HC Deb 08 March 1940 vol 358 cc772-805

1.22 p.m.

Mr. Ness Edwards

I beg to move, in page 8, line 34, at the end, to insert: and shall have the right to appear in person or by some other person who satisfies the tribunal that he is a relative or personal friend of the applicant. I understand that the Minister has given an assurance that this point will be implemented by the Government in another place.

Mr. E. J. Williams

I beg to second the Amendment.

1.23 p.m.

Mr. Foot

I appreciate the purpose of the hon. Member in this Amendment, but I am rather unhappy about the precise words, and I hope that the Minister will not accept it in this form. The words are rather unduly restrictive. The Amendment reads: and shall have the right"— he, of course, has that right— to appear in person or by some other person who satisfies the tribunal that he is a relative or personal friend of the applicant. When an old age pensioner goes to the appeal tribunal that "other person" must prove to the satisfaction of the tribunal that he is a relative or a personal friend. That may be all right if the old age pensioner is fortunate enough to have a relative or personal friend who is able to state his case for him, but there are many cases where he has not that advantage and where the "other person," the relative or personal friend, will have the same difficulty as the old age pensioner himself in stating what may be a complicated case. That difficulty has arisen in connection with the hardshid tribunals, and hon. Members have protested against it. These words will have to be interpreted by the tribunal, and they may thus prevent an old age pensioner taking along the secretary of a tirade union or of any other organisation to which he may belong. All of us here belong to various political associations, whether a trades and labour council or a Liberal association or a Unionist association. All associations of that kind have some members who are old age pensioners. Is there any reason why an officer of any political organisation should not accompany the old age pensioner in order to state his case for him?

Mr. Ness Edwards

Perhaps I have been misled by the general practice into thinking that these words are necessary. My feeling was that this form of words would enable an old age pensioner to take with him anybody he liked. That is the practice.

Mr. Foot

That is the practice, but that is not what the words say. Let me take this case. I think I am right in saying, speaking from recollection, that the words, when we are dealing with insurance cases before the Court of Referees, are not so strict. There are many hon. Members who from time to time appear for people in their constituencies before the Court of Referees. I see hon. Members before me who are very familiar with the practice of appearing for their constituents in courts of referees, and even before the umpire. We know that very often the constituent who is assisted in this way is someone whom the Member has not seen before, and is certainly not a relative. If these words were inserted, it would be very difficult for anyone to prove he was a personal friend. We all want to secure the right of the old age pensioner to have any advocate he pleases. No one is trying to cut down the class of people who may appear before this tribunal. The aim of the hon. Member in moving this Amendment is to make sure, as I said, that the old age pensioner shall have the right to take with him anyone he pleases to assist in the presentation of his case, and it seems to me that purpose would probably be achieved if no words of this kind were in the Bill at all.

Mr. Maclean

Would it not meet the case if the word "personal" were left out?

Mr. Foot

I find it a little difficult to draw a distinction between a friend and a personal friend.

Mr. Maclean

He may not be a personal friend. You have the term "friend" under military law.

Mr. Foot

The term in military law is "the prisoner's friend," but that word is used in an entirely different sense. I want the old age pensioner to have his rights secured to have anyone he pleases to present his case. I want him to be able to take along anyone he wishes to help him. Therefore, as I say, while I entirely sympathise with the Amendment, I hope that before the Bill becomes an Act the words will be considered by the Government.

1.30 p.m.

The Under-Secretary of State for Scotland (Captain McEwen)

I do not know that I can say anything in detail to the question raised by the hon. Gentleman the Member for Dundee (Mr. Foot). The question of the legal definition of "personal friend," or "friend" in the ordinary sense, is one on which I certainly am not capable of making a- pronouncement but may I say in answer to the hon. Member for Caerphilly (Mr. Ness Edwards) that there is in fact no difference between the Government and the Opposition on these words. The only difference which exists is in the matter of the place where these words should come. It is the opinion of the Government that the right place for them is no there but rather in the rules, and that when the rules governing the tribunal are drafted there shall appear in them a form of words, not necessarily but quite possibly, covering this point which is recognised as being an eminently reasonable thing.

1.31 p.m.

Mr. Ellis Smith (Stoke)

I think the Minister has gone a long way to meet the point of my hon. Friend the Member for Caerphilly (Mr. Ness Edwards), but the words are still left open to various interpretations. I have had experience, and I am sure some of my hon. Friends have had the same experience, of the words being interpreted in different ways. For example, we know many of the people who will be chairmen of these tribunals, and when dealing with old age pensioners and unemployed people we know in what atmosphere and in what spirit people will be dealt with. I therefore suggest, because the words are left open to various interpretations, that they should be reconsidered, and that it should be left beyond any doubt that a trade union representative or a representative of the local pensions committee of the trades council should have the right to appear irrespective of whether he satisfies the tribunal, and the chairman of the tribunal in particular.

It is because we have had difficulties of this character that we are concerned about the wording. People who have had to appear before courts of referees in the past, and other tribunals and committees of this character, know the lack of confidence that exists in tribunals in certain areas. It is therefore most essential that these words should be made more definite, and it should not be left to the chairman or to the tribunal to say whether the tri- bunal is satisfied. In my view every responsible trade union official or responsible representative of a local trades council ought to have the right to appear for old age pensioners irrespective of whether he satisfies the tribunals. I therefore hope the Minister will reconsider the words.

1.34 p.m.

Mr. Buchanan (Glasgow, Gorbals)

When the Unemployment Assistance Board matter was before this House the hon. Member for Caerphilly (Mr. Ness Edwards) will remember that he moved an Amendment to safeguard this point, and that Amendment, which was carried, has worked admirably, and at the present moment nobody is barred. What I would say to the Minister is that the present system works well, and I would like his guarantee that the present system will continue. Under the present practice, as I know it, practically nobody is barred. Therefore, if the Minister will say that the present system will continue, I think that will be quite satisfactory.

Captain McEwen

I think I can give that assurance.

Mr. Ness Edwards

In view of the assurances that have been given, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

1.36 p.m.

Mr. Maclean

I beg to move, in page 8, line 35, to leave out Sub-section (3).

I shall be brief in moving this Amendment as I think the Minister knows the point we have in mind. We consider that the sub-section places arbitrary powers in the hands of an officer of the Board. It does not state whether the officer of the Board who is to make the report is to be a medical officer or not, and we consider that the provision is sufficiently wide to enable only an investigator to submita report which would enable the Board to refuse a supplementary pension to the applicant. The powers which it is sought to take in this sub-section are rather arbitrary powers, because the provision gives to the officer, whether he be a medical officer or only an investigating officer, together with the tribunal, the power to throw back upon the public assistance authorities the entire cost of maintaining these people. There are in the sub-section the words, become chargeable to any public assistance authority. Therefore, I hope that the Minister, although he may not accept the Amendment to delete the sub-section—which I would prefer to do—will give a pledge that in another place some alteration will be made to meet the desire of the public assistance authorities of the country. It may be argued that the public assistance authorities are given rights of appeal. That is true, but we know how often the rights of appeal given to public assistance authorities prevail against an institution which is looked upon as being a national body and which is directly under the control of a Government Department. I trust that, now that the public authorities have been given a promise by the Government that they will be relieved of the cost of the supplementation they are now giving to the incomes of old age pensioners, the charge will be taken over entirely by the Government, and that the Government will take upon their shoulders the cost of supplementing any charge that may be made by any institution when an old age pensioner is placed in such an institution because he or she is considered to be mentally deficient, or incapable, owing to old age, of going about in a normal way, living among his or her friends, and living the ordinary life of an old age pensioner.

