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1938 Trades Union Congress report criticising unemployment policy

TUC Annual Report 1938. Report criticising unemployment policy
TUC Annual Report 1938. Report criticising unemployment policy
©TUC Library Collections, London Metropolitan University

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The National Government cut the rate of benefits provided by the Unemployment Assistance Boards (UABs). This document shows how the Trades Union Congress (TUC) lodged its protests about the government's policies in 1938. By this time, however, policies set out in the Cabinet conclusion on unemployment benefits had been fully implemented.

Questions to consider

  1. What did the TUC resolve to do in order to make the government aware of its views?
  2. What points did the TUC delegation make?
  3. Do you get the impression that they received a sympathetic hearing?
  4. Is it possible to infer from this extract how much influence the TUC had on the government over this issue?


(70) Deputation to the Minister of Labour

Resolutions Nos. 9, 10, and 19 were raised by deputation to the Minister of Labour on January 20, 1938, when the first paragraph of resolution No. 3—about the abolition of the household Means Test—was also discussed.

The deputation consisted of the following:—
Trades Union Congress (TUC) General Council (TUC).—Mr. H.H. Elvin (Chairman), Messrs. E.J. Chapman, W. Kean, J.A. Newrick, J.L. Smyth (Secretary, Social Insurance Department).
Mineworkers' Federation of Great Britain.—Mr. S. Watson.
Typographical Association.—Mr. J. W. Lowe.
National Union of General and Municipal Workers.—Mr. H.N. Harrison.
National Union of Agricultural Workers.--Messrs. Z. Bernrose, W.A.J. Case, A.C. Dann.
Association of Engineering and Shipbuilding Draughtsmen.—Mr. G.W. Thomson.

Mr. R.H. Bernays, M.P., Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Health, was present in connection with Resolution No. 19.

The deputation expressed, on behalf of non-manual workers, the disappointment felt at the failure of the Government to raise the income limit in respect of insurance, especially as the Unemployment Insurance Statutory Committee had recommended such an increase.

Emphasis was laid on the objection of the Trade Union Movement to the Household Means Test, and to the injustice of refusing benefits to groups of workers thrown out of work in consequence of their membership of a Trade Union.

The hope was expressed that the Government would take steps finally, to remove the anomaly arising owing to two separate stamp qualifications in respect of the general and Agricultural Insurance schemes.

Complete overhaul of the Unemployment Assistance scales was urged, and attention was drawn to the wages stop provision. In respect of this, it was claimed that, as Unemployment Assistance allowances are based on bare necessity they should be paid in full, irrespective of any lower amount which an applicant may have been receiving when at work.

Members of the deputation gave detailed accounts of hardship under the various points raised.

(71) The Ministers' Reply
In reply to the deputation Mr. R.H. Bernays, M.P., said that the Government, as advised at the time, could not agree to raise the salary limit of non-manual workers for health insurance.

The Right Hon. Ernest Brown, Minister of Labour, said he could give no promise with regard to the Means Test or the raising of the income limit.

With regard to the injustices, under the Trade Disputes Law, to workers exercising their right to join a Trade Union, he expressed the opinion that the law operated fairly for all concerned, but in view of the case put before him, would make further inquiries.

With regard to the two sets of stamp qualifications in the general and Agricultural schemes, the Minister said he has every desire to remedy the situation, but found it could not be done without creating further anomalies, and the Unemployment Insurance Statutory Committee agreed with him. He would be glad to have particulars of cases, and asked the deputation to keep track of such cases and let him know how they worked out later on.

He did not agree that the time had arrived for a revision of Unemployment Assistance scales. Matters must remain as they are.

On the question of workers receiving less than the amount of Unemployment Assistance scales because their wages when at work were less, the issue was too big to be discussed adequately at that moment.

Following the deputation, detailed cases showing the harsh working of the household Means Test were sent on to the Minister, who promised to investigate them and let the Council have a considered reply. A lengthy and detailed reply has been received from him which is being investigated. No opportunity will be lost of keeping this matter to the fore, and the Council will maintain their pressure on the Government for the abolition of the household Means Test.