HC Deb 16 July 1936 vol 314 cc2203-9
5. Mr. T. SMITH

asked the Minister of Labour in respect of each administrative district of the Unemployment Assistance Board, the approximate number of payments of unemployment allowances under the Unemployment Assistance Regulations as being equal to or more favourable than according to transitional payments practice, and the number of payments made according to that practice, as being more favourable than under the Regulations?


These statistics are not available for the administrative districts of the board, since these are not coincident with the areas of the Ministry's offices at which the payments are made. I am circulating in the form of a White Paper, a return for the week ended 26th June last, giving these figures, and also the numbers in receipt of unemployment benefit at each of the Ministry's offices other than those at which the total number of payments did not exceed 100. Copies of this White Paper will be available to Members to-morrow morning.

8 and 9. Mr. DALTON

asked the Minister of Labour (1) what additional public expenditure would be incurred by the substitution of an individual means test for a household means test, the scales in the proposed new Regulations remaining otherwise unchanged;

(2) what additional public expenditure would be incurred by the complete abolition of the means test, the scales in the proposed new Regulations remaining otherwise unchanged?


I regret that it is not possible to make any reliable estimates of the kind asked for. I would point out in the first place that for the purpose of such estimates it would be necessary to define with some precision what is meant by the vague phrase "an individual means test"; for example, whether or not the resources of dependants who are covered by the allowances are to be taken into account and, if so, according to what rules. Again, as regards any suggestion for the complete abolition of the means test it would be necessary to know for example whether the applicant's own earnings are to be disregarded and whether or not the Board's discretionary power to increase the scale allowances in special cases is also to be abolished seeing that it is essentially dependent on their appraisement of the applicant's needs in relation to the resources available to him. Apart from considerations such as these, such a wide relaxation of the existing system would result in applications being made by unemployed persons who at present, not being in need, do not claim allowances. The number of such persons, though certainly very large, is necessarily unknown; similarly no particulars of their circumstances are available, though it may be assumed that they possess appreciable resources.


Am I to understand that these new Regulations which are to be debated next week have been framed without the Ministry being in a position to estimate the cost that would be involved in making either of these changes?


The hon. Member must make no such assumption. These questions depend entirely upon the estimates made. I am pointing out that if I am to be asked precise questions, I must know according to what rules they are to be framed and the assumptions upon which they are based.


Is it not a fact that when a man is out of employment, he is entitled to receive unemployment pay without regard to other sources of income?


The answer is, Certainly not. It would appear that the hon. Member wishes to abolish the means test without attempting to think of even the meaning of what the cost would be.


Do I understand from that answer that if a man has paid his ordinary contributions and is out of work, he is not entitled to unemployment benefit because he has some other source of income?


Is not the right hon. Gentleman in a position to say what the estimated cost would be if unemployed persons under the supervision of the Unemployment Assistance Board were treated precisely as those who come under the scope of insurance?


I would like to see that question on the Paper, because I would want to know whether, in doing that, the hon. Member would have regard to the large number of persons who would be cut by that procedure.


Is it not a fact that a general pledge was given by hon. Members opposite at the General Election to remove the family means test?


There was no such pledge given. The pledge given is kept in the new Regulations in the letter and in the spirit.


That is not true.

18. Mr. POTTS

asked the Minister of Labour whether, in a case where a person in receipt of unemployment assistance allowance dies and prior to death has, say, three or four days due, it is his intention under the regulations that his relatives shall be paid such days due toward meeting the man's weekly liabilities?


This is a matter which depends on the provisions of the Act and is not directly affected by the terms of the draft Regulations. I am informed that the board have the matter under consideration with a view to making such payments to the fullest extent which their statutory powers permit. Mr. POTTS: May I call the right hon. Gentleman's attention to the fact that I have in my hand a report from the area officer himself declining payment, and is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the point of this case is that a man in receipt of benefit under the board had four days' benefit due to him; he died on the fifth day, and the board declined to pay four days for his lodgings? I want to know whether the Minister believes that the money ought to be paid to the people who represent this man?


There are some statutory difficulties, but this very case and one or two similar ones, are at the moment under the consideration of the board. I will let the hon. Member know as soon as the board comes to a decision.


Seeing that this is a very important question, would the right hon. Gentleman, through the channels of the OFFICIAL REPORT, make the decision known, as everybody is affected by it?


I would not say everybody, but there have been a few cases, and they are all under the consideration of the board. They vary very greatly in their application. I shall be very glad to do as the hon. Member suggests.


Would the Minister agree that it is the case at the present time that if a man dies on the day on which his benefit is due, his widow receives the week's benefit; and would he further agree that where it is a case of having three or four days' benefit to draw it is just a question of degree?