1.39 p.m.

Mr. G. Macdonald

I beg to second the Amendment.

I am rather concerned about the provision which enables an officer of the Assistance Board to decide upon the bodily or mental condition of an applicant. It seems to me that it leaves rather too much power in the hands of the officer. I should have thought that the Minister would have wanted some competent medical authority to report upon the bodily or mental state of the person, and that that report should be in the hands of the Assistance Board officer when he deals with the tribunal. I do not think that such an extensive power should be left in the hands of an officer of the Board. I have had some experience of the practice of public assistance committees in deciding upon the mental or physical condition of an applicant for assistance. We have always insisted upon a competent medical man giving a report informing us whether or not it was in the person's own interest that he or she should enter an institution for a short or long time. I do not think it is desirable that this power should be given to an officer of the Assistance Board, and I should feel much easier if the sub-section insisted upon a medical report from a competent authority as to the bodily or mental state of the applicant.

1.41 p.m.

Mr. Buchanan

I hope that the Minister will reconsider this sub-section. This is a matter which we discussed at great length in connection with the Scottish Poor Law, when power was being given for people to be placed in institutions. I would point out to hon. Members that a person does not need to go into an institution if he or she does not claim a supplementary pension. It is only when a person claims the supplementary pension that this question of bodily or mental condition arises. If a person is mentally unfit the law already contains provisions for dealing with that person. There is the power of certification. The second point I want to make is that, in dealing with people who are bodily or mentally unfit, they should not be dealt with as a class of old-aged pensioners. That is a problem which ought to be dealt with from the point of view of society as a whole.

Frankly, I fear the power that is contained in this sub-section. In Scotland there is a saying "over the hills," which means in an institution. It may be said that some of these old people are not quite capable of looking after themselves. That may be true, but one ought to be extremely careful before shifting an old woman from her home into an institution. I remember that my mother, when she was old, was not able properly to look after her home, and there was difficulty in getting help, but I know also that it would have ended her life earlier if she had been put into an institution. Whatever may be done, do not leave this matter to an official for investigation. He may be an excellent official for finding out facts, but he is not the sort of person to determine bodily or mental illness. It may be said that there is an appeal to the tribunal, but I submit that the tribunal is not a tribunal that is suitable to decide this matter. It may be an excellent tribunal in applying the means test or for finding out what is the income, but if is not suitable to decide this matter. In deciding this matter, much stronger steps ought to be taken than are taken in the sub-section to safeguard the interests of the old persons. To say that they have an appeal to the tribunal is to beg the question. A person who is mentally unfit really has no appeal because he is mentally incapable of making one.

Before power is taken to put these old persons in an institution, much more consideration should be given in the matter. The Glasgow Corporation, whatever faults they may have, have shown the way in this question. In Glasgow, they have established homes for the aged. There is no need to order old people into these homes, for they are clamouring to get in. The way is not to threaten them with institutional treatment, but to show them decent homes, to change the institution from an institution into a home. If that is done there will be no need for this power. I earnestly appeal to the Minister to modify this part of the Bill. It is a cruel thing to put this power in the hands of an official, particularly in the country districts, and I ask the Minister to reconsider the matter. If he cannot accept in full the Amendment of my hon. Friend the Member for Govan (Mr. Maclean), I ask him at any rate to insert additional safeguards. Do not leave the matter to the tribunal, and do not give this power to an official.

I should like to see the whole thing struck out, but if that is not to be done, then at least the medical officer of health of the local authority should be consulted, and also consultation should take place with the relatives, who might be able to find other accommodation for the old folk. I have referred to the local authorities in my native city and the efforts they are making. I think local authorities should be encouraged in their work, and instead of the pension being taken away, there should be some provision for the old folk. I hope the Minister will at least consider this point.

1.46 p.m.

Mr. R. J. Taylor (Morpeth)

I would like to underline the appeal which has been made by the last speaker, and to call attention to another angle of the problem. If this power is left in the hands of the investigator or the representative, the first decision he makes in any village or town will so prejudice his work that he will be looked upon with repugnance and askance. His work will be prejudiced, however kind and friendly he is in assisting the aged people. Before anything is done along these lines the most careful consideration should be given to the matter. The idea of an officer having to question in his own mind whether an old person is mentally fit, even if he is right, seems to be trespassing on the powers already existing. The Chancellor of the Exchequer used in his argument cases to show how beneficient is this new scheme and quoted one which might be applicable to this discussion. He told the House of a bedridden old lady who had a daughter attending to her, and he showed that the pension and supplementation would be 23s. in the summer and 25s. in winter. An officer in some part of the country, coming across that type of case, might look at it in an entirely different way and say that the old lady should go into an institution. Before an officer makes a report to his tribunal, at least the members of the family should be approached before any attempt is made to have the applicant removed to an institution or a Poor Law home.

1.49 p.m.

Miss Ward (Wallsend)

I would like to follow the last point made in the speech of the hon. Member for Gorbals (Mr. Buchanan). I am opposed to this subsection because it perpetuates what I regard as a somewhat pernicious system, that of differentiating between aged people going into institutions. If a person enters an institution as fit and healthy within the meaning of the Act, the old age pension is restored to the State, but if the person is a mental or sickness case, he is allowed to retain a proportion of the pension. I hoped, when the Minister introduced this Bill, having as its main background the removal of old age pensioners from the Poor Law, that he would make provision allowing pensioners entering institutions to retain a portion of their pension for pocket money. I am extremely disappointed to find that there is no such provision in the Bill.

My right hon. Friend's predecessor at the Ministry of Health was good enough to enable me to pass a private Member's Bill giving permissive powers to local authorities to provide pocket money to people who had reached the age of 65. It had to be a permissive Bill with the money provided out of the funds of the local authorities, because, as a private Member, I was debarred from putting the charge upon the State. The point I wish to emphasise is that the Government acquiesced in the principle and did not oppose my Bill, and Members of all shades of opinion in this House did not disagree with it. Ever since the Bill was passed local authorities have felt disinclined to take advantage of the permissive powers on the ground that the Government were not right in taking away from the old age pensioner the whole of the pension and putting the whole of the charge, subject, of course, to the block grants, on the local authorities. When I have inquired from the Association of Municipal Corporations and the County Councils Association, they have always said that they were advising local authorities not to take advantage of the provisions of my Bill because of this disagreement between the Ministry of Health and the local authorities.

Mr. Whiteley (Blaydon)

May I ask, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, what we are discussing at this moment?

Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Colonel Clifton Brown)

I must confess that I was not quite certain about what the hon. lady was driving at and I hope she will confine herself to the Amendment before the House.

