HC Deb 11 May 1926 vol 195 cc858-60

Order for Second Beading read.


I beg to move, "That the Bill be now read a Second time."

As the House will see, if they look at it, this is merely, a Bill for extending the operations of Section 1 and part of Section 3 of the Act of 1924, and Section 5 of the Act of 1925. It is a short Bill with only one operative clause. Its main, and indeed almost its only purpose, is to ensure that unemployment benefit which would otherwise cease after 30th June of this year, will be payable for the extended period laid down in the Bill. If the Bill be not passed, all benefit payments would cease on 30th June, but, although the benefit payments would cease, the obligation to pay contributions under the existing law would remain. It is obviously necessary, therefore, that we should have some extension of the period which the law at present provides. Hon. Members will see what I have stated is provided for in Section 1 (a). Sub-section (2) deals with another matter which will be familiar to the House. Under the Act of 1924 the power of waiver by the Minister of what is known as the thirty contributions rule came to an end in October of 1925. Under our Act of last year that period was extended until June, 1927. Under the Bill we propose to extend that power of waiver also to December of next year, so that the two dates will synchronise.

Clause 3 of the Bill deals with the power which the Ministry has of making arrangements with associations of employed persons, trade unions and others, under which the trade unions as our agents pay the benefit to those who are entitled to it. Under the existing law the contribution which they pay is fixed by the Act of 1920, hut unless we prolong for a further period the powers which we already have, they will be called upon to pay a higher contribution than that which they now pay. We wish to keep the matter with regard to them, as in everything else, in state quo. For these reasons, I submit the Bill with confidence to the House, as a formal and uncontroversial measure.


I am a little in doubt as to whether it would be possible at this stage to discuss certain features of the Unemployment Insurance Act as it now exists, and I am sure that in the present circumstances, when there is that doubt, one might let the Bill go to the Committee upstairs instead of attempting to thrash out our old parliamentary questions in this House when people are occupied by other things. Consequently I shall not attempt to offer any opposition to the Bill, nor indeed to offer any criticism of it. Criticism and amendments we will reserve for the Committee stage. Every- one knows that this Bill is absolutely essential. In 1924 an amendment of our Act was carried to reduce the operation of it to the term of two years. Unless that provision is suspended obviously we shall be in a condition with regard to unemployment insurance that we cannot contemplate. With regard to the giving of another term to the waiver of the Minister, I shall make my only appeal to the Minister. It is that the waiver should be used with very much more generosity than heretofore, and that the unemployed should have a better chance than the Minister has given them up to now.