HC Deb 22 March 1961 vol 637 cc387-8
Mr. Percy Browne (Torrington)

I beg to move, That leave be given to bring in a Bill to make further provision to enable seasonal workers to draw unemployment benefit; and for purposes connected therewith. The main object of my proposed Bill is to amend the National Insurance (Seasonal Workers) Regulations, 1950, which deal with the payment of unemployment benefit. It may well seem that the proposed amendments are trivial, but I submit that there is a point of principle at issue and I hope that the Bill will commend itself to the House—[Interruption.]—if I can get a hearing.

Paragraph 2 (2) of the Regulations says, in effect, that a seasonal worker must have had "a substantial amount of employment" during his off-season to qualify for benefit and sub-paragraph (2, d) states that a substantial amount of employment means … employment which is equal in duration to not less than one-fourth … of the current off-season. The National Insurance Advisory Council, in order to safeguard the position of employed people, concluded that … a worker who had accepted or chosen local conditions which precluded a reasonable prospect of a substantial amount of … employment in his off-season could not be regarded as in the field of employment during that period. … I completely disagree with this conclusion. I believe that very few people choose to live in these local conditions. I think that it is a case of there being no alternative for most of them. The conditions are thrust upon them and, therefore, they should not be penalised.

In any case, the ordinary unemployment benefit Regulations enable the benefit to be withheld from persons who refuse to take a job. Furthermore, to receive the benefit the person must be registered for employment and must be prepared to accept employment, and it is surely not that person's fault if the work is not available. The specific Regulations which I am trying to amend are difficult and expensive to operate. They require a three-year average, and during the past three years, taking an average, only 4,200 people per annum have been affected by the regulations over the whole country.

That is the point of principle. There will be a further section of the Bill to enable those who are employed part-time by school meals services and who receive a small retainer during the school holiday period to draw benefit as well. The retainer is paid for the convenience of the school, but at present it debars a person from drawing unemployment benefit. I seek to remedy this position in cases where there is no other work available. The Bill is not wide in scope and I hope that it will commend itself to hon. Members and that the House will give leave to bring it in.

Question put and agreed to.

Bill ordered to be brought in by Mr. P. Browne, Sir J. Vaughan-Morgan, Mr. Mathew, Mr. Tiley, Mr. Scott-Hopkins, Mr. Prior, and Mr. Mawby.

  1. SEASONAL WORKERS 41 words