HC Deb 06 June 1939 vol 348 cc221-45

Sub-section (6) of Section 31 of the principal Act and that part of the Unemployment Insurance (additional benefits and reduction in contributions) (Agriculture) Order, 1938, made by the Minister under the provisions of Section 59 of the principal Act, which amends the said Sub-section (6) shall cease to have effect and the following Sub-section shall be substituted there for:

(6) Benefit shall be payable in respect of each week of a continuous period of unemployment.— [Mr. David Grenfell.]

Brought up, and read the First time.

3.43 p.m.

Mr. David Grenfell

I beg to move, "That the Clause be read a Second time."

I do not wish to enter too closely into the technical and administrative difficulties involved. The intention of the proposed new Clause is to abolish what is known as the waiting period and provide benefit for applicants for unemployment benefit from the first day upon which they arc unemployed. This is a long-standing grievance. This very vexatious disqualification has prevented a large number of men from receiving benefit not only during the first three days of their unemployment but for a much longer period than that. While we all deplore the discrimination which the provision makes against people who are not in regular employment, we must remember that there are a number of people who are constantly in and out of employment, and while the disqualification is unjust as applied against men who are unemployed, it bears hardest upon men who are in and out of employment. I know that the disqualification has been modified to this extent, that where a person suffers this disqualification once, he does not suffer the same disqualification for a period of 10 weeks, but, even so, there is the possibility of a workman being unemployed five or six times in the year and the disqualification of the three waiting days is brought against him. It is a great hardship. The man who works less than half time is the man who suffers this loss of benefit, and, in effect, it means a reduction in the standard rate of benefit to those who become unemployed.

There are other disqualifications. A person does not become entitled to benefit in any week in which he does not lose more than two days. The House has argued this matter over and over again, and I know the Minister's reply. I submit that this House has the final word and, therefore, that an opportunity for a full discussion should be given to hon. Members in all parts of the House who have long recognised that this is a penalty imposed on the less fortunate of that unfortunate body, the unemployed of this country. I hope the Minister will not say that he cannot provide the finance because it will cost so many million pounds. After all, the country can afford whatever number of millions of pounds it may cost far easier than the unemployed man can balance his budget when he is subject to this loss of benefit. We have brought forward this Clause with the intention of achieving this great improvement in the conditions of benefit. It would give satisfaction to an enormous number of people who have suffered this disqualification over and over again. I hope the Minister to-day will listen to what the House has to say before giving a negative answer, and that after the House has spoken he will find it possible to grant this small concession to the unemployed.

3.48 p.m.

Mr. Hayday

This is no new subject. I can remember a period of 16 years or so ago when the Trades Union Congress, as representing the industrial organised workers of the country, urged that there should be no waiting period. The Statutory Committee, out of whose report arose the suggestion in the Bill of extending the period from 10 to 20 weeks covered by the three days waiting period, say in their report that under the present law with the waiting time reduced to three days, the decision leads both to great inconvenience of administration and to anomalies. We suggest that we should wipe out these anomalies and make the administration much easier and simpler, and at the same time abolish the modicum of hardship which falls on the unemployed person by accepting the new Clause. At the moment the National Health Insurance scheme has no waiting period. That in itself is a justification for our request to abolish the waiting period in the case of unemployment, in order that there may be uniformity between these two great national social schemes.

It has been said that the cost of abolishing the waiting period would be about £600,000, but it does not seem to me that the amount would be anything like that. As a result of the operation of the waiting period, a person is often unemployed for a period of three days during which he has no income. In the Committee upstairs, it was argued that it was necessary to have a waiting period in order to bring home to the unemployed person the fact that he was unemployed, and that a person would seek employment with greater assiduity if he had to go for three days without having any income. It was said that the three days' waiting period would be an added incentive to him to look for work. The Minister heard that argument. If that be the reasoning that is seriously put forward on behalf of the great party that is now in power, the sooner they give up making such a heartless argument and abolish the waiting period, the better. It is possible for a person to be in work and out of work four or five times in a year, and on each occasion to serve a fresh three days' waiting period, so that within 12 months a person can be unemployed for 15 days without receiving any unemployment benefit. Surely, the Minister does not intend to condone such a hardship.

The Minister talks a great deal about the problem of unemployment, and he takes great pride in the fact that at the present time, because of circumstances over which neither he nor the House has any control, there is a decrease in the number of unemployed and in the number of claims on the fund. There is plenty of money available. It is not as though it was necessary to maintain the waiting period in order to save the amount of money that would be involved in abolishing it. A measure of saving is nothing by comparison with the measure of misery inflicted by the waiting period. Those first three days are all important. It has been said that the great trade unions insist upon a waiting period because they feel that it is necessary in order either to conserve their funds or to discourage claims for short periods being made on those funds; but I would point out that in the case of the great industrial organisations which make provision for unemployment benefit, they have no employer's contribution and no State contribution. They have simply the contributions of the workmen, who are called upon to make a sacrifice in their contributions as big as possible, a sacrifice which in itself enables only a small beneficial result to accrue because the income comes from only one source, that source being the wages of the men, on which there are already heavy demands each week. Therefore, there is no comparison between the two cases. As a matter of fact, I am inclined to think that the trade unions administering unemployment benefit, and the contributing members, make a much greater sacrifice than do those who have not made that second important provision through their trade unions in order to get a supplementary income at the end of the week to tide them over periods of unemployment.

In the case of the Unemployment Insurance Fund, there is a contribution from the employer, a contribution from the State and also a contribution from the workman; there is a tripartite channel of finance flowing into the central fund. Therefore, one would expect a national scheme to take in all those trades and industries where perhaps the percentage of unemployment is much less than it is in other trades and industries. An organisation with which I am associated had to give up administering unemployment benefit because the members for which it catered were to a very large extent of the casual class, and the percentage of unemployment among them was always very high and their wages relatively low. If they lost only one day or two days' employment in a week, they very much felt the pinch of the reduced income. That being so, how much more of a hardship must it be if the first three days have to go without there being any unemployment benefit, as a lesson to the man, to teach him that he is unemployed and that he ought to be more careful.

