HC Deb 07 April 1919 vol 114 cc1659-62
63. Colonel YATE

asked the Minister of Labour for what reason the unemployment benefit which was to have come to an end on the 21st May, 1919, has been extended for another period of six months; and at what rate the donation is to be paid during this second six months?

The MINISTER of LABOUR (Sir Robert Home)

The original scheme for payment of unemployed donation provided that during the period of twenty-six weeks following on the cessation of hostilities, unemployed persons, unable to find employment, might obtain assistance to the extent of thirteen weekly payments. Many persons found no employment and took the donation every week in the first thirteen weeks. When almost thirteen weeks had elapsed, and there was no appearance of any revival of trade, while unemployment was increasing, the Government decided to make payments at a reduced rate for thirteen additional weeks, but under the arrangement that only twenty-six payments in all could be made within the year from 21st November, 1918 —thirteen at the original rate and thirteen at the reduced rate. In order to obtain a continuance of the donation, however, it is necessary for the applicant to present his or her case to the local advisory committee and satisfy them of the genuineness of the claim. The weekly rates of donation for civilian workers during the second period are 20s. for men, 15s. for women, and half these rates for boys and girls respectively, together with supplementary allowances in respect of dependent children under the age of fifteen.

Lieutenant-Colonel Sir S. HOARE

Can the right hon. Gentleman say what it is proposed to do at the end of the second period of thirteen weeks?


That question had better be asked when we come to that period.

Colonel THORNE

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that between the pay of the higher scale and that of the lower scale men and women have to lose a week, and will he give the reason?


I am aware of the fact and the matter is now being reconsidered.

Lieutenant-Colonel Sir F. HALL

Will the right hon. Gentleman undertake that at all events there shall be no increase in the period for which this unemployment donation is paid until the matter has been brought clearly before the House of Commons?


I believe there is another question upon that matter being put to the Prime Minister to-day.


Will the right hon. Gentleman obviate the necessity of paying this benefit by recommending to the Government the necessity of providing remunerative employment?


Every means is being considered towards that end.


As all the questions to the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the House have been answered, might I ask him to answer the question that I have put to the Minister of Labour?


The hon. Member had better put the question upon the Paper.


I am sorry my question is so unintelligible to the right hon. Gentleman.


My hon. Friend is mistaken. I was not listening.

64. Lieutenant-Colonel HILDER

asked the Minister of Labour if he proposes to take any further steps to satisfy the demands for labour for agricultural purposes from the registered labourers who are now in receipt of out-of-work donations?


The men registered as agricultural labourers on the books of the Employment Exchanges have been considered for such vacancies as have been notified to the exchanges. The fact that men register themselves as agricultural labourers does not necessarily involve that they have sufficient skill to induce farmers to employ them for particular jobs. Moreover, shortage of housing accommodation in agricultural districts frequently makes it impossible for a man to immigrate to a district in which work is available. Unfortunately farmers do not at the present time sufficiently notify these vacancies to the Employment Exchanges. With a view to remedying this position, the Minister of Labour has been in consultation with the Food Production Department of the Board of Agriculture. For some time past the Employment Exchanges have cooperated, and still continue to co-operate, with the County Agricultural Committees.

65. Lieutenant-Colonel HILDER

asked the Minister of Labour if he is aware of the growing habit of getting out of work in order to obtain a holiday at the expense of the State; and whether, in view of the effect that this practice must have upon the workers of the community, he proposes to take any action in the matter?


I presume that the hon. and gallant Member refers to the out-of-work donation scheme. This scheme is necessary for the relief of the large number of workpeople whose unemployment is unfortunately inevitable during the present transitional period. Owing to the large numbers involved cases of abuse cannot be entirely avoided. The Department is anxious to take all possible steps to discover and remove any cases of abuse, and they will be assisted if hon. Members will furnish me with particulars of the specific instances which they have in mind. It is regretted that employers do not sufficiently help the Department by answering inquiries as to reasons for men leaving their employment.

66. Brigadier-General CROFT

asked the Minister of Labour whether a person is entitled to unemployment benefit by merely showing that a Labour Exchange has not offered him suitable employment; and if such a person has not made, and is not making, any effort to obtain suitable work, except by daily attendance at Labour Exchanges, has he discharged the burden of proving that he is not able to obtain suitable employment?


It is a condition of the receipt of out-of-work donation that the applicant should be unable to obtain suitable employment; and no person should be allowed donation if it is known that he is not making every reasonable effort to obtain suitable employment. My officers will be materially assisted in their endeavours to prevent abuses such as that indicated in the question if employers will make a practice of promptly and regularly notifying all their requirements to the local Exchange.

Colonel THORNE

Can the right hon. Gentleman give any reason why there is so much badgering of the Minister of Labour about this unemployment question?

67. Mr. SIMM

asked the Minister of Labour what steps are being taken to find employment for agricultural labourers reported as unemployed; if any Return has been made of farmers requiring labourers; and if he can give an approximate number of the farm labourers required in England alone?


I refer my hon. Friend to the reply given to the hon. and gallant Member for South-East Essex. I have no detailed information as to the number of farm laboureres required in England apart from the vacancies notified by the farmers to the Employment Exchanges. The number of such vacancies on the registers of the Employment Exchanges in the United Kingdom on the 21st March (the latest date for which figures are available) was 3,539, including 2,645 registered in England.


Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that there are 1,000,000 acres needing new drainage, and cannot something be done to find work for the unemployed upon this work?


The Ministry of Labour is co-operating with the Board of Agriculture towards that end.