§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That this House do now adjourn."—[Mr. Barnes.]
§ 8.0 p.m.
§ Mr. BUCHANAN
I gave notice yesterday to the Minister of Labour that I 1408 would raise the question of unemployment insurance last night or to-night. Since then, I have received a communication from the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Labour suggesting as I did not raise the question last night I should postpone it until to-night or to-morrow night. It was my original intention to raise the question on Friday, but it will be admitted that it will be practically impossible to discuss unemployment insurance on Friday, inasmuch as two questions are likely to be raised by the Opposition, which will occupy the greater part of the time—the position that has arisen in regard to Egypt, and the Naval programme. I would have preferred that the Minister of Labour or the Parliamentary Secretary had been present to-night, but, in their absence, I feel that I must raise the question now, because there seems no likelihood of an opportunity being afforded on Friday. I have been taken by surprise by the early Adjournment. I understand that a question relating to the Home Office is to be raised, and I regret having to cut across the Home Secretary and the hon. Member for East Leyton (Mr. Brockway), but it is not my fault. I have not jumped anybody's post.
Unemployment insurance is one of the most important subjects if not the most important subject that confronts this House. My remarks to-night may be fairly lengthy, but I will try as far as is humanly possible to avoid being personal, or merely denunciatory of those who hold office in the Government. To-day, there are 1,250,000 people unemployed, according to the registers of the Exchanges, but that number is admitted to be inadequate. Without any exaggeration, we might say that at least 1,500,000 persons are unemployed, through no fault of their own. In addition to the official figures, anything from 250,000 to 500,000 people are unemployed, who for various reasons do not come on the register. We have to recognise that the number of persons unemployed is turned over at least four times in a given year; that in any given year probably 6,000,000 persons, male and female, are unemployed at some part of the year.
Therefore, when we are dealing with the problem of unemployment insurance, we are dealing with the greatest human problem that men and women are called 1409 upon to solve. [Interruption.] That is a regrettable incident. It will be better if I do not express my views in regard to it. It is certainly not an incident to laugh at. The Minister of Labour is now present. I thank her for coming here, at inconvenience to herself. I would have given her notice that I intended to raise the matter to-night if I had had any idea that I was going to be called upon at this stage. Every hon. Member on these benches, and I am sure that the same remark applies to the Conservative Members, must have been struck during the General Election by the fact that from one end of the country to the other there was wholesale condemnation, from all types of people, of the methods by which the unemployed are dealt with at the Exchanges. No matter from what district the evidence came, we had first-class evidence of the fact that decent men and women were being unfairly dealt with at the Employment Exchanges. I am raising the matter to see how far the Government can meet the criticisms directed against the system by the unfortunate people who are unemployed.
I will not deal with the rates of benefit and the waiting period, because to do so would be out of order. Although I shall not raise the question of benefit, I think that one of the most urgent things that calls for attention, apart from administration, is the raising of the benefit to a human standard, so that no one can grumble about it. The Prime Minister announced to-day certain changes in Naval policy, and every man and woman desirous of world peace must have welcomed that statement as a step in the right direction. One was struck by the fact that a number of men, a small number because of the Government's plans, will lose their jobs. That statement conveyed to me an urgent reason why unemployment benefit ought to be recast in order that we may see that no man who loses his job shall be unduly penalised, and that he shall get decent rates of benefit. With regard to the waiting period, I think it ought to be abolished; but I will confine my remarks to the administration of the Employment Exchanges, the administration of unemployment benefit, and the question of "genuinely seeking work," and will offer to the Minister a certain guide which might be utilised to some advantage.
