HC Deb 08 July 1971 vol 820 cc1569-638

5.45 p.m.

Mr. O'Malley

I beg to move Amendment No. 3, in page 2, line 32, at end insert: (4) Any deduction specified in subsection (1) above shall not be made where the Supplementary Benefits Commission are satisfied that such deduction would result in undue hardship to the claimant's dependants or where there are other exceptional circumstances which satisfy the Supplementary Benefits Commission that any such deduction should not be made.

The Clause as it stands proposes a 40 per cent. reduction of supplementary benefit for industrial misconduct. We are discussing this Amendment against a background of high unemployment. As the level of unemployment fluctuates upwards and downwards, so roughly, does the number of cases where the National Insurance officer takes a decision that a person applying for unemployment benefit has been guilty of industrial misconduct. The present level of unemployment benefit is intolerable and is a direct result of the present Government's policies.

There is widespread feeling on the shop floor and in industry generally that the whole of the system of governing industrial misconduct and consequent reductions in supplementary benefit needs to be looked at afresh and in detail. A reduction of this kind involving a move from 75p to 40p, subject to the maximum of 40 per cent. of the single householder rate, involves dramatic cuts in the incomes of families affected. We feel it necessary for provision to be written into the Bill to avoid the real hardship and damage which could be perpetrated as a result of this very high figure of 40 per cent., which for a married couple represents an increase, on the new supplementary benefit rates which come into operation in the autumn, from 75p to £2.32. We regard this as a disgracefully high figure.

A married couple will be entitled in the autumn to a scale figure of £9.45, and will suffer a deduction of £2.32, instead of 75p. This will mean that the scale rate for a married couple in the autumn, at a time of rampant inflation caused directly by Government policies, will be £7.13. That is what a family would be expected to live on. A single non-householder over 21 on the new scale rate would be entitled to £4.60. He would suffer a deduction not of 75p but of £1.84 and for the week he would be required to live on £2.76. We take the view in any case that the figure of 40 per cent. is far too high and in Committee we sought to reduce it substantially, but in any case we felt that whatever figure was set by the House should be a maximum figure.

We certainly do not condone in any way what hon. Gentlemen opposite desscribe as "scrounging". But we are anxious that innocent people should not get hurt as a result of the Government's savage proposals. We do not want to see a 40 per cent. reduction in all cases.

My information is that the officers of the Supplementary Benefits Commission seldom, if ever, modify the 75 per cent. qualification, and therefore, presumably, unless there is some changed instruction from this House, in virtually every case there will be a reduction—amounting to £2.32, for example, for a married couple. We think that this is too high, but also that this reduction should not be taken into account or made in all circumstances because of the difficulties which individual claimants and their families could have and because of the nature of the complaint which has been made against them, which has led to the National Insurance officer making a decision that they have disqualified themselves from receiving unemployment benefit.

In Committee, we made it clear that the Commission should not automatically accept the same criteria in deciding whether there should be a disqualification, and how much, as the National Insurance officer. The Secretary of State said in Committee that he would consider writing into the Bill explicit powers for the Commission to meet exceptional need. However, he said that the Commission already had those powers under the 1966 Act.

The difficulty is that, so far as can be ascertained, the 75 per cent. deduction has rarely if ever been reduced as a result of the Commission using its discretion in this way. That is the first reason why one leg of this Amendment has been put down—because we want the Commission's officers to be in no doubt that there will be circumstances in which the full reduction should not be made.

I mentioned a number of specific problems in Committee and the Secretary of State promised to discuss them with the Commission. I mentioned the special needs of people who may be affected by industrial misconduct decisions of the National Insurance officer, as regards diet and the health of the claimant or of his wife and children. I wanted to know what would happen, for example, if the wife was in a late stage of pregnancy. The Secretary of State said that something could be done in those circumstances. At present, I am advised, nothing is done to cut the amount which is settled on for supplementary benefit as a result of a decision that there is industrial misconduct.

We argued that the criteria adopted by the National Insurance officer should not necessarily, in all circumstances, be the criteria adopted by the. Supplementary Benefits Commission, simply because, to give one example, of the mental and physical characteristics of some of the individuals who are disbarred from unemployment benefit because of charges of industrial misconduct.

When we argue that there should be different criteria, we are not asking for a new principle to be introduced which has never been followed in this country. I am advised that, in the late 1930s, the Unemployment Assistance Board made a 2s. reduction in payments where there was industrial misconduct, but only where it seemed justified. The Board took the decision itself and did so only where this would not cause serious hardship. In September, 1937, of 3,538 people who qualified for this reduction, 43 per cent. received full benefit—that is, the Board was not necessarily accepting the same criteria which led to the decision that there had been industrial misconduct. Nor should this be the case today.

We also tried in Committee to introduce the concept of "culpable" misconduct. The Secretary of State was quite right to discuss the real difficulties which could arise for the Supplementary Benefits Commission and the administration of the system if that concept were accepted. We put it forward to be debated. We did not suggest that it was the best solution, but we thought that the whole concept needed discussion and that that was the opportunity for that discussion.

But, for example, with single parent families, where a woman is trying to keep her children by going out to work rather than receive supplementary benefit, very real strains and difficulties can arise which the National Insurance officer is not allowed to take into account. Similarly, many workers who are disqualified for industrial misconduct and whom Members of Parliament see in their advice bureaux are people who are not very clever, who run foul of the system, who feel that they have done nothing wrong and feel aggrieved about the decisions taken against them. One feels that the Commission's officers should be able to take that kind of circumstance into account.

We should have liked other substantial Amendments to this Clause, but all have been turned down. This Amendment is modest enough, but it would in some circumstances mitigate the monstrous level of industrial disqualification which the Government now propose. Before any such proposals were put forward, they should have been referred to the Committee investigating abuse. There should have been consultation. It is clear that there was no consultation or meaningful discussion with the Commission itself.

We want the Commission's officers to see whether there are exceptional circumstances, and we hope that they will interpret this subsection broadly and with the sympathy which one generally gets from the Commission. One hopes that the officers would satisfy themselves before making a disqualification of this magnitude that it would not involve the wives and the innocent children in hardship.

Unless these modest proposals are accepted, this is precisely what the Government will be doing. I am bound to say that, judging from the reception which we have had from the Under-Secretary and the Secretary of State today and previously, there seems little possibility that appeals to their compassion in this respect will meet anything but a blank refusal to accept anything broader than their own proposals. I hope that the Government will look at this one, if they are looking at nothing else.

6.0 p.m.

Mr. Skinner

I support the remarks of my hon. Friend the Member for Rotherham (Mr. O'Malley), except for his reference to people who fall foul of the system and are dismissed for alleged industrial misconduct being what he described as "by and large not very clever".

I agree that they may not be particularly brilliant intellectually, but they certainly have blood rather than water running through their veins. Many of these people fall foul of the system because they are prepared to stand up to the foremen or managers who operate tin-pot scab factories in which a system of organised trade unionism is neither known nor wanted.

This sort of thing does not happen in reputable industries. In the 21 years during which I was a trade union official in the mining industry I did not have to defend one person who had been sacked for industrial misconduct. The unions in this and similar industries ensure that this sort of thing does not arise and, in any event, the management would not take such action.

We are, therefore, talking about something that occurs by and large in scab factories. There is one of these near to where I live, though not in my constituency. I do not exaggerate when I say that the average take-home pay there is £8 a week. There are long dole queues at the Claycross labour exchange and the area has a 14 per cent. male unemployment rate. The labour exchange regularly shunts people to this and similar factories where, despite the lack of organised trade unions, the men complain about the bad wages and conditions and refuse to work overtime on plain-time rates.

As a result, a paltry excuse is found to get rid of them, and alleged industrial misconduct is often such an excuse. The people who run these factories are not worried about losing their employees. There seem always to be long queues at the Claycross labour exchange, and I am sure that hon. Members on both sides could tell of similar stories.

This part of the Bill shows Conservative bias against ordinary working-class people. More important, it shows the bias of the Government against industrial and manual workers. I have great pleasure in opposing this part and the rest of the Measure.

In Committee the Secretary of State quoted figures relating to people disqualified by insurance officers as a result of alleged industrial misconduct. I insist on using the word "alleged" in this context. He said that of the total of 600,000, only 12,000 had appealed, of whom only 2,400 were successful before the local appeals tribunal. A further 140 appealed to the Commissioners, the second line of appeal possible under the system, resulting in a total of 2,500 successful appeals. This means that employers are backed 99 times out of 100 in these cases, and this obviously adds to the difficulties of ordinary workers and particularly manual workers.

A considerable discussion took place in Committee about the refusal of unemployment pay to these people prior to their appeals being heard. Unfortunately, most of the discussion involved my hon. Friends because hon. Gentlemen opposite failed to speak during the 12 sittings of the Committee. The right hon. Gentleman said that we would be creating a precedent if money were paid prior to appeals going before the Supplementary Benefits Commission.

There are, of course, many instances where money is paid prior to a final decision being taken, and this occurs both inside and outside the social security ambit. If a man sustains an injury and applies for disablement benefit he is first examined by two doctors of the local medical board. If he is not satisfied with the assessment he is given, be it a partial, provisional or final assessment, he can seek leave to be examined by a specialist at a medical appeals tribunal. While he is waiting for that to occur he receives the money.

He may have a 10 per cent. assessment spread over, say, six months. The hearing before the tribunal may not take place for three months following his appearance before the medical board, but nevertheless, he receives his money. The Minister cannot, therefore, sustain his argument that we would be setting a precedent by paying the money in this instance.

I shall have great pleasure in opposing this part of a squalid, class-conscious Bill which is designed to hit the working class. I trust that unless a really satisfactory reply is received from the Minister, my hon. Friends will take this matter to a Division.

Mr. Hugh D. Brown (Glasgow, Provan)

I regret that I was neither a member of the Standing Committee which examined the Bill nor present on Second Reading. For the record, I was assisting in the Labour victory at the Glasgow municipal elections. Having read the OFFICIAL REPORT of the Committee proceedings, I have no difficulty in supporting the Amendment, which is eminently reasonable.

I am never convinced when Government spokesmen argue that the Labour Government tried to do something along similar lines to those which we are urging the Government to follow. I do not necessarily accept responsibility for everything done or attempted to be done in my name. On this occasion I do not believe that the Government have produced convincing arguments to show that they are abiding by the wishes of the Supplementary Benefits Commission or that there was even adequate consultation with the Commission.

Although 40 per cent. is a savage reduction, I am fair-minded enough to consider any evidence that is put to me. If a section of the community is frequently and deliberately trying to get round the regulations, let us have the evidence and consider the matter before passing legislation on the subject. In this instance the Government appear to be over-riding the discretion of the Commission. It is most unfortunate.

I can remember that the previous handbook of the Supplementary Benefits Commission received plaudits from hon. Members on both sides. It states in page 1: An exclusively legal approach to a non-contributory benefit scheme can only lead to a narrower not a broader concept of the 'rights' of claimants…. It goes on: The distinctive feature of the Supplementary Benefits Scheme is its discretionary element, those powers vested in the Commission which enable it to consider claims of individual circumstances. There is obviously a wide discretion left to the Commission.

The Clause deals with someone who leaves his job voluntarily; but who in these days, particularly in Glasgow and the west of Scotland, would leave his job voluntarily, other than someone who might be described as being not too bright? I do not share the belief that everything done in the industrial field is a piece of vicious class warfare; there is also the individual element to be taken into account. But is it not the case that the individual about whom we are likely to be concerned is in some way a bit inadequate? Is he not the kind of person we are talking about?

Mr. Heffer

No, we are not talking about him at all.

Mr. Orme

There are not 600,000 idiots.

Mr. O'Malley

I think that some of my hon. Friends have misunderstood both myself and my hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Provan (Mr. Hugh D. Brown). We say that amongst those deemed by the National Insurance officer to be guilty of industrial misconduct, there is a cross-section—inevitably, because we are dealing with a cross-section of the community—of people who fall foul of the system because they are not very clever. We ask that the Supplementary Benefits Commission should take that kind of circumstance into account.

Mr. Brown

I am not sure what some of my hon. Friends are objecting to or seeking to correct me about. I am not arguing about the inability of some people to manipulate the regulations—

Mr. Heffer

They are not doing that, either.

Mr. Brown

Perhaps I may be allowed to make my own speech. I am arguing against the blanket statutory provision which the Government are introducing. I say that the greatest injustice will be done to those genuinely inadequate people who for some reason or other leave their jobs. If that type of individual is not caught by this Clause as it stands, I shall be very surprised.

We are slightly more advanced in Scotland than is the rest of the country. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh !"] In terms of social work, we are. Hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite may not know that the social work departments have the power to make cash payments, and I suspect that more and more such payments will be made by them to the kind of inadequate person of whom I am thinking.

I do not condemn anyone. I do not want to get involved in more fundamental issues. I object to the fact that the Government are removing a discretion from the Commission, once someone has been deemed by the National Insurance officer to have left his job voluntarily or to have been guilty of industrial misconduct. To that extent, this is a most retrograde Clause. I have not been told whom the Government are trying to catch, but they will certainly catch some innocent victims in the general process.

6.15 p.m.

Mr. Alec Jones

I want, first, to try to restore peace between my hon. Friends, though it seems to me that we are not so much quarrelling as emphasising different aspects of the same problem. As has been said, amongst those alleged to be guilty of industrial misconduct are some of the inadequates, but there are also those, to whom my hon. Friend the Member for Bolsover (Mr. Skinner) referred, who are forced into an unfortu- nate position by the stupid and aggressive acts of employers. Therefore, we have two distinct groups suffering equally from this type of accusation.

The Standing Committee on the Bill was one that I was sorry to miss. People do not often volunteer for Committees, but I should very much have liked to be a member of this one. I notice that in Committee the Government supporters were noticeable by their almost complete silence or by their absence. The Secretary of State told the Committee: What we are all interested in is ensuring that this deduction, which is not dramatic but which is enough to inconvenience a household … and that is a considerable understatement, because the amount of inconvenience will depend on the family's income: … is not imposed before a proper investigation as to the absence of fault."—OFFICIAL REPORT Standing Committee F, 11th May, 1971; c. 46.] The right hon. Gentleman was talking about the rather laborious appeal machinery, and I suppose that most of us would agree with his choice of language; namely, the desirability of ensuring that there was no absence of fault.

The Amendment seeks to say that if we are interested in ensuring that the appeals system should be able to carry out proper investigation into absence of fault, we should be equally interested in ensuring that a deduction is not imposed before a similar investigation has been made into the extent of the hardship involved. The hardship which the proposal involves is as important as the question of fault itself. We have ideal machinery for dealing with this matter, which is why I consider the Amendment to be so desirable. We have the Supplementary Benefits Commission, which, because of the experience and expertise it has amassed over the years, is well able to ascertain the factor of hardship.

There is bound to be some hardship involved in these measures, otherwise there would be no point in introducing them. The Secretary of State used not the word "hardship" but the word "inconvenience", but one man's meat is another man's poison and Tory inconvenience is certainly a Labour hardship in my part of the country. The right hon. Gentleman described the present deduction of 75 p as derisory. Members of my own Government have used similar language, but, as some of us keep on saying, we are not always responsible for the actions even of our brethren. If the Secretary of State describes 75p as derisory, what word would he use to describe his proposal of £2.05? This is an increase in reduction of 173⅓ per cent. It will undoubtedly cause hardship to the lower-paid and to families.

The Amendment seeks to mitigate the hardship. It is nonsense to suggest that benefits can be paid to a wife and children and that somehow they can be reduced only for the husband and father and that his family will not suffer. My experience in my locality and elsewhere teaches me that if a father's income is reduced the income of the whole family is effectively reduced and hardship is inevitably caused.

The Supplementary Benefits Commission was set up specifically to alleviate hardship. The Government would be wise to accept the Amendment and give the Commission the right to maintain the level of present benefits where the proposed reduction would cause undoubted hardship.

Mr. Heffer

On Second Reading the Secretary of State said: Clause 1(2) deals with a person disqualified for up to six weeks from unemployment benefit because he has committed industrial misconduct, left his job voluntarily, or refused suitable work without good cause."—OFFICIAL REPORT 26th April, 1971; Vol. 815, c. 50.] The right hon. Gentleman later suggested that the proposal was that the deduction, which is at present 75p, should be increased to 40 per cent. of the single householder adult rate.

There are three points to be examined. First, there is the question of industrial misconduct. There has never been a clear definition of industrial misconduct. It is a matter of the employer's judgment whether a worker has committed industrial misconduct. There can be and always will be an argument about the real nature of industrial misconduct. Examples have already been given of conduct which an employer might well consider to be industrial misconduct but which would not be so considered by the workers concerned.

A worker in an unorganised factory, say, who constantly asked for better conditions, who argued that the canteen arrangements, if any, were not good enough and that the toilet conditions were not good enough, and who contended that the factory was not sufficiently clean, was too dangerous or was not safe could well be considered by his employer to be a nuisance; an excuse could be found and he could be sacked for industrial misconduct. Anyone who thinks that such a thing could not happen does not know much about industry.

Second, on the question of a worker leaving his job voluntarily, we perhaps reacted too harshly to the point which my hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Provan (Mr. Hugh D. Brown) was making. I take the point that people with inadequate attitudes would come into this category: they could voluntarily leave their employment because of inadequacy.

However, many workers who are not inadequate, who are in control of all their senses, and who understand exactly what they are doing have to put up with bad management or a very bad foreman. A bad foreman can so harass a workman that the workman can stand it no longer and will reach the stage at which he says, "I know I shall lose my unemployment benefit, but I cannot stand this." He therefore leaves his job. He is then immediately faced with suspension of benefit for six weeks and, now, a reduction in benefits of up to 40 per cent. of the single householder rate. The point which we on this side stress is that the reduction bites not only on the worker but on his wife and children.

The third category is refusing suitable work without good cause. I have refused what could be considered to be suitable employment. When I worked in the shipbuilding and ship-repairing industry, one yard in Liverpool that we did our best to stay away from was Cammell Laird. This was because at that establishment at 7.30 a.m. the doors banged and a worker who was not inside the gates at that time lost not a quarter-hour's pay, not a half-hour's pay, but a full morning's pay.

