HC Deb 05 February 1963 vol 671 cc288-323
Mr. Houghton

I beg to move, in page 2, line 26, to leave out "26 shillings" and to insert "82 shillings and sixpence".

The Temporary Chairman (Sir James Duncan)

It might be for the convenience of the Committee if, with this Amendment, we discuss the Amendment in page 2, line 27, leave out paragraph (b).

Mr. Houghton

Yes. That will be convenient, Sir James.

Clause 2 proposes to modify the earnings rule for widowed mothers. It provides, broadly, that the earnings rule shall not operate to reduce her own pension below 26s. The Amendment proposes that the earnings rule shall not operate to reduce her pension below what she is getting now, which is 82s. 6d. The Amendment would considerably narrow the scope of erosion of the widows' pension by the operation of the earnings rule. I understood that under the rules of order within the Long Title we could not move an Amendment to abolish the earnings rule entirely for widowed mothers. Since the Bill modifies the existing earnings rule in this connection, we propose to modify it fess than the Minister does.

I have a very clear recollection of a long day on Friday, 25th January, on a Private Member's Bill introduced by my hon. Friend the Member for Brixton (Mr. Lipton). His Bill dealt with two points only. One was the earnings rule for widows. The Clause relates only to widowed mothers. We went over the whole of the ground of the earnings rule, its effect on widows and widowed mothers, and the difficulty which the Minister urged of differentiating between the earnings rule for widows and that for retirement pensioners.

In view of the long debate we had on 25th January, when all the arguments were deployed, mostly in favour of my hon. Friend's Bill, from both sides of the House of Commons, there is little purpose in taking very long in Committee on this Bill going over much of the ground again. However, it is one of the encouraging features of our debates in the House of Commons these days that criticism of the Government comes from both sides. It certainly did on 25th January. If the debate on this Clause goes on very long, I am sure that that will happen again. I see on the Conservative benches some hon. Members who are as critical of the operation of the earnings rule for widowed mothers as we on this side of the Committee are.

That is all I will say. We are "agin" it. We have argued against retaining the earnings rule for widowed mothers. We realise that it has an effect only on a limited number of widowed mothers and we realise that it does not get to the root of the problem of adequate provision for widowed mothers. Many widowed mothers cannot go out to earn, anyway, so they are not affected by the earnings rule. They want pensions, and allowances for children, to enable them to carry on under reasonable conditions and not be forced out to work.

The Amendment deals with the narrow point of the earnings rule. However short or long the debate on it may be, I shall ask my hon. Friends, in due course, to register their discontent with the retention of the earnings rule for widowed mothers by voting in favour of the Amendment.

6.0 p.m.

Mr. J. T. Price (Westhoughton)

I support the Amendment not only because I wish to be consistent with what I have said previously on this topic, but also because it is a matter of common justice that the House of Commons should take another serious look at the problems which have been expressed so lucidly by my hon. Friend the Member for Sowerby (Mr. Houghton).

We are all aware that widowed mothers who qualify for the widowed mothers' allowance, because they have children of school age and so on, may be bereaved and left in quite different circumstances according to the status they occupied before they lost their husbands. There are many cases I could cite, but I do not wish to weary the Committee. For example, a widowed mother who has been reasonably well provided for during the lifetime of her husband may be saddled not only with the care, protection and sustenance of young children, but also with a heavy debt, including perhaps a mortgage on her home.

It is particularly in this type of case that sheer economic circumstances may compel the widow to go out to work where otherwise she would have preferred to have stayed at home to look after the children. The sheer pressure of economic circumstances undoubtedly force many women with children—women who would be better off if they stayed at home—to have to go out to work. Here we come up against the essential weaknesses of National Insurance for the citizen in this respect. Although the widowed mother having lost the breadwinner may be compelled to continue to meet heavy liabilities—debts, mortgage and good partly paid for—she finds that, whatever her gross income might be on going out to work, she is treated as a single person, from the taxation point of view.

I do not wish to transgress the rules of order if I can possibly avoid it, but it must be realised that this whole question is linked with our taxation system. If the widowed mother takes the place of the breadwinner, although she may have liabilities which force her to go out to work, she is treated as a single person for the purposes of taxation. She does not receive the dual allowance which a married couple normally enjoy and, faced with heavy liabilities, she is also faced with a less generous allowance when it comes to taxation.

Until we can in some way recondition or adjust our taxation system to allow a person who is the sole supporter of the home to be treated in the same way for taxation purposes as if that person were married, then we must give special consideration in the question of National Insurance benefits. Although the Minister and his colleagues may consider that we have been rather drastic in attempting to remove the earnings embargo altogether, in the way the Amendment suggests, I support the Amendment because it is only by a dramatic step of this kind that we can face the realities of the situation and the circumstances which exist in the homes of so many of these people.

The Amendment raises a substantial point on which many hon. Members feel deeply. It is not fair to treat a widowed mother who, by sheer circumstance, is forced to go out to work to augment the family income in—perhaps "ruthless" is too harsh a word—a severe way when she earns a wage or salary similar to that of the breadwinner who previously supported the family. I hope that the Minister will not dismiss the arguments which have been adduced in support of the Amendment with the sort of Departmental jargon that is dished up to him by the civil servants, for whom I have the greatest respect. Unfortunately we know that these matters too often become almost matters of doctrine to a lot of people who sit in offices and do not know how these people live.

Mr. Ellis Smith (Stoke-on-Trent, South)

Has not my hon. Friend the Member for Westhoughton (Mr. J. T. Price) done just that himself in the past?

Mr. Price

Nevertheless, I sincerely hold these views and I express them in my own words. I do not come here with "flogged-up" Departmental briefs. My usefulness in the House of Commons is achieved only by saying what I believe to be true. If more hon. Members did that—and I am not claiming any special virtue for doing it—we should get a much more lively atmosphere in our debates than we get from the turgid orations flogged up in the midnight oil, orations which do not impress anyone—and that goes for both sides of the Committee.

Mr. N. Macpherson

I do not want to curtail the debate in any way and I certainly do not want to give voice to any turgid oration at this point, but it is as well to know what we are talking and voting about, if the Committee decides to divide on this subject.

The hon. Member for Sowerby (Mr. Houghton) expressed the desire to vote against the earnings rule, as I understand it, but the Committee may find it a little difficult to do so since the hon. Member for Sowerby is proposing to retain a part of it. I strongly suspect he has done this inadvertently and that he intended to insert 97s. 6d. and not 82s. 6d., which would have had the effect of getting rid of the earnings rule for the widowed mother's allowance. However, this Amendment coupled with the next one has the curious effect of not merely abolishing the earnings rule for the greater part of the widowed mother's allowance but of transferring it to the allowances for the second and subsequent children. I do not think that that is what the hon. Member intended to do. If hon. Members opposite want to press this now they would be pressing a very odd Amendment indeed and not, I think, one which the sponsors really intended.

Dr. King

The Minister must think the Committee a little naive if he believes that we suspect that he is in danger of putting into operation all the Amendments we intend to move to the Clause. My hon. Friend the Member for Sowerby (Mr. Houghton) explained that we could not abolish the earnings rule, and I now wish to stand the Minister's argument on its head.

