PENSIONS AND NATIONAL INSURANCE
1. Dr. Stross
asked the Minister of Pensions and National Insurance what research he is conducting, under the Industrial Injuries Act, into the causes, incidence and methods of prevention of accidents.
The Minister of Pensions and National Insurance (Mr. John Boyd-Carpenter)
None, Sir. Responsibility in respect of such matters lies in general with my right hon. Friend the Minister of Labour, and in respect of particular industries with my right hon. Friend concerned with that industry.
Am I wrong in assuming that the right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Pensions has statutory opportunities to do research in this field? Is there any reason why he is not doing it?
I think the hon. Member has in mind Section 73 of the Industrial Injuries Act. I am, in fact, operating those powers at the moment, not in respect of accidents, as mentioned in the Question, but for financing two research projects relating to diseases which might have some bearing on prescription.
In that case, is there any co-ordination with the Ministry of Labour or the Minister of Power in this matter?
Of course I keep in touch with my right hon. Friends, but no good would be done, and a great many wires would be crossed, if I were to try to enter into their responsibilities in respect of accident prevention.
Mr. Elwyn Jones
As a great deal of information must come to the right hon. Gentleman's Department in connection with these claims—which run into vast numbers—is there not some advantage in direct liaison with the Ministry of Labour in regard to information collected in the right hon. Gentleman's Department?[column 4]
Of course there is close liaison, and, as the hon. and learned Member says, my Department collects a lot of information that is useful to other Departments as a result of dealing with these large numbers of claims.
2. Dr. Stross
asked the Minister of Pensions and National Insurance whether he will state the number of successful claims in 1959 and 1960 under the National Insurance (Industrial Injuries) Act, in respect of accidents causing at least three days incapacity to persons subject to the Factory Acts; and what was the number of working days lost as a result of such accidents.
The Joint Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Pensions and National Insurance (Mr. Richard Sharples)
In dealing with claims for injury benefit, no distinction is made between persons covered by the Factories Acts and the many other persons whose injuries arise out of and in the course of their employment. I regret, therefore, that the information requested is not available.
Is it not desirable to try to obtain this information if only for one reason—that many reportable accidents are not so reported and that the right hon. Gentleman's Department is paying out in many more cases than the numbers which are reported? For example, the numbers reported last year were 190,000-odd, and it may well be that the number of claims which are made are greater than this. Should we not know the actual facts?
The Factories Act, 1961, Section 80, places the responsibility for reporting accidents to the Factory Inspectorate of the Ministry of Labour on occupiers of factories. The industrial injuries scheme covers a very much wider field, and we do not collect separate statistics of the accidents covered by the Factories Act.
Mr. Elwyn Jones
Is it possible to say what proportion of the persons injured are subject to the Factories Act, because a number of hon. Members on this side of the House feel that there is a large area of industrial activity which is not protected and which ought to be protected.[column 5]
Perhaps the hon. and learned Member would like to put down a Question on that.
Owing to the fact that the answer is not entirely satisfactory, I beg to give notice that I shall raise the matter on the Adjournment.
Graduated Pension Scheme
5. Mr. Houghton
asked the Minister of Pensions and National Insurance approximately how many persons are paying graduated contributions; what proportion this is of the total number of persons insured in Class I; how many persons have contracted out; and what is the current flow of applications to be granted certificates of non-participating employment.
The number paying graduated contributions will not be known until employers' P.A.Y.E. returns for the year 1961–62 have been received and analysed. A total of 4,385,280 employees have been contracted out. The number of employees covered by certificates issued since 3rd April of this year is 92,832 and certificates have been issued in the last few weeks at a rate increasing this number by an average of about 1,200 per week.
6. Mr. Houghton
asked the Minister of Pensions and National Insurance what difficulties he has encountered in the launching of the graduated pensions scheme; what steps he is taking to overcome them; and whether he will make a statement.
I have so far encountered no special difficulties and the arrangements seem to be working well; but it would be premature to try to make a comprehensive statement before the returns for a full year's working have been made and examined.
Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that there appears to have been a good deal of difficulty about wrong National Insurance numbers supplied to the Inland Revenue, that thousands of them have come back for verification and correction and that the staff of the Inland Revenue have gone on overtime to do this job? Is that a local difficulty or is it more serious than some people suggest?[column 6]
When a new and radically different scheme such as this starts there is always this sort of problem, but I am happy to say that the staff of the Inland Revenue, as one would expect, have been most helpful over this and that the problem is on the way to being overcome.
Mr. J. Griffiths
By what amount has the number of people who contracted out exceeded the Minister's estimate? How near is it to the danger point at which the number contracted out would make the scheme unworkable?
The figure put in the White Paper as long ago as 1958, although it could hardly at the stage, before the Bill had even been published, be called an estimate and was in fact no more than a guess, was 2½ million. The figure I have just given was 4,300,000-odd. The assumptions, financial and otherwise, on which the scheme was founded were highly conservative—with a small “c” —and contracting out of this sort does not of itself do other than indicate that there was a real demand for it and that the purpose of the Measure, to stimulate the development of good private schemes, is well on the way to fruition.
8. Mr. Swingler
asked the Minister of Pensions and National Insurance if he is aware of the grievance of those who have been compelled to make contributions towards a graduated pension which prove to be insufficient on retirement to enable them to gain any benefit; and if he will refund the contributions to those concerned.
I do not think there is a grievance here. The basis of the scheme is that, on retirement, any odd graduated contributions which amount to a half unit or more are treated as a whole unit producing 6d. a week graduated pension; amounts of less than a half unit do not count. I think this is fair.
There is a grievance on the part of those who find themselves in the position of having made contributions of less than half a unit and being unable to get any benefit from it. Since it was known that this would happen, will the Minister review the position of those who are obviously going to retire before any benefit can be gained for them and who [column 7]therefore make contributions which, as far as they are concerned, are worthless?
No. Looked at broadly, the chance of somebody getting a whole unit for contributions of less than a whole unit must work out at about the same as the chance of someone who contributes less than half a unit and gets nothing. Broadly, that is surely a sensible arrangement. In any event, the hon. Member will recall that the graduated pension is paid jointly with the flat-rate pension, in respect of which no one who retires now or for many years to come will have contributed anything like the actual cost.
Is the Minister aware that I am not talking about partial benefits or portions of benefits, but about those who get no benefit from the graduated scheme at all because their contributions have been so small that they cannot qualify in any way? It is only to those cases, in which there is a natural sense of grievance, that I have referred.
I fully understand the hon Member's point, and I understood it originally. He must bear in mind that the small, nugatory, contribution made comes in the overwhelming majority of cases from people who will get the full flat-rate pension for which they have by no means fully paid.
(Kennington and Brixton)
9. Mr Lipton
asked the Minister of Pensions and National Insurance how many allowances are on issue by the Kennington and Brixton area offices of the National Assistance Board; and what was the corresponding figure last year.
The Joint Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Pensions and National Insurance (Mrs. Margaret Thatcher)
The number of weekly National Assistance grants current at 31st October last in the area served by the Kennington and Brixton offices of the National Assistance Board was 9,466. The comparable figure a year before was 9,404.
What inference does the hon. Lady draw from those figures? Is it not clear that there seem to be more people in need now, at any rate in these areas, than there were a year ago?[column 8]
I draw the inference that Brixton goes contrary to the country as a whole where nearly 9,000 fewer people are receiving National Assistance grants than a year ago. If Brixton is contrary to the country as a whole, I suggest that it is very suitably represented in the House.