HC Deb 04 March 1926 vol 192 cc1705-24

8. "That a Supplementary sum, not exceeding £10, be granted to His Majesty, to defray the Charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1926, for the Salaries and Expenses of the Ministry of Labour and Subordinate Departments, including the Contributions to the Unemployment fund, and Payments to Associations, Local Education Authorities and others for administration under the Unemployment Insurance and Labour Exchanges Acts; Expenditure in connection with the Training of Demobilised Officers, Noncommissioned Officers and Men, and Nurses; Grants for Resettlement in Civil Life; and the Expenses of the Industrial Court; also Expenses in connection with the International Labour Organisation (League of Nations), including a Grant-in-Aid."


I beg to move to leave out "£10," and to insert instead thereof "£5."

I suppose everyone in the House will agree that it is not anything to be surprised about that the House has devoted so much attention to the question of unemployment, and that we should be taking advantage of this Estimate to raise once again questions connected with the administration of Unemployment Insurance and also in regard to the expenditure that this Vote involves. I think it would be well in the House understood in regard to the amount that is being taken as savings, namely, £439,000, that that is part of the big sum that was voted last year for the purpose of keeping up the training establishments for unemployed ex-service men and disabled ex-service men. The fact that £439,000 is being saved out of an estimate of £1,264,000 proves, I think, the futility of the proposals of the right hon. Gentleman opposite and his colleagues for dealing with the men who were injured during the War and who have come back to a country where they find them- selves disabled and practically no provision being made for them.

Members who have been in the House since the War will remember that one of the things held out for disabled men was that there should be a scheme of training, and from the training the men received they would be able to get employment in one way or the other. I would like the right hon. Gentleman to tell us exactly how this saving has been effected, also why the saving should be effected, because there is not a Member of the House, whatever sort of division he may represent, but knows perfectly well that under every Poor Law authority there are numbers of disabled, and some them totally disabled, many partially disabled, men who are having to live on Poor Law relief because of the failure of the Government to make any sort of provision for them. I believe that this scheme broke down mainly because the Government and those responsible since the War have never been generous enough to find sufficient money. One of the hon. Member's opposite, who site for St. Pancras, took the chair at a meeting of disabled men in St. Pancras which I had been asked to address. We were both at great pains to tell that meeting of disabled men that provision for them would never become a party question, and in my innocence I told them that I believed the country would never allow disabled men to become legal paupers. I take no notice of that word "pauper" myself, and only use it in the ordinary sense in which it is used. I told them that we should never consent to them becoming chargeable to the ordinary Poor Law of the country. Since that time the whole system of making provision for the training of these men and giving them a start in life has been gradually going down, until to-day, I believe, there is scarcely anything very much being done for them.

I would like the right hon. Gentleman to tell us how this money has been saved and more particularly the districts in which it has been saved. If he tells me there is no further need for training, or that it is no use training the men, that there is no work for them when they have been trained, I will tell him that His training was never really effective. Men were sent out long before they had finished their proper course of training. They were sent out only as improvers and very often to jobs where they could not earn a decent wage or live at a decent standard. In these circumstances, I think, before this Vote is passed, with this tremendous sum £439,000 taken from £1,264,000, we should know very much more about it, and whether the Minister and the Department are going to leave the whole of the disabled ex-service men to the tender mercies of the Poor Law. We ought to know where this Vote goes through what the policy of the Minister is in relation to this amount. I would remind the House that again and again we have had speeches from all parts of the House urging that private employers shall be compelled to do certain things in regard to disabled ex-service men. I think charity ought to begin at home, or justice ought to begin at home, and that this House ought itself to carry through the policy that was initiated at the beginning.

I would put in this further plea. I believe that it is quite true that numbers of these men could have been given a start with anything like a generous allowance from the State, and might have been given a chance in the country. I know the right hon. Gentleman will probably say how much has been lost on small holdings and so on that the Government have started, but I must not discuss that in this connection, except to say that I am certain that we should prove that even in that expenditure, if it had been more wisely organised, we would not have had the failures we have had. But in connection with these men, I maintain that the need is almost as great to-day as when the claim was initiated, and that by saving this money, and, as I expect, in the next Estimate making less provision for these men, all that you are doing is throwing them on to the Poor Law and making them live lives that most of us would not dream of for ourselves. That is the first thing.

