§ Mr. Gwilym Roberts
asked the Secretary of State for Employment if he will take steps to ensure that there are adequate supplies of Girocheques available at the Cannock unemployment benefit office in order that local unemployment benefit can be paid promptly; and if he will make a statement.
§ Mr. Peter Morrison
There are already adequate supplies of Girocheques available at Cannock as at other unemployment benefit offices. As part of their industrial action over civil service pay, seven staff in the statisitics division of the Department of Employment at Watford are on official strike. Despite picketing at Watford to prevent the distribution of Girocheques that are being used by benefit offices to make unemployment benefit payments, supplies are being maintained.
The unions have now advised their members in benefit offices to refuse to handle girocheques that have reached offices since the strike at Watford began. In most benefit offices staff are not following this advice, but in a number of offices staff are refusing to maintain the payment of benefits to unemployed people. Those staff have been warned that if their refusal continues they will be temporarily relieved from duty. In four offices staff are either on strike or have been temporarily relieved from duty; in two of those offices no payments are being made. I deplore the unions' actions, which will inevitably cause hardship to unemployed people in the areas concerned.