It was said in the Committee that a number of single men are very quick to ask for their cards in order that they may go on to unemployment benefit, but that the married men are more careful. The implication is that the married men will submit to all sorts of conditions rather than run the risk of unemployment, that they will obey any sort of order or submit to a reduced income because they fear a period of unemployment. I say that you ought not, in addition to that, to hold over them the fear of having this three days' waiting period. If a man is unemployed for a week, he may draw three days of unemployment benefit, representing, if he is a labourer, about one-third of his ordinary weekly income. During that week he goes down to one-third of his income. It is idle for anyone to say that a man having a comparatively low wage, even if prior to that period he has had months of regular employment, is able to provide any savings to enable him to tide over without much sacrifice that first week in which he draws only three days of unemployment benefit.

On the human side of it, the logic of it, the practical side of it—the Committee reported that it led to anomalies—and the financial side of it, this is indeed a very modest request and the Minister ought willingly to acquiesce in it, because its benefits will largely outweigh any increased calls that there may be on the Fund. The Fund is growing, but no one can say that there would be indiscriminate use of the Fund because it is growing; no one can say that this proposal is taking advantage of a surplus that may be available. This requirement needs and demands satisfaction on all human and social considerations, and particularly is it strengthened by reason of the fact that there is no lack of finance in the Fund to meet the modest demand that we make.

4.2 p.m.

Mr. George Griffiths

If the Minister is prepared to listen to a few more facts every hon. Member on these benches can give the facts to him. But we do not want to delay the House if he will say "Yes" to this request. I was sorry that I was unable to make a speech last night on unemployment assistance. The Unemployment Assistance Board have said something about these waiting days and linking-up days. Under this Act there are linking-up days, waiting days, continuity days. There are days that seem to be an attempt to prevent a man getting the benefit for which he pays.

The Minister of Labour (Mr. Ernest Brown)

There are more pay days.

Mr. Griffiths

The Minister says there are more pay days. I ran up against a man this week at my own house. I am not now bringing stuff from Berlin or America. This man has played four days and because he has played the four days he has been enabled to get the two days benefit. Another man in the same street has played three days and he cannot get even one day's pay, because unless he plays three days in any six he cannot draw unemployment benefit. I have worked out a sum. I am now giving the case of Easter week. A man plays on the Friday and the Saturday and the Easter Monday, but because he has not played three working days in six, when this Bill becomes operative he will lose one day's benefit. Suppose that he is a man with a wife and three children. The wife can work unemployment benefit better than her husband can. He gets 36s. a week for a full week, that is 6s. a day, and he is going to lose the 6s. on this point.

I do not desire to prolong the discussion because I hope hon. Members opposite agree with what I am saying. In 12 months a man can play 100 days and not get a penny piece for it at the present time; on the continuity he can play 100 days. I notice that the Minister is looking at me at the moment, so I shall work it out for him. A man has his 10 weeks continuity. If he had not drawn any benefit inside those 10 weeks he can play two days every week during those 10 weeks. That makes 20 days, and five times 10 is 50. He can play 104 days in 52 weeks and not draw a penny piece. That is the Act as it stands to-day. The Minister can put that down on his notes, because it is true. We are desirous that the continuity days should be so calculated that when a man plays for six days he will be enabled to draw six days' unemployment benefit. If a man now plays two days each week he loses under the present Act, and the Minister desires still to retain the provision. A man is losing 15 days' benefit at the present time, because when he has played his 10 weeks, and only two days each week, he has to sign on afresh at the end of the 10 days and has three days to play for nothing. My hon. Friend the Member for West Nottingham (Mr. Hayday) can put the case far more clearly than I can. I do not know, however, whether he has drawn more unemployment pay than I have. In the last 10 months before I came to this House I drew no days unemployment benefit at 3s. 10½d, a day. There were certain times when I failed to draw what I ought to have drawn, and I am not speaking from the book.

Viscountess Astor

Labour and the Nation.

Mr. Griffiths

What I am saying did not come from Virginia. I have tasted the sour parts of this arrangement, and I hope therefore that the Minister will accept our proposal.

4.9 p.m.

Mr. E. J. Williams

It will be admitted by most hon. Members that intermittent employment is tending to increase throughout the country. When the waiting period was first devised the amount of employment, the regularity of employment, were much greater than they are to-day, and particularly the regularity of employment. In the Special Areas—the Minister will have full cognisance of the point—depression set in more deeply, and there are very few collieries that are working comparatively regularly. I think that the attitude of mind to be applied to the waiting period should be completely changed in the light of these circumstances. The unemployed are deprived of a very large number of days every year, but this is an anomaly that ought to be wiped out in the light of the enormous amount of intermittency that pertains in industry generally. The Minister should address himself to that new fact, which is becoming more patent to every, one who studies the question and looks at the statistics. I could cite a number of examples, but I do not want to waste time in doing that because it is common knowledge to every Member representing an industrial constituency that what has been said in this Debate is true. It is possible for an unemployed person to be deprived of benefit for this waiting period four and five times a year. The Minister himself gave a concrete example yesterday. In quoting figures he said that there were 9,000,000 persons affected, so far as the register was concerned.

Mr. S. Brown

Nine million jobs.

Mr. Williams

That is a clear example of the enormous amount of intermittent employment. A person can change his job three or four times a year, and if you multiply the number on the register by three or four or five jobs a year you arrive at the figure which the Minister mentioned yesterday, of practically 9,000,000 jobs a year. The very figure given by the Minister and the knowledge possessed by most hon. Members are conclusive evidence of the necessity for the waiting period ceasing to exist. I sincerely trust that the Minister will address himself to this new fact.

4.12 p.m.

