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

1965 Mar 25 Th
Margaret Thatcher

HC S [National Insurance]

Document type:public statement
Document kind:House of Commons Speech
Venue:House of Commons
Source:Hansard HC [709/1141-58]
Journalist:-
Editorial comments:1137-?1215. MT intervened at cc1153-54. For the sake of fuller understanding the whole of this brief debate has been included.
Importance ranking:Minor
Word count:6333
Themes:Social security and welfare
1141

NATIONAL INSURANCE

Mr. Speaker

Mr. Airey Neave. 11.37 a.m.

Mr. Airey Neave (Abingdon)

rose——

Mr. Robert Woof (Blaydon)

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I understand that we are now on the continuation of the debate on the Consolidated Fund (No. 2) Bill, and the next subject for debate in order on the list was regional development, to be introduced by the hon. Lady the Member for Tynemouth (Dame Irene Ward). Like the hon. Lady, I have been siting on these benches all night—as a matter of fact, I have been here since 9 o'clock yesterday morning waiting for this subject to be introduced.

Might I ask why it is that the hon. Member for Abingdon (Mr. Neave)—and I am not complaining if he has not been here all night—is given this opportunity to talk about the Bill which he proposed to introduce, as against the subject of regional development which was supposed to be introduced by the hon. Lady the Member for Tynemouth?

Dame Irene Ward (Tynemouth)

rose——

Mr. Speaker

Order. The hon. Lady has been here a lot, and I am gratified to see that she is still here. I do not know whether the hon. Gentleman the Member for Blaydon (Mr. Woof) was here when, a moment ago, I explained the significance of the list of the order of topics. It does not commit, and cannot be regarded as committing, the Chair to look in any particular direction at all. It is merely introduced in so far as it can operate for the general convenience, but I am afraid that it is liable to all sorts of change at any time.

Dame Irene Ward

Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. I purposely did not attempt to catch your eye, because after the way in which my hon. Friend the Member for Abingdon (Mr. Neave) has been treated by the House I would prefer him to speak now. I am very glad, indeed, that he has caught your eye, and 1142I would not have minded had I sat for three days and nights if he had the opportunity to introduce his Bill. It is all very well for the hon. Member opposite to raise points of order but, surely, in this House it is for me to decide whether I stand or not. The hon. Gentleman cannot take that obligation on himself. I am perfectly——

Mr. Speaker

Order. We seem to be getting a long way from points of order of genuine character, but no one doubts that the hon. Lady is wholly in control of her own movements—no one doubts that. But it must also be presumed that the hon. Gentleman is also, and what he is talking about is why, if he gets up, he is not allowed to do that, and the answer is that I have called Mr. Airey Neave. 11.39 a.m.

Mr. Neave

I am glad that the right hon. Lady the Minister of Pensions and National Insurance is here to listen to me, and I am glad to have this opportunity to raise the subject of the pensionless people who were excluded from the National Insurance Scheme in 1948. The House, I am sure, is well aware of what has gone before. It knows that I had intended to introduce this matter in a very different form which it would be out of order for me to mention now. I am glad to have had considerable support, principally from the hon. and learned Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget), in regard to the manner in which I was excluded from raising the matter in legislative form.

It may be that I shall try to take other opportunities, but since this matter cannot wait, since these old people who were disqualified from National Insurance in 1948 are, for the most part over 80—the average age is nearly 84—and since, by the law of nature, they are growing older, I should like to hear from the right hon. Lady now what urgent action she intends to take about them. We have been told on several occasions that a general review of social security is taking place and that, eventually, some minimum income scheme or an arrangement of that kind will be introduced. But can these old people wait?

Since I talked about introducing a Bill in November last year, I have received more than 2,000 letters. I am 1143sorry to say that many of the writers have died since they first wrote to me. This shows the urgency of the situation and the need for the Government to take action. As I have said, it was my original purpose to do something about it in a different form.

