HC Deb 03 July 1930 vol 240 cc2118-23

asked the Minister of Labour whether any further inquiry has been made into the case of Mr. T. S. Parsons, 1, Belgrave Road, Birmingham, following representations made to her Department on 7th May, regarding the fact that Mr. Parsons, who lays claim to a long period as an insured person and constant worker, always ready, fit, and normally seeking insurable employment, was disallowed benefit under the old Acts latterly, yet is refused benefit by the court of referees under the new Act?


Yes, Sir. The case was dealt with by letter to my hon. Friend on 24th June.


Will the Minister issue instructions to the local officials in order to make certain that this man will have insurance in accordance with the new Act?


My hon. Friend had better give me notice of that question.


asked the Minister of Labour whether her attention has been called to the case of Mr. R. Gold, Moseley Street, Birmingham, who, after serving his country in the Great War, entered industrial employment, became unemployed, was granted benefit under the Act of 1930, but recently was disallowed benefit under the transitional condition (b) of the Act of 1920; and whether she will look into the matter?


I am having inquiries made in this case and will let my hon. Friend know the result as soon as possible.


asked the Minister of Labour the proportion of the numbers on the registers of the Employment Exchanges whose claims to benefit have been admitted under the new Act, and the corresponding proportion under previous legislation?


In the threemonths April to June, 1930, 93.2 per cent. of the persons on the registers had claims to benefit admitted or under consideration. The percentages for the corresponding periods in the years 1929, 1928 and 1927 were 84.4, 86.9, and 82.8, respectively. I am circulating a table giving further details.

AVERAGE number of PERSONS on the Registers of Employment Exchanges in Great Britain and the numbers and percentages represented by persons with claims to benefit admitted and under consideration.
April to June, 1927 to 1930.
Period. Average number of persons on the Registers. Average number of claims admitted or under consideration. Column 3 as a percentage of column 2.
1. 2 3. 4.
April—June, 1930 1,761,260 1,642,611 93.2
1929 1,130,270 953,558 84.4
1928 1,118,625 972,083 86.9
1927 1,003,427 831,135 82.8

asked the Minister of Labour what steps she proposes to take to make provision for applicants for unemployment benefit whose claims have been refused on the ground that they are not normally in insurable employment?


The conditions under which unemployment benefit may be paid are laid down by Statute, and I have no power to make payments in cases in which these conditions are not satisfied.


Is the Minister aware that very large numbers are being turned down as not being normally in insurable employment in Glasgow and other industrial centres, and is she not prepared, either by regulations or the prescribing of the evidence, to do something which will enable the people to get the benefit they ought to get?


I have made it clear to the House on many occasions, and there is a question on the Order Paper on the subject.


Is the right hon. Lady aware that "not normally insurable" is a phrase only operative under the transitional conditions, and that the courts of referees are bringing it under the statutory conditions, and enforcing it as one of the statutory conditions and not as a transitional condition? That is where the error takes place, and will the right hon. Lady put it right?


Does the Minister realise that the numbers she has given will cause very serious difficulty to critics of the Government outside this House?

Following is the table:


asked the Minister of Labour the number of men and women who are estimated to have received unemployment benefit owing to the abolition of the not-genuinely-seeking-work condition; and the number of men and women who have been refused benefit since the coming into operation of the new Act on the ground that they do not satisfy transitional condition (a) of the Act?


The number of persons estimated to have been brought on to benefit owing to the combined effect of all the changes made by the recent Act is about 170,000; I cannot give separate figures for the change involved by the abolition of the "genuinely-seeking-work" condition, or other amendments taken separately. During the period 13th March to 9th June, 1930, the claims of 4,684 men and 1,499 women were disallowed by courts of referees on the ground that the applicants had not paid eight contributions in the previous two years, or 30 at any time.


asked the Minister of Labour the latest figures for claims either newly made or reviewed at each of the Glasgow Exchanges, and the number in each refused as not being normally in insurable employment?


I will circulate in the OFFICIAL REPORT a statement giving the information desired.

Following is the statement:

CLAIMS to BENEFIT made, and Claims to Benefit Disallowed, on certain grounds in the Glasgow area.
Employment Exchange Area. Total number of fresh and renewal claims made: 13th May, 1930, to 9th June, 1930. Number of claims disallowed between 13th May and 9th June, 1930, by Courts of Referees.
Less than 8 contributions in previous two years or 30 at any time. Not normally insurable. Total.
Glasgow Central 2,562 30 111 141
Glasgow South Side 4,855 6,628 13 261 274
Rutherglen 889
Cambuslaug 884
Bridgeton 4,696 31 515 546
Finnieston 1,741 109 109
Govan 3,467 2 66 68
Kinning Park 1,553 2 36 38
Maryhill 1,966 12 198 210
Parkhead 2,977 163 163
Partick 2,408 2 115 117
Springburn 2,626 2,927 29 101 130
Kirkiutilloch 301
Total 30,925 121 1,675 1,796


asked the Minister of Labour the reason why the number of persons refused benefit as not being normally in insurable employment has increased by such a large number under the recent Act, seeing that this Section of the Act has not been altered from past Acts?


I would refer my hon. Friend to my reply given on 3rd June to a similar question by the hon. Member for the Camlachie Division (Mr. Stephen).


Is the Minister aware that in that answer she gave us no reason why the numbers are so abnormally increased as compared with the numbers under the previous Acts, although the Statute remains the same? Will the right hon. Lady not consider giving the reason, and if she cannot give it in detail in reply to a question, will she consider issuing some form of statement explaining the exact position?


I will certainly do my best; I have been doing my best to explain the exact reason.


But in view of the widespread concern in all quarters, will the right hon. Lady not consider issuing some statement as to the reasons why this is happening?


Will the right hon. Lady take into consideration the fact, which I mentioned in my previous supplementary question, that the courts of referees are enforcing as a Statutory condition what actually appears in the Act only as a transitional condition, and will she draw the attention of the courts of referees to the fact that they are not administering the Act?


I will consider what the hon. Member has said, and if there is any information which I can give on that point, I will certainly give it.


asked the Minister of Labour if she has made any inquiry into the decisions made by courts of referees which are at variance with the umpire's decision on a person not being normally in insurable employment; if she is satisfied with the present position; and if she proposes any alteration in the procedure in these cases?


As my hon. Friend knows, the procedure for deciding claims to benefit is fixed by Statute. I have no power to inquire into decisions given by courts of referees and if I were to do so I should be attempting to re-introduce the system of Ministerial discretion which formerly existed and which Parliament abolished. The procedure generally as set up by the recent Act will no doubt need to be reviewed in due course, but it would be premature to do so yet as it has only been working since last March.


But does the right hon. Lady take any steps to see that where the decisions of courts of referees are at variance with the umpire's decisions, which are the law on this subject, that the umpire's decision is carried out? Is no action taken by her or her insurance officer acting on her behalf?


If the hon. Member means to ask whether I follow the umpire's decisions and ascertain whether these are, in fact, disregarded, certainly I do. It is the duty then of the insurance officer to direct the attention of the court to the umpire's decision.


When courts of referees act in variance with the umpire's decision, does she or her insurance officer take any steps to see that these cases are submitted to the umpire for his decision?


That would depend very largely on the nature of the case. If it is a point of law, I think we should have the power; we should probably normally draw the attention of the court to the fact that it is in contradistinction to the umpire's decision; but if, as so often happens, it is a matter of local evidence, then the position is entirely different, and I have no right whatever to intervene or even to challenge the decision.

Mr. MACLEAN rose



We must get on to other questions.


I beg to give notice that as soon as possible I intend to raise this question in the House.