HC Deb 21 March 1955 vol 538 cc1715-6
1. Mr. Hector Hughes

asked the Minister of Pensions and National Insurance if he is aware of the hardship imposed on those widows who, as the law now stands, are not entitled to any pension; and what steps he plans to take to remove this hardship.

The Minister of Pensions and National Insurance (Mr. Osbert Peake)

The widowhood provisions of the National Insurance Acts are being reviewed by the National Insurance Advisory Committee, and I must await their Report. I would remind the hon. Member of the help which the National Assistance Board can provide in cases of need.

Mr. Hughes

While thanking the Minister for that reply, may I ask him whether the inquiry which is taking place is directed to increasing the pensions of the 10s. widows, and will it do anything to enable them to cope with the rising cost of living?

Mr. Peake

As the hon. and learned Gentleman probably recalls, we had a considerable debate during the passage of the National Insurance Bill before Christmas on these widowhood provisions, and, I think with the general approval of the House, I announced that I was referring them to the Advisory Committee. This is a very big subject, and I think we shall all await with interest the Report of the Committee on the new provisions which were embodied in 1948.

16. Lieut.-Colonel Lipton

asked the Minister of Pensions and National Insurance what report he has received from the National Insurance Advisory Committee relating to the pension of widows receiving only 10s. a week.

Mr. Peake

I regret that I cannot add to the reply give to the hon. and gallant Member on 31st January.

Lieut.-Colonel Lipton

Is the right hon. Gentleman not aware that delay in dealing with this matter is becoming something of a public scandal? Last December he gave an undertaking that the position of these widows would be reviewed. When will it be reviewed and when will something be done for this small but deserving class of pensioners?

Mr. Peake

It is now under review by the National Insurance Advisory Committee. That is an eminent body representing both sides of industry as well as other independent people. It reviewed maternity provisions during the lifetime of the preceding Government and took between a year to 15 months to produce its Report. I cannot hold out any hope that it will report on this matter in the near future. It is a matter of importance and the Committee should be given adequate time to investigate it.

Mr. G. M. Thomson

In handing this matter to the Committee, did the Minister emphasise its urgency and the need for a report as soon as possible?

Mr. Peake

We are all agreed that we should like to see the report as soon as practicable, but I am sure we all want to get a good scheme for these widows' pensions for the future; we must give very careful thought to any major alteration of the great Insurance Scheme upon which we embarked in 1948.

Lieut.-Colonel Lipton

In view of the completely unsatisfactory nature of the reply, I beg to give notice that I shall raise the matter on the Adjournment.