One realises that most of these old people were disqualified because the Labour Government in 1948 decided that people who were over pensionable age and were not existing contributors or beneficiaries could not benefit under the National Insurance Scheme, and it is true that that policy was continued under the Conservative Government. One has heard the criticism that these reforms were not carried out during the years when the Conservatives were in power. I remind the right hon. Lady that the contributory principle was applied by the Labour Government when they excluded these old people in the first place, and it was followed by the Conservatives. Apparently, it is her policy now as regards paying them pensions out of the National Insurance Fund.

The right hon. Lady has said this in statements in the House, and it has been confirmed in letters which I have read from her and even from the Prime Minister, to the effect that it was not possible to pay these pensions without contribution. This has been the Ark of the Covenant of both parties, and it is a fact that, during the past 13 years when the last Government were in office, there was no record in the Official report of the Labour Party criticising the Conservative Government on that account at all. The reason may be that, until last year, very few members of the public and, perhaps, few hon. Members were aware of the nature of the problem and its extent.

Of those disqualified on 5th July, 1948, 250,000 survive today. As I have said, I have received many letters from them and it is plain that they are suffering hardship. I do not deny that some of them have substantial means of their own, but they are suffering hardship which, quite clearly, was not envisaged in 1948. Times have changed for them. They are growing very much older. I have had letters from old ladies and gentlemen of over 90 and one from a lady of 100. They are persons whom the 1144Welfare State has left out. I do not deny that they have been left out by both parties, but this does not absolve those in office today of the responsibility of doing something soon. By "soon" I mean this year, as soon as possible. If I had been able to introduce legislation, I should have said within six months.

There are only 250,000 left, and the right hon. Lady's Department can, surely, find a means of paying them pensions. I do not suggest that she should pay flatrate retirement or widows' pensions, as the case might be, because I accept that she must take into account the contributory principle, but I am, sure that she could find means of paying a pension which was reduced by the relevant amount of contribution which had either been paid partially by some people or not paid at all. It cannot be beyond the wit of man to find a means of doing it.

I have been told that the machinery is not possible, but, frankly, I do not believe it. The right hon. Lady could give a lot of reassurance to all these old people who have written to me and to her and who were awaiting a full-dress debate on the matter today. They were awaiting it with great interest, and it would be a help to them if the right hon. Lady would now say that she proposes to introduce plans which will directly benefit them.

It is clear that they have suffered hardship during the past few years. Most of them, I suppose, had savings in 1948. They come mostly from the professional classes. The right hon. Lady knows that, before 1948, there were people in certain excepted occupations under the voluntary pensions legislation and other pensions Measures, teachers, for instance, policemen and those in local government, and many are sadly affected today by their exclusion because they were above the pension age.

One of the difficulties of which the right hon. Lady will be aware from her Department—I acknowledge that the Department has helped me a good deal in this matter—is that it is not really possible, the present records not being adequate, to distinguish one category from another with great ease. Therefore, if she does decide to take action, people should apply for pensions so that she may assess the position. 1145

I know that one difficulty which the hon. Lady will refer to in reply is that there are numbers of other pensionless persons—about 300,000 I think—whom she wishes to cover in any scheme which she adopts. I consider that these first 250,000 disqualified in 1948 should have priority. They are the older people, and she should take action about them first.

I am sorry that the Government were not willing to risk a Division on this matter. I do not quite understand why. They have set themselves up as the champions of the poor and the old, promising to do their best for them. Their election statements said that they would take immediate action and that they were poised to do so. I should have thought that they would not mind risking a Division on a matter of this kind. However, Mr. Speaker, as the business has turned out, you have been kind enough to call me in a different rôle today and there will be no Division on this issue at the moment. But why were the Government not able to face a Division? It would have demonstrated the considerable support in the House, as there is in the country, for what I am proposing. The right hon. Lady will have read the newspapers. She will probably have read the article in the New Statesman on this subject, which pointed out that politics is a matter of action and humanity as much as anything else.

