HC Deb 22 March 1962 vol 656 cc541-2
11. Mrs. Castle

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether he will extend the provisions for repayment of postwar credits to cover all cases of certified sickness for a continuous period of 26 weeks, whether or not sickness benefit has been payable in these cases.

Mr. Barber

I am afraid the answer is, No, Sir. We have given this matter very careful consideration, but there are serious practical difficulties in the way of such an extension.

Mrs. Castle

Is the Economic Secretary aware that I am pleading for those working married women who are not insured in their own right and therefore are not entitled to sickness benefit during a long period of sickness, but whose illness can cause grave hardship in families where their money is necessary to sustain the standard of living? Is not this an easily definable group, and will he therefore not reconsider this matter, as it is perfectly easy to do?

Mr. Barber

I wish that we could help in these cases. The hon. Lady hit upon the main difficulty when she referred to the possibility of the group being definable. The main difficulty is the test that would have to be applied by doctors would be concerned with the degree of sickness which would have entitled the patient to sickness benefit if he had been qualified to receive it, which ex hypothesi he is not. This is a very real practical difficulty. I do not wish to deny the fact that hardship may result in these cases. I do not know whether it is a result of what the hon. Lady said, but the Financial Secretary and the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Health did consider this together as a result of the protests which were made, and I have looked into it again myself, but there are very great difficulties.