HC Deb 09 June 1943 vol 390 cc783-805
Mr.E. Brown

I beg to move, in page 3, line 40, to leave out "shall so long as," and to insert "and to whom."

The Committee will remember that on Second Reading I gave notice that we would amend the Bill to meet a point that was raised. A widow receives a widow's pension under the Bill only as long as she has children. It was pointed out, and the Minister of Labour referred to it in winding up the Second Reading Debate, that where a widow was receiving a supplementary pension, at the point where the children ceased to be regarded as children under the Act—that is to say, when she ceased to receive an allowance for them—she would, if in need of assistance, go back to public assistance. The Government considered that point, and came to the conclusion that the administration should be eased by making it possible for her to retain her pension if in need of supplementation. This Amendment and the next three Amendments make it possible to do that. The effective part. of Sub-section (1), as amended by these Amendments, will read as follows:— A widow (not being a blind person) who is entitled to receive weekly payments on account of a widow's pension and to whom an additional allowance in respect of a child is payable as part of that pension, shall be eligible for a supplementary pension… Here is a case where it is a question of one administration or two in the case of a widow in need, and the Government came to the conclusion that the same administration had better carry on if she was still in need. That is the simple meaning, and the reason why the Financial Resolution was amended.

Mr. Storey

I am sorry to find myself in disagreement with the Amendment which my right hon. Friend has just moved. The whole Committee, I think, will agree with the proposal in the Bill that we should supplement the pensions of widows with children, and I think most Members will agree that it is right that that supplementation should continue for a period after the last child is 16. But many will take the view that it is unfair to other widows and uneconomic to make a widow in receipt of supplementation when the last child is 16 eligible for supplementation for the remainder of her widowhood. If this Amendment is passed, we shall find ourselves in the indefensible position that where you have two widows, with similar responsibilities, one of whom is working to maintain herself and her child, when the last child is. 16 she will not be able to claim supplementation until she is 6o, but the other, who has been and is in receipt of supplementation when the last child is 16, will continue to be eligible for supplementation. You will also have the extraordinary position that the widow who has been maintaining herself will, if she likes to stop work a few months before the last child is 16 and take supplementation, be eligible for supplementation during the remainder of her widowhood. I say nothing about Sir William Beveridge's proposal, which would even tale away the widows' pension, but I think that most Members will agree that until we have adequate contributory pensions some supplementation is desirable for both widows and spinsters who are unable to earn a living. But where a widow or a spinster is able to earn her living she should do so, and not seek supplementation. It is a very difficult question where we should draw the line, but it is a problem which must be solved in any scheme of comprehensive insurance, and not dealt with piecemeal. At present, when the whole of our future policy of these matters is under discussion, I think it is wrong to prejudice the issue by making what I believe to be an ill-considered concession which grants a privilege to one class of widow with no over-riding claims of that concession. By all means let us make provision for widows with children. Let us give them time, when the last child is 16, to reorientate their lives, but do not let us give them a privileged position when their claim is no stronger than that of other widows, and even of spinsters. I appeal to my right hon. Friend to bring in an Amendment, either before the Report stage or in another place, to limit this concession to a period of, say, one year after the child is 16. I believe that that will do all that is necessary and will leave the way open for the full consideration of our future policy without placing upon those whose duty it is to consider this matter the difficulty of having to consider what would be a vested interest of a privileged class who have no greater claim than many others to this special concession.

Mr. R. J. Taylor (Morpeth)

I want to support very heartily the Minister in the Amendment he is bringing forward in fulfilment of a promise that was made when we were previously discussing the Bill. I do not want to reduce this matter down to class or class hatred at all, but I do not know how Members opposite who have lived in the lap of luxury all their lives can stand up and have the audacity—because it is nothing short of that—to make such suggestions as the hon. Member for Sunderland (Mr. Storey) has made about working-class wives and urge the Minister to take back the Amendment that he has moved with the object of removing what we consider on this side of the Committee to be a very great hardship indeed. What is the position? I am not going to presume for a moment that I am talking to Members who do not know working-class conditions. We have working-class mothers who have probably brought up four or five children, and maybe half-a-dozen, living in a two-roomed house and in some cases a one-roomed house, where they had to do their own washing, baking, mangling and everything for the family until they reached 55 years of age. Then, because this Bill is taking them from Poor Law relief and bringing them under the Assistance Board, and, in fact, only doing a little earlier what we intended to do, namely, to remove Poor Law assistance altogether, hon. Members opposite have the audacity to suggest that at 55, after such a woman has slaved and given the country the population that we are decrying is declining, she should now go back again to public assistance because her youngest child has reached 16. What generous people they are.