I am appealing for action and humanity. It is not humane to leave these old people out any longer. The right hon. Lady cannot put them off any longer, in view of their age, by referring to some unspecified date at which she will introduce a minimum income guarantee. This will be of no satisfaction to them. I hope that she will not say that those who are now living on dwindling savings in these times should gradually sink towards National Assistance as their savings run out. That would be very unfair indeed in this particular case. In the past, the party opposite has complained about the number of people on National Assistance, and the purpose of my proposal is to take these old people away from that position. In fact, to pay full pensions to the 250,000 would mean a saving of £20 million on National Assistance. The right hon. Lady's Department kindly gave me that figure. The total net cost of paying 1146them not a full pension—I am not suggesting that—would be £30 million.

On Monday, large increases in benefits, costing £300 million, will be paid under the last National Insurance Measure to all those insured today under the national scheme. Since it would cost only £30 million, why could not the right hon. Lady find a way of including these old people in her last piece of legislation? I am not proposing legislation. I am speaking about past legislation. Why not? This matter was drawn to her attention by my hon. Friend the Member for Worthing (Mr. Higgins) in his maiden speech on the Second Reading of that Bill.

The right hon. Lady knew about it, and she knew what my own unmentionable intentions were at that time. Why could they not have been included? Was it impossible for her to spare £30 million from the National Insurance Fund for the purpose? On that Bill, the right hon. Lady told us that she had £61 million in the "kitty". What has happened to that £61 million surplus of income over outgoings? Has she no more money in the fund, or will the Chancellor not let her have it?

The right hon. Lady has often spoken with great feeling about old people and I have listened to and read speeches that she has made about them. I am sure that she has true feeling and sympathy for them. When she spoke during the debate on the National Insurance Act, 1963, she referred to old people in general and said:

"I can think of many uses to which the old people could put a lump sum at the end of May. They could buy the warm blankets that so many of them deperately need."—[Official Report, 28th January, 1963; Vol. 670, c. 694] Will she think of those words again in relation to these non-pensioners?

Mr. Selwyn Lloyd(Wirral)

Before my hon. Friend sits down, I want to tell the House that an ugly rumour has reached me that the Patronage Secretary is about the move the Closure. I want to make it plain that we would regard any such action with disgust and contempt—a discreditable action.

Mr. Neave

I must say that after the way in which hon. Members opposite has attempted to treat me in this matter 1147I cannot but agree with my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Wirral (Mr. Selwyn Lloyd). But the country and certainly the constituencies are well aware of how my attempt to introduce this matter has been frustrated. Anyone who listened to the radio this morning and has read the newspapers will be well aware of the situation. I do not think I need make any further reference to that treatment today except to say that if the Closure is moved at the present time we shall all draw our own conclusions, as we already have about the attitude of the Government on this subject.

Mr. Arthur Lewis(West Ham, North)

Was not the hon. Gentleman himself a member of the Conservative Government, who were in office for 13 years? Why did not that Government do what he is now asking?

Mr. Neave

That is a wholly irrelevant intervention. The Government cannot excuse themselves from dealing with this problem by asking why someone else did not do it. These people are growing older and the problem becomes more acute. The Minister knows that I started my study of this matter as a result of a case in my constituency, which I referred to the last Government. They held to the contributory principle and I think that she does herself. She has often said that these people could not be paid pensions because of their lack of contributions. Both parties have left these people out for exactly the same reason.

I should feel that there was more sincerity about the intervention of the hon. Member for West Ham, North (Mr. Arthur Lewis) if there had been the slightest sign among hon. Members opposite that they had ever intervened on behalf of these people in the last 13 years. That would have made a great deal of difference to the hon. Gentleman's sincerity. I do not think that he knew about this problem until I was able to draw attention to it. I should like to thank the various newspapers and others who have drawn attention to it also.

Mr. Arthur Lewis

rose——

Mr. Neave

I shall not give way again. I want to sit down in a moment. The 1148hon. Gentleman can have nothing more to say following his intervention, which was irrelevant.

