Speeches, Interviews & Other Statements

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

1966 Feb 15 Tu
Margaret Thatcher

HC Standing Committee [Rating Bill]

Document type: Speeches, interviews, etc.
Document kind: House of Commons Committee
Venue: House of Commons
Source: Hansard HC Standing Committee D [299-316]
Journalist: -
Editorial comments: 1030-1115. Extract from the Seventh Sitting. MT spoke at c.307.
Importance ranking: Trivial
Word count: 6040
Themes: Local government finance, Social security & welfare
[column 299]

RATING BILL

Standing Committee D

OFFICIAL REPORT

Tuesday, 15th February, 1966

[Sir Leslie Thomas

in the Chair]

New Clause.—(National Assistance “Disregards” not to be Reckonable Income.)

“There shall be left out of account for the purposes of subsections (1) and (2) of section 5 of this Act all the resources of an applicant which would (by virtue of any regulations made under section 5 of the National Assistance Act 1948 for the time being in force) be disregarded for the purpose of the determination of his needs for assistance under the said Act.” —[Mrs. Thatcher.]

Brought up, and read the First time.

Question proposed—(10th February)—That the Clause be read a Second time.

10.30 a.m.

Question again proposed.

Mr. Boyd-Carpenter

It is unnecessary to add more than a word or two to the observations that I put to the Committee before the adjournment of our last sitting. I then expressed the hope that the Parliamentary Secretary—and now the Minister, who is here—would consider the points we made.

We attach considerable importance to this proposed new Clause which we feel makes a very real contribution to making this Bill effective, in order both to help the poorest section of those who will benefit under it and to serve the social purposes for which, as the right hon, Gentleman knows well, the National Assistance Board disregards were carefully and over long experience designed.

It is a good thing that our discussions were carried over from last time, because I am not unhopeful that after reflection, having reached this stage of the Bill, the right hon. Gentleman might be prepared to meet us on this point. I am quite sure that the proposition we have put forward is reasonable. I do not think it needs any further reinforcement from me.

The Minister of Housing and Local Government (Mr. Richard Crossman)

First of all, may I apologise to the Committee for my absence from last Thurs[column 300]day's sitting, but I read with great care the report of the debate.

The nub of the question, of which I have been aware ever since we started working on this Bill, is the great issue of what kind of scheme of rate rebate we should introduce and how it would be related to the work of the National Assistance Board.

On reading the remarks of the right hon. Member for Kingston-upon-Thames (Mr. Boyd-Carpenter) and the hon. Lady the Member for Finchley (Mrs. Thatcher), I find they have put their case very clearly. However, there is one misconception which I had better clear up right at the beginning. If I understand the right hon. Gentleman aright—and he repeated this several times in the course of his remarks—he seemed to assume, as he did this morning, that in a large number of cases it would be possible for the local authority to refer to the National Assistance Board and say that he or she is on the files. In our view, the vast majority of people who will come under our new rate rebate scheme will, by definition, have nothing to do with the National Assistance Board. Indeed, we have made it clear throughout the Bill that anybody already receiving National Assistance, and already having his “rates” repaid by National Assistance, will remain related to the National Assistance Board.

The aim and purpose of this Bill are to go precisely to those people who have no relationship to the National Assistance Board and have not received National Assistance. The first group of people who have not received National Assistance are those who have not done so because they did not want to go to the Board. That is the group of people who are too proud. The second group of people not in receipt of National Assistance are those who are too well-off. These were the two groups we looked at, The Board will have no information about these people; the only information it has is about its own clients. Its own clients will remain clients of the Board under this scheme in relation to rate rebates. We all know that the Board rebate their rates as well as their rent.

When we are looking at the scheme, I do not deny that the right hon. Gentleman's alternative is perfectly sane. We must not try to suggest that it would not be the administrative responsibility [column 301]of treasurers to look at all these cases and to decide the disregards. There is nothing they could refer to the Assistance Board because these cases would not be known to the National Assistance Board. Indeed, I can say now that the prospect of persuading the National Assistance Board to take on this job, as well as all its other jobs, unless it was ordered to do so by Act of Parliament, is not one which is on the cards. The Board will not voluntarily take on a new job dealing with two million new cases, all of which have to be assessed anew for disregards, which is a view strongly held by the Opposition.

