HC Deb 03 August 1971 vol 822 cc1306-7
1. Mr. Prentice

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services when he expects to announce the outcome of the Government's current consideration of the proposal of the Donovan Commission to allow unemployment benefit to workers laid off by reason of a trade dispute at their place of employment, but who were neither participating in nor directly interested in the dispute.

The Secretary of State for Social Services (Sir Keith Joseph)

I have no statement to make at present.

Mr. Prentice

Would the Secretary of State confirm that it is now virtually the universal view that this rule ought to be changed, and that if the Government persist in this out-dated rule they are only really doing so to effect the strike situation by trying to put pressure on strikers through the hardship on non-strikers' families? Is not that a pretty unworthy way of conducting an industrial relations policy?

Sir K. Joseph

I undertook, in Standing Committee, to consider discussing with my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Employment later in the year, and that undertaking, of course, stands.

Mrs. Shirley Williams

The right hon. Gentleman showed a great unease about this in Committee and, indeed, on Second Reading, because he knows that what was already a rather unfair provision has now become doubly unfair because of the Government's proposed legislation in this field. I wonder whether he would treat this with some urgency, since the Act will come into force in the immediate future.

Sir K. Joseph

I think the hon. Lady is doing me an injustice in using the word "unease". I freely and voluntarily agreed that there were strong arguments on both sides of this case. I think "unease" is unfair.

14. Mr. Ralph Howell

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services if he is aware that when unemployment pay is disallowed because an employee has left employment of his own accord or because of misconduct, he can receive more in social security benefit than he would have received in unemployment benefit; and if he will take steps to remedy the situation.

Sir K. Joseph

Anyone who becomes unemployed, whatever the reason, is entitled to supplementary benefit to bring his income up to his requirements as defined in the 1966 Act. If he is not paid unemployment benefit for the reasons given, he is paid less for up to six weeks than the normal amount of his supplementary benefit requirements. The difference now is 75p. After the Social Security Bill has become law, the maximum difference will be £2.30 a week or £13.80 for the full six weeks.

Mr. Howell

Is my right hon. Friend aware that in certain instances people who are on social security can receive as much as £2 more if they have lost unemployment as a result of misconduct?

Sir K. Joseph

It is a difficult question to debate in this way, but I am simply assuring my hon. Friend that someone who loses unemployment benefit for the reason he has instanced suffers a penalty, which is being increased under the Social Security Bill, in supplementary benefit for up to six weeks.

Mr. Merlyn Rees

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that in an area such as Norfolk, which I visited politically the other day, it is brought to one's notice from all quarters that the problem is that it is a low-wage area? It was put to me frankly by my friends there that people in authority seemed more interested in cows than people.

Sir K. Joseph

The East Anglian claim for F.I.S. is at about the same level as in other mainly agricultural areas. I believe that the F.I.S. will help many people working on farms.