The simple fact is that, regarding the earnings rule, the Government have run away from principles which were established years ago. They have run away in two ways. Firstly, we have steadily increased the amount we allow a widowed mother to earn. The only question dividing the Committee is not one of principle but of how far the disallowance takes place. We would make it absolute while the Minister fixes it at a certain figure. The significant feature of this debate is that the fundamental principle of the earnings rule has gone.

What we are arguing about now is not whether, if a widow earns more than a certain amount, she should throw away her pension altogether because the Government are conceding the absolute right of the widowed mother, whatever her earnings, to 26s. What is between us now is not the complete abolition of the earnings rule—not the old principle which obtained up to the time of the Bill—but the difference between 26s. a week which the Government are prepared for all widowed mothers to keep and the figure which we are proposing in the Amendment.

We shall later be dealing with many of the other problems of widows. Here we are dealing with those widows who help themselves, and who can help themselves. Many widows cannot do so, either because they are physically incapable, or because of family ties, and so on. This Amendment would not benefit them at all, but as long as any vestige remains of the earnings rule, as long as the amount the widowed mother keeps as of right, whatever her earnings, is as small as this, we are penalising those widowed mothers who go out to supplement their pensions in order to help keep their families in the condition they would have hoped to have kept them but for bereavement. I hope that the Minister will try to defend this 26s.

Mr. Charles Curran (Uxbridge)

I support the Amendment. First, I will take a weight off the minds of my right hon. Friend and the Parliamentary Secretary by saying that I shall not repeat the well-used arguments about the earnings rule. I have a great deal of sympathy for my right hon. Friend and the Parliamentary Secretary—they seem to be sitting there like a couple of programme girls at Drury Lane listening to the thousandth performance of "My Fair Lady"—they know exactly what Eliza will say—and I shall not prompt them, or give them further inklings of the words that are about to come.

The purpose of supporting the Amendment is not to engage in an argument about principles. As the hon. Member for Southampton, Itchen (Dr. King) quite accurately said, we have already conceded the principle. What we are now doing, and what I suggest we shall continue to do if we support the Amendment, is to further the process of eroding the earnings rule. I should like to see the rule removed from the whole structure of pensions, whether for widows or for retired persons; but to discuss that now would be to go far beyond the range of this debate.

The position we have now apparently reached about the rule is that the Government, for a variety of reasons—some good and some, I think, very defective—are not prepared openly to cut its throat but are prepared to keep on squeezing its windpipe by lifting the level at which it operates. That probably suits us just as well. We may not be able to get a formal sentence of death passed on the rule unless we are prepared to do something which I suppose is a long way off—to undertake a radical overhaul of the basic assumptions of the Welfare State. I suppose that until then we cannot eradicate the rule, but what we can do, and what I hope we shall continue to do—as I certainly shall—is to continue to lift the ceiling so that if we are not killing the rule we are engaging in its euthanasia. That, I think, is the purpose of the Amendment. I hope that we can lift the point at which the rule operates to a level at which it does not trouble anybody except the kind of widows who earn their living by buying and selling yachts.

6.15 p.m.

Mr. B. T. Parkin (Paddington, North)

If I undertake not to discuss the earnings rule in general, I hope that the Minister will undertake not to advance any of the arguments against the rule in general which do not apply in this case. It is extremely important that we should now be able to discuss this matter in isolation, because none of the arguments, good or bad, about the rule in general apply here. It may be right to say that we should not abolish the earnings rule for retirement in general, either because we want to keep people in the labour market or want to take them off the labour market, encourage them to do some work or discourage them from doing so, but none of those things applies here. It may be possible to say, "If you alter the earnings rule, you do not know what avalanche of fresh applications will be made, because people will all be able to make a fresh decision."

No widowed mother makes the decision whether she wants to be a widowed mother or not. She is not in the same category as those who have to decide whether or not to retire. The widowed mother has undergone a calamity personal to her alone, a calamity for which we were, perhaps, rather presumptuous to allow in a contributory scheme at all. It might have been better to have said, "We shall have a very generous system of grants under National Assistance, because we cannot evaluate this kind of calamity financially."

What do we want to do for the widowed mother? Surely, we want to do what she would wish to do for herself, and that is to try to secure for the children, or rescue for the children, such sense of security as she can. That is the main thing—to get the feeling in the family that the roof over its head, whatever it is, will stay there. It does not matter whether the roof is cheap or expensive; it represents to those children at that time a family security.

The mother's own tendency, of course, would be to say, "I want to be at home and look after the children. I do not want to have to go out to work," but that decision depends on the circumstances at the time. It is she who has to decide whether, on balance, it is necessary to do something to keep that roof over the family's head, or whether the second girl should leave school at 15 instead of staying on at the secondary school—"and what about that school trip to Switzerland the girl was expecting to go on? It would cost a lot of money—dare we? What will be the psychological effect on the child? "Only the mother herself can, on balance, judge whether she should go to work or stay at home, always having in mind this necessity to keep background security, to continue education plans already laid down, until the family gets over the calamity as much as it can.

There is, therefore, the strongest possible reason, for, as the hon. Member for Uxbridge (Mr. Curran) has been urging, for finding some device—and I think that this is a good device—for forgetting this unfortunate provision in the Act, and letting it be understood that there is to be no question but that the mother's decision in relation to the situation shall be hers alone. She should certainly not be taxed, or have her pension reduced because, in any case, she will want to go out only to earn the amount necessary to secure these particular elements in the background security of the children. The more she can stay at home the better. In other words, we want her to have the maximum freedom for those few years.

I therefore hope that the Minister can accept the Amendment. I see no reason why he should not be able to agree with the arguments put forward, and it is quite inappropriate for him to make remarks about the Amendment's consequential effects, and so on. If he wants to find a way, he can—let him do so.

Mr. Donald Wade (Huddersfield, West)

In view of the Minister's observations, it would be good to have a little guidance. I have spoken on other occasions in favour of the abolition of the earnings rule, and I do not propose to repeat my arguments. I would be in favour of raising the level of earnings, as an alternative to abolition, and I am very willing to support the Amendment that seeks to substitute 82s. 6d. for 26s.

I understand the Minister to have said that if both Amendments were accepted they would create anomalies. He drew attention in particular to the Amendment to leave out paragraph (b). Unless other arguments are deployed, I shall feel disinclined to support that Amendment, but I understood that these two Amendments were only being discussed together and that if there is to be a vote it will be on the first Amendment. It would be helpful if we could have that point clarified. I repeat that I am prepared to support the first Amendment.

Mr. Frederick Gough (Horsham)

I am glad of the opportunity to speak for the purpose of the record. I would not like people to think that I bad either just come straight into the Chamber, because as the Committee knows I have been sitting here diligently the whole time, or, secondly, that I was asleep. I was wide awake, but the point earlier was that the hon. Member for Sowerby (Mr. Houghton) had been trying very hard to coax some of us into the Lobby with him, and he must have succeeded with my hon. Friend the Member for Uxbridge (Mr. Curran).

I am sure, however, that the hon. Member for Sowerby would be the first to say that he would never do that by false pretences. He was trying to get us into the Division Lobby with him to do away with the earnings rule. My right hon. Friend the Minister of Pensions pointed out the anomalies in his argument, and that point has also been put forward by the hon. Member for Huddersfield, West (Mr. Wade). I think that what the hon. Member for Sowerby was asking us to do was to indulge in a Dutch auction. He asks us to substitute 82s. 6d. for 26s. Why should it not go up to half that or to 62s.?

