HC Deb 03 February 1944 vol 396 cc1381-4
14. Mr. Ness Edwards

asked the Minister of Health what effect will board and lodgings given to trainees in the mining industry by old age pensioners have upon the calculation or supplementary pensions.

The Minister of Health (Mr. Willink)

I am informed by the Assistance Board that payments by the trainees in question will be treated in the same way as payments by other boarders, the normal rule being to regard as a resource one half of the amount by which the payment exceeds 18s. Thus, out of a payment of 25s., 3s. 6d. would be taken into account as a resource in calculating the supplementary pension payable to a pensioner with whom the trainee was boarding.

21. Mr. Tom Brown

asked the Minister of Health if he will reconsider his decision not to make the payments to old age pensioners, whose cases have been re-assessed and those cases which will subsequently be re-assessed, retrospective to 17th January, 1944, so as to comply with the method adopted in the majority of our social services.

Mr. Willink

No, Sir. The Regulations, which were approved by this House last December, follow previous practice and make no provision for giving retrospective effect to increases in supplementary pensions resulting from their operation.

Mr. T. Brown

Is the Minister not aware that it is manifestly unfair to penalise these old people because their cases cannot be reviewed and re-assessed until April of this year?

Mr. Willink

The House, on more than one previous occasion, has taken the view that it would be very unfair to hold everybody up until the whole thing has been done, and, since the matter is one of need, the idea of large retrospective payments has never been in accordance with the wishes of the House.

Mr. Tinker

Is the Minister aware that most Members of the House are unaware of what happened last time, and that there is a feeling in this House that some examination should be given to this question? Can I assure him that the old age pensioners are feeling this very keenly, and think that there has been some injustice to them? May I ask the Minister to examine this question and see if something cannot be done?

Mr. Willink

The hon. Member has already given an indication of his intentions in this matter, and I think hon. Members should consider what took place in 1941 and 1943.

Mr. Buchanan

Cannot the Minister see his way to alter the instructions or regulations in view of the very great disparity between 17th January and April? Will the right hon. and learned Gentleman ask the Board's officers at least to hasten their decisions, and bring the payments forward to a date before April?

Mr. Willink

The information I had was that this matter would take about two months. I am sure the Board will take notice of what Members have said, and that they do proceed with the work with the utmost speed possible in the circumstances of to-day.

Mr. Gallacher

Is it not the case that 2s. or 2s. 6d. per week will be the maximum payment, and how can the Minister talk about large retrospective payments? Cannot the right hon. and learned Gentleman make a statement about what the payments will be?

Mr. Willink

I am not prepared to answer that Question without notice.

Mr. Brown

In view of the unsatisfactory nature of the reply, I beg to give notice that I will raise this matter again.

36. Mr. Ness Edwards

asked the Minister of Pensions if the increase in the rates of supplementary pensions now payable to old age pensioners will be deducted from war service grants to the mothers of serving men in those cases in which the father is getting a supplementary pension.

The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Pensions (Mr. Paling)

The amount of any supplementary pension received by her husband is an item of the household income to be taken into account in assessing the war service grant which can be awarded to a mother. It does not follow, however, that an increase in the amount of the supplementary pension would lead to an equal decrease in the war service grant.

Mr. Edwards

Does not my right hon. Friend agree that the present practice is to decrease the war service grant by the same proportion as the increase in the supplementary pension and that the effect of that is to thwart the intention of the new regulation which increases supplementary pensions, and will he try and stop this see-saw business of depriving these people of assistance and so thwarting the intention of this House?

Mr. Paling

If the supplementary pension that is granted is of sufficient size we would have to decrease it, but it would not be the only factor taken into account. In any event, we have to take into account any general increase in household income.

Mr. Edwards

What does my right hon. Friend regard as "of sufficient size"?

Mr. Buchanan

Is it not a fact that in the great mass of cases, where an increase of supplementary pension is paid, a decrease is automatically made in the war service grant; and is it not somewhat unfair that when this House has granted an increase to these old people, its effect should be taken away by a very mean and miserable reduction in the war service grant? Would the right hon. Gentleman, who surely could hardly defend such a policy, look into the matter again?

Mr. Edwards

In view of the unsatisfactory nature of the answer to my original Question, I beg to give notice that I shall raise the matter on the Adjournment.

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