The people with whom I am concerned are growing very old and I want to know what the Government intend to do. They cannot wait. It is shameful to allow them to wait for political or any other reasons. The right hon. Lady has a sum of money in the National Insurance Fund. Why does she not get £30 million out of that and pay these people pensions based on the rate of pension for contributory pensions?

I might have made my points at greater length and there might have been a very different result from what will happen now had I been heard in a different capacity. But I hope that what I have said will be considered and that the Government will do something within a few months, will search out these old people, find out their situation and take action. 11.55 a.m.

The Minister of Pensions and National Insurance (Miss Margaret Herbison)

I am very pleased indeed that the hon. Member for Abingdon (Mr. Neave) has been able to make his case for these old people today. Some of these 250,000 old people and a great many other old people deserve the consideration of the House and although I understand, and know, that this is a short debate—[Hon. Members: "Why?"] If hon. Members would like to have an answer to the case, if they are really concerned about these old people, then they should want to know what the Government propose to do instead of making the kind of noise that they are making at present.

Mr. Peter Emery

rose——

Miss Herbison

No. I did not interrupt the hon. Member for Abingdon, for I wanted to give him a chance to make a coherent case on behalf of these old people. I hope that I shall be allowed to make a coherent case for the Government.

Mr. Emery

rose——

Miss Herbison

No. I am not giving way at this early stage.

What the hon. Member for Abingdon asks is that pensions be given indiscriminately to these 250,000 old people. 1149The House and the country ought to know that this is not a homogeneous group. It includes about 120,000 who are in receipt of National Assistance and would have no benefit from the hon. Member's proposals. These old people have small fixed incomes and because of the continual rise in the cost of living their savings have been eroded and they are being helped by the National Assistance Board. They may be ex-school teachers, some of them with small pensions. They may be ministers of religion. There are all sorts of people in that category who are really in need of help.

At the other end of the scale are those who are very well off indeed. Some are ex-businessmen who still have very good assets. There are landowners among them. Thus, in the whole group of 250,000, there is a great variety of people with incomes ranging from the very small to the very large.

I had intended to deal with the reasons why they were not insured. Some of them could have been insured, but are not.

Mr. Terence L. Higgins (Worthing)

rose——

Miss Herbison

I am sorry—not at this stage. [Hon. Members: "Give way."] I will give way—[Hon. Members: "When it suits you."]—not when it suits me, but when it is suitable to give way.

Mr. Higgins

rose——

Miss Herbison

Not at this stage. When I have finished this part of my speech I will certainly give way. I have every intention of clearing up as many points on this matter as I can.

As I have said, some of these 250,000 people could have had insurance under the old voluntary schemes, but, for one reason and another, decided that they did not want to do so. The cost of giving them the pensions asked for by the hon. Gentleman would, as he says, be £50 million. But already £20 million is being given to them through National Assistance, so the net cost to the nation would be £30 million. The Bill which he proposed to introduce would take this money out of the National Insurance Fund. 1150

These are not the only old people who are without pension. We have, in addition to that 250,000, another 200,000 old people who are without a pension. These are old people who have retired since 1948. Some of them would have retired, perhaps, just a year after 1948. So that a great many of them are no different from the 250,000 about whom the hon. Member is concerned.

Mr. Neave

Except in age.

Miss Herbison

No. Not even in age, because some of the 250,000 could have retired in 1949. So some of these old people are very old indeed and are without pension.

Amongst those old people we have, perhaps, a daughter who stayed at home to look after her ageing parents and who was prevented from paying insurance, and now, in her own old age, has no insurance at all. There are also amongst these people those who are called late age entrants. In other words, they were within 10 years of retiring age in 1948. They paid their contributions, and if they had continued to pay for 10 years they would have had the full pension, but they were given an option—I think rightly—which was that when they reached pension age they could withdraw their contribution. About 84,000 elected to withdraw their contributions.