We ought to see clearly the picture of the administrative problems that we have. We must ask the treasurers themselves to institute inquiries and have a system for assessing disregards in addition to all the problems that I have already imposed on them. I do not deny for one moment that we are already imposing a considerable burden on them. To tell them to assess on income as well as assessing a complex system of disregards is a further burden.

Nevertheless, I know this is the big issue of the Bill and the one on which the Committee wishes me to speak. I think there is a case for doing it in the way the Opposition suggest. I think the case chosen by the hon. Lady was the most powerful when she spoke of the benevolent institutions and those people with small earnings. It is easy to say that we should look to see if people have disregards for purposes of Income Tax as well as for purposes of National Assistance—such things like war pensions. Why should we not have our own disregards here and write into the Bill that there should be disregards for rent rebates of a similar kind?

The Opposition have shown great responsibility in urging me to invent our own system of disregards and have a third one in addition to National Assistance and Income Tax. I do not know whether the right hon. Gentleman's experience was wide enough to enable him to appreciate the difficulties of doing this kind of thing. Once one starts on it, one finds a new group of disregards. He quite rightly suggested to me that [column 302]there were only two possibilities—either to accept the Income Tax disregards intact and say that they would relate to these rate rebates; or to relate National Assistance intact to this Bill and say that whatever at the time should be disregarded for National Assistance should also be disregarded for the purposes of the Bill. It seemed to me a concrete and precise proposal which is legally possible to introduce. However, what I am going to suggest is that although it is legally possible to introduce, it will completely transform the nature of the Bill and defeat the main purpose behind it.

I should like to point out to the Opposition that the aim of the Bill is to help those people whom the Allen Committee classified as those hardest hit through being ratepayers. I am dealing here with ratepayers. We are not doing a job of social security here to assist those people who are just as poor. We are dealing solely with the ratepayer. That is the first thing we must remember. Our aim here is to improve rates as a tax. Our aim is not to supplement a social service. If we keep that aim absolutely clear, we shall get the difference between the two sides very sharp.

Our aim is to improve rates as a tax by giving relief from this local tax to two groups. The first group are the 500,000 estimated by the Allen Committee to be entitled, through poverty, to National Assistance, but not going to the Board. The second group are those people from National Assistance level up to £10 a week. That is a considerable extra group of people. That group is not entitled to National Assistance but it is a group whom we still thought was hard hit by the rates. So we chose the upper limit of £10 for a married couple and £8 for a single person.

As I explained before, we think the plight of the isolated widow or widower in old age is such as must merit special attention. I am dealing with this group of people who have never, by definition, been near the National Assistance Board. None of them will have his facts known by the National Assistance Board. In dealing with this group of people we have a choice. We can extend the National Assistance system to these 500,000 people so that they come within National Assistance and the same disregards apply to them; and secondly, those above the level [column 303]of National Assistance can be brought into the same system.

I want hon. Members to observe that the whole point of our rate rebate is to help people who have refused to go near the system. It is to help precisely those people who resent what is called the means test. There is no doubt that there is a means test. They resent the inquiries and the attitude of the National Assistance Board that poverty must be proved before any payment is made.

It is those 500,000 who refuse to accept the system whom we have sought to help. My view is that if the treasurer offers them a rate rebate, a tax concession and not a social service given in cases of proven poverty, for the reason precisely that it is a tax concession and not a social service given by the State in cases of proven need, they will take it. Therefore, if we are now to say that, after all, we are going to have it done on National Assistance lines, we ought to be clear that the very people whom we are trying to help will merely refuse to be helped. They will say that it is National Assistance.

I would say to the right hon. Gentleman that the logical thing in this case would have been to legislate that the National Assistance Board should administer the scheme. If the scheme were to have all the National Assistance disregards in it, if the treasurer were to put every case over, then it would be far more simple and sensible to say from the start in the Bill that this should be a system of rebates administered by the National Assistance Board in accordance with the provision of the National Assistance Act, but simply raising the upper limits.

