Speeches, Interviews & Other Statements

Complete list of 8,000+ Thatcher statements & texts of many of them

1963 May 20 Mo
Margaret Thatcher

HC PQ [Pensions and National Insurance]

Document type:public statement
Document kind:House of Commons PQs
Venue:House of Commons
Source:Hansard HC [678/15-27]
Journalist:-
Editorial comments:Timing uncertain. MT spoke at cc23-25.
Importance ranking:Minor
Word count:4476
Themes:Social security and welfare
15

PENSIONS AND NATIONAL INSURANCE

Family Allowances

20. Sir W. Bromley-Davenport

asked the Minister of Pensions and National Insurance in how many cases during the last ten years appeals have been successful in respect of applications for family allowances where the applicant has failed to cash the relative orders within the prescribed period of six months; and how many have been turned down.

The Minister of Pensions and National Insurance (Mr. Niall Macpherson)

Figures are available only from July 1959, when National Insurance local tribunals and the Commissioner assumed responsibility for appeals in family allowances matters. Since that date 20 such appeals have been partially allowed and 1,233 disallowed by the adjudicating authorities.

Sir W. Bromley-Davenport

Does it not seem in some cases rather a waste of time to allow someone to appeal to the authorities when the authorities themselves are not allowed, by regulation, to grant the appeal in those cases? Would not it be simpler and cheaper to tell such people that there is no point in appealing?

Mr. Macpherson

What, I think, my hon. and gallant Friend means is that the authorities cannot vary the period of six months, but if there is a mistake in the dates concerned, then they can allow the appeal, and in some cases they do so.

Widowed Mother's Allowance

21. Dame Irene Ward

asked the Minister of Pensions and National Insurance whether he will introduce legislation to extend the widowed mother's allowance to cover boys and girls who have obtained university places but have to wait until they become available.

Mr. N. Macpherson

I have no statement to make on this matter.

Dame Irene Ward

Would I be right in interpreting that reply to mean that I shall get a satisfactory statement if I wait long enough? Is my right hon. Friend aware that I have been agitating 16about this for two years? Will he put a date to the time when he will be able to make a statement, in view of the fact that widowed mothers are at a tremendous disadvantage compared with married women and children who have two parents? When can we have a statement?

Mr. Macpherson

I am well aware of my hon. Friend's interest and concern in this matter, but I am afraid that I cannot say when a statement can be made.

Dame Irene Ward

Cannot my right hon. Friend buck us up a bit?

National Insurance

(Retired Public Servants)

22. Mr. Cordle

asked the Minister of Pensions and National Insurance if he will introduce legislation to exempt those who have retired from public service, either home or overseas, before the age of 65 years from the obligation of paying National Insurance contributions after their retirement.

Mr. N. Macpherson

No, Sir. I see no reason for treating these men any differently from other insured men who give up work before reaching the age of 65.

Mr. Cordle

Is my right hon. Friend aware that there are many thousands of Britons employed overseas on contracts in public or partly public service, such as universities and statutory corporations, who have previously worked here and feel compelled to keep up their National Insurance cards or else lose their retirement pay? Is my right hon. Friend aware that such people usually retire at 60 on gratuity or small pension, and often find it very difficult to get jobs here later? Will my right hon. Friend consider franking their cards at the retirement age of 60 when they get home if they cannot secure jobs?

Mr. Macpherson

I am afraid that I could not do that, because the National Insurance Scheme rests on the principle of universality and, in general, men are expected to contribute from the age of 16 to 65. If retired public servants were to be allowed to opt out of the Scheme, then I think it would be difficult to refuse the same kind of privilege to other contributors, whether retired or not.

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Unemployment Benefit

23. Mr. D. Foot

asked the Minister of Pensions and National Insurance whether he will introduce legislation to provide that, in future, persons who normally work or are deemed to work for a five-day week shall, when unemployed, draw unemployment benefit at the same rate as persons who normally work or are deemed to work for a six-day week.

