HC Deb 23 May 1946 vol 423 cc675-7
Mr. J. Griffiths

I beg to move, in page 18, line 32, to leave out "Twenty," and to insert "Thirty."

During the consideration of the Bill in Committee, we had a good deal of discussion about the earnings rule as applied to widows, and several suggestions were made. One was the suggestion which appears on the Paper in the form of an Amendment in the name of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Saffron Walden (Mr. R. A. Butler). It proposes that over and above the limit of 20s. which, we have in. the Bill now we should, if I may use the phrase, divide the surplus into two amounts, one of which the widow would keep and the other which we should take away. There was, I think, real point in permitting earnings without reduction of pension for widows, and I felt that the best and clearest way of doing this was to increase the pension. The simpler the rules at the better for administration, and there will not be dissatisfaction about whether the amount has been divided or not. Twenty shillings is the provision in the Bill as it stands—here we propose to increase the sum to 30s. I hope the right hon. Gentleman will agree that this is perhaps the better way because it is the simplest way of dealing with this matter and preferable to the suggestion which he had embodied in his Amendment.

Mr. R. A. Butler

We had an important Amendment on the Order Paper to which the Minister has referred, the effect of which was to change the reduction of the widow's earnings from 1s. to 6d. The Minister has decided to trump my ace, by changing the sum the widow may earn from 20s. to 30s. As the Minister has a large holding of trumps, and is able to trump my aces whenever I put them on the table, I have no alternative but to give way, but I would say that although I lose the trick, to the extent that I have lost my Amendment—because I do not propose to waste time by pressing it— I acknowledge the fact that actually the honour and glory in this matter reside on this side of the House. The Minister has shown wisdom by adopting the spirit of my Amendment, although carrying it out a different way.

In order that the widows may understand what has happened, I think it is necessary to say that in future the Clause will read: Where the earnings of the widow have exceeded 30 shillings for the week preceding any week for which she is entitled to a widowed mother's allowance or a widow's pension, the weekly rate of the allowance or pension shall for the last mentioned week be reduced by one shilling for each complete shilling of the excess. The result is that the widow may earn 30s. without worrying about anything being deducted. This is a very salutary improvement and we are glad, that we have by our efforts in Committee and by our initiative here on the Floor of the House, improved the position for widows. The honours are divided, and though the Minister may have cunning card-playing methods, he can be satisfied that the game is a clean and straight one, and that we are both out for the same ends.

Mr. Nigel Birch (Flint)

When we were discussing this matter in the Standing Committee the question of increasing the earnings beyond 20s. was raised and the Minister said: No one has put forward a suggestion as to how much beyond the 20s. I should allow as an earnings rule. If I allowed more in this Bill, I should have to make arrangements to put forward an Amendment of that kind in respect of the National Insurance (Industrial Injuries) Bill, and I would urge Members to realise that this has very serious con-quences."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, Standing Committee A, 12th March, 1946; c. 193] Is this to be parallel with the National Insurance (Industrial Injuries) Bill, or are further steps to be taken?

Mr. C. Williams

Before the Minister replies I should like to say that, having not had the advantage of a position in the Committee upstairs, I have been rather worried about the limitation on the widow's earnings. It is a matter which concerns a formidable number of widows, as I am sure hon. Gentlemen opposite realise. Having had some concern over the matter, and having watched the Minister closely in other proceedings during the day, I take this opportunity of thanking him—if I may have the courtesy of his attention. A lot of things have been said of the Minister and I am trying to say—if the Minister will give me his attention—how much I appreciate —[Interruption.]—I am trying to say something to the Minister. A lot of nasty things have been said about him today and I want to say how much I appreciate his action in this case. Thanks to the wise counsels he was afforded by my right hon. Friend the Member for Saffron Walden (Mr. Butler), and thanks to his own wisdom and courage in accepting the Amendment, he has been able to improve the position so far as the earnings of many widows in my constituency are concerned. I appreciate that this has a, significance which goes beyond the mere giving of this sum of money to these particular people. At a time such as this when there is a considerable shortage of labour, if we can use our unemployed in such a way it is a very good thing for the community as a whole. Although I congratulate the Minister, I think my right hon. Friend the Member for Saffron Walden and those who have been helping him in this matter are also to be congratulated. Whatever was said earlier in the day, their services have been in this case, as on many other occasions, a perfect Godsend to the Minister in improving the Bill.

Amendment agreed to.