point that an inquiry is to take place as to the different people who will be brought under the Clause that the right hon. Gentleman proposes. He says that seamen, domestics, and even agricultural labourers, should be brought under the scheme with the rest. He mentioned one of the difficulties which may arise owing to people moving from one locality to another. There is every probability that the scheme he suggests is not the best one, and that it would be better, in regard to these particular classes which he proposes to put in a different scheme, to give them a smaller subscription, and if necessary lesser benefits. I hope, unless the hon. Member gets further privileges for the agricultural community, he will press this to a Division.
I do not propose to go into the merits of the Amendment, nor have I anything to say as to the force or the relevancy of what has been said. The Debate on the whole has been extremely useful. The only point we have to consider now is this. If this Amendment is divided upon the question will be prejudged. If it is withdrawn it will be withdrawn with the Committee's leave absolutely without prejudice, and precisely the same opportunity as exists now to discuss the question will arise again upon the Schedule. But in the meanwhile it is impossible for the Committee to discuss this question with a full knowledge of its complete bearing upon the Bill. The Chancellor of the Exchequer has promised to introduce a new arrangement dealing not only with agricultural labourers, but with other classes as well, and until the Committee has had the advantage of studying the Chancellor of the Exchequer's proposal they cannot properly come to a decision now. I will, therefore, urge upon the Committee that this Amendment should now be allowed to be withdrawn, and if subsequently the Committee are not satisfied with the Chancellor's proposal the opportunity could be taken to reconsider the question on the Schedule.
I should like to ask where this Clause is going to be put in the Bill?
New Clauses always come at the end of a Bill.
It will be rather important to know whereabouts it will come in eventually.
If we are to understand that this is to be a new Clause it will, of course, come at the end of the Bill, but might it not take the form of an Amendment?
Yes, I think so. I was speaking without consultation with the Chancellor of the Exchequer. I believe it will take the form, at any rate in part, of Amendments to Clause 8.
I am glad to hear that. The whole thing, as we know, is a matter of £ s. d., both as regards the farmers and this House. Then we are told that this scheme has been going on, to a certain extent, in Scotland. In that case there must be some actuarial figures in some sense of the word which we can get at as to whether the farmers in those districts insure their men to cover this liability. Cannot some figures of this sort be got at and be given for the benefit of those who are going into the question in this House. The Amendment has been seriously thought over, and has been gone into most carefully actuarially. We know by the actuary's report to us that the scheme is sound. We do not know at all what the Chancellor of the Exchequer's scheme is in detail or if it is sound. He has had the benefit of knowing what the scheme was that we were bringing forward, but we had not had the pleasure of knowing what his scheme is. I think we ought to be able to gather the information from him if he will give it to us so as to be able to tell if this is a matter that the farmers should take up, and also is not hinging on the Financial Resolutions which were passed last week. If the right hon. Gentleman will be kind enough to give the Committee the information I ask, I will not go on any further at present.
When I say to the Committee that I represent a county constituency in one of those counties which, as the Chancellor of the Exchequer told us, have made the provision that has caused him to consider sympathetically the proposed exemption, I think it will be accepted that I do not speak with any lack of interest in the agricultural labourer, but that will not debar me from putting in a mild protest against what I conceive to be the dangerous policy entered upon this afternoon by the right hon. Gentleman. I understood that this was to be a scheme of national insurance. In Clause 1 we lay it down that all persons employed shall be under certain conditions compulsorily insured under this Bill. What do we find the policy which has been adopted this afternoon? It is the policy of exempting a class in so far as insurance for temporary sickness is concerned, because provision has been made by the employers of that class to meet the case of temporary sickness. Where does that lead us? Are there no other classes that have already made provision for temporary sickness? What be- comes of those who year after year have been contributing for temporary sickness, to their friendly societies? What becomes of those who have been contributing both to their friendly society and their trade union? There are many other societies which could be named, such as the dividing, societies.I listened to everything which the Chancellor of the Exchequer said on the subject this afternoon, and if the basis of the exemption which he has promised to consider favourably is an arrangement between the employing farmer or the landlord and the labourer that because of a term of service of six or twelve months he is going to be exempt from payment for temporary assistance given to him during sickness, it seems to me that very largely will destroy the case for the entire Bill. If you take the labourer and grant an exemption. I do not see why the iron worker, the miner, and a host of others who have made the self-same provision should not also be exempted. I am not sure that I could not bring cases where in connection with large works a joint arrangement has been made between employer and employed. During my own working experience of sixteen years in one works, we made this joint arrangement between employer and employed as to provision for temporary sickness. I think Messrs. Armstrong, Whitworth and Co. have made this very provision for thousands of their employés. If the labourer under the farmer is to be exempted is there any justification for refusing the same exemption to the classes who have made even more substantial provision for temporary sickness than has been done in the case of the farmer? Therefore, the protest I wish to make is that it seems to me the policy enunciated by the Chancellor of the Exchequer strikes at the very foundation of the Bill, which was to provide a great scheme of national insurance in which all workers should be included. I wish to ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer, before he further commits himself to this policy, to very seriously consider whether he is not going to make his Bill inconsistent, if not worthless, by the course he has entered upon to day.
I wish to ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer one question on a point which has not been dealt with. It is one which very much concerns agricultural workers in the county Division which I represent. Will any class of casual labourers come under the agreement with the farmer? In the county I come from farmers employ a good deal of casual labour in connection with the gathering of hops and fruit. It will be very difficult for them to understand their position under the Bill unless they know whether all classes of labourers or only certain classes engaged for a specific period are included. In what is known as the hopping season a farmer may want men for a short period, and he may find that some of the crop is not worth picking. There are many cases where hops and fruits may be largely destroyed as the result of a day or two's rain. The farmer naturally wants to know before there is any exemption where he will stand in these circumstances. I personally think that the Amendment is clear. It states what we want at present. I do not see what we are to get in exchange in a county where there is so much casual labour as in that which I represent.
I should like to emphasise what has just fallen from the hon. Member for the Barnard Castle Division (Mr. A. Henderson). I look upon the proposal made by the Chancellor of the Exchequer this afternoon as a dangerous one. I think it interferes with the simplicity of the Bill, and, so far as the agricultural labourers of the country are concerned, I do not think it will make the measure more acceptable. I do not know about the position of agricultural labourers in Scotland or in the North of England, but so far as the Eastern counties are concerned, it is true that though the wages are not high, the labourer at present does pay 6d. to his friendly society. I understand that they are now to be called upon to pay only 4d. That suits him down to the ground, he does not want anything better than that. A great majority of the agricultural labourers in the Eastern counties are members of friendly societies and pay 6d. a week out of their small wages of 12s, 13s., or 15s. a week. I do not think they will want any method such as was suggested by the Chancellor of the Exchequer this afternoon. It has been suggested by hon. Members on the other side that the farmer cannot afford to pay his proportion. Well, that is all moonshine. There never was a time in the history of the country when the farmer was doing better. [Laughter.] The hon. Member opposite laughs, but he knows that the farmer never was in a better position than at present. There never was a time in the history of agriculture when land was selling better than at present. What does that mean? It means that the farmer is doing remarkably well. Hon. Members opposite suggested that farmers would be satisfied if they could make 5 per cent. on their capital. They are not satisfied with that in the Eastern counties, and they get a great deal more. The hon. Gentleman opposite may be a farmer, but he may have put his farm under a manager. Those farmers who manage their own farms make a great deal more profit than 5 per cent. They can well afford to pay, and they are willing to pay. I think the Chancellor of the Exchequer should think more than once before he forces such a scheme as that suggested on the Eastern counties.
