When family credit replaced family income supplement, about twice as many working families with children became eligible for help and the payments became more generous. Nearly all working families can now be better off in work. We ended the absurd situation in which a person on family income supplement whose pay went could be left worse off than before.
That is an encouraging reply. Is not one of the major but little publicised advantages of the changes of last April the fact that it no longer pays to stay on the dole rather than to take a job? The Government are giving individuals the incentive to take a job. Does that not contrast starkly with the attitude of the Opposition, who clearly believe in blanket benefit and would prefer people to become more, rather than less, dependent on state handouts?
My hon. Friend is right. There are now few families who would be better off out of work than in work. We ended the circumstances in which people could lose more benefit as their pay rose. Under family income supplement a family with three children who earned £75 could be £5·50 a week worse off if their pay rose to £130 a week.
Will the Minister say something about the impact of the loss of income support on self-employed Harris tweed weavers? He will know something about that, because I have written to the Department about it. He will know of the great fear among these people that the loss of income support will act as a disincentive to others to join the Harris tweed industry and become weavers. Will he concede that the industry is unique and requires special measures, and will he undertake to review the impact of the loss of income support upon it?
I shall be happy to consider the hon. Gentleman's letters and reply to them in due course. There is now a clear division between income support, under which the claimant must work 24 hours a week or less, and family credit., under which the claimant will work 24 hours a week or more. That division has simplified the system and is generally advantageous.
Is my hon. Friend aware that the apprentices in the shipyards of Barrow, whose places were formerly funded under the youth training scheme, have been laid off as a result of the industrial dispute and are being denied income support or unemployment benefit of any kind? Will my hon. Friend look into that as a matter of urgency and issue local instructions that unemployment benefit is to be paid?
I cannot do exactly what my hon. Friend wishes, because these are matters for an adjudication officer. If a person is involved in a trade dispute, he is not eligible for unemployment benefit or income support for himself, although payments can be made to his dependants. It is for the adjudication officer to decide whether a person is involved in a trade dispute. I hope that that decision will be reached as expeditiously as possible.