HC Deb 12 May 1938 vol 335 cc1680-1
2. Mr. Tomlinson

asked the Minister of Labour whether he has completed his inquiries into the question of under-employment in the manufacturing section of the cotton industry in Lancashire; and whether he is now in a position to make a statement thereon?

Mr. E. Brown

As I promised the deputation which I met on 21st March, I have inquired into the practice of the Employment Exchanges in dealing with claims to unemployment benefit by cotton weavers in relation to employment upon less than the full number of looms. I find that each case is dealt with in the light of its circumstances in accordance with the law as interpreted by the umpire.

Mr. Tomlinson

Am I to understand from that that the Minister has gone as far as he can in attempting to solve this problem? Are we to take it that the Government cannot give us any assistance with regard to these people? I would like to ask, further, whether the Minister and his Department are aware of the fact that many of these people are being called upon to live on 13s. and 14s. a week?

Mr. Brown

The hon. Member is asking questions which raise wider issues.

Mr. Burke

Is it not possible to treat these people in the same way as persons who are offered jobs at less than trade union rates so that they can leave their jobs and go to the Employment Exchange without being penalised?

Mr. Brown

My information is that benefit cannot be paid to workpeople in full-time employment. Proper discretion is used in the treatment of cases in which workpeople leave employment because the number of looms is reduced or who refuse employment upon a reduced number of looms.

Mr. Rhys Davies

Will the right hon. Gentleman consider the wider issues and bear in mind that there are thousands of Lancashire textile operators working full time and receiving less than they would receive on Poor Law relief?

Mr. Brown

I am well aware of these facts and the reasons for them, but the hon. Member knows that there are decisions which rest with Lancashire as well as with this House.