§ 20. Mr. LOFTUS
asked the Minister of Health whether in view of the postponement of the second appointed day under the Unemployment Assistance (Temporary Provisions) Act, 1935, and also in view of the fact that it is not at present the intention of the Government to put into 515 operation Section 37 (a) and (b) of the Unemployment Act, 1934, he will consider issuing instructions to public assistance committees that it is no longer obligatory for them to enforce test work as a condition for the receipt of public assistance by able-bodied individuals?
I am very glad of the opportunity of making a statement about test work on behalf of my right hon. Friend, as there seems to be some general misapprehension. The main object of the requirement in the Relief Regulation Order, 1930, that able-bodied men should be set to work or trained or instructed, is to maintain the employability of applicants for relief by, at the least, providing them with some regular occupation during what must otherwise be a period of enforced idleness. Section 37 of the Unemployment Act, 1934, which empowers the Unemployment Assistance Board to provide training courses, is similar in its scope and will of course replace the requirement in the Relief Regulation Order as soon as the remainder of the able-bodied unemployed are transferred from the public assistance authorities to the board.
At the same time my right hon. Friend fully realises that the provision of suitable test work is often a matter of great difficulty, and while he does not think that it would be in the best interests of the unemployed to relieve public assistance authorities generally of the obligation to provide work or training, he is prepared to investigate any case in which it is alleged that the arrangements actually made by the public assistance authority are such as to be detrimental to the interests of the unemployed persons immediately concerned.
§ Mr. LOFTUS
Will the hon. Member be prepared to investigate, with a view to the removal of grievances, the circumstances in a certain district if I give him full particulars?
§ Mr. T. SMITH
When the Unemployment Assistance Board starts to find work under the Act is it to be the same kind of work as public assistance authorities have been using as test work, and is the hon. Gentleman not aware 516 that test work as applied by some public assistance authorities is degrading to the individual?
§ Mr. SHAKESPEARE
It is not a fair deduction to be drawn from the answer that the scope and training will be on the same lines. One of the main objects in treating this problem as a national one is to do it on a national scale.
§ Major COLFOX
When is the present uncertainty with regard to unemployment insurance to be brought to an end?
§ Mr. THORNE
Are the things that these men will be trained to make to come into competition in the ordinary market
§ 21. Mr. G. MACDONALD
asked the Minister of Health whether he will give the number of persons receiving public assistance, including both indoor and outdoor, in Lancashire in December, 1931, and at the latest date on which figures are available, respectively?
§ Mr. SHAKESPEARE
The number of persons in receipt of poor relief excluding rate-aided patients in mental hospitals, casuals and persons in receipt of domiciliary medical relief only, in the administrative county of Lancaster and the 17 associated county boroughs on 26th December, 1931, was 168,654 and on 23rd March, 1935, was 256,196