Mr. Storey

Does the hon. Member support the fact that a woman of 36 who is perfectly able to earn her own living shall have the right to free supplementation for the remainder of her life?

Mr. Taylor

What a degrading suggestion. Because there might be a widow of 36, the hon. Member is going to condemn all widows above 36. Be generous, for goodness' sake, be generous. What do hon. Members opposite do with their children? I am not saying that their wives have not mother-love, but have their wives their children with them morning, noon and night? They have their nurses to whom the babies are handed over, governesses a little later and then the public school, and the children are away from them practically altogether. Our children are a drag on our women all their lives. It is a life of self-sacrifice on the part of working-class wives to bring up a family, and yet hon. Members opposite would put them back again on public assistance. I hope that the Minister will in this case stand by the Amendment, and he will at least, I am sure, have the support of Members on this side and a considerable number of Members opposite.

Mr. Etherton

The hon. Member has made an appeal to generosity and to sentiment. [An HON. MEMBER: "To justice, and not to generosity."] With great respect, this is not a matter in which generosity is in dispute at all. The Amendment which the Minister proposes in his desire to be conciliatory creates an administrative anomaly. There is no question here of the quantum of money which is to be paid in any particular instance, because the money in any case will be precisely the same. It is a question of out of which administrative pocket the money shall come. At the present time, when the whole question is under examination and when we are asked to implement as far as practicable the whole considerations which are involved in the Beveridge Report, I suggest to the Committee that it is inopportune to create this new anomaly. This is not an appropriate time to deal with this problem bit by bit. The Amendment, as it is proposed, puts no limit at all on this matter. This administrative anomaly is to be continued as the Amendment is drawn without any limitation at all. While I do not want to divide the Committee on the Amendment which the Minister has proposed I hope that between now and the Report stage he will consider that it is not proper to create this administrative anomaly in the wide sense in which his Amendment suggests, but that he will put some limit of period in his proposal.

Mr. Messer

I was a little discouraged when I heard the hon. Member for Sunderland (Mr. Storey) speak. It is difficult to believe that anybody with any appreciation of what is happening at the present time could have made such a speech. What are the anomalies which exist? Every week without exception I sit on a public assistance committee which deals with widows who come to us because they cannot get supplementary pensions. Is it not an anomaly to say that a woman who is equally entitled as anybody else should have to come to the Poor Law to try and get a supplementary pension? The hon. Member for Sunderland said what a shocking thing it was that a woman of 36 years of age should come for a supplementary pension. To choose the case of a widow who would have had to have her baby at 20 for the child to be 16 at the time she was 36 shows that he is driven to extremes, and it also shows the weakness of his case.

Mr. Storey

I was answering the hon. Member who chose the case of a widow who was 39 when she had her last baby.

Mr. Messer

Whatever may have been the reason, the facts are that, in general, a woman with three or four children is more likely to be turned 50 by the time her youngest child is 16, and what the hon. Gentleman suggests is that she should have been entitled to supplementary pension by virtue of the fact that she had children but that when her youngest child was going to work she must then, if in need of help, come back to the public assistance committee. If such a woman were to try to get a job at that age, I am afraid that she would stand very little chance.

Mr. Storey

The hon. Member must not misrepresent me. I said that while it right that a widow who was unable to earn her living should have supplementation, it was not right that every woman should have supplementation, particularly those women who were capable of earning their own living, and all that I asked was that the subject be treated as a whole and not piecemeal.

Mr. Messer

The hon. Member seems to assume that widows will gladly go for supplementary pensions, which I do not believe to be the case if they are able to obtain a job. It is possible for a woman to be self-respecting in her independence. She would prefer that rather than go for a supplementary pension. These women do not go to the public assistance committee because they like it, and they do not draw supplementary pensions irrespective of any other conditions. Will it not be the fact that there will still be inquiry to determine whether or not a woman needs a supplementary pension? It is not true that because a woman is a widow she will get it. I hope that the Minister will be firm on this point. Some time ago when I asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer a question on this subject he held out little hope of any improvement, and I now welcome the concession made by the Minister, and I hope that he will stand by it.

