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Schedule 2. — (Provisions for Determining Right to and Amount of Benefit.)

Part of Orders of the Day — Ministry of Social Security Bill – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 17th June 1966.

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Photo of Mrs Lena Jeger Mrs Lena Jeger , Holborn and St Pancras South 12:00 am, 17th June 1966

I understand that we are taking several Amendments together, and I had put down an Amendment suggesting that the two-year period should be cut to six months. I was concerned about the apparent contradiction with the provisions of the wage-related benefits. I had hoped that this Measure would rationalise our social security provisions and provide a more integrated system. I could not understand why we were likely to have a situation where, for about six months, a man would get wage-related benefit, and there would then be this slump until he had been ill for two years. I should like an explanation of the position.

My second point refers to the exclusion of the unemployed from the 9s. benefit under the present terms of the Bill, even after two years of unemployment. I must tell my right hon. Friend that I think this is a mean situation. We know that most of the long-term unemployed are getting very nearly on the fringe of the unemployable in the present economic conditions. We are anxious to encourage people who have been ill, who have had disablement and breakdowns to get back to work, to register for employment, rather than to go on drawing sickness benefit. The effect of the Bill is that if one of these borderline cases, a man who could sit back and draw sick benefit, is encouraged by my right hon. Friend's local officers to register for employment and to try a light job, the very act of registering him disqualifies him from obtaining the 9s. for two years, that is supposing that he is unlucky in obtaining work.

That seems to be so unkind that I feel I must have misinterpreted the intentions of my right hon. Friend and I hope that she will be able to help me. There is such a hazy dividing line between the unemployed and the unemployable, between the sick and inadequate and those who can just hold down a job. It may be that there is a fear of encouraging idleness underlying this rule. A penal attitude to unemployment does not belong on this side of the Committee. If we are afraid of work-shy people taking advantage of this small extra benefit, my right hon. Friend has adequate powers under Clause 30 to deal with this.

We must accept that there are many parts of the country where it is not always the fault of the person concerned that he has not been able to get work for two years, either through reasons of geographical unemployment or because of his own state of health. I must point out that of people who have been unemployed for more than a year, one in four are registered disabled, but registered for employment. Surely we want to encourage the disabled to do this, but if putting men on the employment list means that they will be disqualified from the 9s. I cannot see the social sense in this. Because of the shortage of time I hope that I have made my anxieties clear and I will await the Minister's explanation.