Ninepence for Fourpence

“Everyone does not appreciate deep economic arguments, but every workman can appreciate between getting 9d. and 4d.”

Thus spake Mr. Lloyd George—beg pardon, Lord Limehouse, the (rare and refreshing) fruit merchant, addressing a “Labour” deputation on June 20, 1911.

Mr. McKenna, not to be outdone by the load-line raiser, said : “The fundamental fact is that the workman contributes 4d. and gets 9d.”

* * *

You are to get 9d. But turn from the official report of the aforementioned deputation (Cd. 5869.) to leaflet 2393 of the National Liberal Federation, which says :—

“Of course, this does not mean that for every 4d. paid the insured person always gets 9d. Back.”

I hope every workman “can appreciate” that. You get 9d.—but not always. A kind of three card trick. Find, the 9d. among Lloyd George’s knaves.

* * *

It isn’t an employers’ Bill, oh, no ! Look, however, at Lloyd George’s speech to the deputation from the Chambers of Commerce (30.6.11), introduced by Lord Brassey :—

“Under the Compensation Act the workmen malinger at the expense of the employer, but under this Bill they will malinger at their own expense. If a man malingers he cannot draw more money from the State, he cannot draw more from the employer. He will have to find the deficiency out of his own pocket.” (Same report.)

* * *

“That is a very important point for the protection of the employer which I am surprised you have overlooked. … I quite agree with Mr. Parkes [Tory M.P. for Birmingham] that the doctor is perhaps the most important and essential person in this connection, and it is also very important that he should be put in an independent position, and that is why, as far as I am concerned, I should be very glad if the House of Commons took the responsibility of placing the doctors under the local Health Committees, because, after all, the local Health Committees will be independent bodies. I have no doubt there will be employers there because there are far more employers than workmen on the county councils of the country ; the proportion of workmen is not very high.”

The workmen cannot malinger—Lloyd George has seen to that. But what about the employers ? Ever heard of masters malingering, David ? Announce that grouse shooting commences on August 12th and see how they run ! The Liberals won’t stop them malingering. A lot depends upon the doctor, says David. Workingmen with experience of the London County Council doctor in compensation cases, for instance, will agree with him. Therefore Lloyd George urged employers to get upon the Councils “because membership of the Council means lower rates.” And he went on, “he would, if he gave the benefit of his business administration to the local authority, cut down the rates and lighten enormously the charges which fell upon himself.

To a “Labour” deputation the Chancellor preaches one tale, but to this deputation from the employers and merchants he preaches another. Listen to this :—

“I would invite the attention of employers to the way in which, we have framed this Bill, because it is framed in a way to completely protect them.” (Cd. 5869.)

This appeal to Property is equal to the one in the National Liberal Federation’s leaflet (No. 2422), which says of the employer :—

“He will be repaid partly in the increased efficiency of his workers. In good health and with a mind freed from financial worry, a man will do better work though working no harder than now. Then, again, men will be saved from the workhouse and the relieving officer, and so tho employer will have less to pay in Poor Rates.”

The “Manchester Evening News” (Liberal) of 7.8.12 reported the Clerk to the South Manchester Guardians thus :—

“The National Insurance Act will do more to prevent and eventually to eradicate pauperism than all the Poor Law Acts on the Statute Book.”

Being notified of this Mr. Lloyd George wrote:—

“I have always felt confident that its operation must have the effect of relieving the rates. . . . I was informed the other day by the Local Government Board that consumption alone costs the rates about a million and a half per annum. . . . Mr. Bloomfield is therefore perfectly right in assuming that the operation of this Act must necessarily have the direct effect of relieving taxpayers of a large proportion of the burdens which sickness now casts on their shoulders. . . . The maintenance provided in days of sickness by the Insurance Act and the institutions set up and subsidised out of its funds will be offered to the workingman as substitutes for the workhouse and workhouse infirmary—substitutes which will be consistent with ‘the honour and dignity of Labour.'”

* * *

When this glorious Bill was introduced, Liberals pointed jubilantly to Clause 51. “There is the worker’s clause,” they declared. “Under it no landlord can levy distress for the whole period any person receives sickness benefit.” But—”there’s many a dip twixt the cup and the lip.” The Employers’ Parliamentary Council waited upon the Chancellor of the Exchequer and a spokesman of the Farmers’ Federation said :—

“The great bulk of our workmen are housed in cottages belonging to us, and if those cottages are not at our disposal when the workman leaves off work the whole work of the farm is stopped at once.”

To this Mr. Lloyd George replied :

“If the clause were confined to cases where life would be imperilled by the process would that satisfy you ?”

Farmers’ Representative: “Yes, I should say so.”

Mr. Lloyd George : “Then I propose doing it. I am with you entirely. I think the clause as it stands is far too wide and malingerers might take advantage of it.”

So at the behest of landlords he altered the clause, which now states that if in the opinion of a doctor the person receiving sick benefit is likely to die if distress is levied, it shall not be done. The doctor’s certificate is to be issued for a week only, but may be renewed each week up to a month by the doctor, unless the landlord has applied to the Registrar of a County Court, whose decision must be accepted without appeal.