Mr. Curran

Or twice as much.

Mr. Gough

The hon. Member for Sowerby referred to the interesting debate last Friday week on the Widows' Pensions Bill introduced by the Member for Brixton (Mr. Lipton). I spoke very much in favour of that Measure although I did not like the Bill itself and I asked my right hon. Friend if he would look into the matter. I trust my right hon. Friend. I think that he is looking into it. Therefore, in view of these anomalies, I have reluctantly to say to the hon. Member for Sowerby that I doubt whether he will coax me into his Division Lobby.

Mr. James Dempsey (Coatbridge and Airdrie)

Any remarks that I make will be addressed to the second Amendment which is the important one under discussion. I have no doubt that that will be the one that will be decided in the Division Lobby.

We are inclined to overlook the importance of the widowed mother to the country in general. Of all sections of National Insurance beneficiaries widowed mothers are a category who suffer most unfairly because of the application of the earnings rule. If we ask how a mother becomes widowed we are bound to realise that it is due to circumstances beyond her control. When she is a widow and is left with a small family to rear that is the time when she needs help.

When we discuss pensions for the over-seventies we are reminded time and again that they are receiving something towards which they make no contribution, but in this case the widowed mother's allowance is paid in lieu of insurance. It is not charity. The lady concerned does not receive benevolence from the Ministry. Her husband has paid for the pension. He has made contributions and has sacrificed to try and protect his wife and children in days of economic adversity. As soon as those days come and the mother discovers that it is not possible to rear the family on the basis of State benefits and she elects to go to work, the hardships of the earnings rule are applied to her.

Hon. Members on both sides of the Committee could quote case after case of the operation of this hardship. I know of a woman who studied nursing and took a health visitor's course, but when she received her lint salary she discovered that the widowed mother's allowance was axed to the very limit. This was her reward for hard work and self-sacrifice in seeing that her little family was reared in the proper fashion. This is not the way to treat people who have suffered an almost mortal blow from the loss of a dear husband.

It seems to me, therefore, that the Minister might have shown a little sympathy. The Amendment is a step in the right direction. It will enable the widowed mother to earn not 26s. but 82s. 6d. This would be a march forward in the administration of benefits. The Minister, therefore, should give further consideration to the Amendment. Like other hon. Members, I know that after arguments have been adumbrated in an effort to impress upon the Minister that there are other approaches to problems such as these, and that other minds should be brought to bear upon them, and then he says quite categorically according to his brief that the proposition in the Bill must stay and is final, it is most discouraging to those of us whose only interest is to advocate the cause of the widowed mother who is being most unfairly treated at present.

Mr. Macpherson

That is not at all what I said. I did not say that the proposition in the Bill was there to stay but that the proposition in the Amendment was not the proposition which the sponsors of the Amendment thought it was.

Mr. Dempsey

If the right hon. Gentleman did not say that the proposition was there to stay, I take it that he will review it in an upward direction. That is the logic of his remarks, and I am glad to see that at last we have made an impression upon him. The right hon. Gentleman, representing a Scottish constituency, should be amenable to reason, as we Scotsmen always are.

A woman who makes such tremendous sacrifices even late in life to secure a job with a reasonable income should be more sympathetically treated than she will be according to the wording of the Bill. All I ask of the Minister is that he should review this proposal even at this late hour and revise it in an upward direction and ensure that widowed mothers have a better deal after we have passed the Bill than they obviously are about to receive according to its present provisions.

There is nothing unreasonable about this. It is perfectly fair and understandable and is nothing more than an appraisal of the plight of the widowed mother. I hope, therefore, that the Minister will consider the words of hon. Members on this side of the Committee and of the hon. Member for Uxbridge. I hope that these words will smooth away the stone of resistance which the Minister's wrinkled forehead at this moment suggests exists and that he will come to the conclusion that the widowed mother is entitled to much more than 26s.

Mr. Curran

On a point of order. In view of the doubts which are being cast on whether the Amendment will do what its supporters believe it to do, may I ask Sir James, whether you are prepared to accept from me a manuscript Amendment which would have the effect of taking out the words, "26 shillings" in the Clause and substituting" £26"?

The Temporary Chairman

No, I am not in a position to accept such an Amendment.

Mr. Wainwright

On a point of order, Sir James. May I ask for your guidance? I am a little worried by interjections of that kind. Was the hon. Gentleman right in putting forward an Amendment which included his own retirement?

The Temporary Chairman

The hon. Member for Uxbridge raised a point of order with me and asked if I would accept a manuscript Amendment. I think that that is the only way in which he could have raised the point. I took what he said in that sense, and that is how I dealt with it.

6.30 p.m.

Mr. T. Brown

The Minister stressed the point of principle in the application of the earnings rule. It never was a principle. It was a piece of administration performed by the Department—I say this quite frankly—to rob the widowed mothers of their rightful pension. It was a mechanism to make it difficult for the widowed mother to live. Her life was made difficult as a consequence. Why does a widowed mother go out to work to earn? She is forced by her circumstances to do so because the State does not make provision for her, for her family or for the things to which she is entitled. Yet, as soon as she goes out to work, the State says, "If you earn so much, you will receive only so much pension less".

If the earnings rule was based on principle, as the Minister tried to suggest in his short intervention, why is it not applied to other pensioners? What about judges when they retire from their positions? What about clergymen? What about policemen? I say this without any malice. When someone in one of the upper professional classes finishes his term according to age, he receives a pension, and rightly so. The ordinary widowed mother who works is entitled to her pension, too. She goes out to work for one purpose only, in order to maintain herself and her family, yet she is penalised by legislation passed by the House of Commons. It has always been wrong. It has never been popular. Every widowed mother has a right to feel aggrieved at the unfairness of the application of the earnings rule.

By the Amendment we seek to bring the widowed mother's pension up to the standard which she ought to have received right from the date of the death of her husband. Is there anything wrong in that? Why cannot the Minister accept it? He should remember that the widowed mother or her husband paid National Insurance contributions. She receives a pension by the right established as a result of her contributions or her husband's contributions. The family will pay contributions and the family's family will pay contributions. Yet the Department has the audacity to say that the principle of the earnings rule must still be applied. This is all wrong Let us have fair play all round and let us do our best to establish ordinary justice, which is what the Amendment is designed to do. We do not seek to penalise anyone.

The widowed mother has never been fairly dealt with hitherto. She has never had fair play, whatever may be said to the contrary. We seek to give her a little fair play. I do not stress the economic side too much, but no widowed mother with children has an easy time. I was left without a mother when I was 10, and I know something of these family problems and of the hardships which are endured.

I stress again, as I always have, that if the earnings rule is a matter of principle—this to be the argument which the Minister and his Department cling like leeches—it should be applied 100 per cent. Let the Minister accept the Amendment and restore the widowed mother to the rightful place which has been denied to her since the death of her husband.

I know that there is an age limit, but experience has taught us that the age limit was imposed in order to force those below it out into the labour market. This also is wrong. If other people can have their pensions without deduction—and good luck to them—let us give a little more to the widowed mother who has a family to bring up. Let us not force her through sheer economic circumstances to go out to work and then penalise her for doing so.

