Pensions and National Insurance
1. Mr. Gourlay
asked the Minister of Pensions and National Insurance if he will state the number of retirement pensioners in receipt of an allowance from the National Assistance Board on the latest available date.
11. Mr. Ledger
asked the Minister of Pensions and National Insurance if he will state the number of retirement pensioners in receipt of a weekly payment from the National Assistance Board at the most recent available date; and how this compares with the number of such payments made in the last week in April, 1961.
The Minister of Pensions and National Insurance (Mr. Boyd-Carpenter)
The number of National Assistance supplements to retirement pension is ascertained quarterly. It was 1,061,000 at the end of March, 1962, compared with 1,079,000 a year before. The number at the end of April, 1961, is not known, but it is estimated to have been about [column 930]1,050,000 earlier in that month, immediately after the increased pension rates came into force. Some of the supplements provide for the requirements of a household with more than one pensioner.
Is the Minister aware that the increase in the number of people receiving assistance between April last year and April this year indicates the great urgency of the need to increase pensions? Will he tell the House whether he has taken the opportunity of advising his right hon. and learned Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer that today's Budget would be a very opportune time to give the old-age pensioners an increase?
The difficulty about that argument would hypothetically be that the figures that I have read out indicate that the firm figures taken a year apart show a reduction in the number of cases on supplement.
While it is true that there has been a reduction from the figures immediately before the increase, has there not been an increase of 11,000 during the period, which indicate that the present pensions are insufficient?
I think that is a very flimsy basis on which to found so substantial a structure. In point of fact, as the hon. Gentleman knows perfectly, well, the number of supplementary cases has remained remarkably constant over the years and is, in fact, dependent entirely on the relationship between the two scales of benefit.
How much longer will the Government allow National Assistance to continue its disproportionate part in our scheme of social security? Is it not a disgrace to our social security system that well over 1 million retirement pensioners still have to have a supplement on a needs basis?
The figures which I gave indicate a percentage of 22.7. If that is a disproportionate proportion, it is a little interesting to note that it is exactly the same as it was in 1951.
13. Mr. Gourlay
asked the Minister of Pensions and National Insurance how many pensioners in the area served by [column 931]the Board's Office in Kirkcaldy are in receipt of a supplementary allowance from the National Assistance Board; and what was the corresponding figure for April. 1961.
The Joint Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Pensions and National Insurance (Mrs. Margaret Thatcher)
As my right hon. Friend explained in answer to the hon. Gentleman's earlier Question, the number of National Assistance supplements to retirement pension is ascertained quarterly and is not available for the month of April. In the area served by the National Assistance Board's office in Kirkcaldy, it was 2,717 at the end of March, 1962, and 2,691 at the end of March, 1961.
Is the Minister aware that despite the fact that the name of “National Assistance” has been changed to “supplementary allowance” on the pension, it is still very distasteful for many people to have to apply to the Board for supplementation of their pension, and will he not agree that this is an appropriate time to make an increase in the basic pension?
I think that the figures for Kirkcaldy show that that particular office has done a good deal to overcome people's reluctance to apply for National Assistance. I would not agree with the hon. Gentleman's reasoning that because 23 out of 100 retirement pensioners are in need of supplementation the other 77 should all have an increase in their basic pensions.
15. Mrs. Slater
asked the Minister of Pensions and National Insurance what proportion of retirement pensioners were in receipt of weekly allowances from the National Assistance Board at the latest available date; and what was the average weekly payment.
At the end of 1961, 22.7 per cent. and 19s. 5d.
Does the right hon. Gentleman think that this is a very satisfactory state of affairs? I suppose he will argue that because the percentage may be low the need is not there. Now that this social welfare service is lagging behind those of other countries, is it not time that the Government had another look at it so that they can meet [column 932]the needs of these people, particularly in view of the rise in the cost of living?
I cannot accept that because the National Assistance Board does its duty in paying these supplements this constitutes evidence that our social services are lagging behind anybody else's.
17. Mr. Hannan
asked the Minister of Pensions and National Insurance what was the number of retirement pensioner in the areas served by the Glasgow offices at the latest available date; how many of such pensioners were in receipt of supplementary allowances; and what percentage they are of the total.
Statistics relating to the numbers of retirement pensioners are not available for particular areas, and it follows that it is not possible to state the percentage of pensions supplemented by National Assistance. The number of supplements at the end of March, 1962 in the area served by the National Assistance Board's offices in Glasgow, was 24,400.
Does the hon. Lady recognise from these figures that a very high proportion of these pensioners are now seeking National Assistance in addition to the pension? Will not she recognise that she will be guilty of self-deception if she believes that these increased numbers are due to the better posters which are being displayed in public places? The figures show instead a real need. Will she increase the pension immediately?
