§ Whereupon Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER, pursuant to the Order of the House of the 13th February, proposed the Question, "That this House do now adjourn."
§ Mr. HOGGE
I want to put a question which was not answered at Question time, in connection with the increase of the new separation allowances. It is within the discretion of the Ministry of Pensions to give to a childless wife an extra allowance on three conditions. One is that she is unable to work; the second is that she is unaccustomed to work, and the third is that she requires to change her residence in order to obtain work, Nos. 1 and 3 are 1426 old rules and do not require any explanation. The new rule is that which applies to a woman who is unaccustomed to work. I put a question on the Paper in order to get a definition of that from the Ministry of Pensions, and what I want to know is a very simple question, but although simple it affects probably 500,000 or 1,000,000 women in this country. A woman who is unaccustomed to work is a woman, in my view, who has never done any work. I want to know from the Ministry of Pensions whether it means a woman who has been unaccustomed to work outside her home or a woman who has been unaccustomed to any kind of work whatever? If the representative of the Ministry will say at once that it means a woman who has not done any outside work, and that therefore in those circumstances she will get the extra grant, this Debate need not continue any longer.
§ The PARLIAMENTARY SECRETARY to the MINISTRY of PENSIONS (Sir A. Griffith-Boscawen)
I really do not quite know what I can add to what I said this afternoon. It is laid down in a circular which has been issued by the Ministry of Pensions that if a woman is without children, is physically unfit or unable for other reasons to obtain employment, an allowance shall be granted of 6s. 6d. a week.
§ Sir A. GRIFFITH-BOSCAWEN
If my hon. Friend had only waited, I would have explained that I am reading a circular which has been just issued by the Pensions Ministry to the local committees in reference to this new regulation. The circular proceeds to explain and define the conditions of the grant—The test of inability to earn will be interpreted as before, that is to say, a wife who is unaccustomed to work should not be required to do so now, nor should a wife be expected to change her residence because suitable work is riot available within reasonable distance of her residence.Those are the words of the circular which my hon. Friend has probably not seen, 1427 because it has been only issued to-day. There is nothing to explain in the words. I clearly showed in my answer this afternoon that "unaccustomed to work" means precisely what it says. If a woman in any way whatever, whether in her house at home or outside her house, has not been, as a matter of fact, accustomed to work, she will not be required to work. In other words, she will get the grant under the new regulation. We leave the matter without any further definition to the local committees to decide, and expect them to deal with the matter in a liberal and generous spirit.
§ Mr. HOGGE
Suppose a local committee had the problem as to the wife of a workman who had been accustomed to work all her days inside the man's house, and she fell within the category of a woman accustomed to work? Does it refer to domestic employment of women or apply to employment outside her home?
§ Sir A. GRIFFITH-BOSCAWEN
I cannot lay down any definition as to where the work is to be done. The point was, Was the woman accustomed to work or not? There are, I think, 400,000 soldiers' wives, who had been married during the War. The great majority of these women were in work before, and there is no reason why they should not go back. But there is a certain number of women who, possibly owing to their social position or for other reasons—it may be owing to ill-health—have never worked either in their homes or outside them, and in such cases where it is clear they have not been accustomed to work, they will be entitled to the allowance. We do not think it wise to lay down any more precise definition, but leave it to the local committees to interpret the matter in the most generous way.
§ Question put, and agreed to.
§ Adjourned accordingly at Five minutes before Eleven o'clock.