§ Sir A. HOLBROOK
asked the Undersecretary of State for the Home Department, as representing the First Commissioner of Works, the total amount of the expenditure upon the acquisition or construction of Employment Exchange buildings, and the amount of rentals now payable on buildings leased as Exchanges; and whether any new buildings are in contemplation to be used as Exchanges, and the value of sites purchased and held for future construction?
As regards the first part of the question, I regret that the amount of labour involved in preparing a statement of the expenditure could not be justified, but I am having a statement of current rentals prepared which will be sent to the hon. and gallant Member shortly. As regards new schemes in contemplation, the Estimates for the current year for labour and health buildings give particulars of those in contemplation at the time the Estimates were framed, and I will shortly send to the hon. Member particulars of the schemes (including sites) which have subsequently been approved.
§ Sir A. HOLBROOK
asked the Minister of Labour the total amount of the fees paid to the branch manager of the 742 Employment Exchanges for the year ended 31st March, 1925; and whether he will consider the desirability of reducing the number of these Exchanges?
§ Mr. BETTERTON
The answer to the first part of the question is, approximately, £185,000. This sum covers remuneration for personal services, the1850W provision of office accommodation and certain clerical assistance. In addition, £53,000 was paid direct by the Department as salaries of clerks, under special arrangements necessitated by the abnormal degree of unemployment. 95 per cent. of the total expenditure is recovered from the Unemployment Fund as cost of administration of the unemployment insurance scheme. While the need for the continuance of particular branch offices is kept constantly under review, I am bound to point out that consistently with the proper administration of the unemployment insurance scheme there is no likelihood that the total number of these offices can be materially reduced. The scheme includes contributors in all parts of the country, and while the cost of a particular office necessarily varies to some extent with the amount of unemployment with which it has to deal, to close the office altogether might leave a large area without any efficient means of dealing with, and testing the validity of claims to, benefit. Such a position would not only be unfair to the insured contributors but might leave a considerable opening for abuse. I may add, that we are being constantly pressed to open new offices on the ground that the existing offices are too distant from groups of unemployed persons.