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?
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.
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?
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.
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.