Mr. Batey

In the past, when we have been discussing unemployment and waiting days, we have argued that the waiting days ought to be cleared away altogether. There was a time when the waiting days were six. Then the six were reduced to three. The House seemed then to be impressed with the idea that a three days period was not very bad after all, and that an unemployed man could easily get over those waiting days. For the first time the Unemployment Assistance Board in their Report this year deal with the hardness of the waiting period. On page 20 of the report they are dealing with cases that require special treatment and they say this: Some of them are people who have only been unemployed for a few days and are consequently only entitled to draw a few days' benefit; others are unable to draw benefit at all because of waiting days. Then on page 60 the Board are far more definite as to what the attitude should be because of the hardness of these waiting days. They say: Additional to the applications already referred to were about 186,000 cases where an allowance was sought during the ' waiting days ' preceding the payment of unemployment benefit. Allowances were granted in over 120,000 of these cases. I submit that the Unemployment Assistance Board makes out a case for the abolition of the waiting period. I suggest that under Clause 1 of the Bill we shall be in a worse position than before, because of the new holidays. I do not wish to argue that point now as we intend to raise it on Clause 1, but, in my opinion, it is a dangerous Clause, and as far as the waiting days are concerned we are entitled to say to the House that the case for the new Clause has been made out by the Board.

4.16 p.m.

Mr. Kingsley Griffith

The Minister should be very ready to pay attention to the eloquent appeals which have been made to him from above the Gangway, because he himself has paved the way for this demand in his recent speeches. He has told us that we are misleading our- selves as to the situation if we take the total figure of unemployment as representing a standing army. I accept that statement from him, at any rate for the purposes of this Debate, but if this total is not a standing army, it is, at any rate, an army that is frequently marking time, and this marking time is a strain upon those engaged in it. The more the right hon. Gentleman convinces us that this is an army of people who are intermittently employed, the more reason is there to pay attention to the appeals which have been made to him to-day and which I support. It is not as if there were in this proposal any very strong demand which would put a strain upon the available resources. Under present conditions there is no reason to suppose that the funds available will not be ample to meet every possible demand. If we are to find a way of utilising the available resources which is not too ambitious, and does not endanger the Fund, I cannot imagine anything which would give more general satisfaction and relief than if the Minister were to signify his assent to this new Clause.

4.18 p.m.

Mr. Buchanan

The general case in favour of abolishing the waiting period has been argued time and again with considerable force, and I recognise that the Minister has now, as regards a large number of the unemployed, abolished the waiting period. The doubling of the time has had the effect of abolishing it in the case of a number of people who are in and out of employment in turns. To that extent we all accept with considerable thanks the improvement which has been made. But apart from the general case, I would ask the Minister to look again at certain aspects of this question. I know it is not likely that we shall induce him to change his mind to-day on the general question, but can he not reconsider his decision in regard to the effect of the waiting period in certain cases? I make a plea for one class of case which is found, frequently, in the light castings trade. I have no cases of the kind in my division, but I come across such cases in connection with my trade union. They are cases of men who work four days a week and are unemployed on two days and who can never qualify for benefit. I know of some of these cases in which men have been unemployed for 80 days in the year. They have lost two days employment every week for 40 weeks and yet have never qualified for unemployment benefit.

I am in these days too much of a pessimist to hope for much from this Government, but I think the Minister ought to consider now whether, instead of adhering to the old rule of three days in six, he might not introduce a practice which would ease things considerably for many people by making it four days in eight. That would have the effect of bringing in classes of workers who are very hardly dealt with under the present arrangements. A great deal depends on the employer. Certain employers, in order to meet the case of the men, can adjust the employment so as to bring the men within the scope of the Act, but there are other employers who refuse to make any adjustments and in such cases we are penalising the workers by the present arrangement. I ask the Minister to reconsider this adamant rule. It is frequently the case that a man may be employed one day this week, two days in another week and three days in the following week, and yet because of this rule he cannot qualify for benefit. I think there should be some alteration so as to bring in the man who has a genuine period of unemployment and I ask him to look at that matter sympathetically. On the general issue of abolishing the waiting period, there is little force nowadays in the arguments which were formerly used in favour of the waiting period. The arrangement has little effect now from the point of view of preventing abuse. The position, I admit, has been modified by the reduction from six days to three and the extension of the time. In passing, may I ask whether the extension of the time makes any change in the sickness rule which now operates?

There is another aspect of the matter to which, I hope, the Minister will give attention. If a man is dismissed from work on a Saturday, he recives nothing on the following Friday, because the first three days are the waiting period and the exchange pays only up to the Wednesday night. Thus, for that week, the man gets nothing and in the following week he receives the full sum to which he is entitled. But consider the case of a man with a limited wage and with a wife and perhaps two children. A solid fortnight elapses after his dismissal before he re- ceives any unemployment benefit. This is very serious in these days of heavy on-costs in which rent plays an increasing part. In my own city of Glasgow—and I am sure the same thing applies to other centres—local authorities tend more and more to move the working-class population to the outskirts so that transport costs, in addition to rent, are becoming very heavy. To-day, the ordinary workman, even the skilled artisan, after three or four months' work, no matter how diligent or how thrifty he may be, can only make very meagre savings, and this lapse of a fortnight, if he loses employment, means the disappearance of what he has saved, perhaps for a holiday or perhaps to give something additional to the children. If the Minister cannot consider the question of abolishing the waiting period entirely, let him consider the suggestions which I have put to him. I have not even a faint hope that he will abolish the waiting period altogether, but I hope that he will at least reconsider the matter in view of the effect of the waiting period on the standards of the working classes, and the desirability of helping those people who, in order to give their children a chance, have moved to the outskirts of our great cities.

4.27 p.m.

Mr. Higgs

I do not know what attitude the Minister will take towards the proposed new Clause, but in Committee a similar Clause was proposed, and he had to fight the rest of the Committee upon it. There is one point which has not been brought forward in this Debate and was not brought forward in Committee. The Minister's opposition to a similar proposal in Committee was on the ground of cost. I assume that he obtained his figures of cost on the basis of the present statistics, but, from an employer's point of view, it is impossible, even in normal times or in times when industry is not as brisk as it is at present, to shut a factory down for three days in the week in order that the employés can draw unemployment pay. If the period were reduced, it would be possible to shut a factory down for one day or for two days, and for employers by working longer on a number of days to give their employés an opportunity of drawing unemployment pay for one or two days. On the other hand, I cannot understand that the fund would permit that extra payment. I should be very pleased to see the employés get the extra money, but we have to consider the financial stability of the fund. It was on that ground alone that the Minister opposed a Clause of this kind in Committee, and I think he will oppose this Clause for the same reason. I would only say, in conclusion, that it is impossible to measure the amount which it will cost.

