asked the Secretary of State for Social Services how many steelworkers in South Wales and in the Port Talbot travel-to-work areas, who have claimed sickness benefit prior to the current industrial dispute, have been refused sickness benefit; what are the medical qualifications of the insurance officers who have determined that benefit be refused retrospectively to a period before the commencement of the industrial dispute; how many of those affected are appealing; and when the appeals will be held; what steps he is taking to increase the number and frequency of appeal tribunals to deal with sickness benefit appeals in South Wales and in the Port Talbot travel-to-work areas, respectively.
[pursuant to his reply, 21 February 1980, c. 323–3]: Information is not available in exactly the form requested by the right hon. and learned Gentleman, but in the area covered by the Department's offices at Port Talbot, Bridgend, Neath, Newport, Cwmbran and Ebbw Vale, 72 claims to sickness benefit made by steelworkers prior to the current industrial dispute have been disallowed. Insurance officers are not required to have medical qualifications; an insurance officer considering a question of incapacity for work would determine it on the basis of all the medical evidence and advice put before him. Of the claimants affected, 42 have appealed, and all will be heard within the next six weeks. In the Port Talbot and Neath areas, the frequency of appeal Tribunals has been increased to one per week.