1410 The question of not genuinely seeking work has been the subject of debate many times in this House. The policy was introduced by Dr. Macnamara in 1921, who was then the Minister of Labour, and was continued under successive Acts until 1924. Until that year it was solely confined to extended benefit. For standard benefit there was only one test, the man must either be offered a job or he was to get his benefit. That was the law until 1924. So far as extended benefit was concerned he had to prove that he was genuinely seeking work, but in 1924 the same test was applied to all classes of benefit, to extended and to standard benefit. I want to ask the Minister of Labour why she does not adhere to the method adopted in 1924. The Conservative Government, in regard to standard benefit, stated that the only test to apply was the test of a man being offered a job or getting his benefit. If that test can be applied to standard benefit, why cannot it be applied to extended benefit under the Act of 1927? I heard the Minister of Labour, before she was ruled out of order on a previous occasion, say that there must be some test of genuinely seeking work. What is to be the test? I only know of one, and that is the offer of a job. Any other test is unfair and wrong.
I have been told that the Umpire has defined genuinely seeking work. He says that it must not be interpreted in a general way, but on the individual case, and the state of mind of the applicant must be taken into account. Imagine the state of mind of a man looking for a job! A criminal in a Court of law has the charge against him definitely stated, no matter what it is, but the Umpire in this ruling admits that in the case of an unemployed person the charge is not defined. He is, therefore, in a worse position than a criminal in a Court of law, I went with a man on one occasion to the Employment Exchange, and this is what happened. He was asked why he did not go to certain places looking for work, and he admitted that he had not been because he had no clothes to go in. He was an auctioneer's help, and you need clothes for that job. He had no clothes; he was a disgrace. He was refused benefit because he had not got clothes good enough to go looking for work. Another person comes along; she is a pawnbroker's assistant, and extremely well 1411 dressed. She is asked why she does not go to certain factories, and she says: They are not the kind of job for me; I am too well dressed. And she is turned down because she is too well dressed. These two cases occurred on the same day in the same court. One refused benefit because he had no clothes and the other because she was too well dressed.
I submit, also, that a decision has been given by the umpire, which is totally illegal. If it applied to rich people the umpire who gave the decision would have been dealt with and this House would have taken immediate action. It is a great thing to say, but I believe he is unfitted for his post. The Act of 1927 says that every person who applies for unemployment benefit must have his case reviewed at the end of six weeks. What does this umpire say? He says that whilst a man is entitled at the end of six weeks to claim a review of his case, yet, if the case has been turned down by a previous court, the decision cannot be altered. In effect he says that if a previous court of referees has decided that a man is not genuinely seeking work and his case is reviewed at the end of six weeks, it does not matter what the Act says, a previous court of referees having decided that the man is not genuinely seeking work determines the case. I maintain that that is an illegal decision. Six weeks ago the court may have said that the man was not genuinely seeking work. During the six weeks he may have made efforts to find work, but the umpire says: "No, we cannot have that. The previous court has decided the ease and has decided it for all time."
When the previous' Labour Government was in office, in its first weeks the Minister of Labour introduced a small and commendable Bill to deal with the gap period. Within a few weeks the Bill was passed and the gap period was abolished. That was a credit to the Minister and to the party to which he belonged. I do not ask for a big new Bill at this moment, because the preparation of such Bills calls for time and thought, but I do say to the Minister of Labour that at least a small Bill of one Clause might have been passed giving legal rights to the unemployed in the way that the 1927 Act desired. I come to another charge, and it relates to the appointment 1412 of chairmen of courts of referees. The chairman in these courts is the only person who matters. There is a workmen's representative and an employers' representative, but in all cases the chairman has the final vote. Last night I listened to criticism of patronage in West Ham. I laughed, for I remembered how the Tory Government appointed Tory Chairmen of the Courts of Referees. Talk of patronage!