The next item is A, Salaries, Wages and Allowances. I have looked up the original Vote in connection with that, and I find that it has to do with what is called out-stations. I would like to know from the right hon. Gentleman what that really means. Apparently part of the money that is spent on out-stations is spent in Northern Ireland, and I should like to know how much of this extra sum is going to Northern Ireland. Apart from that, I should like to know from the right hon. Gentleman what these new clerks and new officers are being called upon to do.

In common with his colleague the Minister of Health, the right hon. Gentleman is not always willing to give full information, and one of the reasons that he gives us is that the cost of getting information is so great and the information, when it is obtained, is not worth the time, trouble and expense. I would like very much to know what these officers are doing, why it is that we should be denied information in regard to individual cases when these cases happen to number 20 or 30. The Minister is willing, apparently, to give information with regard to a single case. I want to ask him why, if we are entitled to get information about a single case or a dozen when there is a grievance brought to his notice, we are not entitled to the information if the number proves larger. When I saw this Vote I could not understand why, if we voted money for these extra officials, clerks, or managers, or whatever they are, it should be with a less number unemployed. He is boasting that there are fewer unemployed. Why should it be necessary to have this staff and at the same time tell us that we cannot get the information?

Then I want to raise a rather more serious question. I have asked him across the Floor at Question Time to tell us what instructions are issued to officials of this character, and he tells us that the circulars to committees are in the Library or available to hon. Members. I want to claim from him that every instruction that is given to his officials ought to be open for Members of this House to see. I think the giving of secret instructions in any public Department, unless it is one perhaps connected with foreign affairs or the Secret Service, ought not to be tolerated. With the new administration of the Insurance Act after last Session, it seems to me that we are more than ever entitled to know what it is that the right hon. Gentleman has instructed his officials to do. It cannot be gainsaid by anybody that a very much larger proportion of women have been denied unemployment benefit during the last year. Of the number who have applied there is a bigger percentage knocked off. I want to know from the right hon. Gentleman what instructions he has given his officials with regard to women, and especially with regard to women engaged in seasonal occupations. I am told that at the Exchange in one district in East London which the right hon. Gentleman knows from correspondence we have had with each other, seasonal workers, especially women, are treated as if they had committed some kind of crime by applying for unemployment benefit when the season has ended. Take one industry, the furrier trade. That trade ends so far as the season is concerned, somewhere, I think, about Christmas time. The getting ready of fur coats goes on all through summer. What I want to ask is, has the right hon. Gentleman instructed the Employment Exchange officials that women employed in the fur trade, when they come up, are to be told to go to domestic service. I know that women at the Mansell Street Exchange have been told that. I am certain that neither the right hon. Gentleman nor the authorities at the Employment Exchange can produce a list of genuine places at which these women could be absorbed in the labour market.

The Minister of Labour wrote me a letter about one particular case, and in that case the girl was never sent to domestic service at all, but was sent to work at a week-end cinema. Her parents happened to be Sabbatarians, and would not allow her to go to work on Sunday and so she refused this week-end job, with the result that she was denied the standard benefit to which she was entitled. I am now speaking of standard benefit. It is a well-known fact that a number of places where these girls are offered work are public-houses and places of that kind where the parents do not wish their children to go. I cannot believe that the officials at the Employment Exchanges would be taking up this attitude unless they had received some circular or instruction to keep down the cost of unemployment insurance. I believe that the officers are taking their cue from the policy of economy laid down by the Government, and they are trying their level best to carry out what they conceive to be the wishes of their superiors. I would like to hear from the right hon. Gentleman that he has given no sort of instruction directly or indirectly in regard to these women.