There is one observation which I should like to make to my hon. Friend (Mr. Winfrey) as well as to hon. Members opposite. It is very difficult to discuss a proposal before you see it, and I should have thought that it was equally difficult to condemn it before seeing it. May I respectfully suggest to my hon. Friends that they might wait until they see the scheme before they denounce it. You should know what it is before entering upon a wholesale censure of it. On the general principle I should like to say this. My hon. Friend has said that the agricultural labourer would rather pay 4d. than 6d. On the same principle he would greatly prefer to pay 3d. instead of 4d. My suggestion is that for 3d. he would be getting the equivalent of what he would be getting for 4d. I suppose that in the case of the Norfolk agricultural labourer, if somebody offered for 3d. what he otherwise would have to pay 4d. for, he would say, "By all means let me have it for 3d." That is the principle of the proposal I am making. But the hon. Gentleman may say that the Clause does not carry that out. Let him wait until the Clause is on the Paper. He can criticise it later on, but what I propose is that the agricultural labourer should pay 3d. provided that he gets the same advantages as in Scotland, where the cost in a case of temporary sickness is cast upon the employer. What I want to avoid is that you should pay twice over. A Scottish agriculturist said to me, "Is it perfectly legitimate that farmers should pay for the temporary sickness of labourers under the insurance scheme, and that then they should have to collect?"I should have thought that, on the whole, that was a fair proposal, which would have commended itself to fair-minded men. It provides for the whole of the agricultural labourers what has already been obtained in parts of England where agricultural labour is well paid and where an agricultural labourer is more independent probably than in other parts of the United Kingdom, a system which provides for him by contract as part of the bargain of service with something which gives him not merely the equivalent of what is in the Bill, but, I think, something better. Unless he gets something which is an equivalent for value he need not enter into a contract at all. Therefore I do not see that he suffers. From any point of view he would be better than he is now. He would get his medical attendance which he is not getting now. He has cither got to pay for it himself or he has to go to the guardians. He will get 30s. maternity, which he is not getting now. I do not see where the harm is done. I think the question that has been asked by the hon. Member for Shropshire (Mr. Stanier) will be brought up in a new Clause, so that there will be plenty of time fully to consider the terms of the Amendment. In the meantime I should be very glad to get on with the next Amendment. I think we have discussed this very thoroughly, and that I am making a very reasonable offer. With regard to casual labour, the only difficulty is the casual labourer cannot formally enter into a contract of service which would provide six weeks' food and pay. I should have thought that the casual labourer must have to go out of the Bill as it stands.
The price in the case of the hop-pickers is never fixed until the end, so that they cannot make a definite contract.
I should have thought it very difficult, in fact quite impossible, to bring in hop-pickers and fruit-pickers. Therefore, casual labour will be out of the Bill as it stands at the present moment.
The hon. Member for Barnard Castle (Mr. Arthur Henderson) I think was mixing up two classes. In the remarks which I heard the Chancellor of the Exchequer make I rather gathered that this benefit of 3d. would apply if sickness benefits or wages counted as part of the contract of service. What he said was that this would apply where benefits were received as part of the contract of service. Therefore, if the classes to which the hon. Member for Barnard Castle referred, railway companies or big works, can arrange with their men for temporary sickness as part of the contract of service they will come under it in the same way as agricultural labourers. It applies also to servants, inmates of orphanages and refuges, and nurses in hospitals, and so on. In fact, anywhere where the conditions under which they are working provide them with the benefits which they would otherwise have got under this Bill. Therefore ordinary agricultural labourers are not being treated invidiously as compared with other classes under this Bill. Of course, it must be remembered with regard to the agricultural labourers, that the conditions of service under which they get special benefit do not very largely prevail. I do not think they prevail in Norfolk. In my part of the world and largely in the South of England, and of course in Scatland, men are engaged by the year. They do get their pay wet or dry, sick or well, and therefore a man is provided for. But large-masses of agricultural labourers are not n that position. They have a very distinct claim, I think, to some help under the Bill, because there is no doubt that while the hon. Member for Barnard Castle is quite right in saying that this Bill provides that there should be a great scheme of national insurance, he forgets that we are quite different from other nations in starting a scheme of national insurance.Other nations have waited for the State to start a scheme of national insurance, but we are super-imposing a State scheme of national insurance upon a great scheme which was gradually built up by the thrift and self-denial of the workers themselves, and we are to a certain extent penalising the great work of all these years in what we are doing at the present moment. Most of the actuarial calculations are-based upon the figures of the Manchester Unity of Oddfellows, but whereas the agricultural labourers are very largely insured there are not 33 per cent. of the workers in towns in any insurance scheme at all. Therefore the actuarial calculations are not a guide for agricultural labourers. The agricultural labourer lives a more healthy life. He lives a greater number of years and he has less temporary sickness than the worker in the town. His class have done the most for themselves of any class in the kingdom. They have made more provision, and they have done it out of smaller wages than any other class in the kingdom. They have done more to build up a system of insurance, and you are taking all their health and strength and penalising them by making them pay a flat rate of more than they ought to pay in order that dwellers in towns should pay less. That is the real case for the agricultural labourer. I am not talking of conditions of service, because that applies to a great many classes, artisans and others, as well as agricultural labourers. The real case for agricultural labourers is that they have helped to build up the insurance system of which the nation is so proud, and that they suffer if this flat rate is imposed, for it means that they are being made to pay more than would be required under this Bill, in order that dwellers in towns should pay less. That is the real grievance which agricultural labourers all over the country must feel.
I would like to ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether it would be possible to put down this new Clause at an early date, because I am quite sure that there will be a great deal of discussion about it in country districts. The bucolic intelligence is supposed to be somewhat slow in movement, although I believe it is very sure in the judgment it eventually comes to. I think they should have as much time as possible, and I would like the Chancellor of the Exchequer to say whether the Amendment, which I think is practically ready, subject to proper drafting, can be put on the Paper forthwith.
