HC Deb 24 May 1965 vol 713 cc10-2
6. Mr. William Yates

asked the Minister of Pensions and National Insurance if she will appoint a Departmental Committee to examine the operation of the National Insurance law in relation to those who are disqualified from unemployment benefit by the official strikes by other unions of which they are not members.

29. Mr. Chapman

asked the Minister of Pensions and National Insurance what consultations she has held about the effect of, and the complaints about, the trade dispute disqualification provisions of the National Insurance Act; what progress she has made; and what changes she proposes to suggest in order to prevent disqualification from unemployment benefit of people thrown out of work by, but not involved in, industrial disputes.

37. Mr. Peter Walker

asked the Minister of Pensions and National Insurance what consideration has now been given to the payment of unemployment benefits to employees prevented from working as a result of a strike for which they are not responsible; and if she will make a statement.

Miss Herbison

My examination of this complex and controversial subject has not so far brought to light any alternative to the present statutory provisions which would provide an acceptable basis for new legislation. But issues of great importance to both sides of industry are involved. I have therefore consulted my right hon. Friend, the Minister of Labour and am now able to say that this matter will be fully examined by the Royal Commission on Trade Unions and Employers' Associations along with the other matters which are before it.

Mr. Yates

I am glad to know that the Minister of Labour and the Royal Commission are to examine this problem. They have had 13 years in opposition to look into it and they might be able to think—[HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."]—it is all very well for the Minister and her hon. Friend to blame everybody else. They should blame themselves and their party. This is an important piece of law. Why should a trade unionist be deprived of his State rights because of the illegal actions of a third party? In view of this, I am glad that the matter is to go before the Royal Commission.

Mr. Chapman

Why is this a matter for the Royal Commission on Trade Unions? Why is it not a matter for the Minister's Advisory Committee, which is well fitted to examine it and to give a quick report? How much longer are people who are not involved in strikes to be denied unemployment benefit? This will happen again and again while the Royal Commission is sitting.

Miss Herbison

I well understand the feelings of my hon. Friend. This is a provision that has stood for 37 years. It has been examined on a number of occasions by the National Insurance Advisory Committee. It is a matter to which I have given the most serious consideration since it has been raised by my hon. Friends. I have been quite frank in saying that no solution has been found to it either by the National Insurance Advisory Committee or as a result of the examination that I have given it. It was because I regarded it as a matter of such moment to thousands of workers that I felt that it should be examined at the highest level and I hope that the Royal Commission will be able to find a solution.

Mr. Heffer

I am sure that my hon. Friends will agree when I say that all of us here fully appreciate the efforts my right hon. Friend has been making. Recently in Liverpool I have had two cases of this sort, one at Ford's—[HON. MEMBERS: "Ask a question."]—and another in my own constituency, and therefore I would ask, would she again take this matter up with the Minister of Labour and ask for a further consideration of this matter, because it is tremendously important to the workers, who regard 37 years as far too long?

Miss Herbison

My hon. Friend has asked if I could take this up again with the Ministry of Labour. Before I came to the House today I had already discussed it with the Minister of Labour. We tried to see if some quick way could be found of dealing with it, and it was as a result of these discussions and of our inquiries that we had finally to decide to let it go to what is considered one of the most important bodies in the country, in the hope of finding a solution to the problem.

Mr. Yates

In view of the unsatisfactory replies to many hon. Members on both sides, I give notice that I shall raise the matter on the Adjournment.