Mr. N. Macpherson

Under the law as it stands the rate of unemployment benefit is the same for everybody; one-sixth of the weekly rate of benefit is paid for each day of unemployment. The length of the normal working week does not affect the rate of benefit though it has a bearing on the number of days for which benefit is payable when workers on short time lose work for only part of the week. I have no proposals for changing these provisions.

Mr. Foot

Does the right hon. Gentleman appreciate that where there are a number of workers who are put on a four-day week, that is to say, are working short time, and there are others who are deemed normally to have worked a five-day week and some a six-day week, there is a difference in their treatment? Is not this an anomaly which ought to be removed?

Mr. Macpherson

There are anomalies whatever one does, but the fact remains that a man who normally works five days a week gets the same benefit per week or per day off as the man who normally works six days a week.

Mr. Mendelson

In view of the fact that short-time working is now so widespread, would not the Minister agree that men who are on a rota system, which is inevitable in a number of important national industries, are being unfairly treated because, determined by the start of the rota, they might be out of work or on short time for the same number of days as other workmen but will not be paid the unemployment benefit which is paid to their next-door neighbours? Is it not time that, instead of giving us a formal answer, the right hon. Gentleman should seriously look at the problem which is now causing grave concern in all our industrial areas?

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Mr. Macpherson

This question has been looked at very often, but the answer has always been the same. The point here is what are the normal working days and, as regards the benefit, if a man is off work he gets the same benefit whether he is normally employed for five days or six days, and if a man is off for a day he gets the same benefit for that day. It would be very difficult to have separate rates, one greater than the other, for a day of unemployment.

Mr. Mitchison

Ought not the right hon. Gentleman to think of referring this question again to his Advisory Committee?

Mr. Macpherson

I shall certainly consider that. I think I am right in saying that it has been referred before, but I shall consider it again.

Ex-Service Pensioners

(Accommodation)

24. Mr. J. Hynd

asked the Minister of Pensions and National Insurance how many limbless and paraplegic ex-Service pensioners have sought his help in obtaining ground floor accommodation; and what assistance he has afforded in such cases.

Mr. N. Macpherson

I regret that statistics which would enable me to answer the first part of the hon. Gentleman's Question are not kept. With regard to the second part, while I have no power to afford direct assistance, my welfare officers do all they can, through their contacts with local authorities and voluntary organisations, to help war pensioners who are in trouble over accommodation.

Mr. Hynd

The Minister is aware of the case I have in mind, where the welfare officers have done all they can but have been unable to achieve anything. The local authority in question, Hornsey, has made it impossible for this man to get ground-floor accommodation. Will the right hon. Gentleman look at this, not from the point of view of statistics, but from the human point of view? Is the right hon. Gentleman saying that after twelve years in power the Government find it an insoluble problem to provide a 1914–18 war limbless man with ground-floor accommodation or to help him to find such accommodation when he is prepared to pay for it?

19

Mr. Macpherson

It was the hon. Gentleman who asked about the statistics. I would only say that in 1962 we referred about 1,200 cases to local housing authorities. It is local housing authorities who have the responsibility, under my right hon. Friend the Minister of Housing and Local Government, and I am afraid that my responsibility does not extend to housing these men, although we do the best we can to help.

Mr. Mitchison

Does not the right hon. Gentleman think that this is rather scandalous? Ought not he to put his head closer to that of his right hon. colleague the Minister of Housing and Local Government and send a circular in rather strong terms to local authorities about these cases?

Mr. Macpherson

I hope the House will not think that a great deal is not already done by local authorities as well as by voluntary organisations to find accommodation in these cases. One of the points involved is that not every limbless man wants ground floor accommodation.

Mr. Hynd

Would not the right hon. Gentleman accept that the Ministry of pensions was originally set up to look after the welfare of people of this kind, and that during the term of office of some previous Ministers of Pensions the Ministry went as far as installing lifts to allow limbless men to get to their bedrooms if they could not find accommodation at ground-floor level? Will the Minister, instead of shovelling the responsibility on to local authorities, try to do something about this problem himself? All the resources of the nation can surely solve the problem of this kind.