Once I say that, I think hon. Members will see my difficulty. This is something which my right hon. Friend the Minister of Pensions would not dream of doing for a moment. She has her own views on how to revise National Assistance and how to reconstruct that part of social security. She would not think that the spatchcocking of a rate rebate scheme into National Assistance was the way to reform it. From her point of view, the more sharply different this scheme is from that of the National Assistance Board the better. The National Assistance Board does not want anything to do with a scheme which is a tax concession and [column 304]not part of its system for relieving poverty in this country in its acutest form.

The next thing I want to point out is that this proposition is only administratively acceptable if we accept the National Assistance Board's system of disregards intact. It is quite clear that from the point of view of the second group of people whom I am trying to help—not the 500,000 who refuse National Assistance but the next group above that—the National Assistance disregards in one special particular will bear extremely harshly. I am not going to argue the pros and cons of how it is done. Everybody here knows that National Assistance requires that there shall be very little capital still available to a person if that person is to get anything. Indeed, I think I am right in saying that the total amount of capital one may have is £600. If one has more than £600 of capital available, plus war savings but not including anything like the co-operative dividend, one is not eligible. The Board imposes a severe limitation on savings. I believe that in terms of social services, designed as a national minimum, it is not unreasonable to say that one must, have spent most of one's capital before one comes to the Board to ask for relief, and those with some savings would not be allowed the relief until they had spent most of them. Maybe that is very harsh, but it is necessary. But it would be a terrible thing to link that with my rate rebate scheme.

If we take in the National Assistance disregards, with regard to capital, a large number of people will be ruled out from receiving. I shall give just one example. Suppose that somebody had £1,000 capital, not in war savings. Under my scheme, they would have an income of £60 a year and be within the scheme, but they would automatically be excluded from the scheme if we took over the National Assistance system intact.

I am not criticising National Assistance here, because that has a different function. The function of National Assistance is to ensure that the assistance goes to people whose poverty is demonstrable and who really have lost their security. My scheme is designed to help ratepayers, with the least inquiry into their means, who are hardest hit by the rates. Therefore, we have a simple rule of saying that we help those whose income is below [column 305]a certain limit, and we do not ask any questions about their capital at all.

10.45 a.m.

Mr. Boyd-Carpenter

I do not know whether the right hon. Gentleman had concluded his remarks?

Mr. Crossman

No, I have not.

Mr. Boyd-Carpenter

Possibly we can get this point out of the way very easily. If the right hon. Gentleman studies our Clause, he will see that it does not bring in the question of capital, under the National Assistance disregards or otherwise. It merely seeks to import into the Measure the disregards, as set out in the Clause, under Section 5 of the National Assistance Act. In other words, one takes the formula of this Measure—the £8 and the £10—but, in calculating, one disregards what under the National Assistance Board would be disregards. One does not bring in positively the taking into account of any capital.

Mr. Crossman

The right hon. Gentleman means that there will be no disregards. The National Assistance practices with regard to capital would all be waived.

Mr. Boyd-Carpenter

If the right hon. Gentleman studies the Clause, he will see its plain effect.

Mr. Crossman

I am very grateful that that point falls, if the right hon. Gentleman says so. I want to be quite clear that the proposal is that it has regard to income only and waives the National Assistance disregards with regard to capital. That will mean that there are two kinds of discrimination, one in the Bill and one in National Assistance: in one case it will be disregarded and in the other it will not. I find grave difficulties equally in that. It will be very difficult for me to persuade the National Assistance Board that it will be practicable to take part of this disregards system and not the other part.

I understood that the aim was to take the whole National Assistance disregards system and operate it as a whole. The very point that I thought we had agreed with the Opposition was that one takes it as a whole, that one does not pick and choose from it and say, “I will take some disregards here and not others” because it is a balanced system. National Assistance has worked out extremely carefully a system which relates to [column 306]poverty. However, I take it now that the point is that we have a different system.

My hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary said at our last sitting:

“The right hon. Member is now asking for the complete National Assistance disregards system …

“Mr. Boyd-Carpenter: I rather agree with the Parliamentary Secretary on this point. I think my hon. Friends were guilty, if of anything, of trying to be conciliatory and to come to a compromise.” —[Official Report, Standing Committee D, 10th February, 1966, c. 296.]
We thought that the right hon. Gentleman was asking for the whole system. I now understand that it is only part.

Mr. Boyd-Carpenter

Will the right hon. Gentleman consider this point? His Bill operates only on income. There is no capital element in it, as I understand it. One can have all the capital in the world, but if one's income is below the level, one gets the rent rebates. This is an amendment to this Bill, and therefore brings in such of the National Assistance disregards as are relevant to a Bill operating solely on income.

Mr. Crossman

I apologise to the right hon. Gentleman I had misunderstood him and had given him credit for a more logical administrative consistency than he showed. I thought he was saying that we should take the complete National Assistance system of disregards.

Mr. Boyd-Carpenter

In so far as they are relevant.

Mr. Crossman

Now the right hon. Gentleman says “no” . They are highly relevant if National Assistance is a balanced system of disregards which is extremely severe on capital and not severe on certain types of income. One will upset the balance of the system if one takes one and not the other.

If, therefore, that is the proposal, my argument is stronger in the sense that one cannot pick and choose in the National Assistance system. One must either operate the whole system in the Bill or have no system of disregards at all. Certainly if it is going to be handed over to the National Assistance Board to advise, I have no doubt that will be the Board's view. However, I make it perfectly clear that the Board has not been asked to operate this scheme; nor would my right hon. Friend the Minister of Pensions dream that it should operate it, for the reasons I have given. [column 307]

This scheme must be operated with the treasurers. As the National Assistance Board is not mandated by this Bill and it is not suggested that it should be, we are asking the treasurers to operate a similar system of disregards to that of National Assistance, but dealing with income only and excluding capital. That is the proposal. That will put all the burden of administration on the treasurers. I am not going to say that that is the sole reason against it; it is not. Nevertheless, it is an appalling administrative burden to ask for two million cases in which all these disregards will have to be studied, none of which will be known to the National Assistance Board because none of these people will have been near the National Assistance Board. That is the first point.

Secondly, it seems to me that in this way we shall be getting the worst of two worlds. We set about achieving a tax concession designed to help people who resented the National Assistance Board and resented its very closely-balanced study of poverty and its requirements of proving poverty. These people were going to be given a rebate with the minimum requirements of stating their income. They have simply to fill up a form, state their income and send it in. They do not have to have visitations and inquiries in order to obtain a rebate. They get it as of right, as ratepayers, as a tax concession. In my view, this particular group of people will greatly prefer this concession in the form in which we have offered it. The form in which we have offered it has nothing to do with National Assistance; it has nothing to do with proven need, and everything does not have to be submitted to a means test. They would definitely prefer it in this form.

The hon. Lady's argument about earnings is by far the most powerful argument. It is tempting to say to her that one would be inclined to make a concession there, but on balance I believe that it is right to say to the treasurers, “All you have to concern yourselves with is the total income coming into the house” . As my hon. Friend said, if, as is possible, we have set the standard too low——

Mrs. Thatcher

Did the right hon. Gentleman say “total income coming into the house” ?

[column 308]

Mr. Crossman

To the person, by the definition of the judge to whom reference was made at a previous sitting—certainly not coming into the house. If the £10 including everything is too low, then the right thing is, by Order, to raise the limits, as we can. The right hon. Gentleman said that it would be expensive to do so. It would not be expensive in terms of the service which we are giving to the community. The service which we are giving allows everyone who can prove that his total income falls below a certain limit to get a substantial rebate without the irksomeness of the kind of means-tested demonstration of poverty required for a National Assistance system of disregards. A National Assistance system of disregards is, and inevitably must be, inspected and controlled in a very careful way. This system does not need to be inspected and controlled in the same way, because it is a tax concession which the treasurers will give.

