§ MR. BLACK (Bedfordshire, Biggleswade)
I beg to ask Mr. Chancellor of the Exchequer if he is aware that under the Old-Age Pensions Act the applicants have to produce to the pensions officer satisfactory evidence of their age, and as most of the present applicants were born before the Registration Act of 1837 the only legal proof in many cases is a certificate of baptism, and that the clergy who have the custody of the baptismal registers are in some parishes of North Bedfordshire charging 2s. 6d. each for the certificate, 1d. for stamp, and 1s. for search fee, or a total of 3s. 7d.; and, in view of the nature of these charges, will he say if the pensions officer has the right to inspect the register and so satisfy himself as to the ages of the applicants; and, if so, will he instruct the pensions officers accordingly, and so relieve the applicants from payment of the fees.
§ MR. HOBHOUSE (for Mr. LLOYD-GEORGE)
The Act requires that the claimant should have attained the age of seventy as a condition for the grant 48 of a pension, and the pensions officer cannot, of course, report favourably upon any claim unless he is satisfied that this condition is fulfilled. He is not, however, required to obtain legal proof, if he can satisfy himself by other means that the condition is fulfilled, and pensions officers have instructions to dispense with the production of actual certificates, whenever possible. Pensions officers have, as such, no rights of inspecting ecclesiastical registers; and in any case my right hon. friend fears it would be impossible, in view of the conditions of pressure under which they are now working, for them to undertake such inspections at the present time, without delaying the consideration of a large number of claims beyond 31st December, with consequent disappointment to claimants. The whole question is, however, receiving his careful consideration.
§ MR. BLACK
asked whether it was contemplated under the Old-Age Pensions Act that, in rural parishes, clergymen should benefit, at the expense of their poorest parishioners, from £2 to £10 a year.