HC Deb 10 December 1929 vol 233 cc411-9

Section three of the Unemployment Insurance Act, 1925, is hereby repealed and paragraph 1 of Part I of the First Schedule to the Unemployment Insurance (No. 2) Act, 1924 (which provides that benefit shall be payable in respect of each week after the first three days of a continuous period of unemployment) is hereby re-enacted in this Act.—[Mr. Maxton.]

Brought up, and read the First time.


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

The purpose of the new Clause is to reduce the waiting period from six days to three days. Everyone knows that the six days period may mean that a man who becomes unemployed may have to go the best part of three weeks before any money goes into his home. The principle of the new Clause has been well admitted in the past. It was admitted in the 1924 Unemployment Act, which was brought in by the previous Labour Government, and presumably the arguments in favour of it in those days are even more cogent now, having regard to the long duration of unemployment, generally. I have been told that the only reasons against it are financial, but I cannot feel that the finances of the country in 1929 are in any worse plight than in 1924. There are no evidences in trade or in the taxation returns that indicate that they are, nor do I believe that the Chancellor's powers of taxation today are less than they were at that period. I think the present Government is much more favourably situated for conceding this demand than was the 1924 Government when the point was raised. I have no wish to detain the Committee and will content myself with moving the Clause.


This matter has received a very great deal of consideration, and, if I could have seen my way to embody it in the Bill I would have done so. It is perfectly true, as has been said, that the objection to it is a financial one. It is a very heavy item indeed, and it has to be considered in relation to the present state of the Fund. When this was moved in 1924 by the then Labour Government, the Fund had only a £7,000,000 deficit and had by no means exhausted, and had not trespassed very far upon, its borrowing powers. To-day, we have the Fund with a debt of £38,000,000, and its borrowing powers nearly exhausted. That fact makes the situation very much worse financially than it was when the Labour Government was in office in 1924. It is with very much regret that I have to refuse to accept the Clause.


Obviously, as the Minister has advanced the argument that the state of the fund precludes the suggested improvement in the benefits, it would not be possible for us on this side to oppose that argument. It has been pointed out on more than one occasion that the fund is heavily in debt, and, balanced as it is at a figure which is below the figure of the present state of unemployment, it is not in a position to be loaded with fresh commitments. An important fresh commitment has been entered into as a result of the Debate last Thursday. Therefore, we on this side find ourselves compelled to back up the Minister in the view that the fund in its present state is not able to bear any fresh commitments.


I support the Clause, notwithstanding the Minister's statement that the fund is overloaded. The position I take up is that the sufferers from unemployment ought not to be penalised by a position for which they are not in any way responsible. We can realise the difficulty from the standpoint of the Chancellor of the Exchequer; but, from the point of view of those who are making most urgent claims on Members of this House as to the difficulties which are confronting them in the way of life, they should not be held back and prevented from getting their legitimate rights of which they have been deprived, because of conditions for which they are no more than partly responsible along with the general body of the nation. They ought not to be penalised for such a situation, and I certainly hope that a protest will be made in the Division Lobby by Members on this side.


I only rise for the purpose of putting two questions to the right hon. Lady. In the first place, I should like to know what burden this will place on the Unemployment Insurance Fund? She has said that the fund is not in a condition to support this burden. I think we are entitled to know what it would mean. I believe that the cost would be about £4,000,000; or rather that it would be the interest upon that sum, because if the Lord Privy Seal is successful in finding work for the 1,300,000 people who are unemployed the Unemployment Insurance Fund would recoup the amount. The annual charge would be about £200,000. Does the right hon. Lady realise that by resisting this new Clause—I do not support it—she is throwing a burden on local authorities. These men have to be supported, and if a man goes out of work and does not get any benefit for 10 days he is thrown upon the ratepayers in the meantime. Therefore, the second question I have to ask is, when the right hon. Lady intends to implement the pledge that was given by the party opposite to make unemployment a national and not a local charge. The answers to these questions are distinctly relevant to the new Clause and would help hon. Members to decide which way they should vote. The fact that the hon. Member for Bridgeton (Mr. Maxton) has moved it proves that it is a non-party Amendment. He has moved it from an impartial point of view, and I think he is entitled, and the Committee is entitled, to know exactly what the right hon. Lady means when she says that the Unemployment Insurance Fund cannot bear the burden how much burden is going to be thrown on local authorities, and when unemployment is going to be made a national charge.