I go to a court in Glasgow, and what do I find? Deputies there in place of those who should be attending. The 1920 Act definitely states that the Chairman shall be appointed by the Minister. It does not say that there shall be deputy-chairmen. Just imagine a deputy being sent to a sheriff court in Scotland to do the work! Or imagine a deputy acting as judge in a county court! Yet these men in the courts of referees have deputies. It is said that there is some mysterious regulation which permits it, but I have not seen the regulation. I have here a letter from a man holding an important trade union post in Glasgow. He is a man of fair standing. He went to the court of referees and what did he find? Sitting in judgment was a boy of 23, a deputy. This boy's boss had better paying work to do, and so sent this deputy of 23 from the office to take his place. My friend won his case or else, he says, there would have been trouble. Just imagine handing over work to a boy of 23. I have not my correspondent's authority to mention names, but I am willing to hand them to the Minister of Labour privately. If there is a regulation permitting the appointment of these deputies let us know what it is. In the ordinary way a deputy is one who takes another's place in time of sickness or occasionally where other and more urgent business calls.
If it was right for the Conservatives to appoint chairmen of the Courts of Referees why does not the present Minister of Labour make appointments-Why has the Minister not appointed six more chairmen in Glasgow? The Tories appointed Tories and die-hard Tories too. If you search Glasgow you would have difficulty in beating those that have been appointed there. Why has the Minister not appointed six decent types of men? I do not even ask for Labour men; I might compromise and say that Liberals 1413 would do. They could not be worse than the crowd that we have. But we have these Tories. Why has the Minister not appointed others, apart from politics, and from the business point of view? In 1927 the Courts of Referees dealt only with a few cases, but now they deal with almost every case of "not genuinely seeking work." Yet we have only the same number of chairmen. Why cannot more chairmen be appointed?
I come now to the court itself, and what I say might be taken as criticism of one or two of my friends. First of all there is the question of attendance at the court. I believe that when a man takes a job he ought to give reasonable attention to it, and that if he cannot do so he should resign. I find that in these courts—and this applies to both sides—the only person who is never absent is the chairman—[An HON. MEMBER: "Or his deputy!"]—and he gets 2½ guineas for each sitting. He is never absent, but the workmen's representative or the employers' representative is often absent. No person has a right to continue in that position unless he is going to attend reasonably—and I do not mean merely attendance at a sitting to hear one case. What I mean is attendance at all the cases. If they are not going to attend they ought to give way to persons who will attend. Regarding the constitution of the court itself there is an official who attends regularly and who presumably represents the Minister of Labour, in order to give a neutral view. Does he do so? I have listened to case after case and in every case where the Umpire's decision could be quoted against the applicant, this Ministry of Labour official produced it saying in effect, The Umpire has given his decision and you, being a lower court, must follow that decision." But when there was anything to say for the applicant it never was produced. In every case where an Umpire's decision was against the man it was definitely quoted.
I go further. I do not know what is the practice outside Glasgow, but there the court sits from about quarter past 10 to a quarter past 12 in the morning and there are usually 30 cases scheduled for the morning sitting. Two hours in which to deal with 30 cases, find out if the people concerned were genuinely seeking work, and examine their claims! 1414 What happens? Time becomes more important than justice. In every court in the land there ought to be one cardinal principal and that ought to be justice and not time. If the first case, for instance, takes a half hour one finds people looking at their watches. It is interfering with the chairman getting back to his legal business, and 2½ guineas will not pay them, unless the cases are run through rapidly.
I come to the next point in my indictment. I may differ with some of my colleagues on this, but, because I hold this view, I ought to state it. I am a keen trade unionist, but I hope my keenness will never lead me to deprive people of their legal rights and even non-unionists or persons who have lost membership of a union—very often owing to irregularity of employment—ought to have their legal rights. We know the position of poor people who have suffered unemployment month in and month out, when every penny has been needed for the landlord. In my district not only are they not members of a trade union in many cases, but—what is more revolting to the women folk—in many cases they are not members of death insurance societies, and if they die they might not be buried properly. Even these people have their legal rights, and at the end of the hearing of the case, a man has the legal right to ask, if the case is decided against him, for leave to appeal to the Umpire. What happens at the present time? A person appears at the court of referees and at the end of the case the chairman announces that the court will send their decision in a day or two. The man has the decision sent to him two days later and his claim is refused. That man is deprived of his legal right to ask the court of referees for a right of appeal to the Umpire if they refuse him benefit.