Miss Ward

May I make the position plain, because I do not want to be out of Order, and, of course, I should not be able to make my speech if I were. At the top of page 9 of the Bill, in line 5, it says that an officer after receiving such a special report and affording to the applicant an opportunity of being heard, the tribunal may direct that the applicant shall cease to be eligible for a supplementary pension: It seemed to me, therefore, that I was in order in arguing that the same provision applying to a supplementary pension applies to an ordinary pension and that when anybody enters an institution his or her pension is deducted and presumably the supplementary pension too is to be taken away. I much regret that my right hon. Friend has not seen his way to remedy the anomaly to which I have drawn attention. As I have often said before, Ministers have frequently to defend a policy which has been enunciated behind the scenes by the Treasury. If it is the Treasury which is not allowing this anomaly to be remedied, all I can say is that the Treasury is setting itself up against the will of Parliament, because Parliament approved the principle of allowing old people in institutions to have pocket money. I hope my right hon. Friend will make a note of this point and let me know that when the Bill is passed and aged persons have been taken from the public assistance committee and become chargeable to the State, he will write to the local authorities and say, "I hope you will take advantage of the permissive powers to grant pocket money to old people in institutions." If in this Bill we are making a difference in the lives of people outside institutions, there is no reason why we should not add a little happiness to those who go into institutions.

1.57 p.m.

Mr. Jenkins (Pontypool)

May I add a word of appeal to the Minister following the realistic and almost pathetic appeal of the hon. Member for Gorbals (Mr. Buchanan)? We have to picture the position of these old people if they are to be subject to the kind of treatment provided for in this Clause. The assistance officer will go into their homes and will have to make up his mind about their condition. He may decide to take a case to the tribunal. We can all imagine what will happen there. An old person living in a working-class street will be taken before the tribunal, who will consider whether he is fit to remain at home. Whatever the decision of the tribunal, this procedure will be very harmful to the old people. I appeal to the Minister to try and realise how terrifying to them a piece of machinery like this might be. The Minister and the Parliamentary Secretary know old people as well as we do. As we get old I suppose we get less mentally capable. There are some of us who tend sometimes to get in a. difficult position mentally and physically and we realise that it needs a very sympathetic and understanding person to go into these homes and give the kind of consideration which the old people need.

Is the assistance officer the person to do it? He is the man who goes round to collect particulars of the income of a home, and is he the right type of man to prepare a report on the mentality of an old age pensioner? Is the tribunal the right type of body to consider whether he is mentally capable of continuing to live in his home? This is the wrong type of machinery altogether. It may, as the hon. Member for Gorbals said, become extremely dangerous. You might get an indiscreet officer and he might create no end of feeling in a district because of the unfortunate actions he had taken. I wish I could make an appeal as strongly on human grounds as the hon. Member for Gorbals did. I cannot, but I can see what will happen, and I beg the Minister to give fair consideration to the matter. Does he not think that, instead of a piece of machinery like this, the problem should be dealt with under the provisions of the Bill for dealing with the welfare of the old people? They might be dealt with much more sympathetically under those arrangements. We know the type of woman who would go into a home and who would even turn up her sleeves to lend a hand. That is the type of person who should go to these people when they are in distress.

For the public assistance officer to have to report on the mental condition of an old person is illegal and contrary to every action of the Board of Control. No assistance officer has the right to make a pronouncement on the mentality of any person, and no tribunal set up under this Bill has the right under Common Law to say that a person is mentally affected. All this machinery is, therefore, ultra vires. Even if it was operating and a pronouncement were made about the mental condition of an old age pensioner, even if it were accepted as a legal act, a medical man would have to come in. The patient might be so bad that he would have to be examined with a view to seeing whether he should be certified. The House will understand how terrifying a piece of machinery like that may be to the old people. The neighbours would say, "Old Tom Tomkins has been reported by the assistance officer as not being mentally fit to live in a home; he has gone balmy". That is what the assistance officer would say. It is a wretched expression, but it is used. In this Bill we are arriving at the stage when we are allowing lay people, people who are not carefully selected and who may not be discreet, to make reports of that kind. I cannot imagine that the Minister or the Government desire it to be done. Realising its possibilities, I beg the Minister to withdraw this machinery and allow the treatment of the old people to come under the provisions dealing with their welfare.

2.5 p.m.

Sir Percy Harris (Bethnal Green, South West)

I cannot help thinking that this Sub-section must have crept in almost by accident. I cannot assume that the Minister, with his knowledge of the lunacy laws and his long experience could really have intended to modify those laws through the machinery of an old age pension Bill. There is adequate machinery for dealing with such cases and it would be very unfortunate if by this Sub-section we were to strike at the root of the protection which the present laws afford against any section of people, young or old, rich or poor, being dragged into contact with lunacy administration, the Board of Control and so on. For the last 50 years we have been building up safeguards to protect people from being certified, and this Sub-section would, I fear, undermine many of these safeguards. Without some more adequate explanation I feel that we should not risk accepting this Sub-section.

2.6 p.m.

Mr. Ritson (Durham)

I have been connected with mental hospital work for 25 years, and for that reason I want to plead with all my power that we should save these old people from what is proposed. Their bodily or mental condition is to be judged by an official, it says. Let me recount a personal experience of my own. One day I was passing an office in Sunderland when out rushed a relieving officer—an official on the same lines as these officials, so far as knowledge of mental conditions is concerned. He said to me, "I want you to sign this" and showed me a paper. He said, "We want this woman sent away." I was chairman of the mental hospital, and he thought he had got the right man, but he had not. I said, "Where is the doctor?" He said, "He is playing golf, and I cannot get at him." I said, "I want two doctors, and also I want to see the friends of this woman." The son was there, a noble boy protecting his mother.

What were the facts? The woman had had a serious operation for kidney trouble. The Minister of Health, from his practical medical experience, will know what that means, and what effect it may have on a person's bodily and mental condition. They are interlocked; the mental state can affect the bodily condition just as the bodily condition can affect the mind. In this case the kidneys were affected. The woman had not altogether recovered and had been a bit of a nuisance—with her state of mind and her bodily affliction. It was no more than a high state of fever might produce, but they said the woman was mentally affected. Any human being would have been affected who had gone through that type of operation. I said, "Before you go further I want two doctors. Fetch the doctor back from his golf. Magistrate as I am, I am not going to be an instrument to help you or anybody else to send a purely sane person to an institution and to mark her as a mental case."

Mr. Quibell (Brigg)

It is getting them out that is the trouble.

Mr. Ritson

Yes, getting them out is a trouble [Interruption]. I do not want my hon. Friends to talk about people being "balmy." I do not like the expression, and no one who has been connected with mental institutions likes it. Apply it if you like to this House or to politicians, but not to decent people in institutions. I hope the Minister will listen to my appeal—whatever I may have said about his actions in the past because I know I protested against those three political moss troopers coming from Scotland to raid us. His ancestry is creeping through that smile of his. [Interruption]. I know they can sing "Bonnie Dundee." I appear to the Minister to realise that we should not allow any official to judge of a person's mental state. I have worked with experts for 25 years and know that we are getting so far ahead now that we are not shutting off men with dark shutters and pulling the blinds down on their lives; but here we have a Bill to say that an official is to be allowed to judge the mental state of some old man or woman whose bodily ailments may, for the moment, be affecting the mind.

