HC Deb 20 December 1954 vol 535 cc2416-7
21. Mr. Lewis

asked the Minister of Pensions and National Insurance if he is aware that during the recent ship repair dispute, recognised officially by 15 trades unions, many of those involved had to apply to the National Assistance Board for financial assistance; that as a result of collections in trade union branches and many factories voluntary grants were made to those in dispute, that the National Assistance Board thereupon deducted from the weekly National Assistance grants amounts equivalent to the sums received by the strikers from these voluntary donations; by what authority under his Regulations this was done; what were the total sums so recovered; and whether he will amend his Regulations to prevent this happening in the future.

Mr. Peake

The National Assistance Board tells me that in granting Assistance to these strikers it took into account all resources reported to it, other than those it is required by law to disregard. In this the Board was acting under the powers conferred on it by the National Assistance Act and the Regulations made thereunder, and I see no reason to alter the existing provisions. No information is available as to the total amount of any particular kind of resource taken into account.

Mr. Lewis

Is the Minister aware that many of these strikers live in my constituency, that they were on official strike, and that they resent the fact that, as they pay contributions to the National Insurance Fund the whole time they are working and their colleagues who remained at work in the same industry, and other industries, voluntarily contributed this amount, it should then he deducted by the National Assistance Board? Is not that action unfair?

Mr. Peake

The Board was acting strictly in accord with paragraph 9 of the Schedule to the Regulations which were passed in this House in 1948.

Mr. S. Silverman

Does the right hon. Gentleman say that it is the normal practice of the National Assistance Board, under that paragraph, to take into account every casual payment made to a person in receipt of National Assistance; and if that is not the practice, why was it made especially and exceptionally the practice in this case?

Mr. Peake

Paragraph 9, after setting out the statutory disregards in full, and all the other disregards, says: In computing the available resources of a person there shall be taken into account any resources not particularly mentioned in this part of this Schedule reduced by such amount (if any) as is reasonable having regard to all the circumstances of the case. That Regulation gives the Board an absolute discretion, and in this case it decided to take these other resources into account in full.

Mr. Elwyn Jones

Can the Minister say how many men were affected by this mean and pettifogging action?

Mr. Peake

No, I cannot say, but I inform the hon. and learned Member that everybody affected by a decision of this sort has a right of appeal to an independent tribunal. One appeal has been made, and the decision of the Board was upheld.