§ 14. Mr. E. Johnson
asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether, in view of the difficulty experienced by his Department in defining the word hardship in connection with the repayment of postwar credits, he will consult the National Assistance Board in regard to the Board's experience in defining hardship in the course of its duties.
§ Mr. Johnson
Would not my hon. and learned Friend agree that it is the duty of the National Assistance Board to define need? If that be so, would not he consider the repayment of post-war credits in cases where the National Assistance Board feels that the applicant is in need? May I further ask him whether he would agree that sometimes it would be much more advantageous to the applicant to have the money which is owing to him repaid in a lump sum? It would be no more costly to the Treasury than giving it out gradually in National Assistance.
Mr. H. Wilson
While we all agree that the National Assistance Board's definition of hardship is unsatisfactory and has become much more stringent in recent years, may I ask the hon. and learned Member to take note of the fact that there are Members in all parts of the House who would like to impress upon him, as a matter of urgency, that he should try to work out a fair definition of hardship for the purpose of repayment of post-war credits?
§ Mr. Simon
The National Assistance Board has no definition of hardship at all. Therefore, the second part of the right hon. Gentleman's supplementary question does not arise. It is quite untrue to say that the National Assistance 1303 Board's administration has become more harsh in recent years. I have undertaken to look further into the matter of defining hardship for the purpose of post-war credits, but it is not likely to he any easier for this Government than it was for the right hon. Gentleman's party.
§ Mr. John Hall
Would my hon. and learned Friend agree that it is sufficient hardship for holders of post-war credits to have been denied the use of their money for more than fourteen years?
§ Mr. Gower
Does my hon. and learned Friend appreciate that the formula suggested in the Question would have certain advantages in that the prospective recipients would be easily identifiable, and that would overcome most of the objections which he has previously pleaded to suggestions made in this House? Secondly, if these people have been receiving grants from the Treasury in any case, would not it be sensible to pay them the money which is due to them after so many years?
§ Mr. E. Fletcher
Is the Minister aware that there is growing dissatisfaction with these glib excuses for refusing to deal with cases of hardship in the repayment of post-war credits? It cannot be administratively impossible. If there are difficulties about it, would not it be better for the Government to err on the side of generosity and devise a rule which would 1304 enable these admitted cases of hardship to be dealt with?
§ Mr. Simon
What the Government have to do is to be fair to the whole body of credit holders. It would be quite wrong to hold out any hope that a line can necessarily be found which will not leave on the wrong side of it some of those who are suffering equal hardship with those on the other side. The same difficulties were found by previous Governments in dealing with this problem. As I have said, however, my right hon. Friend has not closed his mind and he is keeping the whole problem under review.