Mr. Macpherson

The fact is that it is the responsibility of local authorities to make necessary adaptations to houses. As I have explained, we do a great deal to help in this matter, and we have been helping this case by greatly increasing the man's war pension.

Mr. Hynd

In view of the entirely unsatisfactory nature of that reply, I shall raise this matter on the Adjournment at the earliest possible opportunity.

Pneumoconiosis and Byssinosis

25. Miss Herbison

asked the Minister of Pensions and National Insurance how 20many miners examined by the Pneumoconiosis and Byssinosis Medical Board were refused certification, giving the total number for the past five years and the percentage this represents of those examined.

Mr. N. Macpherson

In the five years 1958 to 1962, 14,158 claimants for benefit under the Industrial Injuries Act were found not to be suffering from pneumoconiosis at their first examination by the Pneumoconiosis Medical Board; this represented 52 per cent. of the total of such examinations. In the same period, 6,348 claims were disallowed following a second or later examination by the medical board, that is 77 per cent. of the total of such claims. Statistics are not available of the number of individuals concerned, many of whom would have made more than one claim in the five-year period.

Miss Herbison

Does the Minister not think from these figures that there must be grave dissatisfaction, particularly in mining and pottery areas? Is he not aware that many doctors in these villages, and many of the chest specialists in the hospitals, are quite certain that mistakes are often being made by the Pneumoconiosis and Byssinosis Medical Board in the diagnosis? Does the right hon. Gentleman not think that as the Minister responsible for these matters he should be doing something to try to ensure that there is greater confidence in the decisions of that board?

Mr. Macpherson

The hon. Lady asked a Question about mistakes that were made a short time ago. It was found that the mistakes were not very great and that they worked both ways; it was found that on balance more people received benefit for pneumoconiosis when they did not suffer from it than did not receive benefit when they had the disease.

27. Mrs. Slater

asked the Minister of Pensions and National Insurance how many pottery workers examined by the Pneumoconiosis and Byssinosis Medical Board were refused certification, giving the total number for the past five years and the percentage this represents of those examined, respectively.

Mr. N. Macpherson

In the five years 1958 to 1962, 306 pottery workers claiming benefit under the Industrial Injuries 21Act were found not to be suffering from pneumoconiosis at their first examination by the Pneumoconiosis Medical Board; this represented 36 per cent. of the total of such examinations. In the same period 28 claims were disallowed following a second or later examination by the medical board, that is 61 per cent. of the total of such claims.

Mrs. Slater

Does the right hon. Gentleman know that the question of pottery workers having their claims disallowed is causing great concern in the industry? Is he aware that the coroner in north Staffordshire is always drawing attention to the fact that large numbers of people while they were living were not certified as having pneumoconiosis but on death were found from the post-mortem examination to have had the disease for a very long time? Could not the right hon. Gentleman get his Committee to look again at the whole problem of pneumoconiosis and consider whether some revision of the statutory regulations could not be made?

Mr. Macpherson

This is really a question of diagnosis, and, generally speaking, the diagnosis reveals whether or not there is pneumoconiosis. About two-thirds of these cases do receive benefit under the Industrial Injuries Act.

Dr. Stross

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware, however, that there is a general view among pottery workers and miners that a minimal amount of silicosis—and I use the word "minimal" advisedly—is no longer recognised or accepted or certified? Why has this change taken place? why do we no longer have the 2 per cent. pneumoconiosis, as we used to have?

Mr. Macpherson

I was not aware of that fact, but I will willingly look into it.

Supplementary Pension Schemes

26. Miss Herbison

asked the Minister of Pensions and National Insurance how many workers, apart from colliery workers, have a supplementary pension scheme under the powers of section 83(8)(a) of the National Insurance (Industrial Injuries) Act, 1946.

Mr. N. Macpherson

None, Sir.

