HC Deb 27 June 1960 vol 625 cc949-51
17. Mrs. Cullen

asked the Minister of Pensions and National Insurance how many of the National Assistance allowances made in Scotland are in respect of widows; and how many of these widows are drawing the 10s. pension.

The Joint Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Pensions and National Insurance (Miss Patricia Hornsby-Smith)

It is estimated that about 67,000 widows were receiving weekly National Assistance grants in Scotland on 29th March last, of whom about 53,000 were receiving National Insurance pensions or benefits, including retirement pensions and rather less than 2,000 were receiving the 10s. pension.

Mrs. Cullen

Does not the right hon. Lady think it is time that the basic pension was raised and that anomalies regarding widows' pensions were done away with?

Miss Hornsby-Smith

The hon. Lady will be aware that widows who are covered by the previous insurance scheme and are below the age of 50 are to that extent better placed than those in the present scheme, who are not eligible, unless they have children, until they are 50.

22. Dame Irene Ward

asked the Minister of Pensions and National Insurance, in view of recent financial improvements for certain categories of taxpayers, when he now proposes to improve the widows' pensions position.

Mr. Boyd-Carpenter

The matters mentioned in the first part of my hon. Friend's Question are not for me, and I have no statement to make on the latter part.

Dame Irene Ward

Is my right hon. Friend aware that, in the interests of justice and equity, it would be more suitable if there were co-ordination between the Treasury and the Ministry of Pensions and National Insurance? Would he not agree that if there is any money to be spared it would be fairer to let all widows have a bit of a go, particularly in view of the fact that many find it very difficult indeed to obtain money to keep themselves in contribution so that they may draw their retirement pension when they reach the appropriate age? Does he not think that, in the interests of those living on small fixed incomes, he had better have a talk with the Chancellor of the Exchequer?

Mr. Boyd-Carpenter

I must not be lured, even by the blandishments of my hon. Friend, into answering questions about taxation. On the point of substance in her question, I have a great deal of sympathy with her concern in respect of the widow—[HON. MEMBERS: "What are you doing?"]—as has been evidenced in practice by the fact that in respect of widowed mothers with children we have made the biggest of all increases in National Insurance benefits and, in the case of elderly war widows, we have made an increase as recently as last year.

Dr. King

While appreciating everything that has been done about the widowed mother with children, is it not time that the Minister answered the request, made by hon. Members on both sides of the House for a long time, and got down to considering the seriousness of widowhood itself and the economic disabilities under which widows suffer, whether they are mothers or not?

Mr. Boyd-Carpenter

The fact that we have made disproportionate improvements in certain aspects of the provision for widows, as the hon. Member has been good enough to acknowledge, is an indication that there is not very much between us on this issue.

Mr. Ross

Surely the figures show the inadequacy of the provision made, which is proved by the figures given in reply to my hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Gorbals (Mrs. Cullen)? The figures related only to Scotland as to the number of widows who, out of necessity, have to go to the National Assistance Board and ask it to supplement their basic allowance.

Mr. Boyd-Carpenter

The hon. Member must not ignore the very fine part the National Assistance Board can and does play in relieving hardship.