HC Deb 24 July 1979 vol 971 cc335-7
9. Mr. Bruce-Gardyne

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services what has been the aggregate cost to public funds to date of supplementary benefit payments made to those involved in the industrial dispute at Chrysler and to their dependants, respectively.

Mrs. Chalker

Nothing up to last Tuesday, the latest date to which information is available.

Mr. Bruce-Gardyne

I am relieved to hear that, but does my hon. Friend agree that it would be most undesirable for the taxpayer to be invited to subsidise an industrial dispute of this kind, where it has been made clear by Peugeot that it is not prepared to maintain employees regardless of performance, as Chrysler, perhaps, and Lord Lever were prepared to do in the past?

Mrs. Chalker

The dispute has coincided with the holiday shutdown, and to date the requirements of those involved have been covered by final earnings and holiday pay. I understand also that the unions involved have not declared the dispute official, so they have made no strike payments. We shall watch what happens in this matter, but the question that we have to face is the need of the family. The situation has not changed from what pertained hitherto. The striker is not entitled to supplementary benefit.

Mr. Flannery

Can the hon. Lady give the aggregate cost to public funds of the 100,000 workers who have just gone on the dole, and the aggregate cost to public funds of the 500,000 workers who will go on the dole as a result of the cuts which the Government now intend to impose on the British people?

Mrs. Chalker

The answers that the hon. Gentleman seeks do not arise on this question, and without notice I cannot give him the detailed figures. If he cares to put down a detailed question he will be given the information.

Mr. Dykes

Would it not be morally indefensible to take any action about the payment of supplementary benefit to strikers' families that would cause those families and the children to suffer in any way? Will my hon. Friend confirm that the Government have no intention of ever doing such a thing?

Mrs. Chalker

I understand what my hon. Friend says. We shall not be taking any hasty decisions about what should happen, but clearly one of the possibilities is the deeming of strike pay, which we shall be examining in due time.

Mr. John Evans

For the benefit of some of her hon. Friends, will the hon. Lady confirm that, in the period 1974 to 1978, 81 per cent. of strikes, official and unofficial, were settled within 12 working days and therefore no supplementary benefits were involved?

Mrs. Chalker

I am well aware that in many cases supplementary benefit is not paid because strikes are, one is thankful to note, settled very quickly. If the figure is 81 per cent. I am glad to hear it. I wish that it were even higher, because then we might have the opportunity of gaining the benefits from continuous productivity in our factories—a problem that has so bedevilled our situation hitherto.

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