In a court of law, if a Judge gives a decision against me I or my counsel can argue in favour of being granted the right to appeal, but this so-called court—it is misnamed a court—sends its decision two days later and the man never gets his legal right to argue in favour of an appeal if his claim has been die-allowed. It may, of course, be said that he ought to be in a trade union and the right would be given to him automatically. I am a Parliamentarian and a politician and not ashamed of it. I am 1415 a believer in politics and in utilising this House of Commons, and I will continue to be so until I see an alternative. I say that the Statute having given a man this legal right, we ought to operate it and we ought to see that it is not made a mockery. In 99 per cent. of the cases turned down by the courts of referees the decisions are illegal because the persons concerned have never been given their legal right to argue in favour of an appeal to the Umpire.
I wish to deal with a further point. The Umpire has decided that where an applicant has signed a written statement, no matter what he or she may afterwards say, that written statement must be held binding. The right hon. Lady the Minister of Labour must have some cognisance of the ordinary courts of law. What have other courts decided on this matter? What have the eminent courts decided? I am no lawyer, but, as far as I can gather, a signed statement is important as evidence, but a signed statement by a prisoner in itself is not evidence but must be proved by other material facts. In these cases these poor fellows are treated worse than criminals. Once a statement is signed it does not matter what the person concerned proves afterwards. That signed statement is the only thing and that is directly contrary to the practice of every other court. I do not mind a signed statement being taken, but it should be taken in its proper place along with the other material facts. Imagine the case of a man or a woman appearing before the interviewing officer. These applicants are usually underfed; in many cases, especially among the women, they are nervous and highly-strung. In other cases they are almost illiterate. They are examined by a skilled officer. Their position is worse than that of the criminal because the criminal can demand that somebody else should be present. In this case there is nobody else, and the signed statement goes down. They sign anything, and then it is held as being absolutely binding, whereas in the case of a criminal it is only a material factor.
It may be said that I have been condemnatory and have done nothing but lash out—that is true—and I might be asked what I would do. Let me repeat what I said earlier, that so far as the 1416 umpire's decision is concerned where it is directly contrary to the Act, namely, that he has not given the six weeks' period, there should be a proper new trial. It is in defiance of the spirit of the Act of 1927, and a short, one Clause amending Bill should be passed through. Now let me come to my alternative remedy. The question of "not genuinely seeking work" is the one big thing that is facing us. I see from answers to questions that the right hon. Lady intends to meet the criticism by a form of new procedure, which, as I understand it, is that the applicant goes before the interviewing officer, who, having a doubt about the case, remits it back to the insurance officer, but before it gets to the insurance officer two persons of local standing are to be allowed to examine the applicant and make a recommendation. Then the insurance officer may come in, and then the court of referees. The material change proposed is the introduction of two persons of local standing. [Interruption.] I am intensely in earnest on this question. I was not willing to take to-night for it, as I recognised that other people had a previous call, and if they had been here, they would have got it, but they were not.
I cannot see where the improvement comes in. Indeed, in some cases I think the proposal might make it worse instead of better because under the new régime, with two persons of local knowledge, if after they have seen the applicant they turn him dawn and he goes to the court of referees, that court will to that extent be prejudiced against the man. If the local folk have gone against him, to that extent his trial will have been considerably prejudged. If the court of referees is so good, if it is such a defensible body, why have this new procedure? In the City of Glasgow more or less everybody is local. We have a population of 1,250,000, and there is as good a chance of getting a man local in any Exchange in Partick as in Glasgow itself. What happens there? You have got the local men in the court of referees, in the employer and in the workman, and then you have got the lawyer. How is it that, two of them are going to be better at the start than at the finish? It must be because the lawyer is not present, but if that be the case, surely that is a reason for abolishing the lawyer. With regard to the local committees, we are told that 1417 now the Minister's discretion is abolished the local committees are not the same as they used to be, but that may make matters worse. I would prefer the Minister's discretion to that of the court of referees, because on any decision given by the Minister I could challenge the Minister. The Minister was responsible, and I could come down to the House and denounce him or her, but now, when the discretion is with the court of referees, I cannot do that, so that if the local committees were to be condemned under the old régime, in my view, without the Minister's discretion, we are in a worse position than before.