The hon. Member for Devonport (Mr. Hore-Belisha) is not quite correct when he says that all these people will be thrown upon the rates, because local authorities give this relief as a loan and on condition that they will be repaid when the man gets work. It is not strictly correct to say that they are thrown upon the rates.


Before the right hon. Lady replies I should like to draw attention to the speech of the hon. Member for Devonport (Mr. Hore-Belisha). The hon. Member who moved the new Clause is perfectly consistent. He has taken up a line with which we on this side do not agree and with which the Government do not agree, but at any rate it has been a consistent line. The right hon. Lady hast any rate it has been a consistent line. The right hon. Lady has quite rightly, from the point of view of the Department whose finances she has to look after, resisted the proposal. But what is the attitude of the hon. Member for Devonport? What has become of the old tradition of the Liberal party, retrenchment—


I was asking a question.


Everyone who heard the speech of the hon. Member knows perfectly well that he was pushing the Government forward and involving them in yet further expenditure. It is curious that we have all these speeches from Members of the Liberal party everyone in favour of putting fresh burdens on the fund and on the taxpayer, and it would be interesting to know whether the right hon. Member for Darwen (Sir H. Samuel) is going to support the hon. Member for Devonport in putting another charge on the Insurance Fund.


Certainly I support my hon. Friend in asking the Minister to answer the very relevant questions put to her.

Commander WILLIAMS

The Minister says that the state of the finances makes it impossible for her to provide a sum of

money which has not been stated. Would she tell us what the leaders of her party said at the time when the proposal for the shortening of the period from six days to three was being advocated? A few quotations from speeches of the leaders at the time would be of interest to the Committee?


I am sorry if I did not give the information required. The sum required—it can be only a rough estimate—is from £3,500,000 to £4,000,000. To this you have to add the attraction of the reduced waiting period, and that is incalculable.


Is that what falls on the local authorities?


Obviously not. Take the case of a man who has been in employment but comes out of employment—I except the case of the dockers, who are in and out frequently—the case of the man who comes out of employment. He does not, in fact, generally come under the Poor Law. That is not the highly necessitous end of the thing at all. The terrible thing is when a man is out of work for two or 2½ years, and has not a scrap of anything at the back of him. The case rests upon abstract justice, upon the contributions that the ordinary man pays and which should entitle him to have a three-days' waiting period. But the fact is that I am giving so many concessions in other directions under this Bill that I have already overstepped the limits, and I cannot go any further.


What does the Minister mean by the attraction?


That is a word very frequently used in connection with this class of case. We do not know the number of additional persons who would claim if there were only a three-days' limit.

Question put, "That the Clause be read a Second time."

The Committee divided: Ayes, 21; Noes, 279.