There are always plenty of people ready to assist in sending other people into an institution, but not the same desire to get them out. We ought to protect these old people. We are all going towards the setting sun, and there is no man in this great hall, historic as it is, who may not be affected mentally at some time through bodily affliction. Scores of people today are worrying about their lads going to the front to fight the battles of this country, and who can say that their mental state may not be affected? As far as I can prevent it, I am not going to allow to be subjected to the provisions of a Subsection like this people who have to go through the great war of industry, through all the worry and toil of life. In the case I have referred to the official said to me, thinking he was doing his duty, "She is a bit of a nuisance in the institution." That was no fault of hers.

I appeal to the Minister to go back to his advisers, to go to the Board of Control, and they will tell him that no man in this county can be sent to an institution and have the hall mark of mental deficiency or insanity put upon him until certain precautions have been taken. Civil authorities like magistrates, who are absolutely independent of the person altogether, are consulted. Though we may be amateurish in our ways, we act with long experience, and we can examine the friends and associates of the person and then call in medical evidence. Magistrates have, thank God, often refused to sign these certificates, and in many cases they have been proved to be right and the experts wrong. In asking a man who is merely a machine to do this work we are doing that which is not only illegal but unjust, unfair and mean. It is giving an official too much power over another person's liberty. We should not leave them at the mercy of the word of an official who is paid to do his job as instructed.

Mr. Maclean

On a point of Order. Is the Minister aware that an Act introduced by the Lord- Advocate was passed only last week safeguarding the rights of people in Scotland who suffer from mental deficiency? In that Measure it is laid down that there must be an independent doctor, the individual's family doctor and an official doctor—

Mr. Deputy-Speaker

The hon. Member is entitled to ask a question, but I must point out to him that he has exhausted his right to speak in this discussion.

Mr. Maclean

I am asking a question on a point of Order. Does not the passing of that Act for Scotland render this Sub-section inoperative in Scotland?

2.16 p.m.

Mr. Tinker (Leigh)

This Sub-section raises a very important point. We are passing a Bill the object of which it to give supplementary pensions to aged people, in addition to what is called the statutory pension. In this Sub-section we say in effect to the pensioner, "Before you can get the supplementary pension, you must satisfy us as to your mental condition." When it was originally decided to give pensions, did anyone ever anticipate that one of the conditions of a grant of pension would be that a person had to satisfy a tribunal that he or she was in a fit mental condition? What will be the effect of such a condition? A person will go before the committee to ask for a pension. He will be liable to be asked whether he is mentally fit or not. Following on that, there will be an examination and, possibly, an appeal. What will be the result afterwards? When the man goes home and goes among his friends the stigma will attach to him all the time, that there is a doubt about his mental fitness.

What will be the effect, on other old age pensioners, who desire a supplementary pension, of the knowledge that they will be subject to such questions? We know that as we get on in life, few of us retain that physical and mental vitality which we had in youth or middle age. As we grow older we do not see things in the same light as we did before. Aged people who may be in need of a supplementary pension may ask themselves, "Is it worth the indignity of being subjected to an examination as to whether I am mentally fit or not?" This will have the effect of preventing people applying who might, in other circumstances, have applied for supplementary pensions.

I wonder whether the House fully realises the implications behind this Subsection. I wonder whether the Minister himself realises them. When I read the Bill I could not understand why this provision had been put into it at all. I always understood that there were certain methods under the law of dealing with people who showed signs of mental affliction. Why should that matter be emphasised in this Bill? Is it the Minister's intention to save some of the money which is being forced out of him and which is being so grudgingly given? If that is the intention, I dare say this Sub-section will do what he has in mind, because it will save a vast amount of money by the effect which it will have on the applicants. But, whatever else may happen, whatever modifications the Minister may offer to make, unless he is prepared to take out this Sub-section entirely, I, for one, shall oppose it and I shall ask my hon. Friends to go into the Division Lobby against it. We have put up with that enough in connection with this Bill. We have given away point after point. This is the final point, and I am determined that we shall not give way upon it. If this Bill has to go through the House of Commons in its present form, at least let us remove from it this lunacy provision—because it is nothing less than that—to which we propose to subject these aged people.

Which of us would like to be treated in this way in similar circumstances? We have in this House a pensions scheme financed out of our own money. I can see the time coming when I may have to ask for a pension and I do not see why, in that case, I should not be subject to the same kind of treatment as the people with whom we are dealing in this Bill. The committee in charge of those pensions might call me before them and ask me whether I was mentally right or not. Some of them might be glad of the chance of telling me what they think about me. But if we subject the poorer section of the community to this kind of treatment, we should subject ourselves to it also. If we are to pass this Bill, let us at least take away this stain from it and remove a provision which calls upon these poor people to show that they are not mentally afflicted.

2.22 p.m.

Mr. Davidson (Glasgow, Maryhill)

I desire to strengthen, if I can, the appeals which have been made to the Minister by my hon. Friends. I ask the Minister to give this question his most serious consideration. The first point I put to him is that this Bill does not deal with all old age pensioners but only with the poverty-stricken section of pensioners who are compelled to seek supplementation. It is the people who, because of dire poverty and distress, have to seek supplementation, who are being asked to show whether they are in their right minds or not. The Minister knows from his experience that among old people there are many who may be termed peculiar. An old person, perhaps as the result of some unfortunate past experience, may have a certain "kink" in one respect, while being otherwise a perfectly normal person.

I can give the Minister an instance. A very old woman who lost her son in the last war walked daily for five years to the military barracks nearest her home and asked the sentry, "Have you any word of my Jimmy yet?" The lad had been posted as missing and this poor old lady, affected in that one respect but in no other, made that inquiry every day for five years She was peculiar if you like, but under any system of justice she did not deserve either to be put into a mental institution or to be penalised if she applied for a supplementary pension. There is a large class, some of whom could be termed obstinate and some of whom have what is called "single-track" minds. No one knows better than public assistance officers and members of public assistance committees the great restraint that is needed in dealing with them and the great necessity for more that ordinary guidance and care for those people.

The Minister himself, in the normal course of events, will grow old, and the Minister has placed this Sub-section in the Bill. Suppose when he is an aged man he appears before some tribunal, the members of which I hope will be sufficiently educated to see the disgrace that attaches to this Sub-section. Suppose they say to him, "As a Minister you must have been mad to have said in a Clause that when poor persons ask for supplementary aid, a man with no knowledge of mental law or mental diseases, a man completely unequipped, an official whose real duty is that of making inquiries in other directions, shall have the power to send aged people into an institution because of their mental condition." I say to the Minister in all seriousness that if he insists on this particular Sub-section and presses it to a Division to-day knowing full well that the majority of hon. Members on the other side are absent and do not know the exact implications of this Sub-section, he will be committing one of the greatest pieces of injustice we have ever seen in the House.

