asked the Secretary of State for Scotland whether he is aware that unemployed farm workers in the county of Fife are being informed that the public assistance committee cannot make supplementary payments to the amounts given under the new insurance scales for unemployed farm workers; whether he has considered a case referred to him in which an unemployed farm worker who, previous to being included in the insurance scheme, would have received 29s. per week able-bodied relief is now only entitled to an insurance rate of 24s., and, as this is insufficient for his family needs, has had to be offered detention in the poorhouse; and whether he can take steps to ensure that farm workers who, with their employers, pay insurance premiums will not now be worse off than before the insurance scheme was inaugurated?
The answer to the first part of the question is in the negative; each application for public assistance falls to be considered on its merits. I am informed that only one application from a man in receipt of benefit under the Unemployment Insurance (Agriculture) Act, 1936, has so far been received by the Fife county public assistance committee. This would appear to be the case referred to in the second part of the question. The man has lodged with the Department of Health for Scotland a statutory complaint and they are at present in communication with the local authority on the matter. I shall communicate with the right hon. Member when a decision is reached.
In view of the urgency of this question to all farm servants in Scotland, will the right hon. Gentleman undertake to expedite a decision, and, if necessary, introduce legislation as quickly as possible?
I will do my utmost to expedite a decision. Obviously I cannot suggest legislation until I know the decision.
Is it not the case that until the coming into operation of Part 2 of the Act people on standard benefit, including agricultural workers, can have their payments augmented by the public assistance committee if they so desire, and that the Fife public assistance committee could have done so in this case, if they so desired?
That is what I have said. I have said that the answer to the first part of the question is in the negative; that people in the county of Fife are not being told that the public assistance committee cannot make supplementary payments.
Do I understand that the Fife County Council are acting in contravention of the Statute?
No, Sir. I was asked whether unemployed farm workers in the county of Fife are being informed that the public assistance committee cannot make supplement4ry payments. I said that the answer was in the negative.
But in this specific case they have done so.