No, Sir. Under existing provisions, a person who at any time and without good cause refuses suitable employment can be disqualified for unemployment benefit for up to six weeks, and any entitlement to supplementary benefit that he may have would normally be reduced by up to 40 per cent, of his personal requirements.
Will my hon. Friend bear in mind that when the ruling that I have suggested was tried in Australia the number of unfilled job vacancies fell quite dramatically, to the benefit of industry and of the taxpayer who hitherto had been paying out large sums of unemployment benefit to many people who had not been genuinely seeking work?
We believe that the rules here are fairly powerful if they are fully applied. They have not been adequately enforced in recent years. They are still not being adequately enforced. For that reason we are employing extra officers on the work. We shall be employing some 450 additional officers on various ways of checking on abuse of the system this year. They will include unemployment review officers. We shall employ a further 600 next year.
Does my right hon. Friend recognise that one of the great problems in this respect exists in areas such as Thanet? A considerable number of people go to live there when they cannot possibly get a job there using the skills that they have used all through their lives. They therefore remain permanently unemployed. I am referring to people such as civil servants and welders. Is it not necessary for the Minister to be able to issue a direction that they shall not continue to receive unemployment pay when they remain in an area where they know they cannot get employment?
That presents a difficult aspect of the problem. The legislation that I summarised earlier refers to the acceptance of reasonable offers of employment. It is because that can be adapted to particular geographical areas and levels of skills or experience that we consider it the best way to operate while enforcing the law more strictly.
Order. I remind the House that yesterday we were able to make much better progress with questions because hon. Members tried to ask only one supplementary question and because both questions and answers were brief.
Does the Minister realise that the tone of the two supplementary questions from Conservative Members illustrates what they think of the workers of this country? Does he appreciate that the great majority of the 1,400,000 employed are genuinely seeking work? Is it not the duty of the Government to find them jobs and not to be so despicable in their actions?
The majority of people who are registered as unemployed are genuinely seeking work. It is in their interest and that of the whole country that the minority who try to cheat the system should not be allowed to do so. That is why we intend to enforce the law more strictly.