Who would these people be? People who, possibly, retired on nothing eise but a small fixed income, and who found it impossible when they retired to continue paying contributions to the National Insurance Fund. The vast majority of them would be in that category. So among those 200,000, again, we have people whom I would consider very badly off and needing help—and 90,000 of them are getting National Assistance. At the other end, some of the 250,000 will be people who are fairly comfortably off.

We could not, in justice, do something for the 250,000 and not do something for the 200,000.

Mr. Higgins

I am most grateful to the right hon. Lady for giving way now. She is making great play with the fact that a number of these people are above the National Assistance level and she is saying that they are, in fact, well off, and there is no reason why we should, therefore, give them a pension in the terms 1151of the Bill which we should have been debating had we had the chance.

May I point out to her that the increases which were given in the November Measure were increases with no contribution whatsoever from the pensioners already retired, and they were also given to people some of whom were well off. There is no reason at all why she should be prepared to spend £300 million on them but not be equally prepared to spend it on the people who would benefit by my hon. Friend's Bill.

The argument that she is putting forward, that some of these people are not actually on National Assistance, is completely and utterly fallacious.

Miss Herbison

I have every intention of dealing with the point which the hon. Member has made in his intervention, but I want to insist again that if we do anything for the 250,000 we could not, in justice, leave out the other 200,000.

The cost for them would be another £20 million—that is, after deducting payments made by the National Assistance Board.

We have another group of people——

Mr. Emery

rose——

Miss Herbison

No. I cannot give way at this stage.—[Hon. Members: "Why not?"] There is another very big group of people, about 300,000 of them, who have a reduced pension. These are people who did contribute but because they had deficiencies in their payments had reduced pensions. One could not possibly say we were going to give to these others a pension if, at the same time, we did not give it to these 300,000.

Adding all these three categories together—and all of them are people whom we should like to help—and the full cost, which would have to come out of the National Insurance Fund, would be around £104 million, with a saving of about £40 million on payments by the National Assistance Board.

The hon. Member knows that in the Fund we have got to take care we ensure the pension for those who are continuing to contribute in the future, and he knows very well that that amount is in the National Insurance Fund.

1152

Mr. Emery

rose——

Miss Herbison

I cannot give way at this stage, because it is important that this case should be known in the country.

Mr. Eric Lubbock (Orpington)

On a point of order. The right hon. Lady has refused to give way now twice—[Hon. Members: "Three times."] Three times she has refused to give way. [Interruption.] Shut up. We are wondering whether we are to have an opportunity, after the right hon. Lady has sat down, to deal with the points that the right hon. Lady has made.

Sir Rolf Dudley Williams (Exeter)

Further to that point of order——

Mr. Speaker

It was not one, although whether it was presented as one or not I cannot say.

Mr. Emery

As the right hon. Lady has been interrupted, will she give way? I have asked three times.

Sir Rolf Dudley Williams

On a point of order. There is a rumour going around the benches that after the right hon. Lady has sat down the Patronage Secretary will move the Closure. It has been suggested to me that you will accept the Closure, Mr. Speaker. The right hon. Lady is making very provocative statements. Surely we should be given an opportunity to answer the statements that she is making in her speech?

Mr. Speaker

The question of the right hon. Lady's choosing to give way or not to allow an opportunity to answer does not raise a point of order, because I cannot control her movements in that respect. They are for her. In so far as the hon. Member's question carries a further implication relating to further speeches, I must say that that, also, will not in practice be under my control.

Mr. Walter Monslow (Barrow-in-Furness)

The hon. Member opposite is not generally here on a Friday—[Interruption.]

Mr. Speaker

Order. I know that some hon. Members are, perhaps, a little excited or jubilant, and that some other hon. Members are, perhaps, a little tired. I think that it is important not to make semaphore gestures during our debates.

1153

Miss Herbison

The hon. Member for Abingdon suggested that the 250,000 with whom he is concerned would be a dwindling number. There is not any doubt about that, but in each of the other two categories there will be each year more and more coming in as others go out. So if a decision were taken that out of the National Insurance Fund we should take care of all those three groups of people, that would be a continuing liability to the Fund.