For those workers who got through before the gates clanged at 7.30 a.m. there was no official coffee or tea break. Someone stood at the entrance to the toilet to decide how long a man should stay in the toilet. Many of us who lived 10 miles away on the other side of the river did not want to take a job where we could get no expenses for travelling there. We tried to avoid going there as long as we could.

It could be argued that that was "suitable employment". Of course it was suitable employment, but I did not think it was suitable employment if there was an alternative. However, if on being directed to it we refused it our benefit was suspended for six weeks.

An examination of the three grounds on which the philosophy is based shows that there is no basis for this in industrial life. The case advanced by my hon. Friend the Member for Rotherham (Mr. O'Malley) is reinforced by what was said in Commttee by the Secretary of State: What I would like to do is to undertake that we shall consider writing in a reference to the Supplementary Benefits Commission's undoubted powers to meet exceptional need. I will undertake to give consideration to that."—OFFICIAL REPORT Standing Committee F, 11th May, 1971; c. 79.] Here we are on Report and nothing is being written in. My hon. Friend now seeks to write in a safeguard. If the Government wish to keep their word, all they have to do is to accept this proposal. I do not know whether the Secretary of State will do it. If he acts as he has acted on the Bill up to now, he will not accept this reasonable proposal.

Unfortunately, our Amendments were not accepted. We did not want this provision to go through. Our Amendment seeking to reduce the figure to 20 per cent. has not been called. We hope that the proposal contained in this very reasonable Amendment will be accepted by the House.

6.30 p.m.

Mr. Orme

I support the case presented by my hon. Friends. While my hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Provan (Mr. Hugh D. Brown) was speaking, one or two of us interjected comments with reference to so-called inadequate people who visit Members of Parliament, but the case which he and others have deployed is that we are not dealing here with identical groups of people. We are dealing with individuals. Under the Governments proposals, however, all will suffer by the refusal of unemployment benefit and subsequent reduction of supplementary benefit.

As my hon. Friend the Member for Provan rightly pointed out, a man does not lightly leave a job in Scotland, particularly in the Glasgow area, because of the great shortage of work there. But this is not a situation which he or any of us want. Until recently in the area which I represent people had a choice of where they worked, and rightly so. If a man wanted to change his job, he had a chance to look for other work. Now, unfortunately, we are moving towards the situation in Scotland, and there is a substantial increase of unemployment.

We are discussing this question in the context of the industrial jungle, a situation in which manual workers and, perhaps, some white-collar workers will be caught because of allegations of industrial misconduct. In some instances, there may be genuine industrial misconduct, but in the vast majority of cases that judgment could be contested. Nevertheless, it will automatically operate when a man goes for his unemployment pay and he finds himself disqualified for six weeks. When he then goes to the social security department, the present 75p stop on benefit will be increased to £2.5, at a stroke. The worker is to be penalised financially at a time when he is without work, and, probably, he has a great feeling of grievance.

As we explained in Committee, a skilled worker may refuse a job to which he is sent because it is not work in his trade. In that event, he is immediately disqualified from benefit. During periods of full employment we often heard about the difference between a buyers market and a seller's market. My goodness, the Government are really tilting the balance in favour of the employer now with these proposals.

Our modest Amendment would do no more than give some discretion and bring an element of democracy into this business. It would give the unemployed person, already perhaps under a sense of injustice, the feeling that there was some justice to be found somewhere.

The flow to the employment exchange and the supplementary benefit offices is becoming almost a flood now because of the economic policies pursued by the present Government. More and more people are being pushed into this bewildering situation. I gave an example in Committee when I spoke of one man who had come to my bureau for help and advice. He had worked for over 20 years at his job and had never known unemployment throughout all his working life. Then, being unemployed, he was sent to a job but refused it. He was refused benefit. The Minister said that he had his redundancy payment and would not be badly off. No one is arguing about that. We are concerned about the principle involved.

That man who came to my bureau was absolutely astounded at what had been done to him. "I am not one of the scroungers", he said, but I had to tell him that he was now classed as such by people who glibly talk about scroungers without knowing the facts.

When I have explained to people in that sort of situation that the proposal now is to increase the disqualification to £2.5, they have been absolutely astonished. Yet this is what the Government are doing, in a period of unemployment and industrial stagnation which is their fault and not the fault of the people concerned. By positive Government policy they are creating unemployment, and at the same time they are tightening the screw on benefits and disqulifications.

As my hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, Walton (Mr. Heffer) said, the Minister gave a pledge in Committee that he would re-examine the matter, but he has not fulfilled that pledge on Report. If he does not meet us on this modest Amendment, we shall have no alternative but to vote for it in a Division.

Mr. J. T. Price (Westhoughton)

I have not intervened previously on this matter, neither did I have the privilege of serving on the Committee, but I have listened with interest to the arguments advanced by my hon. Friends, particularly on the question of industrial misconduct. I approach this matter not from a theoretical point of view but with a lifetime's knowledge of situations in which so-called industrial misconduct is committed. These are often questions of subjective judgment by people who are not without a vested interest in applying such labels to a man's conduct at work.

I should be the last to defend the kind of gross misconduct constituted by a serious breach of contract of service by any man, whether a union man or a non-union man. I still have some respect for the sanctity of contract. For example, a man who involves himself in a violent physical fight on the floor of a factory where there is dangerous machinery is a menace not only to his employer but to his workmates. The pages of the law books are full of cases in which claims for damages have been brought by injured workmen as a result of fighting in factories where machinery exposes men to hazard. I do not make much comment about a man getting his cards for that kind of conduct.

The same goes for a gross breach of some reasonable order given to a man by his employer or foreman. I should not object, either, if a man wilfully and defiantly refused to carry out a reasonable request falling within the sphere of his employment.

Let me take the case of a 100 per cent.-organised trade union workshop, where the union is powerful and has competent stewards and officials who will handle the men's interests if there is a challenge. In such a workshop it might be dangerous for the employers to give a man his cards on a paltry excuse, such as wearing a tie the colour of which was not to their liking. So where there is an employee who may be a bit of a thorn in the flesh of his employer, and it is known that the shop would react quickly to an arbitrary dismissal, very often a process of niggling sets in. The man is constantly frustrated. He is asked to do things which may infringe his dignity, such as a menial task that he should not be expected to do, or to carry out an unreasonable order. Those are not flights of fancy but matters of which people in workshops have had experience. Such a man is marked down not to be dismissed but to be so chivvied and harassed in the conduct of his daily employment that if he has any dignity he will walk out one day. He would rightly complain if in that situation he found himself deprived of his benefits for six weeks. He would feel that he had been victimised by the system and that the National Insurance Act had been operated in favour of the employer and not in his own interests.

A very dangerous atmosphere is creeping into all debates on this matter. We have just had a debate on another aspect, the six waiting days for short-time working, which is linked with this matter in some ways. I was amazed when I heard the Secretary of State, whose reputation for humanity is considerable and who is looked upon as a humane person, talking about using the taxpayer's money to subsidise such people. I do not wish to be unfair to him, but I hope that that kind of language will stop. We are talking about an insurance scheme, a contract of insurance between the contributor, the employer and the State under which benefits are offered in respect of certain contributions. It is wrong to regard a man who is unemployed as qualifying for a benefit at the will and pleasure of the State.

Sir K. Joseph

But the people of whom we were speaking are not unemployed; they are in employment but temporarily suspended.

Mr. Price

I am dealing at present not with the suspension Clause but with industrial misconduct. Perhaps I have frustrated my own argument by trying to put the parallel argument as logically as I can. Whether a man is temporarily suspended from employment because of the economic state of the industry or is sacked for industrial misconduct, he loses a benefit to which he is entitled, other things being equal, under the contract that he became a party to when he joined the scheme and became a contributor. I refuse to believe that there should be any difference in principle between the kind of contract a man would enter into with a commercial insurance company and an insurance contract between himself, as a contributor, and the State, which holds the kitty.

Is the Secretary of State aware that if a man leaves his job of his own accord, perhaps because of pressure upon him by the employer who wants to see the back of him, he suffers not only the penalty of six weeks' loss of benefit but another penalty which may be more serious in the long run? Not only does he pass on that loss of benefit to his family, by the withdrawal of a portion of the benefit under the National Insurance Scheme and the complete loss of his own benefit, but he loses the credit for the stamps on his card for six weeks. Later on when he claims pension benefit he may not qualify with sufficient stamps because he has not paid the arrears of contributions.

These are not trivial matters. I put them forward as calmly and objectively as I can in the hope that even at this stage we can prevail upon the Minister and his advisers. Our opposition springs from our experience. We know far more of the working class from whom we spring than do some Conservative hon. Members who have obtained their knowledge from another sphere.

6.45 p.m.

The Under-Secretary of State for Health and Social Security (Mr. Michael Alison)

There is no dispute that some cut in supplementary benefit is necessary where a man is disqualified because of industrial misconduct and so on. That must be common ground, because we all know that the 75p deduction now made, which has been accepted by successive Governments, is regarded in the nature of the case as acceptable and reasonable in principle. At present it is made under discretionary powers which the Supplementary Benefits Commission exercises. However it may be made, it has been accepted for some time, which obviously leads the House to conclude that in principle some reduction must be made if the purposes of the National Insurance legislation and the associated Ministry of Social Security legislation is not to be rendered entirely nugatory. The dispute is not really about the principle of whether there should be a reduction in the circumstances we are considering, but about the extent of that deduction.

Mr. J. T. Price

Before the hon. Gentleman develops that argument on the wrong premise, may I repeat the gravamen of our charge, which is that in dealing with industrial misconduct what counts is the definition of industrial misconduct? The debate has been directing the attention of the Government to the great doubt which exists whether many such alleged cases are genuine industrial misconduct.

Mr. Alison

That does not alter the principle that I am trying to establish as common ground, that under the National Insurance legislation there is provision, through three stages of scrutiny and appeal, to consider whether the bite of the relevant Section of the National Insurance Act, Section 22, should apply. There is machinery for determining all the very undesirable, aggravating and anxious circumstances to which hon. Members on both sides have referred, such as difficult employers and the special circumstances of the individual. There is provision under the governing Section, which uses the phrase "without just cause" in defining the circumstances. There is provision in principle for determining whether a disqualification should apply. I do not think that hon. Members opposite, certainly on the Front Bench, would dispute that it has been and remains common ground that in principle a deduction, whatever the figure may have to be, is accepted. The whole argument turns on whether or not a certain figure or certain percentage is the right one to take.

Mr. O'Malley

This is not what the Amendment is about.

Mr. Alison

I hope the hon. Gentleman will be patient. I may be verbose and perhaps unclear, but I always give him a chance by cross-examination to make his point.

The issue here is not the principle but the degree of deduction which should be made. I would remind the House of some of the options which have been suggested. First, there is the prevailing discretionary figure which the Supplementary Benefits Commission exercises and which in contemporary terms amounts to 75p. Most of us here remember Mr. David Ennals. As Minister of State, he thought that 75p was a derisory figure. He had this to say when speaking of the disqualified person: If he were to receive the same amount as has been denied to him because he has been disqualified, the whole process of disqualification would be absolute nonsense, and disqualifying a man only to the extent of 15s. a week is, frankly, not very far from being nonsense."—OFFICIAL REPORT Standing Committee F. 7th May, 1970; c. 1284.1 The sum of 75p is one of the figures which have been considered. It was dismissed by Mr. Ennals as derisory or nonsensical. Some people have suggested a figure of 20 per cent. In practice, 20 per cent. of the single householder's rate would raise Mr. Ennals' figure by 7p, so that we would move up from 75p to 82p. That is roughly what the 20 per cent. figure would involve. I think that that was the figure which the hon. Member for Liverpool, Walton (Mr. Heffer) thought was right as a reasonable percentage.

Mr. O'Malley

The hon. Gentleman must not be selective like this. We have heard these comments of his before and have knocked them down in Committee. It would not go from 75p to 82p at 20 per cent. of the maximum single householder's rate. It would be £1.16 as opposed to the £2.32 proposed by the Government. The hon. Gentleman has tried this before.

Mr. Alison

I would reply to that rather acid comment that some of us had heard before a number of the arguments put by the hon. Gentleman today. I do not complain, however. Good arguments should always be repeated. There is no harm in that. But we have another option on what is the right figure to take. The hon. Member for Walton was in favour of 20 per cent. He put down an Amendment to that effect similar to one which he put down in Committee. The hon. Member for Rotherham (Mr. O'Malley) stuck his neck out further. He was in favour of putting it up further. In Committee he said: I should have been inclined to a figure of 25 per cent.…".—OFFICIAL REPORT Standing Committe F, 11th May, 1971; c. 83.] Some people thought that 20 per cent. was the right figure. He thought that a 25 per cent. reduction should be chosen.

Mrs. Shirley Williams (Hitchin)

The hon. Gentleman is brilliant at dragging what might be described as "blue herrings" across a trial. What has this to do with the Amendment, which simply suggests that the Commission should in certain conditions have discretion in order to avoid undue hardship?

Mr. Alison

I shall work towards my conclusion. I shall not allow myself to be deprived of the opportunity to deploy the full range of options, because discretionary powers should be based on some sort of valuation of the consensus. If a discretionary power is to be exercised, it should be against the background of some agreed common view of what the rights of that discretion are. If we were to give discretionary power to the Commission against a whole range of possible options of what we feel reasonable, we would leave the Commission in an impossible situation. The options suggested have included 20 per cent., the 75p which Mr. Ennals dismissed as derisory, the 25 per cent. of the hon. Member for Rotherham and the Labour Government's view that it should be 33⅓ per cent. of the single householder rate. Many options have been canvassed as to the right percentage but the general agreement exists that there should be some percentage cut.

I come now to the problem which would be presented to the Commission in deciding a case against the background of discretion offered by Parliament on where a fair and true mean should lie. Our proposition is that the figure of 40 per cent. should be written into the Bill, and that figure is not far different from the sort of figure which the Labour Government were considering. We feel it right not only to select the figure of 40 per cent. as fair and reasonable in contemporary conditions but to write it into the Bill because we think that this should be a decision by Parliament. We believe that the guiding principle should be determined here. We believe that the invidious business of assessing the extent of the deduction against the background of all these various suggestions as to what the ideal figure should be should not be given to the Commission but should clearly be borne by Parliament.

Mr. Heffer

The hon. Gentleman has got something slightly wrong when he suggests that there is general approval that there should be a reduction. Some hon. Members on this side have long argued that a man should not be presumed guilty before he is actually found guilty. But this is precisely what has happened over a long period. Many of us argued that it should be the other way round. It is true that proposals were put forward by the last Government but they ran into considerable trouble with hon. Members on this side because they were not prepared to agree to the sort of figures which were being bandied about. I want it put on record that the argument he is putting forward is not generally accepted.

Mr. Alison

That is an important commercial on behalf of the tail which wags the Labour Party dog. Nevertheless, the fact remains that the conclusion that has emerged from the legislative practice of the Labour Government is as I have described it—that it is fair and reasonable to make a deduction. The whole argument has been about the scale of the deduction. We believe that instead of being roughly 33 per cent., which the Labour Government were considering, it should be 40 per cent. But the main point is that we think it right that Parliament should decide in the Bill the main guidelines which should govern the Commission.

There is anxiety on both sides that this disqualification and the penalties associated with it should not impinge unduly upon those with hardship and family problems. But the safeguard against hardship is preserved by the Bill and by the governing Act to which it relates. There need be no doubt in anyone's mind. By the crucial parts of Schedule 2,4(1)(a) of the Ministry of Social Security Act, the Commission has power, where there are exceptional circumstances, to increase an award made to people who might otherwise have money withdrawn from them That power stands. It is perfectly possible to protect against hardship, as it was always intended to protect against it.

7.0 p.m.

Mr. O'Malley

Labour Members are aware of the provisions of paragraph 4(1)(a) and 4(1)(b) of the Schedule to the Ministry of Social Security Act, 1966. But that part of the Schedule is not being applied in industrial misconduct disqualification cases. What are the Government going to do about that?

Mr. Alison

I am glad at this stage to have confirmation from the hon. Gentleman that everybody realises that this part of that Act applies, and will continue to apply, in principle to be available to mitigate circumstances of hardship. The fact that the Commission has rarely used this discretion—this is the point the hon. Gentleman is making—is explained by the extremely small amount, 75p, which has been at stake in the issue. There is no reason to think that the Commission will not use its discretion more widely when the deduction is up to as much as 40 per cent.

I here state categorically on behalf of my right hon. Friend, and it will be on the record, that the Supplementary Benefits Commission will be asked to review its rules to meet the new situation arising out of the Bill in which the level of penalty is to rise to this explicit 40 per cent.

Mr. W. R. Rees-Davies (Isle of Thanet)

Will my hon. Friend make it absolutely plain that we do not want any of this nonsense in the Opposition Amendment? There is one thing which would be absolutely wrong. In their Amendment, the Opposition have made plain their view—my hon. Friend has not yet referred to the one thing that matters—that where there are other incidental circumstances which satisfy the Commission, no deduction should be made. It is not a task—I hope that my hon. Friend will make this plain—of the Supplementary Benefits Commission to consider whether there has been industrial misconduct. The mischief in the Oppositon's Amendment is making the wretched Commission become in some way involved in considering whether there has been industrial misconduct. That is not the Commission's task. I have been here just to see that we do not give in to that suggestion. I hope that we shall not widen the scope of the Commission's discretion in that way.

Mr. Alison

I can reassure my hon. Friend in this context. The determination within which the rules will apply is made under another Statute and is in the discretion of the insurance officers, the National Insurance Appeals Tribunals and, ultimately, the Commissioners. There need be no fears about that. However, there might be some genuinely difficult problems of a delicate and extremely unsatisfactory kind for the Commission to consider if the Amendment were accepted.

