HC Deb 22 June 1971 vol 819 cc1166-8
1. Mr. Bruce-Gardyne

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services what was the aggregate cost to public funds of national assistance/supplementary benefit payments paid to strikers and their dependants during industrial disputes and after return to work in the first five months of all the years between the passage of the National Assistance Act, 1948 and the passage of the Ministry of Social Security Act, 1966, and the cost of supplementary benefits payments during and after industrial disputes in the first five months in each of the years since the passage of the latter Act.

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

During the period January to May of the years 1951 to 1966 inclusive just under £400,000 was paid out in national assistance during trade disputes. During the same five months of the years 1967, 1970 and 1971 the approximate total of supplementary benefit paid out during disputes was £45,000, £441,000 and £3,900,000. Payments after disputes for the first five months of 1971 exceeded £460,000 but I regret that earlier figures are not available.

I will, if I may, circulate a more detailed reply in the OFFICIAL REPORT.

Mr. Bruce-Gardyne

I am grateful to my right hon. Friend. Can he confirm that the figures clearly demonstrate that a fairly dramatic change occurred after the application of Section 4 of the 1966 Act to strikers and their families, and that it is clear that we must go back to the Labour Government's 1948 Act if we are not to have more multi-national companies following the example of Ford and taking their investments to countries which do not oblige the taxpayer to subsidise strikes and those on strike?

Sir K. Joseph

My hon. Friend is going far beyond the lessons that we can draw from these figures. They certainly show a very sharp increase. That is the background against which the Government introduced the recent change in legislation.

Mr. Marks

Is not it significant that the views and the Amendments of the hon. Member for South Angus (Mr. Bruce-Gardyne) find no support from either the Government or the Opposition side in the Standing Committee considering the Social Security Bill?

Sir K. Joseph

Now the hon. Gentleman is provoking me, because my hon. Friend has a great deal of merit in his general worry about the impact of social security legislation on the motives of a minority of the people. But we must see how the present change in legislation works out.

Following is the information: 1. Total amount of national assistance paid out in trade disputes during January to May of the years 1951 to 1966 inclusive was £391,130. (Figures for payments during disputes are available only from 1951 onwards.) 2. Payments of supplementary benefit in trade disputes during January to May of the years 1967 to 1971 inclusive:
Total Paid
Year £
1967 44,382
1968 149,224
1969 205,127
1970 440,721
1971 3,880,067

3. All the figures quoted above relate to payments to the dependants of persons disqualified for receiving benefit for their own requirements together with the very small amount of payments made on a discretionary basis to persons disqualified for their own needs.

4. Separate statistics of payments after disputes are not kept and no estimates could be made without disproportionate work for the January to May period of previous years. Reported payments after disputes for January to May of the current year total £460,766.