§ Lieut.-Colonel HURST
asked the Minister of Labour whether he is aware that a large number of Manchester unemployed have been notified at the Employment Exchange that no benefit can be drawn for five weeks; and whether he will inquire into their grievance consider the desirability of immediate action, in view of the great sufferings of the families concerned?
§ Mr. SWAN
asked the Minister of Labour if he is aware of the discontent, both of Poor Law guardians and men out of work, with the payment of the unemployed benefit, namely, five weeks' payment and five weeks' non-payment, and that, owing to the exhaustion of workers' savings, the direct effect of the arrangement is to throw the burden of maintaining these persons and their families on to the local rates during the five weeks when no allowance is made, and that further burden is thrown on the boards of guardians of providing extra staff to deal with the applications for relief; and what action ho proposes to take?
§ Mr. ERSKINE
asked the Minister of Labour whether, in view of the fact of the unemployment benefit having been suspended for five weeks, acute feeling and distress prevails in Westminster, with the consequence that there is no money available either for the payment of rent or for the purpose of cooking food provided by the board of guardians; is he aware that this condition of affairs is leading to a disturbed state of mind among the men; and, in these circumstances, what steps does he propose.taking in the matter?
§ Dr. MACNAMARA
The suspension of benefit for five weeks applies only to those who have drawn uncovenanted or "free" benefit for five weeks since 6th April. It does not apply to those who have contributions to their credit. The1444W suspension of uncovenanted benefit is expressly laid down by the Unemployment Insurance Act recently passed, and was carefully considered in this House when the Bill was under discussion. The Act gives me no power to continue payment in these cases. I appreciate the difficulties that must necessarily arise from the suspension of benefit, but I would point out that it is impossible for the Unemployment Fund, the financial resources of which are definitely limited, to provide benefit for an indefinite time without intermission. I should mention that 57 weeks of "free" or uncovenanted benefit have been provided out of the Insurance Fund in the period of 18 months from November, 1920, to May, 1922, and that such benefit will be payable during two further periods of five weeks between now and November next. For those who exhausted their previous benefit on 10th May the next period of eligibility for uncovenanted benefit will begin on Thursday, 15th June. I propose to make arrangements so that a half-week's benefit may be paid on Saturday, 17th June.
§ Dr. MACNAMARA
I am not aware that there is any general delay which is due to my Department. Disputed cases inevitably take a certain amount of time, owing to the necessity for collecting all relevant facts and evidence, but every effort is made to expedite a decision. If, however, my hon. Friend has knowledge of any specific cases, and will let me have details of them, T will have inquiries made.