Transitional Payments (Assessment of Means).

Oral Answers to Questions — Unemployment. – in the House of Commons on 10th December 1931.

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Photo of Sir William Brass Sir William Brass , Clitheroe

2 and 4.

asked the Minister of Labour (1) whether he is aware that in Great Harwood, Lancashire, the unemployed claiming transi- tional benefit who have no income whatsoever coming into the household are all having their benefits reduced to the Poor Law scale; and whether he will issue instructions on this point;

(2) whether he is aware that in Great Harwood, Lancashire; the public assistance committee, working under instructions from the Lancashire County Council, are not taking into account the necessary rent and rates which have to be paid by the individual householders, but are merely basing their awards, regardless of the amount of these outgoings, on the Poor Law scale of benefit; and whether he will consider issuing special instructions to make it clear to these authorities that necessary outgoings such as these must be taken into account?

Photo of Mr Gordon Macdonald Mr Gordon Macdonald , Ince

10.

asked the Minister of Labour if he is aware that unemployed persons with dependants on transitional benefit and having no income coming into the house are receiving less than the full scale of unemployment benefits; and whether in such cases he will issue regulations for the full scale to be paid?

Photo of Sir Henry Betterton Sir Henry Betterton , Rushcliffe

Under the Order-in-Council, the duty of determining the need of an applicant for transitional payments has been laid upon the local authority, and I have no power to interfere with their discretion.

Photo of Sir William Brass Sir William Brass , Clitheroe

Cannot my right hon. Friend give an undertaking that these unfortunate people who are unemployed shall not be treated as paupers?

Photo of Mr Gordon Macdonald Mr Gordon Macdonald , Ince

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that single young men have been paid only 9s. a week in many cases?

Photo of Sir Henry Betterton Sir Henry Betterton , Rushcliffe

No, Sir, I am not aware of that fact. I may say that both the Minister of Health and myself are watching this matter very closely, but the procedure has been in operation for only a few weeks, and until we have much further information as to what is going on in the country I cannot make any further statement about it.

Photo of Mr Jack Lawson Mr Jack Lawson , Chester-le-Street

Are not these being treated as Poor Law cases rather than as transitional cases?

Photo of Sir Henry Betterton Sir Henry Betterton , Rushcliffe

No, Sir, I am not prepared to accept that statement.

Photo of Mr Thomas Williams Mr Thomas Williams , Don Valley

Is there anything in the right hon. Gentleman's regulations which gives public assistance committees power to reduce unemployment benefit where there is no supplementary income in the home?

Photo of Sir Henry Betterton Sir Henry Betterton , Rushcliffe

The hon. Member knows that the Order says that these cases are to be assessed in the same way as applications for public assistance.

Photo of Sir William Brass Sir William Brass , Clitheroe

3.

asked the Minister of Labour whether he is aware that the clerks employed to ascertain particulars required to be supplied by applicants for transitional benefit under the means test are being recruited locally in some of the smaller towns in Lancashire; and whether, seeing that this practice is resented by the applicants who night happen to live in the same streets as the clerks, he will consider giving instructions for these clerks to be recruited outside the area in which they are to work?

Photo of Sir Henry Betterton Sir Henry Betterton , Rushcliffe

This is a matter within the discretion of the local authority, and I have no power to issue instructions upon it.

Photo of Sir William Brass Sir William Brass , Clitheroe

Does not the right hon. Gentleman realise that it is most undesirable that people living in the next house should be inquiring into the condition of their neighbours?

Photo of Sir Henry Betterton Sir Henry Betterton , Rushcliffe

If my hon. Friend holds that view—and I do not dissent from it—it is a matter which he must take up with the local authorities and not with me.

Photo of Mr John Tinker Mr John Tinker , Leigh

7.

asked the Minister of Labour what method was adopted by the officials at the employment exchanges in determining the order in which those who were on transitional benefit should appear before the public assistance committees?

Photo of Sir Henry Betterton Sir Henry Betterton , Rushcliffe

The exchanges were only concerned with the transmission of the forms of application to the public assistance authorities; in general, these forms were transmitted in alphabetical order within each occupation, all occupations being as far as possible dealt with simultaneously. Subsequent action was organised by the authority according to their discretion.