Mr. Molson

Hon. Members have chosen to argue the particular point on the ground of certain cases they chose to take and partly on the general ground of what they would desire to see as the permanent settlement of this problem. I approach it from the view that this is entirely an interim Measure introduced to deal with certain points on which the right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Labour made certain promises in a recent Debate. It is a very strange thing that my right hon. Friend the Minister of Health should have slipped an Amendment in such very wide terms into the Bill on the Committee stage. I should have no grounds for complaint, and I should not complain, if it were intended that in certain hard cases the scope of the supplementary pension was to be extended. If it were only a case where it was a woman who had had children and was fairly elderly when the last of them reached the age of 16, and then the Minister had proposed an Amendment which would enable supplementation to be carried on for a period of six of 12 months during the time that she was adjusting her way of life to the changed conditions, such as looking for a job and so on, there would be no ground for complaint at all. But there is absolutely no time limit in this Amendment, and there will obviously be every inducement to a woman not to seek employment, because by doing so it will stop her from receiving a supplementary pension afterwards. We have had a pledge from the Government that they are considering the general scheme of the Beveridge proposals and that in due course a comprehensive Measure will be introduced to give effect to most of the proposals of the Beveridge Report. One of the proposals which is of immense importance and which they have accepted in principle is that widows shall not in future receive pensions merely on the ground of their widowhood. The Government, following the lines of Sir William Beveridge's Report, said that they would give special consideration to the cases of elderly widows such as those referred to by the hon. Member for South Tottenham (Mr. Messer) and that in these cases they would consider whether it was desirable or necessary to make special provision for them.

But that at this time the whole of the development of the pensions system of the country should be prejudiced by an Amendment on the Committee stage slipped into what is admittedly an interim Measure to deal with certain points appears to me extremely unwise. If some of us do not press our objections to the point of a Division to-day, I do ask that the Minister should consider this matter again. There is admittedly a need for tapering off, so to speak, the decline in the pension at a time when the widow ceases to be responsible for her children, but between now and the Report stage I hope an Amendment will be put down which will not prejudice the future development of the pensions policy of this country.

Mrs. Hardie (Glasgow, Springburn)

I welcome sincerely this concession made to widows. Members on the other side talk about women whose children have left school automatically taking up work, but what they do not realise is that children of that age require their mother in the home to look after them. What kind of a home will it be if there is no mother there to prepare food for and look after her children of 16 or 18 who may be working? People who talk as hon. Members opposite have talked do not realise the position.

Mr. Ethertan

Does not the hon. Lady support the comprehensive scheme proposed by Sir William Beveridge?

Mrs. Hardie

Yes, with modifications We Labour women have indicated that we accept the Beveridge scheme in principle, but some of us have amendments to make with regard to widows, particularly older women. I am not one of those who have ever said that simply because a woman is a widow she should receive a pension. But, after all, this is a contributory scheme —

Mr. Molson

This is not a contributory scheme; these are supplementary pensions.

Mrs. Hardie

I am aware of that, but the Government decided, instead of increasing the basic pension to a reasonable amount, to adopt this method of supplementary pension, where need has to be proved before it can be received. I know many spinsters, and I support them in their difficulties; women over 50 find it difficult to keep their jobs. It is only during a war that older women can get work. Yet I have never heard a spinster saying that widows pensions should be taken away from them. Women are not so spiteful as some might think. What they have said is that their case should also he taken into consideration. Members talk about women of 36 with children of 16. The average age of a woman whose youngest child is 16 is in the fifties. Why should it be thought that that woman will leave home? Who will give her a job? If the income at home was above a certain amount, she would not get a supplementary pension. Of course, I admit there are anomalies. There are bound to be when you have a niggardly scheme. I admit that widows with children a little older will not be fairly treated, and I would have liked the Government to have included them. Hon. Members opposite do not think their children are grown up at 16; they keep them at school until they are 21, and generally they are not considered capable of being married until they are of that age or over. I hope the Government will not refuse widows the right to ask for supplementary pensions when they are needed. The lot of the widow has always been hard. She has had to clean houses and do washing in order to earn a miserable pittance. It has been a long, weary fight. These women have felt humiliated. There is no need to think that the average working-class woman will ask for a supplementary pension if she is able to work and maintain her children. Members on the other side Ought to be ashamed of themselves for the callous and inhuman way in which they are talking about these people. I wish I could lead a strike of women. If I could, there would not be a large population until there were better conditions for them.

Mr. Willink (Croydon, North)

The hon. Lady the Member for Springburn (Mrs. Hardie) started her observations in a charming and moderate tone, and I was sorry when she suggested at the end that those who took another view were callous and inhuman. No attempt has been made by those who have spoken from the other side to draw a distinction between a widow in, let us say, her early forties. There is no question of a woman becoming a widow at 2o; it is a question of becoming a widow at 36, 38 or 40, being perfectly able-bodied and coming into a range of pension obligations, which is the widest possible departure from the careful scheme advanced by Sir William Beveridge, however much we may disagree about its details.