The fact that the National Assistance Board is there does, in fact, meet the need. The hon. Gentleman may be interested to know that there are now 1,000 fewer people drawing National Assistance in Glasgow than at the equivalent time last year.
Is the hon. Lady aware that a recent study sponsored by the Nuffield Institute showed that, on average, half as many people again should be in receipt of National Assistance but are not applying for it? Is she further aware that this would mean another 10 per cent. to be added to the existing 23 per cent. of those receiving assistance?
That conclusion is not accepted by the National Assistance Board. It was the result of interviewing [column 933]some 500 people and drawing conclusions relating to nearly 7 million retirement pensioners. That means equating every one person to some 14,000. It is notoriously difficult to interview people about their sources of income. The hon. Gentleman will be interested to know that the person who was persuaded to appear before the television cameras as being typical of those too proud to apply for National Assistance had been drawing it for two years.
On a point of order.
Order. There is so much noise that it is becoming difficult to transact our business. The hon. Member for Motherwell (Mr. Lawson) was addressing me on some topic.
On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. In view of the misleading statement made by the hon. Lady, I beg to give notice that I shall raise this matter on the Adjournment at the earliest opportunity.
41. Mr. J. Roberston
asked the Minister of Pensions and National Insurance how many retirement pensioners in the area served by the National Assistance Board's offices in Paisley are in receipt of a weekly supplement to their pension: and whether the numbers of such cases show an increasing or decreasing trend over the past six months.
In the area served by the National Assistance Board's office in Paisley, the number of National Assistance supplements to retirement pension at the end of March, 1962, was 3,287. In six months to that date the number had increased by four.
I have not the slighthest idea what that reply was.
Order. The House is defeating its own business by its loquacity. I ask the assistance of hon. Members in making less noise. Will the hon. Lady be good enough to repeat the Answer?
In the area served by the National Assistance Board's office in Paisley, the number of National Assistance supplements to retirement pension at the end of March, 1962, was 3,287. In six months to that date the number had increased by four.[column 934]
44. Mrs. Cullen
asked the Minister of Pensions and National Insurance how many retirement pensioners in Scotland were in receipt of a weekly supplement from the National Assistance Board at the latest available date.
At the end of March, 1962, the number of National Assistance supplements to retirement pensioners in Scotland was 81,855.
Will the Minister consider increasing the rate of pensions and reducing the number of people relying on the National Assistance Board?
To increase the rate of pension would not help those who are on National Assistance but those who are already above the National Assistance scale.
Perhaps, therefore, the Minister or his Parliamentary Secretary can tell us why the last time they increased the pension they did not increase National Assistance by the same amount, with the result that those who according to the formula are in greatest need got least help, and that that help has already disappeared because of rising prices.
The hon. Member will be aware that the main National Assistance increase was in September, 1959, when retirement pension rates did not move at all. If one takes the 1959 and 1961 increases in National Assistance together, they are greater than the increase in retirement pension between 1958 and 1961. They are 8s. 6d. in National Assistance scale for a single person and 14s. for a married couple, as against 7s. 6d. and 12s. 6d., respectively, in retirement pension.
Does the hon. Lady appreciate that that is quite irrelevant to what happened in April last year, when people got an increase in pension of 12s. 6d. but the National Assistance scales for a married couple rose by only 5s., which was all the benefit that those in greatest need got on that occasion?
My answer was not irrelevant. The irrelevancy existed in the hon. Member's mind.[column 935]
2. Mr. Fernyhough
asked the Minister of Pensions and National Insurance how many unemployed persons were unable to draw unemployment benefit, under the 12-day rule, for those days, namely, 5th February and 5th March, on which one day strikes took place in the engineering and shipbuilding industries.
I understand that the hon. Gentleman has in mind people laid off before the dates mentioned and unable to draw unemployment benefit for those days as a result of decisions by the independent adjudicating authorities under the trade dispute disqualification. On that basis the figures are 348 and 682, respectively. I understand that 154 further claims have not yet been decided.
Does not the right hon. Gentleman think it scandalous that unemployed men who are already carrying a heavy enough cross should be denied unemployment benefit through circumstances over which they have no control? Is he not aware that the regulation is more than 25 years old and that, however we may have treated the unemployed 25 years ago, the social conscience will not stand for their being treated in this manner today? Will he please not tell me that the Labour Government continued this regulation in the 1948 Act. Does he not think it time that the regulation was removed?
All Governments, as the hon. Gentleman has reminded the House, have accepted the principle that unemployment benefit should not be payable to those laid off as a result of a trade dispute, and I think that is a principle that has been very generally accepted for a very long time.
As the right hon. Gentleman knows, the men to whom I was referring were not laid off as a result of a trade dispute. They had been unemployed from a week to ten days before the dispute began. In those circumstances, would it not be harsh and unjust to prevent the men from getting the benefit to which they are entitled?
