§ 17. Mrs. Castle
asked the Minister of Pensions and National Insurance whether he will introduce legislation to amend Section 29 of the National Insurance Act so as to enable unemployed persons who take their holiday abroad during traditional holiday weeks to qualify for unemployment benefit on the same basis as those taking their holidays in Great Britain.
§ The Minister of Pensions and National Insurance (Mr. Richard Wood)
No, Sir. It is difficult to see how the ordinary conditions for unemployment benefit could be satisfied by people who take their holidays abroad. An exception to the statutory bar on the payment of unemployment benefit for periods of absence from Great Britain would not be justified.
§ Mrs. Castle
But is the right hon. Gentleman aware that this problem particularly affects unemployed married women insured in their own right, such as cotton weavers, for whom no work can be found during the town's traditional holiday week because all the mills are closed? If these women go out of Great Britain on holiday with their husbands to, say, Ireland, they not only forfeit unemployment benefit but have to stamp their own cards as well, whereas if they go to Scotland they do not do either. Is not there an anomaly which ought to be looked into?
§ Mr. Wood
I think that, as far as this country goes, the arrangements for paying benefit are not relaxed in the traditional holiday weeks. The test has always been whether the claimant is or is not available for employment. It is not whether employment is available for the claimant, but whether the claimant is available for employment. That is the test which is applied, and that is why unemployment benefit is not paid. As regards people going abroad, it is unrealistic to suppose that the test of availability for employment can be fulfilled by people who go abroad for a holiday.
§ Mrs. Castle
Is not someone as likely to be available to come back from Ireland as from Scotland? Ought not there to be a discretion in the operation of this Section? Is it not too rigid as it stands, and does it not cause serious anomalies?
§ Mr. Wood
I think it is fair that the line should be drawn at the British Isles. One might say that someone who was sitting on the quay at Calais could get back as fast as someone in Scotland, but if Calais, why not Naples? I do not think it would be possible to go beyond the shores of this country without getting into an awful mess.