Before the Chancellor of the Exchequer replies may I have a word of explanation as to the statement made by the hon. Member for Dorset (Colonel Williams). Not only have agriculturists to be included, but I understood him to say that servants and nurses and seamen and Government workers and clerks, and all who have a form of contract of service would, as the Member for Dorset stated, have to be included in the new Clause?
No. I said last week that where there is a contract of service in a certain class of work which provides sickness pay already it would apply, but where you have got a definite contract there is no reason why you should charge twice either the employer or the employé. Therefore it applies in such cases. The case of sailors is a case in point. Sailors by their contract of service have got to be provided with medical attendance during the time when they are serving. Therefore, in all those cases where it applies the sailor is charged a Id. less. With regard to the question by the hon. Member opposite (Mr. C. Bathurst), I would rather like to have the views of hon. Members on both sides be fore framing the Clause. I think it would be inadvisable to put down the Clause within the next two or three days. I think that there should be a little interchange, of views before the Amendment is put in, but there will be ample time for explanation before we arrive at the Clause.
It is really impossible until this new Clause has been put upon the Paper to gauge accurately the value of such a Clause as meeting the objection which we feel about this flat rate. I do not want to stand in the way of the Committee dealing with further Clauses, but I question very much the statement of the Chancellor whether his proposal is in any sense an alternative to the Amendment which I venture to move before the Committee. If it turns out in our view that it is not an alternative, and if the Clause is considered, as I understand it will be, before the Schedule is reached, and it is possible to enter into the whole of this matter again on consideration of the Schedule, as I understand it will be, then under those circumstances I am quite prepared to withdraw the Amendment.
; Speaking for myself, I agree absolutely with what the hon. Member for Barnard Castle and one of the hon. Members for Norfolk have said. This is a National Insurance scheme, and it is suggested this afternoon that the industry which is the largest industry in England or in the United Kingdom ought to be-exempted from the operation of this Bill. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] I am wrong in saying they are to be exempted, but you give the men who work in that industry an opportunity of making arrangements with their employers with which they would be satisfied, instead of coming under the provisions of the Bill. As a representative of agricultural labourers, I think it would be a great deal better if they rest satisfied with the Bill. Of course, I quite understand the enormous interest which a large number of hon. Members opposite are taking all at once in the agricultural labourer.
The hon. Member is discussing a proposal which will be brought on when the new Clause to be submitted by the Chancellor of the Exchequer is before the Committee. I would point out that the hon. Gentleman who moved the Amendment has already asked leave to withdraw it, and I ought to put the Question.
If I am out of order I and perfectly willing to at once bow to your ruling, Sir, but I wish to say two or three words to the Chancellor of the Exchequer. As a representative of agricultural labourers I am strongly opposed to the suggested arrangement which has been under discussion between the two Front Benches. I have one very sufficient reason for my objection, and it is that I see in the suggested arrangement an attempt to make the agricultural labourer satisfied with his present small wages. I do not wish him to rest contented with his present earnings, and I would much rather see him begin to make an attempt to get better conditions of employment than those under which he works at present. On a future occasion, if this proposal is proceeded with, I shall take an opportunity of developing the considerations which I have put before the Committee.
There is one point in this proposal which I think has been entirely overlooked, and that is the question of average. The Chancellor of the Exchequer was very anxious that we should not inflict any injury upon the agricultural labourer or the farmer, and so on; but what I want to put before the House is the tremendous nature of the concessions which he has indicated. It is the beginning of the principle of contracting out, or allowing people to withdraw themselves from the purview of the Bill. I quite agree that at present it is only for one benefit, but if you allow people to contract out you will vitiate what I think the Home Secretary calls "the magic of averages." The only people who are to contract out are those in whose cases provision is made. The dangerous trades would never need to contract out. But this is the beginning of contracting out, and I merely desire to say a word of warning as to the difficulty which may arise when the societies come to carry out their obligations under the Act. If an actuarial basis is to be sound it must include the healthy as well as the sick, and you must include all parts of the country. If, therefore, contracting out is begun, you at once vitiate the very foundations of the scheme. I am not saying that this concession will do it; I am quite prepared to wait until I see the Clause before I declare myself an opponent. If this policy of contracting out is allowed in any large degree the approved society which will have to carry out the Act will find itself in extreme difficulty should the agricultural labourers not be included in the scheme. I give my opinion for what it is worth. I do not think that trade unions, friendly societies, or collecting societies should be encouraged to come into the scheme, if you begin to withdraw the healthier part of the community from it. I urge the Chancellor of the Exchequer to be exceedingly careful in regard to those who are allowed to be excluded from the operations of this measure.
After the important speech of the Member for Barnard Castle (Mr. A. Henderson), and after the speeches in support of his view, a very humble private Member may be allowed to say something in support of the general principle which the Chancellor of the Exchequer has enunciated. I do believe that while this Bill is a National Insurance Bill, intended to cover the whole of the workers throughout the country, it will be an injury to those workers who, in one case or another, have provided for themselves, or have made private arrangements with their employers, against misfortune and sickness, merely from the theoretical consideration of having the Bill, the whole Bill, and nothing but the Bill, that the view of the hon. Member for Barnard Castle should prevail. For the agricultural labourer there is a strong case for differentiation from the case of labourers, under different conditions. For many others there is an equally strong case. I can assure the hon. Gentleman, if he goes to South London, to the neighbourhood of the gasworks, he will find that the most unpopular man there to-day is the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer. Why? Because they believe that the many benefits which are secured to them under the arrangements they have made with their employers will be taken away by the Bill. I believe that the most popular thing that the right hon. Gentleman has done in connection with this measure will be found to be the principle which he has announced this afternoon. I for one sincerely hope that where as good a case is made out as that which has been shown on behalf of the agricultural labourer, the right hon. Gentleman will make such differentiation as he thinks proper to secure right and justice to all the workers who are concerned.
I certainly would not desire to take any part in this discussion were it not for the danger which I see in the concession which has been made to the agricultural labourers in regard to another class of workers. I can see danger arising in the case of large numbers of railwaymen in connection with the provision made by railway companies. I hope the Chancellor of the Exchequer will bear in mind that there are employers who make provision in the form of sick benefits and other benefits, and they would take this provision into account in calculating wages. The right hon. Gentleman shakes his head. Will he credit that there never has been an arbitration case on any of our railways during the past few years in which the advocate for the company has not laid a table of figures before the arbitrators stating that he wanted them to remember that the company contributed so much for sickness.
The hon. Member assumes that the societies of railway servants would come in. I would point out to my hon. Friend that the case which he is putting forward is not one that it is necessary to argue, because the railway servants, and their society would not be affected. They are in an absolutely different position. The case before us is one where we do not want them to pay twice over.
I think I can see the danger, once you start making exemptions, that other people would think that they had an equally good case. It is because I see that danger that I enter my protest. I do not desire, however, to discuss a Clause which is not before us.
