HC Deb 19 November 1931 vol 259 cc987-92

asked the Minister of Labour if he can state the nature of the instructions given to public assistance committees with regard to the application for transitional benefit by any man who owns a house and possesses savings; and whether any cases have yet been brought to his notice where any man applying for such benefit has been required to sell or mortgage his house or encroach on the capital value of his savings?

27. Brevet Colonel BROADBENT

asked the Minister of Labour whether, in reviewing the needs of an applicant for transitional payment under the Unemployment Insurance Act, the public assistance committee will take into account the capital of the appellant or only the household income?

28. Mr. JOEL

asked the Minister of Labour if he will state the principles governing action by the public assistance committees in assessing means under the new transitional benefit arrangements, especially in respect of houses part-purchased on the instalment system?

32 and 33. Captain Sir WILLIAM BRASS

asked the Minister of Labour (1) whether his attention has been called to the administration of the means test for unemployed persons in certain parts of Lancashire; and whether he will issue an order making it quite clear to the public assistance committees that only the income of the assets held shall be taken into account and that the realisation of such assets is not necessary before unemployment benefit can be granted;

(2) whether he will consider issuing special instructions to the public assistance committees who are to assess unemployment benefit under the means test with the object of impressing upon them that disability pensions were granted for disabilities, and that the disabled unemployed who is in greater need as a result of his disablement shall not have his pension taken into account when assessing the amount of the benefit to be paid him?

34. Mr. SOPER

asked the Minister of Labour whether his attention has been drawn to the difficulties encountered by public assistance committees in applying the means test to persons whose savings have not, been invested in interest-bearing securities; and will he take steps to see that a ruling is given governing these cases in such a way that thrift is not penalised?


I have no authority under the Order-in-Council governing transitional payments to give instructions to local authorities as to the manner in which the resources of an applicant for transitional payments should be taken into account. I have, however, in consultation with my right hon. Friends, the Minister of Health and the Secretary of State for Scotland, issued to all authorities a circular drawing their attention to certain considerations which may be properly borne in mind in determining the needs of applicants who are in possession of assets such as house property, or invested savings or are in receipt of certain classes of income such as disability pensions. The circular, amongst other things, says: There is no authority for the statement that public assistance committees are obliged to bring into account the whole amount of an ex-service pension or disability pension; and again, It should, however, be remembered that where certain classes of income are con- cerned, such, for example, as disability pensions or blind pensions, the disability in respect of which the pension has been awarded may be such as to call for a greater measure of assistance than would normally be appropriate. I have sent copies of this circular to my hon. Friends and have placed a substantial supply in the Vote Office.


Is my right hon. Friend aware that the circular to which he refers, No. L.A. 3, is not definite on this point at all? The circular merely states that under certain conditions certain things can arise. Could my right hon. Friend not be much more definite in that circular about assets, about the selling of property, and about only the income being taken into calculation?


In the very long reply I have just given I have done my best to make it clear that it is the desire of the Government that public assistance committees should deal sympathetically with these cases, and should regard these as cases in which full weight should be given to the special circumstances of the particular applicant.


Is it not still true that fundamentally the old means test, the destitution test, as far as public assistance committees are concerned, is applied?


No; the circular to which I have referred was a circular issued by Mr. Greenwood, who was, of course, a member of the same Government as the hon. Gentleman. That circular, I think, dealt both humanely and sympathetically with this question, and I have no desire to alter it.


Yes, but is it not still true that the law lays it down, and the inspectors may insist on it, that, as far as the public assistance committees are concerned, they are simply the old Poor Law, and that the destitution test still holds good?


I do not at all accept that as a true interpretation.


Can the right hon. Gentleman give a guarantee that the Ministry of Health inspectors will not enforce that?


That question should be addressed, not to me, but to the Minister of Health. I have given the fullest reply to the question, and I have dealt very fairly with the matter.


Will the right hon. Gentleman give ah undertaking that no hardships will arise as a result of this means test?


Clearly, that is a question which I cannot possibly answer. But I have shown by my answer that the Government are most anxious that these cases should not be dealt with unsympathetically by the public assistance committees.


In connection with disability pensions, will the right hon. Gentleman regard it as illegal from his point of view if public assistance committees do not take disability pensions into consideration?


No. I am not in the position and have no power to give instructions to public assistance committees. What I have done has been to call attention to the desire of the Government that these cases should not be considered unsympathetically.


Is it not a fact that the Poor Law authorities can, if they care, take into account the full disability pension, and that the right hon. Gentleman has no power to intervene?


I have no reason to suppose that any public assistance committee would act in that way.


asked the Minister of Labour the increased cost involved by the appointment of investigators consequent upon the operation of the means test?


I would refer the hon. Member to the reply given on this subject on 12th November to the hon. Member for Chester-le-Street (Mr. Lawson).

24. Mr. McGOVERN

asked the Minister of Labour if he will issue regulations concerning the means test, in order that uniformity may be ensured in connection with disability pensions and scales of allowances?


I would refer the hon. Member to the reply given yesterday on this subject to the hon. Lady, the Member for the English Universities (Miss Rathbone).

30. Mr. LAWSON

asked the Minister of Labour if he will give the number of transition cases, inclusive of those who have received more than 26 weeks' benefit, for each of the divisions in the United Kingdom, with the total number of unemployed for each division?

Persons on the Registers of Employment Exchanges in Great Britain.
Division. Number of persons on the registers at 26th October, 1931. Number of men and women with claims authorized for transitional benefit at 26th October, 1931, together with the approximate number of men and women in receipt of benefit other than transitional benefit, who had received 156 days' benefit or more in their current benefit years.
South Eastern (including London). 436,724 89,381
South Western 146,550 34,882
Midlands 369,932 116,339
North Eastern 567,425 196,668
North Western 630,233 246,730
Scotland 369,766 139,821
Wales 205,462 79,529
Great Britain 2,726,092 903,350
31. Mr. LAWSON

asked the Minister of Labour if he can give the number of transition cases, inclusive of those who have received more than 26 weeks' benefit, which will have to be dealt with by each public assistance committee in Great Britain; and the total for the whole country?


Statistics giving the number of cases to be dealt with by each public assistance committee are not available. I will send the hon. Member a statement giving the latest available figures for each Employment Exchange in the various county boroughs and administrative counties.

69. Mr. LAWSON

asked the Minister of Health whether there has been any increase in the number of inspectors who attend the meetings of public assistance committees as the result of the operation of transition cases under the Order-in-Council; and, if so, whether he can give the number?

The MINISTER of HEALTH (Sir Hilton Young)

The answer to the first


Figures are not available for any date later than 26th October, when the new provisions as to transitional payments had not come into operation. I will, however, circulate a statement in the OFFICIAL REPORT giving such figures as are available for 26th October.


Will that include the 26 weeks people?



Following is the statement:

part of the question is in the negative and the second part does not therefore arise.

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