HC Deb 05 August 1975 vol 897 cc212-3
7. Mr. Paul Dean

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services what level of unemployment will be assumed by her Department for 1975–76 for the purpose of fixing the level of national insurance contributions.

Mr. O'Malley

I must ask the hon. Member to await the Government Actuary's Report which we shall be laying before the House in due course, together with a draft order fixing contributions for 1976–77.

Mr. Dean

I can hardly say that I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for that reply. Is he aware that with high rising unemployment, special measures are needed to bring relief and hope to those who will be affected in increasing numbers during the coming winter? Can he give an assurance that his Department will take the initiative to bring together the combined resources of the Government, local authorities and voluntary bodies to try to assist the large number of people who will find themselves out of work during the coming winter?

Mr. O'Malley

Dealing with the second part of the hon. Gentleman's question, I can give him the assurance that this Government, through my Department, are doing everything possible on the lines described by him to assist individuals who have difficulties. As for his reference to special measures, he will be aware that there is another substantial uprating for November of this year which will help not only retirement pensioners but all other recipients of both long-term and short-term benefits.

Mr. Skinner

Is my right hon. Friend aware that the line which has been suggested by the hon. Member for Somerset, North (Mr. Dean) is fraught with a little danger in that although most right hon. and hon. Members will applaud the efforts of local communities, authorities and others and Government Departments combining to reduce the level of unemployment in areas where the dole queue may be as large as 20 per cent. of the working population, there is a fellow known as the district auditor who may call upon a local authority and say that it has reduced unemployment levels too greatly and that it will be surcharged to the tune of £30,000, as happened in the recent case of the 11 councillors at Clay Cross?

Mr. O'Malley

My hon. Friend will get me into trouble. He knows a great deal more than I do about these matters. I think that his question would be more appropriately addressed to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Environment.