This question has been considered and discussed by Scottish Members, and I desire to assure the Chancellor of the Exchequer that in specially considering this matter he is doing a service to the labourers and the farmers which will be very highly appreciated throughout the whole of Scotland. I simply wish to assure the right hon. Gentleman that so far as Scotland is concerned he will have that country's support. My only doubt, if the actuarial data will permit, is whether he might not go a short step further.
I listened with very great satisfaction to the announcement made, by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and, so far as I can see, his proposal goes a very long way to meet the case which has been made out in Scotland, and I think the adoption of the suggestion will not endanger the main object of the Bill. In any event, the exemption of agriculture in this way is purely optional. If the South of England does not care to adopt the custom which has been found to establish harmonious relations between farmers and labourers in Scotland, that is a matter for them to consider. The proposal of the right hon. Gentleman, it should be remembered, does not extend to all the benefits, under the Bill, but merely to one particular case.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
The Amendment which stands in the name of the hon. Member for Penryn and Falmouth (Mr. Goldman) has reference to the question which has been dealt with, and, though he may be technically in order in moving it, he will cause very serious inconvenience if he should do so.
I do not want to delay the proceedings, but one of the most essential features of the whole scheme is the question of the contribution from labourers. I do not see what opportunity we shall otherwise have of discussing this important question until we reach the Schedule stage. The Chancellor of the Exchequer said only a short time ago that this stage would probably only be reached in six months' time. [HON. MEMBERS: "No, no."]
The right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Walter Long) said something about Christmas, but I did not say we should be here for another six months. The hon. Member has quite misunderstood me.
I feel very strongly that we should have some opportunity of discussing this matter.
The matter will come on later in the Bill, and I suggest that it should be dealt with then.
Under the circumstances I do not move my Amendment.
Amendment made: In Sub-section (1) leave out the words "Part I. of" and the words "in that part of."—[ Mr. Goldman.]
I beg to move in Sub-section (1) to leave out the words "or other prescribed intervals" and to insert instead thereof the words "intervals except in the case of persons employed for less than five days consecutively when the contribution of both employer and employed shall be paid daily."The object of the Amendment is perfectly plain. It seems to me, if I understood the answer the Chancellor of the Exchequer gave to me that under the Bill a man employed for one day in the week will have to pay a full week's contribution and so will his employer. That also applies, I understand, to women. So that if a charwoman is employed for one day she will have to pay 3d., or whatever the amount is, and the employer the same. That seems to me to be distinctly unfair. Unfortunately the case of a man getting one day's work is not at all rare, and surely in that case it would be much fairer that the men should pay by the day. I understand that there are difficulties in the case because the amount might come to a fraction of a farthing. I think that might be got over by allowing the casual labourer the benefit of the fraction, because people casually employed are not so well off as those in regular work. I think it is a very strong order to say to people who in many cases are very poor that they should have to pay 3d. or 4d. when they get a single day's work. Working people tell me that a married man with two or three children consumes about one 4-lb. loaf in the day. Suppose the case of a man who gets a day's work, say as a gardener or casual labourer, and for which he gets 3s. Out of that he has got to pay 4d., so that under this Bill you are actually putting 4d. on to the one 4-lb. loaf he buys. The Chancellor of the Exchequer and other hon. Gentlemen on the Liberal side have told us over and over again that not 4d., but the one-tenth of 1d. on the 4-lb. loaf would bring ruin and destitution and misery. Here we have the Chancellor, without winking, thinking nothing apparently of actually sticking 4d. on the 4-lb. loaf. I cannot think that it would be possibly right to charge a man who worked one, two, or three days as much as the man who got a full week's work.
On a point of Order. The hon. Gentleman is arguing an Amendment which might be proper to the Schedule, but is not in the least relevant to the words of this Clause.
On a point of Order. That refers to cases where the workman is employed by more than one employer. My hon. Friend is raising the case of a man who gets casual employment.
It has nothing to do with these words.
I do not see that the proper place to put the Amendment would be in the Schedule.
A man is employed by one man one day in the week, and, as I understood, the Chancellor provides because he is employed on one day in the week he will have to pay the full premium the same as-if he had been employed for the whole week.
I do not think that question does arise. It seems to arise on the Schedule. The hon. Member should confine himself to his Amendment.
My Amendment is that if they are only employed one day in the week they should pay in proportion. That is the object of the Amendment, and it seems to me to be fair and reasonable.
There are two separate points. The hon. Member is arguing that where a man is employed only on one day in the week, he should pay only a portion of the contribution. That is not relevant to this Clause, which deals with the period of payment, and not with the amount.
I shall be glad if the right hon. Gentleman will refer me to the part of the Bill where the point would be more relevant. The Sub-section says: "The contributions payable in respect of employed contributions shall be at the rate specified in Part I. of the second Schedule," and that Schedule, in its present form, contemplates weekly payments. I admit that it is difficult with manuscript Amendments in connection with a complicated Bill of this description to pick out the right place for them. I dare say there may be a better place for this Amendment, but I do not know where it is.
The Schedule states the rate of pay; but this Sub-section relates to the period of payment, which the hon. Member proposes to alter from "weekly or other prescribed intervals." His object, as explained in his speech, is to reduce the amount of the payment. That should not come here.
I am not trying to alter the rate; I simply want to allow a man to pay for a single day if he is employed for only a single day. It is a very important point, because the contribution will fall very heavily on the very poorest of the people. Dock hands and casual labourers are amongst the poorest of the people, and you are going to penalise them by making them pay just as if they were regularly employed. I think we ought to have a statement from the Chancellor of the Exchequer as to what he intends to do on this point; therefore I move the Amendment, if it is in order.
I am afraid the words which the hon. Member proposes to insert would not effect his object. But I need not go into that point, because it is impossible for the Government to accept the Amendment. The case put forward is that of the man or woman who is employed for one, two, or three days in the week. Is such a person to get the benefit of the Bill or not? The hon. Gentleman looks upon the proposed contribution as an imposition upon the insured person of a charge of 4d.
It is a tax upon the insured person of 4d.
The hon. Member forgets that in return for that 4d. the insured person gets the benefit of 9d. He proposes to cut out the insured person from the benefit of 9d. which he would receive in return for his payment of 4d.
I never said that. The man would be in the scheme just the same, but he would only pay according to the number of days he was employed. If he was not employed at all, he would pay nothing.