Against the background of the range of uncertainty which there has been about

the correct percentage for the deduction, the Government believe that we should spell it out in the Bill, and we believe that the percentage is fair and reasonable. It should be recognised that hardship may still be mitigated by the escape Clause, if I may put it like that, in the original Ministry of Social Security Act. We will specifically ask the Commission to review its rules and to exercise its discretion under that provision of the 1966 Act in the light of the new figure which will be written into the Bill.

On the basis of that reassurance, I hope that the hon. Member for Rother-ham will agree that the Amendment need not be pressed.

Mr. O'Malley

The Minister has made that speech before, and I have no doubt that he will make it again. If he makes it again, hon. Members who give live performances in the House will want to negotiate a needle time agreement.

The points that the hon. Gentleman made fell into two categories: first, those not relevant to the Amendment anyway; secondly, those knocked down in Committee anyway. He has given the House an assurance that the Supplementary Benefits Commission will be asked to review its rules, and we are grateful for that, grateful to the Secretary of State and to the Under-Secretary. I like to spread my kindness, of which I do not have much for hon. Members opposite on this Bill, evenly and fairly.

Nevertheless, we feel that this subject is of such importance that it should be written into the Bill. In view of the history of the matter, we feel that there can be no guarantee that the system will be operated as we should want to operate it, and I therefore advise my hon. Friends to divide the House.

Question put, That the Amendment be made:—

The House divided: Ayes 226, Noes, 248.

Division No. 416.] AYES [7.6 p.m.
Abse, Leo Ashton, Joe Bishop, E. S.
Albu, Austen Atkinson, Norman Blenkinsop, Arthur
Allaun, Frank (Salford, E.) Barnes, Michael Boardman, H. (Leigh)
Allen, Scholefield Barnett, Joel Booth, Albert
Archer, Peter (Rowley Regis) Beaney, Alan Bottomley, Rt. Hn. Arthur
Armstrong, Ernest Bennett, James (Glasgow, Bridgeton) Boyden, James (Bishop Auckland)
Ashley, Jack Bidwell, Sydney Bradley, Tom
Brown, Hugh D. (G'gow, Provan) Hughes, Rt. Hn. Cledwyn (Anglesey) Paget, R. T.
Brown, Ronald (Shoreditch & F'bury) Hughes, Mark (Durham) Palmer, Arthur
Buchan, Norman Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen, N.) Pannell, Rt. Hn. Charles
Buchanan, Richard (G'gow, Sp'burn) Hughes, Roy (Newport) Parker, John (Dagenham)
Callaghan, Rt. Hn. James Hunter, Adam Parry, Robert (Liverpool, Exchange)
Campbell, I. (Dunbartonshire, W.) Janner, Greville Pavitt, Laurie
Cant, R. B. Jay, Rt. Hn. Douglas Pendry, Tom
Carmichael, Neil Jeger, Mrs. Lena (H'b'n & St. P'cras, S.) Pentland, Norman
Carter-Jones, Lewis (Eccles) Jenkins, Rt. Hn. Roy (Stechford) Perry, Ernest G.
Castle, Rt. Hn. Barbara John, Brynmor Prentice, Rt. Hn. Reg.
Clark, David (Colne Valley) Johnson, Carol (Lewisham, S.) Prescott, John
Cocks, Michael (Bristol, S.) Johnson, James (K'ston-on-Hull, W.) Price, J T. (Westhoughton)
Cohen, Stanley Johnson, Walter (Derby, S.) Price, William (Rugby)
Coleman, Donald Johnston, Russell (Inverness) Probert, Arthur
Concannon, J. D. Jones, Barry (Flint, E.) Reed, D. (Sedgefield)
Corbet, Mrs. Freda Jones, Dan (Burnley) Rees, Merlyn (Leeds, S.)
Cox, Thomas (Wandsworth, c.) Jones, Rt. Hn. Sir Elwyn (W. Ham, S.) Rhodes, Geoffrey
Cronin, John Jones, Gwynoro (Carmarthen) Richard, Ivor
Crossman, Rt. Hn. Richard Jones, T. Alec (Rhondda, W.) Roberts, Albert (Normanton)
Cunningham, G. (Islington, S. W.) Judd, Frank Roberts, Rt. Hn. Goronwy (Caernarvon)
Davidson, Arthur Kaufman, Gerald Robertson, John (Paisley)
Davies, Denzil (Llanelly) Kelley, Richard Roderick, Caerwyn E. (Br'c'n & R'dnor)
Davies, S. O. (Merthyr Tydvil) Kerr, Russell Rodgers, William (Stockton-on-Tees)
Davis, Clinton (Hackney, C.) Kinnock, Neil Roper, John
Davis, T. A. G. (Bromsgrove) Lambie, David Rose, Paul B.
Deakins, Eric Latham, Arthur Ross, Rt. Hon. William (Kilmarnock)
Delargy, H. J. Lawson, George Sandelson, Neville
Dell, Rt. Hn. Edmund Leadbitter, Ted Sheldon, Robert (Ashton-under-Lyne)
Dempsey, James Lee, Rt. Hn. Frederick Shore, Rt. Hn. Peter (Stepney)
Doig, Peter Leonard, Dick Short, Rt. Hn. Edward (N'c'tle-u-Tyne)
Dormand, J. D. Lestor, Miss Joan Short, Mrs. Renée (W'hampton, N. E.)
Douglas, Dick (Stirlingshire, E.) Lipton, Marcus Silkin, Hn. S. C. (Dulwich)
Douglas-Mann, Bruce Loughlin, Charles Sillars, James
Driberg, Tom Lyon, Alexander W. (York) Silverman, Julius
Duffy, A. E. P. Lyons, Edward (Bradford, E.) Skinner, Dennis
Small, William
Dunnett, Jack Mabon, Dr. J. Dickson Smith, John (Lanarkshire, N.)
Eadle, Alex McBride, Neil Spearing, Nigel
Edelman, Maurice McCartney, Hugh Spriggs, Leslie
Edwards, Robert (Bilston) McGuire, Michael Stallard, A. W.
Ellis, Tom Mackenzie, Gregor Stewart, Donald (Western Isles)
English, Michael Mackie, John Stewart, Rt. Hon. Michael (Fulham)
Evans, Fred McMillan, Tom (Glasgow, C.) Stoddart, David (Swindon)
Fernyhough, Rt. Hn. E. McNamara, J. Kevin Strang, Gavin
Fisher, Mrs. Doris (B'ham, Ladywood) Mahon, Simon (Bootle) Strauss, Rt. Hn. G. R.
Fletcher, Ted (Darlington) Mallalieu, E. L. (Brigg) Thomas, Rt. Hn George (Cardiff, W)
Foley, Maurice Marquand, David Thomas, Jeffrey (Abertillery)
Foot, Michael Marsden, F. Thompson, Rt. Hn. G. (Dundee, E.)
Ford, Ben Marshall, Dr. Edmund Tinn, James
Forrester, John Meacher, Michael Tomney, Frank
Fraser, John (Norwood) Mellish, Rt. Hn. Robert Torney, Tom
Freeson, Reginald Mendelson, John Tuck, Raphael
Galpern, Sir Myer Mikardo, Ian Varley, Eric G.
Gilbert, Dr. John Millan, Bruce Walden, Brian (B'm'ham, All Saints)
Golding, John Miller, Dr. M. S. Wallace, George
Gordon Walker, Rt. Hn. P. C. Milne, Edward (Blyth) Watkins, David
Gourlay, Harry Mitchell, R. C. (S'hampton, Itchen) Weitzman, David
Grant, George (Morpeth) Molloy, William White, James (Glasgow, Pollok)
Griffiths, Eddie (Brightside) Morgan, Elystan (Cardiganshire) Whitehead, Phillip
Griffiths, Will (Exchange) Morris, Alfred (Wythenshawe) Whitlock, William
Hamilton, James (Bothwell) Morris, Charles R. (Openshaw) Willey, Rt. Hn. Frederick
Hamilton, William, (Fife, W.) Morris, Rt. Hn. John (Aberavon) Williams, Alan (Swansea, W.)
Hardy, Peter Moyle, Roland Williams, Mrs. Shirley (Hitchin)
Hart, Rt. Hn. Judith Murray, Ronald King Wilson, Rt. Hn. Harold (Huyton)
Healey, Rt. Hn. Denis Ogden, Eric Wilson, William (Coventry, S.)
Heffer, Eric S. O'Halloran, Michael
Hilton, W. S. O'Malley, Brian
Hooson, Emlyn Oram, Bert TELLERS FOR THE AYES:
Horam, John Orme, Stanley Mr. William Hamling and
Houghton, Rt. Hn. Douglas Oswald, Thomas Mr James A. Dunn.
Huckfield, Leslie Owen, Dr. David (Plymouth, Sutton)
Adley, Robert Bennett, Sir Frederic (Torquay) Brown, Sir Edward (Bath)
Alison, Michael (Barkston Ash) Biggs-Davison, John Bryan, Paul
Allason, James (Hemel Hempstead) Boardman, Tom (Leicester, S. W.) Buchanan-Smith, Alick (Angus, N & M)
Archer, Jeffrey (Louth) Body, Richard Buck, Antony
Astor, John Boscawen, Robert Bullus, Sir Eric
Atkins, Humphrey Bowden, Andrew Burden, F. A.
Awdry, Daniel Braine, Bernard Campbell, Rt. Hn. G.(Moray & Nairn)
Baker, W. H. K. (Banff) Bray, Ronald Carlisle, Mark
Balniel, Lord Brewis, John Channon, Paul
Batsford, Brian Brinton, Sir Tatton Chapman, Sydney
Beamish, Col. Sir Tufton Brocklebank-Fowler, Christopher Carr, Rt. Hn. Robert
Chataway, Rt. Hn. Christopher Irvine, Bryant Godman (Rye) Price, David (Eastleigh)
Chichester-Clark, R. James, David Pym, Rt. Hn. Francis
Churchill, W. S. Jenkin, Patrick (Woodford) Quennell, Miss J. M.
Clark, William (Surrey, E.) Jennings, J. C. (Burton) Raison, Timothy
Clarke, Kenneth (Rushcliffe) Jessel, Toby Rawlinson, Rt. Hn. Sir Peter
Cockeram, Eric Johnson Smith, G. (E. Grinstead) Redmond, Robert
Cooke, Robert Jopling, Michael Reed, Laurance (Bolton, E.)
Cooper, A. E. Joseph, Rt. Hn. Sir Keith Rees, Peter (Dover)
Corfield, Rt. Hn. Frederick Kellett-Bowman, Mrs. Elaine Rees-Davies, W. R.
Cormack, Patrick Kilfedder, James Renton, Rt. Hn. Sir David
Costain, A. P. Kimball, Marcus Ridley, Hn. Nicholas
Critchley, Julian King, Evelyn (Dorset, S.) Ridsdale, Julian
Crouch, David King, Tom (Bridgwater) Rippon, Rt. Hn. Geoffrey
Crowder, F. P. Kinsey, J. R. Rossi, Hugh (Hornsey)
Curran, Charles Kirk, Peter Rost, Peter
d'Avigdor-Goldsmid, Sir Henry Knight, Mrs. Jill Royle, Anthony
d'Avigdor-Goldsmid. Maj. -Gen. James Knox, David Russell, Sir Ronald
Dean, Paul Lane, David Scott, Nicholas
Deedes, Rt. Hn. W. F. Langford-Holt, Sir John Scott-Hopkins, James
Dixon, Piers Legge-Bourke, Sir Harry Sharples, Richard
Dodds-Parker, Douglas Le Marchant, Spencer Shaw, Michael (Sc'b'gh & Whitby)
Douglas-Home, Rt. Hn. Sir Alec Lewis, Kenneth (Rutland) Shelton, Wiliam (Clapham)
Drayson, G. B. Lloyd, Ian (P'tsm'th, Langstone) Simeons, Charles
du Cann, Rt. Hn. Edward Longden, Gilbert Sinclair, Sir George
Dykes, Hugh Loveridge, John Skeet, T. H. H.
Eden, Sir John Luce, R. N. Smith, Dudley (W'wick & L'mington)
Elliott, R. W. (N'c'tle-upon-Tyne, N.) McAdden, Sir Stephen Soref, Harold
Eyre, Reginald MacArthur, Ian Speed, Keith
Farr, John McCrindle, R. A. Spence, John
Fell, Anthony McLaren, Martin Sproat, Iain
Fenner, Mrs. Peggy Maclean, Sir Fitzroy Stainton, Keith
Fisher, Nigel (Surbiton) McMaster, Stanley Stanbrook, Ivor
Fletcher-Cooke, Charles Macmillan, Maurice (Farnham) Stewart-Smith, D. G. (Belper)
Fookes, Miss Janet McNair-Wilson, Michael Stokes, John
Fowler, Norman McNair-Wilson, Patrick (NewForest) Stuttaford, Dr. Tom
Fraser, Rt. Hn. Hugh (St'fford & Stone) Maddan, Martin Sutcliffe, John
Galbraith, Hn. T. G. Madel, David Taylor, Sir Charles (Eastbourne)
Gardner, Edward Maginnis, John E. Taylor, Edward M. (G'gow, Cathcart)
Gibson-Watt, David Marten, Neil Taylor, Frank (Moss Side)
Gilmour, Ian (Norfolk, C.) Mather, Carol Taylor, Robert (Croydon, N. W.)
Gilmour, Sir John (Fife, E.) Maude, Angus Tebbit, Norman
Glyn, Dr. Alan Meyer, Sir Anthony Thatcher, Rt. Hn. Mrs. Margaret
Goodhart, Philip Mills, Peter (Torrington) Thomas, John Stradling (Monmouth)
Goodhew, Victor Miscampbell, Norman Thompson, Sir Richard (Croydon, S.)
Gorst, John Mitchell, Lt. -Col. C. (Aberdeenshire, W) Tilney, John
Gower, Raymond Mitchell, David (Basingstoke) Trafford, Dr. Anthony
Green, Alan Moate, Roger Trew, Peter
Gummer, Selwyn Molyneaux, James Tugendhat, Christopher
Gurden, Harold Montos, Mrs. Connie Turton, Rt. Hn. Sir Robin
Hall, John (Wycombe) Monro, Hector van Straubenzee, W. R.
Hall-Davis, A. G. F. Montgomery, Fergus Vaughan, Dr. Gerard
Hamilton, Michael (Salisbury) More, Jasper Vickers, Dame Joan
Hannam, John (Exeter) Morgan, Geraint (Denbigh) Waddington, David
Harrison, Col. Sir Harwood (Eye) Morgan-Giles, Rear-Adm. Walder, David (Clitheroe)
Haselhurst, Alan Morrison, Charles (Devizes) Walker, Rt. Hn. Peter (Worcester)
Hastings, Stephen Mudd, David Walker-Smith, Rt. Hn. Sir Derek
Havers, Michael Murton, Oscar Wall, Patrick
Hawkins, Paul Neave, Airev Walters, Dennis
Hayhoe, Barney Noble, Rt. Hn. Michael Ward, Dame Irene
Hicks, Robert Normanton, Tom Warren, Kenneth
Higgins, Terence L. Nott, John Weatherill, Bernard
Hill, James (Southampton, Test) Onslow, Cranley Wells, John (Maidstone)
Holland, Philip Oppenheim, Mrs. Sally Wiggin, Jerry
Holt, Miss Mary Orr, Capt. L. P. S. Wilkinson, John
Hordern, Peter Owen, Idris (Stockport, N.) Wolrige-Gordon, Patrick
Hornby, Richard Page, Graham (Crosby) Woodhouse, Hn. Christopher
Hornsby-Smith, Rt. Hn. Dame Patricia Parkinson, Cecil (Enfield, W.) Worsley, Marcus
Howe, Hn. Sir Geoffrey (Reigate) Peel, John Wylie, Rt. Hn. N. R.
Howell, David (Guildford) Percival, Ian Younger, Hn. George
Howell, Ralph (Norfolk, N.) Peyton, Rt. Hn. John
Hunt, John Pike, Miss Mervyn TELLERS FOR THE NOES:
Hutchison, Michael Clark Pounder, Rafton Mr. Walter Clegg and
Iremonger, T. L. Powell, Rt. Hn. J. Enoch Mr Tim Fortescue.
Mr. Reg Prentice (East Ham, North)

I beg to move Amendment No. 4, in page 3, line 3, after 'earnings', insert 'exceeding £1.00'.

By this Amendment we are attempting to modify subsection (3), which says, in effect, that the families of strikers, and, indeed, the families of many non-strikers, who have been out of work because of a trade dispute at their place of employment shall not receive supplementary benefit as a matter of right when they return to work before the workers receive their first wage packet.

This matter is connected with Clause 2 in that although these families will have established a need and will be living below supplementary benefit levels, and alone will be singled out among other people who qualify for supplementary benefit as not being entitled in this period, which may be up to two weeks and often is two weeks, to supplementary benefit as a matter of right, they will be encouraged—this is the Government's intention—to seek an advance or sub from their employers, which, in our view, is equivalent to telling people who qualify for supplementary benefit that they should live on borrowed money or go to the moneylender or pawnbroker.

Subsection (3) provides that if workers receive subs from their employers, these will be taken into account in reckoning their supplementary benefits. We are attempting to modify this by a very modest Amendment which proposes that the first £1 of any such advance should be disregarded. That is in line with the practices carried on under the Supplementary Benefits Scheme. I wish to give two examples.

First, in the Ministry of Social Security Act, 1966, which still provides most of the rules for the scheme, paragraph 23 of Schedule 2 deals with circumstances in which someone may be receiving earnings, and provides that The weekly earnings of any person shall be taken to be his net weekly earnings reduced … by £1 in some circumstances and by £2 in others. We are taking the more moderate alternative in order to apply a parallel with this situation.

The other point is that subsection (4) of the Bill deals with a disregard of £1. That is the subsection that deals with people who are out of work because of a trade dispute, who are disqualified from the main benefit, and who are receiving either strike pay or P.A.Y.E. refunds. It alters the old situation by which there was a disregard of £4.35p and brings in, instead, a disregard of £1. On the Government's own criteria we are suggesting that having taken a disregard of £1 in another part of the Clause, and having regard to the fact that that disregard is part of the normal rule of applying for supplementary benefits, it should apply to advances on earnings made by the employer during this period.

