HC Deb 03 March 1938 vol 332 cc1252-4
2. Mr. E. Smith

asked the Minister of Labour the average increase paid to applicants by the Unemployment Assistance Board since the circular was issued giving the board's officers discretion to take into consideration the increased cost of living; and the average increase allowed in the Stoke area of the Hanley administrative district?

Mr. E. Brown

On 17th January last the average addition to current assessments on account of the special circumstances dealt with in the board's circular, in cases in which such additions were made, was about 2s. both in the country generally and in the board's administrative area of Stoke.

Mr. T. Smith

Can the Minister assure us that this 2s. is not the maximum?

Mr. Brown

Is is an average over the whole country.

Mr. Lawson

The average for each applicant?

Mr. Brown

The average per applicant.

5. Mr. Thorne

asked the Minister of Labour whether he is aware that men with four children who received the 5s. a week bonus for babies recently given to workers at Pilkington's glass manufactory, St. Helens, Lancashire, and who are working part time at that factory, have had the whole of their 12s. children allowance deducted from their unemployment pay; under what authority this deduction was made; and what action he proposes to take about the matter?

Mr. Brown

I have made inquiry and find that in two such cases payment of the benefit allowance for children was suspended for a few days pending consideration of its legality. Payment has now been made.

Mr. Thorne

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that this is not the first or second case of this kind; does he not remember the case which I brought to his notice about a fortnight ago, and why is it that the responsible officials in cases of this character do not make themselves acquainted with the legal position?

Mr. Brown

I think there were only two or three cases.

Mr. A. Jenkins

Are we to understand that in all such cases instructions are now issued to Employment Exchange officials asking them to make no reductions in cases where employers make grants of this kind?

Mr. Brown

That was done.

8. Mr. George Hall

asked the Minister of Labour the number of unemployed persons in the Aberdare area who, owing to the operation of the means test, are not entitled to any allowance but who are receiving a grant such as dignity money under paragraph 39 of the Unemployment Assistance Board's Explanatory Memorandum, 1936?

Mr. Brown

I regret that this information is not available. I would remind the hon. Member that the Board cannot grant allowances to persons who are not entitled to them, and that in granting allowances in the circumstances indicated in paragraph 39 of the White Paper they do so by a proper exercise of their discretion under the Regulations.

Mr. Hall

Cannot the Minister get this information, and has he made any representations to the Board about giving a more generous interpretation to this paragraph of the regulations, especially in view of the statement which he made when introducing the regulations?

Mr. Brown

I understand that the Board could get this information only by a special investigation. I will call their attention to the point.

9. Mr. Thorne

asked the Minister of Labour whether the whole of the rebate of rent for children allowed by local authorities is taken into account when assessing for transitional unemployment benefit?

Mr. Brown

Unemployment allowances are normally adjusted for rent, by reference to the actual rent paid, in the light of recommendations of local advisory committees. Under these recommendations there is frequently a margin within which rent rebates may be granted without affecting the amount of the allowance payable. The rebate schemes, however, vary greatly in character and where necessary the Board's officers discuss their detailed application in any area with the local authority concerned. If the hon. Member has any special case in mind, perhaps he will let me have further particulars.

12. Mr. Batey

asked the Minister of Labour whether he is aware that in December, 1937, there were 22,853 able-bodied unemployed persons receiving Poor Law relief in England and Wales; and whether he will take steps to transfer these persons to the Unemployment Assistance Board?

Mr. Brown

I am not prepared to introduce the legislation which would be necessary for this purpose.

Mr. Batey

Does the Minister consider it fair that so many unemployed people should come under the Poor Law, and was not the House given to understand that they would be taken over by the Unemployment Assistance Board?

Mr. Brown

This is merely keeping within the law.

13. Mr. Batey

asked the Minister of Labour whether, in view of the reduction in the estimate of expenditure for the Unemployment Assistance Board, he will take steps to abolish the means test?

Mr. Brown

No, Sir.

Mr. Batey

Seeing that the expenditure of the Unemployment Assistance Board has been reduced so much, does the Minister not consider that the time has come when this abominable system should be abolished?

Mr. Brown

I do not agree. It seems to work very well.