There are other points to which I desire to refer, but before I depart from this question of mental condition I would say this. In the past public assistance authorities have incurred very great expense in connection with those people who were, shall we say, difficult and some obstinate. The Clause states: The tribunal may direct that the applicant shall cease to be eligible for a supplementary pension. I ask the Minister to indicate in his reply what exactly happens to the old age pensioner who has applied for supplementary relief. To-day public assistance authorities meet with very difficult cases. It may be decided that a man shall go to an institution, but if he refuses to go to an institution, as the law stands to-day the public assistance authority must still give him his benefit and give him what he requires. If they refuse, their public assistance officers can be arraigned in the court. What is to happen to one of those old fellows who has been independent all his days, or one of those old ladies who feels that entering into an institution is the last word in degradation, if they refuse? Is the Minister going to throw them back on to the public assistance authority? Will they have to meet the extra expense? What does the Minister intend to do in order to recompense the public assistance authority for any such action?

I will now pass to another part of this Clause which shows that this class of aged person is to be sneered out of existence. Here we have the case of a man who applies for supplementary relief. He is examined and an officer of the Board sends in a report about him. This officer must report to the public assistance authority that he is taking such a course. Then, in accordance with this Clause, if the public assistance authority desire to fight the man's case, to see that he gets fair play, or if they want to protect the interests of their own local authority or if they desire to protect themselves from having a large number of aged persons swept into the institutions and kept there on local rates instead of by national funds, if they desire to make representations, what steps is the Minister taking to see that every encouragement will be given to the local authority to make those representations?

Will he recompense them for any expenditure in which they will be involved? Particularly where there is a big aged problem, they must have some expenditure. If the Minister does not make arrangements such as that you will have an aged person who has been the victim of such a report falling into a clash between the Board and the public assistance authority. As an aged man, he will be pitied very much, but as to the responsibility for keeping him in comfort there will be a continual clash and a continual fight. If an aged person is removed to an institution, if the tribunal decide and the public assistance authority agree, who is to keep this person? Is he to be passed back to the public assistance authority? That leaves an opening for some of the things that have happened in the past; it leaves an opening for a circular to be issued. I have met old men of 83 and 89 doddering along in their quaint old ways whom I consider to be peculiar and funny; they have certain set ideas in their heads, certain objections to things which to many of us appear to be sensible, but who under no law of justice could be sent to a mental institution. They are harmless, doddering old fellows. What will happen to them? Is the Minister going to say, "You will be swept back to the public assistance authorities, but an opening will be left for secret sub-departmental circulars to be issued saying that men over 80 or 85 should be transferred"?

Apart from Clause 8, this is the most dangerous and reactionary Clause in this Bill. It is a Clause which drives the poorest section of the old people down into the dirt, a Clause which the Minister could not defend before a single soldier who is defending the liberty of these people. It could not be defended except by a party who are putting in something they know nothing about. I ask the Minister at least to give us a full statement on this question, and before he asks his own Members to vote on this Clause I ask him to inform them fully of the results of the Clause and not to commit the greatest injustice of all by lining up his Members behind him in the Division Lobby against the aged people who cannot defend themselves except by minority representatives in the House.

2.34 p.m.

Mr. Elliot

I have listened with great interest to the Debate this afternoon, and I think that the difficulty in which hon. Members find themselves is that we are really debating on leaving out Sub-section (3) without taking into account fully the Amendments that have been placed on the Paper, many of which deal with this particular point. The Debate has taken place in general on Sub-section (3), and I think hon. Members have somewhat overlooked one or two of the points which I should like now to recall to the House before they finally decide.

Let us first be clear about it. There is no question here of putting people into institutions. [An HON. MEMBER: "The power is there."] No, that idea, I think, has led hon. Members a little astray. There is no power to put anybody into an institution. [An HON. MEMBER: "There is power to supplement."] That is different from the argument advanced in the very powerful speech of the hon. Member for Durham (Mr. Ritson), that nobody should have power to hale away an old person and put him or her into an institution. The hon. Member rightly said that not one doctor but two doctors would be necessary for that. The tendency nowadays is to keep people out of institutions, and to do everything possible to preserve their sanity, instead of giving them a little push, as it were, to tilt the balance towards insanity, by throwing doubts on their mental stability. That argument is not really raised here. Nobody, under this Clause, has any power to put anybody into an institution; and, therefore, the argument of the hon. Member for Durham and of the hon. Baronet the Member for South-West Bethnal Green (Sir P. Harris) falls. But I do not deny that the question arises as to whether the payment of a supplementary pension should be made or withheld. There is a great difference between saying that you have the power of putting a person into an institution and saying that you have the power to grant or not grant money.

Mr. Davidson

One of the chief arguments is that the Board officer is not qualified even to report on the mental condition of the old age pensioner.

Mr. Jenkins

The words in the Clause are: the appeal tribunal should consider whether it is in the interests of the, applicant that he should become an inmate of an institution.

Mr. Elliot

Yes, but the first point I wish to establish is that neither the tribunal nor anyone else has the power, under the Bill, to commit anyone to an institution. The hon. Member for Durham has great experience in these matters, having been connected with this kind of work for 25 years. His argument dealt with the danger of somebody being put into an institution by some procedure which was not the procedure recognised by the law at present, and, as a result, losing the full rights of a citizen of this country. But I am now dealing with the question of payment or non-payment of money, and not of whether people should be put into institutions or not. I am sure the House is with me so far. We come to the next point, as to whether the procedure of a report on the pensioner's mental condition is an appropriate procedure to embody in this Clause. I do not think anybody would deny that some sort of review of the kind has always fallen upon our relief machinery, in that the public assistance committees themselves have such power.

Mr. Tomlinson

That is a good admission. It is the power behind the Clause that we are concerned about.

Mr. Elliot

I am not trying to run away from anything. I am drawing the attention of the House to the fact that in analogous cases the authority has had power to consider whether or not, in the applicant's own interest, he should be in an institution. Here, again, I am in a dilemma. We all remember the rather sudden storm which blew up on the question of welfare. Hon. Members on the back benches opposite pressed me strongly to say that welfare should form part of the objects of the Board. I accepted that view, and brought forward an Amendment, and was then attacked by the hon. Member for Chester-le-Street (Mr. Lawson), who spoke very strongly about the evils that might arise owing to "the Tory party smiling upon the poor." I have to choose between the desire that we all have, that old age pensioners should be protected to the greatest possible extent, and the conflicting desire that the welfare of these old persons should be considered. The hon. Member for Ponty-pool (Mr. Jenkins) suggested that we might bring these cases under the welfare provisions of the Act, rather than under the part dealing with payments. I should like to examine that.

Mr. Jenkins

It is a public health matter.

Mr. Elliot

Yes, but the hon. Member will not deny that the Debate has taken place on the suggestion that this sub-section should be left out altogether. I am the only Member of the House who has put down Amendments on the point that we are considering. One of those Amendments I am sure the Committee would be quite willing to accept. That is the proposal that the officer should consult with the appropriate officer of the authority in the applicant's area, and that he may, after such consultation, make a special report.

Mr. Davidson

I have an Amendment down to provide that the report shall be based on medical evidence.

Mr. Elliot

It is true that the hon. Member has such an Amendment on the Paper, but that would not get us away from the difficulty that it is undesirable to import, as a compulsory matter, medical evidence into the question of the payment of pensions. Hon. Members opposite desire that pensions should be paid as a matter of right, and that supplementation should be given without too much investigation. I hoped that the House would go so far with me as to accept the Amendment that I have put down, because it goes some distance towards meeting the point which has been made.