We see no reason why it should not be applied to this subsection. We hope that the Secretary of State will consider the point before the Bill goes to another place, in which case we will gladly ask leave to withdraw the Amendment. But we see no reason why the Government should not accede to this principle.

Sir K. Joseph

I must repeat an argument that will be familiar to hon. Members who were in Committee. Until a few years ago—I note the expression on the face of the hon. Member for Liverpool, Walton (Mr. Heffer), who knows what I am going to say—when a strike took place the men and women involved, after returning to work, looked to the employer for income during the first week or two until the normal pay machinery gave them their weekly earnings. Only in the last few years have increasing numbers of workers discovered that there was an alternative way of securing an income during the first two weeks after returning to work.

They came to prefer to draw supplementary benefit—which was untaxed and did not have to be repaid—rather than continue to claim subs which had to be repaid to the employer and came out of taxed income.

The strategy of the Government is to make supplementary benefit broadly unavailable except in conditions of hardship so as to restore the original practice—the normal habit until recently—of leaving employees to look to their employers for an advance of earnings during those first two weeks. [HON. MEMBERS: "Not true."] I know that hon. Members are not denying that that is the strategy of the Government—because it is. To accept the Amendment would make it marginally more advantageous still to look to the Supplementary Benefits Commission—that is, the taxpayer—for some help in the post-dispute period. That is why I hope the hon. Member will not press the Amendment. If he does, I hope that the House will reject it.

Mr. Orme

I know that we are going through the arguments, in a much reduced form, that we had in Standing Committee. We have listened to the Minister, and must again put on record the fact that we do not accept his argument that it is natural for workers returning from an industrial dispute to try to resolve their financial difficulties by going to their employers for subs.

Mr. Rees-Davies

The hon. Member for Salford, West (Mr. Orme) knows that historically—over the past 20 years—persons who have been on strike and then have gone back have had to borrow money somehow and somewhere, until they have been paid out the following week. What is the hon. Member's argument?

Mr. Orme

The hon. Member may know a lot about some things, especially the law, but he knows nothing about this. We explained this in detail in Committee. It is not the normal thing in industry. It has been introduced in the building industry, but it has been vigorously opposed by the trade unions. It is not a practice that any of us has endorsed. It is a form of cap-in-hand help.

Mr. Rees-Davies indicated dissent.

Mr. Orme

Yes, it is. The money has to be paid back. Apparently the employee has to go to his employer and say, "I have been on strike. I am in great difficulties. Will you now assist me, because I cannot make ends meet."

Sir K. Joseph

The hon. Member is misrepresenting what would happen on the ground. The representatives of the workers—normally the trade unions-would discuss with the employers the arrangements for helping to supplement workers' incomes until their first pay day. It is not done on an individual basis; it is done on a representative basis. There is no cap-in-hand aspect to it.

Mr. Orme

I am in complete disagreement with the Minister. An issue of pride is involved. As a representative in industry, I have resisted the move for subs, because we believe that it is wrong, and involves indignity. The Minister's removal of this supplementary benefit payment is penalising the families of the strikers and also workers who may have been thrown out of work because of an industrial dispute although they were not themselves involved. We have dealt with this point elsewhere in the Bill. The Minister knows that it is an injustice, but for political reasons he is not prepared to recommend an alteration at the moment. I am not misrepresenting him in that regard.

Mr. S. O. Davies (Merthyr Tydfil)

It is no use the Minister's pretending that all employers are prepared to make advances to those who have been on strike, or not at work. Comparatively recently cases have come to my notice in which employers employing many men will not give any help until pay day arrives.

Mr. Orme

My argument is a little different from that of my hon. Friend; I am not in favour of employers doing this. I feel that if the worker is entitled to supplementary benefit he should be able to get it. We have argued that point in detail in Committee, and we want to put it on record in the House. We want it to be known that we are opposed to subbing. We feel that it is an indignity to the workers. We feel that the benefits—supplementary benefits or unemployment benefits—should be paid to workers who qualify. These are State benefits, to which everybody contributes. The Minister is removing some of our basic rights.

Mr. Prentice

The Secretary of State said that we have heard his argument before. We have indeed. We have been unanimously unimpressed by it. We are talking here of people who may have been without income for six weeks. The breadwinner is paid two weeks late. In the first two weeks of an industrial dispute, during which he is receiving earnings, he is not qualified for benefit, but when he returns to work he does not receive any earnings for two weeks. What the Government are saying is that families—not merely strikers, and not merely non-strikers—who are brought into the ambit of this Bill and who qualify by all the normal rules for supplementary benefit for six weeks will receive it, as a right, for only four weeks. That is what we consider to be the injustice.

7.30 p.m.

The fact that until the recent past it was not the custom of many people in this situation to apply for supplementary benefit as of right is no argument at all. The Government, quite rightly, and the previous Government, have encouraged them in other circumstances to apply, when they are entitled to it, for benefit. They have said, "Come along and apply for it; it is yours as of right." There is no logical reason at all for applying different standards in this case.

The Secretary of State's speech a moment ago was really a justification of the Clause and was not at all a reply to the substantial point of the Amendment that there should be here a disregard equivalent to the disregard given in other parts of the scheme in respect

of earnings. In the absence of any such reply or any promise by the Secretary of State to consider the matter I hope that my hon. and right hon. Friends will divide the House.

Question put, That the Amendment be made:—

The House divided: Ayes 218. Noes 240.

Division No. 417.] AYES [7.33 p.m.
Abse, Leo Foot, Michael McMillan, Tom (Glasgow, C.)
Albu, Austen Ford, Ben McNamara, J. Kevin
Allaun, Frank (Salford, E.) Forrester, John Mahon, Simon (Bootle)
Allen, Scholefield Fraser, John (Norwood) Mallalieu, E. L. (Brigg)
Archer, Peter (Rowley Regis) Freeson, Reginald Marquand, David
Armstrong, Ernest Galpern, Sir Myer Marsden, F.
Ashley, Jack Gilbert, Dr. John Marshall, Dr. Edmund
Ashton, Joe Golding, John Mayhew, Christopher
Atkinson, Norman Gordon Walker, Rt. Hn. P. C. Meacher, Michael
Barnett, Joel Gourlay, Harry Mendelson, John
Beaney, Alan Grant, George (Morpeth) Mikardo, Ian
Bennett, James (Glasgow, Bridgeton) Griffiths, Eddie (Brightside) Millan, Bruce
Bidwell, Sydney Griffiths, Will (Exchange) Miller, Dr. M. S.
Bishop, E. S. Hamilton, William (Fife, W.) Milne, Edward (Blyth)
Blenkinsop, Arthur Hamling, William Mitchell, R. C. (S'hampton, Itchen)
Boardman, H. (Leigh) Hardy, Peter Molloy, William
Booth, Albert Hart, Rt. Hn. Judith Morgan, Elystan (Cardiganshire)
Bottomley, Rt. Hn. Arthur Healey, Rt. Hn. Denis Morris, Alfred (Wythenshawe)
Boyden, James (Bishop Auckland) Heffer, Eric S. Morris, Charles R. (Openshaw)
Bradley, Tom Hilton, W. S. Morris, Rt. Hn. John (Aberavon)
Brown, Hugh D. (G'gow, Provan) Horam, John Moyle, Roland
Brown, Ronald (Shoreditch & F'bury) Houghton, Rt. Hn. Douglas Murray, Ronald King
Buchan, Norman Howell, Denis (Small Heath) Ogden, Eric
Buchanan, Richard (G'gow, Sp'burn) Huckfield, Leslie O'Halloran, Michael
Cant, R. B. Hughes, Rt. Hn. Cledwyn (Anglesey) O'Malley, Brian
Carmichael, Neil Hughes, Mark (Durham) Oram, Bert
Carter-Jones, Lewis (Eccles) Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen, N.) Orme, Stanley
Castle, Rt. Hn. Barbara Hughes, Roy (Newport) Oswald, Thomas
Clark, David (Colne Valley) Hunter, Adam Owen, Dr. David (Plymouth, Sutton)
Cocks, Michael (Bristol, S.) Janner, Greville Palmer, Arthur
Cohen, Stanley Jay, Rt. Hn. Douglas Pannell, Rt. Hn. Charles
Coleman, Donald Jeger, Mrs. Lena (H'b'n & St. P'cras, S.) Parker, John (Dagenham)
Concannon, J. D. Jenkins, Rt. Hn. Roy (Stechford) Parry, Robert (Liverpool, Exchange)
Corbet, Mrs. Freda John, Brynmor Pavitt, Laurie
Cox, Thomas (Wandsworth, C.) Johnson, Carol (Lewisham, S.) Pendry, Tom
Crawshaw, Richard Johnson, James (K'ston-on-Hull, W.) Pentland, Norman
Cronin, John Johnson, Walter (Derby, S.) Perry, Ernest G.
Crossman, Rt. Hn. Richard Jones, Barry (Flint, E.) Prentice, Rt. Hn. Reg.
Cunningham, G. (Islington, S. W.) Jones, Dan (Burnley) Prescott, John
Davidson, Arthur Jones, Rt. Hn. Sir Elwyn (W. Ham, S.) Price, J. T. (Westhoughton)
Davies, Denzil (Llanelly) Jones, Gwynoro (Carmarthen) Price, William (Rugby)
Davies, S. O. (Merthyr Tydvil) Jones, T. Alec (Rhondda, W.) Probert, Arthur
Davis, Clinton (Hackney, C.) Judd, Frank Reed, D. (Sedgefield)
Davis, Terry (Bromsgrove) Kaufman, Gerald Rees, Merlyn (Leeds, S.)
Deakins, Eric Kelley, Richard Rhodes, Geoffrey
Delargy, H. J. Kerr, Russell Richard, Ivor
Dell, Rt. Hn. Edmund Kinnock, Neil Roberts, Albert (Normanton)
Dempsey, James Lambie, David Roberts, Rt. Hn. Goronwy (Caernarvon)
Doig, Peter Latham, Arthur Robertson, John (Paisley)
Dormand, J. D. Lawson, George Roderick, Caerwyn E. (Br'c'n & R'dnor)
Douglas, Dick (Stirlingshire, E.) Leadbitter, Ted Rodgers, William (Stockton-on-Tees)
Douglas-Mann, Bruce Lee, Rt. Hn. Frederick Roper, John
Driberg, Tom Leonard, Dick Rose, Paul B.
Duffy, A. E. P. Lestor, Miss Joan Ross, Rt. Hn. William (Kilmarnock)
Dunnett, Jack Lipton, Marcus Sandelson, Neville
Eadie, Alex Loughlin, Charles Sheldon, Robert (Ashton-under-Lyne)
Edelman, Maurice Lyon, Alexander W. (York) Shore, Rt. Hn. Peter (Stepney)
Edwards, Robert (Bilston) Lyons, Edward (Bradford, E.) Short, Rt. Hn. Edward (N'c'tle-u-Tyne)
Ellis, Tom Mabon, Dr. J. Dickson Silkin, Hn. S. C. (Dulwich)
English, Michael McBride, Neil Sillars, James
Evans, Fred McCartney, Hugh Silverman, Julius
Fernyhough, Rt. Hn, E. McGuire, Michael Skinner, Dennis
Fisher, Mrs. Doris (B'ham, Ladywood) Mackenzie, Gregor Small, William
Fletcher, Ted (Darlington) Mackie, John Smith, John (Lanarkshire, N.)
Spearing, Nigel Tinn, James Whitehead, Phillip
Spriggs, Leslie Tomney, Frank Whitlock, William
Stallard, A. W. Torney, Tom Willey, Rt. Hn. Frederick
Stewart, Donald (Western Isles) Tuck, Raphael Williams, Alan (Swansea, W.)
Stewart, Rt. Hn. Michael (Fulham) Varley, Eric G. Williams, Mrs. Shirley (Hitchin)
Stoddart, David (Swindon) Walden, Brian (B'm'ham, All Saints) Wilson, William (Coventry, S.)
Strang, Gavin Wallace, George
Strauss, Rt. Hn, G. R. Watkins, David TELLERS FOR THE AYES:
Thomas, Rt. Hn. George (Cardiff. W.) Weitzman, David Mr. James Hamilton and
Thomson, Rt. Hn. G. (Dundee, E.) White, James (Glasgow, Pollok) Mr. James A. Dunn.
Adley, Robert Gilmour, Sir John (Fife, E.) Mills, Peter (Torrington)
Alison, Michael (Barkston Ash) Glyn, Dr. Alan Miscampbell, Norman
Allason, James (Hemel Hempstead) Goodhart, Philip Mitchell, Lt. -Col. C. (Aberdeenshire, W)
Astor, John Gorst, John Mitchell, David (Basingstoke)
Atkins, Humphrey Gower, Raymond Moate, Roger
Awdry, Daniel Green, Alan Molyneaux, James
Baker, Kenneth (St. Marylebone) Gummer, Selwyn Monks, Mrs. Connie
Baker, W. H. K. (Banff) Gurden, Harold Monro, Hector
Balniel, Lord Hall, John (Wycombe) Montgomery, Fergus
Batsford, Brian Hall-Davis, A. G. F. More, Jasper
Beamish, Col. Sir Tufton Hamilton, Michael (Salisbury) Morgan, Geraint (Denbigh)
Bennett, Sir Frederic (Torquay) Hannam, John (Exeter) Morgan-Giles, Rear-Adm.
Biggs-Davison, John Harrison, Col. Sir Harwood (Eye) Morrison, Charles (Devizes)
Boardman, Tom (Leicester, S. W.) Haselhurst, Alan Mudd, David
Body, Richard Hastings, Stephen Murton, Oscar
Boscawen, Robert Havers, Michael Neave, Airey
Bowden, Andrew Hicks, Robert Noble, Rt. Hn. Michael
Braine, Bernard Hill, James (Southampton, Test) Normanton, Tom
Bray, Ronald Holland, Philip Nott, John
Brewis, John Holt, Miss Mary Onslow, Cranley
Brinton, Sir Tatton Hooson, Emlyn Oppenheim, Mrs. Sally
Brown, Sir Edward (Bath) Hordern, Peter Orr, Capt. L. P. S.
Bryan, Paul Hornby, Richard Owen, Idris (Stockport, N.)
Buchanan-Smith, Alick (Angus, N & M) Hornsby-Smith, Rt. Hn. Dame Patricia Page, Graham (Crosby)
Buck, Antony Howe, Hn. Sir Geoffrey (Reigate) Parkinson, Cecil (Enfield, W.)
Bullus, Sir Eric Howell, David (Guildford) Peel, John
Burden, F. A. Howell, Ralph (Norfolk, N.) Percival, Ian
Campbell, Rt. Hn. G. (Moray & Nairn) Hunt, John Peyton, Rt. Hn. John
Carlisle, Mark Iremonger, T. L. Pike, Miss Mervyn
Carr, Rt. Hn. Robert James, David Pounder, Rafton
Channon, Paul Jenkin, Patrick (Woodford) Powell, Rt. Hn. J. Enoch
Chapman, Sydney Jennings, J. C. (Burton) Pries, David (Eastleigh)
Chataway, Rt. Hn. Christopher Jessel, Toby Pym, Rt. Hn. Francis
Chichester-Clark, R. Johnson Smith, G. (E. Grinstead) Quennell, Miss J. M.
Churchill, W. S. Jopling, Michael Raison, Timothy
Clarke, William (Surrey, E.) Joseph, Rt. Hn. Sir Keith Rawlinson, Rt. Hn. Sir Peter
Clarke, Kenneth (Rushcliffe) Kellett-Bowman, Mrs. Elaine Redmond, Robert
Clegg, Walter Kilfedder, James Reed, Laurance (Bolton, E.)
Cockeram, Eric Kimball, Marcus Rees, Peter (Dover)
Cooke, Robert King, Evelyn (Dorset, S.) Rees-Davies, W. R.
Cooper, A. E. King, Tom (Bridgwater) Renton, Rt. Hn. Sir David
Corfield, Rt. Hn. Frederick Kinsey, J. R. Ridley, Hn. Nicholas
Cormack, Patrick Kirk, Peter Ridsdale, Julian
Costain, A. P. Knight, Mrs. Jill Rippon, Rt. Hn. Geoffrey
Crawshaw, Richard Knox, David Rost, Peter
Critchley, Julian Lane, David Royle, Anthony
Crouch, David Langford-Holt, Sir John Russell, Sir Ronald
Curran, Charles Legge-Bourke, Sir Harry Scott, Nicholas
d'Avigdor-Goldsmid, Sir Henry Le Marchant, Spencer Scott-Hopkins, James
Dean, Paul Lewis, Kenneth (Rutland) Sharples, Richard
Deedes, Rt. Hn. W. F. Lloyd, Ian (P'tsm'th, Langstone) Shaw, Michael (Sc'b'gh & Whitby)
Dixon, Piers Longden, Gilbert Shelton, William (Clapham)
Dodds-Parker, Douglas Loveridge, John Simeons, Charles
Douglas-Home, Rt. Hn. Sir Alec Luce, R. N. Sinclair, Sir George
du Cann, Rt. Hn. Edward McAdden, Sir Stephen Skeet, T. H. H.
Dykes, Hugh MacArthur, Ian Smith, Dudley (W'wick & L'mington)
Eden, Sir John McCrindle, R. A. Sonef, Harold
Elliott, R. W. (N'c'tle-upon-Tyne, N.) McLaren, Martin Speed, Keith
Eyre, Reginald Maclean, Sir Fitzroy Spence, John
Farr, John McMaster, Stanley Sproat, Iain
Fell, Anthony Macmillan, Maurice (Farnham) Stainton, Keith
Fernner, Mrs. Peggy McNair-Wilson, Michael Stanbrook, Ivor
Fisher, Nigel (Surbiton) McNair-Wilson, Patrick (NewForest) Stewart-Smith, D. G. (Belper)
Fletcher-Cooke, Charles Maddan, Martin Stokes, John
Fookes, Miss Janet Madel, David Stuttaford, Dr. Tom
Fowler, Norman Maginnis, John E. Sutcliffe, John
Fraser, Rt. Hn. Hugh (St'fford & Stone) Marten, Neil Taylor, Sir Charles (Eastbourne)
Galbraith, Hn. T. G. Mather, Carol Taylor, Edward M. (G'gow. Cathcart)
Gardner, Edward Maude, Angus Taylor, Frank (Moss Side)
Gibson-Watt, David Maudling, Rt. Hn. Reginald Taylor, Robert (Croydon, N. W.)
Gilmour, Ian (Norfolk, C.) Meyer, Sir Anthony Tebbit, Norman
Thatcher, Rt. Hn. Mrs. Margaret Waddington, David Wiggin, Jerry
Thomas, John Stradling (Monmouth) Walder, David (Clitheroe) Wolrige-Gordon, Patrick
Thompson, Sir Richard (Croydon, S.) Walker, Rt. Hn. Peter (Worcester) Woodhouse, Hn Christopher
Tilney, John Walker-Smith, Rt. Hn. Sir Derek Worsley, Marcus
Trafford, Dr. Anthony Wall, Patrick Wylie, Rt. Hn. N. R.
Trew, Peter Walters, Dennis Younger, Hn. George
Tugendhat, Christopher Ward, Dame Irene
Turton, Rt. Hn. Sir Robin Warren, Kenneth TELLERS FOR THE NOES:
van Straubenzee, W. R. Weatherill, Bernard Mr. Tim Fortescue and
Vaughan, Dr. Gerard Wells, John (Maidstone) Mr. Hugh Rossi
Vickers, Dame Joan
Mr. O'Malley

