HC Deb 13 July 1936 vol 314 cc1833-7

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Clause stand part of the Bill."

12.0 m.


The report of the Joint Committee on Consolidation points out, in respect of Clause 25, that in the present circumstances, in the case of a blind person, there may be overlapping, respecting widows between the ages of 50 and 70, during which period they will draw double pension, and the case of other persons between the ages of 65 and 70 who might also draw double pension. So soon as they attain the age of 70, they cease to be able to draw their blind persons' pension and go back to the single pension. That position has caused great discontent and hardship, and there is good reason for thinking that it was not the intention of Parliament. I wish only to draw the attention of hon. Members to this grave anomaly, and to express the hope that it may be possible to remove it before long. Although this Bill may purport to represent the law, the Consolidation Committee have made it plain that it is not what they would wish the law to be, and that it is not what the country expected the law to be when this House passed the Blind Persons Act in 1930.

12.2 a.m.

Captain Sir IAN FRASER

May I just add my word to that of my hon. and gallant Friend, and to say that this matter has caused a great deal of heart-burning among many of my friends? To have had a certain income for, perhaps, 20 years, or, in a good many cases for five years, and then to have it cut off, is hardly pleasant. I will not say that it is worse than never to have had it at all, but it causes great inconvenience. I had hoped that there might be an opportunity for amending this Clause before the law was consolidated, but I hope that if any amendment of this law is contemplated, this point will be considered.

Remaining Clauses ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Schedules agreed to.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be reported, without Amendment."


Am I in order, Sir Dennis, in raising my protest on this matter now?


Not on the Question, "That I do report the Bill to the House."


I raise an objection to it being reported to the House. [Laughter.]


If necessary, the hon. Member can divide against it being reported, but the proper place for him to make his protest is upon the Third Reading.


I accept your Ruling, Sir. I would say to hon. Members opposite, Do not be so quick in giving a laugh. It is all very well for hon. Members to laugh, but that is hardly in order.




Just let me for one moment—


What the hon. Member is saying is not in order, upon the Question that is before the Committee.

Bill reported, without Amendment.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read the Third time."

12.5 a.m.


Before the Bill gets its Third Reading, to which I do not intend to object, I want to say a few words upon it. I know that a Consolidation Bill is a compilation of a number of Measures under one head, but I feel that when that is done there ought to be some opportunity of putting our points of view. There are many anomalies in this Bill, and I think that, when those anomalies have been stressed from time to time before the law is consolidated, they ought to be amended or altered, and that is why I raise my protest. As I said before, one of them is the case of widows who have not reached the age of 65, and I think it ought to have been dealt with.


It could not have been dealt with in a Consolidation Bill. The Bill would not be a Consolidation Bill if points of that kind were dealt with in it.


I take it that I have no opportunity of putting that point of view?


On this particular Bill it would hardly be the time to do it. The suggestion that the hon, Member is making would necessitate an alteration of the law, and, if that were done in this Bill, it would not be a consolidation of the existing law.


On a point of Order. While the Bill was in Committee, two hon. Members were allowed to voice their opinions on certain alterations which might be made in the law on this point, and they were not ruled out of order. Is not my hon. Friend entitled to do the same?


I understand that the particular points which those hon. Members raised were specially referred to in the Commttee's report, and that that was the reason why they were allowed to speak on them.

12.8 a.m.


I desire to make a few observations on the question of the administration of the Bill. I think that for historical reasons we should take advantage of this occasion, before the Bill is passed, to point out the differentiation which is creeping into the administration of Acts in this country. I hope that this Measure will be administered on as generous a basis as possible. The common people of this country have a right to contrast the huge expenditure that is taking place on armaments with the ungenerous terms on which pensions for widows, ex-service men and others are administered—


Is the hon. Member suggesting an alteration of the law?


No, Mr. Speaker; I am only attempting to take advantage of this opportunity in order to show the differentiation which is taking place in the administration of Acts of Parliament. When the administration is applied to poor people we find that it is mean administration, but in the case of other Pensions Acts we find an altogether different state of affairs. May I call the attention of the House to one specific case of which we have had experience? There is a difference in spirit in applying these Acts of Parliament, and some of us have had bitter experience of it.


If the hon. Member wishes to raise this point, he should raise it on a Supply day. It is purely a matter of the Minister's administration of Acts of Parliament.

12.11 a.m.


I welcome the fact that we are having a consolidation of these Acts, though it might well have been taken at an hour when there might have been close examination to see that those who have done this work have done it properly, and we might pass it feeling that it was fit for the people to have. Owing to it being separated in various Measures, people did not realise the hardships and restrictions that there are. Now that they will be able to read it in one Measure they will find out that it was never so generous as they have been led to think. The fact that women are disqualified for very little reason will be made plain to them. I hope we shall very soon have an amending Measure and a pension system worthy of the people of the country.

12.13 a.m.


I, too, welcome the Bill, but I think we are entitled to ask the Deputy-Leader of the House, in view of the anomalies that have been pointed out, whether it is the intention of the Government to take advantage of the consolidation to remove some of the anomalies. After the Bill has been most scrupulously examined, the only anomalies to which it has been possible to draw attention within the Rules of Order are two minor ones in which a few miserable blind people appear to be able to get two pensions. I congratulate the Tory party on being able to press on the Government that that should be altered.


There was no intention on our part to deprive any miserable people of anything. If the hon. Member had listened to what was said, he would have understood that we were seeking to have it altered so that these people might have more.