I may be asked what I would do. I am accused of being condemnatory, but I have tried in some ways to be helpful. I recently spent some time in the company of the chief insurance official under an unemployment insurance society from 10 in the morning to one o clock in the afternoon, and he left with four or five foolscap pages of suggestions that I gave him. Let me take the question of "not genuinely seeking work." A committee is to be set up under the chairmanship of a King's Counsel; a representative of the Trades Union Congress is to be on it, a woman is to be on it, somebody representing the Court of Referees is to be on it, and I forget who the other one is, but it seems to me curious that when the Labour party appoint a committee they should load it against themselves. If it had been the Tories appointing the committee, they would have taken good care to see that it was well loaded in their favour, and if there is one criticism to make, I think it is against the constitution of that committee. There are teeming thousands of tremendously poor people, down and out, down at the very bottom, where even politics or trade unionism make no appeal, and they are unrepresented on this committee, but they have a view that ought to be examined and represented. There is a part of the Act of 1920, I think it is Section 35, in which it is laid down that the Minister has power by regulation to define what is "genuinely seeking work." It is a statutory obligation, and yet it has never been done.
§ Mr. BUCHANAN
That was an answer given to a question across the Floor of the House, but the Act says that the Minister shall define it by regulation, and that was not done. The present Minister of Labour ought to define it in the way that the Trade Union Congress and Labour Party have asked that it should be defined. She ought to define it as "a job or unemployment benefit." The Act says that the Minister may make regulationsfor presenting the evidence to be required as to the fulfilment of the conditions and the absence of the disqualifications for receiving or continuing to receive unemployment benefit.What is to hinder her doing it? It does not need a committee. The Trade Union Congress have inquired into it for years, and have come to a solution. It could be done by administration, and the Minister could do it to-morrow. At the present time, the interviewing officer is absolutely the key man. He says what is to happen to the human material afterwards. At present, if there is a doubt, the interviewing officer must refer to the insurance officer, whose place is now taken by the local committee. Why cannot the instructions be altered so that they should provide that "unless the interviewing officer is certain that a person should receive benefit"—"certain" instead of "doubtful." Why should a man have to go through all this hell because somebody has a doubt? The Procurator Fiscal in Scotland is the person who orders a prosecution for theft, and the theory is that no prosecution should be taken unless there is a certainty that a case can be established. Why should not that apply to the unemployed?
It is said that there might be some bad people get unemployment benefit if this were the case, and that somebody not genuinely seeking work might get benefit. My criticism is that it is just that type of person who can get benefit. You might pass Acts of Parliament from now till Doomsday, and you could not stop that. You will never catch the cute man, and the "fly" man. They do not go to the Employment Exchanges with a book in their pocket containing a list of addresses. They learn them off by heart, generally on Sundays. The ordinary, dull, honest man goes to the Employment 1419 Exchange, and when he is asked if he has applied to such and such a place for work, says, "No, I knew it was no good," and he is turned down. During the election, I met a man at Dumbarton who had walked 14 miles to get a job as a moulder, and when he got to the place he found that no moulders were wanted. The tragedy of it was that in three seconds on the telephone the Employment Exchange could have found out if any moulders were wanted. Instead of doing that, they inflicted on this poor devil a tramp of 14 miles.
