HC Deb 22 November 1949 vol 470 cc182-3
24. Mr. T. Brown

asked the Minister of National Insurance what steps he has taken since 3rd November last to consult with the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the National Assistance Board for a general review of the regulations of the Board.

Mr. J. Griffiths

I have taken note of the views and suggestions put forward by my hon. Friend in the Debate on 3rd November. I am regularly in touch with the Board on the working of their regulations, but I cannot add to what I said on this subject in reply to questions by my hon. Friends the Members for Taunton (Mr. Collins) and Ilkestone (Mr. Oliver) on 15th November.

Mr. Brown

Is the Minister aware that there is grave disquiet in the country about the treatment given to old age pensioners when they have to receive assistance from the National Assistance Board area offices? Will the Minister get some determination and some kick into this matter, and get the thing settled?

Mr. Griffiths

I think that, on the whole, the Board are doing their work very well indeed. In fact, they are very generous in regard to the discretionary allowances, as I indicated in my reply last week.

Mr. Mikardo

While joining in the tribute to the work of the National Assistance Board, may I ask my right hon. Friend to bear in mind that the Board's general scales were fixed as being just sufficient to maintain health and to avoid malnutrition, and that since then there has been a rise of a number of points in the cost of living index and a further rise is projected? Therefore, by definition the scales are insufficient to maintain health and avoid malnutrition.

Mr. Griffiths

My hon. Friend is assuming what is not correct, and that is that all the pensioners are existing on these scales. There is provision for discretionary allowances. I would also remind my hon. Friend that the disregards which we permit are very much more generous than they have ever been before.

Mr. Carmichael

Will the Minister realise that the regulations are so rigid that an extra allowance can only be made in exceptional cases, and that consequently because of the scaling there is need to review the regulations again?

Mr. Griffiths

I do not think the regulations are being applied rigidly. One-third of all the pensioners receiving supplements are also receiving a discretionary allowance. That does not indicate much rigidity.

Mr. Gallacher

In view of the demands that are being made for an increase for lower-paid workers, will the Minister not realise that old age pensioners get less than half of what is paid to the lower-paid workers, and that they cannot possibly live on the amount that they get. even with assistance from the Assistance Board?

Mr. Griffiths

I think the Ministry, the Board and this Government have every right to be proud of what they have done for the old people.

Mr. Brown

Arising from the replies given to the Question and from the apparent complacency of the three Departments referred to on 3rd November, I beg to give notice that I shall raise this matter on the Adjournment.

Hon. Members

Hear, hear.

Mr. Gallacher

Why are hon. Members opposite cheering? They starved them.

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