Mr. Maclean

In view of the discussion in Committee, will the right hon. Gentleman give a pledge to bring forward an Amendment in another place that will meet our point?

Mr. G. Macdonald

There is some uncertainty arising from the wording of the right hon. Gentleman's Amendment. Some of my hon. Friends feel that the appropriate officer of the public assistance authority may mean the medical officer of health. Whom does it mean?

Mr. Elliot

The appropriate officer would be, of course, the officer whom the authority itself considered to be the appropriate officer. If it thought that the medical officer of health was the appropriate officer, the officer of the tribunal would have to consult with him. We must presume that the authority would exercise its discretion in the most suitable way. Consultation with the relatives is extremely desirable, and indeed essential, and further, there is the danger of saying, or allowing it to be said, in any small village or valley, such as the hon. Member for Durham and I know so well, that the case of so-and-so is being inquired into because of his possible mental infirmities. To find some way in which we can meet the House on such points as this is not an easy task, but, at the same time, so anxious am I to meet the House in this matter that I will undertake to review the matter before the Bill becomes law and to consider it in another place and see whether words more particularly relating to welfare could be inserted at this pont, and whether we could omit altogether words, such as "mental condition" which I can easily see might cause a great deal of heart-burning in local and small communities. If the House will accept that assurance, I will certainly give it most readily and try to carry it out in the spirit in which this discussion has taken place.

2.47 p.m.

Mr. Jenkins

May I ask the right hon. Gentleman whether any words at all are necessary? The existing machinery may well deal with the situation. It does so now, and all these Sub-sections might very well be withdrawn and indeed the whole of the proposed scheme might be withdrawn entirely from the Bill. If they were, there would still be the existing machinery to deal with cases of mental illness, even of persons who applied for a supplementary pension. I beg of the Minister not to associate the supplementary pension with any words that will create any machinery to inquire into the mental condition of the applicant.

Mr. Buchanan

Is there not an obvious unfairness in the fact that the money is not granted to a person until the case has been decided by the Appeal Tribunal? Surely it is only elementary justice that at least the money payments ought to be made until the Appeal Tribunal has decided the case.

Mr. Elliot

I am advised that the hon. Member for Gorbals (Mr. Buchanan) is not accurate in his reading of the Bill on that point. My reading of it—and naturally I am willing to discuss it with him—is that nothing can be taken away until the Appeal Tribunal has so decided.

Mr. Buchanan

The right hon. Gentleman has missed my point. A person is not getting the money, and he applies for it, and it is refused. In that case the money could not be payable until after the Tribunal had met.

Mr. Elliot

The application for supplementary pension cannot be granted in any case until the application has been heard and decided. It is not only so in this case, but it covers any application. The pension cannot be granted until the case has been considered. With regard to the point raised by the hon. Member for Pontypool (Mr. Jenkins), I think there is a difference here between the power of the Board and the power of the local authority. The Board does not have the institutions that the local authority has, and it certainly will not be my desire, or the desire of any Member of the House that the Board should set up institutions for the treatment of such cases. But there are occasions when cases will arise where it was desirable that a person should go into an institution, and some machinery will be necessary to deal with them, but, subject to that, I hope that the House will be willing to accept the undertaking that I have given.

2.50 p.m.

Mr. Hubert Beaumont (Batley and Morley)

I certainly hope that my hon. Friends will not accept the offer made by the Minister with regard to the Amendment. I have refrained from taking part in these Debates not because I have no special interest in the Bill and am not profoundly dissatisfied with the provisions of the Bill, but I have felt that there were Members of the House who had much more intimate knowledge of the subject than myself. But on this particular matter I would like to enter my own personal protest against this Sub-section. The Minister of Health in his last speech said that this Sub-section does not give power to put people into institutions. It gives power to certain officials to make inquiries as to whether those people should or should not be put into institutions, with the result that they are immediately stigmatised by people as persons who are perhaps not quite mentally fit and it would be better for them to be in an institution. But what is more important is that it means if they do not agree to go into an institution, they will be refused the supplementary pension. May it not be a definite proof of the sanity of these people if they refuse to go into these institutions?

This Clause is one of the worst Clauses of the whole Bill. The Minister has from time to time during the course of these Debates said that he has attempted to make concessions to the other side. I fail to see any generosity in the few concessions that he has made. I submit that if this Clause is an expression of the welfare treatment that is to be meted out to the old age pensioners, then the less of this kind of welfare they have the better. It is fundamentally wrong that these poor people, in the declining years of their life, and at the present time when they are being additionally tormented by the fact that their relatives are possibly in the fighting line, should be subjected to a form of persecution into their private and mental affairs. If they have not an adequacy of money at the present time with which to maintain themselves, they ought to be given that money irrespective of whether they are mental or otherwise.

The point I want to make is that this part of the Pensions Bill does not give to these aged people any additional comfort or assistance, but it brings into their lives an inquiry into their mental and bodily afflictions which will not only be distasteful but will reflect upon them. I do not understand how the Minister of Health could have permitted such a Clause to be put into this Bill without any safeguards whatever. The safeguard which he himself has suggested, and which, I gather, he will propose if the Clause still remains a part of the Bill, in my view, does not mitigate in any shape or form the seriousness of the implications of the Clause. I do not want to weary the House at this late hour with any additional comments, except to say that I want to make my protest against the Bill, and that I shall have the greatest possible pleasure in voting that this subsection be rejected.

2.55 p.m.

Mr. Pethick-Lawrence (Edinburgh, East)

I listened with care to the Minister's defence of this Sub-section, and I think it must have been perfectly clear to all who were present that he had been considerably affected by the speeches of my hon. Friends behind me. He promised carefully to consider such emendations of machinery as will tend to reduce the unpleasant features which are inherent in the Sub-section. Though we appreciate his motives and intentions, we are very doubtful whether he can, while retaining the substance of the subsection, really remove the most unpleasant and unfortunate features of its actual working. It has been pointed out that he will be taking this to a vote in the absence of nearly all those upon whose support he will be counting. The great bulk of his supporters are absent. I cannot help thinking that, if the House had been in full attendance while this was being discussed, there would have been expressed the feeling which we have all experienced that there are very grave dangers in the Sub-section. We shall certainly vote against it, and I hope the Minister will take very seriously to heart, if he carries it to victory, as I suppose he will if he insists upon it, the criticisms which have been made and, if he cannot withdraw the whole proposition, will at any rate amend it as considerably as he possibly can.

I should like to say a further word on the financial aspect. It was to have been raised on an Amendment which I understand is likely to be ruled out of Order. It seems to me to be a rather curious anomaly,,if I understand the Sub-section aright, that a tribunal on behalf of the Assistance Board shall have the power to push off a man from its charge on to the local authority. I am quite aware that, even as the law stands at present, when a local authority takes a man into an institution the liability for providing him with an ordinary pension, which up to that time fell on the Exchequer, is removed from the Exchequer and the local authority has to bear the whole brunt of the man's keep. I have always thought that a rather unfair provision, but, at any rate, it is made on the initiative of the local authority. But, if the provision in this Sub-section is carried into effect, it will be done on the initiative of the Assistance Board. An Assistance Board which is asked for a supplementary pension says the man would be much better if he were put into, an institution, and, if that contention prevails, it will be disposing of its liability for a supplemenary pension, it will be disposing of its liability for a pension and throwing the whole burden of the upkeep of the man on to the local authority. I am not going to suggest that officers of the tribunal will so abuse their power that they will, quite without cause, get rid of a man in order to save their pockets, but surely it is an anomaly that a decision by one set of people shall enable them to part with a liability and hand it on to someone else. That being so, I wonder whether I am interpreting the Sub-section correctly or whether it is in any way possible to read Sub-section (3) with Sub-section (1), because Sub-section (1) specifically says that a supplementary pension can be paid to some other person than the applicant himself.

