HC Deb 20 May 1963 vol 678 cc16-8
23. Mr. D. Foot

asked the Minister of Pensions and National Insurance whether he will introduce legislation to provide that, in future, persons who normally work or are deemed to work for a five-day week shall, when unemployed, draw unemployment benefit at the same rate as persons who normally work or are deemed to work for a six-day week.

Mr. N. Macpherson

Under the law as it stands the rate of unemployment benefit is the same for everybody; one-sixth of the weekly rate of benefit is paid for each day of unemployment. The length of the normal working week does not affect the rate of benefit though it has a bearing on the number of days for which benefit is payable when workers on short time lose work for only part of the week. I have no proposals for changing these provisions.

Mr. Foot

Does the right hon. Gentleman appreciate that where there are a number of workers who are put on a four-day week, that is to say, are working short time, and there are others who are deemed normally to have worked a five-day week and some a six-day week, there is a difference in their treatment? Is not this an anomaly which ought to be removed?

Mr. Macpherson

There are anomalies whatever one does, but the fact remains that a man who normally works five days a week gets the same benefit per week or per day off as the man who normally works six days a week.

Mr. Mendelson

In view of the fact that short-time working is now so widespread, would not the Minister agree that men who are on a rota system, which is inevitable in a number of important national industries, are being unfairly treated because, determined by the start of the rota, they might be out of work or on short time for the same number of days as other workmen but will not be paid the unemployment benefit which is paid to their next-door neighbours? Is it not time that, instead of giving us a formal answer, the right hon. Gentleman should seriously look at the problem which is now causing grave concern in all our industrial areas?

Mr. Macpherson

This question has been looked at very often, but the answer has always been the same. The point here is what are the normal working days and, as regards the benefit, if a man is off work he gets the same benefit whether he is normally employed for five days or six days, and if a man is off for a day he gets the same benefit for that day. It would be very difficult to have separate rates, one greater than the other, for a day of unemployment.

Mr. Mitchison

Ought not the right hon. Gentleman to think of referring this question again to his Advisory Committee?

Mr. Macpherson

I shall certainly consider that. I think I am right in saying that it has been referred before, but I shall consider it again.