HC Deb 13 July 1971 vol 821 cc189-90
3. Mr. Ashton

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services what is the total amount of social security benefits paid to dependants of strikers in 1970–71 ; and how this compares with benefits paid to dependants of men in prison.

Mr. Dean

Supplementary benefit payments during trade disputes to the dependants of persons disqualified on account of the dispute for receiving benefit for themselves totalled £4,882,284 in the 12 months ending 23rd March, 1971. I regret that details of payments to dependants of persons in custody are not kept.

Mr. Ashton

Since the Minister cut benefits to strikers' families, do we not now have a situation in which if a man goes to prison for doing something highly illegal, his family is likely to get more benefit than the family of a man on strike, who is doing something legal? Is not this total discrimination against people taking part in industrial disputes? Should not the benefits to strikers' families be level at least with those of the family of a man who is in prison?

Mr. Dean

No, sir. In the case of prisoners, their wives are treated like other women who are on their own. In the case of strikers this is a voluntary act on the part of the individual concerned.

Mr. Bruce-Gardyne

Is it not utter nonsense to make a comparison between the position of those who are deprived of the ability to earn their living by the community and the position of those who voluntarily decide to withdraw their labour from employment, usually for material gain to themselves?

Hon. Members

Oh !

Mr. Dean

I am obliged to my hon. Friend. What is being said from the other side of the House is that we should change what has been the traditional system in this country for many years ; namely, that public funds should not be used for strikers themselves.