HC Deb 15 November 1983 vol 48 cc712-3
8. Mr. McQuarrie

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services why seasonal workers who cannot obtain employment in their off-season are not entitled to supplementary benefit.

Dr. Boyson

A seasonal worker is not specifically barred from receiving supplementary benefit during his off-season, but the level of his earnings in the on-season, if they are sufficiently high, may exclude him from supplementary benefit in the off-season.

Mr. McQuarrie

Is my hon. Friend aware that seasonal workers who are paid only during the season are unable to obtain unemployment benefit when they sign on? They also receive inadequate supplementary benefit. When a seasonal worker applies for supplementary benefit, why is he unable to receive adequate financial resources to give him a living wage?

Dr. Boyson

If in the on-season the worker is allowed to earn two and a half times the level of supplementary benefit or three times that of the single householder, that figure is not taken into account when assessing his off-season entitlement. Anything above that figure is carried forward and then divided by the number of weeks in the off-season, including the £4 that the claimant is allowed to earn. I am sure that my hon. Friend follows my argument. Provided that the claimant has not earned a lot of money in the on-season, he will be entitled to supplementary benefit in the off-season.

Mr. Ashton

Why does the definition of off-season vary from area to area?

Dr. Boyson

The definition varies from area to area because it depends upon whether, for example, agricultural fisheries or tourist workers are involved. The season is different for each.

Rev. Martin Smyth

Does the Minister accept that some of those affected work for Government agencies?

Dr. Boyson

I am not sure what the hon. Member means. If he will write to me, my Department will check the details.