There is nothing wrong with the Amendment. It should have been incorporated in the first. National Insurance Act. So long as it remains outside the National Insurance scheme, so long will people grumble about the unfair treatment which they receive from the Government. whichever political philosophy they embrace. Let us give to the widowed mother what she is entitled to, what she has paid for, what the family and their families will continue to pay for. We are not asking for the taxpayers' money to be given. We are asking that something should be given from the insured contributors to the National Insurance Scheme. The Amendment should have been incorporated in the Act many years ago, and I ask the Minister to accept it now.

Mr. Ede (South Shields)

I add my plea to that made by so many hon. Members on both sides. On 25th January, I respected the hon. Member for Horsham (Mr. Gough) when he explained to the House that he had been brought up by a widowed mother, with, I understand, a brother, and told us from his personal recollection of the bravery of a woman who takes that job on.

In my experience of talking with ordinary people, whether they be widows or not, whenever this topic comes up we see the eternal conflict between official law and natural justice. The women feel that in this matter they do not receive natural justice. That is the main grievance. I have never known anyone who, after hearing the story of such women as those mentioned by my hon. Friend the Member for Paddington, North (Mr. Parkin), does not feel that the present rule is an act of obvious injustice in a social system which, we believe, should afford natural social justice to those who have been visited by undeserved hardship. There is many a child whose life is frustrated broadly for the reasons given by my hon. Friend the Member for Paddington, North and who suffers a continuous disability and feeling of inferiority in the social circumstances in which it lives.

I had to plead many years ago for the right of a pensioned policeman to get a job as a school attendance officer because, it was said, he already had a pension. My hon. Friend referred to teachers about whom, if they only keep away from the schools, no question is asked. The service which a good mother renders to her family cannot be assessed on any basis of pounds, shillings and pence. If she devotes her life to giving her children the start in life which she believes they would have had if their father had survived, she is rendering a service to the State which certainly no man could render. She feels, and all her neighbours feel, that she is suffering a grave injustice. We should remove the inherent criticism in every sympathetic heart which the continuance of this earnings rule creates.

I urge the Minister to do something to reconcile law and justice, for, while this rule is in being, the fundamental basis of the State is in jeopardy. One day we may be surprised by a Minister who gets into a sympathetic mood and insists on opening what he may very well regard as the floodgates which he has so long kept closed.

Mr. Cyril Bence (Dunbartonshire, East)

I am sure that there are hon. Members on both sides—I admit that there are not many on the benches opposite—who feel that the system under which a widow with children is subject to the earnings rule should be discontinued. My hon. Friend the Member for Paddington, North (Mr. Parkin) put the point very well.

The woman who is left with a growing family of three, four or five children is in great difficulties. She and her husband may have had a great sense of civic responsibility and civic pride and were keen on the education of their children. People of my generation realise the terrific sacrifices and ambitions of parents in ensuring that their children have a good education. Those in our strata of society know the terrible tragedy of a woman of 30 or 40 years of age with perhaps a boy of 10 or 14 who has ambitions for him to go to grammar school or to a technological college. When the breadwinner has gone she has the agonising problem of how to continue her child's education. I hope that the Minister will bear this point in mind.

Most of us have heard criticism from many quarters, especially from widows—I have had it put to me—that widows with children who get allowances for the children, even if they go out to work to support those children in order to continue their education and maintain their domestic standards, suffer a reduction in their pension if their earnings go above a certain figure. A widowed mother may have neighbours and, indeed, relatives among whom there are husband with wives working but who still receive family allowances—I know that the family allowances are treated as domestic income and that taxation takes a large percentage of the allowance back—but she suffers a reduction in her pension, something that is hers by right because of her husband's contributions, because she goes out to work in order to augment the family income.

This is a shocking state of affairs. I can never understand how it has come about. We are concerned with someone who has had visited on her the worst tragedy, in my view, that any household could suffer. It is a tragedy for the children and for the mother when they lose a good artisan type of father. Nothing worse could happen to the mother than to lose the breadwinner of the household.

6.45 p.m.

I have always thought it shocking that the pensions scheme should be drawn in such a way that the widow has her State pension reduced because her earnings go above a certain level, whereas the family allowances of a working man whose income increases are not reduced. I do not like that principle.

Mr. Curran

I agree with what the hon. Gentleman says, but he should tell us that this was something that the Labour Government created. Can he say why the Labour Government created it?

Mr. Bence

I am not one of those who believes that Governments have all the wisdom of the ages conferred upon them for their period of office. I have always said that I thought that this principle was a mistake. I hope that I do not go through life blindly. Even if I did something which turned out to be wrong, I would admit it. I was trained as an engineer. If I made a mechanism which did not work, I would say that it was no good.

I have always thought that this earnings rule was a mistake, and I still believe that it was a mistake. I have no doubt that when it was introduced by the Labour Government many speeches of the sort that we are making today were made from the Opposition benches. I have not looked up HANSARD, but——

Mr. Ellis Smith

It was said fifteen years ago.

Mr. Bence

When this discussion is finished, I will check in HANSARD.

Mr. William Ross (Kilmarnock)

I will save my hon. Friend a little trouble. On 23rd November, 1948, one back bench Member—he did not call himself a Tory then; he was a National Liberal—suggested to the Labour Minister that he should wipe out the earnings rule in respect of widowed mothers and that the severity of their loss was such that he should not worry about £2 or £3 million. It was the Minister himself.

Mr. Bence

That only goes to show what intuition is. I am shocked that the Minister should not have been ready to concede the Amendment before one of his fellow countrymen, with a tremendous capacity for research and insight into what has happened in the past, caught him right behind the wicket. I do not know what to say. This has floored me probably to a greater extent than the Minister. What he will do about it, I do not know. He may tender his resignation. It is shocking that my hon. Friend the Member for Kilmarnock (Mr. Ross) should have been able to throw this "bomb" into the Committee and put the Minister in an invidious position. Perhaps the Parliamentary Secretary will save him from the awful task of having to defend something in which he does not believe and in which he has never believed. Whether he will cross the Floor, I do not know, but I have no doubt that he will forthwith rise and accept the Amendment.

Mr. E. Fernyhough (Jarrow)

If the Minister could tell us exactly how much the Amendment would cost the Treasury, we might be able the better to assess whether he was genuine when he spoke in 1948. I should not like to think that he was more mean today then he was in those days or that he was now less liberal, but I shall carry away that impression unless he is prepared to give me that information and to accept our Amendment.

Mr. M. Lipton (Brixton)

It may assist my hon. Friend if I tell him that in the debate on the same point on 25th January this year, the Minister stated that the total additional cost of abolishing the earnings rule for widowed mothers would be £1½ million.

Mr. Fernyhough

When we think of the money that the Government Front Bench have thrown down the drain, of the hundreds of millions of pounds which they have wasted, and yet they come time after time without any feeling of guilt to defend their mistakes, and here we have a matter of £1½ million—that is all that it would cost the Government—and we know what it would mean to the tens of thousands of widows involved, it seems that all our priorities are completely askew.

Members of my family have gone through this experience. Let me give some illustrations. The miner's wife seldom goes out to work, largely because of the shift system and the hours. If, however, a miner dies and children are left, the widow has to go out. She does not want to go out, because most of these people appreciate that they can do most good and give the best blessing to their children by being at home when they come back from school and by being there to tuck them in.

