HC Deb 15 June 1948 vol 452 cc220-2
3. Mr. Tiffany

asked the Minister of National Insurance what will be the position, after 5th July, of widows aged 55–60 years of age who at present are in receipt of a 10s. pension.

Mr. J. Griffiths

As my hon. Friend explained in reply to a Question by the hon. Member for Chelsea (Commander Noble) on 8th June, such widow pensioners, if they do not qualify for increased widows' pensions from 5th July, 1948, by reason of having children or being incapable of self-support, will be liable to contribute under the new National Insurance scheme in their appropriate class. For retirement pension purposes they will be given an initial credit of contributions from their 55th birthday to 5th July, 1948, and the ordinary contribution conditions will be modified in their favour so that they can qualify from age 60 for the full rate of retirement pension by paying contributions for the balance of the period from 5th July, 1948, to their 60th birthday. I am arranging for an explanatory letter to be issued shortly to each widow pensioner affected by these special arrangements.

Mr. Tiffany

While recognising that the credits give some concession, is it not true nevertheless that there is some inequality between the widow who is 60 before 5th July and the widow who becomes 60 after 5th July; and in view of this fact, cannot the right hon. Gentleman, in his customary humane manner, go a little further in this matter?

Mr. Griffiths

We have provided pensions for widows who were 60 in October, 1946, and for those who reach 60 before 5th July. By the terms of the Act, women of 60 and over on 5th July cannot come into the scheme. There will probably be some inequality, but every effort is being made to reduce it to the lowest possible quota.

Miss Bacon

Is the Minister aware that many of these widows are in receipt of only 10s. a week and are living with sons and daughters, and does he not realise that it will be an added hardship to the sons and daughters to pay 3s. 8d. a week? Will he not consider, in cases of non-employed widows aged 50 to 60, waiving the contributions?

Mr. Griffiths

We have provided that if these widows are incapable of self-support, their pension is immediately raised to 26s. The others will have to contribute for about six months only, and they will then get the full pension. I wish that it had been possible to do more within the limits of the insurance scheme, but that is not possible.

Mr. Chetwynd

In cases where hardship does arise, can the widow apply to the Assistance Board for a supplementary pension to meet the contribution?

Mr. Griffiths

As from 5th July, they will be able to apply for national assistance. If the hon. Member will look at the scale, he will see that we have made provision for that.

Mr. George Thomas

Will those widows who are incapable of working have to submit to a medical examination by officers of the Minister's Department?

Mr. Griffiths

No. We have invited all those widows to submit their applications, and at the same time to submit a report by their own doctor that will satisfy us and enable us to pay the pension.

4. Miss Bacon

asked the Minister of National Insurance how far under the new scheme of National Insurance the local offices of his Department will have responsibility for claims to retirement and widows' pensions; and to what extent pensioners and persons desiring to claim these pensions will still deal with the Assistance Board.

Mr. J. Griffiths

As from 5th July next claims for retirement and widows' contributory pensions should be addressed to the local office of the Ministry of National Insurance, which will handle all the local work in connection with them. The Assistance Board, whose help has been invaluable in the previous administration of the scheme, have undertaken to clear up belated claims from existing retirement pensioners with wives under age 60 who may be entitled, from 5th July, to increase of their pensions on that account. A large number of such claims are still outstanding and I would urge the pensioners concerned to make them without further delay. Claims for noncontributory old age pensions should be addressed to the Assistance Board as hitherto.