The hon. Member suggests that where a man is employed only one day in the week he should pay only one-sixth of the contribution, and he would equally get only one-sixth of the benefit. He does not propose that such a man should get the whole benefit of 9d., on merely making one-sixth of the weekly contribution. If the Bill is an advantage to the man it is better that he should pay the whole contribution and receive the whole benefit. It is no gain to him to be let off five-sixths of the contribution if at the same time you cut him off from five-sixths of the benefit. It is true that it may be a large amount to take from a single day's wage, but it is the best means of keeping the insured person's insurance open. The hon. Member would be doing such a man a real hardship if he did not get for him the benefit of the employer's and the State's contribution in respect of any week. The result of the proposal would be that when a man was employed on one or two days in the week, instead of getting the whole of the employer's contribution for that week he would be in arrears, and when he came to be employed again he would have to make up not only his own but also the employer's arrears. Under the scheme of the Bill if a man is employed one day in the week, he immediately gets the benefit of the whole of the employer's contribution. I think that on reflection the hon. Member will see that if the scheme is really to be operative for the casual labourer, you must make him a fully insured person in every week in which he is employed. I hope, therefore, he will not press the Amendment.
I would point out that it is fair neither on the employer nor on the employed to make them pay a full week's premium when a man is employed for only one day. In my opinion that will have a very bad effect. If a man does not get employment on the Monday or Tuesday, an employer will not take him on on Wednesday or Thursday if he can get another man who has been employed on the Monday or Tuesday, because in the latter case he will not have to pay the premium. I submit that it is going to have a very hard effect on the poorest people, and on those who find it most difficult to get work. So far as unemployment for the rest of the week goes the question is a difficult one; but I do not think that those men who can get but one or two days' employment for that reason should have the arrears set up against them. It certainly seems to me to be a serious matter, and one not to have been satisfactorily dealt with by the right hon. Gentleman.
There is really, I think, a good deal of foundation for the complaint which my hon. Friend makes. It is undoubtedly one of those cases of hardship which I suppose we cannot always avoid in dealing with matters of this sort on a large scale. But I think that there is force in the argument which the First Lord of the Admiralty used that you cannot expect a man to get full benefit if he is only going to pay one-sixth part of the contribution; and unless the employer pays his contribution as well the man will practically drop altogether out of the advantageous part of the insurance. There is one small category of persons whom I would like to know about; as to how they will be affected by this Bill. What day of the week is Sunday? Is it the first day or the last day for the purposes of this Insurance Bill? Is it a day at all?
It is the first day.
Is it the first day for the purposes of the Insurance Bill? It is a six-day week in the Bill. Which is the day that does not count? The point may seem trivial, but it has a real bearing upon the subject. Some of us are wicked enough to play golf on a Sunday. [HON. MEMBERS; "Shame!"] Some of us play golf at clubs where they have to employ caddies on Sunday, and some caddies—not many, I grant—carry out these duties only on Sunday. What I want to know is whether or not they have to have deducted from their pay a full week's contribution, and whether or not the club has to pay a full week's contribution?
Probably they are employed elsewhere the rest of the week?
I do not know. I do not think there is anything in the Bill to give us any guidance. I think it would obviously bear a little hard both on the club and on the boy to take the full contribution from the pay in respect of a day which I believe is a day that does not count.
I think that the Committee ought to give this matter much more consideration than apparently we are invited to do. The case which is put is very much more serious than the right hon. Gentleman has just mentioned. I hope the right hon. Gentleman will use his influence not to encourage lads to work on the Sabbath in the kind of way mentioned, but teach them that there are other things to do. As to the question of the casual labourer under this Bill, the contributions to be levied both upon him and upon his employer are an exceedingly difficult matter. The members of the Committee might just as well realise that in the dock industry alone there are over ten thousand men in London, somewhere between seven and eight thousand in Liverpool, and in Hull and Southampton relatively large numbers of men who are in excess of the number required for the work of the various ports.You may as well also realise at the outset that in the building trade, where men are to pay not merely 4d., but 2½d. in addition, that in the engineering trade and in the building trade, too, there are large masses of men who are taken on for just a few hours, and very often do no more work during that current week. The whole of the evidence before the Commission on Unemployment went to show that the problem of how to deal with these men, from the point of view of helping their unemployment, was such that no system could be devised to deal with them effectively while you have their condition of employment as now. I would like the right hon. Gentleman when he comes to speak again to tell us whether he is going to defend the subtraction of 6½d. from the wages of a man who only does half a day's work a week, and earns, perhaps, two shillings? It is all very well for him to say, "But look at the enormous amount that the State and the employer are going to give. I venture to say, in regard to the employer, that you will find that there will be a tendency to do what I understand the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer wants done—that is to push off, as it were, the work, so as to regularise his employment so far as he can—that is, wherever possible to take on a man who can show a card where an amount has been paid. I enter my emphatic dissent from that proposition. I am in favour of reorganising casual industry, but I am not in favour of reorganising it and crushing down a whole multitude of men, and saying that they shall have no work at all. The condition precedent to the proposition of this Bill ought to have been some scheme for decasualising and making provision for the number of men that you are going to squeeze out. That not only applies to men but to women too. In the districts represented by the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade it is a custom to take women on in this sort of way. In many large industries women will be taken on for just half a day, or one day a week, and from their paltry wages which will be earned over this short period in the week, there will be stopped what to them is an enormous figure for some problematical benefit. Therefore I would like to urge that as the Government have this evening listened with a very great deal of sympathy to the members from Scotland who represent a custom there, and to the members representing agricultural districts—and I say it with very great respect—that this is a far more important subject for the Government to introduce an Amendment into their Bill in connection with. The matter affects a very large number of men and women—a very large number of helpless men and women—and it represents to them the bread-and-butter of the most meagre description of their children. I hope, whether the Committee accepts this proposition or not, that the Government will give it consideration. At any rate, if it goes to a Division I shall vote for the Amendment unless we can get some proposal put before us by the Chancellor of the Exchequer or the First Lord showing how they propose to deal with what is a very real evil—what every one of us knows to be a real evil—so imposing a tax on those whom we refer to. It is no use saying it is no tax. It is no use saying you are going to give something in addition to this. It will be a tax on the bricklayer's labourer in London, who may get 6½d. stopped off half a day's work. It will be an awful tax on the dock labourer, whose 4d. will be stopped off probably one day's work in the week. There is no comparison at all between this and stopping the contribution from the wages of the skilled workmen or some person who may be getting from 30s. or £3 a week. I want also to say in that connection that you ought to take into account that these unhappy people in the main will not be insured in the sense in which the better-paid artisan will be insured. It is perfectly certain that many of the approved societies will not look at this class of person at all; they will be left outside and will be in the unhappy position of the Post Office depositors. It may be said that is not true, and that they will come into the societies, but I still say that to put a tax of that kind upon these men, even with the benefits conferred by this Bill, will only serve to effect more disease or at any rate more sickness to the labourer's family by limiting the food and clothing and even shelter, and causing hardship to the wives and children of these men.
