HC Deb 25 November 1947 vol 444 cc1941-4

Considered in Committee. [Progress, 24th November.]

[Major MILNER in the Chair]

Question again proposed, That, for the purposes of any Act of the present Session to terminate the existing poor lave and to provide in lieu thereof for the assistance of persons in need by the National Assistance Board and by local authorities, and to provide for other purposes (hereinafter referred to as "the new Act "), it is expedient to authorise:— A. The payment out of moneys provided by Parliament of—

  1. (i) Expenses (including expenses incidental to the giving of assistance) incurred by the said Board under the new Act—
    1. (a) in giving assistance to persons over the age of sixteen whose resources (if 1942 any) which are taken into account, including any such re sources of any dependants of theirs, are insufficient to meet their requirements and those of any dependants of theirs,
    2. (b) in the provision and management and re-establishment centres and reception centres, and
    3. (c) in making contributions to organisations maintaining such centres.
    and any administrative expenses of the said Board incurred under or by virtue of the new Act;
  2. (ii) any increase attributable to the new Act in the sums payable out of moneys provided by Parliament by way of salaries and allowances to the officers and servants of the said Board, and any expenses incurred under the provisions of the new Act relating to advisory committees and appeal tribunals;
  3. (iii) contributions in respect of accommodation provided by, or by arrangement with, local authorities under the new Act, being contributions payable for not more than sixty years and of the following amounts—
    1. (a) seven pounds ten shillings, or in Scotland eleven pounds, in respect of 3 single bedroom,
    2. (b) in respect of any other bedroom, not more than six pounds ten shillings, or in Scotland nine pounds ten shillings, multiplied by the number of persons for whom the room is intended;
  4. (iv) any' expenses of a Minister incurred in the exercise of default powers conferred by the new Act;
  5. (v) any increase in the sums payable out of' moneys provided by Parliament under the Old Age Pensions Act, 1936 which is attributable to amendments effected by the new Act in the said Act of 1936, being amendments providing that assistance grants and the value of accommodation, maintenance and services are to be left out of account in the calculation of means for the purposes of the said Act of 1936, and amendments relating to the determination of questions arising thereunder, to disqualifications for the receipt of pensions, to the date at which increases of pensions become payable, and to the suspension or resumption of pensions or their increase on a change of circumstances;
  6. (vi) any increase in the sums payable out of "moneys provided by Parliament under the National Health Service Act, 1946, or the National Health Service (Scotland) Act, 1947, being an increase attributable to provisions of the new Act as to services to be rendered by local health authorities, as to ambulance services, and as to payments by Regional Hospital Boards in respect of accommodation and facilities provided in premises formerly being part of a workhouse;
  7. (vii) compensation payable under the new Art to persons employed for the 1943 purposes of pension committees under the said Act of 1936;
  8. (viii) the administrative expenses of any Government department incurred under the new Act.
B. The payment into the Exchequer of the amounts of reductions attributable to the new Act in the liabilities of any fund for arrears of benefits, pensions or allowances, and of the receipts under the new Act of the said Board or any Minister.

11.14 p.m.

Mr. Carmichael (Glasgow)

I do not desire to detain the Committee unduly, but we have the time tonight for explanations that would have been quite impossible last evening. The Standing Order has been suspended and I want to raise two points on which I think the Financial Secretary might be able to give us some guidance. The first point is the financial responsibility that is excluded from this Bill and placed upon the shoulders of local authorities in regard to persons who may be regarded as redundant after the change over takes place. The other point I want to raise is that of National Health Insurance being denied a person who may require to apply to the Assistance Board. It may be that I can raise the second point in Committee. If so, I will depart from it tonight. But I want to raise the first point very acutely.

It has been the practice of the Government in the past, when people have been regarded as redundant through transfer, to regard them as the financial responsibility of the Government of the day. I hope I am not saying anything which is causing uneasiness. I do not desire to place difficulties on the shoulders of those who are responsible, but I think the point is important, and I would like a little more attention paid to it. The right hon. Gentleman the Minister of National Insurance, yesterday pointed out that there was a possibility of the Government, with the extension of the services, taking over many of the local offices and, on the other hand, that people who are redundant because their offices were taken over by the Government might find, through the extension of local government services, occupation with the local authority, and that there would be very few people who ultimately would be regarded as redundant. The expense to the local authority, the right hon.

Gentleman said, would be a very minor one indeed.

I want to submit to the Government that it is very wrong to place a financial burden on the local authority. If it is admitted that the number of people involved will be very small, if it is equally admitted that the financial responsibility will be small, why does the Government depart from the well-established practice of looking after those whom they have been responsible for throwing out of employment. I do not want to continue the discussion further at this late hour of the night, but I understand that if I failed to raise the matter in this Committee now I would be unable to raise it in Committee or in any other way. I do not know a great deal about the procedure required, but I do think this point requires consideration. I have the backing of my Glasgow Town Council in this matter and the Council has actually sent letters to every hon. Member from Glasgow appealing to him to raise this matter. I hope it will have some consideration. If it is not considered I admit that I am prepared to accept the Measure which was presented to the House yesterday—I shall have a personal grievance because of the niggardly attitude adopted to this point in an otherwise good Measure.

11.18 p.m.

The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Health (Mr. John Edwards)

I cannot add much to what was said_by my right hon. Friend yesterday evening. It is our confident anticipation that very few officers will, in fact, be redundant, and that in the nature of things they will be widely distributed—just an odd person here or there. We really think that it is nothing other than reasonable in this case, when we are sure that the number involved will be small, to leave the responsibility for compensation on the local authority. We think that to have any elaborate arrangement for compensation which would divide the cost between the central Exchequer and the local authorities would be unnecessary, and we hope, therefore, that our proposal will be acceptable.

Resolution to be reported Tomorrow.