Photo of Mr John Tinker Mr John Tinker , Leigh

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that much dissatisfaction is caused by some cases being taken earlier than others? Could he not have so arranged it as to let all the cases go through first before any payment was suspended?

Photo of Sir Henry Betterton Sir Henry Betterton , Rushcliffe

No, Sir, the hon. Gentleman will see that his proposal is impracticable. If all the cases were dealt with as he suggests, the first lot of assessments would be out of date before they were paid at all.

Photo of Sir William Brass Sir William Brass , Clitheroe

Surely that depends on the number of people whose cases have to be gone through? It is four weeks before there is a revision.

Photo of Sir Henry Betterton Sir Henry Betterton , Rushcliffe

But where there is a large number of cases there must be a uniform system. If there were a large number of assessments the first lot would be out of date if payment were deferred till all had been dealt with.

Photo of Mr John Tinker Mr John Tinker , Leigh

8.

asked the Minister of Labour the number from Leigh, Atherton, and Tyldesley Employment Exchanges who have been before the public assistance committees to have their cases inquired into under the transitional period test; how many have been refused benefit altogether; and how many have been given less than the standard benefit?

Photo of Sir Henry Betterton Sir Henry Betterton , Rushcliffe

Between 12th November and 5th December, 1931, 1,838 applications for transitional payments have been referred to the public assistance committee for the Leigh area, in which the Leigh and Tyldesley Employment Exchanges are situated. During the same period determinations were made by the committee in 848 cases, including 117 cases in which the determinations provided that transitional payments should be made at the normal benefit rate, 381 cases at a lower rate and 350 cases in which the needs of the applicant were not held to justify any payment.

Photo of Sir Patrick Donner Sir Patrick Donner , Islington West

9.

asked the Minister of Labour the number of married women in Islington and in West Islington, separately, who, as a result of the new transitional arrangements, have been deprived of unemployment benefit?

Photo of Sir Henry Betterton Sir Henry Betterton , Rushcliffe

I regret that statistics giving the information desired are not available.

Photo of Mr Douglas Jamieson Mr Douglas Jamieson , Glasgow Maryhill

13.

asked the Minister of Labour whether he is aware that the public assistance committee of the Corporation of Glasgow have adopted a uniform scale under which unemployed men in receipt of disability pensions are to receive the proportion of the maximum transitional payment scale corresponding to the difference between the percentage of their disability and 100; and whether, as this fixing of a uniform scale conflicts with the provisions of the Order-in-Council, he will take steps to secure the observance of those provisions?

Photo of Sir Henry Betterton Sir Henry Betterton , Rushcliffe

I understand that where such scales exist they are used for general guidance in dealing with the circumstances of particular cases. I am not aware that this involves any failure to carry out the requirement of the Order-in-Council.

Photo of Mr Douglas Jamieson Mr Douglas Jamieson , Glasgow Maryhill

Is the right hon. Gentleman advising the committees that the nature of the disability should be taken into account in each case?

Photo of Sir Henry Betterton Sir Henry Betterton , Rushcliffe

Of course, the circumstances of each ease must always be taken into consideration.

Photo of Mr Thomas Williams Mr Thomas Williams , Don Valley

16.

asked the Minister of Labour if he is aware that need pensions as well as disability pensions are being taken into account by the West Riding (Yorks) public assistance committee when dealing with transition cases; that Thomas Smith, of 52, York Street, Rossington, whose wife has a small pension of 8s. per week, has had a reduction of 3s. 9d. a week from his unemployment benefit; and, as this is inconsistent with the terms of the circular sent to public assistance committees, will he state what action he is taking to deal with it?

Photo of Mr George Buchanan Mr George Buchanan , Glasgow Gorbals

18.

asked the Minister of Labour if he is aware of the dissatisfaction against the methods of the Glasgow public assistance committee in administering the means test, particularly with regard to the assessment of ex-Army pensions, income from workmen's compensation, and sickness payment; and if he will make representations to the local authority to alter their method of calculating the incomes of the unemployed?

Lieut.-Colonel MOORE:

20.

asked the Minister of Labour what action he proposes to take in respect of the complaints he has received in regard to the administration of the means test by public assistance committees?