That may be the hon. Gentleman's view, but it was not the view of the independent authorities [column 936]to which the House has entrusted adjudication in these cases.
3. Mr. Fernyhough
asked the Minister of Pensions and National Insurance how many unemployed people registered at the Jarrow and Hebburn Employment Exchange were unable to draw unemployment benefit for those days, namely 5th February and 5th March, on which one-day strikes took place in the engineering and shipbuilding industries.
I regret that the figures asked for by the hon. Gentleman are not available. But, on the basis of my Answer to his preceding Question, the figures would be 11 and 4, respectively.
Is the right hon. Gentleman saying that he is going to continue with this regulation? Is he not prepared to look at it? Does he not understand how much bitterness and distress it causes, and does he not think it is time that the regulation was completely removed?
The trade dispute disqualification does sometimes, as the hon. Gentleman knows, give rise to difficulties, but experience has shown that the general principle behind it, under which my Department remains impartial in a trade dispute, is the right line to follow.
Graduated Pensions Scheme
5. Mr. Mckay
asked the Minister of Pensions and National Insurance what, on the basis of the report of the Government Actuary in Command Paper 629, he estimates to be the income in the financial year 2001–2 from the graduated contributions from employers and insured persons by the 4¼ per cent. deduction from wages and other incomes over £9 a week and below £15 a week; what he estimates to be the payment for graduated pensions for that year and the balance arising; and what that balance would be if the contributions were 3 per cent. and 2 per cent., respectively, on the assumption that graduated pension accounts were kept separately.
The hon. Gentleman appears to have overlooked that the figures quoted in Command Paper 629 were brought up to date in Tables II and IV of the Appendix to [column 937]Command Paper 1197. I would prefer at present not further to anticipate my report on the finances of the National Insurance Fund for the year 2001–2002.
I appreciate that the Minister does not look forward to the year 2001, but as Minister of Pensions and one who is responsible for a very big Government Department he has to look forward a long way on many occasions. My point is that he started a new scheme and introduced this method of contribution for a certain section of graduated payment and he is now using the whole of the money to help pay the pensions for other people. Does he not think it time that he looked at the whole subject and considered breaking the pay pause for the aged?
I fully share the hon. Gentleman's interest in the future of the scheme, and I am sure he will be reassured to know that, contrary to the position which existed before the 1959 Act, the prospects of solvency of the scheme right forward look good.
Retired Senior Officers
8. Mr. Marten
asked the Minister of Pensions and National Insurance whether he will take steps to prevent retired senior officers, who are drawing full pension from the State, from simultaneously drawing unemployment benefit.
No. Sir. If they satisfy all the conditions for unemployment benefits, including availability for suitable work, I do not think it would be right to introduce a means test to deprive this particular class of the benefit for which they have contributed.
While recognising that these people are quite within the law in drawing unemployment benefit, does the Minister not agree that it is a slight moral abuse of unemployment benefit that they should be drawing a sizeable State pension at the same time as they are drawing unemployment benefit?
No, Sir. Provided that the man concerned is available for and accepts suitable work when offered, I think it is right to treat him as one treats all other contributors to the Fund.[column 938]
Students and Trainees
9. Mr. G. M. Thomson
asked the Minister of Pensions and National Insurance if he will introduce legislation to allow full-time students and approved trainees over the age of 18 to be credited with National Insurance contributions during their period of study.
In view of the need for an increased pool of educated manpower, does the Minister not think that this burden on students is unfair? Will the Government reconsider this in the light of the recommendations of the Anderson Report?
This goes a good deal wider than my responsibility. All that I am concerned about in this matter is that I myself do not think that it would be right to subsidise students at the cost of the other contributors to the Fund.
10. Mr. G. M. Thomson
asked the Minister of Pensions and National Insurance if he will take steps to extend the provisions of the National Insurance and Family Allowances Acts to allow benefit to be paid to children who are completely disabled and who continue to be dependent on their parents beyond the age of 18 years.
No, Sir, Extensions of the age limits for allowances for children under these schemes were made by amending legislation in 1956 and last year, and I have no proposals for a further extension. YOung people above the age of 16 are, of course, eligible to apply for National Assistance in their own right.
Does not the right hon. Gentleman have on his files a number of cases of very real hardship where people in these circumstances are chronic invalids, imbeciles and so on? Will he look at this mater again and make his regulations more humane than they are at the moment?
I think that they are humane, and I do not think that we should make them more humane by pretending that somebody is a child if he is not[column 939]
12. Mr. J. Wells
asked the Minister of Pensions and National Insurance if he will take steps to alter the National Insurance (Maternity Benefit) Regulations to enable benefits to be paid as for a home confinement when the mother is in hospital for under 48 hours.
In the circumstances described in the Question, a maternity grant of £14 is payable and a home confinement grant of £6 may also be payable if the mother has been admitted to hospital as an emergency case. It think this is pretty reasonable.