As my hon. Friend the Member for Paddington, North (Mr. Parkin) made clear, many of the people affected are victims of circumstances and of fate. They did not make the decision themselves. Many of them never went out to work before, and they would not be doing so now unless economic necessity compelled them. Even with what they get from the State plus what they earn, the 'fact that there is not a man's wages coming in means that they have a hard and difficult struggle. If we believe that it is difficult enough for a mother and father together to bring up children, we can appreciate how much greater is the struggle of the woman who is left to do it on her own.

The Minister can show that he has now, in 1963, got back to where he started in 1948, when the earlier Bill was going through the House. He could bring great relief to thousands of deserving people. He could give them greater happiness and relieve them of some of the economic difficulties which face them. His hon. Friends behind him would troop faithfully after him if he gave the word. There is no question of a revolt against the Minister if he gives away this £1½ million if he is determined that we should have it.

If the Minister does not grant our case, we must look upon him, not as a big man, but as a small man, because when he did not have responsibility he was shouting the odds. Now, when he has responsibility, he is not big enough to stand up to the people who tell him that he should not be consistent in these matters.

Mr. N. Macpherson rose——

Mr. Fernyhough

One second. I hope that the Minister will make this concession. If he does not, I hope that in six months' time, when we on this side occupy the benches opposite, it will be one of the first injustices that we remove.

Miss Herbison

After the debate had gone for a short time, the Minister made a very short intervention. In the light of the speech which he made in 1948, it does not surprise us very much that his intervention was so short. I am sure that the Minister finds himself in a most invidious position, as he must have done on 25th January. In his intervention today he made no attempt to deal with the merits or demerits of the case. He tried to ride off on what one might call a technical mistake on the part of the Opposition.

There is no doubt that the Minister knew perfectly well what we had in mind in putting down the two Amendments, but I shall speak only to the first of them. When the hon. Member for Uxbridge (Mr. Curran) tried to move his manuscript Amendment, I considered him clever and I supported him, because he highlighted the poverty of the Minister's reply. He showed how ludicrous it was.

What we on this side want to know is whether, if our Amendment had been completely in order, the Minister would have accepted it. We have a right to know. If he had any intention of accepting this kind of Amendment, he had knowledge of our proposal from the Amendment Paper and he could have put down his own Amendment. Therefore, it is very wrong of him to try to ride off on the technical fault of our Amendment and to give us no idea whether he would have been ready to accept it.

7.0 p.m.

I am glad that the hon. Member for Uxbridge is going into the Lobby with us, as he did on 25th January. I am surprised that his hon. Friend the Member for Horsham (Mr. Gough) has decided not to come in with us. The hon. Member for Horsham said that because of the figure included in our Amendment, it was really a Dutch auction. I am sorry that the hon. Member, who has sat in during the debate, is no longer in his place. In moving the Amendment, however, my hon. Friend the Member for Sowerby (Mr. Houghton) explained that the Title of the Bill made it impossible for us completely to abolish the earnings rule for these widowed mothers and that we have to find some other way of trying to do the best we could. I hope that the hon. Member for Uxbridge will try to influence his hon. Friend before the Division takes place.

It was evident in the debate on 25th January, as it has been evident today, that we on this side of the Committee want to get rid of the earnings rule altogether for widowed mothers. We are unable to do so in this Bill, but at least our Amendment would be of considerable help to them. I know the Minister very well. He is not a harsh man, and I am certain that he looks on these matters with great sympathy. I should like him to take his courage in his bands and tell his officials, if they are the stumbling block, or the Cabinet, if it is, that today he feels as strongly as he did in 1948 on this subject.

The widowed mother is called that because she is a widow with dependent children. Let us think of the home after the death of the father. Children have been accustomed to living with both parents, probably both working. With the death of the father the income falls considerably. It will mean certain financial hardships for the children for a considerable time. The mother continues to work, but if she works too long hours, if she earns too much, according to the Minister, she must have a reduced pension. That seems to us to be very wrong.

Most parents wish to give the very best to their children. Hon. Members have spoken about the family with a house on mortgage. I want to speak of the family where the parents had intended to educate their children. Every penny that the widowed mother can earn is needed for that purpose. Yet the Government decide that they will dock part of her earnings from her pension.

I think now of two children I know very well, two fortunate children with both parents living. They will have a university education. Both are teenagers at present. Not only are they having what is called a grammar school education in England but they have a very fine home. They have all the chances in the world to develop any musical talents they may have. They are able to go to concerts. They are able to be surrounded by the books which are so essential. They are able to have not only the formal education at grammar school but also all the culture that they can be surrounded with in their own homes. These two children—my own niece and nephew—are very fortunate. I would want the children of every widow to be as fortunate.

Even if our Amendment is accepted, in the homes of many widowed mothers there will still be great financial hardship because the pension itself is not sufficiently large. But at least it would mitigate the position a little and their children would have perhaps a little better chance not only to have formal education but to be surrounded in their homes by music, by books, by all the things that help to make a well-rounded personality in an adult.

I beg the right hon. Gentleman not to ride away on any technical complaint about our Amendment but to accept it, and give real consideration to wiping out completely the earning; rule for widowed mothers.

Mr. N. Macpherson

If I intervened earlier it was not in order to ride off on a technicality but because I thought that it would be equally possible to debate the principle of this Amendment on the Question. "That the Clause stand part of the Bill". Indeed. at one point my hon. Friend the Member for Horsham (Mr. Gough) thought that we were already discussing that Question. I felt bound to point out at an early stage what the effect of the Amendment would be. That was my sole reason for intervening then, and I can assure the hon. Member for Lanarkshire, North (Miss Herbison) that I have no intention of riding off on a technicality. I would in any case, in dealing with the Clause as a whole, have felt it my duty to explain what the Bill proposes to do, and by the same token, what the Amendment proposes to undo.

We have heard many very genuine and moving speeches on this matter in which the House takes very great interest. My own past has been brought up in references to what I said in 1948. I am quite certain that we all feel deeply on this matter. I ask the Committee to look at what is in the Clause. Hon. Members should compare the position now with what it was in 1948. In those days the earnings rule stood at 30s., the allowance for the first child was 7s. 6d.—and that was also subject to the earnings rule—and there were no allowances at all for other children, apart from the family allowance.

Mr. Dempsey

What about the difference in the cost of living then?

Mr. Macpherson

Let us consider the situation as it is now. The earnings limit is at £5, the widowed mother's allowance is 57s. 6d. for personal allowance and 25s. for the first child and 17s. for the other children. That is a huge difference, and this Bill goes still further.

Mr. Lipton

It should go still further.

Mr. Macpherson

I know that the hon. Member for Brixton (Mr. Lipton) would like to go the whole hog. The hon. Member for Lanarkshire, North asked whether, if this Amendment had the effect of abolishing the earnings rule altogether, I would have accepted it. The answer is, no. If I had wished to accept that principle I would have accepted the Widows' Pensions Bill moved by the hon. Member for Brixton on 25th January.

Mr. Ross

The right hon. Gentleman made his suggestion for the abolition of the earnings rule in 1948 to my right hon. Friend the Member for Llanelly (Mr. J. Griffiths) who was then Minister of National Insurance. It was then within weeks of the Labour Government completely revolutionising National Insurance. If he wants any contrast with what we are suggesting today, will he remember that fact?