4.29 p.m.

Mr. Dunn

Many of us took part in the discussion of a similar proposal in Committee and one hon. Member, speaking from the employers' point of view, took almost the same line as that just taken by the hon. Member for West Birmingham (Mr. Higgs). I have risen to state one or two of the difficulties with which we are confronted in the country in working this rule.

The Minister yesterday told the Committee that there had been very little industrial unrest in the country during the last 12 months, and I could" not help wondering whether the Minister had considered the question of how many people there were who were making contributions to the smooth working of industry. I had particularly in mind the mining industry, where short-time working applies more perhaps than in many other industries. It is for that reason that I have risen to ask the Minister to reconsider this question of the waiting period. I do not want to follow the line taken by my hon. Friend the Member for Hems-worth (Mr. G. Griffiths) or the hon. Member for Gorbals (Mr. Buchanan), who said that it was possible to have as many as 18 idle days in a year without getting any benefit at all. The hon. Member for Hemsworth carried it to the extent of saying that where a four days working week is rigidly carried out, it may apply to as many as 100 working days in any one year for which the insured worker could not secure any payment whatever. That is a very serious matter.

I want to look at it, however, from another point of view, and that is from the standpoint of the workings at individual firms and collieries, and but for a good deal of co-operation in industry between employers and trade union officials, I am satisfied that there would really have been a first-class row in this country on this very Clause itself. In some cases you have big units of men, say, 2,000 or 3,000, working with one firm, and the case that I have in mind is that of a colliery. If I had not been in a position, before I came to this House, to get a decent working arrangement within this rule at the pit from which I came,. I am sure there would have been trouble. Men would not work four days, with a holiday of two days, week in and week out, knowing full well that if they took holiday for three days, they would been titled to payment, and I cannot conceive that they would go on for any length of time in such circumstances without there being a first-class industrial row. I do not want to take all the credit at all to the trade union people.

I want to pay what credit is due elsewhere, but employers know very well that if they were to work this Act in its entirety, many industries in this country would have continuous friction, difficulty, and industrial disturbance, and the Minister would not be able to come down here and say, as he said yesterday, that there had been very little disturbance in industry. I believe that by the abolition of this waiting period and by taking the broad and generous view, just as we reduced the six days to three without hardship, we could reduce this down until it was abolished altogether, and it would not create financial hardship or stringency. On the contrary, I take the view that it would very largely relieve industrial difficulties in this country, and I am sure that both employers and workpeople would welcome the change if the Minister was prepared to accept this proposal.

4.35 p.m.

Mr. Collindridge

In the Committee stage, when we discussed this matter, no effective arguments, in my opinion, were used against this Clause. Some hon. Members opposite said that the trade unions in years gone by, in their desire to help people who suffered from unemployment, before there were any State measures to help them, had a waiting period. I thought that that argument was very low down, from the point of view that if the community did not see its way clear to help workers who were suffering enforced idleness, and was trying to help them over their difficulties, out of meagre means and humble trade union contributions, it was wrong to take that as a pattern and example of what the State should do when unemployment came along. Further, there is an argument that could well be used, that this matter of casual employment is becoming all too common. Before coming to this House I experienced very much of it. I came here last year, and for about a dozen years before that the colliery at which I was employed worked on an average less than 180 shifts in each of those dozen years. We had many of those weeks in which there were only four days' employment, and very often, as the hon. Member for Hemsworth (Mr. G. Griffiths) said, because of the operation of this waiting period there was no opportunity to get any recognition for the two days' play. Our contention is that work of that kind ought to be looked at from this point of view, that you have here a job where you have fairly constantly a one-third reduction in the standard of life because of this casual employment, and a job of that description gives very little opportunity for means to be collected together, by savings and so on, to deal with the period when there is no employment at all.

Further, there is the definite argument that can be used that this Bill will make the position in regard to the waiting period worse than it is at present. The suggestion is that by lengthening the period from 10 weeks to 20 weeks, we shall be better off, but that is just the coating on the pill. The real pill itself, the bitter administration of it, is that no holidays days are to be recognised in the future for unemployment pay and that they will not count as continuity days. Let me quote an instance from the district that I represent. The workers at the mine there were off work from the Friday preceding Whit week till the following Wednesday. It is fair to say that Whit Monday and Tuesday are not to be recognised for unemployment, but those two days at present, on account of unemployment administration, can be linked up as continuity days with other days of unemployment, and thus entitle a man to some degree of benefit, but under the new Measure introduced by the Government that opportunity is precluded from arising. Therefore, we shall have a situation in the future in which the waiting period will be more acute than hitherto.

I want also to raise this position, and if the Minister of Labour does not accept it—though I hope he will open his heart and look more kindly on this suggestion than he did in Committee—I hope that at least hon. Members opposite will be fair and try to look favourably upon it. Some hon. Members may be unaware of the difficulty, not only to the individuals who experience these unemployed or partially unemployed periods, but to the traders in the districts concerned. Where you have a one-third reduction of the standard of wages by reason of partial employment it weighs heavily upon the trading communities in those localities. These are days when hon. Members are working for as much unity in this land as it is possible to get, and I suggest that a gesture from the Members opposite, and particularly from the more favoured parts of the country, to help the position by way of this Amendment would help not only the unemployed folk themselves, but also the trading communities in the districts concerned. I am glad that the Minister of Labour referred to the greater harmony that exists in industry. We on this side are ever wishful to have a continuance of that harmony. I am not unmindful that often industrial strife weighs more heavily upon people of humble origin and on the working class than on the better-to-do people, and if we can avoid that kind of thing, we feel it our duty to do it; but I can well visualise a situation in which, if we are going to be in a boom period, people who have hitherto had to stand some degree of what they rightly feel is hardship due to a depression, may be inclined in better times to stand it no longer. I ask the House in regard to that aspect of things, not in the nature of a threat, but as a commonsense appeal, to see if any possibility of trouble arising can be avoided.