Miss Herbison

Is the Minister not aware that there are many workers who would like to have the same benefits as those who are in the mining industry? 22Can the right hon. Gentleman do anything to try to get employers and employees together in other industries to bring about a scheme similar to that in the mining industry?

Mr. Macpherson

This is a case where the industry itself has to take the initiative. Where there are special circumstances involving particular risks in an industry, it is always open to the industry to put up schemes under this Section of the Act for consideration by the Minister.

Miss Herbison

But since all of them know that it is open to them to put up such schemes, could not the Minister do something to influence them to give greater thought to putting up schemes?

Mr. Macpherson

We already have the Industrial Injuries Act, which covers the broad risks for everybody in industry. It is for a particular industry to consider whether there is a special risk in that industry to warrant a special supplementary scheme.

National Assistance Supplementation (Scotland)

30. Mr. Small

asked the Minister of Pensions and National Insurance how many persons in Glasgow are refused National Assistance supplementation, or are being paid less supplementation than the scale rate, because of the application of regulation 3 of the National Assistance (Determination of Need) Regulations 1948.

31. Mr. Steele

asked the Minister of Pensions and National Insurance how many persons in Dunbartonshire are refused National Assistance supplementation or are being paid less supplementation than the scale rate, because of the application of regulation 3 of the National Assistance (Determination of Need) Regulations 1948.

32. Mr. Willis

asked the Minister of Pensions and National Insurance 23howmany persons in the area covered by the Motherwell office of the National Assistance Board are refused National Assistance supplementation, or are being paid less supplementation than the scale rate, because of the application of regulation 3 of the National Assistance (Determination of Need) Regulations 1948.

34. Mr. T. Fraser

asked the Minister of Pensions and National Insurance how many persons in the area covered by the Hamilton office of the National Assistance Board are refused National Assistance supplementation, or are being paid less supplementation than the scale rate, because of the application of regulation 3 of the National Assistance (Determination of Need) Regulations 1948.

The Joint Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Pensions and National Insurance (Mrs. Margaret Thatcher)

I assume that the hon. Members have in mind restrictions on National Assistance supplements to sickness or unemployment benefit, generally referred to as the wage-stop. Information relating to supplementation of sickness benefit is obtained on an annual sample basis only for the country as a whole, and separate figures for particular localities are not available. Information about supplements to unemployment benefit is also not available as asked for but a special inquiry early in March showed that the numbers of such supplements restricted at that date were:

Mr. Small

Does the hon. Lady recognise that these figures, according to information available to me, are rising fast and that they indicate that this provision falls heavily on people who, under the National Assistance (Determination of Need) Regulations, are not being equated with the normal standards which operate today? Will the hon. Lady now review the regulations with a view to scaling them up?

Mrs. Thatcher

The figures are not rising f* they are falling with the 24fall in unemployment. This regulation has been inherent in the National Assistance provisions since their inception, and I see no reason to change it.

Mr. Lawson

Is the hon. Lady satisfied that this regulation is being applied in each area with as much generosity, fairness and uniformity as in other areas? Is she aware that there are good reasons for believing that there is quite a wide margin of discrimination in some areas compared with others? Will the hon. Lady look at this?

Mrs. Thatcher

We have tried to secure that the regulations are applied uniformly. The acid test is what the man concerned could get if he went back to work in that area.

Mr. Bence

Is the hon. Lady aware that many workers are made redundant in a factory register at the employment exchange for a particular function—and I have an electricity wireman in my constituency in mind—but when they go for National Assistance they are classified as general labourers? As the scale is lower, they seem to be reclassified by the Board to their disadvantage. Will the hon. Lady look at that?

Mrs. Thatcher

The Board has no power to do the classification. It has to consult the Ministry of Labour to see what kind of work is available at that time. I am aware that circumstances such as those to which the hon. Member has referred arise.

