HC Deb 22 June 1964 vol 697 cc30-1
35. Mr. Small

asked the Minister of Pensions and National Insurance if he has now completed his study of the question of wage-related unemployment benefit; and if he will make a statement.

37. Mr. Lawson

asked the Minister of Pensions and National Insurance when he intends to introduce wage-related unemployment benefit.

Mr. Wood

I am still examining the problems involved.

Mr. Small

The Minister will recognise that, while this would be a major change, it would be a very desirable one. Will he make a statement on the principle before the end of this Parliament?

Mr. Wood

The hon. Gentleman can be fully assured that we should not have entered into detailed discussions with the Trades Union Congress and the British Employers' Confederation if we were not contemplating at all the possibility of this principle. When I have a statement to make, I shall make it.

Mr. Lawson

Is the Minister aware that in this respect this country has already dropped behind most other advanced industrial countries? Does he not agree that he should now give us this information and that it is about time he gave us a definite statement that he intends quickly to introduce wage-related unemployment benefit.

Mr. Wood

The mere fact that I am taking a long time with this investigation is proof that I am going very thoroughly into the very difficult issues involved.

Mr. Prentice

Is the Minister aware that Lord Blakenham, when he was Minister of Labour, promised us on this side of the House that the Government would legislate on severance pay last autumn? That subject was delayed while these talks on wage-related unemployment benefits were held. Now we seem to be no nearer a conclusion from the Government on either subject. Does not this show that the Government are very tardy?

Mr. Wood

I certainly cannot answer for my right hon. Friend, but I have given the answer which is right and, I think, justified on the issue of earnings-related benefit. I shall make a statement, if I have one to make, when I am ready to do so.