81. Mr. F. HALL (Dulwich)
asked the President of the Board of Trade if at the time the unemployment provisions of the National Insurance Act came into force 1761 the firm of Elliott Brothers, Lewisham, was declared to be exempt from Part II. of the Act; that recently an inspector made an examination of the firm's books, with the result that fifty of their workmen were declared to be insurable, and that in consequence these workmen have been called upon to pay arrears of contributions, involving hardship in many cases; will he say what investigations were made in the first instance when it was decided that the firm's employés were not covered by Part II. of the Act; if any information or books were withheld originally which could be responsible for the first decision; and whether, if the circumstances justify it, he will arrange for the men affected to come under the Act as from April, when the revised ruling was come to, and not call upon them for back contributions?
§ Mr. BURNS
I think there must be some misunderstanding, for I cannot find that this firm was ever declared to be exempt from Part II. of the Act. A question of this kind can only be decided by the Umpire, and, so far as I am aware, the firm did not communicate with the Umpire before the end of December, 1913. The Umpire's reply, given in January last, indicated that the workmen now in question were insurable. I am informed by the Umpire that in August, 1912, on the application of a workman employed by the firm, he determined that a certain class of workmen so employed were not insurable, but this decision does not affect the particular workmen referred to in the question. The fact that contributions were not being paid in respect of these workmen first came to the knowledge of the Board as a result of an inspector's visit, and the firm were at once informed that the workmen were insurable. The Board have no authority to dispense with the payment of arrears. I should add that it is to the workmen's own interest that the arrears should be paid, as their claim to benefit depends upon the number of contributions paid.