I want to raise another question. The right hon. Gentleman, in replying to questions put to him as to the people who are pushed off, will know that to-day I have received a long letter from him in respect to complaints as to what these women have been told in regard to their dependants, their mothers, fathers or husbands. Where standard benefit is concerned, I want to challenge the right of the Minister of Labour, or the right of his officials, to inquire of any woman, married or single, as to whom she is depending upon for her living. If a woman has paid for her insurance, she has a right to get the benefit of that insurance, and the inquiry as to where her husband is, or whether her father or mother is alive, or whether her parents can keep her, are questions which ought not to be asked. I want to ask the right hon. Gentleman to say whether it is with his authority that these women are asked these questions when asking for standard benefit for which they have paid. I am not speaking merely on hearsay evidence, and I can produce, not a dozen, but many more cases, because at my own home, together with a trade union organiser, I took down the other day the names of between 50 or 60 of these cases. It is true that some of them were people not entitled to standard benefit, but a great number of them were so entitled, and there was not one of them who did not tell us that one of the first questions asked them was, "What are your conditions at home?"

The next point I wish to raise is the question of those genuinely seeking work. I have said what I want to say about domestic service, but I put to any unprejudiced man or woman in this House a case of this kind. Here is a young woman engaged in some seasonal occupation. She goes up for benefit, and from the first moment she is told that she is "not genuinely seeking work." It is perfectly right to say that a woman in a week or fortnight should be asked, "Have you looked for work and where," but I deny altogether the right to say that from the moment she is out of work she should be treated as a waster or a loafer, and that is what is happening. In proof of that, you can take the figures of the women who have been knocked off. When the right hon. Gentleman is challenged on this, the only answer I can get from him is that these people have been before a Court of Referees, and they have decided so and so. The women I am talking about are those who went before the Court of Referees, and they tell me that they were hardly asked any questions at all, and most of them are not as glib as Members of this House, and they are not always able to state their real position.

I am sorry they do not all belong to some trade union. I know hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite are always denouncing trade unions. [HON. MEMBERS: "No!"] If you like I will withdraw that statement and say that occasionally we hear trade unions denounced. The right hon. Gentleman knows that a woman or man who goes to an Employment Exchange, or who goes before a Court of Referees is often very considerably penalised if he or she does not belong to a trade union. I know they have a right to go before an Umpire, but I think it is quite time they had a right of this kind whether they belong to a trade union or not. I do not believe that the women whose cases I have mentioned would have been turned down by any judicial Umpire. These poor women are not able to speak for themselves, and yet they have been turned down in shoals. The Minister of Labour, instead of telling me that he would investigate these cases in the future, has not done so, and I want him to say definitely that he will have the matter gone into over again, and that he will instruct all his officials that these applicants are to have the benefit of the doubt. At the present moment the scales are weighted against such applicants and they are treated as if they were applying for Poor Law relief.

The right hon. Gentleman stands up at that box and says that this is an insurance scheme. If that be so, then all I can say is that a decent insurance society would treat insured persons not as if they were applying for something to which they had no right, but as if they were asking for something which they had a right to receive. It all depends upon the attitude of mind of the officials as to how the applicant is able to answer the questions put. I am speaking as a person not unacquainted with this kind of work. On boards of guardians you have to do a lot of this kind of work, and I know you can frighten the applicants by the manner in which you put a question. I maintain that insured men and women should be treated just as ordinary decent citizens going up for their rights, and they should always have the benefit of the doubt. Instead of that, they are always treated the other way. The insurance officer should not always be finding reasons why these people should not have the allowance, but they should try to find reasons why they should have it. I do not understand that the Insurance Acts were passed for the purpose of satisfying our consciences, but I think they were passed to help to maintain the physique and the moral of the people who are insured. The right hon. Gentleman ought to issue instructions to his officers along those lines.

I will tell him another thing. They ought to, be told that they are at work because there are unemployed people, and they should also be told that it is not a crime to be out of work, and that there is nothing criminal in applying for what you have paid. These officers ought to be told that but for the unemployed even they might be on the street. I think that might be written up in every Employment Exchange, so that every Exchange Manager could read it every morning, and realise that his position is what it is in life because of the great volume of unemployment in the country.