Mr. Macpherson

There was a great change at that time—I quite agree. What we are considering now is whether the earnings rule should stand or not, or whether, indeed, it should have been introduced in the first place—something on which the hon. Member for Dunbartonshire, East (Mr. Bence) was casting doubt. This Bill provides that the widowed mother will always keep 26s. I will explain why shortly.

Mr. Sydney Silverman (Nelson and Colne)

Before the right hon. Member leaves the comparison between 1948 and 1963, I would point out that what puzzles some of us is why he finds it impossible to do in 1963 what he advocated in 1948.

Mr. Macpherson

If the hon. Member will be patient I hope to deal with that point. First I want to say what the Bill actually provides. It provides that the widowed mother will always keep 26s. plus that part of her allowance paid in respect of an only child or of her eldest child under the age of 18 and living with her, and allowances for her other children within the definition of a child contained in the Family Allowances and National Insurance Act, 1956. All this will be exempt from the earnings rule. Already, as the Committee knows, a widowed mother's children have preferential treatment. They get 7s. 6d. more than other children. Compare that with the position in 1948 when there was no allowance at all for a widowed mother's younger Children other than the family allowance. The Bill increases the preference to 10s. The earnings limit will be raised to £6, if Parliament approves Regulations which have been submitted to the National Insurance Advisory Committee.

What will all that cost? The 10s. increase plus the first 2s. 6d. for children, which is the same increase for other children, will in itself cost £4½million. The preferential 2s. 6d. for children will cost more than £1 million and the 26s. reserved from the earnings rule will cost about £500,000—taking £500,000 off the £1,500,000 quoted by the hon. Member for Brixton. The proposed change in the earnings rule will cost about another £500,000, so that these three items come to £2 million in all. To abolish the earnings rule after that would cost only a further £1 million.

What must the Committee deduce from that? It must surely deduce that what deters us is not the cost, but the fact that this principle must be retained, the principle that National Insurance benefit is intended to take the place of earnings and that complete abolition of the earnings rule would be bound to follow, perhaps gradually, perhaps quickly, from any move to abolish the earnings rule in any sector, even starting with the widowed mothers.

If we did not think that, the matter would be entirely different, but let hon. Members consider what has happened even recently. Last year there was a Bill to abolish the widowed mother's earnings rule; this year there was a Bill to abolish the earnings rule for widowed mothers and widows. The abolition of the rule could not be restricted to widowed mothers and if it were abolished for widowed mothers, the rest would follow.

If it all went, there would be a totally different kind of scheme. There would be great differences and some of them would not be very much welcomed by many of the contributors, because some of the new conditions would undoubtedly be less favourable if we were to abolish the principle of the earnings rule.

Mr. J. T. Price

May I remind the right hon. Gentleman that this is an insurance scheme and not a benevolent fund? When he recites the increases which have now been introduced under this legislation, will he also bear in mind that the Government Actuary, who has provided the technical information on the financial implications for the Fund, has taken all these increases into account in fixing the rate of increased contributions, which all the contributors will have to share among themselves, for the increased benefits? We deeply resent the constant implication that these benefits are something which the Government are giving away. They are nothing of the sort. The liability is passed to the contributors.

Mr. Macpherson

The hon. Member for Westhoughton (Mr. J. T. Price) is misrepresenting the position. We are not now talking about what the Government are giving away. We are talking about a comparison between the past and present treatment of widowed mothers. The hon. Member says that this is an insurance scheme, but that is precisely why we have to stick to the terms of the policy, and the terms of the policy provide for the earnings rule. To cut out that earnings rule—and I have looked into this very carefully, indeed—would change the character of the scheme altogether.

Mr. Parkin

I know that the Minister is very anxious to make this point. He owes it to his own reputation to make it clearly, because his own arguments in the past will stand up and confront him.

He has just laid down the principle that these payments are in respect of earnings. He says that that is why we cannot carry through the Amendment. In respect of whose earnings is the principle laid down? It is in respect of those of a man who is dead. It is not in respect of the widow's earnings.

These payments are to sustain the family in the circumstances which arise when the breadwinner dies and leaves the family without support. How can the Minister talk as though these are parallel payments to a retirement pension which is in respect of earnings by the person who has retired? We are talking about someone who has died in calamitous circumstances. How can the Minister pursue this narrow, sterile, barren line of argument, which is against his own arguments in his own past and in his own heart?

7.15 p.m.

Mr. Macpherson

That is a plausible argument, but it is contrary to what Beveridge argued and what Parliament accepted at the time.

Mr. Parkin

They were all wrong and you were right then.

Mr. Macpherson

We may well have been all wrong, but this is the foundation upon which the whole edifice has been built.

All I am saying is that we would have to look very closely before we withdraw part of what Parliament must regard as the foundation of the whole Scheme. Beveridge was absolutely clear when he said that benefits ought not to be paid to those who were capable of providing for themselves by their own earnings. Had it not been for that, the contributions would have been very much higher and the benefits in general would probably have been lower.

Mr. Ellis Smith

That is true, but that was more than 20 years ago.

Mr. Macpherson

But that is the basis of the whole edifice.

I want now to return to explaining why we decided that the figure which the widowed mothers should keep should be 26s. That, the Committee will appreciate, is the difference between the benefit far the dependent wife, fixed at 41s. 6d., and the standard benefit at the single rate of 67s. 6d. The standard benefit is greater because it contains an element for general household expenses as compared with the benefit for a dependent person in a couple or a family. I wanted 10 go as far as possible in this while sticking to some recognisable principle., and it seemed to me that it was reasonable to let the widowed mother keep that difference no matter what her earnings were, for she in future would be the householder.

However, it would not be possible to let her keep the whole of the allowance no matter what her earnings were, because that would not be consistent with the basic principle. Once that principle is breached, it would be impossible to retain the present structure of the National Insurance Scheme simply because, if the widowed mother were exempted from the earnings rule, it would be a very short time, as we have seen from proposals put before us this year, before there would be a demand for the widows also to be exempted, and that would affect widows' pensions as a whole and the age limit of 50 for widow's pension could scarcely be retained. I argued this the other day and I need not go into it in detail now, but once that had gone, the whole principle of retirement pensions would be threatened.

The Committee must recognise that that would not be the only principle to go overboard. If widowed mothers were allowed to keep their personal allowance in all circumstances, what would happen if they fell sick or lost their jobs? Would they draw sickness or unemployment benefit as well and, if so, what would become of the general rule against overlapping benefits?

Mr. J. T. Price

If the Minister asks rhetorical questions, he must give the answers to them.

Mr. Macpherson

The Committee may not wish the answer to be given by any particular hon. Member. I have posed the general question. If that rule were also breached, the principles of the National Insurance Scheme—and I am talking only of the National Insurance Scheme and not of the Industrial Injuries or any other scheme—would be further breached, and the effects of that would be very far reaching and the cost would be considerable.

Mr. J. T. Price

Would not the regulations against overlapping benefits take care of that? The Minister ought to know that without my telling him.

Mr. Macpherson

The overlapping benefits regulations would take care of that, but would anybody accept that they should? There again the pressure would arise. A widowed mother is given her pension as of right while she is working. If she fell out of work, surely she would then claim, if she were making her contribution, that she should be entitled to unemployment benefit? I do not say more than that, but it throws the whole of the overlapping benefits rule into doubt.