Division No. 88.] AYES. [12.5 a.m.
Baldwin, Oliver (Dudley) Jowett, Rt. Hon. F. W. Sandham, E.
Beckett, John (Camberwell, Peckham) Kelly, W. T. Scrymgeour, E.
Boothby, R. J. G. Kirkwood, D. Simmons, C. J.
Brockway, A. Fenner Lee, Jennie (Lanark, Northern) Stephen, Campbell
Groves, Thomas E. Lees, J. Wheatley, Rt. Hon. J.
Haycock, A. W. Maclean, Neil (Glasgow, Govan)
Hore-Belisha, Leslie. Maxton, James TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—
Jones, T. I. Mardy (Pontypridd) Morgan, Dr. H. B. Mr. Buchanan and Mr. Kinley.
Acland-Troyte, Lieut. Colonel Glyn, Major R. G. C. Morrison, W. S. (Glos., Cirencester)
Adamson, Rt. Hon. W. (Fife, West) Gossling, A. G. Morrison-Bell, Sir Arthur Clive
Adamson, W. M. (Staff., Cannock) Graham, D. M. (Lanark, Hamilton) Mort, D. L.
Addison, Rt. Hon. Dr. Christopher Graham, Fergus (Cumberland, N.) Mosley, Sir Oswald (Smethwick)
Aitchison, Rt. Hon. Craigie M. Greene, W. p. Crawford Muggeridge, H. T.
Albery, Irving James Greenwood, Rt. Hon. A. (Coine) Muirhead, A. J.
Alexander, Rt. Hon. A. V. (Hillsbro') Grenfell, D. R. (Glamorgan) Murnin, Hugh
Ammon, Charles George Grundy, Thomas W. Naylor, T. E.
Arnott, John Gunston, Captain D. W. Newman, Sir R. H. S. D. L. (Exeter)
Astor, Maj. Hn. John J.(Kent, Dover) Hall, F. (York, W. R., Normanton) Noel Baker, P. J.
Astor, Viscountess Hall, G. H. (Merthyr Tydvil) Oliver, George Harold (Ilkeston)
Ayles, Walter Hall, Capt. W. P. (Portsmouth, C.) Ormsby-Gore, Rt. Hon, William
Baillie-Hamilton, Hon. Charles W. Hamilton, Sir George (Illord) Paling, Wilfrid
Balniel, Lord Hamilton, Sir R. (Orkney & Zetland) Penny, Sir George
Barnes, Alfred John Hartington, Marquess of Percy, Lord Eustace (Hastings)
Beamish, Rear-Admiral T. P. H. Hartshorn, Rt. Hon. Vernon Perry, S. F.
Bellamy, Albert Harvey, Major S. E. (Devon, Totnes) Pethick-Lawrence, F. W.
Benn, Rt. Hon. Wedgwood Hastings, Dr. Somerville Peto, Sir Basil E. (Devon, Barnstaple)
Bennett, William (Battersea, South) Hayes, John Henry Phillips, Dr. Marion
Benson, G. Henderson, Arthur, junr. (Cardiff, S.) Ponsonby, Arthur
Bentham, Dr. Ethel Henderson, Thomas (Glasgow) Potts, John S.
Bird, Ernest Roy Henderson, W. W. (Middx., Enfield) Ramsbotham, H.
Bondfield, Rt. Hon. Margaret Heneage, Lieut.-Colonel Arthur P. Rathbone, Eleanor
Bourne, Captain Robert Croft Hennessy, Major Sir G. R. J. Raynes, W. R.
Bowen, J. W. Herrlotts, J. Reynolds, Col. Sir James
Bowerman, Rt. Hon. Charles W. Hirst, G. H. (York W. R. Wentworth) Richards, R.
Bowyer, Captain Sir George E. W. Hirst, W. (Bradford, South) Richardson, R. (Houghton-le-Spring)
Boyce, H. L. Hoffman, P. C. Riley, Ben (Dewsbury)
Bracken, B. Hollins, A. Ritson, J.
Broad, Francis Alfred Hopkin, Daniel Roberts, Rt. Hon. F. O. (W. Bromwich)
Bromfield, William Hudson, Capt. A. U. M. (Hackney, N.) Romeril, H. G.
Bromley, J. Hudson, James H. (Huddersfield) Rosbotham, D. S. T.
Brothers, M. Jenkins, W. (Glamorgan, Neath) Rowson, Guy
Brown, Col. D. C. (N'th'l'd'., Hexham) John, William (Rhondda, West) Russell, Alexander West (Tynemouth)
Brown, James (Ayr and Bute) Johnston, Thomas Salter, Dr. Alfred
Burgess, F. G. Jones, Morgan (Caerphilly) Samuel, A. M. (Surrey, Farnham)
Butler, R. A. Jowitt, Rt. Hon. Sir W. A. Sandeman, Sir N. Stewart
Cameron, A. G. Kennedy, Thomas Sanders, W. S.
Carter, W. (St. Pancras, S.W.) King, Commodore Rt. Hon. Henry D. Sawyer, G. F.
Carver, Major W. H. Knox, Sir Alfred Scurr, John
Cayzer, Maj.Sir Herbt, R. (Prtsmth,S.) Lamb, Sir J. Q. Sexton, James
Chadwick, Sir Robert Burton Lang, Gordon Shaw, Rt. Hon. Thomas (Preston)
Charleton, H. C. Lansbury, Rt. Hon. George Shepherd, Arthur Lewis
Chater, Daniel Lathan, G. Shepperson, Sir Ernest Whittome
