HC Deb 12 February 1924 vol 169 cc763-4

I come to the point when we deal with "doles," as they are called, or insurance. Two expedients have been adopted which never had any rational foundation, and sooner or later they had to be abolished. The one is the expedient of the "gap," and the other is the expedient of selection in regard to uncovenanted benefit. The gap is that the unemployed person shall, at certain times, for a period of three weeks, be off unemployment benefit. Why? He has to come on the rates, or make a. living somehow. Does any hon. Member mean to say that a gap of three weeks in a long period of unemployment has any moral or economic value to the man himself? It has no value at all. It is irritating, it is unjust, and it cannot be defended on sound principles. Take the selection in connection with uncovenanted benefit. What is the position there? You get men and women who belong to insured trades falling out of the covenanted benefit, and then refused uncovenanted benefit, because the committees have the right to decide whether they ought to receive that uncovenanted benefit of charity or goodwill, or whether they should be compelled to pay for it. Imagine a person who is refused it! In a short time he gets into work. His next-door neighbour has had benefit, but as soon as the person who has not had uncovenanted benefit returns to work, he, from his wages, has to pay for the uncovenanted benefit enjoyed by his neighbour, but refused to himself. Can that possibly be tolerated Had we said: "If you get no uncovenanted benefit your contribution to the Insurance Fund, from which the benefit is paid, will be by that amount reduced," you would stand on reasonable ground. But that is an impossible expedient. Therefore the Government propose to abolish both the gap and the selection in connection with uncovenanted benefit.

I pass to another subject of the very greatest national importance—I mean agriculture.

Captain Viscount CURZON

Before the right hon. Gentleman leaves the subject of unemployment benefit, can he give us any indication of the cost of his proposals?


Does the right hon. Gentleman propose to make any change in the allowance for the children?

The PRIME MINISTER: The question of benefit is still under review, and will be dealt with in connection with the whole scheme, which will be the subject of a statement made in the House as soon as possible. The whole of these problems are under review, but the two decisions come to are the abolition of the gap and the abolition of the power of Committees to select for uncovenanted benefit.

Viscount CURZON

What about the cost?


The cost comes out of the Insurance Fund, and does not come from the State.

Viscount CURZON

Can the right hon. Gentleman tell us approximately what the cost will be?


Oh, yes, the cost from the fund of the gap is not going to be more than £500,000. The cost of the uncovenanted benefit is rather difficult to estimate yet, but it is not going to be more than about £4,000,000, and it may be as little as £2,000,000. Let us be perfectly clear about this, that the money is not found from State funds. It is found by the Insurance Fund from which it is drawn—a fund which will be made good as soon as trade resumes its normal position. Persons who are now receiving benefit from the fund are contributing, I think, ls. 7d. a week in order to make good the deficit of the fund.

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