It is sometimes said that I am very angry with officials, I do sometimes think, when I look at the officials, that I should like them to change places with the applicants, so that they could have a dose of their own medicine. I say that a man ought to get unemployment benefit until the highest court has decided that he shall not get benefit. It is said that there is no punishment, because if the court decides in favour of the man he will get his back pay. Are you sure there is no punishment I He has to live all this time, and to do so he has to borrow money and gets into the clutches of moneylenders, from which he never extricates himself. It is not fair to inflict suffering on him and I say that full payment ought to be made until the court gives its decision.
There are other points which I could raise, but I have given my main point. I say, first of all that the appointments of chairmen ought to be reviewed from one end of the country to the other, and that every chairman who shows by his decisions that he is incapable of acting as chairman ought to be asked to go. Chairmen ought to be appointed who understand the work, and the appointments ought not to be confined to lawyers. Next, under the Act of 1920 the Minister ought to define what is genuinely seeking work and define it as "a job—or benefit." Thirdly, the Minister ought to issue this instruction to every one of the interviewing officers regarding their decisions as to whether an applicant is not genuinely seeking work, "In doubt, give benefit; only in cases of certainty, give no benefit." I am not asking for an increase of benefit. I am not asking for miracles. I am looked upon as holding extreme views: I do not deny it and I do not accept it. I may hold them. I 1420 fought my election on my own. I refused to issue the manifesto of the Labour party, because it committed me to too much. I was not prepared to ask even my Government for what the Labour party manifesto stated. I have been too long in this House for that. All I ask from my Government is this: Decent human treatment for the unemployed, the widow, the old and the young. I do not ask for miracles. I do not ask them to solve the whole of the unemployment problem, because it is no good asking of human beings more than they can do. I have only asked for these small points, and I certainly thought that when I went back to my native area, back to the folk among whom I was born and where my relatives still live, I should at least have been able to say that this "genuinely seeking work" nightmare had been either removed or so modified that nobody would ever again be troubled with it.
§ The MINISTER of LABOUR (Miss Bondfield)
I am sure the House has listened with very great interest to the speech we have just heard. The hon. Member for Gorbals (Mr. Buchanan) has already informed the House that on Saturday last I took the rather exceptional course of sending up to Glasgow one of the principal officers of my Department to go over the whole ground with the hon. Member on the spot. His report is now before me, and is receiving my very careful consideration. I do not intend to detain the House long to-night—because I know there are other hon. Members waiting to discuss other points—beyond saying that the points raised by the hon. Member for Gorbals have been all very carefully considered by me in connection with different complaints which have been brought in the past. I have already stated in reply to questions that I have taken two steps to deal particularly with the question of "not genuinely seeking work." The first is the appointment of an intervening body between the employment exchange and the insurance officer, because I have quite definitely come to the conclusion that there is not sufficient evidence on which the insurance officer in London can come to a just decision. These local assessors will have the local knowledge and their procedure will be much more informal—that is the real purpose of 1421 the change—than the more formal court of referees; and I hope that when an applicant goes before them the conversation will be of such an informal and friendly character that very few of these cases need go any further, that they can be settled on the spot, and settled, I frankly hope, in favour of the applicant.
The question whether a person is not genuinely seeking work is one of the most difficult questions to determine. I hold that it cannot be determined without local knowledge of the conditions of trade or industry in the district where you expect the applicant to get work. Although I regret to hear that the hon. Member for Gorbals does not agree with this procedure, I hope sincerely that this experiment will be successful. If it is not successful, I shall come to the House for further powers in order to find some other way of dealing with this problem. But this is a statutory condition, and must be enforced until such time as we can frame a formula which will be a sufficient guarantee for the right use of the fund and will be a better substitute for the words which are at present in the Act.