Is my right hon. Friend aware that many young mothers go to hospital voluntarily for only a very short stay and are turned out far too quickly because of the present shortage of maternity beds? Their confinement in hospital was a long-standing arrangement and therefore, the benefit which my right hon. Friend outlines in his main answer is not available. Will he look at this again and draw the attention of his right hon. Friend the Minister of Health to the grave shortage of maternity beds due to the pay and conditions of nurses and midwives?
I am aware of the case to which my hon. Friend refers and which, as he says, also concerns my right hon. Friend. The importance of the home confinement grant is that it is paid in addition to the maternity grant itself to compensate in some measure for the expense of a confinement at home. When the confinement takes place in hospital by long pre-arrangement it is outside the scope of this additional grant.
14. Mr. T. Fraser
asked the Minister of Pensions and National Insurance, if, he aware of the hardship caused to Mr. James Deans, 38, Albert Drive, Larkhall, Lanarkshire, a disabled ex-miner, by his being denied unemployment benefit under the Seasonal Workers Regulations; and if he will amend the regulations to exclude this class of worker from their provisions.
I have been into this case, in which, as the hon. Member knows, this gentleman's appeal was dis[column 940]missed by the National Insurance Commissioner. In view, however, of the other benefits now being received by him, I cannot accept that this has resulted in hardship, and my answer to the last part of the Question is No, Sir.
Will the right hon. Gentleman have another look at this case? Here is a man who has been in regular employment and paid insurance contributions for nearly 50 years, but because of his disability and the high level of unemployment in the area in which he resides it has not been possible for the Minister of Labour to offer him any kind of employment, and because on his own initiative he has found employment in the summer months he is being penalised by having his unemployment benefit withheld in the winter months?
The hon. Gentleman said that in his letter to my hon. Friend, but I am afraid that it is wrong. The gentleman in question improved his position in respect of unemployment benefit by the work he did, otherwise he would have been out of benefit as this is not a benefit of indeterminate duration. I do not want, unless I am pressed, to give the figures as to what this gentleman is getting, but he is not doing too badly.
As the right hon. Gentleman is not prepared to give the figures, I beg to give notice that I shall raise the matter on the Adjournment.
18. Mr. Hannan
asked the Minister of Pensions and National Insurance how many retirement pensioners in the areas served by the National Assistance Board's offices in the City of Glasgow were granted refunds of prescription charges in the 12 months up to the latest convenient date; and what was the cost of such refunds to the Board.
I regret that this information is not available.
22. Mr. J. Silverman
asked the Minister of Pensions and National Insurance whether he will introduce early legislation to amend the First Schedule of the National Insurance (Industrial Injuries) [column 941]ACt, 1946, to extend insurable employment to employment under any contract of service entered into in this country in all cases there that employment is carried out temporarily abroad, on a ship on the high seas or on any aircraft.
No, Sir. Person ordinarily resident in the United Kingdom who are employed as seamen or airmen on British ships or aircraft are already insured under the National Insurance (Industrial Injuries) Act in respect of their employment outside this country, and there is also cover for British nationals who, while working for employers here, are temporarily in a country with which we have a reciprocal agreement. Further extension of such cover is, in my view, best obtained by extension of our system of reciprocal agreements.
In view of the fact that we are endeavouring to increase our exports, which means sending workers and technicians abroad, is it not desirable that the provisions of the Act should be extended to cover such people, particularly as their numbers are likely to increase?
I am afraid that, although there is force in the hon. Gentleman's argument, it is not practicable to extend the cover of this Act to countries which, because they have no system of industrial injuries insurance, do not and cannot provide us with the means of checking and investigating claims.
I must ask the House to forgive me and allow me to go back. In the midst of the din I failed to see that the hon. Member for Dagenham (Mr. Parker) was present and wished to ask his Question. No. 21. Mr. Parker.
On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. A little belatedly I shouted “Question No. 19” . I also have Question No. 20 on the Order Paper.
There are limits. I was looking with the greatest appreciation at the hon. Member for Central Ayrshire (Mr. Manuel) and I called his name at lease three times. Receiving no response, I felt it my duty, in the general interest, to move on.[column 942]
Further to that point of order. Mr. Speaker. I did rise and shout “Question No. 19” —although belatedly. But the next Question, Question No. 20, was not called, Even had I not been present to call Question No. 19, I might have come in and have been in my place in time to call Question No. 20.
I am sorry. I have stated that I called the hon. Gentleman's name at least three times, but receiving no response, I did not all the other Question in his name.
21. Mr. parker
asked the Minister of Pensions and National Insurance whether he will introduce legislation to permit the continued payment of the school allowance for a child of a widow until the end of the school year in which he is 18.
I think the hon. Member has either family allowances or National Insurance dependency benefits in mind, since education maintenance grants are not a matter for me. I have no proposals for a further upward extension of the age of entitlement for these allowance.
