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Unemployment Benefit (Short-Time Working)

Volume 640: debated on Monday 8 May 1961

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asked the Minister of Pensions and National Insurance whether, whether, in view of the anomalies brought to notice as a result of the recent recession in the motor industry and the sense of unfairness resulting from these, he will appoint a committee to review the conditions under which unemployment benefit is paid to those working short-time.

Is not the right hon. Gentleman aware that there is a widespread feeling of unfairness about the anomalies between five-day and six-day weeks and day shift working and night shift working? I recognise that it is difficult to deal with one anomaly without uncovering another, but will not the right hon. Gentleman take some steps, whether by a committee or a more informal means of proceeding, to see whether this matter can be reviewed and something substituted which strikes the great body of people involved as much more fair and equitable?

As I am sure the hon. Gentleman knows, this matter was thrashed out fully by the National Insurance Advisory Committee some years ago, and this was followed by the enactment of Section 4 of the National Insurance Act, 1957. I do not think that his suggestion for a committee would be helpful in the circumstances.

Is not the right hon. Gentleman aware that he has received repeated representations from the Trades Union Congress on this matter and that there is, as my hon. Friend says, great dissatisfaction? Will not he reconsider the matter, because with the extension of five-day week working there is no doubt that existing regulations give rise to many anomalies and much discontent?

As the hon. Gentleman is aware, a great many people still work a six-day week, and the system clearly must also take that into account.

Is the right hon. Gentleman saying that his mind is completely closed on this matter and that he thinks that there is no problem worth considering?

No, Sir. I am only replying to the hon. Gentleman by saying that I do not accept his suggestion for a committee.