§ 30. Mr. WILLIAM THORNE
asked the President of the Board of Trade if he is aware that Joseph Hart, No. 39/D 133, lodged his unemployment insurance book at the Dartford Labour Exchange and has had his unemployment vacant ticket signed continuously from 24th February to 10th April; that up to the present time no definite decision has been given by the Board of Trade as to whether he is entitled to unemployment benefit or otherwise; and whether he proposes to take any action in the matter?
I have made inquiries into the question raised by my hon. Friend, and I think that he has been misinformed as to the facts of the case. I understand that Joseph Hart made a direct claim for benefit on the 24th February, which was authorised on the 3rd March; that on the following Friday, the 7th March, he received the amount of benefit due to him, in the ordinary way. On the 10th March he desired to have his claim transferred from a direct to an 18 association claim, and, pending a decision on this question, which was being discussed between him and the insurance officer, he did not make a direct claim for payment of the further sums due to him. I am further informed that the full amount, two guineas, due to him in the way of direct unemployment benefit, was paid to him on the 18th instant.
§ Mr. THORNE
May I ask whether it is not a fact that when men sign these vacant tickets, it is an indication that they are to be allowed to get their unemployment pay from the associations?
It has been explained several times that where there is an agreement between the Board and an association the Board does not pay independently of the association the men getting unemployment benefit, but under the Act it goes to them periodically.
§ 31. Mr. THORNE
asked the President of the Board of Trade if he is aware that William Jones, 53/D 1232, lodged his unemployment insurance book at the Shoreditch Labour Exchange on or about Wednesday, 29th January, and signed daily as being unemployed up to 8th February and up to that time did not receive any decision of the Board of Trade as to whether he was entitled to unemployment benefit; if he is aware that he obtained employment, but again fell out of work and lodged his book at the Shoreditch Exchange on 19th February, and continued to sign as being unemployed up to 15th March, and that up to the present time the Board of Trade has not given a decision as to whether he is entitled to benefit; whether he can state the reason for the delay; and if he will take action in the matter?
I have inquired into this case and am informed that Mr. Jones claimed, as stated, on the 29th January. There were several points to be cleared up before a decision could be given, and, owing to the fact that the workman was claiming benefit through an association and not direct, he did not attend regularly at the Exchange, and though a communication asking him to call was sent to him it was not possible to settle the matter with him till the 6th March. The claim was authorised on the 11th March, and Mr. Jones's union were duly informed to that effect. I am informed that the second claim referred to could not be authorised until the point P 19 raised in the first case had been cleared up. This claim was, however, duly authorised on the 17th April. I can only repeat what I have already said in reply to previous questions that it was inevitable at the outset, when a great rush of claims had to be dealt with simultaneously that claims on which queries arose should in some cases be delayed. No one regrets any inconvenience caused by these initial delays more than the Department, but so far as I can judge, they have been remarkably few in number compared with the great mass of claims dealt with, and now that decisions have been given on a number of questions of principle that have caused difficulty at the beginning, and the staff are growing accustomed to the work, I hope and trust that these cases may be diminished to vanishing point.
§ Mr. THORNE
May I ask whether there is any possible chance of decisions being given more speedily, because in this case which I have before me the man signed as stated in the question, while as a matter of fact it was only last Friday he was paid, receiving then the amount for four weeks and two days?
It is one of those cases of which I have spoken. In this case the delay has arisen out of the association agreement, but as I have said it is the desire of the Department that no such delays should take place in future.
§ 32. Mr. THORNE
asked the President of the Board of Trade if he is aware that, in some instances, the decision as to benefit on the claims of members of associations having an arrangement under Section 105 is not given for several weeks, and that it has been the practice of associations to obtain the member's signature on one U.I. 75 form for the whole of the benefit paid during the period of unemployment; if he is aware that Labour Exchange managers are now asking secretaries of associations to fill in a U.I. 75 form to cover each week a member is unemployed and to alter the amount of the receipt signed by the member and divide the amount over the period of weeks covered by the unemployment; and if he is aware that this action of the Labour Exchange managers is causing considerable clerical work and consequent irritation; and if he proposes to take action in the matter?
The form referred to by my hon. Friend is used commonly for the purposes both of Section 105 and of Section 106, under the latter of which any sum in excess of 12s. per week paid by an association to an unemployed member is excluded from account in estimating the repayment to be made by the State to the association. In any case, therefore, in which a large payment is made in a single week, representing benefit for several preceding weeks, it is essential in the interests of the association that this latter fact should be made clear, so that the payment made for the purposes of Section 106 be treated as a payment for several weeks and not as a payment for one week. Otherwise the whole excess of the payment (12s.) would be excluded from account and the association would suffer financial loss. The action taken by the Labour Exchanges in regard to this matter is taken for the purpose of saving the association from this loss. The question of the revision of the forms is at the present moment being carefully considered.
§ Mr. THORNE
Can the hon. Gentleman tell me whether, when a man signs, the Department insists upon the forms being altered? When, for instance, a lump sum of £2 is sent to a man for four weeks' pay, has he then to date the sheets three weeks back?
I am not aware of the details, but, as I have stated, the whole matter of forms is under consideration.