1. Miss Ward
asked the Minister of National Insurance if he will give an assurance that old-age pensioners in receipt of supplementary allowances will receive additional assistance to cover any additional rent or rate increases imposed by local authorities.
§ The Minister of National Insurance (Mr. Osbert Peake)
The National Assistance Board inform me that increases in rent or rates are always taken into consideration and that if, as in the great majority of cases, the assistance is providing for the rent in full it will usually be adjusted to provide for any reasonable increase in rent.
While thanking my right hon. Friend for that very satisfactory piece of information, may I ask whether he can tell us why it was not possible for him to give us some indication about the additional costs when I asked him a Question the other day. When I asked my right hon. Friend how much the additional cost would be to the Assistance Board, his answer was that the information was not available. I just wondered how it comes to be available now.
§ Mr. McLeavy
Can the Assistance Board, under their existing regulations, give the additional amount of financial assistance mentioned in the Question, and is it anticipated that the Board will carry out an early review of their regulations in order to enable them to do it?
§ 9 and 10. Mr. A. Evans
asked the Minister of National Insurance (1) if he will make known to all retirement pensioners that the National Assistance Board will, in special circumstances, make grants for such items as clothing and household equipment;
(2) if he will make known to all retirement pensioners that the National Assistance Board will, when considering applications for the supplementation of pension, disregard savings up to £375 which have been placed in the Post Office Savings Bank and the Trustee Savings Bank, or savings certificates, since 2nd September, 1939.
§ Mr. Peake
The order book sent to retirement pensioners already tells them how they can apply for supplementary assistance if they need it and directs attention to explanatory leaflets obtainable at the Post Office, which refer to war savings and grants for exceptional needs. I do not consider that further general directions to retirement pensioners are called for.
§ Mr. Peake
I promised to consider the suggestion of a new and amalgamated leaflet embodying information about various forms of pension. I assure hon. Members that it is not an easy problem, because we have different classes of pensioner and the whole system of disregards is extremely complicated and elaborate. I hesitate to pretend that I can put all that in such simple language that every citizen will understand it.
§ Mr. Hamilton
Can the Minister say how wide is the discretionary power of 835 the National Assistance Board officers? Does it vary from region to region or office to office? Is he aware that there is some misapprehension, particularly in Scotland, that the different Assistance Board officers have varied discretionary power?
§ Mr. Peake
The number of retirement and contributory old age pensioners on 31st March, 1953, was about 4,200,000, of whom some 870,000 were also receiving regular weekly grants of National Assistance. In some cases, however, the grant covers the needs of a household containing more than one pensioner.
§ Mr. Hale
Will the right hon. Gentleman bear in mind that there is still a great deal of misunderstanding, which has been contributed to by recent statements, about the circumstances in which the old age pensioner is entitled to claim National Assistance? Could he arrange for the publication of a modern leaflet setting out the present scales and giving this kind of valuable information, which is so much needed?
§ Mr. Peake
Only recently I contributed an article to a newspaper called "The Old Age Pensioner," in order to try to correct some of the misapprehensions about this matter which seem to be in circulation. It is a little complicated, and I should hesitate very much to try to express very comprehensively the exact position of all pensioners, because there are contributory and non-contributory pensioners and the standards applicable to them are not the same.
§ Mr. Ernest Davies
Does the right hon. Gentleman recall that many months ago he promised to publish a pamphlet 836 giving all the details of pensions and benefits for the benefit of hon. Members, contributors and others? Has any progress been made in compiling this publication?