I desire to associate myself in what has been said to the effect that very great hardships may be imposed in certain cases upon men who have not full weeks employment, and who are called upon to pay the full contribution. Hon. Members opposite have repeatedly referred to the privation and hardship and burden that would fall upon many a labourer in having 4d. per week deducted from his wages. If that is the case, as a general principle, how much harder would it be in the case of a man who only receives 20s. per week, and how much harder still would it be upon those who have not a week's full employment and who may only be employed on two or three days. Where a man is only employed for a portion of a week and receives supposing only 10s. 6d., it is a great hardship that 4d. should be deducted from his wages. I think it is a greater hardship to deduct 4d. from 10s. 6d. than to deduct 6d. from 20s. There is another very serious circumstance that arises, and it is this. The whole suggestion which has been in practice in the past has been to try and distribute labour where there is less work and a greater amount of men to do it. We have had that principle enforced among the dock labourers. There you find the employers, in order to equally distribute the work, employing a certain number of men for one-third or one-half a week and the others for the other portion of the week, with the result that a larger number of men are employed than would be if all the work was done by one set of men. You may have 100 weeks' work and 100 men to do it, but you may have also 100 weeks' work and 200 men, and the employer, instead of employing 100 men for 100 weeks, employs 200 men, each doing half a week's work only.The effect of this Bill as it stands at this moment is this, it would be a direct incentive to employers to say, "I can get 100 men to work 100 weeks, and do the work. If I have 200 men and gave each man a half week's work, I would have to pay 4d. in respect of each of the 200 men." It would mean saving the employer £1 13s. 4d. a week if he employed only the 100 men. The hon. Member for Bow and Bromley (Mr. Lansbury) referred to the way in which work was largely distributed in the winter months in the building trade, where a large number of men were employed for only half weeks. In the cotton trade we employ hundreds and thousands of men half weeks, and it would be a very unfortunate thing if we were called upon to pay the whole 4d. for each, and it would be a direct incentive to the employer to employ less men, although there were many more men to do the work. I see administrative difficulties in the way, but they could be overcome, and in these circumstances I support the Amendment.
I desire to say a few words in support of the views put forward by the hon. Member for Bow and Bromley. I want to put, if I may, the case already mentioned, though not quite to the extent that it deserves, that is the case of the dockers. Some of us have been fighting very hard to secure some recognition of the position of the docker and with some success. If this Amendment is not accepted by the Government, and if the Bill goes through in its present shape, I venture to think that a good deal of the benefits that the dockers have secured as a result of the recent successful negotia- tions in Manchester and Salford will be destroyed, and I will tell the Committee why. We have in Manchester and Salford Docks 1,500 labourers who are more or less in regular employment; we have 1,500 more who are concerned with employment only about three days a week, and we have got another 1,000 who are employed perhaps not more than one day a week. As a result of negotiations we have made arrangements by which the dockers are going to secure in future an extra 6d. per day of nine hours, but if you impose upon them as a result of this Clause, a charge of 4d., you remove 1,000 or 1,500 not in regular employment, practically out of the benefit that has been secured as far as this rise of wages goes, after weeks of strain and very anxious negotiation to secure it on the part of the employers and the men. I agree that decasualisation brings with it in its train certain difficulties. There is no question about that, but I think we have to make up our minds that decasualisation is the right policy and see if we cannot remedy the defects that arise in another way. But, for heaven's sake, as far as decasualisation policy is to be effected, do not impose upon a very large number of men ill-equipped to bear it, in the name of freedom and good service, something which they cannot possibly bear. The only way I see of getting out of the difficulty is an Amendment on these lines, otherwise you will do a great deal of disservice instead of benefit to the labourers.
I want to associate myself with the Amendment moved by my hon. Friend, because it involves a great principle in my view, and, being one of those who believe in universal free State insurance, I shall vote in that direction every time I get the chance. While the hon. Gentleman who has just sat down was making some reference to my hon. Friend the Member for Bow and Bromley the hon. Gentleman (Mr. Booth) said my hon. Friend ought to be delighted with his associates. I am not bothered at all with whom I associate, as long as we have a good object in view, and, therefore, I do not take my stand on this matter entirely as a party politician. This Amendment affects a very large number of my own Constituents, because the Victoria and Albert Docks, and other docks, employ a large number of men and there is a great amount of casual labour amongst them, and it appears to me that when a man is only in the position to get two or three days' work per week, this deduction would be a hardship. There is no definite declaration by the Government as to how they are going to deal with that class of workman. As far as the sick and invalidity side is concerned, there is no doubt that the ordinary docker, whether regularly or casually employed, will be called upon to pay 4d. per week. Anyone acquainted with a dockyard knows perfectly well that there are a large number of men who never work more than two days a week, and if they are to be called upon to pay 4d. a week it will be a great hardship. The First Lord of the Admiralty said that a man who is called upon to pay a contribution in proportion to a day's work could not expect to get the full amount of the benefits under a State Insurance Scheme. I thought the Government were trying to help the bottom dog, and that is the only way you can help a man of that sort. When these men are not working for a full week they should not be called upon to pay their full contribution.In the shipbuilding industry there are any amount of men employed in the repairing docks. Where a ship comes alongside for repairs which have to be completed in one or two days, for this purpose a number of men are taken on, and those men never work for more than two or three days per week. I could give many illustrations of these men who work in shipyards and gasworks. In the gasworks about April, when they are shutting down the retorts for the winter, upon which a large number of men have been working, they may go for days and weeks and never do more than one or two days' work. When they are restarting the work about October the same principle applies. I hope if the Government cannot see their way to accept this Amendment—in principle I think it is quite right—I hope they will agree to bring forward an Amendment later on which will meet the very grave difficulties which all those of us who represent dockyard districts know exist. If the First Lord of the Admiralty will only consult the President of the Board of Trade he will find that there are thousands of such cases as I have referred to. I associate myself with those who have spoken in favour of this Amendment, and if it goes to a Division I shall certainly vote for it.