I want to say one other thing with regard to these women. I wrote to the right hon. Gentleman the other day about the case of a young woman who was denied unemployment benefit because she was told that she was not genuinely seeking work. A relative took up her case, and after a good deal of correspondence succeeded in getting the case re-opened. In the end the woman was told that she was not genuinely seeking work She appealed to the Court of Referees, and they decided in her favour She went to the Employment Exchange to get her money, but she was told that the order had not come down for her to be paid. This kind of thing went on for some weeks, and then she wrote to the Minister but got no answer for three or four weeks, and at the end of that time she was told that she was not able to get unemployment pay because her employer had not put the stamps on her card.

It took from December till now for this news to be brought to the girl. I think it is a piece of gross mismanagement that she should first of all be told that she was not genuinely seeking work, and that then this next question should be raised; and, I understand, she has not been paid the unemployment pay up to this time. What I want to know is how it was that the Exchange officials did not know at the beginning that these payments had not been made, and whether the person who did not put the stamps on the card has been prosecuted or not. It seems to me that the authorities ought to have known at the very beginning. The main point, however, that I want to make, is the number of weeks that it took to get an answer to the question why she was not getting the money. I think it took from a month to six weeks to get the official answer that it was because the stamps were not on her card. Cases that come to Members of Parliament can get ventilated in this House, but there are thousands of cases about which people do not write to Members of Parliament.

I conclude where I began, with the fact that a relatively speaking large number of women are being struck off the unemployment pay roll, and to my own knowledge, and the right hon. Gentleman's own knowledge also, numbers of these are women who are entitled to standard benefit, but who, from the first moment of unemployment, are charged with not being genuinely seeking work. I maintain that that reveals a condition of affairs which demands inquiry, and I want to press for an inquiry, at which I myself or someone on my behalf can be present, into the whole of the cases that I have put before the right hon. Gentleman with regard to Mansell Street, because I am convinced that there has been gross miscarriage of justice to these women. They paid their money, and the Exchange has said to them, "We have nothing for you." Even in the small schedule of 13 cases which the right hon. Gentleman sent to me, six of which he admits were entitled to standard benefit—

The MINISTER of LABOUR (Sir Arthur Steel-Maitland)

indicated dissent.


But the right hon. Gentleman does admit it. I can show him the schedule. Six of them were entitled to standard benefit, and the others had exhausted their benefit. There is Jessie Brill, who had not exhausted her benefit; Rose Buckman had; Rachel Cohen had not; two others had and two had not; Anne Magnus had not, and Leah Rubens. There are six out of the 13. The right hon. Gentleman need not hunt for the schedule; here it is. It is the one that I received yesterday. That being so, I want to insist that this is an injustice. This is only a small number of the women whose cases I have sent to the right hon. Gentleman, and he may get up and give me other cases but that is not the point. If it were only one case, that one person has a right to get what she is taxed to provide for, and I maintain that the condition of things revealed at this one Exchange proves the truth of our statement that the right hon. Gentleman or his Department is robbing people of that which they paid to receive. That being so, I do ask him—and I not only ask but demand—that he should investigate the matter under such conditions that the women can be heard. I accept altogether his statement as to his investigation of the complaints. I am not going to raise them any more—I mean the complaints I have put before him in regard to the treatment of women by the officials. I accept his statement that the matter has been taken up, and that those particular officials have been advised as to what they should do; but I would press him to send out a notice on the lines I suggested a minute or two ago.

On the question, however, of the entitlement of these women who have been struck off from the first moment of unemployment, I do demand that the right hon. Gentleman should have an inquiry, at which I myself shall either be represented or be present, because I made the charge and I want to see it through. The women have been treated officially by the Department, in my judgment, in the most scandalous manner. One woman, in the hearing of my wife and the trade union official, said, "I am penniless; I have got no friends; I have got nobody to help me. I cannot get what I paid for. I would like to know where I am to go, except to the streets"; and everybody knows that that is the last refuge of girls and young women who have nowhere else to go. I do feel that the right hon. Gentleman, in dealing with women to-day, is dealing with them in this fashion for two reasons. One is that they are women, and, therefore, more defenceless than men, and the second is that large numbers of them are not organised, and it is easy to economise in that way. It is for this reason that I move a reduction of the Vote.


