§ Mr. Attlee (by Private Notice)
asked the Minister of Labour whether he is aware that there has been a reduction in the amounts of the winter allowances made by the Unemployment Assistance Board, and whether he has any statement to make on the matter?
§ The Minister of Labour (Mr. Ernest Brown)
There has been no change in the Regulations governing this matter. By virtue of the general discretionary powers contained in these Regulations, additions to the unemployment assistance allowances have since November last been made in many cases, in order to meet the special circumstances arising out of the concurrence of winter conditions with an increase in the prices of certain commodities. With the passing of winter and the fall in the cost of commodities the Board's officers are no longer legally empowered to make or maintain additions on this basis and must now have regard to the changed circumstances when making new assessments and in reviewing current assessments. The Board have issued an instruction to their officers on the subject, of which I will place a copy in the Library. I understand that the Board have had the whole position under consideration with a view to securing specific authority by Regulation to enable them in appropriate cases to meet the additional expenses arising out of winter conditions as such, and that they propose accordingly to submit a Draft Regulation to me at an early date. Such a Regulation would require the approval of Parliament before it came into force.
§ Mr. George Hall
Did the Board consult with the local advisory committees before this reduction was agreed upon, and is the right hon. Gentleman aware that this announcement will cause consternation in hundreds of thousands of the poorest homes in the country and that it will be regarded as mean and contemptible to bring about this reduction?
§ Mr. Brown
I cannot understand that because this is the first time this has been done by way of increase in the winter allowance. More than that, since the London County Council's public assistance winter allowance runs only from about 20th October to 19th April as a maximum, and the Board's winter allowance has been longer, I fail to see where the "mean and contemptible" comes in.
§ Mr. G. Strauss
Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the London County Council a few months ago raised the allowances of those on public assistance because of the increased cost of living and other reasons, and made that increase permanent?
§ Mr. Benjamin Smith
Will the right hon. Gentleman convey to the House what is the actual difference between the winter prices and the so-called summer prices? Is he aware, for instance, that old potatoes now are almost uneatable and that new ones cost 6½d. a pound?
As my right hon. Friend is proposing to introduce an amending Regulation, will he consider at the same time any other amending Regulations if they are considered necessary?
§ Mr. Gallacher
Is it not the case that the Minister and his policy in connection with unemployment have been definitely repudiated by his constituents in Leith?