§ 47. Miss Burton
asked the Minister of Labour whether he is aware of union criticisms concerning the amount of benefit suggested, and also the waiting period of eight weeks, in the lodging allowances scheme for workers who have been compelled to leave their normal areas due to redundancy; and what proposals he has 1212 in mind to improve the benefit and reduce the period.
§ Mr. Iain Macleod
I am aware that these questions have recently been discussed by the Coventry Local Employment Committee. The lodging allowance payable under the Ministry's transfer schemes is intended as a contribution towards the cost of lodgings, and not to cover the full cost. The weekly rate of lodging allowance was increased in June last year when the temporary transfer scheme was introduced, and I do not consider that a further increase would be justified.
The eight weeks' unemployment condition was designed to ensure that the scheme applies only to those who cannot get work locally within a reasonable time of losing their former employment and to enable the prospect of getting fresh employment in the home area to be fairly tested. I have recently reviewed the working of the scheme in the light of the reports which I have received and have concluded that a reduction of this period would be justified. I have accordingly decided to reduce it from eight weeks to four.
§ Miss Burton
Taking the good news first, may I ask the Minister whether he is aware that although the waiting period is now four weeks too long it is certainly better than eight? Is he further aware that as long ago as last May the unions said that the eight-week period would have the effect of preventing what the Ministry hoped to do, that was, to enable workers to transfer quickly? With regard to the money, would not the right hon. Gentleman agree that the proposed sum, 35s., is inadequate? If we look back to the 1940's, we find that the amount given was 24s. 6d. Does not the right hon. Gentleman agree that the matter might be looked at again?
§ Mr. Macleod
I hope that the reduction in the waiting period will help. I think it will. On the money, I did make the point in my reply, and I must repeat it, that the allowance is not intended to cover the full cost. It is and ought to be just a contribution to the cost of lodging. I did make a pretty substantial increase in this direction in June last year.