Church, Major A. G. Law, A. (Rosendale) Sherwood, G. H.
Clarke, J. S. Lawrence, Susan Shield, George William
Cluse, W. S. Lawrie, Hugh Hartley (Stalybridge) Shiels, Dr. Drummond
Cocks, Frederick Seymour Lawson, John James Shillaker, J. F.
Colville, Major D. J. Lawther, W. (Barnard Castle) Shinwell, E.
Compton, Joseph Lee, Frank (Derby, N.E.) Sinkinson, George
Courtauld, Major J. S. Leighton, Major B. E. P. Sitch, Charles H.
Cranbourne, Viscount Lewis, T. (Southampton) Smith, Alfred (Sunderland)
Crichton-Stuart, Lord C. Lindley, Fred W. Smith, Frank (Nuneaton)
Crookshank, Capt. H. C. Lloyd, C. Ellis Smith, Louis W. (Sheffield, Hallam)
Croom-Johnson, R. P. Long, Major Eric Smith, Rennie (Penistone)
Culverwell, C. T. (Bristol, West) Longbottom, A. W. Smith, R. W.(Aberd'n & Kinc'dine, C.)
Daggar, George Lunn, William Smith, Tom (Pontefract)
Dallas, George Macdonald, Gordon (Ince) Smith, W. R. (Norwich)
Dalton, Hugh MacDonald, Rt. Hon. J. R. (Seaham) Smith-Carington, Neville W.
Davidson, Rt. Hon. J. (Hertford) Macdonald, Capt. P. D. (I. of W.) Smithers, Waldron
Davies, Maj. Geo. F. (Somerset, Yeovil) McElwee, A. Snowden, Rt. Hon. Philip
Denman, Hon. R. D. McEntee, V. L. Somerville, D. G. (Willesden, East)
Dickson, T. Mackinder, W. Sorensen, R.
Duckworth, G. A. V. MacRobert, Rt. Hon. Alexander M. Southby, Commander A. R. J.
Dukes, C. McShane, John James Spender-Clay, Colonel H.
Duncan, Charles Mansfield, W. Spero, Dr. G. E.
Ede, James Chuter Marcus, M. Stamford, Thomas W.
Edge, Sir William Margesson, Captain H. D. Stanley, Maj. Hon. O. (W'morland)
Edmondson, Major A. J. Marjoribanks, E. C. Steel-Maitland. Rt. Hon. Sir Arthur
Edmunds, J. E. Marley, J. Strauss, G. R.
Edwards, E. (Morpeth) Mason, Colonel Glyn K. Stuart, J. C. (Moray and Nairn)
Egan, W. H. Mathers, George Sueter, Rear-Admiral M. F.
Elliot, Major Walter E. Matters, L. W. Sullivan, J.
Ferguson, Sir John Melville, Sir James Sutton, J. E.
Fison, F. G. Clavering Messer, Fred Taylor, R. A. (Lincoln)
Freeman, Peter Middleton, G. Taylor, W. B. (Norfolk, S.W.)
Fremantle, Lieut.-Colonel Francis E. Millar, J. D. Thurtle, Ernest
Gardner, B. W. (West Ham, Upton) Milner, J. Tinker, John Joseph
Gardner, J. P. (Hammersmith, N.) Mitchell-Thomson, Rt. Hon. Sir W. Titchfield, Major the Marquess of
Gault, Lieut.-Col. Andrew Hamilton Mond, Hon. Henry Todd, Capt. A. J.
Gibbins, Joseph Monsell, Eyres, Com. Rt. Hon. Sir B. Toole, Joseph
Gibson, C. G. (Pudsey & Otley) Montague, Frederick Tout, W. J.
Gill, T. H. Morley, Ralph Turner, B.
Turton, Robert Hugh Watts-Morgan, Lt.-Col. D. (Rhondda) Williams, Dr. J. H. (Llanelly)
Vaughan, D. J. Wellock, Wilfred Williams, T. (York, Don Valley)
Vaughan-Morgan, Sir Kenyon Wells, Sydney R. Wilson, J. (Oldham)
Viant, S. P. Welsh, James (Paisley) Wilson R. J. (Jarrow)
Walker, J. Welsh, James C. (Coatbridge) Windsor-Clive, Lieut.-Colonel George
Wallace, Capt D. E. (Hornsey) West, F. R. Winterton, Rt. Hon. Earl
Wallace, H. W. Westwood, Joseph Womersley, W. J.
Ward, Lieut.-Col. Sir A. Lambert Whiteley, Wilfrid (Birm., Ladywood) Young, R. S. (Islington, North)
Warrender, Sir Victor Whiteley, William (Blaydon)
Watkins, F. C. Williams, Com. C. (Devon, Torquay) TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—
Watson, W. M. (Dunfermline). Williams, David (Swansea, East) Mr. Parkinson and Mr. Charles

Question put, and agreed to.

First Schedule (Weekly Rates of Unemployment Benefit in Case of Persons under the Age of Twenty-one Years), Second Schedule (Minor Amendments), and Third Schedule (Enactments Repealed) agreed to.

Bill reported; as amended, to be considered upon Thursday, and to be printed.—[Bill 96.]