HC Deb 28 October 1937 vol 328 cc218-21
5. Mr. Anderson

asked the Minister of Labour how many single men and women have had their allowances from the Unemployment Assistance Board reduced during the last six months in Whitehaven, Cleator Moor, Egremont, and Millom areas; and by how much the allowances have been reduced?

Mr. E. Brown

Separate figures in respect of single men and women are not available but in the Board's administrative area of Whitehaven, which includes the places referred to, there were on 17th September last 47 persons who were receiving allowances which had been reduced by way of adjustment of the Standstill arrangements, otherwise than on account of personal earnings. The corresponding figure on 25th March was nil. In two cases only was the reduction in excess of 5s.

7. Mr. J. Griffiths

asked the Minister of Labour the number of cases in which a reduction of the unemployment allowance has been made by the Unemployment Assistance Board in the past three months; what is the weekly amount of such reductions; and whether, in view of the hardships caused by such reductions at a time when the cost of living is rapidly rising, he will make representations to the Board with a view to the restoration of the cuts and the prevention of any cuts in the future?

Mr. Brown

The number of applicants for assistance at the end of June receiving allowances which had been reduced by way of adjustment of the standstill arrangements, otherwise than on account of personal earnings, was approximately 6,000. The corresponding figure at the end of September, was approximately 18,000. The great majority of the total adjustments made since the beginning of the year are of less than 5s. As regards the last part of the question, I would refer to the replies which I gave to the hon. Member on this subject on 21st October.

Mr. Griffiths

In view of the indication given by the right hon. Gentleman last week that the Board are seriously considering revising the general scales, should he not give instructions to the Board now to stop making these cuts?

Mr. Brown

The hon. Member must not put into my mouth words which I never used. I never said anything of the kind. What I did say was that the Board issued instructions about cases which they regarded as needing special treatment in special circumstances. The instructions are now in the Library, and perhaps the hon. Member will look at them before he makes any general statement of that kind.

Mr. Griffiths

Will these instructions include one giving the right to the committee to consider whether they should cease making cuts in existing cases?

Mr. Brown

Perhaps I may be allowed to read the instruction?

Hon. Members


Mr. George Hall

Can the right hon. Gentleman say whether liquidation under the standstill order is to proceed under the regulations originally applied?

Mr. Brown

Certainly, and I should say that provision has been extremely successful.

Mr. Lawson

May we take it that reductions are certain but that increases are doubtful?

Mr. Brown

By no means. The increases that have been made are 230,000 and even more than that, and Questions on the Paper show that certain hon. Members opposite desire more people to come under the Board.

10. Mr. Gallacher

asked the Minister of Labour whether he will introduce legislation to raise the scale of unemployment insurance payments to meet the increased cost of living?

2. Mr. Bevan

asked the Minister of Labour whether the Unemployment Assistance Board intends to submit re- vised scales of unemployment assistance, in view of the rise in the cost of living?

Mr. Brown

I would refer the hon. Members to my reply to the hon. Members for Doncaster (Mr. Short) and Llanelly (Mr. J. Griffiths) on 21st October.

Mr. Shinwell

Unless the scales are revised by legislation is not the Unemployment Assistance Board only doing what is required by the Act in meeting the additional needs of certain recipients?

Mr. Brown

The question of the hon. Member for West Fife (Mr. Gallacher) refers to benefit. In the first instance that is a matter for the Statutory Committee in its annual review of the finance of the Act.

Mr. T. Williams

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that there is no reference in the Act to unemployment insurance benefit in the Special Areas; and will he tell us whether the Government have no policy with regard to benefit as distinct from assistance?

Mr. Brown

The policy is perfectly clear in the Act. Each year a review of the Act is undertaken by the Statutory Committee presided over by Sir William Beveridge. After an examination of the finances of the fund, they make recommendations to the Government which the Government may or may not adopt. If they do not adopt the recommendations they will have to state their reasons and place them before Parliament.

Mr. Lawson

Can the right hon. Gentleman tell us what the recommendation is in this case?

Mr. Brown

The recommendation is not available yet as the Committee has not yet made its report.

Mr. Gallacher

Is the Minister aware that the cost of living is going up; and if there was a need for raising the salaries of Ministers and Members of Parliament, will he take immediate steps to increase the income of the unemployed?

Mr. Brown

The hon. Member seems to overlook the fact that in the last two and a-half years there have been several increases.

18. Mr. Logan

asked the Minister of Labour whether he will take steps to empower the Unemployment Assistance Board to provide four weeks' coal allowance at the Christmas period to those drawing unemployment benefit and unemployment allowances?

Mr. Brown

I would refer the hon. Member to the reply given to the hon. Members for Doncaster (Mr. Short) and Llanelly (Mr. J. Griffiths) on 21st October, regarding the action which the Board are taking in view of the fact that changes in the price of some commodities, together with the coming of winter, may create circumstances which need to be specially taken into account.

Mr. Logan

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that public assistance committees have admitted it, that there is no ambiguity in giving a reply, and can he give us a straightforward answer whether he intends to give it or not?

Mr. Brown

Perhaps the hon. Member will read the straightforward circular which is now in the Library.

Mr. Logan

With all due respect, what is the use of asking one to read when the Minister himself is here and can give a reply?

Mr. Speaker

Those are most improper supplementary questions.