41. Mrs. Slater
asked the Minister of Pensions and National Insurance what provision is made for widows in receipt either of 10s. pension or no pension in areas of high unemployment when unemployment benefit ceases to be paid.
But does not the right hon. Gentleman realise that, after 19 months, these widows are forced on to the National Assistance rate? It seems impossible to convince some people how much the people whom I have in mind object to applying for National Assistance. They consider that because they have made efforts in the past they ought not to be considered when unemployment in many areas of the country is so high that they do not stand a chance of getting a job at all.
§ Mr. Wood
Figures show the vast majority of single women and widows who have exhausted their unemployment benefit are not deterred, as the hon. Lady suggests, from going, as they have a right to do, to the National Assistance Board. I must point out that the existence of this problem only at the end of a certain period is due to the very important improvements made in 1957 to give these widows a running start for unemployment and sickness benefit.
§ Mr. Ross
If the right hon. Gentleman says that the vast majority are not deterred, he must have something to go on. Can he give the figures of those who, after this time, have to go on to National Assistance? Can he also give us figures in relation to particular areas where the obvious lack of employment opportunities produces the highest figures?
§ Mr. Wood
The answer to the first part of the question is that the total number of single women and widows who exhausted their unemployment benefit and went on the register for work at the employment exchanges in May was 937 just over 7,000. The number receiving National Assistance was 6,300. I am afraid that I cannot give the hon. Lady comparable figures for areas, but unemployment among women is 2.6 per cent. in Scotland, which is lower than for men. I am glad to say that in the hon. Lady's area only six women are unemployed out of every 1,000.
But does not the Minister know that my area bears no comparison with others? Stoke-on-Trent has always been an area where a large number of women have been employed. Unfortunately, very low wages have been paid for their employment in the industry, and in those circumstances a comparison with other areas is of no use at all.