Does the right hon. Gentleman think it right that a widow should have financial difficulty when her child is taking the G.C.E. A level?
The hon. Gentleman sent me particulars of a case, Which I read with interest. But that type of case seems to be much more one for the local education authorities through a maintenance grant than for the extension of family allowances.
23. Mr. J. Silverman
asked the Minister of Pensions and National Insurance whether he will introduce early legislation to ensure that any employed person who is not provided with insurance cover by the National Insurance (Industrial Injuries) Act, 1946, only by virtue of the fact that he is temporarily employed abroad, on the high seas or on an aircraft shall be able to obtain a rebate of that part of his National Insurance contributions that related to industrial injuries insurance.[column 943]
No, Sir. We already do better than that. People not covered for industrial injuries because of employment outside the United Kingdom are not required to pay industrial injuries contributions at all.
When a person is temporarily employed outside the United Kingdom, is he informed that he is entitled to this rebate?
There is another Question on the Order Paper relating to information in respect of people abroad which I will, if I may, answer when we come to it.
Retirement Pension and Earnings
24. Mr. Ross
asked the Minister of Pensions and National Insurance if he will state the difference between the average weekly earnings of a male worker and the retirement pension payable in respect of husband and wife at the most recent available date; and if he will give the same figures for October, 1951, October, 1955. and October. 1959. respectively.
On the basis of the Ministry of Labour's half-yearly earnings inquiries, the difference between the standard rate of retirement pension for a couple and the average level of earnings for men amounted to 69.9 per cent of earnings in 1961. The figure for 1951 is the same, and for 1955 and 1959 70.8 and 70.5 per cent., respectively.
Will the right hon. Gentleman translate these figures for these respective periods into £2, shillings and pence?
No, Sir—not at any rate by way of lightning calculation in the absence of my computer.
I would have thought that it would have been very much easier, since these figures were originally in £s, shillings and pence, for the Minister to have given them like that. Has he not got this information with him?
Whatever the hon. Gentleman may have thought, I have answered the Question which he put on the Order Paper.[column 944]
The Question I put on the Order Paper is there to be read. I asked what the difference was. I did not ask for any percentage. Will he now answer the Question/
I have already done so, and I have sufficient regard for the hon. Gentleman's mathematical ability to have little doubt of his power to translate the figures.
National Insurance Fund
25. Mr. Ross
asked the Minister of Pensions and National Insurance if he will state the estimated aggregate increases of income to the National Insurance Fund for 1962–63 compared with 1950–51 in respect of flat rate contributions and graduated contributions, respectively.
Some £413 million. There were, of course, no graduated contribution in 1950–51; the income from these contributions in 1962–63 is estimated to be about £174 million.
35. Mr. Lawson
asked the Minister of Pensions and National Insurance if he will estimate the increased sums to be paid into the National Insurance Fund in 1962–63 in respect of employees, employers, and Exchequer, respectively.
About £469 million in respect of insured persons, £478 million in respect of employers and £190 million in respect of the Exchequer.
This is a ratio of about 8 to 1. Does it not suggest that the Treasury is wriggling out of its obligations in this matter? In view of the fact that retrial pensions take up more than 70 per cent. of the total amount paid in benefits and retiral pensions are not now on an insurance basis, will not the Minister consider greatly increasing the Exchequer contribution to these funds?
No, Sir, If the hon. Member, who I know is interested in the figures, likes to look at them, he will se that the Exchequer contribution has gone up in all 82 per cent. since 1951–52, whereas the employee's own Class I contribution has gone up 80 per cent.[column 945]
26. Mr. Malcolm MacMillan
asked the Minister of Pensions and National Insurance with which foreign countries there is in force an agreement providing for reciprocity in matters relating to the payment of compensation or benefit to employed persons in respect of industrial or similar injuries under the provisions of Section 85 of the National Insurance (Industrial Injuries) Act, 1946,
Belgium, Denmark, the Federal Republic of Germany, Finland, France, Israel, italy, LUxembourg, Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, and Yugoslavia.
In view of the rapidly growing number of British citizens who have to work abroad and the increasing number of visits made because of easier air transport and so on, does not the Minister agree that we should be making a little more progress in this direction? Will he assure us that everything is being done to keep up with the increasing tempo of visiting abroad and the expansion of British industry and the consequent employment of more British citizens abroad?
I fully share the hon. Gentleman's feelings on this point. The difficulty is that there are comparatively few countries other than those I named in my Answer which have comparable provision of their own for industrial injuries.
27.Mr. Malcolm MacMillan
asked the Minister of Pensions and National Insurance with which of Her Majesty's Colonies there is in force an agreement providing for reciprocity in matters relating to the payment of compensation or benefit to employed persons in respect of industrial or similar injuries under the provisions of Sections 85 of the National Insurance (Industrial Injuries) Act, 1946.
