The level of the wage stop is based, as the National Assistance Regulations require, on what the individual might expect to earn if he went back to work. There is accordingly no standard wage stop figure for all general labourers in these regions.
Is the hon. Lady aware that I have had a number of cases from the National Assistance Board in the Burgh of Clydebank where the wage stop has been applied on the recommendation of the Ministry of Labour at the basic wage which men would receive if they worked, but as all labourers working in any of the industries in that area receive a bonus, should not the wage stop be the basic wage plus the average bonus paid?
The wage stop is the amount which the man might expect to earn if he went back to work in the occupation for which he is registered. We reckon that this normally includes a figure for overtime. I am not sure about the bonus point, but, if the hon. Member has any individual cases, I will gladly look into them.
I have brought cases to the notice of the hon. Lady in which this very situation has been revealed. I am not talking about overtime. The wage stop applied was £8 10s., whereas had that man been working in any of the factories in the district he would have received another 20 per cent. production bonus out of the factory's bonus system. That £8 10s. should be about £9 15s.
I am now seized of the hon. Member's point. I do not recollect any individual cases which he has brought to me personally. However, if he would put them to me I will gladly look into them.
The Board bases the wage-stop figure on the net earnings a man could expect if he returned to work in the occupation for which he is registered at the employment exchange.
Would the hon. Lady recognise that we are dealing here with the poorest section of the community where this wage stop is applied? On what criteria does she base her Answer? Is there a proper liaison with the Ministry of Labour to find out what earnings should be earned by a particular person to whom the wage stop is applied? How is that she says that a person has this wage stop applied, who has been earning overtime for, say, the previous month, before he became redundant? Is that to be the criterion on which it is applied? Or is it applied on some hypothetical situation which may never arise?
It is based on a forward prognosis of what he would get. I recognise that within the general principle we apply there may be scope for argument as to how much the amount would be. We consult very closely with the Ministry of Labour. This is done by the Board's area offices and the local employment exchanges. We do our best to arrive at a figure which is equitable for all concerned.
Would the hon. Lady not agree that if, as she says, there is scope for argument about it there is surely at least scope for examination of the problem to see if the proper principles are being applied? There could be injustice brought into this, the most hard-hit part of our community.
I think that the general principle is almost universally acknowledged, so far as I am aware. It is that a person should not get more by way of assistance than he would get if he were to start work in an occupation for which he is registered.