Miss Herbison

Is the hon. Lady aware that, judging even from the figures which she has given, there are hundreds of people in Scotland, particularly, where wage rates are lower, who are now being asked to live and bring up their families on an amount of money which is much smaller than the Government think is necessary for a subsistence level? Since that has obtained particularly since the last two increases in the National Assistance rates, would the hon. Lady not agree that the time has come for the Minister to have this matter examined or to give it to his Advisory Committee in order to mitigate as much as possible the great hardship which the children of these workers are suffering under the week-stop rule?

Mrs. Thatcher

The regulation is designed to ensure that people receive 25no more money when unemployed than they would receive if they went back to work in such jobs as were available that week. I believe that this is a reasonable state of affairs and that the National Assistance Board's officers do their best to alleviate hardship wherever it occurs.

35. Mr. Ross

asked the Minister of Pensions and National Insurance what proportion in Scotland of married men, with a dependent wife and five or more children, are receiving either no National Assistance supplementation, or less than the scale rate, because of the application of the National Assistance (Determination of Need) Regulations, 1948.

Mrs. Thatcher

I regret that no information relating to restrictions on supplements to either sickness or unemployment benefit is available in relation to families of a particular size.

Mr. Ross

Will the hon. Lady ask the Minister to refer this whole question to the Advisory Committee? There is no doubt that hardship is being caused when people are paid less than the scale. She can hardly deny it if she has not got the figures. Will the hon. Lady do the first thing necessary and try to obtain some information about it, supplemented by the information she already has for the month of March? Does she realise the inconsistency in giving us the figures for March and pretending that they are falling because unemployment is falling, when, in fact, unemployment was rising in the month of March?

Mrs. Thatcher

If the hon. Gentleman was drawing conclusions from my facial expression during the first part of his supplementary question, I thought that the referred to the National Insurance Advisory Committee, which, of course, is not concerned with National Assistance matters.

Personal Case

36. Mr. Prentice

asked the Minister of Pensions and National Insurance whether he will reconsider his refusal to back-date to 1944 the war disability pension awarded to Mr. E. H. Sadler, of 243, Green Street, E.7, in 1962, in view of the fact that the medical evidence upon which his claim succeeded in 1962 was equally applicable in 1944 and in 1951 when his pension applications were rejected.

26

The Joint Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Pensions and National Insurance (Lieut.-Commander S. L. C. Maydon)

Mr. Sadler's application for arrears, as the hon. Member is aware, has been very carefully considered and my right hon. Friend is unable to vary the decision.

Mr. Prentice

Does the hon. and gallant Gentleman realise that this decision seems to fall short of the fairness which we expect in cases of this kind? Will he acknowledge, first, that this man's disability has now been found to have been aggravated by war service, and one is entitled to assume, therefore, that it was aggravated in 1944 and thereafter; and, second, that this is not the ordinary case of a man not taking the trouble to apply, since he did apply in 1944 and in 1951, being turned down on a medical decision which has now been over-ruled? In the circumstances, will he look into the matter again?

Lieut.-Commander Maydon

I am aware of the facts which the hon. Gentleman has given, but I do not accept the implications. One of the principles of these claims is that a claim can be made at any time and, in consequence, we are normally unable to accept that arrears should be paid—in some cases over very many years. The principle on which we work is that, unless there is evidence that a man's claim has been delayed for reasons of physical or mental illness, or unless there are particular circumstances in which a medical assessment could have been gravely wrong, arrears will not be granted.

Mr. Mitchison

But is not this grossly unfair? Apparently, this man applied on two occasions. Before he finally got his pension, he received two refusals which now, in the light of what we know, appear to have been unjust. Why penalise him for that?

Lieut.-Commander Maydon

There is no question of penalising the man. The hon. and learned Gentleman will be aware that a disease in this sort of case is a continuing process; it may get worse or it may get better. This is one of the reasons why arrears can be paid only to the date of the application, and not further back. Otherwise, one might be basing the payment of arrears on purely hypothetical considerations of which there is no evidence or proof.

27

Mr. Prentice

In view of the unsatisfactory nature of the reply, I beg to give notice that I shall raise the matter on the Adjournment at the earliest possible moment.