HC Deb 10 February 1926 vol 191 cc1032-4
58. Mr. T. THOMSON

asked the Minister of Labour whether he is aware that the recent Regulations governing the administration of extended benefit have operated so as to throw a large number of the unemployed on to Poor Law relief and thus increased the local rates; and can he see his way to modify these Regulations in view of the already heavy burden of local rates?


I presume the hon. Member refers to the rules made under Section 1 of the Unemployment Insurance Act, 1925. I am not aware that these rules have resulted in throwing a large number of persons on to the Poor Law, and I do not see how that could happen, since cases of hardship are expressly excluded from the operation of the rules.


Is not the right hon. Gentleman aware that, for the quarter ending in September, as compared with the quarter ending in March, the amount paid to unemployed persons by way of Poor Law relief increased by well over £100,000?


I am quite well aware of the increase in the amount spent on Poor Law relief, and, as a matter of fact, I am at this moment trying to analyse the causes, in order to get as near accuracy as I can as to the different reasons which probably contribute. I have only said in my answer that I do not think the Regulations about which the hon. Member asks have in themselves much bearing on the matter. It is due, I think, principally to other causes, but I do not like to say anything about it until the inquiries we are making at, this moment are complete.


Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that in one district alone in East London the effect of these Regulations has been to put £2,000 a week on to the expenditure of one board of guardians?


Has the right hon. Gentleman's attention been called to a statement made by the chairman of the board of guardians of Sunderland, in which he said that the action of the Ministry will make their Poor Rate five times as much as it was before?


I cannot call to mind that particular statement; if the hon. Member will give me the figures for any particular case, I will gladly go into them. I do not want to mislead hon. Members opposite, and, therefore, I would ask them just to concentrate upon what the question really was. It was with regard to the rules made under my discretion, and my answer only referred to those rules. As regards those rules, I feel fairly clear in my own mind; I do not think that those rules and regulations have had a great deal to do with the matter.


Will the Minister, in attempting to analyse these figures, carefully pay attention to the fact that when these Regulations were abolished Poor Law relief went down, and when they were re-introduced it went up?


I am perfectly well aware of the statement that my right hon. Friend has made, and, if he will inquire into it, he will find that, while there was quite undoubtedly a fall in the amount of Poor Law relief owing to the changes in 1924, it is far more probable that that was due to the actual amount of the relief given per head, which has not been changed. Anyone who is really conversant with this very difficult question knows that a change of a, shilling or two in the amount of the rate causes a transference from unemployment benefit to Poor Law relief, and vice versa. It is difficult to deal with the matter by supplementary questions; it is really a matter for a Debate.

Several Hon. Members



I think it would be better to deal with this matter in Debate.


May I ask you a question, Sir? Would it be in order, seeing the urgency of this question, for any Member to move the Adjournment of the House upon it, seeing that it is a question of very urgent public importance?


This is a matter which, unfortunately, has been before the House for three years at least.