32. Mr. Rankin
asked the Minister of Pensions and National Insurance with how many of Her Majesty's overseas territories he has agreements providing for reciprocity in matters relating to the payment of compensation or benefit to employed persons in respect of industrial and similar injuries under the provisions of Section 85 of the national Insurance (Industrial Injuries) Act, 1941[column 946]
We have such agreements with Malta, Jersey and the Isle of Man.
In view of the fact that we have been able to establish reciprocal arrangements with so many foreign countries, does not the Minister agree that, having regard to our more direct responsibility and greater influence in the Colonies, we should be able by now to have complete coverage in British colonial areas? Will he assure us that everything is being done in that direction?
The difficulty is the one that I gave the hon. Gentleman a moment ago. One cannot have a reciprocal agreement with countries which do not have industrial injuries arrangements and that is the reason why, for instance, our National Insurance reciprocal agreement with Canada, Australia and New Zealand have no industrial injuries provisions.
In view of the importance of these reciprocal agreements to British workers and others, could not the Minister impress upon Commonwealth countries the importance we attach to them and urge them to undertake such legislation?
I do not think that it is part of my job to suggest amendments in other people's social services.
Is the Minister aware that whereas he has reciprocal arrangements with Jersey there is no such reciprocal arrangement with guernsey, which is causing a certain amount of hardship and dissatisfaction?
I will not repeat to the hon. Gentleman the explanation which I have already twice given.
28. Mr. Diamond
asked the Minister of Pensions and National Insurance if he will take steps to inform employed persons who are likely to be employed temporarily abroad, and their employers, with which foreign countries and with which of Her Majesty's Dominions and Colonies there is not in force an agreement providing for reciprocity in matters relating to the payment of compensation or benefit to employed persons in respect [column 947]of industrial or similar injuries under the provisions of Section 85 of the National Insurance (Industrial Injuries) Act, 1946.
A general leaflet explaining the insurance position of people who re abroad, and particular leaflets dealing with our arrangements with particular countries, can be obtained from national Insurance offices. I am sending the hon. Member a copy of these. There is also a clear explanation of the position in the Employer's Guide to National Insurance Contributions.
Does the leaflet explain precisely which countries are covered for reciprocal purposes and which are not, so that the employer may, as the Minister has suggested, advise his employee that he will not be covered in certain places and requires, therefore, to be insured by his employer?
There is, as I said, a general leaflet and then a particular one covering each country with which we have a reciprocal arrangement. I do not think that employers need find any difficulty at all.
Mr. S. Silverman
Is not the right hon. Gentleman's explanation about lack of reciprocity a little misleading? Is not he suggesting that in those countries with which we cannot make agreements there is no provision for industrial injuries compensation, whereas the true position is that we have transferred that liability to the national social security scheme, and the other countries which have not done so have legislation similar to that which we had before the National Insurance Act? It is not a case of our people not being entitled to any such compensation in these other countries but only that they get it under different legislation. Does not the basis for reciprocity, therefore, exist?
I do not think that the hon. Gentleman has got it quite right. There is not a basis for reciprocity unless there is a State scheme covering industrial injuries. The difficulty is that some countries have no such scheme. Some deal with cases simply under their general social security system and others still have a workmen's compensation set-up.[column 948]
31. Mr. Rankin
asked the Minister of pensions and National Insurance what representations he has made to those foreign Governments, with whom agreement has not already been reached, with a view to obtaining an agreement providing for reciprocity in matters relating to the payment of compensation or benefit to employed persons in respect of injuries under the provisions of Section 85 of the National Insurance (Industrial Injuries) Act, 1941.
We already have reciprocal agreements with most of the countries which have industrial injury provisions comparable with our own, and to which people from this country are likely to go in the course of their employment. But I take this opportunity of repeating that we are keen to conclude further such agreements when opportunity arises.
Can the Minister say how many countries in the Common Market have not industrial injuries cover for those who may be injured or killed by accidents?
I gave the list of countries with which we have agreements a few minutes ago. I have nothing to add to that.
29. Mr. Houghton
asked the Minister of Pensions and National Insurance in how many cases applicants for National Assistance have had disregards limited to 30s. a week under the regulations.
I regret that figures are not available, but I have no reason to believe that the number is other than small.
Has not the time come to reconsider this maximum? I have in mind a disabled soldier with severe facial injuries who comes up against the maximum of 30s. disregards. It seems very hard that compensation for very severe injury should limit the amount he receives from National Assistance.
As the hon. Gentleman will remember, we had a very full discussion about this when we increased the disregards two years ago. The difficulty is that if one takes them [column 949]much further one more and more separates the payment of Assistance from actual need.