Photo of Sir Henry Betterton Sir Henry Betterton , Rushcliffe

An authority's determination on all applications for transitional payments is final. As I have already informed the House, I have no power to interfere with the discretion of an authority which is carrying out its duty under the Order in Council. While, therefore, I shall watch very carefully the general administration of the scheme in the light of information which comes before me, I do not propose to make representations to authorities in regard to individual cases. Any such representations must be addressed to authorities by applicants themselves. I have no reason to doubt that they will receive careful consideration.

Photo of Mr Thomas Williams Mr Thomas Williams , Don Valley

Are we to understand that the right hon. Gentleman actually agrees to the reduction of unemployment benefit because of a widow's need pension?

Photo of Sir Henry Betterton Sir Henry Betterton , Rushcliffe

The hon. Member must only draw from my reply exactly what I said.

Photo of Mr Thomas Williams Mr Thomas Williams , Don Valley

In view of the fact that the right hon. Gentleman said that he would not make any representations to the local authorities, does he not agree with the policy pursued by the public assistance committees?

Photo of Sir Henry Betterton Sir Henry Betterton , Rushcliffe

No, Sir, I cannot accept that deduction at all. I have said over and over again that the decision of the local authorities is binding, and that I have no power to give them instructions.

Photo of Mr George Buchanan Mr George Buchanan , Glasgow Gorbals

In view of the fact that this is State money which is being allocated—money which has been voted by this House coming from Government funds—is it not desirable that this House and the Department should see it is spent as Parliament desired, and will the right hon. Gentleman see that this Government money is used in the way which the House desires it to be used?

Photo of Sir Henry Betterton Sir Henry Betterton , Rushcliffe

No doubt all those considerations were taken into account by the House when the local authorities were authorised to deal with this matter.

Lieut.-Colonel MOORE:

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that during the last election there was published, under the authority of the Government, a statement that disability pensions enjoyed by ex-service men would not be taken into consideration in applying the means test, and is he aware that candidates like myself frequently gave assurances that that would be so and that that has not been carried out?

Photo of Sir Henry Betterton Sir Henry Betterton , Rushcliffe

My hon. and gallant Friend is under an entire misapprehension. No such statement was made on the authority of the Government.

Photo of Sir John Haslam Sir John Haslam , Bolton

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the Home Secretary, who was a member of the Government and a candidate in Lancashire at the General Election, gave us a lead and said that only the interest and not the capital would be taken into account?

Photo of Mr Herbert Samuel Mr Herbert Samuel , Darwen

No, Sir. That is quite incorrect.

Photo of Mr William Lunn Mr William Lunn , Rothwell

Is the right hon. Gentleman contemplating issuing new Regulations for the guidance of the public assistance committees?

Photo of Sir Henry Betterton Sir Henry Betterton , Rushcliffe

No, Sir; not at present.

Photo of Sir Geoffrey Mander Sir Geoffrey Mander , Wolverhampton East

54.

asked the Minister of Health why income estimated to arise from the occupation of a man's own house in which he is living is treated in a different manner by public assistance committees to income accruing from other sources?

Photo of Mr Edward Young Mr Edward Young , Sevenoaks

I am not aware of any distinction such as that suggested but, if my hon. Friend will give me specific instances, I shall be pleased to make inquiries.

Photo of Mr Irving Albery Mr Irving Albery , Gravesend

57. and 58.

asked the Minister of Health (1) what scales of relief have been adopted by the public assistance committees as regards single men in the adjoining districts of Northfleet and Swanscombe;

(2) If he is aware that transitional benefit cases of a similar nature in two adjoining districts of Northfleet and Swanscombe are being assessed on the basis of 9s. and 15s. 3d., respectively, for single men; and what steps are being taken to ensure uniformity of treatment?

Photo of Mr Edward Young Mr Edward Young , Sevenoaks

The practice of committees in assessing the needs of applicants for transitional payments must follow their practice in dealing with able-bodied applicants for relief. I am not aware that any scale of relief has been laid down by the public assistance authority, and the matter is within its discretion.

Photo of Mr Irving Albery Mr Irving Albery , Gravesend

In view of the urgent nature of the matter to those concerned, will the right hon. Gentleman give an undertaking to have it looked into and to take the necessary steps at the earliest possible moment?

Photo of Mr Edward Young Mr Edward Young , Sevenoaks

It is hard to comprehend from the questions what is he matter that my hon. Friend desires me to look into, but, if he considers the answer, I think he will find that it covers it.