I beg to move Amendment No. 5, in page 3, line 26, leave out from 'Schedule' to end of line 3 on page 4 and insert:

  1. '(a) any amount which he receives by way of repayment of income tax by reason of a stoppage of work due to a trade dispute at his place of employment; and
  2. (b) any payment which he receives from a trade union by reason of his being without employment during a stoppage of work due to a trade dispute at his place of employment
shall be taken into account only in so far as such payment exceeds the personal requirements of the claimant as established by the Supplementary Benefits Commission'. As the Clause stands it reduces the disregard for the families of strikers applying for supplementary benefit from £4.35 currently to £1. This we regard as a response to the hysteria on the benches opposite, particularly of some of the wilder men of the Tory Party who, from 1969 onwards, have believed that the best way to deal with strikes was to attempt to starve the wives and children of the strikers. This was in spite of the fact that the current disregard was a long-standing practice of the Supplementary Benefits Commission and before that of the National Assistance Board. It was fully in line with the policy of the previous Administration that these disregards should be maintained at this level, and the Amendment seeks to maintain this situation.

I explained our attitude fully in Committee, complaining that the wives and families of men on strike treated in the way the Clause proposes would be hard hit. I said that innocent people, for example, people affected by a lock-out, would be badly affected by the proposals, and that considerable injustice would be done to people who had no connection with the strike but happened to suffer from being within the grade and class provision which the Donovan Commission regarded as a considerable injustice which should be dealt with by legislation. The previous Government were proposing to deal with it by legislation, but the present Government have refused to do so.

The arguments which we put forward, including the figures which we quoted illustrating how badly families would be hit, were rejected by the Secretary of State on a majority vote in Committee, as a result of a speech made by the Secretary of State which was not overburdened with facts or notable for its accuracy or its relevancy to the subject under discussion. I will reply briefly to the Secretary of State's comments. He recognised that I had a valid argument when I commented on the injustice done to people who were adversely affected by the grade or class provision as the result of a strike. Nevertheless, he said that this was: … one slender barrier, perhaps, to irresponsible strikes."—OFFICIAL REPORT., Standing Committee F, 13th May, 1971; c. 128.] That was not a statement which he had thought about. The right hon. Gentleman was on his way to a Cabinet meeting and intervened because he thought that he should say something as he would be missing later on. But this is not a slender barrier to anything.

The Secretary of State agreed with me that these proposals were unjust to people affected by the grade or class provisions. He accepted my comment about men affected by a lock-out, so half the argument he gave me straight away. When the Secretary of State conceded my point, he was moving away from the posture of traditional neutrality in industrial disputes which Governments of different political complexions have taken over many years. The blame is on the strikers, and it is they who suffer as a result of this legislation.

The right hon. Gentleman also said that we were proposing to treat single people differently from married people because single people do not get supplementary benefit. Of course single people require different treatment, because they have no dependents who are innocent in any industrial dispute.

In dealing with a partial disregard of strike pay, the Secretary of State held the view that a low disregard would discourage strikes. That suggestion shows an abysmal ignorance of what happens in industry and on the shop floor. This ignorance shone like a beacon throughout the whole Committee stage and in the earlier proceedings on the Bill. The only argument which the Secretary of State could adduce for refusing to maintain the present disregard of strike pay was that only a minority of people get strike pay. That is not relevant to the argument about what the disregard should be.

The Secretary of State put forward a pretty poor case. His arguments fell when we listened to and answered them, and when one reads them one can see how weak they are. The Secretary of State and the Under-Secretary of State must be getting poor briefing, or perhaps they are not reading their briefs or thinking about the subject.

The most interesting argument put forward by the right hon. Gentleman was that lower paid workers did not pay tax and their position would not be affected. This was misleading. If I were feeling mischievous, I would say that it was a mischievous comment. It is certainly untrue. One finds from the income tax tables that a married couple, with one child not over 11, with an income of £18 a week would be paying £41.85 tax in the tax year 1971–72. A person on strike for four weeks, not drawing anything for the first two weeks, would get back about one-third of the tax for this period. Clearly, they would be affected. So it is not only the higher paid who would benefit from maintaining the disregard at the present level but the people who are earning £18 a week and even less than that. The Secretary of State and the Under-Secretary persistently declare their sympathy with the lower-paid workers, yet they put forward arguments like this which are blatantly untrue.

This is an entirely reasonable Amendment. We ask the Government to reexamine their souls, or, if they do not have souls, their minds, on this subject. Playing the game proposed in this part of the Bill certainly will not cut the num- ber of strikes. It will hurt innocent people, the wives and children of men who are involved in industrial disputes. No previous Government, whether Conservative or Labour, have taken up this posture and it is not a posture which the Government should be taking up in 1971 in this advanced community. The Government may have thought further about this subject since the Committee stage, but I have not much hope of getting acceptance of the Amendment, or even an answer.

Mr. Kenneth Clarke (Rushcliffe)

Normally in debates on social security one finds hon. Members putting forward competing claims on all-too-limited resources to deal with particular needs. This is often done on an all-party basis, such as occurred in the campaign for the chronic sick and disabled, persons who, incidentally, received a more generous response from the present Government than they had ever experienced previously.

On previous Amendments the Opposition have been urging competing claims for resources and have resisted every cut-back in benefits given out in the social security system because they think that high priorities are being eliminated by the Bill, although they have not been able to present very much in the way of argument.

Mr. Alec Jones

The hon. Gentleman has not been here for half the time.

Mr. Clarke

I have not perhaps been in the Chamber for as long as the hon. Member for Rhondda, West (Mr. Alec Jones), but I have listened to as much as I can stand from the Opposition benches, with convenient intervals, during the afternoon.

It cannot be claimed on this Amendment that a high social priority is being defended by the Opposition. This Amendment seems to give the game away as to why such pressure is being maintained by the Opposition. This Amendment makes it clear that so far as the Labour Party is concerned nothing is to be allowed to compete with the demands of organised labour, particularly when it is involved in industrial action. Hon. Members opposite often speak passionately about social policies and express a genuine concern about the aged, the sick and the disabled in terms of social security, but on this Amendment they are urging the case that the battalions of organised labour, who are now in a privileged position when on strike, should be treated in a special way in relation to supplementary benefit.

In the present situation of social policy supplementary benefit is the main weapon in a somewhat inadequate armoury, until rather larger-scale measures are taken to deal with poverty. It is a means-tested benefit which goes to those in the worst position in society, and the Supplementary Benefits Commission often steps in literally to save from starvation some of the most inadequately paid and inadequately maintained people in society.

The Amendment seeks to preserve a situation in which the Supplementary Benefits Commission, acting in a manner that was never intended by Parliament, seeks to benefit the better-off striker—I use that term comparatively—by giving him generous treatment in the form of supplementary benefit by allowing a disregard, which is now to be stopped. The Amendment seeks to continue a unique situation which involves the presumption that the more one earns and the less one needs assistance, the more one is entitled to draw from the Government. Those are not my words, but the words of the right hon. Member for Coventry, East (Mr. Crossman) who, of course, was the previous Labour Front Bench spokesman on this subject, but who lately has been most effectively attacking what hon. Members opposite are seeking to defend in this Amendment.

It is no good the hon. Member for Rotherham (Mr. O'Malley) glossing over the fact that a limited category of better-off and organised strikers will alone benefit from the Amendment. The hon. Gentleman mentioned a figure of £18, and because of the change at the lower end of the tax scale, for which the previous Government were responsible, tax now starts to be paid by some people at a very low level indeed. However, it will be the majority of better-off strikers who will benefit from this Amendment, if those strikers are well off enough to qualify for P.A.Y.E. refunds. They are either well off enough to be in a privileged position for P.A.Y.E. refunds to be disregarded up to £4.35, or they are in receipt of strike pay which is disregarded to the same level. The people who will be affected by the Amendment will tend to be those people involved in organised trade unions who when on strike will have the backing of a powerful union which can give them strike pay.

The other category of people the Amendment will seek to protect is those who take part in long strikes. Supplementary benefit cannot be claimed until a strike has continued for 11 days. What is being defended by this Amendment is the position of those people who either qualify for P.A.Y.E. refunds or who are getting strike pay and also take part in a strike which has lasted for at least a fortnight. For that reason the Opposition are not urging any social priority. They are backing the big battalions of people who indulge in long strikes, with an organised trade union behind them, and they want to preserve the position in which supplementary benefit is paid on a more generous scale than Parliament ever intended in relation to those people. The Amendment fits somewhat ill into the generality of the Opposition's thinking in social security matters.

I had the doubtful privilege of serving on the Standing Committee on this Bill. It has been interesting today to see the slight difference in the case urged by the hon. Member for Rotherham, speaking officially for his party, and the case put forward in Committee by hon. Members, who are not present at the moment, urging their interpretation of what the Labour Party would like to happen. Although the hon. Member for Rotherham simply wants to preserve the position whereby the striker is not entitled to benefit on his own account but that only his family is so entitled, with disregards being allowed on certain matters, that was not the demand being made by his hon. Friends in Committee. They did not at any stage accept the basic principle, which was accepted by both Front Benches, that a man on strike is not entitled to supplementary benefit. They saw this anomaly as a useful step on the way to getting supplementary benefit for the assistance of those on strike.

I do not want to attack any particular Member in his absence. I would only refer to the fact that the hon. Members for Liverpool, Walton (Mr. Heffer) and Salford, West (Mr. Orme) at no time conceded that supplementary benefit should be denied to strikers. Indeed, when the hon. Member for Salford, West was examined on his view, he said that if an amendment were wanted to enable strikers to get the full supplementary benefit, he would be only too glad to oblige. That is why hon. Members opposite defend this anomaly. There are many hon. Gentlemen opposite who see the use of supplementary benefit as a valuable support for militant industrial policy such as we have seen.

Mr. Skinner indicated assent.

Mr. Clarke

The hon. Member for Bolsover (Mr. Skinner) nods agreement.

Mr. Skinner

There are two sides to every strike.

Mr. Clarke

But this is using public money in support of a militant industrial policy which hon. Gentlemen opposite are anxious to defend. It is no good the hon. Member for Rotherham saying that this makes no difference to the length or number of strikes. It would be preposterous to pretend that the Amendment provides any barrier to industrial action. Hon. Members opposite seek to defend such action and they want to keep the position that way. This may be only a marginal contribution to the strength of a strike and its unity but anything which makes a financial contribution to a strike and makes the position of a striker that much better during the strike, is a contributory factor in the situation.

A union would not pay strike pay if that financial support did not assist its members The supplementary benefit paid in this unintended way by a long-standing practice which it is difficult to justify plays some part in using public money to maintain industrial actions for longer than would otherwise have been the case.

Mr. Skinner

This speech should be circulated in Nottingham.

8.0 p.m.

Mr. Clarke

I should be glad of the hon. Member's assistance in publicising my views to my constituents.

But if this small amount of public money is used to support industrial action by the big organised unions in a long strike, it is our opinion—not the opinion of the wild men, I might say—that it is the less socially desirable strikes which will benefit. There is no field in which there is less justification for using public money than long strikes by big unions with organised bargaining power.

Some hon. Members opposite with more extreme views have been backing up every inflationary, pure wage demand strike since Christmas, and public money is being used to support the very sort of strike which does most harm to the disabled, the low wage earner, the person on supplementray benefit and other beneficiaries for whom the Commission should be working. So, despite the way in which the hon. Member for Rotherham concluded, I hope that the Government will not weaken but will acknowledge that this part of the Bill has to be defended and that we think that a most valuable change is being made and a long-standing abuse ended,

Mr. Alison

The hon. Member for Rotherham (Mr. O'Malley) moved the Amendment with great brevity, and I shall speak in like manner—particularly after the bold and sound speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Rushcliffe (Mr. Kenneth Clarke). I am sure it will do him nothing but good if hon. Members opposite give his speech wide publicity in his constituency.

Fair-minded people, on whichever side of the political frontier, will agree that the present arrangement, which is in defiance of Parliament's expressed will in Section 10 of the Ministry of Social Security Act—namely, replacing strikers' personal requirements, which the Act disallowed—is very unpopular with every part of the population.

The hon. Member for Rotherham accused us of responding to hysteria and quoted the Secretary of State. So I shall have no hesitation in quoting his right hon. Friend the Member for Coventry, East (Mr. Crossman). We are, in fact, responding to his considered and balanced views in the New Statesman of 4th September, 1970: Since I believe Sir Keith is a man of principle … let him turn … to the present extraordinary rules for income tax refunds for strikers. For many years, the law has been interpreted as requiring the Commission to disregard these refunds in assessing the needs of the striker's family. This mainly benefits the higher paid worker … Quite apart from its economic effect in encouraging strikes and its outrageous social implications, the gravest doubts were voiced in the highest legal circles a few months ago about the legality of this interpretation of the law. All we are doing is ensuring that the legality of the law is accepted and promulgated and is firmly upheld, that the outrageous social implications of the present arrangements are swept away, and that we do not concentrate benefits on the higher-paid workers.

The hon. Member for Rotherham took a rather dangerous line, against the background of poverty being alleged to be relative, in saying that the tax guillotine now comes down so low for the average working man that tax refunds occur at low levels of income. Let him be reassured. We believe that the tax threshold, as a result of six years of Socialism, is intolerably low, and we are prepared to recognise the relativity of poverty by deliberately and systematically raising this threshold so that, increasingly, more and more people will not have to pay tax. Therefore, increasingly, the benefits of the present arrangements will be concentrated—unless we accept the Bill as it stands—upon a diminishing range—

Mr. Charles Loughlin (Gloucestershire, West) rose

Mr. Alison

I see the hon. Member cooking up a serious Opposition argument here, but poverty is relative, and if the present arrangement exists, tax refunds will be made available to sustain a group of people who will be held increasingly to be the most prosperous.

The law as promulgated by successive Governments must stand, and we can think of no argument which can be put against it by the hon. Member for Gloucestershire, West (Mr. Loughlin) in two minutes which can deflect us from our firm assurance that the Bill is both equitable, fair and bipartisan. We hope that the House will unhesitatingly accept the Bill as it stands.

Mr. Loughlin

If I spoke on this subject for 102 minutes, I would make not the slightest impression on the Under-Secretary. I am always amused when he quotes statements made by my right hon. Friend the Member for Coventry, East (Mr. Crossman)—

Mr. Skinner

Tricky Dicky.

Mr. Loughlin

I could not care two hoots—

Mr. Skinner

Nor could I.

Mr. Loughlin

—about the speeches and statements of my right hon. Friend.

I was not preparing an intellectual argument. I am far too modest. I wanted to deal only with two points. One was the lion. Gentleman's criticism of my hon. Friend the Member for Rotherham (Mr. O'Malley) about the tax threshold. My hon. Friend was, in fact, rebutting an argument used in Committee and by the hon. Member for Rushcliffe (Mr. Kenneth Clarke) today—that the Amendment would merely assist the higher paid on strike. My lion. Friend said that: a man with a family, with a child over 11, would be caught under the tax threshold if he were earning over £18 a week.

The Under-Secretary said that that was an indictment of the Labour Government and that at a subsequent date the Conservatives would raise the threshold. That is all very well, but he did not deal with the fact that until it is raised the lower-paid will be caught. In other words, until the threshold is raised, the argument of my hon. Friend the Member for Rotherham is completely valid.

The hon. Member for Rushcliffe stated his case with clarity and lucidity but, as with the speeches of his hon. Friends, one gets the impression that he and his colleagues believe in the guilt of the striker—that whenever a strike takes place, the strikers are always at fault. If the hon. Gentleman had had any experience of industry, as he is likely to have in the coming years, he would know that there is never a strike in which either the workers or management are totally to blame.

Mr. Skinner

That is not right. You will have to modify that, Charlie.

Mr. Loughlin

My hon. Friend's friendly intervention shows that we have different experiences in the trade union sphere. I have been active in trade union affairs since I was 18 and I will remain active in them until I die. I was a full-time trade union official for a number of years. My experience is that even when the workpeople are ostensibly to blame for a strike, the guilt is never always on one side and that even in those circumstances management must accept part of the responsibility.