Let us see what is the general effect of the Bill. Under it a widow with one child will get £4 17s. 6d.; with two children she will get £6 7s. 6d.; with three children she will get £7 19s. 6d.; and with four children she will get £9 lls. 6d. In addition, if the Regulations which have been submitted to the National Insurance Advisory Committee are approved, she will be able to earn £6 without her benefit being affected in any way, and the most she can lose of her benefit will be 41s. 6d. She will always get 26s. If she is earning more than that, it will show that she is capable of providing for herself.

There are about 148,000 widowed mothers, of whom 21,000 were affected in some degree by the earnings rule the last time this was checked, which was in July, 1961. That is one in seven. To abolish the earnings rule for widowed mothers would involve paying £1 million more, unevenly, to one widowed mother in seven, and to those who are best able to provide for themselves and their families. I ask the Committee to remember that the earnings involved are net. Deductions are allowed to cover payment to someone to look after the children while the widowed mother is out earning her living. If an extra £1 million were available to distribute among widowed mothers, would not it be much better to distribute it among all on equal terms rather than unevenly to one in seven?

That has been the policy which has been advocated. Hon. Gentlemen earlier were suggesting that something should be submitted to the National Insurance Advisory Committee. This was submitted to the Committee, and it said that it would prefer to see any additional expenditure on this benefit go to increasing the basic allowance for the mother or her child, rather than that the earnings rule should be abolished for widowed mothers. This is precisely what we are doing in the Bill.

Mr. Ross

Will the Minister tell me the date when it was submitted to the Committee, and how much he has given away to this class by the changes that he has made in the earnings rule? He is arguing now against what he has done in the past five to six weeks. Why does not he go the whole hog and wipe out the whole thing?

Mr. Macpherson

That is not what I am arguing. The Committee reported in 1956. Since then we have adhered to the same policy.

Mr. Ross


Mr. Macpherson

Indeed we have. We have extended the preferences for children. We have continued raising the earnings limit as far as we could, and now we are continuing that policy. We are increasing preferences for widowed mothers' children, and at the same time we are increasing the standard personal allowances for the widowed mother herself. This shows that we are following the alternative policy which was preferred by the National Insurance Advisory Committee.

Dr. King

This is a profoundly important point. For a long time both sides of the Committee have kept to the principle which the Minister has advocated. There is a change in attitude coming from both sides of the Committee. All the arguments addressed to the Committee so far have been against the Minister having given the 26s., which he is giving unconditionally of any earnings, to the widow. How does the Minister square that breach in the principle with his argument now that he is standing by the principle of Beveridge?

Mr. Macpherson

I do not regard that as a breach in the principle.

Mrs. Slater

What is it?

Mr. Macpherson

I have explained that it is the difference between a dependent wife's allowance and the full standard benefit, and it is really possible to stand on that. I regard that as a basic allowance below which the widowed mother's benefit should not fall through the earnings rule.

Miss Herbison

The Minister says that the Committee reported in 1956. Does he mean to continue year after year acting on a finding made in 1956? Has he no intention of taking into account the change in attitude? Why will he not accept the point made from this side of the Committee that since 1956, in this and other Bills, he has altogether departed from that principle?

Mr. Macpherson

I do not accept that at all. As I have explained, I believe that in fixing this 26s. we have done it on a recognisable principle which can be defended, and that the main thing we have to do is to defend the principle of the earnings rule on which the whole of the insurance scheme depends.

If it likes, the Committee is perfectly at liberty to divide on this Amendment, but I think that hon. Members ought to do this in the full knowledge that the Amendment does not do what so many of those who have taken part in the debate have been advocating, that is, abolish the earnings rule. It does not do that. As my hon. Friend the Member for Uxbridge (Mr. Curran) said, it erodes it still further, and on no recognisable principle whatsoever. Secondly, the second Amendment cannot stand on its own. We would have to amend the other part of the subsection.

Mr. Ross

Do that on Report.

Mr. Macpherson

Taken together, the effect would be quite contrary to the intentions of hon. Members, and this must be what they would be deemed to be voting for. We can consider only the Amendment before the. Committee. We cannot consider what hon. Members want it to be. We can consider only what it actually is, and I suggest that the Committee should now reach a conclusion on this as we have spent quite a long time on this Amendment.

Mr. Houghton

I hope that my hon. Friends will not be discouraged from supporting this Amendment by the Minister's words. It will suit our purpose. It will express disapproval of what the Minister has said. As for a recognisable principle, what the Amendment seeks to do is 'to ensure that the erosion of the widowed mother's pension shall not allow it to go below the present figure. There may be some drafting fault in what we did, but we did our best with it.

In any case, Clause 2 is a lot of rigmarole which no widowed mother will understand. She will need a chartered accountant to decide whether she comes under the earnings rule or not, and it would be much better if the whole thing were swept away. What are all these difficulties? We do not have an earnings rule for Industrial Injuries widows, and do not see why there should be all this complication about getting rid of the earnings rule for National Insurance widowed mothers.

I hope that my hon. Friends will bring this matter to a conclusion. We have had a long debate which began on Friday, 25th January, and we might as well express our disapproval of the Minister's statement and get on to other matters which are of great importance.

Mr. Charles Loughlin (Gloucestershire, West)

I know that both Front Benches are desirous of completing this debate. I know, too, that there are many hon. Gentlemen opposite who are hungry. I know this because their only interest in being in the Chamber at all is to ensure that there is a Division as soon as possible so that they can go and have dinner. The truth of my remarks will be shown when we return from the Division and see who is left to continue the debate.

I take the view that we ought to pursue the question of the way in which the earnings rule affects widowed mothers. I notice that some hon. Members opposite are leaving the Chamber already, as if I were going to make an hour's speech. They ought to be careful, because they may have to come back quickly.

7.30 p.m.

The Minister is now apparently arguing the principles of Beveridge. He is stating precisely what Beveridge meant in 1948. But in 1948 the Beveridge principle was more acceptable than it is today. My hon. Friend the Member for Kilmarnock (Mr. Ross) reminded us of the words used by the Minister at that time. Apparently he did not then accept the principles enunciated by Beveridge. If he had accepted them then he would not have made the speech he made against the Labour Government. His speech then would have been along lines similar to that which he has made tonight. But he will not resign.

Some of us are getting very tired of hearing ex-Ministers who have been axed making the sort of speeches they ought to have made when they were Ministers. The right hon. Gentleman cannot be ashamed of his past, because when my hon. Friend the Member for Brixton (Mr. Lipton)—who I hope will have something to say on the Amendment—sought to deal with this position, on 25th January of this year, the Minister said: I recognise that attitudes may change, but if the arguments were well-founded then, surely they are equally well-founded today." —[OFFICIAL REPORT, 25th January, 1963; Vol. 670, c. 504.] This is not my point of view, but it is the point of view of the right hon. Gentleman. It must therefore follow that if the arguments that he advanced in 1948 were well-founded they are well-founded today.

According to his figures this concession would cost £1½ million. That is roughly the amount spent over and above the original estimate of the cost of putting No. 10 Downing Street into good repair. Nobody bothered about that. It would have been a lot better if we had pulled the whole property down and built a modern property, thereby saving a lot of money for our taxpayers.

