PENSIONS AND NATIONAL INSURANCE
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?
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 [column 16]about 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?
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?
(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.
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?
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.[column 17]
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.
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?
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.
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?[column 18]
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.
Ought not the right hon. Gentleman to think of referring this question again to his Advisory Committee?
I shall certainly consider that. I think I am right in saying that it has been referred before, but I shall consider it again.
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.
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?[column 19]
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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 [column 20]many 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.
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?
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 [column 21]Act 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.
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?
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.
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?
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
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? [column 22]Can 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?
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.
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?
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 [column 23]howmany 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: