HC Deb 07 November 1960 vol 629 cc643-5
40. Mr. Watts

asked the Minister of Pensions and National Insurance whether, when initiating new pension rates, he will amend the earnings rule in favour of widows with children at school who are 18 years of age or over.

41. Mr. Farr

asked the Minister of Pensions and National Insurance if he will take early steps to raise or abolish the earnings limit on widows' pensions.

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

The earnings limits for widows were raised last March and I have no proposals for further changes in respect of these. The House will, however, be aware that proposals for improved provision for widows are contained in the Bill which I presented last week.

Mr. Watts

Does the Minister consider that a grant, either through education committees or through his own Ministry, should be given so that people are not in a worse position if their children are 18 years of age and clever; and that if this is not given it will be in direct contradistinction to the recommendation in Chapter V of the Crowther Report?

Mr. Boyd-Carpenter

I am aware of the case that my hon. Friend has in mind, in respect of which I very much understand his feelings. However, the assistance given to a young man of 18 to continue with his education seems to me to be primarily a matter for the education authorities.

Mr. Farr

Is my right hon. Friend aware that in Leicestershire and in the country generally there are a lot of widows working in hospitals who are asked to undertake longer hours by the hospital authorities but have to decline because they do not want to lose the benefit of their widow's pension under the earnings limit?

Mr. Boyd-Carpenter

My hon. Friend will be aware that when the National Insurance Advisory Committee looked at the matter in its Report at the beginning of the year, it took the view that it was better to use any available money to increase rates of benefit rather than earnings limits, and, as he will be aware, that is what we are now doing.

Mr. Houghton

Although the earnings limit for widows was lifted as recently as last March, would the right hon. Gentleman keep an open mind on the matter until we can consider widows' benefits and welfare as a whole when we look at the Bill? The earnings rule has to be looked at in relation to benefits, and I ask the Minister to restrain himself from being too dogmatic about the present situation until we can look at the position more clearly and as a whole when we come to the Bill.

Mr. Boyd-Carpenter

I think that there was a minimum of dogmatism in my original Answer, which, indeed, covered substantially the same ground as that covered by the hon. Member for Sowerby (Mr. Houghton), inasmuch as I pointed out that what we were doing at the moment was to deal with rates.