I move: That the Bill be now read a Second Time. This is a Bill to amend the Widows' and Orphans' Pensions Act, 1935, in so far as its contributory provisions affect persons engaged in agricultural employment.
Under the Act of 1935, which is the Principal Act, the normal contributions were fixed at 8d. per week for a man and 4d. per week for a woman, the employer paying half the contribution in respect of males and the whole of the contribution in respect of females. In return for these contributions, contributory pensions are payable at the rate of 10/- a week for a widow, 5/- a week for the eldest dependent child of a widow, 3/- a week in respect of each other dependent child of a widow and 7/6 a week in respect of each orphan child.
The Principal Act, however, also provides that during the five years beginning on the second appointed day (which was the 6th January, 1936), these rates of contribution and benefit should be modified in their application to persons and the widows and orphans of persons engaged in agricultural employment. Instead of the full contribution of 8d. for a man and 4d. for a woman the contributions for agricultural workers' were fixed at 4d. per week for a man, of which half is payable by the employer and 2d. a week for a woman, paid in full by the employer. This provision is contained in Section 38 (1) (b) and Part II of the Sncond Schedule of the 1935 Act. The effect of this provision is to require from persons employed in agriculture only half the rate of contributions applicable to persons engaged in nonagricultural employments. The contributory pensions payable in return for these contributions are 8/- a week for a widow, 4/- a week for the eldest dependent child of a widow, 2/6 a week for each other dependent child of a widow and 6/- a week for an orphan child. These provisions are contained in Section 10 (2) and 12 (2) of the 1935 Act. It will be seen that whereas the agricultural rate of contribution is only half of the non-agricultural rats, the contributory pensions payable to the widows and orphans of insured persons engaged in agriculture are approximately 80 per cent. of those payable to the widows and orphans of other insured workers.
These reduced rates of contribution and benefit were to remain in force only for a period of five years from 6th January, 1936, and under the law as it stands at present, the position is that on 6th January next, the full contributions of 8d. and 4d. will be payable in respect of all insured workers, including insured workers in agriculture. On the other hand, the rates of contributory pension now applicable to the widows and orphans of insured persons employed in agriculture will become the rates at present applicable to the widows and orphans of insured persons who were not engaged in agricultural employment. In other words, if those sections of the 1935 Act which provide for reduced rates of contribution and contributory pension in respect of agricultural employment, are allowd to lapse, the contributions of insured persons employed in agriculture will be doubled while the corresponding rates of contributory pension will be increased only by one-quarter approximately. The Government is of the opinion that, this is not desirable and the present Bill now before the House is designed to provide that these provisions will not lapse on the 6th January next. In effect the Bill will merely preserve in the future the present position.