HC Deb 08 August 1940 vol 364 cc389-93
22. Mr. Tinker

asked the Minister of Health whether he is aware that there is doubt existing over the question as to what is new money lent to the nation during the war, and many applicants for supplementary old age pensions who have placed their savings in War Savings Certificates or trustee savings banks are told this is not new money and cannot be disregarded; and will the Minister state what is the exact position and the Government's intention over new money?

34. Mr. Dunn

asked the Minister of Health whether investments in co-operative societies will be disregarded for purposes of old age pensions in exactly the same way as investments in War Savings Certificates, Post Office savings and gilt-edged securities; is he aware that considerable anxiety exists in the country in respect of this matter; and, further, has he made any arrangements with representatives of the societies in this matter?

35. Mr. Burke

asked the Minister of Health the position of applicants for supplementary pension who have bought War Savings Certificates?

The Minister of Health (Mr. Malcolm MacDonald)

I would refer the hon. Members to the undertaking given by the late Chancellor of the Exchequer with regard to war savings. Pending the introduction of the legislation necessary to give effect to this undertaking, I regret that I am not in a position to make any further statement on the subject.

Mr. Tinker

I am aware of the reply to which the right hon. Gentleman has referred, but there is a great deal of unrest about this matter. Can we be told something definite as to when the Bill will be introduced; and at the same time will the Minister take into consideration the savings of the present applicants for supplementary pensions?

Mr. MacDonald

I think that matter will be made quite definite when the Bill is introduced, as I understand it will be to-day.

Mr. Burke

What instructions have been given to the people who are to administer this?

Mr. MacDonald

The Bill will be introduced to-day, so that the position will be quite clear. I cannot add anything at present.

23. Mr. A. Bevan

asked the Minister of Health whether an instruction has been sent out to investigators of the Assistance Board to renew all investigations in respect of applications for supplementary old age pensions which did not take into account the income of "in-laws"?

Mr. MacDonald

I am informed by the Board that, so far as they are aware, no such instruction has been issued.

Mr. Bevan

Is the Minister aware that in many instances forms have been called in; and that the information of the Board does not correspond with the experience of hon. Members. Is he further aware that investigations are being made which are a violation of the undertakings given to this House?

Mr. MacDonald

I have made inquiries from the Board on this subject, and I have given the House the information I have received. If the hon. Member has information which is in conflict, I shall be very glad to receive it and go into the matter.

Mr. Bevan

Does the right hon. Gentleman think it is competent for investigation officers to demand to know the incomes of "in-laws"?

Mr. MacDonald

What the investigation officers should do is laid down in the Regulations, and they have carried out their work in such a way that, so far as the Board is aware, no further instructions on this point have been necessary, but, if the hon. Member has any cases, I will gladly examine the question.

Mr. Muff

May I also send cases to the Minister?

25. Mr. J. Griffiths

asked the Minister of Health how many applications have been received for supplementary allowances from old age pensioners; how many of the applications have been granted; and what is the average rate of the supplementary allowance?

Mr. MacDonald

Up to and including 2nd August, the latest date for which information is available, approximately 1,360,000 applications for supplementary pensions have been received. At that date approximately 920,000 supplementary pensions had been granted, whilst 340,000 applications had either been withdrawn or supplementary pensions had not been granted on grounds of ineligibility or because the applicant was deemed not to be in need. With regard to the last part of the Question, information is not yet available as to the average weekly payment of supplementary pension, but I will furnish it to the hon. Member in due course.

Mr. Buchanan

Do those figures include Scotland?

Mr. MacDonald

I think they include the whole of the British Isles.

Mr. Lipson

Can instructions be given that Members of Parliament shall receive the figures from their local officers?

Mr. MacDonald

I do not think that I can do that, but if any hon. Member wishes to have information, I will endeavour to give him such information myself.

26. Mr. J. Griffiths

asked the Minister of Health whether he is aware of the dissatisfaction at the small amounts of supplementary allowances granted to many old age pensioners; that in many cases the allowances are only 3s. 6d. per week; and how these amounts are fixed?

Mr. MacDonald

The reply to the first part of the Question is in the negative. As regards the second part the amounts of pensions are calculated in accordance with the rules set out in the Supplementary Pensions (Determination of Need and Assessment of Need) Regulations, 1940. It is not possible without knowing all the facts to say how a supplementary pension has been calculated in a particular case, but if the hon. Member has any particular case or cases in mind and will let me have particulars, I will make inquiries.

Mr. Griffiths

Is the Minister aware that the operation of the household means test is creating even greater concern in the case of old age pensioners than in the case of the unemployed? Is he further aware that during this week I have had scores of letters from different parts of the country, indicating that the amounts of the supplementary allowances awarded to old age pensioners are in the region of 1s., 1s. 6d. and 2s. a week? Will he have a review of this matter before he creates a storm in the country?

Mr. MacDonald

In regard to the figure of the supplementary pensions, I have already undertaken to let the hon. Member have information of the average figure as soon as I can, and I expect that will be in the near future. I think that the hon. Member will find that the average figure is very much higher than the sort of figures he has quoted this afternoon. In regard to the principle of the household means test, that was debated in this House, and the legislation is being carried out in accordance with the decision of the House.

Mr. Griffiths

Will the Minister address himself, in particular, to the hardship created because of the way in which the rules are being operated, in that sons-in-law and daughters-in-law are treated as members of the same household? In view of the national interest, will he look into this problem at once?

Mr. MacDonald

I am certainly willing to look into that sort of question. Naturally, I am dependent upon hon. Members to let me have information they may have which would justify an investigation and help me in the problem. Beyond that, I cannot go.

31. Mr. Silverman

asked the Minister of Health why the Assistance Board refuse to determine the application of Mrs. Jemima Varley, a widow aged 79, of 104, Manchester Road, Nelson, for a supplementary old age pension until she furnishes the income of the landlord from whom she rents an unfurnished room at 5s. per week?

Mr. MacDonald

I am having inquiry made and will communicate with the hon. Member.

Mr. Silverman

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that it is becoming a practice with the Assistance Board to require these particulars, and to refuse determination whenever the old age pensioner happens to rent a room from someone who is a relative instead of someone who is a friend?

Mr. MacDonald

I will look into the matter as soon as I have obtained information from the Board.

36. Mr. Lipson

asked the Minister of Health whether he is aware of the great concern felt by many needy and deserving old age pensioners in Cheltenham at the rejection of their applications for supplementary pensions; in particular, why has a supplementary old age pension been refused to Mrs. C. Farley, of 33, Leighton Road, Cheltenham, age 83, whose sole income is the old age pension of 10s. a week and who has to support her daughter and herself?

Mr. MacDonald

I am having inquiry made and will communicate with the hon. Member.

Mr. Lipscn

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that I have already sent him particulars of some very bad cases, and that since then I have had a number of very hard cases. Is he aware, now that we have had experience of the way in which this law has been administered, that it will either have to be better administered or amended?

Mr. Gallacher

Could not the Minister have a report from the "snoopers" on this matter?