§ Mr. Peake
The numbers of regular weekly grants of National Assistance in payment at the end of September in the years 1951, 1952, 1953 and 1954 were, respectively, 1,409,000, 1,599,000, 1,713,000 and 1,764,000. Figures are not available to enable comparison to be made with 1st January, 1954, but during the greater part of this year, the total number of grants in payment has been falling; the figure for September last was about 18,000 less than that for the end of January.
§ Mr. Dodds
Does the right hon. Gentleman appreciate that the number of persons now receiving National Assistance suggests that the pension allowance is much too small? Does he not further appreciate that his party stated, in October, 1951, that the pension of 30s. had already been left behind by the cost of living? Does not he now see that it is necessary to increase the pension by much more than 2s. 6d.?
§ Mr. Popplewell
Do I understand the Minister to say that he is satisfied, when there has been an increase of nearly one-fifth on the figures for 1951? Does not he realise that the Government's policy of reintroducing Poor Law relief under 13 the guise of National Assistance is abhorrent to everyone, and that his Government can increase pensions at once without waiting for any further legislation? When is he going to stir himself?
§ 20. Mr. Woodburn
asked the Minister of Pensions and National Insurance whether he is aware that old-age pensioners who have been induced to continue working after 65 years of age on the promise of additional pension for each year worked are disappointed when they have to seek extra help from the Assistance Board to find that their advantage is wiped out by their extra pension being regarded as ordinary income; and whether, in his forthcoming announcement, he will consider restoring to the pensioners the extra they earned by including the additional pension among the other items which are disregarded by the Assistance Board in calculating income.
§ Mr. Woodburn
Is not the Minister aware that a person will not ask for National Assistance if he is able to live without it? If he is compelled to ask for National Assistance, is it not quite wrong that he should be deprived of the inducement offered to him to give up his pension for five years in order to add to it when he retired? Will not the Minister reconsider this matter when he looks at the scheme again?
§ Mr. Peake
No, I cannot undertake to do that. Increments of pension were not included in the list of disregards put into the National Assistance Act, 1948, by the party opposite. Our object on this side of the House is to see as few people as possible drawing National Assistance subject to a means test.
§ Mr. Woodburn
Does the Minister realise that I am not trying to score any 14 party point? I hope he is not going to introduce party points in discussing this matter. As he said, it was estimated that people could live on the pensions plus this increment, but, where circumstances force them on to public assistance, is it not quite wrong to deprive them of the promise the State made that, if they worked longer and did not draw the pension, their pension would include the extra money?
§ Mr. Woodburn
I am sorry to persist, but may I ask the right hon. Gentleman whether he thinks the revised pension rates plus increment will be sufficient to absolve these people from the necessity of asking for National Assistance?
§ Dr. Summerskill
Would not the right hon. Gentleman agree that the statement he has just made, that the object of that side of the House is to reduce the number of people on National Assistance, is a little unfortunate, because it will have the effect of preventing those perhaps in greatest need from coming forward to ask for assistance?
§ 24. Miss Burton
asked the Minister of Pensions and National Insurance what definition is used in the Regulations of the National Assistance Board to define cases of need in so far as food is concerned.
§ Miss Burton
Would the Minister make that quite clear? Is he aware that old people truly believe that they can ask for help in regard to food only in 15 connection with food for medicinal purposes? Will he make it clear, to take tea, for example—the price of which has increased—that the old people can call for assistance? Does he not realise that the old people cannot get through another winter without some help?
§ Mr. Peake
I think the position ought to be understood. Apart from the scale rates, which were so greatly improved in 1952, the National Assistance Board is paying additional discretionary allowances in one case in every three which comes before it. The Board has a discretion, which it is exercising, to pay something more than the scale rates in 600,000 cases. My belief is that the Board is doing its job with humanity, courtesy and kindness.
§ 25. Mr. Warbey
asked the Minister of Pensions and National Insurance whether he will introduce legislation to amend the Second Schedule to the National Assistance Act, 1948, in order to bring the amounts of resources to be disregarded into line with the decline in the value of the £ since the passing of the Act.
§ Mr. Warbey
Does the right hon. Gentleman not accept, then, the principle of disregards? If he accepts it, surely he must accept the principle that the amount of the disregard should vary with the change in the value of money? Is he aware that miners, whose pension has just been increased from 10s. to 15s. a week, are having 4s. 6d. a week deducted from their National Assistance because they are now above the basis level?
§ Mr. Peake
To increase the disregards is no help at all to the most needy persons, and it would obviously widen the scope and increase the numbers of people able to draw assistance. That is not our policy. We believe that the existing disregards, which cover the ownership of a house, £375 of war savings, £50 of other capital, up to £1 a week disability pension and £1 a week casual earnings, on top of the full scale of National Assistance, are adequate at the present time.
§ 35. Mr. Blenkinsop
asked the Minister of Pensions and National Insurance the 16 present average discretionary addition being paid by the National Assistance Board to augment existing scale rates.
§ Mr. Blenkinsop
In view of the relatively small sum that has been paid, is not this a further reason why the Board should be given an immediate opportunity at least to increase the general rate to help relieve that category of case?
§ 38. Mr. Collins
asked the Minister of Pensions and National Insurance detail of the improved scales of National Assistance which have been in operation since 1952.
§ Mr. Peake
The principal rates provided in the current National Assistance Regulations (a copy of which I am sending the hon. Member) are, for needs other than rent, 35s. for a single householder and 59s. for a married couple. The scales for blind and certain tuberculous persons are substantially higher.
§ Mr. Collins
Is the Minister aware that his statement does not bear out his claim this afternoon that the National Assistance scales are better than ever or, indeed, are even adequate? Will he pay regard to the fact that the former rationed foods have increased by something like 40 per cent. in price since 1951 and that, on the present scales, old people are barely able to manage to buy them? If pensions cannot be raised this year, will the Minister approach the National Assistance Board so that pensioners can be given an increased or supplementary allowance to provide for these increases in price?
§ 48. Mr. de Freitas
asked the Minister of Pensions and National Insurance how many persons were receiving National 17 Assistance on the first day of September of each of the four years 1951, 1952, 1953 and 1954.
§ Mr. de Freitas
As these figures show that there is a considerable increase in the number, will the Minister regard this as further evidence of the position of the old-age pensioner? Will he do something about it before Christmas?
§ Mr. de Freitas
Is the Minister aware that by selecting those figures he is being unfair? My Question refers to 1951 to 1954.
§ Following is the answer:
§ The numbers of regular weekly grants of National Assistance in payment on dates, nearest to those mentioned, for which statistics are available are:
|28th August, 1951||…||1,396,000|
|26th August, 1952||…||1,582,000|
|25th August, 1953||…||1,701,000|
|31st August, 1954||…||1,762,000|
§ Some of the grants cover the need of more than one person.
|PNEUMOCONIOSIS: COAL-MINING CASES DIAGNOSED UNDER THE NATIONAL INSURANCE (INDUSTRIAL INJURIES) ACTS|
|Pneumoconiosis Medical Panel||1951*||1952*||1953||January to June, 1954|
|Newcastle (separated from Manchester in October, 1951)||…||…||…||…||83||405||531||319|
|Bristol (separated from London in October, 1953)||…||…||…||…||—||—||32||30|
|* These figures do not include cases diagnosed on second or subsequent examination, of which there were 119 in 1951 and 195 in 1952.|