4.42 p.m.

Mr. E. Brown

I think the hon. Member who has just spoken was in error in saying that this Clause was considered in Committee. We had a long discussion on another Amendment, but not of quite the same character. That Amendment was disposed of after a long discussion, and we do not want to re-open it now. I think I shall be meeting the general wish of the House if I exclude references to the historical story behind this issue and confine myself to the special case that the House is asked to consider. No hon. Member can ever listen to a discussion on the waiting period and the difficulties that arise from it unmoved. As the hon. Member for Gorbals (Mr. Buchanan) rightly said, there are two things that have happened in recent days about the waiting period. First of all, we have reduced it from six days to three days, and to that degree the position is better now than that described by the hon. Member for Hemsworth (Mr. G. Griffiths), when he first came to this House, and, secondly, in the present Bill we are doing a great deal to ease the position of the intermittent worker. The maximum period between two periods of unemployment before a new waiting period is imposed is now 10 weeks which by this present Bill is being doubled. So the position has been eased. I am asked by the Amendment to do one of two things, I am not quite sure which, because there was a discrepancy between the arguments of the hon. Member for Gower (Mr. Grenfell), who opened the discussion, and the hon. Member for West Nottingham (Mr. Hayday) who followed. The Amendment may be read in either of two ways as I see it, either as the plea made by the hon. Member for Gower for the total abolition of the waiting period or, as put by the hon. Member for West Nottingham, as the abolition of the waiting period retaining the three in six rule. They are quite different things. That is why I point this out—in order to make it quite clear that there is a fundamental difference between the two as to the effect of the Amendment. I will tell the House what our estimates are of the cost to the fund of either of those propositions.

The arguments for this are really not theoretical, and they never have been. Just as the arguments for abolition are practical, so the arguments for the retention of the three in six rule are practical. This thing arose out of the practice when there were limited funds to deal with unemployment. It was then considered that, if you had to choose between giving a man some money at the end of a period of unemployment or at the beginning, it was better to give it at the end. I have never in recent days used that argument. Since the coming of the Unemployment Assistance Board it is no longer valid, so I do not urge it now. The real argument is that, as always when we are asked to reform this great social service, or indeed any other, we have to take our argument as it is on the particular proposition put up at any moment. That proposition is not the only one that can be urged and supported by speeches as practical and as eloquent as those that have been delivered to-day. All who have followed the propositions put by trade unions, employers and individuals since the Beveridge Committee has had the oversight of the fund will know that there are scores of propositions for the betterment of the social conditions of those who come on the fund. The first argument is as to whether, when a particular proposition is put up to the Government in terms of finance, it is a proposition which is better on the whole for the unemployed, for whom we are trustees, than another. Quotations have been made. One was made by the hon. Member which I must complete. He talked about the administration. He ought to have added, as I will, that, despite those arguments, he did not last time recommend the abolition of the waiting period.

We are asked either to abolish the waiting period wholly or to abolish it retaining the three in six rule. I was asked what the cost would be. The cost to the fund of abolishing the waiting period and paying benefit for every single day of unemployment cannot be precisely estimated, but the best estimate I can give is that it would cost £5,000,000 per annum. If, on the other hand, the proposition advanced by the hon. Member for West Nottingham was carried and the three in six rule as regards continuity was kept on the new basis of a "bridge" of 20 weeks—the improvement that we are now making—we estimate that the annual cost would be £1,150,000. Hon Members have talked as if there was plenty of money available for this. That is not so. The Committee is responsible by Statute for reporting as to the solvency of the fund, and their last report in January last was that there was no disposable surplus, though there was a balance of £44,000,000. It is not true to say that they have reported that there is plenty of money. At the end of the year they have to make their next report. All those intimately concerned with the working of the fund, whether the Trades Union Congress itself, individual trade unions, Members of Parliament, other individuals or other organisations in industry, will in the light of what they conceive to be the position of the fund put to the committee a whole list of new reforms. It may well be that the Trades Union Congress, as they have done before, will once more put up this plea, but in the light of the last report and in the light of the fact that this will cost either £5,000,000 or £1,150,000 I cannot recommend it now.

That brings me to the point put by the hon. Member for Gorbals. About that I make no promise whatever. The three in six rule was a great improvement on the old rule which preceded it. When the next discussion comes those who want reform will perhaps put to the committee four in eight or six in twelve, but the machinery exists now not merely for the House to discuss the issues, as it has done to-day, but for all those who want reform in the light of the actual internal finance of the fund and the prospective finance as adjudged by the committee to put their points. When I said just now that we always had to judge, when we had so much money to dispose of in the fund, whether one way of helping the unemployed was better than another, you have to remember that the moment you come to touch the waiting period at the small end you are dealing with a large number of claims. It might very well be that in discussing the comparative merits of this and other reforms both the committee and the House might think that some other reform, costing as much money, might in the end be better for the general body of the unemployed than this particular one. I express no final opinion about that, but in the light of what I have said I must ask the House to reject the Clause.

4.55 p.m.

Mr. Lawson

We are sorry to have heard the Minister's refusal of this Clause but I cannot say that we are surprised. It is true that we did not discuss it directly in the Committee, but I think he will agree that we came as near discussing it as was possible without putting t down directly on the Paper. There is one thing that I appreciate about the right hon. Gentleman's speech. He has at last made a very straight statement, which I hope is final on the matter for the future, that there is no comparison between the State fund and the methods of the old trade unions. [Interruption.] I have heard comparisons which I thought at the time came dangerously near sneering at the organisations which made a gallant straggle in the old days when there was no one to help them. The House is always at a disadvantage in discussing these matters because, while Members who are familiar with the working of unemployment insurance can make speeches which illuminate the Amendment under discussion, like those we have had to-day, the average Member does not understand that what we are dealing with is the well-being of some 14,000,000 insured people the bulk of whom would not average 50s., if the truth were known, taken over a year. I have a summary of the wage statistics of one of our chief industries. If you take the whole of the mining industry, including officials and piece workers, it does not average £3 a week throughout the year. The average is about 11s. 6d. a day. If you take one district—I will not name it—the average is 9s. 9d. There are tens of thousands of workers in the industry who do not average more than seven shillings a day and the bulk of the workers do not average £2 a week. There are other industries which pay much less than that. It is these people that we are dealing with. To lose a day's wage is a tragic thing for them. To lose a day's benefit is very bad indeed.