I beg to second the Amendment.

I do so for several reasons, one of which has been fully and adequately dealt with by my hon. Friend the Member for Bow and Bromley (Mr. Lansbury). I want to ask the right hon. Gentleman one question in particular, which I hope and believe he will be able to answer, namely, have any instructions been given to local unemployment committees to apply a sort of third degree to any one of the women applicants for unemployment benefit? I cannot conceive that the right hon. Gentleman would be responsible for that sort of thing, but only last Monday morning a woman called at my house who had been contributing to the Insurance Fund since the first week it commenced, and who has never been out of work for a single week during the whole period until six weeks ago. She has been informed by the local Exchange people that, unless she has found work by the end of this week, there will be no unemployment pay for her. Obviously, having paid these insurance contributions for several years, and having fallen out of employment through no fault of her own, no woman ought to be subjected to this intimidation. She has been told that she can possibly have an engagement as a domestic servant if she is willing to come to London, but here is a woman with a girl under 14 years of age, who must of necessity remain where she is at present residing, in order that she may be able to care for that girl. She cannot accept domestic service unless her prospective employer would be willing to accept the daughter also, which is not so in 999 cases out of every thousand. Therefore, the local Exchange people ought not to be threatening this woman with the loss of her unemployment pay unless she finds work at the end of this week.

Then I would like to ask the right hon. Gentleman what proportion of the £230,000 referred to will go to members of travelling committees, who, after local unemployment committees have dealt with various cases, come along and inter- vene and make decisions of their own over the heads of the unemployment committee. Should this expense be incurred in that way, I should feel disposed to vote against any money being spent in that direction at all, in view of some of the decisions that we know have been passed. I also want to refer further to the question of additional temporary staff, as affecting some of the temporary staff who have been engaged by the Ministry for several years. My hon. Friend the Member for Doncaster (Mr. Paling) brought to the notice of the right hon. Gentleman last Monday evening the case of some women who have rendered splendid service to his Department for periods varying from five to ten years. They are now at this moment in fear and trembling that some young trainees are coming to take their positions as permanent members of the staff. It seems to me that, if there is any appreciation at all of really valuable service rendered, particularly by women who are unmarried, there ought to be no shadow of doubt in their minds, so long as they are capable of giving efficient service to the Department, lest they are going to be dismissed because they are called members of the temporary staff, and replaced by younger persons who have been successful in getting placed upon the permanent staff.

I know that the right hon. Gentleman, if he had these cases to deal with personally, would never dream of dispensing with the services of a woman who was rendering valuable service and was equally efficient with any new person who might come along; and what he would not do in a private sense I think he ought to endeavour not to do in a public sense, as the head of a great Department of State. I would like him not merely to tell us that these women have had an opportunity of sitting for an examination which may have been passed by any efficient servant, but I think he ought to tell us, seeing the services that have been rendered by these people, that, so long as they are efficient and highly capable, they are not going to be dispensed with at all. As to the additional temporary staff who must be put on when large collieries go out of production, or when a large works closes down temporarily, I know it is absolutely necessary, in a case of that description, to employ some temporary staff to deal with an immediate emergency which no one could possibly foresee; but the temporary staff who have been engaged for many years, and have given every satisfaction to their over-officials, ought to be assured that they are not going to be dismissed, but that, so long as they can give efficient service, they are going to be maintained as members of the permanent staff.

Then I would like to ask the right hon. Gentleman how the seeming contradiction in terms comes about where, in the first item, Subhead A, we are told that the £230,000 is required because of a greater volume of unemployment as compared with the Estimate, whereas under Subhead I we are told that £450,000 is required because there are more people employed than the Estimate provided for. It seems to me to be rather a contradiction in terms that we should want £230,000 more for temporary staff to deal with a greater volume of unemployment, while, on the other hand, there appear to be more people employed, and a greater amount of money is required to be paid to the Unemployment Insurance Fund, according to the sums paid by employers and employés. Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman will tell us how these two sets of figures come about.

