HC Deb 15 December 1938 vol 342 cc2147-9
14. Mr. J. Griffiths

asked the Minister of Labour the number of applicants for assistance to the Unemployment Assistance Board who are 45 years of age or over; whether this represents an increase or reduction on the figures for 1936 and 1937; and whether he can now say when he will be able to implement the promise made that proposals would be tabled to deal with the position of the elderly unemployed?

Mr. E. Brown

On the basis of a sample investigation made on 7th November, 1938, the number of applicants in receipt of allowances who were 45 years of age and over on that date is estimated to be 268,000. This represents a reduction of about 2,000 from the comparable total arrived at after a similar investigation made on 3rd December, 1937. At the end of 1936 the number of such persons was estimated to be 265,000 but, owing to the transfer to the Board on the Second Appointed Day of persons not previously entitled to unemployment allowances, the figures for 1936 are not comparable with those for later years. In reply to the last part of the question, I would refer the hon. Member to the answer given to the hon. Member for Houghton-le-Spring (Mr. W. Joseph Stewart) on 21st June, of which I am sending him a copy, and to the statement I made in the Debate on 18th July.

Mr. Griffiths

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware of the grave dissatisfaction that exists in the whole of these areas where these men are unemployed, and that the promise he made publicly in South Wales in September, 1937, has not yet been carried out? When does the right hon. Gentleman propose to bring these suggestions before the House?

Mr. Brown

If the hon. Member suggests that I have no general remedy for this, I have never made such a statement. I have done what I promised by administrative effort and every other way, namely, my very best to call the attention of employers to the capabilities of these elderly men for whom we all mean to do all we can to get them back to work.

Mr. Griffiths

I am not suggesting that the right hon. Gentleman said that there was a complete cure for this, but he promised definitely that proposals would be put by him before the House of Commons to deal with the position. When is that promise to be kept?

Mr. Brown

The statement to which I referred deals with a whole number of proposals. The hon. Member will see that it is a very long statement.

Mr. Shinwell

Will the right hon. Gentleman bear in mind that although he is doing his best, it is not good enough?

Mr. Brown

I am quite aware of that, but it is a great deal better than some people did.

Mr. Leonard

Will the right hon. Gentleman guard against creating another category of unemployed, namely, "elderly unemployed"?

Mr. Brown

I protested against that. I did not like it. All the same, the facts are serious enough to warrant special attention being given to this and, indeed, to the younger group at the other end.