HC Deb 23 February 1971 vol 812 cc298-300
19. Mr. Madel

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services if he is satisfied with the existing arrangements for welfare payments to families of people who have withdrawn their labour; and if he will make a statement.

Sir K. Joseph

The Government have been reviewing the question of supplementary benefit payments to the families of persons involved in trade disputes. I hope to make an announcement in due course.

Mr. Madel

As families of those involved in industrial disputes often suffer more hardship than is realised, may we take it that the Government will not make changes in welfare payments which are harsh or unnecessary?

Sir K. Joseph

We shall not make changes which are harsh or unnecessary.

Mr. Grimond

Is the Secretary of State aware that temporary postmen who are not party to the present dispute but who are dismissed because of the stoppage of postal services have been denied both unemployment pay and National Assistance? Is not that wholly unjust?

Sir K. Joseph

I cannot believe that people with families are being denied supplementary benefit where they are entitled to it. Single persons involved in trade disputes are not entitled to supplementary benefit, but if the right hon. Gentleman knows of men or women with dependants being denied supplementary benefit when they are entitled to it, I should be grateful to be told.

Mr. Bruce-Gardyne

Will my right hon. Friend bear in mind in his review of the subject that we now have incontrovertible evidence that international companies are shifting investment involving many thousands of jobs from this country because of the incidence of industrial disputes? Does it make sense for the taxpayer to be required to subsidise industrial anarchy when it has such results?

Mr. C. Pannell

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Can you tell us how that supplementary question bears at all on the responsibility of the Secretary of State for Social Services?

Mr. Speaker

Order. I thought that the latter part of the supplementary question was in order, as bearing on the Question.

Sir K. Joseph

I must ask my hon. Friend to await the announcement which I hope to make in due course.

Mr. Orme

Will the right hon. Gentleman not listen to the siren voices, particularly in the editorial columns of the Telegraph and The Times, urging such changes in comment written by people with no understanding of industrial relations? Will he bear in mind that if he makes changes along the lines suggested, they will, along with the Industrial Relations Bill, do the exact opposite in indus- trial relations to that which is intended and seriously worsen the situation?

Sir K. Joseph

I am not responsible for speculation in the Press.

Mr. Hordern

Does my right hon. Friend agree that a distinction should be drawn between unofficial and official strikes? Why should the community assist those unofficial strikers who are striking not against their company but against their own union? That is the point about which the House would like to know.

Sir K. Joseph

I must also ask my hon. Friend to await the announcement.

Mr. O'Malley

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that we on this side utterly reject the harsh philosophy underlying the series of questions asked by the hon. Member for South Angus (Mr. Bruce-Gardyne)? In view of the very broad nature of the Question, which refers to welfare payments and not to supplementary benefits, can the Secretary of State give us an assurance that in the review no consideration is being given to changing the availability of welfare benefits, as distinct from supplementary benefits, to the dependants of strikers?

Sir K. Joseph

My answer referred only to supplementary benefit payments. I must assert that my hon. Friend the Member for South Angus (Mr. Bruce-Gardyne) and all hon. Members are concerned for the national interest. It is against that background that the Government are considering the problem.