HC Deb 11 July 1923 vol 166 cc1329-33
22. Mr. HAYDAY

asked the Minister of Labour whether he is aware that Mr. R. Drinkwater, of Ulverston-in Furness, has been refused unemployment benefit, although he has 32 stamps on his card, and that the reason given by the Exchange officials is that the man in question is only a part-time worker; whether he will state by what authority a person is debarred from benefit after having been forced to pay contributions; whether he has further considered the hardships suffered by part-time workers in connection with unemployment insurance; and, if so, what action he proposes to take?


I am having inquiry made in the matter, and will let the hon. Member know the result as soon as possible.


With regard to the latter part of the question, has the right hon. Gentleman gone further into the question of part-time workers?


We considered the matter somewhat fully at the time where the Insurance Act was passed, as my hon. Friend knows. I am not able to carry the matter any further.


Will the right hon. Gentleman undertake to give consideration to it, in view of the growth of the number of these cases that are attributable to their being part-time workers?


I do not quite accept the suggestion as to the growth of the number of cases. The number of part-time workers given in the figures every week has, within limits, remained very stable. The problem is a difficult one, as my hon. Friend knows, but I do not think it has increased in difficulty. I do not think I can undertake to proceed any further at present.


The right hon. Gentleman will realize that while there is some stamp credit there is some case of hardship. It is not as if it was uncovenanted.


I will keep that in mind.

24. Mr. T. THOMSON

asked the Minister of Labour whether he is aware that in a number of cases men not engaged in a trade dispute, who have been stopped working under exactly similar conditions, have received different treatment as regards the payment of unemployed benefit, members of the same gang of workers who were employed on the same job in some cases being refused benefit, and in other cases being granted it; and, in view of the feeling of resentment caused by this difference of treatment, whether he will do all in his power to expedite the Report of the Committee which is considering the amendment of the Unemployed Insurance Acts, whereby the innocent victims of a trade dispute may not be deprived of the unemployed benefit for which they have contributed?


If the hon. Member will give me particulars, I shall be glad to make inquiry into any cases where it is suggested that the decisions on benefit are different although the circumstances are precisely similar. I am informed that the Committee which is considering the working of the Trade Disputes Clause have fully in mind the desirability of reporting as soon as possible.


In view of the similarity of the replies in the past few months, is it possible to vary the nature of the replies in the early future?


The hon. Member is aware I am not permitted.


asked the Minister of Labour how many appeals arising from the withholding of unemployment benefit, on the ground that unemployment is due to the present boilermakers' dispute, have been submitted to the court of referees and the umpire; and how many of these appeals have been allowed?


About 6,000 cases arising out of the boilermakers' dispute have so far been the subject of appeal to courts of referees. In about 250 cases the courts have recommended that benefit should be allowed, and in the remainder that benefit should be disallowed. About 355 cases have up to the present been referred to the umpire, who has decided in 84 cases that benefit should be allowed, while 271 cases are still under consideration by him. Some of their appeals were "test cases," so that the number of individual workpeople whose claims were in effect covered by the decisions was larger than the totals stated.

27. Mr. McENTEE

asked the Minister of Labour whether his attention has been called to the large number of men in the shipbuilding industry who are now unemployed as a consequence of the dispute between the shipbuilders and the boilermakers and who are not receiving any unemployed benefit, although they are in no way responsible for their present condition of unemployment; whether, in view of the result of the present law in the present and in similar disputes whereby men are denied the benefit that they have been compelled to pay for, he will introduce legislation at an early date to enable workmen who are prevented from working by a trade dispute for which they have no responsibility to receive benefit as ordinary unemployed workmen; and whether it is proposed to reimburse Poor Law guardians for relief given to workmen and their families who are unemployed in circumstances such as those named and also trade unions who pay unemployed benefit?


I am aware that under the provisions of Section 8 (1) of the Unemployment Insurance Act, 1920, considerable numbers of unemployed workmen in the shipbuilding trades other than boilermakers have had their claims to unemployment benefit disallowed, in consequence of the boilermakers' dispute. No change could be made without legislation, and I cannot consider the question of legislation until I have received the Report of the Committee which, as the hon. Member is doubtless aware, is at present examining the possibility of amending Section 8 (1). This Committee, which contains representatives both of employers and employed persons, is actively engaged in examining the problem, and will hold another meeting on the 17th of this month. I have no funds out of which to reimburse Poor Law guardians or trade unions for relief or benefit paid to persons disqualified for Unemployment Insurance benefit in the circumstances mentioned.

Captain Viscount CURZON

Does the right hon. Gentleman agree with the statement in the question that the boilermakers are in no way responsible for the present condition of unemployment?


Will the Noble Lord again read the question before he puts that supplementary?


asked the Minister of Labour if he is aware that men who were receiving compensation benefit at the date of the boilermakers' stoppage and who have since ceased to receive compensation have been refused unemployment benefit on the ground that they are involved in the dispute; and that men who were receiving sick benefit at the beginning of the stoppage are not so penalised; and why unemployment benefit should be paid in the one case and not in the other?


There is no discrimination merely on the ground that in one set of cases compensation is being drawn and in other cases sickness benefit. In accordance with the terms of the Act, the question to be decided is whether the person claiming benefit has lost employment owing to the stoppage of work due to the trade dispute, and the answer to this question must depend on all the circumstances of the particular case.