I do not expect the Opposition to be convinced, but I should like them to see that they are offering us a completely different conception from the one we put forward. They are offering us the conception of introducing into the National Assistance measures a new group of people who, by definition, detest it, do not want that kind of treatment and would much prefer, in my view, this level. If it is too low, let us raise it, but let us start on the right lines of keeping it clear as a tax concession to ratepayers, and not as a method of assisting poverty wherever it can be found and proved. That is something we leave to the National Assistance Board and to pensions. This is a tax concession pure and simple.

Mr. Boyd-Carpenter

The right hon. Gentleman has certainly studied the argument at our previous sitting. I am sure that the Committee will be grateful to him for dealing fully and seriously with the propositions put forward. I am bound to say, however, that he seemed to me to exaggerate very considerably the effect of the new Clause if it is taken into the Bill.

It is not my view—nor, I believe is it the view of anybody who looks at the Clause—that the incorporation of these words into the Bill would alter its general character from, as he describes it, a Bill providing a concession in respect of local [column 309]taxation into a Bill administering a new social service. All that it would do, which is much more limited, is to bring into the calculation of income, which has to be made for the purpose of granting this tax concession, certain disregards which experience in another field has shown to have strong merits of their own.

I intervened in the right hon. Gentleman's speech when he seemed to think that by granting this concession in respect of income we should be imposing a limit of eligibility in respect of capital. No reading of our proposed Clause could possibly have that effect. Our Clause relates, as its terms make perfectly clear, to the calculations of income.

Mr. Crossman

Or to resources, does it not?

Mr. Boyd-Carpenter

Yes. The reference in subsections (1) and (2) of Clause 5 is to income. The resources—and the right hon. Gentleman is quite right in the word—are resources of income. There is no question of capital in this Bill. If one had £100,000 of capital and so disposed of it that it did not produce any income—if one kept it in a stocking, for example—one would still be entitled to the rebates under this Bill. Whether that is right or wrong does not arise on this Clause. I am merely demonstrating that the right hon. Gentleman is wrong when he says that the acceptance of the Amendment would import into the Bill the National Assistance limits of capital. This operates simply on subsections (1) and (2) of Clause 5. It is necessary to have that clear.

Then the right hon. Gentleman came back, the rather more briefly on this point than his hon. Friend, on the administrative point. His hon. Friend and I, and others, thrashed this matter out. It was agreed there would be two categories of people who would be brought into this arrangement. One category was of those who had been on National Assistance. The right hon. Gentleman is wrong in saying that none of the beneficiaries under this Bill will ever have had anything to do with National Assistance. Many of them will, in the nature of things, be people a little above the National Assistance level at the moment, who have been below it and have been drawing it. There will be people about whom the National Assistance Board local office has information and in respect of whom, as I said [column 310]on a previous occasion, they could perfectly easily give a certificate.

Mr. Crossman

It is better to get this point clear. There may be a few, but the right hon. Gentleman would agree with me that by definition this Bill is designed to cater for the two groups who have not been near the Board, either those 500,000 people whom we now know did not go to the Board though they were entitled to do so, or those who were too well off to apply. Therefore, overwhelmingly the number of cases will not be comprised of those of whom the Board is cognizant.

Mr. Boyd-Carpenter

We can argue about the relative proportions of the two groups. The point that I am concerned to establish is that there are these two groups. In respect of one, may be much smaller, where there is absolutely no difficulty the Board can give a certificate. In respect of the other—I concede to the hon. Gentleman may be the larger—the ease of administration which I suggested is not so conspicuous. However, is it as difficult as all that? To listen to the right hon. Gentleman one would have thought that as the Bill stood there were no disregards at all and that it was simply a question of income and nothing else, but that is not so. In subsection (3) of Clause 5 there are two specific disregards. One is

“any income by way of payments in respect of living accommodation or board made by any person residing or usually resident in the relevant premises …” .

The second is

“in the case of a rebate application by the occupier of a hereditament, such part of any rent received by the occupier from any other person who was (or, if this Act had been in force during the relevant assessment period, would have been) entitled to make a rebate application in respect of part of that hereditament …” .

