HC Deb 10 December 1929 vol 233 cc355-8

Where during any periods falling within the period of two years mentioned in the first statutory condition for the receipt of benefit an insured contributor has been offered, and has accepted, employment which is not insurable and subsequently becomes unemployed, the said condition shall have effect as if for the said period of two years there were substituted a period of two years increased by the said periods of non-insurable employment, but so as not to exceed in any case four years.—[Dr. Marion Phillips.]

Brought up, and read the First time.


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

This is a very small and non-controversial Clause, which endeavours to put right an injustice under which a small number of workers are suffering. The object is that, when an insured person who is unemployed takes suitable employment in a non-insurable trade, the period up to two years during which he is employed in that trade may count as illness would count. Then, if he becomes unemployed up to a period of four years from his last employment, he will start again in insurance at the point where he left off. The injustice is very great on the small number of workers who are affected. I would mention especially two classes—industrial workers who go into agricultural employment, and industrial workers who go into domestic service. They go into a non-insurable trade in order that they shall work rather than live on the benefit, but, if they become unemployed again, they lose everything which they have paid into the fund; and, though they may have been on benefit at the time of taking the non-insurable work, they will not be able to return to it. We propose that they should be able to do that up to a maximum period of two years. It is a very small Amendment, which I hope that the Minister will be able to accept.


I want to urge the Minister to take this question into consideration. The words, as they appear on the Paper, may not exactly fit the position, but I am sure that words may be found on the Report stage, which will do what we desire. May I point out, as I did on each occasion when an Unemployment Bill was before the last Parliament, that the present provision definitely discourages people from trying to help themselves and to get off the Unemployment Fund. If you have a man, say, in an area like Middlesbrough, a devastated area with terrible unemployment, who gets a bucket and leather and sets up as a window cleaner, and then after-wards tries to get on to the Unemployment Fund, he is told that he has gone out of insurable employment. The same thing applies to all such attempts to get off the fund. Unless there is something like this proposed Clause inserted in the Bill, people will be penalised for trying to get off the "dole," because, if their little venture is not successful, they are told, however many years they have paid into the fund, that they are not in an insurable occupation and therefore cannot get benefit. The same thing applies to domestic service. I am not one of those who desire to see our industrial women workers, with their skill, put as unskilled workers into domestic service. Those who are willing to find work, however, and pick on this type of work for a short time while a mill is stopped, and later try to get on to the fund, are told that they are in a non-insurable employment. I do not believe that a large number of people will he concerned, or that it will mean a large charge on the Treasury—or any charge at all—I hope the Minister will be able to accept the Clause.


The new Clause moved by the hon. Member for Sunderland (Dr. Phillips) needs no explanation from me after her speech and that of the hon. Member for East Middlesbrough (Miss Wilkinson). I am sure there is scarcely a Member of the House who at one time or another has not come into contact with this very serious difficulty, which, although it does not affect a very large number of people, is yet an acute difficulty. In some parts of Scotland we frequently have difficulties arising over men moving from the mines to agriculture, particularly in the areas where mines have been closed; and in other parts of the country, particularly in the Midlands, we get eases where a mill may be stopped and domestic service is offered to sonic of the workpeople.

I think every one who has held the post in the Ministry of Labour which I have the honour to occupy will agree that there is undoubted evidence of a reluctance on the part of people to take work in various non-insurable industries, not because they are reluctant to do the work but because of the fear of losing their insurance rights. The solution of this difficulty has received careful consideration on previous occasions, but it has not yet been properly settled. There are certain difficulties in regard to the drafting of this particular Clause. I think it is modelled on a Clause in an earlier Act dealing with periods of sickness, but all the same there are certain administrative factors to be taken into consideration. I am instructed by the Minister to say that the Government will undertake to attempt to redraft this Clause in order to give expression to the principle contained in it, and will bring up the new Clause on Report stage. The hon. Member for Sunderland will then have the satisfaction of having ended a very difficult position which has continued for a long time.


On the undertaking that we have been given, we are perfectly willing to withdraw the Clause.

Motion and Clause, by leave, withdrawn.