The hon. Member said that he felt that Members on both sides of the House had not realised that this was a serious problem. It was because we on this side of the House realised that it was serious that we got down to the job of working out a system whereby all of those old people could be helped by our minimum income guarantee.

Mr. Emery

Will the right hon. Lady give way?

Miss Herbison

The hon. Lady the Member for Finchley (Mrs. Thatcher), who was at the Ministry for a considerable time, was asked a Question by one of her hon. Friends on 16th July, 1962. That is a number of years ago. In reply to a supplementary question, she said:

"I would point out that there is very little point in saying, on the one hand, that to get the pension as of right one should contribute to it and, on the other hand, ‘Never mind whether you contributed or not, you will get it in any case. That seems quite contradictory’."

Mrs. Margaret Thatcher (Finchley)

rose——

Miss Herbison

I will give way to the hon. Lady in a moment.

That was the answer to the first supplementary question. A further supplementary question was put to her, and she said:

"... but many of these people have private resources or occupational pensions".—[Official Report, 16th July, 1962; Vol. 663, c. 5.]

It has been said that the Government did not know about this, but that was the line which was taken by the hon. Lady.

Mrs. Thatcher

I was not aware that my hon. Friend the Member for Abingdon (Mr. Neave) was suggesting that any of these people should get the full retirement pension. I thought the suggestion was that it should be that amount less the 1154contributory element. As the right hon. Lady has stated to me in reply to a Question today, there are people now over 80, alongside these people who are drawing the full pension, who could have paid in total as little as £7 10s. and drawn it.

Hon. Members

That was during 13 years of Tory rule.

Miss Herbison

I think that the hon. Lady's intervention makes the Opposition's case worse. She said that this was only asking about a partial pension. Even when talking about a partial pension she used the words that I have quoted.

Mr. Emery

rose——

Miss Herbison

That is not the whole story. Here, I would refer to Mr. O'Hanlon, who is the Secretary of the Old-Aged Non-Pensioners Association. I am sure that he does very good work indeed for the old people, and I pay tribute to him. I understand that in May, 1963, a deputation was taken to meet the hon. Lady at the Ministry to discuss the problems of these old people.

Mr. Arthur Lewis

What was the reply?

Miss Herbison

I do not know the reply.

Mr. Arthur Lewis

What happened?

Miss Herbison

All I know is that from May, 1963, until the Opposition lost power in October, 1964, nothing was done for the old people.

Several Hon. Members

rose——

Hon. Members

Sit down.

Miss Herbison

I will not give way at this stage.

Mr. Higgins

Will the right hon. Lady give way?

Miss Herbison

No. [Interruption.]

Mr. Speaker

Order. I have heard the right hon. Lady say that she will not give way at this stage. In the circumstances, the hon. Gentleman must not persist.

Hon. Members

Disgraceful.

Miss Herbison

I thought that it was important that these facts should be——

Mr. Higgins

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. May I have your guidance? 1155If the right hon. Lady refers to one of my constituents by name, would it not be courteous for her to give way to me?

Mr. Speaker

That is not a point of order, because I cannot control the right hon. Lady's movements.

Miss Herbison

I am quite certain that the constituent of the hon. Member for Worthing (Mr. Higgins) will not take any offence at the tribute which I paid to him.

Mr. Emery

rose——

Hon. Members

Sit down.

Hon. Members

Disgraceful.

Miss Herbison

I am sorry that there is all this noise in the debate, but it is evident, and I hope that the country will note it—[Interruption.]—that this noise—[Interruption.]—is because the Opposition do not want to hear the case.

Several Hon. Members

rose——

Miss Herbison

I was at the stage of pointing out that the total cost for all these people in 1965 to 1966 would be a little more than £100 million. There may be various ways of doing this. The hon. Member for Abingdon wished to take the money out of the Fund. That would mean increased contributions.

Mr. Neave

indicated assent.