I should like to ask the right hon. Gentleman another question. Last week a question was submitted by the Noble Lord the Member for Nottingham (Lord H. Cavendish-Bentinck) and a statement has been sent to me, in reply to a question, that 104 ex-service men in Nottingham are receiving Poor Law relief who have been refused extended unemployment pay. How does it come about that 104 people can qualify for Poor Law relief, and yet not for unemployment extended benefit? If they are not seeking work and cannot comply with the conditions laid down by the Unemployment Acts, how is it they can satisfy the guardians that they are entitled to Poor Law relief? I know the right hon. Gentleman cannot speak for the guardians, and to that extent he is excused, but it seems to me that if they can qualify for Poor Law relief, being ex-service men, they ought also to be able to qualify for extended unemployment pay.

Then I should like to ask the right hon. Gentleman whether he and the Postmaster-General cannot provide some machinery to obviate what has been taking place for several years past. A man accepts temporary employment for so many hours each day of the week and at the end of the week receives wages less than a week's unemployment pay would be. He accepts this temporary occupation, for which the wage is less than the unemployment pay, and he is the last man to be considered at the Employment Exchange when a permanent post comes along. He is penalised because of his anxiety to accept the first opportunity that comes his way. It seems to me it ought not to be beyond the wit of man so to arrange the work that must be done that a person shall have such remuneration, after he has performed his daily task, as is at least equivalent, if not superior, to the amount of unemployment pay had he done nothing during the whole week. I think some of these questions really ought to be answered before the right hon. Gentleman gets his Vote.

I recognise, of course, that his task is an extremely difficult one. He has local Exchanges all over the country, and human beings have to be dealt with in every one. The circumstances in no two cases are quite the same, and to that extent uniformity is well nigh an impossibility. But I think on the general basis of fair play a great deal more justice could be meted out were the regulations and the instructions from headquarters fewer. After all, people charged with the duty of examining local cases invariably know the men and women, and, if there be one thing more than another that disturbs men and women who have been out of work for lengthy periods, it is to have passed through the very fine sieve of the local unemployment committee only to find that a travelling board, very often of young men, inexperienced in the peculiar conditions operating in the district, supersedes the unemployment committee and reverses their decision. Some of these decisions are certainly not in accordance with any sort of sympathy or justice, and I should like the right hon. Gentleman to tell us, first of all, that it is not his wish that men or women should be intimidated so long as they are honestly and fairly doing their best to comply with the requirements of the Unemployment Acts, and secondly, that it is no part of his policy that men who perform any task imposed upon them shall work during a full week and at the end of the week receive less in wages than they would were they totally unemployed. Thirdly, I want to suggest that the local unemployment committees ought not to be superseded in the way many of them are by the travelling committees, and, fourthly, and perhaps most important of all, the temporary civil servants, who have rendered valuable and efficient service for a number of years, should be given the security they are entitled to, and not be dismissed with no hopes for the future merely because some young trainee comes along and takes their position. I remember, as a Member of the Estimates Committee last year, that the right hon. Gentleman's officials were all of opinion that, if their permanent staff was increased, probably the work in many directions would be performed more efficiently, although he can never dispense with the need for an occasional increase in his temporary staff. It is the permanent staff that can be permanently increased, including some of these people who have done such valuable service, and they ought not at a moment's notice to be replaced by the young people with a real future before them.


Before I put the Amendment, I must remind the House that this is a Supplementary Estimate. It does not open the whole question of policy, and what is said must relate to the particular items in the Vote.


Must it be closely related to the Vote? You have already heard two speeches on which you, Sir, must form your own conclusions. Seeing that you have allowed those two speeches, would another hon. Member be allowed to follow exactly the same lines as the two speeches you have already heard delivered?


I think the hon. Member may take it that that is so. I have been listening, and I did not interfere with the speeches that were made because I thought they were attached to the question of the first item, being an increase of officials falling under this Vote.


My reason for asking was that I thought your last remark was intended to infer that those who are now going to follow would be limited to narrower lines than the two previous speakers. I only wanted, because of the part of the country I come from, to safeguard my own rights.


