HC Deb 09 March 1970 vol 797 cc903-4
24. Mr. Milne

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services what machinery of administration has now been decided between his Department and the Department of Employment and Productivity to deal with the payment of unemployment benefit; and if he will make a statement.

34. Sir B. Rhys Williams

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services if he will seek to make arrangements for the payment of unemployment benefit through offices of the Department of Health and Social Security.

Mr. Ennals

Unemployment benefit is being calculated and paid by my Department's computer centre at Reading on behalf of a small number of employment exchanges. It is intended to extend this arrangement in the London area, but we have no present plans for any general transfer of unemployment benefit work to our local offices, which are very fully occupied.

Mr. Milne

Is my hon. Friend aware that his answer will give some satisfaction to those of us who would like to see the Department of Employment and Productivity used more for job seeking and job obtaining purposes, and that if this experiment can be extended throughout the country with a view to leading to full employment, with the Department playing a useful rôle in it, it will be beneficial?

Mr. Ennals

This operation is very useful. As I said, there are six London exchanges on the computer, and it is hoped to take on another 19 exchanges in the London area by the end of the year. I agree that it is very important that the work done by the Department of Employment and Productivity should be seen as being concerned with much more than merely paying out benefit. It has the task of trying to secure employment for those who are unemployed.

Sir B. Rhys Williams

After the triumph of common sense which has led to the introduction of this experiment in London, may we hope that the Minister will now amalgamate the computer work of his Department with the computer work done in connection with the P.A.Y.E. system?

Mr. Ennals

To merge the two operations in one computer is not as simple as the hon. Gentleman suggests, but I will certainly look into it.