I am wondering whether the Minister possibly intends to interpret Sub-section (3) in the light of Sub-section (1) and, if a supplementary pension is not going to be paid to this man because he is going into a public institution, whether it is their intention under Sub-section (1) that the supplementary pension should still be paid out of the funds of the Assistance Board and handed over to the local authorities. If that is not his intention, and I am afraid it is not, I think the local authorities have a grievance in the matter. The right hon. Gentleman said that the Assistance Board is not actually putting the man into a local authority institution. That, of course, is technically and literally true, but if a man is in such a position that he cannot live without a supplementary pension, which he has hitherto been getting in the form of public assistance, and if he is now getting it from the local authority and makes application to the assistance board and they say, "You cannot have a supplementary pension be-

cause you ought to be in an institution," of course it is really playing with words to suggest that the Assistance Board is not in substance compelling that man to go into an institution. From a financial point of view it is a very strange anomaly that one authority should have power by its decision to get rid of this liability and put it on to another authority with whom the decision does not lie. The whole Subsection wants very seriously considering, because I think there are inherent in it a number of grave dangers which my hon. Friends have shown to be of great moment and which, had the House been fully attended, would have made the Minister carefully consider whether he ought not to withdraw the Sub-section.

3.4 p.m.

Mr. Tomlinson

I want the Minister to know exactly what he is doing. This is not a question of something which might happen. It is happening every day. He said the power is not there to force an individual into an institution. I grant that the power is not there on the part of the officer to sign a paper which will confine him to an institution. The only way our people can be got into an institution is by refusing them the right to live outside and, if money is refused, the only place they have to go to is the institution. I can give half a dozen cases of people who have gone for assistance and been offered inside relief. Let us be honest and straight about it. To talk about welfare, when you are casting people into institutions at the same time, is to talk about two things that do not run together. You never put a person into an institution for his welfare; you put him there for the welfare of the community. That is the idea behind this whole business and I hope that we will not only divide against it but let it be known in the country that the people responsible for imposing these conditions on the old folk are the National Government.

Question put, "That the words proposed to be left out to the word 'shall', in line 40, stand part of the Bill."

The House divided: Ayes, 125; Noes, 97.

Division No. 51.] AYES. [3.9. p.m.
Adams, S. V. T. (Leeds, W.) Beamish, Rear-Admiral T. P. H. Boulton, W. W.
Albery, Sir Irving Bennett, Sir E. N. Brass, Sir W.
Allen, Lt.-Col. Sir W. J. (Armagh) Bernays, R. H. Briscoe, Capt. R. G.
Anderson, Rt. Hn. Sir J. (Sc'h Univ's) Blair, Sir R. Brooke, H. (Lewisham, W.)
Astor, Major Hon. J. J. (Dover) Boles, Lt.-Col. D. C. Brown, Brig.-Gen. H. C. (Newbury)
Balfour, Capt. H. H. (Isle of Thanet) Bossom, A. C. Butcher, H. W.
Campbell, Sir E. T. Keeling, E. H. Schuster, Sir G. E.
Cary, R. A. Kerr, Sir John Graham (Sco'sh Univs.) Selley, H. R.
Cazalet, Thelma (Islington, E.) King-Hall, Commander W. S. R. Shaw, Major P. S. (Wavertree)
Channon, H. Levy, T. Simon, Rt. Hon. Sir J. A.
Chapman, A. (Rutherglen) Liddall, W. S. Smiles, Lieut.-Colonel Sir W. D.
Chapman, Sir S. (Edinburgh, S.) Little, Dr. J. (Down) Smith, Bracewell (Dulwich)
Chorlton, A. E. L. Lucas, Major Sir J. M. Smith, Sir R. W. (Aberdeen)
Cobb, Captain E. C. (Preston) M'Connell, Sir J. Smithers, Sir W
Colville, Rt. Hon. John McCorquodale, M. S. Somerset, T.
Cooke, J. D. (Hammersmith, S.) MacDonald, Rt. Hon. M. (Ross) Somervell, Rt. Hon. Sir Donald
Courthope, Col. Rt. Hon. Sir G. L. McEwen, Capt. J. H. F. Somerville, Sir A. A. (Windsor)
Davies, Major Sir G. F. (Yeovil) McKie, J. H. Southby, Commander Sir A. R. J.
De la Bère, R. Margesson, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. D. R. Stewart, J. Henderson (Fife, E.)
Denman, Hon. R. D. Mayhew, Lt.-Col. J. Storey, S.
Dunglass, Lord Mills, Sir F. (Leyton, E.) Strickland, Captain W. F.
Eckersley, P. T. Mitcheson, Sir G. G. Stuart, Rt. Hon. J. (Moray and Nairn)
Edmondson, Major Sir J. Morgan, R. H. (Worcester, Stourbridge) Sutctiffe, H.
Elliot, Rt. Hon. W. E. Morrison, G. A. (Scottish Univ's.) Tate, Mavis C.
Ellis, Sir G. Morrison, Rt. Hon. W. S. (Cirencester) Taylor, Vice-Adm. E. A. (Padd., S.)
Emrys-Evans, P. V. Munro, P. Thomas. J. P. L.
Entwistle, Sir C. F. Neven-Spence, Major B. H. H. Titchfield, Marquess of
Etherton, Ralph O'Connor, Sir Terence J. Touche, G. C.
Everard, Sir William Lindsay O'Neill, Rt. Hon. Sir Hugh Tree, A. R. L. F.
Fox, Sir G. W. G. Orr-Ewing, I. L. Tufnell, Lieut.-Commander R. L.
Fremantle, Sir F. E. Ponsonby, Col. C. E. Ward, Lieut.-Col. Sir A. L. (Hull)
George, Major G. Lloyd (Pembroke) Procter Major H. A. Warrender, Sir V.
Gledhill, G. Pym, L. R. Wayland, Sir W. A
Goldie, N. B. Raikes, H. V. A. M. Wells, Sir Sydney
Hacking, Rt. Hon. Sir D. H. Ramsbotham, Rt. Hon. H. Williams, Sir H. G. (Croydon, S.)
Hammersley, S. S. Reid, W. Allan (Derby) Winterton, Rt. Hon. Earl
Haslam, Henry (Horncastle) Robertson, D. Wise, A. R.
Hely-Hutchinson, M. R. Royds, Admiral Sir P. M. R. Wright, Wing-Commander J. A. C.
Hepburn, P. G. T. Buchan- Russell, Sir Alexander Young, A. S. L. (Partick)
Horsbrugh, Florence Salt, E. W. TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—
Howitt, Dr. A. B. Samuel, M. R. A. Lieut.-Colonel Kerr and Mr. Grimston.
Hume, Sir G H. Sandeman, Sir N. S.
Joel. D. J. B. Sanderson, Sir F. B.
Adams, D. (Consett) Greenwood, Rt. Hon. A. Paling, W.
Adams, D. M. (Poplar, S.) Griffith, F. Kingsley (M'ddl'sbro, W.) Parker, J.
Adamson, Jennie L. (Dartford) Griffiths, J. (Llanelly) Parkinson, J. A.
Adamson, W. M. Groves, T. E. Pearson, A.
Alexander, Rt. Hon. A. V. (H'lsbr.) Hall, G. H. (Aberdare) Pethick-Lawrence, Rt. Hon. F. W.
Ammon, C. G. Hall, J. H. (Whitechapel) Quibell, D. J. K.
Anderson, F. (Whitehaven) Hall, W. G. (Colne Valley) Ridley, G.
Attlee, Rt. Hon. C. R. Hardie, Agnes Ritson, J.
Banfield, J. W. Harris, Sir P. A. Roberts, W. (Cumberland. N.)
Barnes, A. J. Hayday, A. Robinson, W. A. (St. Helens)
Beaumont, H. (Batley) Henderson, J. (Ardwick) Silkin, L.
Broad, F. A. Henderson, T. (Tradeston) Smith, E. (Stoke)
Brown, C. (Mansfield) Hills, A. (Pontefract) Smith, T. (Normanton)
Buchanan, G. Jagger, J. Sorensen, R. W.
Burke, W. A. Jenkins, A. (Pontypool) Stephen, C.
Chater, D. Jenkins, Sir W. (Neath) Taylor, R. J. (Morpeth)
Cluse, W. S. Jowitt, Rt. Hon. Sir W. A. Thorne, W.
Cocks, F. S. Kennedy, Rt. Hon. T. Thurtle, E.
Collindridge, F. Kirby, B. V. Tinker, J. J.
Daggar, G. Lathan, G. Tomlinson, G.
Davidson, J. J. (Maryhill) Lawson J. J. Viant, S. P.
Davies, R. J. (Westhoughton) Leslie, J. R. Walker, J.
Davies, S. O. (Merthyr) Lunn, W. Ward, Irene M. B. (Wallsend)
Dobble, W. Macdonald, G. (Ince) Watkins, F. C.
Dunn, E. (Rothar Valley) McEntee, V. La T. Wedgwood, Rt. Hon. J. C.
Ede, J. C. Maclean, N. Williams, E. J. (Ogmore)
Edwards, Sir C. (Bedwellty) Martin, J. H. Williams. T. (Don Valley)
Edwards, N. (Caerphilly) Maxton, J. Wilson, C. H. (Attercliffe)
Foot, D. M. Montague, F. Windsor, W. (Hull, C.)
Frankel, D. Morgan, J. (York, W.R., Doncaster) Woodburn, A.
Gardner, B. W. Morrison, R. C. (Tottenham, N.) Young, Sir R. (Newton)
George, Megan Lloyd (Anglesey) Naylor, T. E. TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—
Green, W. H. (Deptford) Oliver, G. H. Mr. Whiteley and Mr. Mathers.