I suggest to the Committee that it would not be beyond the capacity either of the applicant or of the municipal treasurers to operate in respect of these known assistance cases a similar disregard. It would be perfectly practicable, for example, to tell people that not only need they not take into account what is paid to them by their boarder or lodger, but they need not take into account whatever is the disregard figure—I believe it is 15s. a week now—which is paid to them by a charitable body. There is no difficulty whatever in setting that out in quite a simple form if the will to do it is there. [column 311]

That is why, with respect, I think the right hon. Gentleman is making rather heavy weather of this. Although it would add in some measure to the administrative problem, I do not think it would add to it in any insuperable degree, or in a degree sufficient to outweigh its social importance as well as the relief given to the applicant by bringing in these National Assistance disregards.

11.0 a.m.

The right hon. Gentleman was rather disposed to argue that by bringing in anything to do with National Assistance, it would be bringing in something which would discourage people from even applying for these rebates. I wonder whether that is true. First of all, the extent to which they seek the help of the Board is a matter for the local authority concerned. I think that in many cases they will be involved in two difficult problems, but that is a separate issue. Does the right hon. Gentleman recall that Assistance Board help is, in fact, brought in not only in respect of recipients of assistance, but in respect of a very substantial number of people who seek legal aid?

Mr. Crossman

Certainly.

Mr. Boyd-Carpenter

This is done on behalf of his right hon. and noble Friend who is responsible for the legal aid scheme, because it is an extremely efficient method of doing it. I do not know whether the right hon. Gentleman suggests that that discourages people from seeking legal aid. One notices a steady increase in the number of legal aid applications granted, and I imagine one would express some doubt as to that. It seems to have little if any discouraging effect. The idea that people who will happily seek legal aid will be discouraged from seeking a remission of their rates is, I think, frankly, a fantasy. I do not believe there is any force in this at all. Therefore, we come back to the point that in any event the municipal treasurers will have to seek, in one way or another, the help and advice of the Assistance Board.

I was a little alarmed when the right hon. Gentleman said, in respect of this concession, that there would be no visitations or inquiries. Presumably if an application is made for a rebate and if a responsible local official believes that [column 312]the application is not justified, it will be his duty before expending public money to make some check or other.

Mr. Crossman

I am sorry if I said that. What I meant was it would not be automatic.

Mr. Boyd-Carpenter

That is a very different thing. From what the right hon. Gentleman said, I thought it was right to get the position clear, because public money would be involved in this. Although, of course, it is true that the vast majority of people will be honest, there are bound to be one or two persons who are disposed to try it on, and it would be wrong to let the impression go out that such people would be allowed to get away with it in the absence of any check.

Coming back to the central issue, this is not an attempt to alter the whole character of the Bill. This is an attempt to add to the disregards already in the Bill—in other words, those in respect of income, which are operated by the National Assistance Board. I am bound to say here that if we look at these on their merits, is not there more to be said for disregards in respect of charitable payments than for disregarding profits made out of a lodger? Is not there more to be said for disregarding a little outside work of a limited quantity than for disregarding the profits made on a lodger? If the right hon. Gentleman had no disregards and was doing it absolutely straight across the board on income by itself, his argument, though it would not convince me, would have some logical coherence which at the moment it lacks.

The Joint Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Housing and Local Government (Mr. James MacColl)

The right hon. Gentleman follows the logic of the difference between these two sources, but he does not agree. The point about profit from a lodger is that it is taken into account in calculating the rate figure upon which relief can be obtained, whereas in the other case it is not taken into account.

Mr. Boyd-Carpenter

I follow the point that the lodger is taken into account in calculating the rate figure, but the Parliamentary Secretary will realise that there can be cases in which the lodger's contribution is such that if it were taken into account there would be no question of a rebate at all, whereas, the taking into [column 313]account of the other class automatically involves some rebate. I think the Parliamentary Secretary understands that perfectly well. We think that these National Assistance disregards are not only well considered methods of helping the poorest, but they have a real social value. If we do not have them, it will cut off charitable payments in some cases, because no charity will contribute a sum of money which does not benefit the recipient——

Mr. MacColl

The charitable payment would only be taken into account, like any other payment, in respect of a quarter of it. I know that the right hon. Gentleman appreciates that, but his argument gives the impression to the Committee that the whole of the charitable payment will be set against the rate rebate. That is not so. It is only a quarter of it.