I could not accept it in that form. If the hon. Member wants a precise answer about the details and puts down a question to that effect, I will try to give him the exact legal position, which is a very difficult and complicated one.


Further arising out of the Minister's answer, may I ask—


I must ask hon. Members to consider the number of questions on the Paper.



On a point of Order. I want to give notice that I will raise the subject of Question 18 at a date convenient to you, Mr. Speaker, if the matter is not settled in the meantime.

19. Mr. BATEY

asked the Minister o[...] Labour the amount by which a man and wife entitled to 24s. per week under the new Regulations will have their allowance reduced when paying 4s. per week rent, and also where they occupy a free house?


Under the draft Regulations the question of the reduction on account of rent in any class of case in any area is a matter on which the Advisory Committee is asked to make recommendations. It is clearly impossible in advance of these recommendations to say precisely what the result will be in a hypothetical case in any area. I would, however, call the attention of the hon. Member to paragraph 16 of the Board's Explanatory Memorandum (Cmd. 5229) and also to my answer of 14th June to the hon. Member for Chester-le-Street (Mr. Lawson) of which I am sending him a copy and in which it is pointed out that in general the basic figure for a man and wife without available resources is 26s.


Does the Minister suggest that the Regulations are so complicated that it is not possible to give a direct answer to the question on the Paper? Can he not say how much money will be received by a man and wife who are entitled to 24s. a week—because the amount of 26s. mentioned by the Minister is not correct—if they are paying 4s. rent?


I have pointed out that it depends entirely on the advice of the local committee.


The Minister cannot get out of it that way.


The hon. Member has asked me a question, and I am answering it according to the facts. It is easy to frame hypothetical questions and to press for definite answers to them which cannot be given in the form which the hon. Member would desire.


Has the board not power under the Regulations, in the case of a man and wife with no dependent children and entitled to 24s., to make it 26s., no matter what the rent may be?


That is not so. Under the Regulations there is a guarantee in the case of a householder with a dependant or dependants and no resources. In that particular class of case—normally cases of man and wife—there is a guarantee

Division. 28th January, 1935. 22nd June, 1936. Decrease between 28th January, 1935, and 22nd June, 1936.
London 39,148 30,935 8,213
South Eastern 13,938 12,759 1,179
South Western 30,793 21,027 9,766
Midlands 72,287 56,544 15,743
North Eastern 193,910 154,672 39,238
North Western 149,541 133,743 15,798
Scotland 129,044 104,301 24,743
Wales and Monmouth 106,515 102,141 4,374
Great Britain 735,176 616,122 119,054

asked the Minister of Labour the number of local advisory committees set up in South Wales, under Sub-section (3) of Section 35 of the Unemployment Act, 1934; and the name of the chairman and members of each committee?

of the benefit level which, for man and wife, is 26s.


May I ask—


We have already had a number of supplementary questions on this point.


This is most important. The Minister is misleading the House.


Why not pay the 26s.?

20. Mr. BATEY

asked the Minister of Labour the districts where the chief reductions have taken place of the persons under the Unemployment Assistance Board when on 28th January, 1935, there were 784,242 and the recent estimate of 620,000?


As the reply includes a table of figures I will, if I may, circulate it in the OFFICIAL REPORT.

Following is the reply:

The figure of 784,242 for 28th January, 1935, relates to the total number of applicants for transitional payments or unemployment allowances, while that of 620,000 relates to the number of weekly payments at the end of June, 1936. The numbers of persons with applications authorised for payment at 28th January, 1935, and 22nd June, 1936, in each administrative division, were as shown below:


Nine local advisory committees are being set up by the board in South Wales. With the hon. Member's permission I will circulate the names of the chairmen of these committees in the OFFICIAL REPORT. The appointment of members to these committees is still pro- ceeding and at this stage it would not be proper to publish lists which would only be incomplete.

Following are the names:

Chairmen of Advisory Committees in South Wales.

Committee and Chairman.

Cardiff and district.—G. Leighton Seager, C.B.E., J.P.

Merthyr Tydfil and district.—Hon. John H. Bruce.

Pontypridd and the Rhondda.—Ivor W. Thomas, J.P.

Newport and district.—Alderman John Moxon, O.B.E.

Bargoed and Caerphilly districts.—G. D. Inkin.

Ebbw Vale and district.—Sir Thomas Allen.

Swansea and district.—Alderman E. Harris, J.P.

Mid - Glamorgan.—Alderman John Thomas, J.P.

Counties of Cardigan, Carmarthen and Pembroke.—Lord Merthyr.