HC Deb 31 March 1981 vol 2 cc53-4W
50. Mr. John Carlisle

asked the Secretary of State for Employment whether the recent industrial action by civil servants has resulted in any delay of payment of unemployment benefits.

Mr. Waddington

I very much regret that some of the industrial action has led to delays in the payment of benefit to unemployed people. Following the one-day strike on Monday 9 March, about 10,000 payments were delayed by one day. A further 160,000 payments for unemployed people were delayed by up to four days following a strike on Friday 13 March by computer personnel in the Department of Health and Social Security's computer centre at Livingston, Scotland, which processes unemployment benefit claims for unemployed people in Scotland and the North of England.

Difficulties are now being caused to the efficient operation of the unemployment benefit service by the strike at the DHSS Newcastle contributions computer which began on 9 March and is still continuing. The effect of this strike is that staff in unemployment benefit offices must process all new claims and make payments manually rather than through the computer. I am grateful to benefit office staff for their efforts to cope with this extra work and to make payments in time, but the longer the strike at Newcastle continues the larger will be the extra work involved for staff in my Department's local offices and the greater the risk of further delays to payment of unemployment benefit.