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?
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?
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.
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?
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?
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.
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?
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.
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.
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?
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.
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?
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?
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?
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?
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.
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?
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.
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?
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?
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?
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.
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?
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.