Miss Herbison

It would mean that some of the very low wage earners—some of whom are earning less than those on National Assistance—would have to face an increase in their contributions. There might be another way of doing it. Since the Chancellor will be saving about £40 million in National Assistance, it might be suggested that they could be given the other £60 million. That might be thought to be worth considering. But to make possible the increase in pensions that will be paid on Monday the Chancellor had to put 6d. on the Income Tax——

Sir Keith Joseph(Leeds, North-East)

Will the right hon. Lady—[Interruption.]

Mr. Speaker

Order, order. Another fact that hon. Member are not thinking about, but which they will have to, is that any discussing of taxation is out of order on this Question.

1156

Sir K. Joseph

Will the right hon. Lady give way?

Miss Herbison

No. All I want to say is that the Opposition voted against the means to give the old people the increase in pension.

Sir K. Joseph

Withdraw.

Miss Herbison

rose——

Mr. Peter Bessell (Bodmin)

Will the right hon. Lady give way?

Miss Herbison

Perhaps in a minute or two.

We, on the other hand, have a clear policy for the old people in our incomes guarantee. We are working very busily on it at the present time. We regard this as a very urgent matter, and it will be introduced as quickly as possible. Hon. Members opposite should look at our election manifesto. [Interruption.] They should realise that we have been in office as the Government for only five months, and they should also bear in mind the number of things that we have done which have helped all these old-age pensioners. First of all, there was the abolition of the prescription charges, which cost about £20 million. That helps all the old people.

Mr. Emery

rose——

Miss Herbison

There are other pledges that we have honoured. We have honoured pledges in the social security field. Our old people have had the biggest pensions increase ever since 1946. There are also the old people on National Assistance. There are a great many of the ones we have been discussing today, who have no pension, who are on National Assistance. We gave them the biggest increase ever. Then there is the earnings rule.

Sir K. Joseph

rose——

Miss Herbison

No.

Another of the things we have done is to abolish the earnings rule for widows. We have raised the 10s. pension to 30s. That is what we have done in my Ministry and in the Ministry of Health in five months. From my contacts with old people—and I meet thousands of them—I realise that they have faith in this Government and know that for those 1157who have real need the incomes guarantee will come in as quickly as possible.

Mr. Bessell

I am not out of sympathy with the right hon. Lady, who is having to make a very difficult argument on behalf of her party which, today, stands condemned in the country for the fact that it has failed to put right a wrong which was perpetrated for 13 years by the Opposition.

Miss Herbison

I thought that the hon. Gentleman was a reasonable Member. What I have tried to show to the House in the last part of my speech, is that of our social security programme we have honoured a great part already and have every intention of honouring the remainder as soon as possible so as to end the two nations which we have always had and about which the Tories, for 13 years, did nothing.

The Parliamentary Secretary to the Treasury (Mr. Edward Short)

rose in his place and claimed to move, That the Question be now put.

Question put, That the Question be now put:——

The House proceeded to a Division——

Mr. T. L. Iremonger (Ilford, North) (seated and covered)

On a point of order. Is it in order for the Patronage 1158Secretary to practise deliberate deception on the House?

Mr. Speaker

The proposition that a Member, even if he happens to be a Minister, has deliberately practised deception on the House must be withdrawn. It would require a substantive Motion if the hon. Gentleman desires to say it.

Mr. Iremonger

Further to that point of order.

Mr. Speaker

I think that the hon. Gentleman did not hear me. I said that he would have to withdraw the expression he used. We can go on after he has withdrawn it.

Mr. Iremonger

If I substituted "misled", would that be acceptable?

Mr. Speaker

If the hon. Member withdraws what he says and substitutes something which does not make an accusation of dishonesty, that would be in order.

Mr. Iremonger

Subject to your direction, Mr. Speaker, I withdraw whatever you tell me to withdraw and substitute "misled", for the reason that we were told that the debate had to go on, thus losing the Bill of my hon. Friend the Member for Abingdon (Mr. Neave), so that we could speak in the debate as we wished. We have now been deceived.

Ayes 159, Noes 107.