HC Deb 16 November 1948 vol 458 cc192-4
28 and 29. Mr. Lipson

asked the Minister of National Insurance (1) if he has considered the case, particulars of which have been sent to him, of a widow aged 53, whose husband, an insured person, died 21 years ago, who worked for 15 years to bring up her son and daughter and lost the former in the war and who receives only 10s. pension out of which she will have to pay 3s. 8d. weekly for 10 years to qualify for a pension of 26s. which she cannot afford to do; and whether he will make regulations to increase the pension for women widowed before 5th July, 1948, to the 26s. given to those widowed after that date;

(2) what would be the cost of increasing the 10s. weekly pension given to women widowed before 5th July, 1948, to the 26s. granted to those widowed after that date.

Mr. J. Griffiths

It is not the case that all women widowed under the new scheme will qualify for a pension of 26s. Some will not qualify for a continuing widow's pension at all. The immediate cost of increasing to 26s. a week all pensions awarded to widows of men whose insurance was under the old scheme would be thirteen million pounds a year. This is additional to the cost already incurred in giving the appropriate widow's benefit of the new scheme to 160,000 existing widow pensioners who still have young children or are incapacitated. I cannot see my way to extend the provision already being made. As regards the case cited, the hon. Member has already given me particulars and I have arranged for an officer of the Department to see the widow and explain the position. I should be happy to discuss the whole matter with the hon. Member.

Mr. Lipson

Will my right hon. Friend tell the House why, in view of the fact that Parliament has decided that 26s. is a reasonable pension for one widow after 5th July, in certain circumstances, when the conditions are the same, he considers that 10s. is an adequate pension for a widow before 5th July, in view of the fact that she is probably older and less able to work?

Mr. Griffiths

The whole problem is to what extent we can make the provisions of the new scheme retrospective to those who qualify under the old scheme. I cannot go further than I have done without an increase in the contribution, which I do not want to make just now. May I point out to the hon. Member and to the House that cases of this kind can be covered, if they are outside the insurance scheme, by the National Assistance Act.

Miss Bacon

Can my right hon. Friend say whether the £13 million quoted refers to all widows or merely to those over 50, and can he give the figure which would have to be spent to increase the pension of those over 50 from 10s. to 26s.?

Mr. Griffiths

I will give the figure, if my hon. Friend will put down a Question.

Squadron-Leader Fleming

The Minister said that widows outside the orbit of this Act can go to the Assistance Board. Is he aware of the fact that most people do not want to go to the Assistance Board?

Mr. Griffiths

This House has provided for persons under the Assistance Board shorn of all the indignities of Poor Law, and may I express the hope that Members of this House, since we have adopted this new scheme, will encourage those outside the scheme to make application to the Assistance Board.

Mr. Lipson

Will my right hon. Friend give further consideration to the matter, as these grievances are a blot on the great National Insurance Scheme.

Mr. Griffiths

I appreciate that hon. Members are worried but I have to remind the House that I should have to increase the contribution, and I do not want to do that until the scheme is well launched.

Mrs. Mann

In the case cited, would not the widow do much better to apply for a pension in respect of the death of her son on war service?

Mr. Griffiths

As I have said in my original answer, an officer of my Department is seeing the person in question, and I propose to discuss the matter with the hon. Member.

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