§ THE PAYMASTER-GENERAL (LORD HUTCHISON OF MONTROSE)
My Lords, I beg to move that the Draft Orders, as reported from the Special Orders Committee yesterday, be approved. In doing so I think I might very shortly point out what these Orders are. The Unemployment Insurance Statutory Committee have presented the Annual Report upon their examination of the Unemployment Fund and the Agricultural Account of the Fund. The General Account of the Fund shows that there is a balance in that account of £60,379,000 and of this the Committee state that £52,963,000 will be required, taking a prudent view, to meet prospective expenditure in the next seven or eight years. Thus there will be left a surplus of £7,416,000 with which to deal. This means roughly £1,000,000 a year over a period of eight years, which is what they call the "average period of a trade cycle." They seem to have adopted that period in order to arrange for the various payments that have to be made in the future. In addition to that, the Committee state that under powers which were given to them recently under the Unemployment Insurance Act they propose to use part of the balances in repayment of the funded debt. They have recommended that £20,000,000 out of the balance of reserves should be applied to reduction of the debt. That will result in a saving of debt charges of £500,000 a year.
That saving of £500,000, plus the £1,000,000 surplus on the General Fund, makes a total of £1,500,000 a year. The Committee, by a majority (including the Chairman) of five to two, decided to recommend that a certain alleviation should take place in the number of days of benefit. At present three additional days of benefit are given for every five contribu- 42 tions during the past five years, less one day for every eight days of benefit drawn during the period. The change recommended by the Committee is that the number of additional days allowed should be increased by subtracting one additional day for every ten days in place of every eight days of benefit already drawn. They further recommend that the weekly rate of benefit paid in respect of an adult dependant—usually the applicant's wife—should be increased from 9s. to l0s. a week. There will, therefore, be an improvement in the number of days' benefit and also an improvement in the dependant's allowance.
There are also recommendations put forward in connection with the Agricultural Account of the Fund, which is kept separate. When the Government passed last year an Act dealing with the agricultural workers it was felt at that time that it was not fair to require that particular scheme to participate in the debt of the old scheme, and it started de novo. At present the Agricultural Account is in credit to the extent of £1,825,000, and as the income of the Agricultural Account, according to the Committee, is likely to continue to be more than reasonably sufficient to meet all that is required of it, the Committee made certain recommendations. One recommendation is that the waiting time of six days for which no benefit is payable at the beginning of a period of unemployment should be reduced to three days. This brings it on to a par with the general unemployment insurance scheme. They further recommend that the rates of contributions by each party to the scheme should be reduced by one halfpenny in respect of contributors aged 18 years and upwards. Thus the contribution for an adult man will become 4d. in place of 4½d. and for an adult woman 3½d. in place of 4d.
They also recommend that the weekly rate of agricultural benefit in the case of young men between the ages of 18 and 21 should be 12s. instead of l0s. 6d. Here, again, there is an improvement made in the receiver's benefit. There is a certain anomaly applying to the payment of benefits, and the Committee recommend that the condition that ten fresh contributions must have been paid since the exhaustion of benefit in a benefit year should apply only where a claimant exhausted benefit through drawing 300 days of benefit in a benefit year and not 43 where benefit has been exhausted under the rules proportioning benefit to unexhausted contributions. The increased expenditure will be about £42,500 a year, and the other proposals will decrease the income by approximately £180,000 a year. But the Committee think that the finances of the agricultural scheme will be sufficient to meet these ameliorations, and I think the Minister is justified in accepting what the majority of the Committee recommend. I beg to move that these Orders be approved.
§ Moved, That the Draft Orders, as reported from the Special Orders Committee yesterday, be approved.—Lord Hutchison of Montrose.)
§ LORD SNELL
My Lords, I only wish to say on behalf of my noble friends that it is not our business to be satisfied with these Orders, or pleased with the extent to which they go, but, so far as they go, we are very glad to give them our support in the hope that without too long a delay further advances will be made.
§ On Question, Motion agreed to.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR acquainted the House, That the Clerk of the Parliaments had laid upon the Table the Certificate from the Examiners that the Standing Orders applicable to the following Bill intended to be introduced in pursuance of the provisions of the Private Legislation Procedure (Scotland) Act 1936, have 44 been complied with: Caledonian Power—(substituted Bill). The same was ordered to lie on the Table.