HC Deb 18 March 1965 vol 708 cc328-30W
Mr. Horner

asked the Minister of Pensions and National Insurance (1) whether she will introduce legislation to ensure that workers forced into temporary unemployment as a result of an industrial dispute in which they are not involved are relieved of their obligation to pay contributions to the National Insurance scheme for the period of their enforced unemployment;

(2) whether she will introduce legislation in order to ensure that workpeople made unemployed as a result of an industrial dispute in which they take no part are not automatically disqualified from unemployment benefit;

(3) whether she is aware that work-people at the Austin Works, Longbridge, recently forced into unemployment as a result of an industrial dispute in which they took no part and which they did not financially support, were refused unemployment benefit, and on applying to the National Assistance Board for aid were again refused help and that, while provision was allowed for dependants, workers themselves were without income and were nevertheless obliged to pay full insurance contributions for the period of their enforced unemployment; and what is the policy of Her Majesty's Government on these matters.

Miss Herbison

For a general statement of the unemployment benefit position of workers affected by the recent stoppage of work at Longbridge I would refer my hon. Friend to my reply to the Question put to me by my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Northfield (Mr. Chapman) on 16th March to which I can add that some appeals have now been made to the local tribunal against the decisions of the insurance officer. Although I cannot comment on the decisions of the independent adjudicating authorities I should like to assure my hon. Friend that no one is automatically disqualified for unemployment benefit. The question is determined by the adjudicating authorities who apply the statutory provisions to the circumstances of each case.

The statutory provisions governing the disqualification for unemployment benefit of workers who lose employment as a result of a trade dispute at their place of employment and the liability for National Insurance contributions of those who are so disqualified have been a part of the National Insurance Scheme from the beginning, and the terms of the trade dispute disqualification for unemployment benefit have stood unchanged for more than 30 years. In that time they have been subjected to close examination many times by successive Governments, but no satisfactory alternative has been found.

Under the National Assistance Act the Board is empowered to pay assistance for the requirements of the dependants of a person who is disqualified for unemployment benefit under the trade dispute disqualification provisions but it is not empowered to pay assistance for the needs of the person himself, save where there is urgent need.

I fully appreciate the difficulties which arise from time to time in dealing with unemployment benefit and National Assistance in controversial situations like these where strong feelings are aroused but the statutory provisions have been very carefully drawn and I have no proposals at present for amending them.

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