§ Order of the Day for the Second Reading read.
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE DUCHY OF LANCASTER (VISCOUNT CECIL OF CHELWOOD)
My Lords, this is a measure which I hope will prove to be quite uncontroversial. It is a measure to extend until December 31, 1927, the dates on which certain provisions as to unemployment insurance at present by Statute terminate. There are three such dates. The first is as to the unemployment insurance itself. Under the Act of 1924, by an Amendment which was inserted in the other House, unemployment insurance terminates altogether on June 30 this year. Of course, the object was not to terminate unemployment insurance then, but to give an opportunity for reviewing the question when — as it was hoped might be the case—a more normal state of affairs would have arisen. That state of affairs unhappily has not arisen yet, and it is obvious that that date ought to be extended. I will come to the reason for choosing December 31, 1927, in a moment.
405 Then there is another date. Under that same Act there was imposed, as your Lordships probably remember, a certain condition on the payment of unemployment insurance—namely, that the unemployed person should have paid thirty contributions within two years. It was provided in the Act itself that that should not come into operation until October 1, 1925, on the ground that it would be too severe a measure, and it was afterwards extended from that date until, I think, some date in this year, and it is now proposed to extend it still further. Unless that step were taken a very considerable hardship would be inflicted, and what is done is to give the Minister the right to waive that condition until the date fixed. In point of fact, as I understand it, the practice is to require that eight contributions should have been paid within two years, or thirty contributions altogether. But even that, in the case of disabled ex-Service men, is relaxed in special cases. It is proposed also to extend that date until the end of 1927.
There is one other date that is affected. By the Act of 1920 it was provided that unemployment benefit might be paid through certain associations—in effect, trade unions. What is done is that the Government money is handed over to the trade unions, who pay the beneficiaries. But that can only be done if the trade unions have an unemployment benefit of their own, and that unemployment benefit must provide that they shall pay at least, under the Act of 1920, one-third of the benefit provided by the Government scheme. At that date that amounted to 75s. in the year, because the Government scheme of that time provided for a payment of 15s. a week for fifteen weeks; therefore they had to provide at least 5s. for fifteen weeks, which was 75s.
Later the amount of the assistance under the Government scheme was very considerably extended, as your Lordships are aware. It was extended from 15s. to 18s. a week, and from fifteen weeks to twenty-six weeks standard benefit, and another twenty-six weeks extended benefit. To have asked for one-third of the sum would have been excessive, and under the Act 75s. was kept as the amount that they must provide, but by the Act of 1924 that 75s. was raised to 5s. a week for thirteen 406 weeks and 2s. 6d. a week for the remainder of the time. It was found that under very great financial stress that would be too severe a burden and would have ended in the insolvency of a great many of these associations. Accordingly, that provision was postponed until July 31, 1926, and it is now proposed to extend it for the same reason until December 31, 1927, so that all these dates will now be December 31, 1927.
The reason why His Majesty's Government have fixed on that date is very simple. In the autumn of last year a Committee, presided over by Lord Blanesburgh, was appointed to look into the whole question of unemployment insurance and make recommendations thereon. That Committee has not reported as yet, but it is hoped that it will report in time for its Report to be considered and, if necessary, legislation introduced in the course of next summer. December 31, 1927, is accordingly fixed in order to give time for that legislation to be introduced and considered. That is the whole of this Bill and I beg to move that it be read a second time.
§ Moved, That the Bill be now read 2a.—(Viscount Cecil of Chelwood.)
§ VISCOUNT HALDANE
My Lords, this Bill was scrutinised in the other House and no objection was taken to it. We do not propose to take any objection to it here.
§ On Question, Bill read 2a, and committed to a Committee of the Whole House.