§ 24. Mr. Malcolm MacMillan
asked the Secretary of State for Scotland whether, in view of the cessation of much of the insurable employment in the Western Isles in recent years, and especially arising out of war conditions and the restriction of building and road-making, he will introduce an amendment of the old age contributory pensions system, especially in relation to the statutory condition requiring 104 contributions since last entry into insurance, and by allowing more elasticity in linking up periods of 1810 insurance separated by periods of unemployment?
§ The Secretary of State for Scotland (Mr. Ernest Brown)
My right hon. Friend the Minister of Labour, whom I have consulted, is not prepared to assent to the suggestion that residents in the Western Isles lack opportunities for entering insurable employment, particularly in connection with the war effort in various parts of Scotland. The present arrangements made under the National Health and Pensions Insurance Acts for continuity of insurance during periods of enforced unemployment are reasonably generous and it is not proposed to modify them.
§ Mr. MacMillan
Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that a large number of older people who come very near to qualifying under the first statutory condition, having 104 contributions, find it impossible to get employment owing to these conditions?
§ Mr. Brown
Perhaps the hon. Member will listen. For many months now there has been a serious shortage of labourers for public works contracts on the mainland and in the Orkneys, and every man in the Western Isles fit for that class of work could, had he wished, have had work of that class, either continuously or between seasons during which his services were required on the croft. Also, there have been, and still are, employments on the mainland, namely, in factories, for men unsuited to public works labouring. Some evidence of the disinclination of many males in the Western Isles to proceed to employment on the mainland is to be found in the fact that during the six months ended 30th March, 1940, no fewer than 376 of 474 men in Lewis who were offered employment out of the island refused to accept the offer.
§ Mr. MacMillan
Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the great majority of the able-bodied men in the Western Isles are at present in the Navy and the Merchant Service at the risk of their lives? This is an unfair and a shameful attack upon them.
§ Mr. R. Gibson
On a point of Order. This is the only Question to the Secretary of State for Scotland today, and I have an important Supplementary Question affecting my constituency, and I beg to ask your permission to ask the Supplementary Question.