HC Deb 14 November 1960 vol 630 cc15-7
22. Mr. Janner

asked the Minister of Pensions and National Insurance whether, in view of the plight of many widows whose sole income is their pension of £2 10s. a week and who are unfit to work, he will consider increasing their pension, especially having regard to the higher rents which many of them are being called on to pay, and thus avoiding their having recourse to National Assistance.

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

I would refer the hon. Member to the Bill now before Parliament.

Mr. Janner

Is that all the Minister has to say? Is not he satisfied that that Bill does not provide anything like a satisfactory solution to the Question I have put? Will he in any event ask the National Assistance Board to continue paying for the increased rents which these widows are called upon to pay and not penalise the widow if she gets an additional pension?

Mr. Boyd-Carpenter

I think we can much more profitably discuss these matters when we get to the debates on the National Insurance Bill and the National Assistance Regulations.

Mr. Houghton

Does not the Minister think it would help the House if he gave us a rehearsal of his Second Reading speech, not only on this Question, but on other Questions on the Order Paper?

Mr. Boyd-Carpenter

I should not like to anticipate the world premiere.

25. Mr. John Hall

asked the Minister of Pensions and National Insurance what considerations led him to exclude from increased benefits the widow entitled only to a pension of 10s. a week.

29. Mr. Randall

asked the Minister of Pensions and National Insurance whether he is aware of the concern expressed by widows in receipt of a pension of 10s. a week, that they were not included in his recent announcement of increased benefits; and whether he will take steps to improve their pensions.

Mr. Boyd-Carpenter

In reply to my hon. Friend, my reason is that to do so would be to increase indefensibly the disparity between these ladies with their reserved rights and widows otherwise similarly circumstanced who receive no pension.

The answer to the hon. Member for Gateshead, West (Mr. Randall) is for these reasons, No, Sir.

Mr. Hall

While thanking my right hon. Friend for the measures which he has announced so far, may I ask whether he believes that to justify one anomaly by quoting another is the right way to answer this Question? Is he not aware that the treatment of this class of widow, known as the 10s. widow, has been a source of increasing discontent for many years and that this leads to a feeling of considerable injustice in the minds of those concerned? Will he look into this again?

Mr. Boyd-Carpenter

The position is quite clear. These ladies receive 10s. when, apart from their reserved rights under previous legislation, widows in similar circumstances and in the same position receive no pension. It is justifiable to continue to pay the 10s. as a reserved right, but I am quite certain that it would seem extremely unfair to what I might call a "no-shilling" widow if we put a charge for an additional payment on the National Insurance contributions in order to increase the lead which the 10s. widow has.

Mr. Randall

Is the Minister aware that his original statement on the increases in pensions caused great disappointment to the 10s. widow? Is he further aware that his additional statement today, which received murmurings of discontent from both sides of the House, will in no way alleviate the disappointment of the 10s. widow? Is it not a fact that most of these widows are getting into old age, that there is now only a very small number of them and that they are the only widows who have never received an increase in pension? Does he want to perpetuate this grievance?

Mr. Boyd-Carpenter

The hon. Member refers to "both sides of the House". I ask him to recall that his right hon. Friend the Member for Middlesbrough, East (Mr. Marquand), who led for the Opposition on the last National Insurance Bill, said on 9th June, 1959, … do not think that they have a fully justified grievance, although they think that they have."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 9th June, 1959; Vol. 606, c. 836.] I am sure he is right.

Mr. Dodds

Does the right hon. Gentleman agree that these widows have been granted 10s. a week and that the value has depreciated over the years? Is it too much to expect that the 10s., having been granted, should be raised to the value which it had when it was granted? If the right hon. Gentleman wishes to carry his argument to a logical conclusion, why does he not take the 10s. away from them?

Mr. Boyd-Carpenter

Answering the last part of the Question, for the same reason as the right hon. Member for Llanelly (Mr. J. Griffiths) preserved it—that we both think that it would not be right to take away an existing right from them. On the other hand, the hon. Member is no doubt aware that those of them who have young children when widowed, or are of the age which would entitle them to pension under the National Insurance Act, have been put on the National Insurance Act rate, which at present is 50s., and which, if the House approves, is soon to be raised.

Dr. King

While the 10s. widow has a very marginal advantage over the "no-shilling" widow, is not the real injustice the fact that a great number of aged widows, through no fault of their own, are outside the basic pension increase given to all other widows?

Mr. Boyd-Carpenter

The hon. Member has a Question down later on that point which, though interesting, is quite different from this.