HC Deb 04 December 1930 vol 245 cc2385-7
67. Mr. SCURR

asked the Minister of Health whether, under the Relief Regulation Order of 1930 made by the Minister, any man who accepts relief is bound by that Order to attend training and work centres?


No, Sir. What the Order in question in fact does is to require a public assistance authority to make such arrangements as are practicable in the circumstances of their area for setting to work able-bodied persons to whom relief other than institutional relief is afforded, for training and instructing such men in some suitable form of useful work, and for their attendance at suitable classes in physical training or of an educational character. The authority is to make due provision in such arrangements for securing that the work, training or instruction shall be suitable to the age, physical capacity and intelligence of the several classes of able-bodied men to whom the arrangements apply.

The position under the Order is, therefore, that an obligation to put men on test work as a condition of relief could not arise in any area unless arrangements had been made for the provision of work of that kind suitable to all classes of the able-bodied, and even in that case the Order gives the local authority a dispensing power, subject to the power of the Minister to disallow, if he thinks fit, relief granted without test. The Order was deliberately framed to give such elasticity as would obviate a rigid requirement that every able-bodied man should as a matter of obligation be put on test work suitable or otherwise.


Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the chairman of the London County Council public assistance committee, who is a Member of this House, has made a public statement to the effect that a man who accepts relief must, on the terms of the Minister's Order, attend a training or work centre?


Yes, my attention was drawn to that statement, and the answer which I have given shows that it is entirely out of harmony with the Order.


Is the object of this statement of the chairman of the committee to place on the Government blame for the maladministration of the London County Council?


asked the Minister of Health whether, in view of the hardship now existing among the unemployed and sick poor in the face of the cold weathr and the cost of coal, he will take steps to circularise the local authorities asking them to increase the payments in respect of relief, and particularly to make an increase during the Christmas and New Year weeks?


I have already drawn the attention of public assistance authorities to the importance of carefully adapting outdoor relief to the needs of the case and of giving relief which is adequate in amount, and I do not think that any further circular is required. As regards the last part of the question, Article 19 of the Public Assistance Order authorises special allowances at Christmas time, or, where it is the practice to celebrate New Year's Day rather than Christmas Day, at the commencement of the new year.


Is not the Minister aware that this will not add any charge on the Exchequer, which already contributes grants to assist local authorities, and will he not now use his influence, seeing that he has the power, on local authorities to double the grant given to these folk during the weeks when they are up against the cold weather?


My hon. Friend has used the words "influence" and "power." I have exerted what influence I have, but I have not any power.


Seeing that it is acknowledged that no unemployed man's child can be maintained on 2s. a week, will the right hon. Gentleman try and compel local authorities to raise that amount?


The House is well aware that I have nothing whatever to do with the administration of Poor Law in Scotland.


This question does not apply to Scotland, but to Britain; that is why I put it down. I put it first to the Minister of Labour and then to the Secretary of State for Scotland—




The hon. Member has received an answer.


Is the Minister of Health entitled to say that he is not responsible for Scotland when a question is put to him which refers to England and not to Scotland? Is there any reason why the Minister of Health should not answer questions dealing with England and have nothing to do with Scotland at all?


On a point of Order.


No point of Order arises.


I would respectfully submit that the Minister has not answered the question as to whether he is going to see that the local authorities are advised to raise the amount for children. [HON. MEMBERS: "He is not required to !"] No, but decency compels. [HON. MEMBERS: "Raise it on the Adjournment !"] Smug complacency.