The logic of the argument adduced by the hon. Member for Rushcliffe is that, although there may be guilt and innocence among those who will be affected by this legislation, the Government are right to apply a rule of thumb law and say "Whether you be innocent or guilty, the same sanction will apply to you." That is a denial of any kind of equity, and if the hon. Gentleman is prepared to circulate his speech among his constituents and debate the matter, I will be prepared to discuss it with him in his constituency whenever he likes. If the Government are accepting the principle that, innocent or guilty, the sanction shall apply, heaven help us in our approach to social security matters.

8.15 p.m.

Mr. O'Malley

I congratulate the hon. Member for Rushcliffe (Mr. Kenneth Clarke) on having made his first speech on this subject, at any rate since the beginning of the Committee stage. I agree with the Under-Secretary that he made a bold speech, but it was the sort of boldness that loses marginal seats. In my view, the hon. Gentleman started on the wrong premise and, therefore, inevitably came to the wrong conclusions.

The Under-Secretary adduced only two arguments. The first was about the remarks of my right hon. Friend the Member for Coventry, East (Mr. Crossman) and in that the hon. Gentleman merely demonstrated that once my right hon. Friend had left office, sight was lost of the fact that not only the higher-paid would benefit from our proposals.

I have deliberately obtained copies of the tax tables to examine this exercise. It is clear that many families on very

modest incomes indeed would, after a lengthy strike, benefit from the Amendment.

Mr. Kenneth Lewis (Rutland and Stamford)

If the hon. Gentleman looks at the tax tables he will discover that the lower paid also get a big advantage. Because of the way the P.A.Y.E. system works, there is a build-up and the amount of tax that goes back at an early stage, after April, is not high for the lower paid, whereas for the higher-paid it rises very steeply, and within a few weeks there can be a greater build-up. It is clear, therefore, that my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary was arguing a strong point.

Mr. O'Malley

That is not so. It is at about the half-yearly point, between October and April, that a person in that situation is most advantaged. In other words, the lower-paid worker would at that half-yearly point benefit from our proposals.

The Under-Secretary made a new point when he talked of the intention to raise the tax threshold. That is precisely what my right hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Stechford (Mr. Roy Jenkins) did in his last Budget when he took 2 million people out of taxation. Even if the Government were to raise the threshold—even at a time of rapid inflation, which they are apparently unable either to cure or to control—that would be of little help simply because every year fewer people would benefit.

It is clear that there is no meeting of minds between the two sides of the House on this issue, and I therefore, without further ado, urge my hon. Friends to vote for the Amendment.

Question put, That the Amendment be made:—

The House divided: Ayes 219, Noes 246.

Division No. 418.] AYES [8.18 p.m.
Abse, Leo Bidwell, Sydney Campbell, I. (Dunbartonshire, W.)
Albu, Austen Bishop, E. S. Cant, R. B.
Allaun, Frank (Salford, E.) Blenkinsop, Arthur Carmichael, Neil
Allen, Scholefield Boardman, H. (Leigh) Carter-Jones, Lewis (Eccles)
Archer, Peter (Rowley Regis) Booth, Albert Castle, Rt. Hn. Barbara
Ashley, Jack Bottomley, Rt. Hn. Arthur Clark, David (Colne Valley)
Ashton, Joe Boyden, James (Bishop Auckland) Cocks, Michael (Bristol, S.)
Atkinson, Norman Bradley, Tom Cohen, Stanley
Barnes, Michael Brown, Hugh D. (G'gow, Provan) Coleman, Donald
Barnett, Joel Brown, Ronald (Shoreditch & F'bury) Concannon, J. D.
Beaney, Alan Buchan, Norman Corbet, Mrs. Freda
Bennett, James (Glasgow, Bridgeton) Buchanan, Richard (G'gow, Sp'bum) Cox, Thomas (Wandsworth, C.)
Cronin, John John, Brynmor Pannell, Rt. Hn. Charles
Cunningham, G. (Islington, S. W.) Johnson, Carol (Lewisham, S.) Parker, John (Dagenham)
Davidson, Arthur Johnson, James (K'ston-on-Hull, W.) Parry, Robert (Liverpool, Exchange)
Davies, Denzil (Llanelly) Johnson, Walter (Derby, S.) Pavitt, Laurie
Davies, S. O. (Merthyr Tydvil) Jones, Barry (Flint, E.) Pendry, Tom
Davis, Clinton (Hackney, C.) Jones, Dan (Burnley) Pentland, Norman
Davis, Terry (Bromsgrove) Jones, Rt. Hn. Sir Elwyn (W. Ham, S.) Perry, Ernest G.
Deakins, Eric Jones, Gwynoro (Carmarthen) Prentice, Rt. Hn. Reg.
de Freitas, Rt. Hn. Sir Geoffrey Jones, T. Alec (Rhondda, W.) Prescott, John
Delargy, H. J. Judd, Frank Price, J. T. (Westhoughton)
Dell, Rt. Hn. Edmund Kaufman, Gerald Price, William (Rugby)
Dempsey, James Kelley, Richard Probert, Arthur
Doig, Peter Kerr, Russell Reed, D. (Sedgefield)
Dormand, J. D. Kinnock, Neil Rees, Merlyn (Leeds, S.)
Douglas, Dick (Stirlingshire, E.) Lambie, David Rhodes, Geoffrey
Douglas-Mann, Bruce Latham, Arthur Roberts, Albert (Normanton)
Duffy, A. E. P. Lawson, George Roberts, Rt. Hn. Goronwy (Caernarvon)
Dunn, James A. Leadbitter, Ted Robertson, John (Paisley)
Dunnett, Jack Lee, Rt. Hn. Frederick Roderick, Caerwyn E. (Br'c'n & R'dnor)
Eadie, Alex Leonard, Dick Rodgers, William (Stockton-on-Tees)
Edwards, Robert (Bilston) Lestor, Miss Joan Roper, John
Ellis, Tom Lipton, Marcus Rose, Paul B.
English, Michael Lomas, Kenneth Ross, Rt. Hn. William (Kilmarnock)
Evans, Fred Loughlin, Charles Sandelson, Neville
Fernyhough, Rt. Hn. E. Lyon, Alexander W. (York) Sheldon, Robert (Ashton-under-Lyne)
Fisher, Mrs. Doris (B'ham, Ladywood) Lyons, Edward (Bradford, E.) Shore, Rt. Hn. Peter (Stepney)
Fletcher, Ted (Darlington) Mabon, Dr. J. Dickson Short. Rt. Hn. Edward (N'c'tle-u-Tyne)
Foot, Michael McBride, Neil Silkin, Hn. S. C. (Dulwich)
Ford, Ben McCartney, Hugh Sillars, James
Forrester, John McGuire, Michael Silverman, Julius
Fraser, John (Norwood) Mackenzie, Gregor Skinner, Dennis
Freeson, Reginald Mackie, John Small, William
Galpern, Sir Myer Maclennan, Robert Smith, John (Lanarkshire, N.)
Gilbert, Dr. John McMillan, Tom (Glasgow, C.) Spearing, Nigel
Ginsburg, David McNamara, J. Kevin Spriggs, Leslie
Golding, John Mahon, Simon (Bootle) Stallard, A. W.
Gordon Walker, Rt. Hn. P. C. Mallalieu, E. L. (Brigg) Stewart, Donald (Western Isles)
Gourlay, Harry Mallalieu, J. P. W. (Huddersfield, E.) Stewart, Rt. Hn. Michael (Fulham)
Grant, George (Morpeth) Marquand, David Stoddart, David (Swindon)
Griffiths, Eddie (Brightside) Marsden, F. Strang, Gavin
Griffiths, Will (Exchange) Marshall, Dr. Edmund Strauss, Rt. Hn. G. R.
Hamilton, William (Fife, W.) Mayhew, Christopher Thomas, Rt. Hn. George (Cardiff, W.)
Hamling, William Mcacher, Michael Thomson, Rt. Hn. G. (Dundee, E.)
Hannan, William (G'gow, Maryhill) Mendelson, John Tinn, James
Hardy, Peter Millan, Bruce Torney, Tom
Hart, Rt. Hn. Judith Miller, Dr. M. S. Tuck, Raphael
Healey, Rt. Hn. Denis Milne, Edward (Blyth) Varley, Eric G.
Heffer, Eric S. Mitchell, R. C. (S'hampton, Itchen) Walden, Brian (B'm'ham, All Saints)
Hilton, W. S. Molloy, William Wallace, George
Hooson, Emlyn Morgan, Elystan (Cardiganshire) Watkins, David
Horam, John Morris, Alfred (Wythenshawe) Weitzman, David
Houghton, Rt. Hn. Douglas Morris, Rt. Hn. John (Aberavon) White, James (Glasgow, Pollok)
Howell, Denis (Small Heath) Morrison, Charles (Devizes) Whitehead, Phillip
Huckfield, Leslie Moyle, Roland Whitlock, William
Hughes, Rt. Hn. Cledwyn (Anglesey) Murray, Ronald King Willey, Rt. Hn. Frederick
Hughes, Mark (Durham) Ogden, Eric Williams, Alan (Swansea, W.)
Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen, N.) O'Halloran, Michael Williams, Mrs. Shirley (Hitchin)
Hughes, Roy (Newport) O'Malley, Brian Wilson, William (Coventry, S.)
Hunter, Adam Oram, Bert
Janner, Greville Orme, Stanley TELLERS FOR THE AYES:
Jay, Rt. Hn. Douglas Oswald, Thomas Mr. Ernest Armstrong and
Jeger, Mrs. Lena (H'b'n & St. P'cras, S.) Paget, R. T. Mr. James Hamilton
Jenkins, Hugh (Putney) Palmer, Arthur
Adley, Robert Bowden, Andrew Chataway, Rt. Hn. Christopher
Alison, Michael (Barkston Ash) Brains, Bernard Chichester-Clark, R.
Allason, James (Hemel Hempstead) Bray, Ronald Churchill, W. S.
Archer, Jeffrey (Louth) Brewis, John Clark William (Surrey, E.)
Astor, John Brinton, Sir Tatton Clarke, Kenneth (Rushcliffe)
Atkins, Humphrey Brocklebank-Fowler, Christopher Clegg, Walter
Awdry, Daniel Brown, Sir Edward (Bath) Cockeram, Eric
Baker, Kenneth (St. Marylebone) Bryan, Paul Cooke, Robert
Baker, W. H. K. (Banff) Buchanan-Smith, Alick (Angus, N & M) Cooper, A. E.
Balniel, Lord Buck, Antony Corfield, Rt. Hn. Frederick
Batsford, Brian Bullus, Sir Eric Cormack, Patrick
Beamish, Col. Sir Tufton Burden, F. A. Costain, A. P.
Bennett, Sir Frederic (Torquay) Campbell, Rt. Hn. G. (Moray & Nairn) Critchley, Julian
Biggs-Davison, John Carlisle, Mark Crouch, David
Boardman, Tom (Leicester, S. W.) Carr, Rt. Hn. Robert Curran, Charles
Boscawen, Robert Channon, Paul Dean, Paul
Bossom, Sir Clive Chapman, Sydney Deedes, Rt. Hn. W. F.
Dixon, Piers Knox, David Ridsdale, Julian
Dodds-Parker, Douglas Lane, David Rippon, Rt. Hn. Geoffrey
du Cann, Rt. Hn, Edward Langford-Holt, Sir John Rodgers, Sir John (Sevenoaks)
Dykes, Hugh Legge-Bourke, Sir Harry Rossi, Hugh (Homsey)
Eden, Sir John Le Marchant, Spencer Rost, Peter
Elliott, R. W. (N'c'tle-upon-Tyne, N.) Lewis, Kenneth (Rutland) Royle, Anthony
Eyre, Reginald Lloyd, Ian (P'tsm'th, Langstone) Russell, Sir Ronald
Farr, John Longden, Gilbert Scott, Nicholas
Fell, Anthony Loveridge, John Scott-Hopkins, James
Fenner, Mrs. Peggy Luce, R. N. Sharples, Richard
Finsberg, Geoffrey (Hampstead) McAdden, Sir Stephen Shaw, Michael (Sc'b'gh & Whitby)
Fisher, Nigel (Surbiton) Mac Arthur, Ian Shelton, William (Clapham)
Fletcher-Cooke, Charles McCrindle, R. A. Simeons, Charles
Fookes, Miss Janet McLaren, Martin Sinclair, Sir George
Maclean, Sir Fitzroy
Fowler, Norman McMaster, Stanley Skeet, T. H. H.
Fraser, Rt. Hn. Hugn (St'fford & Stone) McNair-Wilson, Michael Smith, Dudley (W'wick & L'mington)
Gardner, Edward McNair-Wilson, Patrick (NewForest) Soref, Harold
Gibson-Watt, David Maddan, Martin Speed, Keith
Gilmour, Ian (Norfolk, C.) Madel, David Spence, John
Gilmour, Sir John (Fife, E.) Maginnis, John E. Sproat, Iain
Glyn, Dr. Alan Marten, Neil Stainton, Keith
Goodhart, Philip Mather, Carol Stanbrook, Ivor
Gorst, John Maude, Angus Stewart-Smith, D. G. (Belper)
Gower, Raymond Maudling, Rt. Hn. Reginald Stokes, John
Gray, Hamish Meyer, Sir Anthony Stuttaford, Dr. Tom
Green, Alan Mills, Peter (Torrington) Sutcliffe, John
Gummer, Selwyn Miscampbell, Norman Taylor, Sir Charles (Eastbourne)
Gurden, Harold Mitchell, Lt.-Col. C. (Aberdeenshire, W) Taylor, Edward M. (G'gow, Cathcart)
Hall, John (Wycombe) Mitchell, David (Basingstoke) Taylor, Frank (Moss Side)
Hall-Davis, A. G. F. Moate, Roger Taylor, Robert (Croydon, N. W.)
Hamilton, Michael (Salisbury) Molyneaux, James Tebbit, Norman
Hannam, John (Exeter) Monks, Mrs. Connie Temple, John M.
Harrison, Col. Sir Harwood (Eye) Montgomery, Fergus Thatcher, Rt. Hn. Mrs. Margaret
Haselhurst, Alan More, Jasper Thomas, John Stradling (Monmouth)
Hastings, Stephen Morgan, Geraint (Denbigh) Thompson, Sir Richard (Croydon, S.)
Havers, Michael Morgan-Giles, Rear-Adm. Thorpe, Rt. Hn. Jeremy
Heseltine, Michael Morrison, Charles (Devizes) Tilney, John
Hicks, Robert Mudd, David Trafford, Dr. Anthony
Hill, James (Southampton, Test) Murton, Oscar Trew, Peter
Holland, Philip Neave, Airey Tugendhat, Christopher
Holt, Miss Mary Noble, Rt. Hn. Michael Turton, Rt. Hn. Sir Robin
Hornby, Richard Normanton, Tom van Straubenzee, W, R,
Hornsby-Smith, Rt. Hn. Dame Patricia Nott, John Vaughan, Dr. Gerard
Howe, Hn. Sir Geoffrey (Reigate) Onslow, Cranley Vickers, Dame Joan
Howell, David (Guildford) Oppenheim, Mrs. Sally Waddington, David
Howell, Ralph (Norfolk, N.) Orr, Capt. L. P. S. Walder, David (Clitheroe)
Hunt, John Owen, Idris (Stockport, N.) Walker, Rt. Hn. Peter (Worcester)
Iremonger, T. L. Page, Graham (Crosby) Walker-Smith, Rt. Hn. Sir Derek
Irvine, Bryant Godman (Rye) Parkinson, Cecil (Enfield, W.) Wall, Patrick
James, David Peel, John Walters, Dennis
Jenkin, Patrick (Woodford) Percival, Ian Ward, Dame Irene
Jennings, J. C. (Burton) Peyton, Rt. Hn. John Warren, Kenneth
Jessel, Toby Pike, Miss Mervyn Weatherill, Bernard
Johnson Smith, G. (E. Grinstead) Pounder, Rafton Wells, John (Maidstone)
Jopling, Michael Powell, Rt. Hn. J. Enoch Wiggin, Jerry
Joseph, Rt. Hn. Sir Keith Price, David (Eastleigh) Wilkinson, John
Kaberry, Sir Donald Pym, Rt. Hn. Francis Wolrige-Gordon, Patrick
Kellett-Bowman, Mrs. Elaine Quennell, Miss J. M. Wood, Rt. Hn. Richard
Kilfedder, James Raison, Timothy Woodhouse, Hn. Christopher
Kimball, Marcus Rawlinson, Rt. Hn. Sir Peter Worsley, Marcus
King, Evelyn (Dorset, S.) Redmond, Robert Wylie, Rt. Hn. N. R.
King, Tom (Bridgwater) Reed, Laurance (Bolton. E.) Younger, Hn. George
Kinsey, J. R, Rees, Peter (Dover)
Kirk, Peter Rees-Davies, W. R. TELLERS FOR THE NOES:
Kitson, Timothy Renton, Rt. Hn. Sir David Mr. Hector Monro and
Knight, Mrs. Jill Ridley, Hn. Nicholas Mr. Tim Fortescue
Mr. Alison

I beg to move Amendment No. 6, in page 3, line 29, leave out: '(whether paid to him or not) to which, while' and insert 'which, while he is'.

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Miss Harvie Anderson)

It will be for the convenience of the House if with this Amendment we discuss Amendment No. 7, in page 3, line 32.

Mr. Alison

I am sure that that will be convenient, Mr. Deputy Speaker.

The two Amendments fulfil an undertaking which I gave to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for East Ham, North (Mr. Prentice), which can be found in columns 161 and 162 of the OFFICIAL REPORT of the Standing Committee proceedings. Their effect is to ensure that persons whose tax refunds have to be taken into account in assessing supplementary benefit shall have them taken into account only where they are available. This was an area of uncertainty about which we were anxious to reassure the right hon. Gentleman, and to safeguard.

We still have as the final safety net, as it were, in this contingency, the benefit of the discretionary powers of paragraph 4, Schedule 2, of the Ministry of Social Security Act, but in response to what the right hon. Gentleman said we have tried to make assurance double sure by these Amendments. I hope that the House will find the Amendments acceptable, and agree that they will, as we feel, secure the cast-iron reassurance which the right hon. Gentleman sought.

