HC Deb 04 March 1940 vol 358 cc56-60

Amendments made:

In page 8, line 41, leave out "of May," and insert "ending with the third day of August."

In page 9, line 1, leave out "the order," and insert: any order for outdoor relief which was, at any time during the period of six months ending with that date, in force in the case of the applicant."—[Mr. Elliot.]

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

4.21 p.m.

Mr. Woodburn (Stirling and Clackmannan, Eastern)

I want to raise, on behalf of the local authorities in my area, a very important question as to what is going to happen to the old age pensioners who will be transferred from their authorities to the authority under the Act. I have been given a list of people assessed under the present authority with a sample of what is to happen to them under the new authority, and I would like the Minister to take these into account when considering the matter at a later stage. In the first case a person at present receives 11s. 2d. supplementary pension over his 10s. pension. Under the new authority he would receive 6s. 6d.—a loss of nearly 5s. a week. Another receives 20s. 11d. supplementation, which will be cut to 16s., or a loss of 4s. 11d. per week; another will drop from 9s. to 6s. and another from 18s. 5d. to 11s., or a loss of 7s. 5d. The local authorities are very alarmed about what is to happen under the Act to these old people who are to be transferred. We would like to ask quite definitely whether these cases will be cut by 7s. 5d., 5s., and so on when they are transferred from public assistance to the new authority. I do not want to make a speech about it, because I think the figures speak for themselves. Perhaps the Minister will give a clear answer on this because it is a very important question.

4.23 p.m.

Mr. Elliot

That is not our intention, and it is for that purpose that this Clause is here put down. I shall keep in mind the hon. Member's further point about the mandatory provision. I would ask him, however, to consider whether in fact we have not gone a long way to meet him in the Amendment which has been moved.

Mr. George Griffiths (Hemsworth)

Do I understand the Minister to say that no old age pensioner receiving a supplementary grant from public assistance will have any reduction whatever when this Bill becomes an Act? Will he retain the same supplementary pension as he did under public assistance?

Mr. Elliot

I am anxious not to delay the Committee, but I would say that in general it is our intention that the present determinations should be carried on. I cannot, of course, give an absolute pledge that it will be so in all cases.

4.25 p.m.

Mr. Bevan

Is it not only until the Board has an opportunity of applying its own scales? The Committee ought not to be misled. This Clause is called "Transitional Provisions" to enable the Board when the old age pensioner is handed over on the accepted day to regard the assessment of the local authority as the assessment of the Board until such time as the Board makes its own assessments. When it does it may be below or above the original assessment of the public assistance authority. This is a mere cushion, or shock-absorber, which we are discussing at the moment, and there may be some doubt whether the Board has the right to—

The Chairman

I am not sure that I was not a little lax in not interfering before; but I am very loth to interrupt hon. Members more than I can help. This Clause does deal with transitional provisions, and I ought not to allow any question or discussion on any matter other than transitional provisions.

Mr. Bevan

It is precisely that that I was discussing.

The Chairman

I do not want the hon. Member to discuss points which I have just ruled out.

Mr. Bevan

It is for the convenience of the Committee that we should be told how far we should go, but as I have not reached the frontiers, I have not yet offended. The position is that the Minister has given the impression—indeed he has given it right through these Debates—that it is the intention that the Board should treat the old age pensioners in accordance with the practice of the best authorities. The Minister knows he has no right to say any such thing, and he knows when saying it that he is deliberately misleading the Committee. He has no Statutory right at this moment to say what the Board are going to do, and the Board have not told him. I challenge him to produce any document in which the Board have given him any instruction to say any such thing. Under the 1934 Act, the chairman of the Board made exactly the same sort of statement to the Committee, and we had the same kind of exaggerated case dragged out at that Box as a decoy, given as an example of how the Board would deal with certain cases. The chairman contravened what he had said in the first regulations. Anything falling from the lips of the right hon. Gentleman in respect of this particular Clause is to avoid a row in those better-off districts. The right hon. Gentleman learns by experience and knows what happened before. The regulations had to be withdrawn, and the supplementary provisions carried the thing on for months so that by the time it was over the unemployed were too starved to have anything to say. This is a psychological cushion, and when it masquerades as anything else it is a deception of the Committee. I say to my hon. Friends and others that they are not entitled to go to their constituents and say that under this Clause the Bill has any such powers as those suggested, except a temporary assessment of the public assistance authorities until the Board themselves have an opportunity of bringing in their own scales.

4.30 p.m.

Mr. Ness Edwards (Caerphilly)

Do I take it that under this Clause it is proposed to continue the supplementary grants which people are getting from the public assistance committees as supplementary pensions under this Bill so long as the household conditions of the pensioner remain the same?

Mr. Elliot

The position is quite clear as I stated it before. As I have said, the purpose of postponing the time of bringing the supplementations into force is for the purpose of obtaining regulations which will be laid before the House.

Mr. E. J. Williams

Many committees pay in kind as well as give supplementary allowances. For instance, Cardiff City Council give milk, eggs, coal, and things of that kind. Will payment in kind and not payment in cash be given as supplementations during the transitional period?

Mr. Elliot

We have already stated that it is not within the power of the Board to give payment in kind. They will have to take account under the Amendment I have just moved of the value of any such things.

Question, "That the Clause, as amended, stand part of the Bill," put, and agreed to.