Mrs. Hardie

The Government have not accepted that scheme.

Mr. Willink

I quite appreciate that.

Mrs. Hardie

Then why quote it?

Mr. Willink

I think the hon. Lady will admit that last week I made an attempt to better the position of widows who are greatly suffering, but I sincerely feel that this is not the time to do this. [HON. MEMBERS: "When is the time?"] Let us take the case of an able-bodied widow of 42, with a child of 17 or 18. Is she to be put, by this Amendment, into a position better than a spinster who is five years older will be in for many years to come, or a widow with no children? A widow with one, two, three or four children ought to be given six months or a year for the continuance of this measure of supplementation. I feel that this omnibus way of bringing in all widows of 36 to 6o who have had no children is an extraordinary way of handling what is one of our biggest problems connected with our social services.

Mr. Buchanan

What I like about this Bill is its provision to bring in these widows. I want to support the Government and to associate myself with my hon. Friends the Members for Springburn (Mrs. Hardie) and Morpeth (Mr. R. J. Taylor). Our complaint is not what the Government have done but that they have not gone further. To those who talk about anomalies I want to say that the whole scheme is packed with anomalies. Go to any official in London, Glasgow, Edinburgh, Southampton or Newcastle, and he will tell you that the scheme is packed with anomalies. To pick out a small anomaly and say, That is our case," is all wrong. I agree with an hon. Member who used to sit for Doncaster.

Mr. Molson

Now The High Peak.

Mr. G. Griffiths

The hon. Member has moved to a safer seat.

Mr. Buchanan

There is no disgrace in moving to a safer seat. I have a very safe seat myself. When the hon. Member for The High Peak (Mr. Molson) said that this is an interim Measure, he was right. What have the Government done? They have not accepted all the Beveridge scheme, but they have said that they propose to implement certain things dealing with friendly and approved societies, in- cluding old age and widows pensions. The Government must deal with this question in a larger fashion shortly after the war. What is the position of the widow now? I go further than the hon. Member for Sunderland (Mr. Storey) and say that there will be cases not of widows of 36 but of 22 or 23. You cannot argue on this subject without citing cases, because this Bill has been born out of experience. The country would revolt in many cases against not taking in the widow as the Government propose.

Take the case of a young woman who has not had a child but is going to have one. Her husband dies while she is in pregnancy, and she goes on to Poor Law relief. As soon as the child is born she comes under the Assistance Board. The child dies after a few months, and she goes back on Poor Law relief. Who could stand it? Let me put what is unfortunately happening now. I do not know how others feel when a school is bombed, but my first reaction is a feeling of great pity and sympathy for the children, and then of anger at what has been done. A school is hit, and a widow has a child or two children at school. They are killed. The next day, in addition to suffering the sorrow and anguish at what has happened, she goes back on to the Poor Law. Spinsters in 99 per cent. of cases are covered by the Bill. They may not be covered by unemployment insurance, but almost all are covered by health insurance, and that gives them a title to unemployment assistance under the Bill. But does it give it to the widow? She has no insurance background, and you propose to put her in a worse condition than that of the spinster, because 99 per cent. of spinsters have an unanswerable claim on unemployment assistance, a claim that you cannot but meet if they are unemployed. No one could defend a woman who has a child killed in an air raid falling back on to the Poor Law, but Members opposite say, "Let us wait for a year or two." They have already answered the case. They say it is an interim Measure. It is only to last for a year or two, and therefore, after the war their case is met.

If it is said that the war may last for a time, may I remind hon. Members that the Minister of Labour has power to deal with every widow without children tomorrow? For the purposes of the law a widow without a child is a single woman as far as direction is concerned, and during the war period she can be directed by the Minister of Labour to any job that he likes until she is 60 years of age. The result is that the bogies that have been raised are already met if the Government promises are true. I would rather that we did not touch the widow at all than take her from poor relief on to assistance, shove her back, take her back and put her back again. To me, that is appalling. It is indefensible. Some say it is not fair to give them the right to a supplementary pension, and they have only the right to supplementation if there is need. They have only the same right under the Bill to assistance as a person has to Poor Law relief—the right to prove need. Under the Bill, instead of hundreds of local authorities all dealing with the widow differently, with different scales in Glasgow, Edinburgh and London, they will be dealt with in a uniform fashion,. and all will be put on a level. I trust that the Government will not be kept back from doing what I think is reasonable and just. It is said that this gives a widow, perhaps a young widow, a right for ever. A soldier's widow without children, directly her husband is killed, gets 25s. a week for life. It is a narrow border line between a man killed on service and a man killed not on service. If a man is discharged from the Army and dies without a pension, you not only deprive the widow of the 25s. a week, but, if she has no children, she must become chargeable to Poor Law relief. I think it is adding to the cruelty already suffered a blow that is almost a knockout. I ask the Committee to rise above petty things. I am simple in many ways I began to believe, perhaps wrongly, that some Conservatives were approaching the problem in a kindlier and more tolerant way than they have done before. If they err on the side of generosity, the country will thank them.

