HC Deb 05 December 1935 vol 307 cc285-7

asked the Minister of Health whether he is aware of the widespread discontent with the National Health Insurance and Pensions Acts, owing to the number of persons who have lost their pensions and other rights through unemployment for which they are not responsible; and whether he proposes to introduce legislation to abolish such hardships, and to increase the amount of pension of a figure which will provide some real measure of comfort to the pensioners?


No, Sir. I would refer the hon. Member to the provision made by the National Health Insurance and Contributory Pensions Act, 1935, whereby no person who has been insured for a reasonable time need lose pension rights on account of subsequent unemployment, however prolonged. I cannot undertake to introduce such legislation as is suggested.


Is my right hon. Friend satisfied that the approved societies have taken sufficient steps to get into touch with their members and inform them of the full provisions of the Acts?


Yes, I think that that is so. As a matter of fact, my Department are distributing a number of communications to insured persons to acquaint them fully with their rights under the Acts.

35. Lieut.-Colonel MOORE

asked the Minister of Health whether, with a view to improving the nation's health, he will consider the introduction of a scheme for enabling milk to be prescribed as well as medicine under the national health in- surance scheme, in cases where doctors are of opinion that the health of the insured person in question would benefit thereby?


The National Health Insurance Acts provide only for the supply of medicines and approved appliances, and there is no power to introduce the scheme suggested by my hon. and gallant Friend. Extensive provision has been made in the schemes administered lay local authorities acting as local education authorities and as maternity and child welfare authorities for the supply of milk free and at reduced rates, to those to whom it is specially valuable and who are found to require this supplementation of their diets.

Lieut.-Colonel MOORE

Is my right hon. Friend aware that milk is 7d. or 8d. a quart whereas medicine is free under the National Health Insurance Act, and would he say whether, in view of the benefit that milk is to people who are in poor state of health he could consider so to amend the law so as to bring milk within the National Health Insurance scheme?


No, Sir. I do not think the matter is appropriate to the National Health Insurance scheme but it may be, under the other conditions mentioned ill the latter part of my answer.

36. Captain Sir IAN FRASER

asked the Minister of Health whether the Government propose to make financial provision which would prevent the increase in weekly contributions, 2d. on account of insured males and 1d. on account of insured females, which would otherwise come into force on 1st January, 1936, under Section 43, sub-section (2), of the Contributory Pensions Act, 1925?


No, Sir. The increases for which provision was made in the Act of 1925 are an essential part of the financial structure of the contributory pensions scheme.


Is my right hon. Friend aware that his answer will come as a shock and a great disappointment to all insured workers, both men and women, who are probably not aware of this position, and will he not consider whether there are funds which will make it possible to abate this increase?


No, Sir. I think the provision is very well known. A number of cases have been quite recently reported. I am afraid that, in any event, the financial structure of the Act would not permit it.


asked the Financial Secretary to the Treasury whether he is aware of the hardship imposed upon widows through loss of pension rights owing to stamp disqualifications; whether he will consider the introduction of legislation to make the pension-right independent of stamp contributions; and whether he will take steps to extend the pension scheme so that spinsters may qualify for pension on the same terms as widows at the age of 55?


I have no knowledge of individual cases, but I am aware that, under any contributory scheme, there must be persons who fail to qualify for benefit owing to inadequacy of contributions. The Government are not prepared to make the grant of benefits independent of the payment of contributions. The concession to widows referred to in the last part of the question is in the main applicable to the widows of men of the insurable class who died before 1926. The conditions are quite different in the case of spinsters insured in the ordinary way, and the answer to the last part of the question is in the negative.


Have the Government no intention of making any improvement in the pensions?


I do not think that that can be deduced from the answer I have just given.

Viscountess ASTOR

Cannot they hold out some hope to the spinsters?