The right hon. Gentleman rightly accepted the very generous statement of my hon. Friend the Member for Gorbals (Mr. Buchanan) that the increase from 10 weeks to 20 was improving the position but let the House note, especially hon. Members opposite, that there is going to be trouble over the Bill. I agree that if it is a question of a balance between the three in six and the increasing of the time probably I would deal with the three in

six. But there are going to be great difficulties as a result of this Bill. I warn Members on both sides of the House that there will be an uproar in the country as a result of its passing equal to that which arose upon the passing of the Regulations. It is going to affect great industries and those who have been used to getting benefit for certain days that are not to count in the future. There is no doubt about it. I agree that the value of the complete abolition as compared with some of the benefits is an argument that can be overdone, but is the £5,000,000 which the right hon. Gentleman mentioned a vast sum in dealing with the millions of workers affected by the common expenditure of that fund? I venture to say it is not. May I put this to the right hon. Gentleman? He said that recommendations will be made, but whether by himself or by some other persons we do not know. He has the power to make recommendations. We ask him if he would make recommendations upon this matter. Would he consider making recommendations for the abolition of the waiting period? We will go into the Lobby against the Government. The question affects millions of workers who get very little and who just miss getting unemployment benefit from time to time because of this waiting period. We will go into the Lobby because we hope that we shall get a sufficiently strong vote to impress the right hon. Gentleman with the wisdom of making recommendations later.

Question put, "That the Clause be read a Second time."

The House divided: Ayes, 143; Noes, 237.

