asked the Secretary of State for Social Services if, in view of the current unemployment figures, he will now suspend the four-week rule whereby persons deemed not to be seeking work may have their benefit stopped.
No, Sir. The rate of unemployment varies throughout the country, so in areas where the Department of Employment advise that unskilled work can be obtained without difficulty the arrangements for allowances initially limited to four weeks continue. These areas are under constant review.
Does not the hon. Gentleman feel, however, that with more than 922,000 people currently unemployed, his officers would be far better employed trying to help unemployed people with their financial and other problems than hounding them in the way in which they are being hounded at present?
The rule does not operate in any of the offices in the Northern, Yorkshire and Humberside, and two North-Western Regions of England, or in Scotland and Wales. Where it operates, it applies only to the fit, single person under 45 years of age.
While the unemployment figures are deeply worrying, cannot some comfort be drawn from the fact that the number who have been unemployed for more than six months has not risen to anything like the same extent?
Yes. I am grateful to my hon. Friend for pointing out that true fact.
The Minister has read out a list of areas which are exempt. Why does the rule apply to Bolsover?
It applies only in the areas where jobs are available. In those areas, if at the end of four weeks a person has not been able to find work and is genuinely eligible for work, he still gets his allowances.