Mr. Brooke (Lewisham, West)

The hon. Member, like many of his colleagues, has ranged over a number of other Amendments which they would like to see made in the general position regarding the determination of needs and the Poor Law. I want to be more modest and address myself to this Amendment. He and I are in complete agreement on one point, that the thing is full of anomalies at present and that there will be plenty of anomalies even when the Bill is passed. The difference between him and me is that he wants to produce one more anomaly, while I want to diminish the number. The hon. Member for Morpeth (Mr. R. J. Taylor) dragged in class strife by saying that Members on this side had lived in the lap of luxury all their lives and therefore, presumably, were not qualified to judge these things. I have not lived in the lap of luxury all my life, and I suggest that it is far better to regard ourselves as all equally placed to express our views on this matter, and that those views should receive equal respect. In this Amendment there appears to be no doubt whatever that we are marking a slate which ought to be clean, because we know in our hearts that the House of Commons has the tremendous responsibility within the next 12 months or so of taking great ultimate decisions on matters raised by the Beveridge Report which are going to determine the future treatment of our people for years to come. The Amendment as it stands would prejudice that consideration. That is why I am glad that my hon. Friend the Member for Sunderland (Mr. Storey) spoke as definitely as he did. I know that softness of heart in this matter is on the side of Members opposite, but on this side we stand for fairness of treatment between one citizen and another. We believe that that is the ultimate test which the British nation wishes to be applied to these very difficult questions, and it is because I do not see how I could justify to one person in my constituency that she was not entitled to a supplementary pension because she had never had a child, though her neighbour with a grown-up family was to be entitled to one right through the years because at some previous time she had been drawing a supplementary pension when she was looking after a child, that I deplore the wide terms of the Amendment and associate myself with what my hon. Friend the Member for Sunderland has said.

Sir Cyril Entwistle (Bolton)

I think every speech on this side so far has been against the Amendment, and I want to make it quite clear that that does not represent the views of all on this side, because I am very heartily in favour of it, and I am not impressed by the arguments which have been put forward against it. As I see it, the argument is that you will create more anomalies by the Amendment than already exist., The speech of the hon. Member for Gorbals (Mr. Buchanan) has quite controverted that argument by showing that there will be just as many anomalies, if not more, if the Amendment is not accepted. What, after all, is the main point at issue? The Amendment, as I understand it, is that if a widow has had children, and the children come to an age when they cease to be children in the legal sense, that is, 16, she shall then receive any further benefit from the Assistance Board rather than from public assistance. It is no good saying there may be a widow of 36 who will get the benefit of this whereas there will be widows without children of a higher age who will not. You can always find instances in which you can show anomalies. In fact, what will be the average case? It has been truly said that the widows who will get the benefit of this will be on the average over 50. The purpose of the Amendment is that they should receive their supplemental assistance under the Assistance Board, and I heartily support it.

Mr. Tinker

It is only fitting that the hon. Member for Gorbals (Mr. Buchanan) should express himself on this Amendment, because it was due to him that this flaw was found and the Government were persuaded to remedy it. Now the right hon. Gentleman finds himself in an awkward position. A number of his supporters who have been backing him up to now tell him that unless he does something different they might oppose the Bill on Third Reading. Is this the enlightened young Toryism we have heard so much about? Among the young Tories are the hon. Member for Stretford (Mr. Etherton), the hon. Member for Sunderland (Mr. Storey) and the hon. Member for The High Peak (Mr. Molson), and they are among the people who, we are told, are going to lead the Tory Party into a better land. If their effort to find a way out of giving some help to the poor widow is a sample of their young Toryism, I wonder how the public will view them. Logic chopping in cases like this does not help anybody. Perhaps in strict logic they are right, but when we come to deal with anomalies we can always find a thousand others. That being so, why not embrace all those who are affected and bring them all into the Bill? Instead of that, hon. Members opposite say that this help should not be given because other people will raise objections and want it too.