I want to call attention to this vague phraseology of genuinely seeking employment. I have no complaint against the Minister and his staff, who have given me very kind replies, and treated me courteously when I have put cases before them. But they are getting very numerous in my constituency, and I must take this opportunity of bringing the matter to the attention of the Minister himself. Will he tell me what he means by "genuinely seeking employment"? It may give a lead to the rota committees and the local referees who have to give decisions. When I was in my constituency some time ago, replying to a speech of the Minister of Labour, I was approached by several men and women who had been refused extended benefit. I said to one of them, "If I put the case before the Minister of Labour, I am sure he will give it his serious attention," and I asked him to tabulate the names of places and firms that he had approached with a view to genuinely seeking employment.

I will give his name privately, but will not mention it now in case people in my constituency may think I am treating some with more favour than others. I will simply give a list of places this person visited with a view to seeking employment. He went to Mr. Amery, a saddler, in Market Street, Pontypool. He went to Mr. ft. G. Fickling, saddler, 33, Commercial Street, Pontypool. He went to Messrs. Liscombe, saddlers, in Newport, Mon.—that would be eight miles away. He went to Edgar Probyn, saddler, next to the Post Office at Pontypool. He went to the Co-operative Society, Abersychan, near Pontypool. He went to Mr. Amery and the Co-operative Society and Mr. Fickling a second time. Failing to get anything in the saddlery trade, he went to Partridge. Jones and Company, Limited, Llanerch Colliery, Abersychan. Failing there, he tried to get into the building trade, and went to W. A. Davies, building contractor, at Abersychan. Then he went to Mr. Branch, a building contractor, Abersychan, to Messrs. Arthur, builders, Abersychan, and then to Partridge, Jones and Company again. What more could this man do than go to all these firms and ask for employment? They said, "We have no work for you, because we have already such a large number of unemployed in the district." Further, this is a disabled soldier, and firms tell him if they cannot find work for physically strong and healthy men, they cannot find work for disabled soldiers. He has no chance in competing in the market at all. I ask the Minister to give us some help in this matter. If he will give us his opinion and say he thinks this is a case where the man ought to have been paid extended benefit, it will give a lead to these rota committees, and the Court of Referees, and people in different parts of the country. This is only one case out of several. I have sent cases of women to the Minister. I hope he will give me some definite assurance that he is going to try to remedy the Regulations that are sent out from his office, and try to do some justice not only to the unemployed, but to these ex-service men who have been turned down.

8.0 P.M.


I hope the Minister in his reply will explain to us how much of this money is required for the upkeep of those officers of his Department who are being sent round the country, not for the purpose of assisting committees to place people on benefit, but to overturn many of the decisions of the local committees and deprive people of the benefit to which they are entitled. I would like to know how many of these officers are being engaged in order to carry out the Regulations set out in the circular which is headed, "L.E.C. 82, Sub. 21." What instructions are given to those people to interpret that circular? I would be ruled out of order if I went over some of the questions which were put to the Minister in July, when Unemployment Insurance was being considered and which have not yet been answered, but I must ask the Minister how he has arrived at the figures contained in this circular.

In that Circular he has laid it down that, in considering who are entitled to benefit, they must take into account the family "incomings." That is the word used. If these incomings are equal to 10s. per week per head, then the committee would be entitled to make a recommendation depriving the applicant of benefit. If the incomings equal 13s. per week per head then the Circular reads that, in the event of incomings such as that, only exceptional circumstances attaching to a family would warrant the benefit being given. I ask the Minister if he can explain how anyone in this country could live on anything approaching a reasonable and decent standard on 13s. a week? Yet these people are supposed to have sufficient to maintain themselves and to have a margin in order that they may go without this unemployment benefit.