With regard to the question of deputy chairman, I must confess that I cannot understand the hon. Member's suggestion. It is perfectly clear that this practice of appointing deputy chairmen has been in force ever since 1911, but I have made a slight alteration because of the criticism which has been raised regarding the way in which chairmen exercise their powers to appoint deputies. I have said that where deputy chairmen are appointed they are to be appointed by precisely the same procedure as the chairman is appointed—they are to receive my personal appointment instead of being appointed by the chairman. The appointment of deputies is quite clearly necessary, because we cannot have cases held up by the illness or the temporary absence of chairmen on their own business.
§ Mr. STEPHEN
Can the right hon. Lady show us where statutory power is given to appoint these deputy chairmen? There is power to appoint deputy umpires, but I cannot find any statutory power to appoint deputy chairmen.
§ Miss BONDFIELD
I am not referring to any statutory power. I am referring to a practice which has been in existence ever since we have had unemployment insurance. The chairman has been asked to appoint deputies; that has been the practice.
As the Act provides only for chairmen and makes the decision of a court of referees as given by the chairman a legal decision, how can the decisions of deputy-chairmen, who are not mentioned in the Act, have legal force?
§ Miss BONDFIELD
Normally speaking, there is no inferior status in regard to the deputy-chairman, who has to have the same qualifications as the chairman, and, therefore, it seems to me that we are fighting a shadow. The chairman and the deputy-chairman are equally responsible, and it is not a fact that the chairman is entitled to call in anybody he likes. The deputy-chairman has been appointed hitherto on the nomination of the chairman, but in future he will be directly nominated by the Minister. With regard to what has been said about the way the assessors carry out their duty, I agree that that is a very serious matter. I am aware that the insured person has a right to postpone his case, but we all know how inconvenient it is for a person to do that. This is one of those matters upon which I would like the support of local opinion in pressing the rights of the insured persons upon the assessors. I know I have power to strike their names off the list and put others on.
With regard to insurance officers, a great many statements have been made about their actions. I do not want to make any excuse whatever for those cases to which quite obviously insufficient consideration has been given, but I would like to point out that 94 per cent. of the applications are admitted to benefit. I am paying much attention to this matter and devoting a great deal of time to individual cases in order to find out how they are actually being treated. I do not think it is fair to make a general sweeping statement of uniform incivility because I can show that the case is quite the contrary. In order to meet this difficulty, there is a special instruction as follows:Interviewing officers should not forget the need of courtesy and consideration in dealing with claimants. The Act places 1423 upon the claimant the onus of showing that he is genuinely seeking work but unable to obtain suitable employment. When he is required to discharge this onus, patience and fairness are called for in a special degree. Care should also be taken to see that claimants who are nervous or have difficulty in expressing themselves are placed at no avoidable disadvantage.The Courts of Referees were set up in 1911. We have a subsequent Act of Parliament which is broad in its application, but these courts have had to go on under Regulations that have been superimposed upon other Regulations, and it is time there was an inquiry into the whole procedure. It is my intention to appoint a Committee to deal with this question, and I hope I shall be able to announce the names to-morrow. I hope the labours of the Committee I am going to appoint will be finished before the House reassembles in the autumn. With regard to the definition of "not genuinely seeking work," the interpretation of this condition is laid down in the umpire's decisions. These matters have now been taken out of the Department and they had been placed under the judicial authority of the courts of appeal and the Umpire. I should be very sorry indeed to bring them back again to be decided at the discretion of the Ministry, because when that system was in operation there was a good deal more grumbling than anything we have heard to-night. I would like to emphasise the point in regard to defining the phrase "not genuinely seek work" by the following extracts from the umpire's decisions:Parliament cannot have meant that a genuine worker … must spend his time looking for work which he has not the remotest chance of finding.Personal applications may be most useful in some industries, but in others they are a waste of time and futile as a test of the genuineness of search for work.Those two extracts together with several others of the Umpire's decisions make it perfectly clear that these cases have to be taken on their merits, and any attempt to stereotype decisions is something to which an end should be put. Very often decisions are given because they appear to be similar to other cases and the benefit is disallowed.