Mr. Boyd-Carpenter

A quarter is taken into account until one reaches the end of eligibility for rebate at all. The Parliamentary Secretary has experience of charitable work and he knows that there is nothing more discouraging than the knowledge that by making a charitable payment the recipient is not being relieved. It applies equally to outside work and it will be a serious discouragement in this case.

The right hon. Gentleman has admitted that it is administratively possible. He has been very fair. The Parliamentary Secretary said that the municipal treasurers would not like it. No one, however, has said that it could not be managed. It is quite clear that this could be done. I think it is equally clear that it ought to be done, and we intend to continue to press it.

Mr. Norman Cole

There are two short points I wish to make before we move to a decision. One is to annotate the argument already made, and the second is to seek some information. I suspect that if the Minister had decided to have the whole framework of National Assistance disregards as the basis of his Bill, he would not have worried any more than we have worried about the capital element if he decided to ignore it for rate relief purposes. If he is ignoring the matter of ownership of capital in this rate relief scheme I do not see why that invalidates [column 314]and impugns a system of National Assistance disregards. I know that some other arguments have been brought forward, but it seems difficult to understand why, if there is merit in National Assistance disregards and the Minister is accepting the principle of disregards, he has not chosen this well-tried scheme of disregards already in existence for National Assistance.

The other point I want to raise concerns a previous Amendment. My hon. Friend the Member for Finchley (Mrs. Thatcher), when speaking on that Amendment, said:

“The local authority, however, cannot compel that person to go to National Assistance.” —[Official Report, 10th February, 1966, Standing Committee D, c. 269.]

I do not agree there will be a minor number of people who are on both schemes. I think the number will be larger than the right hon. Gentleman thinks——

Mr. Crossman

They could not be on both schemes. It would be illegal. This scheme deals with people who are not receiving assistance from the National Assistance Board. There might be people who had previously received it and who were eligible for the scheme, but no one can be on both schemes.

Mr. Cole

I think that my question still obtains. I do not follow why, because of a change of circumstances, a person in receipt of National Assistance might not also find himself eligible under this rate relief scheme. Will those people who are on National Assistance be required to make application under this scheme? In other words, will they have their amounts of National Assistance benefit reduced by the amount which they would have gained from the scheme if they applied under it irrespective if whether they applied to a local authority or not? How far that affects our present argument I have not worked out.

Mr. MacColl

The answer is no.

Mr. A. G. F. Hall-Davis

I have studied the draft circular which the Minister has been kind enough to make available, and in paragraph 11 of that circular are the words:

“The Bill contains no definition of ‘income’. The term is therefore to be interpreted in its fullest sense as ‘that which comes in’, excluding benefits in kind, but without any deduction for income tax or insurance contributions.”

[column 315]It seems to me that it invalidates a good deal of the right hon. Gentleman's arguments if charitable bodies can give benefits in kind, but that if they make a simple payment in cash it affects the eligibility of the ratepayer for relief. It seems rather like loading administrative work on charitable bodies to put them in a position where, if they distribute turkeys or plum puddings, which is quite common [column 316]with some charities, this does not affect the ratepayer's position, whereas if they distribute 15s. cash per week, this has to be taken into account. We have heard a good deal about logicality, but this seems to be completely illogical.

Question put, That the Clause be read a Second time.

The Committee divided: Ayes 8, Noes 9.

Division No. 12.]

Ayes

Allason , James (Hemel Hempstead)

Boyd-Carpenter , Rt. Hn. J.

Cole , Norman

Hall-Davis , A. G. F.

Meyer , Sir Anthony

Murton , Oscar

Smith , Dudley (Br'ntf'd & Chiswick)

Thatcher, Mrs. Margaret

Noes

Finch , Harold (Bedwellty)

Mabon , Dr. J. Dickson

MacColl , James

Oakes , Gordon

Rhodes , Geoffrey

Robertson , John (Paisley)

Wellbeloved , James

Whitlock , William

Williams , Alan (Swansea, W.)