This Bill aims at helping the bottom dog, and those who are not able to help themselves. A good deal has been said about the difficulty of the casual labourer. A good deal of the labour in. my district is not casual labour in the ordinary sense, but it is what I may call regular labour limited to two or three days a week. For some reason or other the laundry industry has graduated towards Acton, and the result is that we have hundreds of men and thousands of women all over the age of sixteen employed in this large industry. A great deal depends upon the weather and the facilities for getting the things dry. Sometimes they have to work at great pressure, but at no time are they able to employ for a whole week any but the skilled supervisors and those who have to do the direction of the laundry. I think it will be very oppressive payment to put on these people to take out of their wages 3d. per week in the case of a woman and 4d. in the case of a man. Many of them are only employed taking out the washing at the close of the week for a day or two and collecting it on the Monday. It would be very unjust to deduct such amounts from the modest wages earned by these people.There is also a strong case to be made out for the employer who will have to pay these charges, because he cannot pass them on to his customers. As far as the employers are concerned this is an impossible charge for them to pass on to their customers. I think it would be a gross injustice to compel employers in every case to pay a full insurance premium or contribution for every one employed when the system under which they work does not permit him to employ his hands for the whole of the week. I agree that this is a matter of some difficulty, but I contend that no difficulty ought to be allowed to remain if there is any possibility of removing it. Surely it is not beyond the wit of man to have a system under which contributions may be paid in proportion to the wages earned. If the First Lord of the Admiralty chooses to inquire from the Home Office inspectors he will find that the average amount of illness in the laundry business amounts to something like three days a year. If that is so where is the hardship? Where is the hardship from the point of view of the Government? If the average is only three days a year what are the chances of such persons coming upon the insurance fund having regard to the healthy state of the trade. I submit that the strongest possible case has been made out for the protection of this class of people. I believe this Bill ought to have followed other Bills dealing with the question of the Poor Law. Of course we can understand the exigencies of the moment which have induced the Government to bring forward this Bill which for the most part we welcome, but which we are bound to criticise in the interests of large bodies of people who ought not to be treated in this way and whose interests ought to be looked after as far as possible.
I would just like to state the other side of the case. Two speeches have been delivered from this side of the House, and the hon. Member for Ealing (Mr. Nield) has, as it were, crossed the "t's" and dotted the "i's" of those speeches. My hon. Friends, the Member for West Ham (Mr. W. Thorne) and the hon. Member for Bow and Bromley (Mr. Lansbury), have said it is unfair a man who is employed one or two days in the week should be compelled to pay his contribution to the fund for the whole week. I do not know what the view of my hon. Friend, the Member for Bow and Bromley, is upon the subject, but the hon. Member for West Ham stated that, in spite of the fact that he only pays one-fifth of the amount of contribution, he would still desire him to receive the whole of the benefits. Of course, on the assumption that he believes in the scheme being absolutely free and the whole of the contributions coming from the State, he is perfectly justified in supporting that proposal, but I understand the idea of hon. Members opposite is that if a man pays only one-fifth of the contribution he will only receive one-fifth of the benefit. If one goes into the Lobby in favour of the proposition, he should know what it really is. If it means a man is only to receive one-fifth of the benefits, I am not going to vote in favour of it; but if, as my hon. Friend suggests, the man only pays one-fifth of the contribution and the State makes up the difference or the employer who employs casual labour is fined by an extra contribution, then I shall certainly support it. If it is to deprive the workman of the benefits of the Bill, I shall certainly have nothing to do with the Amendment. Just as my hon. Friend suggested it would be unfair to compel the Workman to pay the full contribution if he only works one or two days in the week, so the hon. Member for Ealing on the other side said, if the employer only employs a man one day in the week, it is grossly unfair he 3hould be compelled to contribute the whole of the week's contribution. That is the crux of the whole situation.
I think the hon. Member should do me the justice to say I pointed out, first of all, the injustice to the workers, and, incidentally, the injustice to the employer.
I quite agree, but that is the crux of the whole situation, and one begins to understand the principle of the Amendment much more clearly after the statement of the hon. Member. It is for the purpose of maintaining casual labour and of giving the employer an opportunity of employing one man to-day and another man tomorrow. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] At any rate, the idea is that he should not be compelled to pay for the whole week. If he employs a man to-day with the intention of dismissing him to-morrow, he should only be called on to pay one-fifth of the contribution, and no more. That is the principle of the Amendment. It is really assisting the employer who employs casual labour, and it is, in fact, subsidising casual labour. An employer is much more likely to keep a man in his employ for a week if he knows he will have to pay a week's contribution. If he knows he only has to pay one-fifth of the contribution, he may employ one man on Monday, another on Tuesday, and a third on Wednesday.
I was dealing with the special case of the laundries.
I am dealing absolutely with the situation as suggested by the hon. Member's Amendment, and I say it would be a fatal mistake for those interested in the casual labour question to agree to giving a premium to employers who dismiss their men every night and take on a new set of men in the morning. I could understand it if it was said the employer must pay for a full week every time he takes a new man on. That would be compelling the employer of casual labour to contribute something towards the fund in a way the man who employs regular labour would not be asked to do. If men are going to be brought in to secure, by paying one-fifth of the contribution, the same benefits as other men who pay the whole five-fifths, then you are doing an injustice. You cannot have your cake and eat it, and, if the man who pays one-fifth of the contribution takes the full benefits, there will be so much less for the man paying five-fifths of the contribution. It only wants a few minutes' consideration to see that, while we agree with every word uttered by my hon. Friends, there is a great difficulty, and so long as there are 2,000 men asking for 1,000 jobs there will always be a great social difficulty. You do not improve that position by putting a premium on casual labour, as suggested by this Amendment, and for that reason I shall certainly vote against it.
I think this discussion only goes to show how often in trying to do some good in one direction you cause a greater hardship in another. I am afraid the hon. Gentleman who has just sat down takes the point of view that employers are always out to get cheap labour, and are always prepared to deal harshly with their men. I wish, however, to speak on behalf of the dock hands in the constituency I represent. I am sorry to say it is not a busy dock. How does the hon. Member propose to deal with these men who are necessarily casual from the very work of the dock? They are waiting there in gangs for a ship to come in. They must be casual, because they have to wait until the ship arrives. The only chance many of these men have of getting a job is through the kindness of employers who, knowing that they are not regularly employed, put them on for a single day. I have often asked them how they manage to live, and they assure me it is only by getting a day or two's work through the kindness of employers, who feel it would be better to give the work than to see the men going to the union. The right hon. Gentleman pointed out that these men were only to get one-sixth benefit because they only paid one-sixth of the contribution. But I would point out that they will not get anything at all, because employers will not attempt to employ these casual men on one or two days of the week if this provision is insisted upon. As a matter of fact, these men are only able to live by the kindness of the little shopkeeper, who lets them run up accounts, knowing that they will pay when they get a day's work. If you do not do something in the direction indicated by the Amendment, if you insist on putting a burden of 4d. in the case of these men for a day or half-a-day's work I believe you will be placing a serious hardship on these casual dock labourers.
The principle is already recognised in the Bill in Clause 2 as originally drawn, which provides for certain exemptions in the case of persons who are not, as a rule, employed for more than thirty-nine weeks in the year. What is to become of the men who are within the purview of the Amendment. That Amendment deals with a particularly difficult class. There must, I think, always be a certain number of persons who live by casual labour, which, as we regard it, no possible Act of Parliament and no alteration of the law can prevent. A certain amount of casual labour must always exist. The question is, whether, if you have a certain amount of casual labour employed for a very few days, is it best that the man should get the money which he earns by that casual labour or should he be required to pay the contribution demanded under the Bill—should he be called upon to pay this contribution out of his slender pocket. Are we right in enforcing such a contribution by Act of Parliament? I am somewhat impressed by the argument that if we leave the Bill as it stands we shall be enforcing a contribution upon men who, perhaps, would be able to better spend their income on themselves and those dependent on them, although the money might have the additional benefit of securing certain benefits. I think my hon. Friend's Amendment is one which should be carefully considered, either in its present form or in some amended form. On this point I think we ought to have a more complete answer from those in charge of the Bill.