The hon. Member for The High Peak said that they did not want to divide on this Amendment. May I ask him to challenge a Division, so that we can see what their position really is. I have been waiting all day for the chance of a Division, but we gave a pledge at our party meeting to-day that we would not divide on any of the Amendments. If, however, hon. Members opposite will call a Division, I shall be glad to go into the Lobby against them.

Mr. Wilson

Are we to understand that a decision was taken as to how all hon. Gentlemen opposite were going to vote before the Debate began?

Mr. Tinker

We decided not to vote on any of the Amendments which are in my name and the names of other hon. Members. If, however, hon. Gentlemen opposite feel that they would like to call a Division, I should be glad, because it would enable us to see what their position really is. Members opposite often threaten what they will do and then find a way out of their difficulty. I support the Minister, for I believe he has done the proper thing. What are the merits of the case? A widow with children who is entitled to a supplementary pension was, as the Bill originally stood, taken off the pension when her children reached a certain age even though her position warranted its continuance. Can anybody defend it? The Amendment says that once she gets a supplementary pension it will be wrong to take it off if her circumstances remain the same. I do not support the right hon. Gentleman very often, but on this occasion he will have my support.

Major Thorneycroft (Stafford)

I support my hon. Friend the Member for Sunderland (Mr. Storey). It is always easy to get up and urge the case of people who undoubtedly suffer considerable hardship. When one listens to speeches such as the able and eloquent speech of the hon. Member for Gorbals (Mr. Buchanan), one is always tempted to take that course, but I cannot do so on this occasion. Certain facts are agreed in this matter. The first is that the whole question of widows pensions is under the consideration of the Government in connection with the Beveridge proposals. If we follow the course suggested by the hon. Member for Gorbals, we shall prejudice that consideration. We shall say to the widows that we give them a vested interest in this matter, and then, pursuing the hon. Gentleman's argument to its logical conclusion, we shall have to be prepared to say to them later that they can no longer have it. It would be not only unwise but rather cruel to give to these people, many of them in difficult circumstances, a promise which they will take as for all time and then be prepared to have to tell them afterwards that they cannot have it because the Government have come to a different decision. On this matter of widows pensions we are basing the test whether we really support the principles of the Beveridge Report. It is easy to go into the country or get up in the House of Commons and say that one supports the principles of the Beveridge Report when those principles are likely to be attractive to one's constituents. It is much harder to take many parts of the Beveridge Report which are not so attractive and say to the people, "Although these are not attractive, they are best for the community as a whole, and we beg you to accept them." Therefore I join with my hon. Friends in begging the Minister of Health not to prejudice the position but to leave this matter to be considered —I hope sympathetically, bearing in mind the many points that have been put by hon. Members opposite—as a whole with the rest of the Beveridge Report.

Mr. Ness Edwards

We have listened to an exhibition of young Toryism which I imagine would cause even Disraeli to turn in his grave. The hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Stafford (Major Thorneycroft) does not object to the Bill; he objects to the Amendment. That is the position he has taken up. We were told in the general Debate last July that when the Government brought forward this Bill the general structure of it would fit into the general scheme they had in mind when recasting a new scheme of social assistance. The hon. and gallant Gentleman said that the Amendment was in conflict with the Beveridge Report, but is it? Did not Sir William Beveridge say, as one of the central features of his plan, that this type of person for whom no contributions had been paid under the new scheme should come under some body like the Assistance Board called the Ministry of Social Security? This Amendment is in line with the general scheme that Beveridge has in mind in his Report.

The second point that has been raised is that the Amendment would create a further anomaly. The great anomaly, however, is in the Bill and not in the Amendment, which has been brought forward to decrease the number of anomalies. If the hon. Gentleman acts on the statement he has made and opposes the Amendment, he will be a party to the creation of a greater number of anomalies than he says will be created by the Amendment. A point that has been missed in that these women will be coming Gut of the Determination of Needs Act. Under that Act there are three categories of people—the unemployed, the old age pensioners and this new category. Is it suggested that they will not be treated if they are able to work in the same way as all the unemployed persons claiming unemployment assistance? We have not been told that by the Minister. No statement has been made as to the nature of the Regulations that will govern the receipt of the supplementary pension. As far as I can see, the Amendment and the Clause will decrease the category of persons remaining under an administration which it is proposed to abolish—the Poor Law system—and bring them under the Assistance Board, thus simplifying the problem until the Government are ready to bring forward the main scheme. If there is a Division on the Amendment it will give me great pleasure for once in my life to support the Minister of Health.

