HC Deb 01 June 1921 vol 142 cc1034-8
25. Viscount CURZON

asked the Minister of Labour whether his attention has been called to a case at Jarrow Police Court, on the 26th May last, when a woman admitted that, though she had not worked for four years and that her husband was in work, she and one of her daughters were each drawing 16s. per week unemployment benefit; whether any similar cases of women, married and single, who have never worked since the Armistice and are still receiving unemployment benefit have occurred; and whether any steps can be taken to prevent such a state of affairs in future?


My attention has been called to this case. The claim to benefit in each case was in respect of contributions paid during insurable work. I am informed that the daughter has recently fallen out of employment, and there appears to be no reason to challenge her claim to benefit. As regards the mother, the benefit has been suspended and the case referred to the Local Employment Committee. Existing arrangements provide for a review by the Local Employment Committees of the cases of women applicants for benefit, except those on systematic short time. A large number of cases had already been reviewed by the Local Committee at Jarrow, and disallowed by the Insurance Officer. At the date in question, the view had not been completed, and the women applicants referred to were among those whose cases had not then been examined. The local employment committees throughout the country are dealing with this matter as expeditiously as the circumstances permit.

Viscount CURZON

Is the right hon. Gentleman satisfied that the State has not suffered financially by reason of the undue delay in the revision of these cases?


With these vast numbers there is necessarily some difficulty, but perhaps my Noble Friend will look at an answer I gave yesterday to the hon. and gallant Member for South-East Essex (Lieut.-Colonel Hilder), a copy of which I will send him.

26. Mr. BRIANT

asked the Minister of Labour if advances are made to trades unions paying the State unemployment benefits so as to avoid the necessity of their obtaining loans to meet the current payments; if he is aware that, as the result of the burdens thrown on some trades unions, they are abandoning the distribution of these grants; and, if so, if he proposes to take any action in the matter?


The Unemployment Insurance Act provides for repayments to associations of moneys already disbursed by them in State employment benefit, but does not authorise issue of funds to them until they have made the payments. The administrative expenses allowed to the associations by the Act are intended to include provision for interest on the amount outstanding from time to time. I am aware, however, that in the present very exceptional circumstances the payments of State benefit by the associations are abnormally large, and that it is not always possible to make repayments to them as quickly as I should wish. I am therefore prepared to make emergency arrangements where necessary for substantial repayments in anticipation of the normal procedure.


Is it not a fact that some trades unions have had to withdraw from the distribution of the grants and that the Potters' Union had to borrow £30,000 to make the necessary payments?


I think I dealt with that case.


Can the right hon. Gentleman state whether any Government loans are being made to any trade unions for the payment of unemployment benefit, and whether it is intended to do so under the extraordinary circumstances which prevail at the present time?


There is no loan, and it is not intended to make any loans. What I have said is that I am prepared to make emergency arrangements, and I am doing so at the present time.

31. Mr. SEXTON

asked the Minister of Labour if the cases of casual labourers at Liverpool Docks who were refused unemployment benefit during Easter week and the two days following has been brought to his notice; and if he will give the necessary instructions that these men shall receive these arrears in common with other casual labourers who received unemployment benefit under similar conditions?


I have made inquiries in these cases and find that they have been dealt with in accordance with the usual practice, that is, that benefit has not been paid for day of holiday. I am causing inquiry to be made into the cases referred to by my hon. Friend, in which benefit has been paid.


Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that men under similar circumstances have been paid and that these men have been refused, although the circumstances are the same?


That is what I propose to inquire into. The practice under the law has been followed, but I will look into it.

32. Mr. SEXTON

asked the Minister of Labour if he is aware of the cases of workmen in St. Helens whose unemployment benefit has been refused on the grounds that they had received the annual yearly bonus from the firm for whom they worked; and, if so, on what grounds was the unemployment benefit refused these men?


I would refer my hon. Friend to my reply to a question by the hon. Member for Wirrall (Mr. Stewart) on the 4th May, from which he will see that unemployment benefit is not payable in respect of a period of holiday with pay. I understand that in this case it is customary for the firm to allow a week's holiday with pay, and that the present holidays were taken during a period of suspension. The decision not to allow benefit for the holidays therefore appears to be in order, but it is of course open to the claimant to appeal to a Court of Referees in accordance with the statutory procedure.


Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that in this case men got the bonus irrespective of anything else?


I think it is very simple. There is a week's holiday allowed in the year, and the men took it during the period of suspension and asked for unemployment benefit, which was refused

33. Mr. SEXTON

asked the Minister of Labour if he is aware that under the existing regulations of the Unemployment Insurance Act casual dock labourers employed intermittently for three halfdays per week are in consequence deprived of unemployment benefit for the remaining four-and-a-half days; and will he consider the question as affecting such casual labourers so as to qualify them for each actual day idle?


It is expressly provided by the Unemployment Insurance Act, 1920, that unemployment benefit is not payable in respect of any period of less than one day, and I have no power to alter this rule. A man working three half-days in a week is not necessarily unable to draw benefit for one or more of the other days of the week. His right benefit depends on whether the days of complete unemployment are or are not continuous under the definition given in Section 7 (2) (b) of the Act, a copy of which I am sending my hon. Friend.


Does not the right hon. Gentleman think that a grave injustice is being inflicted on these men, and ought not something to be done to remedy it?


What was done was done under the Act.


The right hon. Gentleman makes no kind of attempt to remove this gross injustice.

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