Division No. 157.] AYES. [5.5 p.m.
Acland, R. T. D. (Barnstaple) Charleton, H. C. Green, W. H. (Deptford)
Adams, D. (Consett) Cluse, W. S. Greenwood, Rt. Hon. A.
Adams, D. M. (Poplar, S.) Cocks, F. S. Grenfell, D. R.
Adamson, Jennie L. (Dartford) Collindridge, F. Griffith, F. Kingsley (M'ddl'sbro, W.)
Adamson, W. M. Cripps, Hon. Sir Stafford Griffiths, G. A. (Hemsworth)
Alexander, Rt. Hon. A. V. (H'lsbr.) Daggar, G. Griffiths, J. (Llanelly)
Ammon, C. G. Davidson, J. J. (Maryhill) Groves, T. E.
Anderson, F. (Whitehaven) Davies, R. J. (Westhoughton) Hall, G. H. (Aberdare.)
Banfield, J. W. Davies, S. O. (Merthyr) Hall, J. H. (Whitechapel)
Barnes, A. J. Day, H. Harris, Sir P. A.
Bartlett, C. V. 0. Dunn, E. (Rother Valley) Hayday, A.
Batey, J. Ede, J. C. Henderson, J. (Ardwisk)
Beaumont, H. (Batley) Edwards, Sir C. (Bedwellty) Henderson, T. (Tradeston)
Bellenger, F. J. Evans, E. (Univ. of Wales) Hills, A. (Pontefract)
Bann, Rt. Hon. W. W. Fletcher, Lt.-Comdr. R. T. H. Jagger, J.
Benson, G. Fool, D. M. Jenkins, A. (Pontypool)
Bevan, A. Frankel, D. Jenkins, Sir W. (Neath)
Broad, F. A. Gallacher, W. John, W.
Brown, C. (Mansfield) Gardner, B. W. Jones, A. C. (Shipley)
Buchanan, G. Garro Jones, G. M. Jones, Sir H. Haydn (Merioneth)
Burke, W. A. George, Major G. Lloyd (Pembroke) Kennedy, Rt. Hon. T.
Cape, T. Gibson, R. (Greenock) Kirby, B. V.
Kirkwood, D. Oliver, G. K. Stewart, W. J. (H'ght'n-la-Sp'ng)
Lansbury, Rt. Hon. G. Owen, Major G. Strauss, G. R. (Lambeth, N.)
Lathan, G. Paling, W. Taylor, R. J. (Morpeth)
Lawson, J. J. Parkinson, J. A. Thorne, W.
Leach, W. Pearson, A. Thurtle, E.
Lee, F. Pethick-Lawrence, Rt. Hon. F. W. Tinker, J. J.
Leonard, W. Poole, C. C. Tomlinson, G.
Leslie. J. R. Price, M. P. Viant. S. P.
Logan, D. G. Quibell, D. J. K. Walkden, A. G.
Macdonald, G. (Ince) Richards, R. (Wrexham) Walker, J.
McEntee, V. La T. Ridley, G. Watkins, F. C.
McGhee, H. G. Riley, B. Watson, W. McL.
McGovern, J. Ritson, J. Welsh, J. C.
MacLaren, A. Robinson, W. A. (St. Helens) Westwood, J.
Maclean, N. Rothschild, J. A. de White, H. Graham
Mainwaring, W. H. Sanders, W. S. Wilkinson, Ellen
Mander, G. le M. Seely, Sir H. M. Williams, E. J. (Ogmore)
Marshall, F. Sexton, T. M. Williams, T. (Don Valley)
Maxton, J. Shinwell, E. Wilmot, J.
Messer, F. Silverman, S. S. Wilson, C. H. (Attercliffe)
Milner, Major J. Sinclair, Rt. Hon. Sir A. (C'thn's) Windsor, W. (Hull, C.)
Montague, F. Smith, Ben (Rotherhithe) Woods, G. S. (Finsbury)
Morgan, J. (York, W.R., Doncaster) Smith, E. (Stoke) Young, Sir R. (Newton)
Morrison, Rt. Hon. H. (Hackney, S.) Smith, Rt. Hon. H. B. Lees- (K'ly)
Morrison, R. C. (Tottenham, N.) Smith, T. (Normanton) TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—
Muff, G. Sorensen, R. W. Mr. Whiteley and Mr. Mathers.
Naylor, T. E. Stephen, C.
Acland-Troyte, Lt.-Col. G. J. Duckworth, Arthur (Shrewsbury) James, Wing-Commander A. W. H.
Adams, S. V. T. (Leeds, W) Dugdale, Captain T. L. Jennings, R.
Agnew, Lieut.-Comdr. P. G. Duggan, H. J. Keeling, E. H.
Assheton, R. Duncan, J. A. L. Kerr, Colonel C. I. (Montrose)
Astor, Viscountess (Plymouth, Sutton) Dunglass, Lord Kerr, H. W. (Oldham)
Balfour, Capt. H. H. (Isle of Thanet) Eastwood, J. F. Kerr, J. Graham (Scottish Univs.)
Balniel, Lord Eden, Rt. Hon. A. Knox, Major-General Sir A. W. F.
Barrie, Sir C. C. Edmondson, Major Sir J. Lambert, Rt. Hon. G.
Baxter, A. Beverley Elliot, Rt. Hon. W. E. Lancaster, Captain C. G.
Beauchamp, Sir B. C. Ellis, Sir G. Latham, Sir P.
Bernays, R. H. Elliston, Capt. G. S. Lees-Jones, J.
Bird, Sir R. B. Emmett, C. E. G. C. Leighton, Major B. E. P.
Blair, Sir R. Emrys-Evans, P. V. Lennox-Boyd, A. T. L.
Boothby, R. J. G. Entwistle, Sir C. F. Levy, T.
Bossom, A. C. Everard, Sir William Lindsay Lewis, O.
Boulton, W. W. Fildes, Sir H. Liddall, W. S.
Boyce, H. Leslie Findlay, Sir E. Lipson, D. L.
Braithwaite, Major A. N. (Buckrose) Fleming, E. L. Lloyd, G. W.
Braithwaite, J. Gurney (Holderness) Fox, Sir G. W. G. Loftus, P. C.
Brass, Sir W. Furness, S. N. Mabane, W. (Huddersfield)
Briscoe, Capt. R. G. Glyn, Major Sir R. G. C. McCorquodale, M. S.
Brooklebank, Sir Edmund Graham, Captain A. C. (Wirral) McKie, J. H.
Brooke, H. (Lewisham, W.) Grant-Farris, Flight-Lieutenant R. Maclay, Hon. J. P.
Brown, Rt. Hon. E. (Leith) Grattan-Doyle, Sir N. Macmillan, H. (Stockton-on-Tees)
Browne, A. C. (Belfast, W.) Greene, W. P. C. (Worcester) Macquisten, F. A.
Bull, B. B. Gridley. Sir A. B. Magnay, T.
Bullock, Capt. M. Grigg, Sir E. W. M. Maitland, Sir Adam
Burgin, Rt. Hon. E. L. Grimston, R. V. Makins, Brigadier-General Sir Ernest
Burton, Col. H. W. Guest, Hon. J. (Brecon and Radnor) Manningham-Buller, Sir M.
Campbell, Sir E. T. Gunston, Capt. Sir D. W. Margesson, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. D. R.
Cartland, J. R. H. Hacking, Rt. Hon. Sir D. H. Markham, S. F.
Cary, R. A. Hambro, A. V. Marsden, Commander A,
Cazalet, Thelma (Islington, E.) Hammersley, S. S. Maxwell, Hon. S. A.
Chamberlain, Rt. Hn. N. (Edgb't'n) Hannah, I. C. Medlicott, F.
Channon, H. Hannon, Sir P. J. H. Meller, Sir R. J. (Mitcham)
Chapman, A. (Rutherglen) Harbord, A. Mellor, Sir J. S. P. (Tamworth)
Chapman, Sir S. (Edinburgh, S.) Haslam, Henry (Horncastle) Mills, Sir F. (Leyton, E.)
Cobb, Captain E. C. (Preston) Heilgers, Captain F. F. A. Mills, Major J. D. (New Forest)
Colfox, Major W. P. Hely-Hutchinson, M. R. Mitchell, Sir W. Lane (Streatham)
Colville, Rt. Hon. John Heneage, Lieut.-Colonel A. P. Moore, Lieut.-Col. Sir T. C. R.
Conant, Captain R. J. E Hepburn, P. G. T. Buchan Moore-Brabazon, Lt.-Col. J. T. C.
Cook, Sir T. R. A. M. (Norfolk, N.) Hepworth, J. Morgan, R. H. (Worcester, Stourbridge)
Cooke, J. D. (Hammersmith, S.) Higgs, W. F. Morris, O. T. (Cardiff, E.)
Cooper, Rt. Hn. T. M. (E'nburgh, W.) Hoare, Rt. Hon. Sir S. Morris-Jones, Sir Henry
Cox, H. B. Trevor Holdsworth, H. Morrison, G. A. (Scottish Univ's.)
Crookshank, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. F. C. Hopkinson, A. Morrison, Rt. Hon. W. S. (Cirencester)
Cross, R. H. Hore-Belisha, Rt. Hon. L. Munro, P.
Crossley, A. C. Horsbrugh, Florence Neven-Spence, Major B. H. H.
Crowder, J. F. E. Howitt, Dr. A. B. Nicholson, G. (Farnham)
Cruddas, Col. B. Hudson, Capt. A. U. M. (Hack., N.) Nicolson, Hon. H. G.
De la Bere, R. Hudson, Rt. Hon. R. S. (Southport) O'Connor, Sir Terence J.
Denman, Hon. R. D. Hulbert, Squadron-Leader N. J. O'Neill, Rt. Hon. Sir Hugh
Danville, Alfred Hume, Sir G. H. Orr-Ewing, I. L.
Despencer-Robertson, Major J. A. F. Hunloke, H. P. Patrick, C. M.
Doland, G. F. Hunter, T. Peaks, O.
Donner, P. W. Hurd, Sir P. A. Perkins, W. R. D.
Petherick, M. Russell, R. J. (Eddisbury) Thomson, Sir J. D. W.
Pownall, Lt.-Col. Sir Assheton Salmon, Sir I. Thornton-Kemsley, C. M.
Procter, Major H. A. Sandeman, Sir N. S. Touche, G. C.
Radford, E. A. Scott, Lord William Tree, A. R. L. F.
Raikes, H. V. A. M. Shepperson, Sir E. W. Tufnell, Lieut.-Commander R. L.
Ramsay, Captain A. H. M. Simon, Rt. Hon. Sir J. A. Wakefield, W. W.
Ramsbotham, H. Smith, Bracewell (Dulwich) Walker-Smith, Sir J.
Ramsden, Sir E. Smith, Sir R. W. (Aberdeen) Wallace. Capt. Rt. Hon. Euan
Rathbone, J. R. (Bodmin) Smithers, Sir W. Ward, Lieut.-Col. Sir A. L. (Hull)
Rawson, Sir Cooper Snadden, W. McN. Wardlaw-Milne, Sir J. S.
Reed, A. C. (Exeter) Somerset, T. Waterhouse, Captain C.
Reed, Sir H. S. (Aylesbury) Somerville, A. A. (Windsor) Wells, Sir Sydney
Reid, J. S. C. (Hillhead) Southby, Commander Sir A. R. J. Wickham, Lt-Col. E. T. R.
Reid, W. Allan (Derby) Stanley, Rt. Hon. Oliver (W'm'ld) Williams, H. G. (Croydon, S.)
Remer, J. R. Strauss, H. G. (Norwich) Willoughby de Eresby. Lord
Rickards, G. W. (Skipton) Strickland, Captain W. F. Windsor-Clive, Lieut.-Colonel G.
Robinson, J. R. (Blackpool) Stuart, Hon. J. (Moray and Nairn) Wise, A. R.
Ropner, Colonel L. Sueter, Rear-Admiral Sir M. F. Womersley, Sir W. J.
Rosbotham, Sir T. Sutcliffe, H. York, C.
Ross, Major Sir R. D. (Londonderry) Tasker, Sir R. I. Young, A. S. L. (Partick)
Ross Taylor, W. (Woodbridge) Tate, Mavis C.
Rowlands, G. Taylor, C. S. (Eastbourne) TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—
Royds, Admiral Sir P. M. R. Taylor, Vice-Adm. E. A. (Padd., S.) Lieut.-Colonel Herbert and Lieut. -
Russell, Sir Alexander Thomas, J. P. L. Colonel Harvie Watt.
Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Colonel Clifton Brown)

