HC Deb 17 March 1958 vol 584 cc912-4
33. Mrs. L. Jeger

asked the Minister of Pensions and National Insurance if he will increase the permitted earnings limit for widowed mothers.

The Minister of Pensions and National Insurance (Mr. John Boyd-Carpenter)

No, Sir. I have no proposals on this matter at present.

Mrs. Jeger

Is it not unfair and outrageous that if a widowed mother earns as little as £6 a week she loses £2 10s. of her pension, whereas a married woman whose husband is alive can earn up to £180 a year without suffering any deduction for Income Tax purposes? Surely there is a very strong case for locking at this matter again?

Mr. Boyd-Carpenter

The hon. Lady will appreciate that the limit applies only to the widowed mother's own personal element and not the element for her child, and that the limit is now a good deal higher than it was in the earlier days of the scheme, having been raised as recently as 1956.

Mr. W. R. Williams

Has the Minister been made aware of the very constructive and interesting suggestion made at a recent meeting of the National Council of Women, in Manchester, that this allowance should now be renamed the "guardian's allowance," enabling us to give recognition to the position of the mother as breadwinner and placing her in a category where the earnings rule need not apply? Will the Minister consider that very important suggestion made by that council?

Mr. Boyd-Carpenter

I read a report of the meeting to which the hon. Member refers. The acceptance of that suggestion—which I am sure was most sincerely and helpfully put forward—would involve a complete revision of one part of the main structure of the National Insurance Scheme. The hon. Member will hear in mind the fact that the limits themselves have been raised and are now very substantially higher than they were wren the scheme began.

Mr. Williams

Is the Minister aware that a growing body of opinion considers that the basis of the regulations as they affect widowed mothers could very well be changed, because they do not seem to make sense and are doing grave injustice to people who are having a very hard time trying to bring up their children?

Mr. Boyd-Carpenter

There are strong arguments both for and against this limitation, and they are a little difficult to argue with the necessary brevity at Question Time.

34. Mrs. L. Jeger

asked the Minister of Pensions and National Insurance how many widowed mothers were summoned in the last convenient annual period for offences relating to statement of income.

Mr. Boyd - Carpenter

Eighty-six women in receipt of widowed mother's allowance were summoned for false declarations of earnings during 1957 in the whole of Great Britain.

Mrs. Jeger

I am glad to note that the figure is substantially less than that quoted at the recent conference of the National Council of Women, but does not the Minister agree that a serious temptation is put in the way of these harassed women? Why should a widowed mother have deductions made from her earnings, whereas another widowed mother who is fortunate enough to have a small unearned private income, left to her by her hsuband or from some other source, suffers no deduction of Income Tax in respect of that unearned income?

Mr. Boyd-Carpenter

I am glad to have the opportunity of showing that the figure quoted in Manchester is quite out of relation with the true facts of the situation. The second part of the hon. Lady's question raises a matter which, as I said just now, it is a little difficult to debate constructively at Question Time.