HC Deb 17 April 1951 vol 486 cc1638-40
16. Lieut.-Colonel Lipton

asked the Minister of Pensions what improvements in pension rates can now be made.

17. Mr. Chetwynd

asked the Minister of Pensions whether he will make a statement about supplementary pensions to war disabled pensioners.

18. Sir Ian Fraser

asked the Minister of Pensions if he has now reviewed war pensions; and what provision has been made for possible increases during the fiscal year.

19. Commander Pursey

asked the Minister of Pensions whether he will now make a statement on war disability pensions and allowances.

The Minister of Pensions (Mr. Isaacs)

The supplement payable to pensioners whose disablement is so serious as to make them unemployable will be raised from 30s. to 35s. a week and the allowance for the first or only child of a pensioner in receipt of the supplement will be raised from 7s. 6d. to 10s. a week. A new allowance, called a comforts allowance, of 10s. a week will be given to pensioners who are in receipt of both the unemployability supplement and the attendance allowance. It will also be given to certain other seriously injured pensioners. The qualifying rent figure for rent allowances for widows of other ranks with children will be lowered from 8s. to 6s. a week. The estimated cost of these improvements, which will have effect from the first pay day in June, is £630,000 a year.

Lieut.-Colonel Lipton

While the Minister's statement represents a small but, nevertheless, acceptable improvement in the case of the most deserving category of pensioners, could he clarify two points? Will this new allowance be subject to Income Tax; and will the badly injured man who would otherwise be eligible get the comforts allowance even though he is in employment?

Mr. Isaacs

With reference to the second part of the question, such a man will get these allowances. Certain arrangements are being drawn up to cover these people. It is to assist those who are suffering from serious disability, to give them more comforts rather than an actual increase of earnings. These supplements will, like the other payments, be free of Income Tax.

Sir I. Fraser

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that these proposals are bound to cause very keen disappointment because the basic rate of war pension has not been raised; but will he appreciate that, nevertheless, within the limited sum of money available the ex-Service societies and the British Legion will co-operate with him as to the way in which these moneys are divided?

Mr. Isaacs

I am very glad indeed to have the hon. Gentleman's assurance on that point, which I knew would be forthcoming. I wish we could have done more, but we have tried to spend the money available to help those who are in urgent need.

Mr. Chetwynd

Can my right hon. Friend say what increase these improvements will give to the seriously disabled pensioner; and can he also say how widows already receiving a rent supplement will benefit?

Mr. Isaacs

Widows, in the main, come under two headings. About 23,000 of them will get the 2s. automatically. We shall have to find out from our register the others who come into the scope of this supplement for the first time. We are inviting applications. All the other benefits will be given forthwith without any application from any of the pensioners. Under this scheme the most seriously disabled man will find himself entitled to £7 16s. a week if he has a wife and one child. All these allowances are free of tax.

Brigadier Prior-Palmer

In the latter part of his original answer, the Minister said that there were certain other seriously disabled men who had become eligible for the 10s. a week comforts allowance. Does he mean there may be some who are capable of light work who are eligible, or is it only for people who are quite unable to work?

Mr. Isaacs

No. I hope to be able to make a fuller statement later. This is what we have in mind. There may be a man who, owing to a limb injury is entitled to a 100 per cent. disability pension, and who is also blind and would be entitled to a 100 per cent. disability pension for his blindness. Under our scheme he does not get more than one 100 per cent. disability pension. That man might work and earn full wages; we are not concerned about his earnings and they do not come into the picture at all; the man is entitled to the same comforts; he comes into it. The man may be limbless, or a paraplegic, but this gives him a chance of getting another 10s.

Commander Pursey

Can my right hon. Friend confirm that the Conservative Party refused an increase of the basic war disability pension for 20 years and then, in 1939, reduced it by 18 per cent.?

Sir I. Fraser

May I ask the right hon. Gentleman whether he will be implementing this arrangement by Royal Warrant, and, if so, will he follow the precedent set by former Ministers and lay a draft of that Warrant, so that it may be studied by the House and ex-Servicemen's societies?

Mr. Isaacs

I cannot give the hon. and gallant Gentleman a definite answer to that question. I should like to look at the precedents, and we shall follow those precedents whatever they are.

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