On this point we had an item in “Reynolds’s Newspaper” (2.7.11) headed “Master of Elibank Reassures Landlords re Clause 51.” It ran as follows :—

“The Master of Elibank has written to Sir Robert Aske at Hull with reference to the Insurance Bill. In the course of his remarks he says : ‘it should not be overlooked that the provision of sick pay is likely to make the payment of rent by the working classes during sickness very much more regular than it has hitherto been, and Mr. Lloyd George has no doubt that this will far more than compensate the owners of small houses for any loss that may be suffered in the rare cases where Clause 51 becomes operative.'”

This is “rare and refreshing fruit,” indeed— for the landlords. In fact, the striking unanimity of Liberal and Tory, landlord and factory-lord, over this Bill, should convince the toiler of its fraud, The “wicked House of Lords” passed it without a murmur. The Tory party largely supported its Second Reading, and refused to vote against the Third Reading. Mr. Lloyd George eulogised prominent Tories for their support of the Bill—Mr, Charles Bathurst, Lord Henry Bentinck, and Mr. William Waldorf Astor ! The latter, a large property owner, objected to postponing the operation of the Act, and explained the large saving of rates that would result, remarking, “We must make the ratepayer realise it.”

“We are going,” said Mr. Lloyd George at Queen’s Hall, on December 31,1909, “to provide adequate insurance against unemployment to prevent the starvation of the wife and children of the man who is out of work perforce.” Under the Insurance Act the “adequate” insurance becomes seven whole bob a week. But should he be unemployed “perforce” because his Liberal or Tory employer has locked him out, then the starvation will take place through the deliberate provisions of the Insurance Act, which say that in case of a lock-out no money shall be paid to the men. if the toilers should be goaded into striking by a Liberal Devonport or a Tory Penrhyn, then, also, they get—nothing. They may have paid in pounds, but they can starve. If, also, a toiler fails to make application for benefit “in the proper form,” if he fails to come at the “required time” to the “required place” to sign on, he draws—nothing. Should he, in the eyes of the Jacks-in-office, leave work “without sufficient cause,” or lose his job through what his boss calls “misconduct,” then he gets the figure which multiplied by itself is the same. Again, should he be in arrears in his contributions through lack of work, he may look in vain for the Welsh rarebit’s “rare and refreshing fruit.”

* * *

This idea of what is “adequate” provision seems to vary with the recipient. Baron Robson, late Sir William Robson, applied in July to the Ministry for “adequate” assistance as he waa retiring. He had been Solicitor-General at £6,000 per annum, and after a year or two became Attorney-General at £7.000 a year. Both these jobs carried with them “fees” which would be a good deal more than the salary itself. The next job Robby got was Judge of the High Court at £10,000 per annum. He stuck that for a year or two, without “malingering” more than half the time, and then retired—of course, with “just cause.” So David’s Government presented him with a pension “for the term of his natural life,” of a dollar a week—no, beg pardon, three thousand, seven hundred arid fifty pounds a year. £72 a week is “adequate” for this lawyer to malinger upon, but the sick working man is adequately provided for with seven bob.

* * *

Every Insurance Commissioner draws twenty pounds a week, while the Chairman of Commissions gets twice that sum. Where do these huge salaries come from ?

Mr. Lloyd George won’t say. But talking to the Merchants and Bankers of the City of London just after the Bill was brought in (July, 1911; he said :

“It would be a great satisfaction to them to know that in his judgment the Insurance Bill would not add a single farthing to the taxation which had already been imposed in this country.”

They don’t come out of taxes, so where are they coming from ? The employers say they won’t come from them in any other way.

Listen to Sir Adolph Tuck, presiding at a meeting of Raphael Tuck & Sons (23.7.12) :

“I am of the firm opinion that this expenditure (on Insurance contributions) will, in the long run, prove one of the best investments which the company has been called upon to make.”

A few days previous to this Lord Ashton, the employer of 6,000 men at his Lancaster carpet and other works, said : “It is one of the grandest Acts ever passed.” On July 7th Mr. F. D. Acland (a member of the Government) told the people of St. Albans that “in Germany they could not find a big employer who would go back to the days before the Insurance Act there.”

* * *

As a last quotation let me give Mr. Lloyd George’s speech to the deputation from the National Farmers’ Union of England on July 4 1911 (Cd. 5869) : —

“I want the farmers to remember this, that this is going to be a tremendous relief to the Poor Law, and the casual labourer is the man who gets on the rates. It would be an enormous relief to the poor rates. Our real economic trouble is the casual labourer. We want, somehow or other, to make provision for him, and I think it is worth our while, and it is certainly worth the farmers’ while, to do so ; because the poor rate is their heavy burden, and to get the casual labourer off the rates would be a benefit to you, if you could get him off. I am very loth to keep the casual out if I can possibly help it. That is the most helpless class in the country and they become a burden on the community. IT IS FAR BETTER TO GET FOURPENCE OUT OF HIM, BECAUSE NOW YOU ARE BEARING THE WHOLE OF THE EXPENSE.”

Does this, set alongside his emphatic statement that the workers are to get “9d. for 4d.,” sufficiently prove how much of the liar and the cheat lies hidden in the unblushing hide of this little Welsh lawyer ?


Leave a Reply