HC Deb 23 November 1959 vol 614 cc8-9
9. Mr. W. Griffiths

asked the Minister of Pensions and National Insurance what he estimates would be the cost of abolishing the earnings rule so far as it is applied to widowed mothers.

Mr. Boyd-Carpenter

The direct cost would be about £1½ million a year at present. If the proposals which I have recently submitted to the National Insurance Advisory Committee were to be approved by Parliament, this figure would fall to about £1 million.

Mr. Griffiths

In view of that very modest amount, does not the Minister think it is now an appropriate time to bring this unfair rule to an end regarding widowed mothers? If he will give the House such an assurance, I will give him an assurance that I will withdraw my Private Member's Bill due for Second Reading in February. How can the right hon. Gentleman and his colleagues possibly justify the application of this principle to widowed mothers and yet come to the House of Commons at this moment and ask us to pass a pension Bill for the late Speaker of this House when he can go out and earn £10,000 a year? What is the difference in principle?

Mr. Boyd-Carpenter

Neither when this rule was introduced into the Act of 1946 nor since has the reason for its application to widowed mothers had very much to do with finance or cost. As the hon. Gentleman will recall, it was introduced in the Act of 1946 as part of the general structure of the National Insurance Scheme as illustrating and demonstrating the principle that in general National Insurance benefits are paid where employment and earnings on a whole-time basis are interrupted. That has been the basis throughout the lifetime of the Scheme. The real difficulty behind the proposal of the hon. Gentleman is not the immediate cost—I agree with him that the figures are quite moderate—but how one would apply a complete relaxation of the rule to the case of a widow pensioner, which many widowed mothers become at age 50, or, still more, to a widow who becomes eligible for a retirement pension. I am not at all sure that it is not the right thing to raise the limit, as we are proposing, to enable widows to receive by way of part-time earnings and benefit together more than the present average industrial earnings for women.

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