8.30 p.m.

Mr. Prentice

I thank the Under-Secretary for meeting the point. We are grateful for small mercies. We shall be much more grateful if we get some more substantial mercies and if some of the larger points we raised can be met by the Government.

Amendment agreed to.

Further Amendment made: No. 7, in page 3, line 32, leave out: 'he becomes entitled (or would become entitled' and insert 'become available to him (or would become available to him'.—[Mr. Alison.]

Mr. Prentice

I beg to move Amendment No. 8, in page 4, line 10, at end add: (6) Subsections (3) and (4) above shall not have effect if the person concerned was not participating in nor directly interested in the trade dispute which caused the stoppage of work.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

I think that it would be for the convenience of the House if with this Amendment we discussed Amendment No. 11, in page 6, line 14, at end add: (11) This section shall not have effect if the person concerned was not participating in nor directly interested in the trade dispute which caused the stoppage of work.

Mr. Prentice

One of the difficulties that we face in discussing the Bill in public is the relative success of the smokescreen that has surrounded its real provisions. In a very effective debating speech on the last Amendment, the hon. Member for Rushcliffe (Mr. Kenneth Clarke) spoke against the use of public funds, as he put it, to back up strikes.

Many people throughout the country imagine that that is the sole effect of Clauses 1 and 2, that in some way they withdraw an unreasonable subsidy from strikers. I will not go into the merit of the use of these provisions regarding strikers. Many people have failed to recognise, however, that we are talking here about strikers' families and are in effect reducing the standard of living of people who are below the supplementary benefit threshold by £3.35 a week and also—this is the subject of the Amendment—we are similarly penalising the families of considerable categories of non-strikers.

The Amendment attempts to alter that position. The position as the Bill stands is the same position as that followed in the main legislation affecting unemployment and supplementary benefits. There are six categories of people who are disqualified from receiving the main benefits in the event of a trade dispute at their place of employment—those who are participating in the dispute, which may be a lock-out and not a strike; those who are directly interested in the dispute; those who are financing the dispute; and anyone in a grade or class of workers any of whom are participating in or directly interested in or financing the dispute.

This rule in terms of the main legislation is no longer seriously defended by anyone. I am sure that the Secretary of State will acknowledge that his own Department, then the Ministry of Social Security, gave evidence to the Donovan Commission in favour of a change in the law so as to remove four of those six categories. That would have confined the disqualification to those who are participating in the dispute or those who are directly intereted in it. The Labour Government proposed to implement that recommendation.

Sir K. Joseph

I must be being very dense this evening. The right hon. Gentleman said that there were six categories and then mentioned only three.

Mr. Prentice

I am sorry to have to go through them again—those participating in the dispute, those directly interested in the dispute, those financing the dispute, and those in any grade or class of workers any of whom are doing any of those three things. It is three multiplied by two which equals six. The Donovan recommendation was to remove the disqualification on all those except persons participating in or directly interested in the outcome. As I said, it was a recommendation which arose from a lot of advice which the Donovan Commission had had, including advice from the Ministry of Social Security. The Labour Government had legislation in hand to implement that change.

The right hon. Gentleman went some way, I think, to meet the arguments on this question in an interesting intervention in Committee. He told the Committee about conversations which he had had with representatives of the T.U.C. on the previous day, and he said that he had given an undertaking to them to this effect: I would … talk to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Employment later in the year, after some months, when we see what the strike climate is, in order to reconsider again the Government's view on the Donovan recommendations. So, apart from the argument between us tonight, the House would, I think, welcome further news of any progress which may have been made in the Government's thinking on the question.

Our case on the Amendment is simple. We are against the existing provision in the main legislation. We consider that it ought to be reformed according to the Donovan proposals. But, in view of the merits of the case, it is outrageous to extend further disqualifications to the families of people who are not participating in or directly interested in the trade dispute.

The best that the Secretary of State could do in Committee was to say: We believe that treating the grade and class group in the same way as those primarily involved in trade disputes is a minute—perhaps very slender—additional safeguard against irresponsible trade disputes, and we must adhere to that opinion for the moment."—OFFICIAL REPORT Standing Committee F, 25th May, 1971; c. 259–60.] In what way is it an additional safeguard? The only meaning that can be attached to that argument is that the Government are saying that they want to hit at strikers not only through their own families but through the hardships of the families of their workmates who are not participating in the strike. This is a mean, petty and completely unjustifiable position to take. It is bad enough to try to put on pressure through the families of those participating in the dispute itself, but to put on the indirect pressure which arises from taking away up to £3.35 a week from the families of non-strikers, families who have already qualified for supplementary benefit by proving their need and proving that their family resources fall below the threshold, is particularly mean and petty, and it is an indication of the Government's abject failure in the whole field of industrial relations.

Mr. Jeffrey Archer (Louth)

First, I apologise to the right hon. Member for East Ham, North (Mr. Prentice) for being a few minutes late. I was elsewhere on the other side of the building and could not get here soon enough.

I speak on this Amendment because it concerns the provision of benefits for those who, while not participating in a strike, are laid off because of it and who cannot draw unemployment benefit because of a weird series of exclusions, some of which have no place in the social security law of the 1970s. Because the Amendment recognises the inequalities of some of these exclusions and the Bill itself does not, I have to say that I shall not be able to support my right hon. Friend in his desire to have the Amendment rejected, and if the Opposition divide the House I shall abstain.

As it stands, so far as it penalises men who have gone out on strike of their own volition the Clause is fair. But it catches men whose connection with the strike is, to say the least, tenuous. It catches men like a constituent of mine, a Mr. Wales. Mr. Wales is 63 years of age. He has been a member of his union, and he has served his union and his three employers, for 47½ years. He has been on strike only once in that entire period, in the 1930s. He is a blacksmith, whose union, the Amalgamated Union of Engineering Workers, is not on strike, but the branch of the Boilermakers Union in his factory is, and because its members are in what are called like trades he has been temporarily laid off.

He is a man of 63 who has given 47 years' service, with just one strike. He came to see me and told me that his income would fall from £25.50 to £9.15 because other men were going on strike. The local section of his union had made an agreement at the beginning of the year, immediately and efficiently, and therefore he naturally wanted to return to work. I have heard arguments from some of my hon. Friends that in a situation like that it is good to penalise such a man because that makes the others go back to work quickly. I find that argument totally unconvincing, first, because to a man of 63 the thought that he may eventually be able to return to work is no compensation.

In many ways more important, the man cannot apply for unemployment benefit. That is the crux of the situation. He is not unemployed of his own choice. He would be working if he could, but because other men have gone on strike he does not have the choice.

The basis for exclusion from unemployment benefit is that a strike takes place in the same works or department as the man who is laid off, and that he is a member of the same trade as the strikers and therefore may be said to have financial gain. The man about whom I am speaking will have no financial gain at all. He has made his agreement weeks before and is waiting to go back to work.

Mr. Keith Stainton (Sudbury and Woodbridge)

I have had an identical case in my constituency. Is not the present position that unemployment benefit is completely disallowed, even under the legislation of the previous Government?

Mr. Archer

That is right. But it would be unfair not to mention that the hon. Members for Liverpool, Walton (Mr. Heffer) and Salford, West (Mr. Orme) fought very hard over that point with the right hon. Member for Coventry, East (Mr. Crossman), when he was Secretary of State, but failed. It does not make it any less of a case because when we have come into government we have not done what the Opposition failed to do. I have no praise for the Opposition. The right hon. Member for Coventry, East also failed to understand the case, and did not help my hon. Friend's constituent. Equally, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State is not helping my constituent. I oppose him tonight in the same way as the hon. Members for Walton and Salford, West opposed their right hon. Friend. There is no difference. It is just that your problem has become our problem—

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Miss Harvie Anderson)

Order. I have no such problems at this moment, fortunately for me.

Mr. Archer

I apologise, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I have always known that you have absolutely no problems. It is my Minister who has problems, and one of them will be me. The present law is based on an assumption that there is a special relationship or community of interest between a group of workers identified by a grade or class.

8.45 p.m.

I want to say here that the leader of the union I have dealt with, Mr. Hurst, has been totally honourable and first class in dealing with the men who have been out of work. At this time in the history of the Conservative Party and of the reaction created by the Industrial Relations Bill, I want to say what a pleasure it has been to work with him and what a credit he is to the trade union movement. Whichever side we are on, I believe that we should all be much better off with better union relations with the people who do the job.

Mr. Dan Jones

I am very interested in the hon. Gentleman's speech. Believe me, most trade unionists are like that if they can be encouraged.

Mr. Archer

I accept that entirely. My experience in this case has been wonderful. Mr. Hurst has put himself out to tell me what are the arguments that will be put against me and what are the weak grounds of the case I am putting. He has done all in his power to avoid my standing here unqualified to put the case.

Let me put a case which comes nearer home. We are all Members of Parliament. As back benchers, we are all on a salary of £3,250 a year. What if that mob over there decided to strike for more pay? I could not blame them. But supposing we on this side then discovered that, because of the strike by hon. Members opposite, we were classed with them. We would be brought down to £1 000 or £750 a year because of the inadequacy of the Labour Party. Were that to happen, I suggest that my right hon. Friend would have this Amendment through so quickly that we would not know what was happening. I regret that he has not recognised the hardships caused to working men by the operation of this rule.

I believe that we must realise that the Industrial Relations Bill does not go far enough. In it we are removing many of the gross anomalies which exist in the social security and industrial safety regulations, but we are only doing half the job. We shall never get the support of the worthy men on our side if we do not show that a claim as good as that of my constituent is treated with compassion.

Compassion is the crux of the situation. I have been full of admiration for the way in which the Government have desperately attempted to do something about the finances of the country. But we spent considerable time at the last election saying that, coupled with this, we would show compassion. This Amendment shows compassion. It is the sort of thing that we should do as a party keen to show that we are with the workers and the trade unions when they are in trouble.

My right hon. Friend has a reputation as a fair and compassionate man. I therefore find it hard to understand why he opposes the Amendment. It would, I admit, be only an interim measure until the whole question of the availability of unemployment benefit is fully considered, but it would be an interim measure that would show good will. If we are not willing to show good will to men such as Mr. Wales, I shall have to abstain tonight.

Mr. Hugh D. Brown

It is always encouraging to hear any hon. Member defy his own Front Bench, although I must admit that I did not like the disrespectful way in which the hon. Member for Louth (Mr. Jeffrey Archer) referred to Opposition Members as "that mob over there". I do not mind when I use that' "expression about that lot over there, but I object when it is used about me: I have more justification.

Seriously, I hope that when he urges the House to reject the Amendment, as I presume he will, the Secretary of State will go a little further than the assurance which he gave in Committee. I draw his attention to the specific case of Burroughs, a large employer in the new town of Cumbernauld. I am not a trade union sponsored Member and some of my hon. Friends have much more detailed knowledge than I of the sometimes mysterious working of large unions, such as the A.E.F., when there is a long dispute.

There is a serious dispute in Cumbernauld, serious in its effect on Burroughs and on the new town, but it involves only the manual workers and an A.E.F. agreement. In the course of the dispute, members of the Clerical and Administrative Workers' Union were suspended, as were members of DATA. The test case for unemployment benefit for the former has been satisfactorily dealt with in their favour, because theirs is a separate agreement and they are clerical workers, but the DATA, case has not yet been settled, although it has been under consideration for some eight weeks. I do not wish to go into the details of the arguments and I give this example merely to indicate that this is a problem which arises because of the increasing size of the trade unions.

The Transport and General Workers' Union is even worse in this respect than the A.E.F. There is very little common interest between various sections of some unions now because of the size of the unions. In this instance, a group of people, draughtsmen, are covered by a separate agreement. They cannot remotely stand to benefit from any settlement made with the manual workers, other than in the sense that anyone who gets a wage increase must affect someone else who at some time looks for a wage increase. The fact that in this instance they are in the same factory only makes it more difficult to sort out.

No one underestimates the difficulty of solving this sort of problem, but I hope that the Secretary of State will go slightly further than he did in Committee and will assure us that this difficult problem will be closely examined.

Mr. Orme

We all appreciated the courageous speech of the hon. Member for Louth (Mr. Jeffrey Archer) and the forthright manner in which he put his case, even if we did not agree with every sentence. He categorised the problems as they now exist in industry.

My hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, Walton (Mr. Heffer) and I and others constantly raised this issue with the Labour Government. The T.U.C. submitted evidence on the subject to the Donovan Commission, which accepted the T.U.C.'s view and said in its report that the grade and class disqualification from benefit should be abolished—a strong independent opinion in favour of a change.

Nobody can justify a worker not receiving benefit because of a grade or class disqualification simply because colleagues are involved in what may not be a strike but a lock-out. It is not the size of unions and their complexities which causes the problem, but the complexity of industry itself, with its overlapping and the fact that one grade of workers, perhaps far from the point of the strike, may rely on others to provide materials, and there may be many such links.

The Minister was honest enough to concede that the argument we are putting is right. He said that he could not accept it at this time because he felt that it was not the right time to introduce the change. His fear was that it might have political repercussions for his party and affect the attitude which many in his party take towards trade unions. That is the only reason we can attribute for the Minister's statement. I am convinced that a Labour Government would have introduced it if they had been returned. The Government have an opportunity to remove the anomalies. They have not done so, although the case is overwhelming. It has been made from both sides of the House and I hope that, if the Minister will not accept this, my hon. Friends will divide and that we will continue to press until this anomaly is removed. It is an absolute injustice to industrial workers. Workers who come up against this feel that it is a tremendous injustice and that it ought to be removed. We ought to make a start in the House this evening.

Sir K. Joseph

The disqualifications which are the subject of this debate were introduced by the Labour Government in 1948 in the National Insurance Act. They have remained, through a series of Conservative Governments and through the last two Labour Administrations. The new factor is that the Donovan Commission—and I do not think hon. Members will expect me to be expert on every detail of it—broadly accepted the argument that these disqualifications were no longer as relevant as they had been.. As the hon. Member for Salford, West (Mr. Orme) said, I told the Committee that the Government were not altogether happy with the changes we were making to the rights of strikers and their dependants in Clauses 1 and 2. These are extended by the disqualification arrangements to those not directly involved in the trade dispute.

This is not primarily in my domain. Therefore, I am not the minister who will have to make the main decision. I know enough to recognise that the problem is complicated by the factor mentioned by the hon. Member for Glasgow, Provan (Mr. Hugh D. Brown), that in large trade unions there are larger numbers of different crafts and classes of workers than in smaller trade unions. I recognise, as my hon. Friend the Member for Louth (Mr. Jeffrey Archer) said, that there may be individuals, or large numbers of individuals, who want nothing more than to get back to work, who have no part in the institution of a trade dispute and who must regard the present arrangements as unjust. There is even in theory—and I emphasise it is theory—the position of the lockout.

After accepting these different points of view as having some validity, I must emphasise that the reason why the Government do not feel able to accept the Donovan recommendation—and I am only speaking on this case because a by-product of that decision influences this particular legislation—is not as the hon. Member for Salford, West said, politically motivated. I have the greatest respect for the members of my party in the country, but I do not think that they are aware of the minutiae with which we are dealing, important though they are. This is not a political issue; it is an economic issue. I explained in Committee that the presence of numbers, large or small, of people suffering from a trade dispute without having played a part in initiating it may or may not be a factor in bringing the trade dispute to a close earlier or perhaps in avoiding it altogether.

9.0 p.m.

I am not telling my hon. Friend the Member for Louth that that is a perfect example of human justice. Very few human arrangements provide perfect examples of human justice. But the Government have to balance the slight possibility that here is, on the one hand, a restraint against trade disputes which damage the country and huge numbers of people, in many cases seriously, and an undoubted example of deeply felt injustice, on the other. It is this balancing which the last Government did and which the present Government are doing.

On balance, and in the national interest, and for economic, not political, reasons, we have decided that the time is not ripe to bring in this change.

Mr. Orme

The right hon. Gentleman says that this is not being done for political reasons. But would he not agree that if he were to do this it would be seen in the country that people who had been laid off because of a strike would be getting benefit and it would be one of the arguments against strikers which members and supporters of his party are making such a fuss about.

Sir K. Joseph

That was not why they took the decision. I can assure the hon. Gentleman on that because I was involved in the decision.

Mr. Jeffrey Archer

Whether or not the Opposition accept it, I accept that the decision was not politically motivated. That thought had never crossed my mind. But to say that because the Labour Party did it when it was in power we should not do anything about it is not much of an argument for good law. We may as well keep the same Government the entire time.

Sir K. Joseph

I shall learn one day not to give way so often. The argument to meet my hon. Friend's point is next in my notes.

We felt unable, at a time when my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Employment was introducing his Industrial Relations Bill, to accept the Donovan recommendation because there happened to be at that time a great surge of trade disputes which was injuring the interests of the people, and it would have been a very rash Government which removed a restraint, even a small restraint, possibly even a notional restraint, on the surge of trade disputes. I am not using emotional words, but there was a surge of trade disputes which very adversely affected large numbers of people and from the influence of which the country is still seriously suffering.

That is why we did not introduce this change and why the right hon. Member for East Ham, North (Mr. Prentice) has every reason for pointing out that the changes we are introducing for those involved directly in a trade dispute will affect some people who are not directly involved in it. But the reason remains valid.

I undertook in Committee that later, when we can see the climate of industrial relations, I should discuss with my right hon. Friend whether it was time, subject to legislative opportunities, to move. This is no more than a commitment to consult my right hon. Friend whose prime responsibility this is. I repeat that commitment. I have not hidden from the House any ingredient of the decision-making process involved.

Mr. Hugh D. Brown

There is the additional point about supplementary benefit, which is entirely a matter for the right hon. Gentleman. Even though he may wish to keep the existing law as it is, there is no reason to prevent his making a difference in the treatment given by way of supplementary benefit.

Sir K. Joseph

But that would be to accept that the Donovan recommendations are right, valid and relevant at the moment, and that is a step that the Government are not yet ready to take. Moreover, it would marginally reduce a restraint which may have some relevance to the national interest. That is why I still harbour the hope that the hon. Member will not press the Amendments. If he does, I hope that my hon. Friends will resist them.

