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Travelling People (Salisbury)

Volume 175: debated on Tuesday 26 June 1990

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To ask the Secretary of State for Employment if he will make a statement about unemployment benefit claims by travelling people at his Department's Salisbury office.

I understand that there are 1,509 people claiming unemployment-related benefits at the Salisbury office, of whom 150 are registered as not having a permanent or fixed address. Claimants in that category are subject to the same rules and responsibilities for receiving benefits as anyone else who claims, including those of being available for and actively seeking work.

I have no wish to see the children of travelling people further disadvantaged, but will my hon. Friend have another look at the requirement that claimants should be actively seeking work, because it is increasingly difficult to explain to pensioners and low-paid rural workers why more than 100 hippies, who do not pay poll tax and make no contribution to society, can claim benefit all the year round in Salisbury?

My hon. Friend makes a fair point. As a Member with a rural constituency who has also been plagued by bands of brigands, I have considerable sympathy with what he says. It is relatively early days to know whether the actively seeking work provisions work. Clearly, those who have an interest in making them work to their advantage will try to do so. In the light of his experience, my hon. Friend may feel that the actively seeking work provisions are not having the effect that they should in particular cases, so if he wants to come and see me, I shall be more than happy to co-operate.