HC Deb 09 November 1959 vol 613 cc17-8
26. Mr. Manuel

asked the Minister of Pensions and National Insurance why unemployment benefit was refused for a period of five weeks to many workers dismissed on 25th September, 1959, from the Hunterston atomic energy plant.

Mr. Boyd-Carpenter

As the hon. Member will be aware, entitlement to unemployment benefit is decided by independent statutory authorities. I understand that, in the case referred to, the question arose as to whether the men concerned were disqualified under the trade dispute provisions. Six test cases were heard by the local tribunal, covering different classes of workers. The tribunal on 26th October decided in favour of the applicants in four of these cases, and against them in two. Arrangements were made for the immediate payment of benefit to those men who were covered by the favourable decisions.

Mr. Manuel

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that many of these workers, although they had no connection with the industrial dispute at Hunterston, were forced on to National Assistance? Could he inform the House by whose authority those men, who were definitely clear of the dispute, were refused unemployment benefit, and will he take steps to see that this does not occur in future?

Mr. Boyd-Carpenter

Those decisions were taken, as all decisions in such classes of case are taken, by the independent statutory adjudicating authorities set up by this House. I think the hon. Gentleman has in mind not so much the system of adjudication as the trade dispute disqualification, on which I have nothing to add to the supplementary answer I gave a few moments ago to his hon. Friend below the Gangway.

Mr. Ross

Does not the Minister appreciate that there is sometimes considerable delay before decisions are reached? Will he look at the case that arises at present in relation to an official dispute at Kilmarnock, where men who are not directly involved have had their benefit held up because of a similar situation arising?

Mr. Boyd-Carpenter

Although, as the hon. Gentleman knows, I have no control over the independent statutory authorities who decide claims, if he cares to let me have information about delay in the handling of the matter to which he refers, I will make such inquiries as I can.

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