Mr. E. Brown

I seem to be in a very good position. If I> may judge from the conflicting arguments, I can be regarded as in a position of equilibrium. I was astonished to hear my hon. Friend the Member for Leigh _(Mr. Tinker) say that he was not one of my supporters. I had understood that he was one of the most loyal supporters of the Government, and why he should want to divide the Committee in war-time now that unity is the law of the House and the country, I do not understand. He will have to think again about that.

Mr. Tinker

I think that the right hon. Gentleman has misunderstood me. I said that if it came to a Division I should support him.

Mr. Brown

I understand that. It was not the support I was objecting to but the basis on which the support was given that led me to make that friendly remark. The issue is not as simple as it has been made in this long and interesting discussion. I do not understand the heat about it. If in the course of the discussion of the numerous issues which are raised, both in fact and by implication, in the Report that has been discussed in at least half the speeches, we are not to be able to argue and put points of view honestly, whether based on logic or fact or feeling or a combination of all three, then we shall not get the scheme we ought to get. We ought not at this stage to import heat into these matters. We ought to do what we can to disentangle what are very complicated facts and apply such logic as feeling about the facts will let us apply to the facts as they come up. I have observed in a long political life that politics is determined not so much by fact or by argument as in the last resort by feelings about both fact and arguing. This is an issue on which we can get some feeling, but I do not think there is any need for that feeling in the terms of the series of Amendments —I will not say simple Amendments, but Amendments of some complexity—which I have moved on behalf of the Government. I do not understand why it should be thought that we are prejudicing the Beveridge Report except theoretically. Theoretically it may be so. We have not merely to consider the terms of the Amendments, we have not merely to consider their effect upon a particular widow, because we can all make cases in terms of strict logic if constituents are good enough to find the particular cases we want in order to illustrate our argument. A long experience of this kind of case leads me to beware of arguments founded on a particular case. I would rather look at the case first and then survey the field, and then four or five other cases may make the position seem quite different from an illustration based upon a particular case specially chosen.

Let me put this to my hon. Friends who are disturbed, as some of them are. They think that because this Amendment has been moved the fair consideration of the Beveridge Report is prejudiced. I do not think that is so. Let them consider the effect if these Amendments are not accepted compared with what will happen if they are. If the Amendments are not accepted, not one widow only will be affected. Many will be affected; they will not all be of one age, and they will not all be in similar circumstances. The effect will be that they will all have to be responsible to at least two administrations, first the administration of the Assistance Board — because they do not get supplementary pension at all, unless need is proved under the law through the Assistance Board, and, second, the administration of the public assistance authority. Then, to allay the fear that we may be granting something prejudicing the Beveridge Report, because it may go on for the whole of life, may I point out that widows will also have to be responsive to the powers exercised by the Minister of Labour when their children pass out of the stage in which the widow receives allowances for them, if the Minister of Labour considers that they are appropriate persons to be directed to any kind of labour? Thirdly, and I put this last because I think it is most important, the widow herself may have something to say about work before the Minister of Labour directs her. I have no doubt that the bulk of the widows to whom this Amendment is directed, will, themselves, when their children reach the age when they no longer attract allowances, seek to do their best for their country in war-time, and that should be borne in mind.

There is one other issue. There will be a number of widows who will not be in the simple position of being directed out to work for good and all. There will be widows who themselves may seek employment but who may not be successful in getting regular employment. There may be short interruptions in their employment, or short interruptions through sickness. The case put to the Government under the Bill as first drafted was this: there will be a widow receiving a supplementary pension because she is deemed to be in need, and not coming under the Minister of Labour's direction because she has children for whom she is responsible and for whom allowances are paid. Her children then pass out of that category and she is deemed by the Assistance Board to be still in need. Has she then, at that period, to cease drawing her weekly payments through the Assistance Board and be passed back to local public assistance or not? That was the case that was made and the Government considered it; and without any prejudice to the consideration of the Beveridge Report as a whole, they came to the conclusion that these were cases that should be met. Although some of my friends may differ from us I think they will feel that the facts are such and the feelings likely to be aroused are such that the Government have made a wise decision in putting the Amendments on the Order Paper.

Amendment agreed to.

Further Amendments made:

In page 3, line 42, leave out "to her." In line 42, after "pension," insert "shall."