Mr. Foot.

5.13 p.m.

Mr. Lawson

On a point of Order. Do I understand that you are not calling the new Clause in the name of my hon. Friend the Member for West Nottingham (Mr. Hayday) and others dealing with trade disputes? This does seem to be an extremely important Clause which ought to be dealt with.

Mr. Deputy-Speaker

I am afraid that that Clause was not selected.

Mr. Lawson

May I ask upon what grounds it was refused?

Mr. Deputy-Speaker

I am afraid I can give no reasons for that.

Mr. Lawson

It seems to me that if this is to be the order of the Amendments there will be great difficulty for us in discussing this very important Bill dealing in the 15 or 16 Clauses with about eight different subjects. If such Clauses and Amendments are to be ruled out, I do not understand how we are to discuss this Bill on the Report stage.

Mr. Deputy-Speaker

I am afraid the hon. Gentleman may not be quite clear about this matter. After all, the Chair selects the Amendments for discussion.

Mr. Benjamin Smith

The Chair may select them, but I take it that the House has a perfect right to ask the reason for Amendments being selected or not, otherwise it seems to me there is a greater power reclining in the hands of the Chair than has ever been contemplated by the Members of this House. The Clause is on the Paper. It deals with an important phase of this Bill which we shall otherwise be debarred from discussing, and I put it to you as a serious proposition that it should be called.

Mr. Deputy-Speaker

I must remind the hon. Member of the Standing Orders of this House under which Mr. Speaker does not give any reasons for or against selecting any particular Amendments.

Mr. Smith

Then the power which reclines in the Speaker debars Members of this House from dealing with specific Amendments to a Measure brought forward by the Government, and does not that allow of partiality on the part of the Speaker in supporting the Government's contention?

Mr. Deputy-Speaker

The hon. Member must not say that Mr. Speaker uses his power in that way. The Chair uses its powers impartially.

Mr. Hayday

Does the non-calling of a new Clause which is printed on the Paper preclude a discussion of the subject of it on Third Reading?

Mr. Deputy-Speaker

If the subject-matter of it is in the Bill already it would certainly be in order to discuss it, but it would not be in order if the subject-matter were outside the Bill.

Mr. J. J. Davidson

May I point out respectfully that this whole question was discussed fully in Committee and that there are points to be discussed by hon. Members who were not on the Committee and that your decision is depriving them of that opportunity?

Mr. Deputy-Speaker

My decision is not depriving any hon. Member of any rights. The hon. Member himself has given one of the reasons why the new Clause has not been selected.

Mr. Lawson

I know that it is within the power of the Chair to select Amendments. We regard this new Clause as dealing with a very important point, and there are Amendments later standing in the names of several of my hon. Friends which raise important issues concerning pay, upon Clause 1 of the Bill.

Mr. Deputy-Speaker

The hon. Member cannot now discuss the question of whether those Amendments will be selected.

Mr. Lawson

The only point I wished to make was that I am very apprehensive of what is going to happen with regard to very important aspects of this Bill if most of our Amendments are to be ruled out.

Mr. Naylor

May I ask whether the selection of the Amendments was made by Mr. Speaker himself or by the Deputy-Speaker?

Mr. Deputy-Speaker

That is not a point which the hon. Member may raise.