30. Mr. Houghton
asked the Minister of Pensions and National Insurance what were the average weekly amounts of discretionary additions to National Assistance payments for special diets, laundry, cost of domestic help, and exceptional fuel requirements, respectively, during 1961 or the last available year; and what were the main items covered by other special needs referred to in Reports of the National Assistance Board.
The average amounts of discretionary additions included in assessments of weekly National Assistance allowances current at the end of 1961 were, for special diets 7s.; for laundry 2s. 6.; for the cost of domestic help 3s. 6d.; and for exceptional fuel requirements 4s. 6d. The other items are too varied for classification.
33. Mr. G. Thomas
asked the Minister of Pensions and National Insurance what was the number of people in Wales in receipt of National Assistance in 1951, 1955, 1960, and at the nearest convenient date, respectively.
The figures for March in 1951, 1955, 1960 and 1962 were, respectively, 114,474, 140.520, 135,293 and 136.019
Does the hon. Lady realise that, disturbing as those figures are, if the Ministry were to reassess the basis of need, as it ought in view of rising costs, the figures would be doubled? What does she propose to do to meet the need which the Assistance Board is not covering in cases like this?
As the hon. Gentleman knows, the National Assistance scales have been increased eight times since the inception of the scheme and the disqualifications for receiving it have been progressively relaxed. These changes, of course, are reflected in the increased National Assistance Board scales, and, on top of those, there are increases for rent which do not need revision by regulation.
38. Mr. Boyden
asked the Minister of Pensions and National Insurance if he will outline the factors leading to the [column 950]estimated increase of £4 million by the National Assistance Board in 1962–63 in expenditure on assistance grants, etc.
Largely the cumulative effect of increases in rent and rates, and a further increase in the number and average amounts of discretionary additions.
Is not the Minister's attitude to this whole problem deplorably complacent, since in answer to an earlier Question he was satisfied to have the same number of applicants for National Assistance? Is it not time that he wanted to reduce the number considerably without reducing the benefits?
The hon. Member must know perfectly well that it is the increase in the National Assistance scales that increases the eligibility for National Assistance.
Why does not the Minister stick up for his Department? Why is he allowing it to featherbed other Departments? Welfare foods, rents and rate increases are now being carried by National Assistance payments. Is the Minister aware that many landlords are being subsidised straight from the Treasury instead of from statutory payments from householders?
I not only stick up for my Department: I keep awake and stand up for it.
42. Mrs. Braddock
asked the Minister of Pensions and National Insurance how many of the recipients of a weekly supplement from the National Assistance Board are women; and how many of these are over 70 years of age.
At the end of the 1961, the number of women among the recipients of weekly National Assistance allowances was 1,226,000. They included 646,000 aged 70 or over. These figures include women not in receipt of any National Insurance benefit.
When the circus on the benches opposite is quiet, I will be able to ask my supplementary question. In view of the fact that so many of these people are women over the age of 70, will the Minister arrange that the whole of these cases are reviewed to ensure that [column 951]the people are in receipt of an income that gives them some sort of a decent standard of living?
As I think the hon. Lady knows, the National Assistance Board is particularly careful to look into the question of discretionary allowances in the case of older people, with the result that a discretionary allowance was paid in two-thirds of the cases where an Assistance grant was paid in supplementation of a retirement pension.
43. Mrs. Braddock
asked the Minister of Pensions and National Insurance how many retirement pensioners in Liverpool are now in receipt of a weekly assistance supplement; and how many such applicants for assistance were turned down in the first three months of this year.
In the area covered by the National Assistance Board's offices which serve the City of Liverpool, and also some places outside it, the number of National Assistance supplements to retirement pension at the end of March, 1962, was 24,047. I regret that the information asked for in the second part of the Question is not available.
Will the Parliamentary Secretary obtain the information? I am told that there are difficulties about people being turned down because their income is just at the level of the full-scale of National Assistance. When the question of payment for a prescription arises, difficulties are created because of that fact and because the total amount that the person has is just on the level of the National Assistance total.
We do not keep figures of particular kinds of applicants or of the number of applications that are turned down. The best answer that I can give to the latter part of the hon. Lady's Question is to say that in the first 14 weeks of this year, there were 40,765 applications all told, of which 3,907 did not receive any grant.
45. Mrs. Cullen
asked the Minister of Pensions and National Insurance how many unemployed persons in Glasgow are in receipt of a weekly allowance from the National Assistance Board; and how many of these have been in receipt of such payment for three months or more.[column 952]
The number of authorisations providing for the payment of a weekly National Assistance allowance to a person registering for work which were current at the end of March, 1962, in the National Assistance Board's offices in Glasgow was 10,720. I regret that the information asked for in the second part of the Question is not available.
Does not this prove that the present rate of benefit is totally inadequate as an insurance against unemployment?
46. Mr. Small
asked the Minister of Pensions and National Insurance how many pensioners in receipt of a weekly allowance from the National Assistance Board in Scotland are tenants of local authority houses; and what is the average weekly allowance in respect of rent.
