HC Deb 01 May 1935 vol 301 cc368-9

asked the Financial Secretary to the Treasury whether he is aware that Edinburgh is being compelled to pay an annual contribution to the Unemployment Assistance Board of £79,000 under Section 45 of the Unemployment Act, 1934, as compared with £40,000 for Birmingham, which has twice the population of Edinburgh; will he state what is the total amount of contributions to be paid by Scottish local authorities compared with England and Wales; and whether he will consider the advisability of amending Section 45 of the Act to dispense with the necessity of contributions from the local authorities in view of the hardship which these contributions impose on the distressed areas in Scotland, England and Wales?


Discussions with local authorities have not reached the stage at which individual contributions under Section 45 of the Unemployment Act, 1934, can be stated with precision, but I understand that Edinburgh's contribution will be approximately the amount stated in the question, while Birmingham's contribution will be somewhat less than the amount so stated. The total contributions of local authorities in Scotland will be, in round figures, £800,000 a year, and in England and Wales £2,000,000 a year. As regards the last part of the question, I would remind the hon. Member that the Act, coupled with the provisions in the Unemployment Assistance (Temporary Provisions) (No. 2) Bill now before Parliament, gives a net relief to local authorities at a present rate of about £1,600,000 a year for Scotland and about £4,000,000 a year for England and Wales, distributed in a way which, broadly speaking, gives the greatest benefits to areas where unemployment is high. The Government are not prepared to increase this generous measure of assistance by dispensing with local contributions.


How can the Government expect at the moment their candidate standing for election in Edinburgh to be sent to this House when Edinburgh is asked to pay double what Birmingham has to pay? That is the vexed question which is being asked, and I should like the Government to try and make themselves right with their own candidate who is standing at the by-election.


The Government's policy is not controlled by such considerations.


That answer, the House may have noticed, was rather too well prepared to be the right reply.


asked the Minister of Labour whether he is aware that, prior to the advent of the Unemployment Assistance Board, householders on transitional payment were allowed travelling expenses from the public assistance committee officers when they had to travel some distance to hospitals or infirmaries to see their wives or children in these institutions, and that since the board has taken over that travelling allowance has stopped, as the officers, and the area officers of the board also, have no power to grant such allowances; and whether he will take steps to remove this hardship?


I am informed by the Unemployment Assistance Board that where an applicant is not himself in a position to meet such expenses the case can be met as one of exceptional need and that a number of such cases have been so dealt with. The board already has under consideration the issue of a general instruction to its local officers which will remove any misapprehension that may exist.