§ 2.50 p.m.
§ Lord Brooks of Tremorfa
My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question which stands in my name on the Order Paper.
§ The Question was as follows:
§ To ask Her Majesty's Government how many young persons of BAOR personnel who are of working age, are unemployed and whether they are receiving unemployment benefit or any other welfare payment.
My Lords, at the end of December 1980, which is the date of the latest figures available, there were some 600 children of British Army of the Rhine personnel who were in the 16–19 age group and were not at school. It is possible that some are working in the German market or with organizations such as NAAFI or YMCA, but the Army keeps no figures of those in employment.
While certain social security benefits are available to service dependants overseas, unemployment benefit and supplementary benefit are not, although the former may be paid for a maximum of three months if drawn previously in the United Kingdom.
§ Lord Brooks of Tremorfa
My Lords, in thanking the noble Viscount for his reply, may I ask him whether he is aware that many Members of both Houses, involved and concerned in these matters, are completely unaware that this situation exists, and will his department consult with other relevant departments in order to rectify the situation and to ensure that these youngsters who are unemployed receive exactly the same benefits as youngsters unemployed in this country?
My Lords, the administration of social security benefit is of course the responsibility of the Department of Health and Social Security. The Minister of Defence has examined thoroughly the question of extending the payment of supplementary 7 benefit for service dependants overseas through the DHSS but this has not proved possible. As I mentioned earlier, it would be a major step to amend the law in this way.
§ Lord Shinwell
My Lords, will the noble Viscount explain why these 600 children, who presumably could join the British Army of the Rhine, are not being employed in that fashion? Do any of them seek employment along with their parents?
My Lords, the 600 children that I mentioned just now are aged from 16 to 19, and of course if any of the 18-year-olds wish to join the forces, we shall be only too happy. Some do, but I have no figures on that because it is a slightly different question.
§ Lord Shinwell
My Lords, is it not possible to get the figures? Is it not all wrong that the adult sons who are entitled to join the British Army or one of the other services, should be unemployed? Is it advisable that nothing should be done about it?
My Lords, some of those unemployed are in the United Kingdom and, of course, when their families go over to BAOR they are given three months' benefit in order to get a job if they have not already tried to go into the forces, but I cannot really go any further than that at this stage.
§ Lord Avebury
My Lords, when the House was debating the EEC draft directive on extending the rights of residence to people who were not seeking employment but were students, self-employed businessmen or retired persons, the noble Viscount may recall that it was said that unemployment benefit and the equivalent of supplementary benefits were in theory available to British citizens in Germany so long as they were in fact looking for work there. So how does it happen that these young people, aged between 16 and 19, if they are registered for work in Germany, do not obtain the unemployment benefits and supplementary benefits that German citizens would obtain if they were in this country?
My Lords, if I may go one further, unemployment benefit is a contributory benefit: to receive it one must have worked for a minimum time, made the necessary contributions and also be available for work within the United Kingdom. I have already said that we are looking at the age group of 16 to 19, but I am afraid that, as your Lordships know, the 16-year-olds do not contribute at that stage; only the 18 to l9-year-olds contribute. So it is unlikely that school-leavers would be entitled to unemployment benefit if they were in this country. Under certain specified conditions, however, this benefit may be paid outside the United Kingdom. Service dependants who qualify in this country may continue to receive it for up to three months after arriving in Germany. They must, however, have registered as unemployed before they left this country and they must sign on as unemployed within seven days of arriving in Germany. This concession can of course be useful in giving a period of grace in which to obtain a job in Germany.
8 I think the noble Lord mentioned the EEC situation. I have no answer in regard to that at this stage, but I will write to him.