It is a sorry farce that this country has come to when a Department of State sets forth that a standard of life of 13s. a week is sufficient. That is the Circular which is in the hands of the local employment committees. But there is even worse in the Circular. Even the 10s. is considered something, that is too high in some parts of the country, and the Committee is told in paragraph 4 that a lesser standard will be appropriate, for example, within a rural area. I hope the people in the rural areas will note the standard of life which the Ministry of Labour considers will suffice them for maintaining a reasonable standard of existence. If less than 10s. per week per head is coming in, the people in rural areas—they are not agricultural labourers, because these are debarred from the Act, but people who happen to be living in a rural area—will be debarred from benefit by the Regulations. I am amazed that, in view of the state of trade, the shortage of work and the number of people who are unemployed through no fault of their own, such restrictions should be placed upon them by the Ministry of Labour.

Then we have those officers who are debarring people from benefit because they say they are not genuinely looking for work. I am amazed at every officer in the Ministry of Labour who is asking men and women to go from gate to gate and from shop to shop begging for employment at this time. What did you set up Exchanges for but in order that this method of scrambling round the workshop gates should cease; yet the Exchange asks men and women to go from gate to gate and from shop to shop begging to be employed. Unless they can come with a list showing that from day to day they have visited some employers to ask for work then they are debarred from benefit. Imagine asking engineers at this time to go from shop to shop, and shipyard workers to go from yard to yard, when it is well known that there is no work for them to do. The same is asked of people in the cotton trade, of people in the asbestos industry, when through slackness of trade these people are only put off for a short period. Unless they can satisfy the local employment committee that they have been tramping the whole time they are debarred from benefit. Worse than that, even if the referees agree that they are entitled to benefit we have the insurance officer coming along and overturning the decision of the referee or of the local employment committee. I hope the Minister is going to realise some of the difficulties we are faced with at this time, and I really hope that something of human feeling, something of a real demonstration of understanding that he is dealing with men and women will cause him to bring about the withdrawal of these Regulations which are not a credit either to the Minister or his Department.

Then I would like to know what is meant by this expenditure that he is asking for in respect of Industrial Court. Are we to understand that there is a greater sum required for the Industrial Court? I would like to know why, seeing there is an Industrial Court, the Minister does not make greater use of it in order to encourage inquiries with regard to those industries where disputes are pending. Why cannot he ascertain the real position in these industries so that, when the time of trouble comes, as it is now coming upon him, he will have some knowledge of what is taking place? Then we should have some explanation of this expenditure which he speaks of as being required for local education authorities. What is this sum required for? Is this an increase as compared with the expenditure of previous years? There is one other point that I hope the Minister will give some explanation of and that is juvenile labour. If there is one problem that appeals to every member of the community, it is that of the young people who are leaving our schools and who can- not obtain useful employment. What steps has the Minister taken, what efforts is he making in order to bring to the notice of employers in various industries the fact that there is this great army of juvenile labour ready to enter the commercial and industrial life of this country?

It is saddening to see so many of these young people drifting into a state of life that is not to their advantage and who, between the ages of 14 and 19, have not work which enables them to train so that they may take their proper place when they reach manhood and womanhood. Does the same difficulty still exist between the Ministry of Labour and the Board of Education with regard to the placing of these juveniles? It is a saddening spectacle to find a quarrel going on, as it has been going on since 1911, between the Education Department and the Board of Trade, in the first instance, and the Ministry of Labour in later days as to who should be responsible for the placing of juveniles into employment. Have they now cleared up that difficulty, and is there any better prospect of employers being brought into closer touch with the Ministry so that these young people may have a clearer opportunity of finding employment? Is any of this expenditure the right hon. Gentleman is now asking for to be utilised for the purpose of enabling some of his officers to get back to their duties after they had to leave them because of the insanitary and inadequate premises in which many of them had to work? I referred to one case where the chief constable of a certain town, when he was called in to the exchange because a great many people were signing on, had to smash the windows of the exchange in order to obtain ventilation.

I would ask the Minister to say that it is his intention and determination to have his staff housed in premises and working in premises that have some degree of health in them and are fit for use as Employment Exchanges.

It being a Quarter-past Eight of the Clock, and there being Private Business, set down by direction of the Chairman of Ways and Means under Standing Order No. 8. further Proceeding was postponed, without Question put.