Amendment made: in page 8, line 40, after "shall," insert: consult with the appropriate officer of the public assistance authority for the area in which the applicant is, and may after such consultation."—(Mr. Elliot).

3.14 p.m.

Mr. Davidson

I beg to move, in page 8, line 41, after "report," to insert "based on medical evidence."

The main point of the Amendment is that any report of an official should be based on medical evidence.

Mr. Ritson

I beg to second the Amendment.

The Secretary of State for Scotland (Mr. Colville)

I will certainly look into that aspect of the matter and see how medical evidence can best be made use of. I do not think it would be advisable to insert words in the Bill because it might mean a compulsory medical examination.

Mr. Davidson

In view of that assurance, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Amendment, made: In page 9, line 11, leave out from "authority," to "and," in line 13, and insert "appearing to the tribunal to be concerned."—[Mr. Elliot.]

3.16 p.m.

Mr. Elliot

I beg to move, in page 9, line 22, at the end, to insert: (4) In the last foregoing subsection the expression 'appropriate officer' means in relation to any public assistance authority such officer as may have been named by that authority to the Board, or, if no such officer has been so named, a relieving officer of that authority,

Mr. Davidson

On a point of order. May I ask if it is not intended to call on my Amendment—in page 9, line 22 at the end, to insert:

  1. "(c) any costs, medical or otherwise, incurred by a public assistance authority under paragraphs (a) and (b) of sub-section (3) shall be met by the Board;
  2. (d) any public assistance authority to which a person has been made chargeable by direction of the aforesaid tribunal shall be entitled to such pension and supplementation as would normally be granted to the person so transferred."

Mr. Speaker

My business is to see that an Amendment moved on the Report stage does not increase the charge on the ratepayers to a greater extent than when the Bill left Committee. I am afraid this Amendment might do so, and therefore it is out of Order.

Mr. Davidson

May I submit that Clause 10, which is a Government Clause, states that if it is considered that the whole or any part of the supplementary pension granted should be issued to some other person, the officer or tribunal may determine that it shall be so issued, and shall specify the name of that person in the determination. My point with regard to that is, could a public assistance authority to whom has been transferred the responsibility of maintaining this person by the Board not be termed the other person in accordance with this Clause? A second point is this: At present an applicant falls between two stools if he refuses to go into an institution. Normally the applicant to the Board would be entitled to a supplementary pension. My Amendment says: shall be entitled to such pension and supplementation as would normally be granted to the person so transferred. That is, the person already coming within the ambit of the financial expenditure is transferred, and another authority gets what the Board normally would be paid for him. Could that be termed an increase of expenditure?

Mr. Speaker

My business is not to see whether it would increase the charge, but whether it might increase it. In the case of a transferring from one authority to another, that in itself would make it out of Order on the Report stage as it might transfer the charge from the taxes on to the rates.

3.18 p.m.

Mr. Woodburn

Actually in accordance with the law to-day this does not increase the charge on the rates as it stands in the Bill. The cost cannot be avoided. If the Assistance Board does not bear the cost of these old people, then under the law the public assistance authority must, because it is the duty of the relieving officer not to allow a person to die, otherwise he is liable to proscution in a criminal court. I suggest with great respect there can be no increased charge in this. It is simply a question which authority is going to bear it. Under the law the Assistance Board would bear it normally. When a person is ordered into an institution and refuses to go, the charge is transferred to the local authority. The suggestion in the Amendment is that the charge should be retained on the Assistance Board.

Mr. Speaker

The Amendment might transfer the charge from the rates on to the taxes, and therefore, it would not be in Order on the Report stage.

Mr. Lawson

I understand your Ruling to be that the Amendment might increase the cost to the Exchequer. May I draw your attention to the fact—

Mr. Speaker

That is one point. The other point is the one to which I last referred, that the Amendment might transfer the charge from the rates on to the taxes and that would make it out of Order on the Report stage.

Amendment agreed to.

Mr. Speaker

All the remaining Amendments on the Order Paper are out of Order as they would increase the charge.

Bill, as amended, to be read the Third time upon Monday next.