Relief Schemes.

Oral Answers to Questions — Unemployment. – in the House of Commons on 28th November 1922.

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Mr. T. THOMSON:

47.

asked the Prime Minister whether his attention has been drawn to the scheme submitted by the Middlesbrough Board of Guardians to the Ministry of Health whereby the money at present paid by them and by the local Employment Exchange to able-bodied persons for doing nothing may instead be utilised by the local unemployment committee in paying wages for work rendered; and, if there are any legal difficulties in the way of such co-ordinated action, will the Government take steps to remove the same before the House rises, so that instead of money being paid away without securing any adequate return public works of a useful character may be carried out?

Photo of Major Sir Archibald Boyd-Carpenter Major Sir Archibald Boyd-Carpenter , Bradford North

I have been asked to reply. Arrangements have been made in a number of cases for test-work to be provided through the local authority for those in receipt of outdoor relief. I understand that a scheme of this nature has been submitted by the Middlesbrough Board of Guardians to my right hon. Friend the Minister of Health, and is receiving his sympathetic consideration. Suggestions that unemployment benefit should be used as part-wages for work done have been made on numerous occasions. This would require legislation involving serious issues of principle, and in these circumstances all we can undertake to do is to examine the whole question thoroughly between now and next Session.

Mr. THOMSON:

May I ask the Prime Minister himself whether, in view of the seriousness of this question and the economic waste involved in paying money for no services rendered, he cannot consider the matter in time for the House to deal with it before the Adjournment?

Photo of Mr Bonar Law Mr Bonar Law , Glasgow Central

No, that is obviously impossible. As my hon. Friend has explained, this subject has often been discussed in the House, and I think it is a very open question whether the actual giving of money in employing men on useless work is worth it.

Mr. THOMSON:

On useful work?

Photo of Mr Bonar Law Mr Bonar Law , Glasgow Central

The difficulty is to get useful work.

Photo of Mr Valentine McEntee Mr Valentine McEntee , Walthamstow West

Will the Prime Minister consider giving more favourable opportunities to local authorities, than those given by the late Government, for the putting into operation of the many useful schemes of work submitted by them from time to time?

Photo of Mr Bonar Law Mr Bonar Law , Glasgow Central

We have been, since this Government was formed, doing our best to consider any possible means for relieving unemployment. Obviously I cannot answer a question like that off-hand.

Photo of Mr John Wheatley Mr John Wheatley , Glasgow Shettleston

May we take it from the answer of the Prime Minister that he fears the country would be ruined, if too many useful things were produced?