At the end of 1961, the number of retirement pensioners receiving weekly national assistance allowances in Scotland who were tenants of local authorities was about 38,000 and the average amount of rent paid by them was 19s. 4d. a week.
As there will shortly be rent increases arising out of the Scottish Housing Bill, which is now going through the House, can I have an assurance that the people mentioned in the Question will receive the maximum protection from the National Assistance Board?
Increases in rent and rates have so far been fully taken into account by the National Assistance Board.
48. Dr. Dickson Mabon
asked the Minister of Pensions and National Insurance how many retirement pensioners in Greenock and district were receiving a weekly supplement at the latest available date; and what was the average amount of these supplements.
In the area served by the National Assistance Board's office in Greenock, which extends considerably beyond the Burgh, the number of National Assistance supplements to [column 953]retirement pension at the end of March, 1962, was 1,862. I regret that the information asked for in the second part of the Question is not available.
Is the hon. Lady aware that while we appreciate the work of the officials of the National Assistance Board, there are very few hon. Members—and I am certainly not one of them—who are satisfied with the level of supplementation given to old-age pensioners? Since her right hon. Friend has refused to make representations to the Chancellor of the Exchequer about increasing pensions, will the hon. Lady make representations to increase the scale of National Assistance allowances for these people?
I understand that constitutionally the initiative is with Lord Ilfordthe Chairman of the National Assistance Board.
49. Mr. Dempsey
asked the Minister of Pensions and National Insurance what was the nature of his reply to the representations recently made by the National Assistance Board for an increase in National Assistance scales.
I have received no such representations.
Is the Minister aware that there is considerable disquiet among some of the National Assistance Board advisory Committees about the present rate of allowance being no longer realistic because of the increasing cost of living? Does not the right hon. Gentleman agree that even potatoes will soon be out with the pocket of the old-age pensioner because of rising prices? Will he consider introducing a realistic scale to give to pensioners and other recipients of National Assistance the strength in purchasing power which they had last year?
I am perfectly certain that the House can be confident that the House can be confident that the National Assistance Board, which includes among its members former hon. Members from both sides of the House, is in close touch with the situation and will act rightly in the future as in the past.
Mr. Ellis Smith
Does not the right hon. Gentleman agree that in the past Ministers of all parties have asked the Chairman and other members of the [column 954]Board to give sympathetic consideration to the need for increasing the scale? Does he not agree that the time has arrived when he should consider making such a request?
I have no idea what Ministers in the past have done.
Will the right hon. Gentleman kindly tell the House whether the initiative rests with the National Assistance Board, or whether it makes representations to the Minister only when it is satisfied that he will receive them favourably? Where does the initiative lie? Who takes the decisions? Or is it a cook-up between the Board and the Minister?
In the terms of the National Assistance Act, 1948, the House itself placed the initiative on the Board.
Has the right hon. Gentleman intimated to the Chairman of the Board that he would favourably consider any representations made to him for an increase?
The Chairman of the Board and I have many very interesting conversations.
National Insurance Advisory Committee (Report)
34. Mr. J. Robertson
asked the Minister of Pensions and National Insurance when he expects to receive the report from the National Insurance Advisory Committee on the question of credits, during periods of unemployment, for seasonal workers.
Will the Minister bear in mind that it is some time since the matter was discussed in the Committee, and will he take steps to see that there is no undue delay?
The matter was considered by the National Insurance Advisory Committee fairly recently. I hope to have its report before long.
National Health Service Contributions
36. Mr. Lawson
asked the Minister of Pensions and National Insurance how much of the £163 million which will be [column 955]collected by the National Health Service contribution in 1962–63 is attributable to last year's increase in this contribution.
About £49 million.
In view of this quite small amount of money when we are talking in terms of thousands of millions, will not the Minister take steps to ask his right hon. Friend the Minister of Health to see whether the distress caused by collecting this money could not be got rid of and medicine made a free service?
I am sure that this money is very well spent on the expansion of the Health Service which my right hon. Friend is undertaking.
37. Mr. Boyden
asked the Minister of Pensions and National Insurance if he will explain the estimated increases of £50,000 and £300,000 in refunds of over-payments, and recoveries from arrears of pensions, etc., respectively, in respect of National Assistance grants, etc., in 1962–63.
The Estimate figures for these receipts for the current year are approximately the same as the actual out-turn for 1961–62. The latter exceeded the estimate no doubt largely as result of the increases in National Insurance and National Assistance benefits in April, 1961.
Can the Minister be quite sure that he has not issued harsher instructions to his officer to press people who may make mistakes? Can he also be sure that it is not due to inefficiency in some offices?
No, Sir. If the hon. Member studies my original reply, he will see that the figures are the same as the actual out-turn for last year.