§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ 5.11 p.m.
§ Mr. Lennox-Boyd
I beg to move, "That the Bill be now read a Second time."
414 This Bill has two objects. The first object is to provide for an extension of unemployment assistance so that allowances can be paid to those who are at present outside the scope of the Act but who may be in distress through circumstances caused by the war. The second object is to take powers in regard to unemployment assistance similar to those contained in the Unemployment Insurance (Emergency Powers) Bill to which the House has just given a Second Reading. With regard to the first object of this Bill, the sort of people we have in mind are those who are in distress through being officially evacuated, or those who through enemy action or threatened enemy action have found themselves or some person in whom they have relied cut off from their normal source of livelihood. The provisions also apply to those in distress through the temporary holding up of a Government grant or award to which they arc entitled. Without such a Bill the burden of maintaining these people would fall on the local authority, and it is obviously inequitable that that should happen. The emergency circumstances demand rapid action and effective machinery, and we ask the House to approve procedure by regulation.
In regard to the second object, we propose to take power to modify the unemployment assistance scheme whether for those who are now within it or those who may be brought within the provisions of the scheme in future. It is not, however, intended to modify by regulation the provisions relating to the assessment of need or those which safeguard certain household resources. Any change in that regard would have to be the subject of legislation. Nor is it intended to modify in any way the procedure under which regulations for the assessment of needs must be submitted in draft to Parliament and cannot become operative until there is an affirmative resolution of this House.
§ 5.14 p.m.
§ Mr. Grenfell
Here again we have to suspend final judgment on the regulations until they arc before us, but in general we on this side of the House approve the Bill. We know that where there is loss of employment there will, in the absence of rights of insurance, be a certain number of people who will be applicants for relief, and for these provision must be 415 made. No better way of getting a standard or universal measure of relief could be adopted than is proposed in the Bill. People will be moving from their own areas and going to districts where they have no legal claim for public assistance and no connection with the area in which they find themselves located. The machinery of public assistance which is provided in the unemployment assistance scheme will meet this situation better than any other. In 1914 we had the Prince of Wales's Fund to meet contingencies of this kind. There was great distress in some areas for the first few months, but it was considerably reduced in less than 12 months. At that time there was need for a very special and large measure of relief. The best possible way is to meet the emergency beforehand, and I am glad that the Minister is taking the powers which he proposes in this Bill. I should, however, like to make certain that in widening the unemployment assistance scheme he will not do so in such a way as to preclude from benefit certain small business people, people who have "rounds" and so on, of whom there are a very large number. I hope he will pay close attention to the claims of people in those circumstances.
§ 5.17 p.m.
§ Mr. Kingsley Griffith
I should like to join in welcoming the provisions of this Bill. It is very fortunate that we have this machinery to apply and that the application is being done promptly, so that there will be no intervening period of chaos and distress. In this and other Bills we are giving very extensive powers to Ministers, by regulation. On these benches we generally regard such powers with a certain amount of suspicion, but on this occasion I think the whole tendency of the legislation is an expansive one, to bring in people who would otherwise be left out. We entirely welcome the Bill, but I would ask what is to be done with regard to certain regulations. There are regulations under existing Acts which lay down conditions for qualifying for benefit, in which certain conduct is imposed upon the applicant, such, for instance, as going to camp. I should like an assurance that we are not to have any stiffening up of that kind in the machinery of this Act. Subject to that reservation, I am certain that the intention of the Bill is one of which the whole House will generally approve.
§ Mr, Beechman
In extending a warm welcome to the Bill I would ask the Minister to bear in mind that there will be numbers of fishermen likely to be thrown out of employment by finding it difficult to carry on their avocation of fishing owing to war conditions.
§ Question, "That the Bill be now read a Second time," put, and agreed to.
§ Bill read a Second time.
§ Bill committed to a Committee of the Whole House for To-morrow.—[Captain Dugdale.]