HC Deb 19 December 1919 vol 123 cc885-8

Considered in Committee.

[Sir EDWIN CORNWALL, Deputy-Chairman, in the Chair.]

Motion made, and Question proposed, That it is expedient to make such provision out of moneys provided by Parliament as is required for raising the maximum rate of old age pensions to ten shillings per week and for enabling old age pensions to be paid to persons whose yearly means do not exceed forty-nine pounds seventeen shillings and six pence and as is required in connection with other Amendments of the Old Age Pensions Acts, and to amend the Debtors Act, 1869, in relation to Old Age Pensions."—[Mr. Baldwin.]

The MINISTER of PENSIONS (Sir Laming Worthington-Evans)

Probably it will be for the convenience of the Committee if I briefly outline the Bill on the Financial Resolution. It will very likely save a second speech if I give now the provisions of the Bill. Let me remind the Committee what is the present position. Persons who attain the age of seventy are entitled, under previous Acts, to a pension of 5s. per week, provided that their actual means, excluding the pension, do not exceed 12s. per week. As hon. Members know, the pension is graded according to means. I ought to add that during the War a war bonus of 2s. 6d. has been paid to the old age pensioner, making the present pension of 5s. up to is. 6d. paid in respect of those whose means limit does not go beyond 12s. per week. The proposals of the Bill are to increase the rate according to the means limit. The increase is to be practically to a pension of 10s. per week provided that the means limit do not exceed £26.5s. per year. I propose to deal not with the annual sum, but with the weekly sum. If the means do not exceed 12s. per week the pension will be 8s.; if the means do not exceed 14s. per week the pension will be 6s.; not exceeding 16s. the pension will be 4s.; not exceeding 18s. the pension will be 2s.; not exceeding 19s. the pension will be 1s., and exceeding 19s. per week there will be no pension. This, in effect, practically doubles the rate of the pension, and increases the means limit in the way I have described.


By 25 per cent.?


It is not quite 25 per cent. I have given the actual figures. The increase in the means limit, it is estimated, brings in 220,000 new pensioners who are excluded to-day. The Bill follows the advice of the Committee in altering the disqualificatons for pension. Outdoor relief is in future not to disqualify, and infirmary treatment for three months in any one year is not to disqualify. The provision in the old Acts which left the pensioner open to challenge in respect to the man who failed to work according to his ability—a provision which, I understand, was extremely difficult to put into operation, even if it ever was put into operation—is to be abolished.


There were a few cases.


Then the pension is to start immediately upon release from prison, if an old age pensioner should be so unfortunate as to find himself there. The old double punishment is abolished. The furniture is to be taken into account in calculating means. The first £25 of capital is to be excluded. The next £375 of capital is to be deemed to be earning 5 per cent. per annum, and the remaining capital in excess of £400 is to be deemed to be earning 10 per cent, per annum. On the whole, this is an extremely generous provision to old age pensioners, because the annuity value of any capital at seventy is well up to 10 per cent. In the earlier stages this capital is to be exempt altogether; in the middle stages it is to be deemed to be earning 5 per cent., and in the latter stages 10 per cent. In calculating income, sick pay on any medical certificate for three months in any one year is not to be taken into account as income. There arc several other administrative provisions which, I think, are not of sufficient importance to deal with at the present moment.


Have the Government been able to put in any provision that the pension is to date from the day of application, if it is granted, or the day on which the person becomes seventy—whichever is the earlier. A resolution was unanimously passed by the Committee to meet the case of several weeks' delay and uncertainty. I hope the Government have dealt with it

The DEPUTY-CHAIRMAN (Sir E. Cornwall)

May I suggest that it would be much more convenient to have the general discussion on the Second Reading of the Bill, rather than on this specific Resolution? The Bill cannot be circulated until it has been read a first time, and it is not desirable under the circumstances to have a wide discussion on this Resolution.


The discussion can take place at any time so far as I am concerned, and if we are agreed. All I desired was at the earlier moment information of what the Bill contains.


On a point of Order, Mr. Deputy-Chairman, and in support of what you have just said, I have just applied to the Vote Office and have been informed that I cannot get copies of the Bill until it has been formally introduced.


I was really proposing to do what you suggest, Sir. I was taking the very broad lines of the proposed measure, and showing the Committee what were the main alterations. There are certain administrative pro- visions, one dealing with the point just raised by my right hon. and learned Friend. I will tell the Committee what the financial effect Will be, and the White Paper circulated will probably help us. The total cost of old age pensions, when these alterations have been made, is estimated to amount to £28,000,000, an increase on the present rate of expenditure of £10,350,000. Hon. Members may like to know what were the recommendations of the Committee. The Committee made recommendations which would involve a very considerably increased expenditure beyond that which is now proposed to the Committee. The Majority Report of the Committee recommended there should be universal pensions, without a wage limit, of 10s. at the age of seventy. That would cost £41,000,000, and would give an increase of £23,350,000, as against the £10,350,000 proposed irk this Bill. Having explained in broad outline the Bill, I may say if there are any administrative questions the better way will be to deal with them when the Bill has been released.

Question put, and agreed to.

Resolution reported, and agreed to.

Bill ordered to be brought in upon the said Resolution by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Sir L. Worthington-Evans, and Mr. Baldwin.

OLD AGE PENSIOM BILL,—"to amend the Old Age Pensions Acts, 1908 and 1911, and the Debtors Act. 1869, presented accordingly; read the first time, and ordered to be printed [Bill 249.]

Bill react a second time.

Resolved, That this House will immediately resolve itself into the Committee on the Bill.—[Sir L. Worthington-Evans.]

Bill accordingly considered in Committee.

[Sir E. CORNWALL, Deputy-Chairman, in the Chair.]

Clauses 1 to 8 ordered to stand part of the Bill.