In page 4, line II, at the end, insert: (2) Where, at the time when an additional allowance in respect of a child ceases to be payable to a widow as part of her widow's pension, a determination is in force granting her a supplementary pension by virtue of the foregoing Sub-section, she shall continue to be eligible for a supplementary pension unless and until either —

  1. (a) she ceases to be entitled to receive weekly payments on account of the widow's pension; or
  2. (b) that or some other determination granting her a supplementary pension ceases to be in force without having been replaced by a now determination granting her a supplementary pension. "—[Mr. E. Brown.]

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

Mr. Tom Brown

I wish to ask the Minister whether, between now and the Report stage, he will consider the addition of the words "child's allowance" after the second "pension" in line 23, on page 4. I am desirous that this Bill shall carry further a principle which has already been accepted in the Workmen's Compensation Act. I refer to the widow who is left with children and with a posthumous child. I want if possible to get that widow retrospective payment of child's allowance to the date of the father's death, and I ask the Minister to consider that point. We have had evidence that the Bill is a very minor one and hardly touches the fringe of the problem. I have summed it up in this way.

The Chairman

I understand the hon. Member is raising a question of children's allowances and not orphans' pensions.

Mr. T. Brown

Yes, children's allowances.

The Chairman

Then he must confine himself to that point.

Mr. T. Brown

I will confine myself to that point. I hope that between now and the Report stage the Minister will consider inserting the words "child's allowance" after the second "pension."

Mr. Ness Edwards

I wish to reinforce the point that has been raised by my hon. Friend. Shortly it is this, that while old age pension or a widow's pension is accruing there is authority to pay a supplementary pension, but a widow's title to a supplementary pension in the case of a posthumous child does not begin to accrue until the child's allowance is paid in respect of the new born child. We are asking the Minister to consider whether he cannot do something to meet that position. There is a second point, that a widow who has a child which is in receipt of this allowance, the widow herself being in receipt of a widow's pension, may be deemed not to have a need in excess of her resources. She would have a nil determination under the provisions of this Clause. But when the child reaches the age of 16 those resources are cut off. She immediately comes within the scope for the purpose of needs, but she has never had an effective claim prior to the child becoming 16, and by this Clause she would appear to be outside the scope. I hope the Minister will make provision for those two categories of cases, which apparently are not met.

Mr. E. Brown

I should not like to give any hint that there is any possibility of dealing with that position, although I will look into it. My hon. Friend's Amendment appears to be outside the scope of the Bill, but on the other point raised I am not quite clear. I have listened to what was said and I will look at the second point my hon. Friend has put to me—not the other one—between now and a later stage, and without any bias at all.

Mr. T. Brown

We have quite a number of cases in the industrial areas in which posthumous children are born.

Mr. E. Brown

The hon. Member has misunderstood me. What was not likely to arise was the question of the orphan.

Mr. Buchanan

I feel that this Clause ought to have been extended in some way to deal with soldiers' widows. They will have a serious claim on public attention. While I congratulate my hon. Friends on having got so far, I feel that we ought to have been pressing for this Clause to be made wider still in its scope. Instead of that, hon. Members have been vying with one another to defend the Minister. Many deserving widows have been left out who ought to have been in. We have gone rather on to the defence instead of keeping up the attack. It is a good Tory claim that we, because we are simple and do not know— [Interruption]. No, let me say this seriously, that I think the soldier's widow has an unanswerable claim for something to be done for her.

Mr. Brooke

If I were to take up what the hon. Member for Gorbals (Mr. Buchanan) has been saying about soldiers' widows, I might find myself out of Order, though I was in sympathy with what I think was his intention. In order to dissipate his suggestion that any of us on this side have been playing any tricks, I want to put it on record that this Clause, in its main purpose, seems to me to be an excellent improvement of the law. It was high time that Parliament dealt with the position of the widow responsible for children. I do not think it has been done in quite the right way, and I would have preferred that action should have been taken by increasing the children's allowances; but I welcome, as I am sure all my hon. Friends on this side do, the general change which the inclusion of this Clause in the Bill will effect.

Mr. David Adams

I should like to say how grateful I am for all the Amendments submitted by the Minister. He has improved the Measure in two main ways. In the first place, the widow will not be required to solicit public assistance, but automatically her rights will be safeguarded. Secondly, surely expenditure on pensions ought to be a matter for the State rather than for the local authority. The burden of pensions in the poorer areas such as the County of Durham is an important item in local expenditure. The Government are certainly travelling in the right direction when they proceed tentatively, and in a small measure, to relieve the local authorities of that burden. We look to an extension of that as the measure proceeds, and when we have the fuller pension scheme under the Beveridge Report.

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