Mr. Prentice

The hon. Member for Louth (Mr. Jeffrey Archer) supported the Amendment in the most powerful way possible, by quoting an individual case. That is always better than generalisations. I would point out to him that although the situation of his constituent may be unjust at the moment, if he and his family would otherwise qualify for supplementary benefit in this period the Bill will make his situation worse. It is a question not of maintaining an unjust situation but of extending it in a new direction. I hope that that fact may lead other hon. Members opposite to abstain from voting.

The Secretary of State seemed in a very uncomfortable frame of mind. His fluency, which is usually quite remarkable, was absent. He even took refuge in saying that this was not primarily his responsibility. With great respect, it is his responsibility. This is a question of supplementary benefit and unemployment benefit, the rules for which are his responsibility.

In the Bill the right hon. Gentleman is seen to be serving the purposes of the Government's policy on industrial relations. Many of my hon. Friends have pointed out that the Bill should be known as the Industrial Relations (No. 2) Bill. The Secretary of State has offered no defence of the existing situation, still less an argument for making the situation worse in regard to the categories which are the subject of the Amendment. He said that it was seldom possible to achieve perfect justice. We are not asking for that; we are proposing a modest Amendment to avoid extending an existing field of injustice. I am sure that my hon. Friends will want to vote against the Government, and we hope to have some support from the benches opposite.

Mr. Anthony Fell (Yarmouth)

It is of little use for one of my hon. Friends to say, under his breath, "Oh, God!". I do not know who it was, and I do not care. I want to press my right hon. Friend to explain something a little more fully. Unfortunately, I was not a member of the Standing Committee, so I do not know what went on in it. I did not read the Report. But one could not have sat here and listened to what has gone on for the past 20 minutes without becoming worried.

My right hon. Friend says that he entered into certain commitments in Committee, about which he said something this evening. As I understand it, he said that he had given some sort of commitment to reconsider the question whether the surge of strikes that were going on at the stage when this proposal was turned down still pertained. May we be told a little more precisely what he means when he refers to a commitment? From what he said, it was a very frail commitment, and not easily explained. Does it have any weight? Either something will be done or it will not.

If my hon. Friend the Member for Louth (Mr. Jeffrey Archer) was speaking the truth—and what he said seems to have been accepted by hon. Members on both sides, so I assume that he was—it would seem lo me that the right hon. Member for East Ham, North (Mr. Prentice) was right to say that my right hon. Friend was not easy when he was speaking a few moments ago. So could my right hon. Friend give a little bit more of an assurance on this to those of us who have been listening so that we may be a little easier ourselves?

Sir K. Joseph

I do not want to be discourteous to my hon. Friend. The commitment is a very limited one. It is to discuss with my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Employment at a later stage whether the industrial climate of the time justifies the Government in considering at a suitable legislative opportunity an extension of the Donovan recommendations. That would mean taking the risk of removing with the disqualifications what may be found to have been a small restraint on the number and length of trade disputes. That is the limit of my commitment.

Mr. Fell

That sounds an extremely important commitment. Could not my right hon. Friend help just slightly more by being a little more specific about what he means by "later stage"? It could be next year or the year after or the year after that. Is it unreasonable to ask about this? I do not want to put my right hon. Friend in too difficult a position, but this puts us in a false position.

Question put, That the Amendment be made:—

The House divided: Ayes 224, Noes 246.

Division No. 419.] AYES [9.11 p.m.
Abse, Leo Grant, John D. (Islington, E.) Morris, Charles R. (Openshaw)
Albu, Austen Griffiths, Eddie (Brightside) Morris, Rt. Hn. John (Aberavon)
Allaun, Frank (Salford, E.) Griffiths, Will (Exchange) Moyle, Roland
Allen, Scholefield Hamilton, James (Bothwell) Murray, Ronald King
Archer, Peter (Rowley Regis) Hamilton, William (Fife, W.) Ogden, Eric
Ashley, Jack Hamling, William O'Halloran, Michael
Ashton, Joe Hannan, William (G'gow, Maryhill) O'Malley, Brian
Atkinson, Norman Hardy, Peter Oram, Bert
Barnett, Joel Harrison, Walter (Wakefield) Orme, Stanley
Beaney, Alan Hart, Rt. Hn. Judith Oswald, Thomas
Bennett, James (Glasgow, Bridgeton) Healey, R. Hn. Denis Paget, R. T.
Bidwell, Sydney Heffer, Eric S. Palmer, Arthur
Bishop, E. S. Hilton, W. S. Pannell, Rt. Hn. Charles
Blenkinsop, Arthur Hooson, Emlyn Parry, Robert (Liverpool, Exchange)
Boardman, H. (Leigh) Horam, John Pavitt, Laurie
Booth, Albert Houghton, Rt. Hn. Douglas Pendry, Tom
Bottomley, Rt. Hn. Arthur Howell, Denis (Small Heath) Pentland, Norman
Boyden, James (Bishop Auckland) Huckfield, Leslie Perry, Ernest G.
Bradley, Tom Hughes, Rt. Hn. Cledwyn (Anglesey) Prentice, Rt. Hn. Reg.
Brown, Hugh D. (G'gow, Provan) Hughes, Mark (Durham) Prescott, John
Brown, Ronald (Shoreditch & F'bury) Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen, N.) Price, J T. (Westhoughton)
Buchan, Norman Hughes, Roy (Newport) Price, William (Rugby)
Buchanan, Richard (G'gow, Sp'burn) Hunter, Adam Probert, Arthur
Campbell, I. (Dunbartonshire, W.) Janner, Greville Reed, D. (Sedgefield)
Cant, R. B. Jay, Rt. Hn. Douglas Rees, Merlyn (Leeds, S.)
Carmichael, Neil Jeger, Mrs. Lena (H'b'n & St. P'cras, S.) Rhodes, Geoffrey
Carter-Jones, Lewis (Eccles) Jenkins, Hugh (Putney) Roberts, Albert (Normanton)
Castle, Rt. Hn. Barbara John, Brynmor Roberts, Rt. Hn. Goronwy (Caernarvon)
Clark, David (Colne Valley) Johnson, Carol (Lewisham, S.) Robertson, John (Paisley)
Cocks, Michael (Bristol, S.) Johnson, Walter (Derby, S.) Roderick, Caerwyn E.(Br'c'n & R'dnor)
Cohen, Stanley Jones, Barry (Flint, E.) Rodgers, William (Stockton-on-Tees)
Coleman, Donald Jones, Dan (Burnley) Roper, John
Concannon, J. D. Jones, Gwynoro (Carmarthen) Rose, Paul B.
Corbet, Mrs. Freda Jones, T. Alec (Rhondda, W.) Ross, Rt. Hn. William (Kilmarnock)
Cox, Thomas (Wandsworth, C.) Judd, Frank Sandelson, Neville
Crawshaw, Richard Kaufman, Gerald Sheldon, Robert (Ashton-under-Lyne)
Cronin, John Kelley, Richard Shore, Rt. Hn. Peter (Stepney)
Crossman, Rt. Hn. Richard Kerr, Russell Short, Rt. Hn. Edward (N'c'tle-u-Tyne)
Cunningham, G. (Islington, S. W.) Kinnock, Neil Short, Mrs. Renée (W'hampton. N. E.)
Dalyell, Tam Lambie, David Silkin, Hn. S. C. (Dulwich)
Davidson, Arthur Latham, Arthur Sillars, James
Davies, Denzil (Llanelly) Lawson, George Silverman, Julius
Davies, S. O. (Merthyr Tydvil) Leadbitter, Ted Skinner, Dennis
Davis, Clinton (Hackney, C.) Lee, Rt. Hn. Frederick Small, William
Davis, Terry (Bromsgrove) Leonard, Dick Smith, John (Lanarkshire, N.)
Deakins, Eric Lestor, Miss Joan Spearing, Nigel
de Freitas, Rt. Hn. Sir Geoffrey Lipton, Marcus Spriggs, Leslie
Delargy, H. J. Lomas, Kenneth Stallard, A. W.
Dell, Rt. Hn. Edmund Loughlin, Charles Stewart, Donald (Western Isles)
Dempsey, James Lyon, Alexander W. (York) Stewart, Rt. Hn. Michael (Fulham)
Doig, Peter Lyons, Edward (Bradford, E.) Stoddart, David (Swindon)
Dormand, J. D. Mabon, Dr. J. Dickson Strang, Gavin
Douglas, Dick (Stirlingshire, E.) McBride, Neil Strauss, Rt. Hn. G. R.
Douglas-Mann, Bruce McCartney, Hugh Thomas, Rt. Hn. George (Cardiff, W.)
Duffy, A. E. P. McGuire, Michael Thomas, Jeffrey (Abertillery)
Dunnett, Jack Mackenzie, Gregor Thomson, Rt. Hn. G. (Dundee, E.)
Eadie, Alex Mackie, John Tinn, James
Edwards, Robert (Bilston) Maclennan, Robert Torney, Tom
Ellis, Tom McMillan, Tom (Glasgow, C.) Tuck, Raphael
English, Michael McNamara, J. Kevin Varley, Eric G.
Evans, Fred Mahon, Simon (Bootle) Walden, Brian (B'm'ham, All Saints)
Fernyhough, Rt. Hon. E. Mallalieu, E. L. (Brigg) Wallace, George
Fisher, Mrs. Doris (B'ham, Ladywood) Mallalieu, J. P. W. (Huddersfield, E.) Watkins, David
Fletcher, Tea (Darlington) Marquand, David Weitzman, David
Foot, Michael Marsden, F. Wells, William (Walsall, N.)
Ford, Ben Marshall, Dr. Edmund White, James (Glasgow, Pollok)
Forrester, John Mayhew, Christopher Whitehead, Phillip
Fraser, John (Norwood) Meacher, Michael Whitlock, William
Freeson, Reginald Mendelson, John Willey, R. Hn. Fredrick
Galpern, Sir Myer Millan, Bruce Williams, Alan (Swansea, W.)
Gilbert, Dr. John Miller, Dr. M. S, Williams, Mrs. Shirley (Hitchin)
Ginsburg, David Milne, Edward (Blyth) Wilson, William (Coventry, S.)
Golding, John Mitchell, R. C. (S'hampton, Itchen)
Gordon Walker, Rt. Hn. P. C. Molloy, William TELLERS FOR THE AYES:
Gourlay, Harry Morgan, Elystan (Cardiganshire) Mr. Ernest Armstrong and
Grant, George (Morpeth) Morris, Alfred (Wythenshawe) Mr. James Dunn.
Adley, Robert Hannam, John (Exeter) Owen, Idris (Stockport, N.)
Alison, Michael (Barkston Ash) Harrison, Col. Sir Harwood (Eye) Page, Graham (Crosby)
Allason, James (Hemel Hempstead) Haselhurst, Alan Parkinson, Cecil (Enfield, W.)
Astor, John Hastings, Stephen Peel, John
Atkins, Humphrey Havers, Michael Percival, Ian
Awdry, Daniel Heseltine, Michael Peyton, Rt. Hn. John
Baker, Kenneth (St. Marylebone) Hicks, Robert Pike, Miss Mervyn
Baker, W. H. K. (Banff) Hill, James (Southampton, Test) Pounder, Rafton
Balniel, Lord Holland, Philip Powell, Rt. Hn. J. Enoch
Batsford, Brian Holt, Miss Mary Price, David (Eastleigh)
Beamish, Col. Sir Tufton Hornby, Richard Pym, Rt. Hn. Francis
Bennett, Sir Frederic (Torquay) Hornsby-Smith, Rt. Hn. Dame Patricia Quennell, Miss J. M.
Berry, Hn. Anthony Howe, Hn. Sir Geoffrey (Reigate) Raison, Timothy
Biggs-Davison, John Howell, David (Guildford) Rawlinson, Rt. Hn. Sir Peter
Boardman, Tom (Leicester, S. W.) Howell, Ralph (Norfolk, N.) Redmond, Robert
Body, Richard Hunt, John Reed, Laurance (Bolton, E.)
Boscawen, Robert Hutchison, Michael Clark Rees, Peter (Dover)
Bossom, Sir Clive Iremonger, T. L. Rees-Davies, W. R.
Bowden, Andrew Irvine, Bryant Godman (Rye) Renton, Rt. Hn. Sir David
Braine, Bernard James, David Ridley, Hn. Nicholas
Bray, Ronald Jenkin, Patrick (Woodford) Ridsdale, Julian
Brewis, John Jennings, J. C. (Burton) Rippon, Rt. Hn. Geoffrey
Brinton, Sir Tatton Jessel, Toby Rodgers, Sir John (Sevenoaks)
Brocklebank-Fowler, Christopher Jopling, Michael Rossi, Hugh (Hornsey)
Brown, Sir Edward (Bath) Joseph, Rt. Hn. Sir Keith Rost, Peter
Bryan, Paul Kaberry, Sir Donald Russell, Sir Ronald
Buchanan-Smith, Alick (Angus, N & M) Kellett-Bowman, Mrs. Elaine Scott, Nicholas
Buck, Antony Kershaw, Anthony Scott-Hopkins, James
Bullus, Sir Eric Kilfedder, James Sharples, Richard
Burden, F. A. Kimball, Marcus Shaw, Michael (Sc'b'gh & Whitby)
Butler, Adam (Bosworth) King, Evelyn (Dorset, S.) Shelton, William (Clapham)
Campbell, Rt. Hn. G.(Moray & Nairn) King, Tom (Bridgwater) Simeons, Charles
Carlisle, Mark Kinsey, J. R. Sinclair, Sir George
Carr, Rt. Hn. Robert Kirk, Peter Skeet, T. H. H.
Channon, Paul Kitson, Timothy Smith, Dudley (W'wick & L'mington)
Chapman, Sydney Knight, Mrs. Jill Soref, Harold
Chataway, Rt. Hn. Christopher Knox, David Speed, Keith
Chichester-Clark, R. Lane, David Spence, John
Churchill, W. S. Langford-Holt, Sir John Sproat, Iain
Clark, William (Surrey, E.) Legge-Bourke, Sir Harry Stainton, Keith
Clarke, Kenneth (Rushcliffe) Le Marchant, Spencer Stanbrook, Ivor
Clegg, Walter Lewis, Kenneth (Rutland) Stewart-Smith, D. G. (Belper)
Cockeram, Eric Lloyd, Ian (P'tsm'th, Langstone) Stokes, John
Cooper. A. E. Longden, Gilbert Stuttaford, Dr. Tom
Corfield, Rt. Hn. Frederick Loveridge, John Sutcliffe, John
Cormack, Patrick Luce, R. N. Taylor, Sir Charles (Eastbourne)
Costain, A. P.
Critchley, Julian McAdden, Sir Stephen Taylor, Edward M. (G'gow, Cathcart)
Crouch, David MacArthur, Ian Taylor, Frank (Moss Side)
Crowder, F. P. McCrindle, R. A. Taylor, Robert (Croydon, N. W.)
Dean, Paul McLaren, Martin Temple, John M.
Deedes, Rt. Hn. W. F. Maclean, Sir Fitzroy Thatcher, Rt. Hn. Mrs. Margaret
Dixon, Piers McMaster, Stanley Thomas, John Stradling (Monmouth)
Dodds-Parker, Douglas McNair-Wilson, Michael Thompson, Sir Richard (Croydon, S.)
du Cann, Rt. Hn. Edward McNair-Wilson, Patrick (NewForest) Tilney, John
Dykes, Hugh Maddan, Martin Trafford, Dr. Anthony
Eden, Sir John Madel, David Trew, Peter
Elliott, R. W.(N'c'tle-upon-Tyne, N.) Maginnis, John E. Tugendhat, Christopher
Farr, John Marten, Neil Turton, Rt. Hn. Sir Robin
Fell, Anthony Mather, Carol van Straubrnzee, W. R,
Fenner, Mrs. Peggy Maude, Angus Vaughan, Dr. Gerard
Finsberg, Geoffrey (Hampstead) Maudling, Rt. Hn. Reginald Vickers, Dame Joan
Fisher, Nigel (Surbiton) Mever, Sir Anthony Waddington, David
Fletcher-Cooke, Charles Mills, Peter (Torrington) Walder, David (Clitheroe)
Fookes, Miss Janet Miscampbell, Norman Walker, Rt. Hn. Peter (Worcester)
Fortescue, Tim Mitchell, Lt.-Col. C. (Aberdeenshire, W) Walker-Smith, Rt. Hn. Sir Derek
Fowler, Norman Mitchell, David (Basingstoke) Wall, Patrick
Fraser, Rt. Hn. Hugh (St'fford & Stone) Moate, Roger Walters, Dermis
Gardner, Edward Molyneaux, James Ward, Dame Irene
Gibson-Watt, David Monks, Mrs. Connie Warren, Kenneth
Gilmour, Ian (Norfolk, C.) Montgomery, Fergus Weatherill, Bernard
Gilmour, Sir John (Fife, E.) More, Jasper Wells, John (Maidstone)
Glyn, Dr. Alan Morgan, Geraint (Denbigh) Wiggin, Jerry
Goodhart, Philip Morgan-Giles, Rear-Adm. Wilkinson, John
Goodhew, Victor Morrison, Charles (Devizes) Wolrige-Gordon, Patrick
Gorst, John Mudd, David Wood, Rt. Hn. Richard
Gower, Raymond Murton, Oscar Woodhouse, Hn. Christopher
Gray, Hamish Neave, Airey Worsley, Marcus
Green, Alan Noble, Rt. Hn. Michael Wylie, Rt. Hn. N. R.
Gummer, Selwyn Normanton, Tom Younger, Hn. George
Gurden, Harold Nott, John
Hall, John (Wycombe) Onslow, Cranley TELLERS FOR THE NOES:
Hall-Davis, A. G. F. Oppenheim, Mrs. Sally Mr. Reginald Eyre and
Hamilton, Michael (Salisbury) Orr, Capt. L. P. S. Mr. Hector Monro.
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