HC Deb 27 February 1996 vol 272 cc522-3W
Mr. Ian McCartney

To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security (1) if he has taken legal advice as to whether the different benefits available to those earning above or below the lower earnings limit for national insurance contributions contravene European law on sex discrimination; and if he will make a statement; [16621]

(2) if he will list the benefits available only to those earning above the lower earnings limit for national insurance contributions. [16620]

Mr. Heald

The benefits available to people who have paid sufficient class 1 national insurance contributions are set out in section 21(2) of the Social Security Contributions and Benefits Act 1992. Statutory sick pay and statutory maternity pay are also available to employees who have earnings at or above the lower earnings limit and meet the other qualifying conditions. Employees with earnings below that limit are not liable to pay class 1 contributions, but they can pay voluntary class 3 contributions which count towards retirement pension and widow's benefits. In the light of the recent judgment by the European Court of Justice in the case of Inge Nolte v. Landesversicherungsansstalt Hannover (C317/93)), we consider that a lower earnings limit for payment of class 1 contributions is not incompatible with the principle of equal treatment between men and women in matters of social security.