I wish to ask whether these exemptions proposed to be made in Clause 4 should not really come under Clause 2. It will be observed that if any casual people are exempted under Clause 2, Sub-section (5) of Clause 4 calls upon the employer to continue to pay, although the men themselves are exempted. If you exempt any class of labour, or allow any class of labour to exempt itself, it is obvious that a good deal of the advantages of the Bill will be done away with.
I would point out that the Amendment is only a manuscript one. The effect is intended to be that where a man is only employed one day in six he shall only pay one-sixth contribution, and the employer also shall only pay a one-sixth contribution. It would not constitute an exemption, but how it will work the Amendment does not say.
I am obliged to the right hon. Gentleman. Obviously if it were possible to make any exemption for casual labour in Clause 2 it would be better for the workmen. I think if the Government contemplate making any alteration with regard to casual labour it should come under Clause 2. The argument of the hon. Member opposite seems to me the very finest argument for leaving the Bill in its present shape. We do not want to encourage charity. It is far better that the dock labourer should be decasualised as far as possible. There can be no-more terrible thing than for a man to be employed one day out of seven, and to remain outside the dock gates awaiting employment for the other six days.
I should not think of supporting this Amendment if I thought it had the effect which the hon. Member for Stoke (Mr. John Ward) seemed to expect from it. I can see nothing in it in the nature of a subsidy to casual labour, and I do not think it will have that effect at all. All we want to do is to give to those men who do not get a. full week's work the benefits of the Bill by a contribution proportionate to the amount of employment which he gets during the week.
I do not think that is covered by the Amendment.
I was only giving a reason why I support it. I think a case has been made out for the words of this Amendment and of one or two Amendments which would come later on, and it is up to the Government to meet that case. The point is that it is a hardship to a working man who gets only one or two days' work per week to be deprived of the benefits of the Bill, and we do not wish to cut him out of the Bill. The hon. Member for Stoke seems to think it is in some way an employer's endowment. I do-not think that is so at all. If he looks at the Amendments on the Paper further down, from the Members of his own party, the Members for Blackfriars and West Ham, he will see that this Amendment would not have the effect which he argues if these other Amendments which it is possible to put in shall be put in. The effect would be that these people would not be treated as in arrear. So long as they were unemployed they would not be liable to pay their contribution. If they were employed two days and unemployed four day they would not be in arrear, but would get the full benefit under the Act. If you put the two sets of Amendments together they would not have the effect which the hon. Member for Stoke rather feared, but would have the effect which the Member for West Ham desires. One naturally asks as to the actuarial possibility, because one does not want to support an Amendment which will put a greater burden upon some people to whom benefits are rightly due because they have paid a full contribution. But if you will look at the actuarial report you will see that it has actually fixed the contributions payable for the various benefits upon the assumption that no contribution would be paid whilst the contributors were out of employment. On page 20 it says:—
And then, as to the amount of contributions to be paid and the benefits, he says:—"We have decided that it would be sufficient for the present purpose in view of the special provisions bearing upon this subject to assume an average rate of unemployment at all ages and from both sexes of 5 per cent. per annum."
"All the above contributions are computed on the assumption they will not be payable during the sickness or unemployment of the contributor."
I am afraid I shall be allowing the hon. Member to mix up this question with the question of unemployment if I allow that line of discussion to proceed. The hon. Member knows the Bill very well, and he knows we must reach that question of unemployment shortly. This Amendment deals only with persons who are employed for less than five days in the week, and I think if the discussion ranged over the other question now I should be obliged later on to deprive the Committee of the opportunity of discussing it on later Amendments.
It is quite true that this Amendment deals with those who are employed for less than five days in a week, but a person who is in that position must be unemployed during the other part of the week. I do not desire to pursue it. I only wanted to point out that the Actuary's Report was based upon the footing that they were to be unemployed for a time at any rate. I was going to ask the First Lord of the Admiralty, who is now dealing with the Bill, whether this point has been taken into account, and whether we have all the contributions to the fund based on the footing which would allow of this Amendment being accepted.
I answer the hon. Gentleman's point at once. The use of the term "unemployment" in the Actuary's Report means unemployment in the meaning given to it in the Bill. The only effect it would have if we accepted this and other subsequent Amendments we should give the workmen in this case all the benefit of the benefits in the Bill knowing that it would mean that those other workmen who now pay the full rate would get less. The benefits of the Act would be given to the casual labourer at the expense of the other contributors.
May I ask where the unemployment is defined to be seven days or over?
It is in the Schedule.
Of the Actuary's Report?
No, in the Bill. The terms in the Actuary's Report have the same meaning as they have in the Bill and unemployment in the Actuary's Report means unemployment as used in the Bill. I really do think that the Members for West Ham and Bow and Bromley have not appreciated the meaning of this Amendment. I fully understand their desire to give the best advantage they can to the casual labourer. But the Amendment, as it is actually before the Committee, is not the speeches nor the intentions nor desires of hon. Gentlemen. The best intentions in the world we may wish to carry into law, but we are discussing what the actual Amendment does. If my hon. Friends go into the Lobby for this Amendment, they will be voting for this, that the casual labourer, it is true, will only pay such proportion of his 4d. as he works days in a week, as compared with the whole week, but they will also be voting that the employer shall only pay in the same way and to the same extent. That is this Amendment.
Would it not be perfectly possible if this Amendment were carried, to still further amend it?
If this Amendment is carried these words are in the Bill, and hon. Gentlemen opposite speaking on this Amendment have been careful to point out that they took this view of the Amendment and believed that the employer ought not to be called upon to pay the full rate.
Nor the workmen.
I accept that, but I am explaining the effect of the Amendment as it stands. If hon. Members go into the Lobby for the Amendment they will be voting that the employer shall only pay the reduced rate for part of a week, in the same way as the workman has his contribution reduced according to the number of days he works. But I would call attention further to this: that in some cases the workman would be in arrears, and if hereafter he got full employment he would have to pay not only his own but the employer's arrears. I want my hon. Friends to know what the Amendment is as it stands on the Paper.
That is only your interpretation of the Amendment. It is not mine.
We will have an opportunity of looking at this Amendment at leisure to-morrow when we see it in the Journals of the House, and I think my hon. Friend will find it is as I have stated. I trust my hon. Friends will not go into the Lobby in support of this Amendment. I beg also to suggest that, as the matter has been fully discussed, we might now come to a conclusion.