Mr. J. T. Price

What we are concerned about is not the state of the property but the state of the tenants.

Mr. Loughlin

I am sure that my hon. Friend is very concerned about the state of the tenants. I hear one of my hon. Friends telling me that they have already had notice to quit. Hon. Members opposite believe that we can spend £l½ million over and above the estimate, without let or hindrance, on a miserable hovel that ought to be pulled down anyway, but they support their Minister, who has the effrontery to argue that what should have been done in 1948 should not be done now.

There is no need for me to put forward the argument why this step should be taken now, although I am quite prepared to do so if that is desired. But my hon. Friend the Member for Paddington, North (Mr. Parkin) made the point quite clearly. No doubt the right hon. Gentle. man made it clearly in 1948. He ought to be ashamed of himself, and I hope that before we part with the Amendment many of my hon. Friends will continue the debate, in the hope that the Minister may eventually be persuaded to change his mind.

Mr. Lipton

The right hon. Gentleman shows an incredibly flint-like obstinacy in adhering to his sacred cow, namely, the earnings rule. It must be borne in mind that only one group of widowed mothers—those covered by the National Insurance Act—are penalised by the earnings rule. Service widows and widows of men killed in industrial accidents who have similar responsibilities and higher allowances are not

subjected to the earnings rule. Nor does the rule affect the widow with private means. She is left completely alone. If she is wealthy enough and does not have to go out to work but has an income from investments, she draws her pension in full.

The right hon. Gentleman attaches vital importance to the principle of the earnings rule and says that if it were abolished in respect of widowed mothers the whole edifice of our National Insurance Scheme would come down in utter ruins. This sort of bogeyman talk will not convince any rational person. The Minister is repeating today what he said on 25th January. He says that if we made this concession, which would cost £l½ million, we should have to do this, and we should have to do that; the Exchequer would go bankrupt; we should all have to pack up, and England would cease to exist. That is the logic of his argument.

I am prepared to concede that the earnings rule exists to protect the retirement principle, as the Minister keeps repeating. But the widowed mother, who has no retirement qualifications to satisfy, should surely not be subject to the rule. What retirement qualifications has a widowed mother to satisfy before she draws a widowed mother's pension? None whatsoever. However we may wish to regard the matter, it is impossible to justify a continuance of the earnings rule for widows.

The Minister has dug his toes in, and he will call upon his hon. and right hon. Friends to vote the Amendment down. Let it be known beyond any shadow of doubt that what the Minister and Members on the benches opposite are voting for is the continuance of the earnings rule for widowed mothers. I hope that widowed mothers everywhere will realise what the party opposite are doing tonight.

Question put, That "26s. shillings" stand part of the Clause:—

The Committee divided: Ayes 218, Noes 188.

Division No. 40.] AYES [7.39 p.m.
Altken, W. T. Batsford, Brian Biggs-Davison, John
Allason, James Baxter, Sir Beverley (Southgate) Bingham, R. M.
Arbuthnot, John Beamish, Col. Sir Tufton Bishop, F. P.
Auhton, Sir Hubert Bell, Ronald Bossom, Hon. Clive
Atkins, Humphrey Bennett, Dr. Reginald (Gos & Fhm) Bourne-Arton, A.
Barber, Anthony Berkeley, Humphry Box, Donald
Barter, John Bldgood, John C. Boyd-Carpenter, Rt. Hon. John
Braine, Bernard Horneby-Smith, Rt. Hon. Dame P. Powell, Rt. Hon. J. Enoch
Brewis, John Howard, John (Southampton, lest) Price, David (Eastleigh)
Bromley Davenport, Lt. -Col. Sir Walter Hughes Hallett, Vice-Admiral John Price, H. A. (Lewisham, w.)
Brown, Alan (Tottenham) Hughes-Young, Michael Prior, J. M. L.
Bryan, Paul Hutchison, Michael Clark Prior-Palmer, Brig. Sir Otho
Buck, Antony Iremonger, T. L. Proudfoot, Wilfred
Bullard, Denys Irvine, Bryant Godman (Rye) Pym, Francis
Burden, F. A. James, David Ramsden, James
Butler, Rt. Hn. R. A. (Saffron Wilden) Jenkins, Robert (Dulwich) Rawiinson, Sir Peter
Campbell, Sir David (Belfast, S.) Johnson, Dr. Donald (Carlisle) Redmayne, Rt. Hon. Martin
Campbell, Gordon (Moray & Naim) Johnson, Eric (Blackley) Renton, Rt. Hon. David
Channon, H. P. G. Kerans, Cdr. J. S. Ridley, Hon. Nicholas
Chataway, Christopher Kerr, sir Hamilton Ridsdale, Julian
Chichester-Clark, R. Kimball, Marcus Roberts, Sir Peter (Heeley)
Clarke, Brig. Terence(Portsmth, W.) Kirk, Peter Robinson, Rt. Hn. Sir R. (B'pool, S.)
Cleaver, Leonard Lagden, Godfrey Ropner, Col. Sir Leonard
Cooke, Robert Lambton, Viscount Royle, Anthony (Richmond, Surrey)
Corfield, F. V. Lancaster, Col. C. G. Russell, Ronald
Craddock, Sir Beresford (Spelthorne) Leavey, J, A. St. Clair, M.
Crosthwaite-Eyre, Col. Sir Oliver Leburn, Gilmour Shaw, M.
Crowder, F. P. Lewis, Kenneth (Rutland) Shepherd, William
Cunningham, Knox Lindsay, Sir Martin Smith, Dudley (Br'ntf'd & Chiswick)
Dalkeith, Earl or Linstead, Sir Hugh Smyth, Rt. Hon. Brig. Sir John
Dance, James Litchfield, Capt. John Spearman, Sir Alexander
d'Avigdor-Goldsmid, Sir Henry Lloyd, Rt. Hn. Geoffrey (Sut'nC'dfield) Speir, Rupert
Deedes, Rt. Hon. W. F. Loveys, Walter H. Stanley, Hon. Richard
Donaldson, Cmdr. C. E. M. Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh Stodart, J. A.
Doughty, Charles McAdden, Sir Stephen Stoddarl-Scott, Col. Sir Malcolm
Drayson, G. B. MacArthur, Ian Storey, Sir Samuel
du Cann, Edward McLaren, Martin Studholme, Sir Henry
Eden, John Macleod, Rt. Hn. Iain (Enfield, W.) Summers, Sir Spencer
Elliot, Capt. Walter (Carshalton) McMaster, Stanley R. Tapsell, Peter
Elliott, R. W. (Nwcastle-upon-Tyne, N.) Macmillan, Maurice (Halifax) Taylor, Sir Charles (Eastbourne)
Farr, John Macpherson, Rt. Hn. Niall (Dumfries) Taylor, Edwin (Bolton, E.)
Fell, Anthony Maltland, Sir John Taylor, Frank (M'ch'st'r, Moss Side)
Finlay, Graeme Marshall, Douglas Teeling, Sir William
Fletcher-Cooke, Charles Marten, Nell Temple, John M.
Fraser, Jan (Plymouth, Sutton) Matthew, Gordon (Merlden) Thatcher, Mrs. Margaret
Gammans, Lady Mawby, Ray Thomas, Sir Leslie (Canterbury)
Gardner, Edward Maydon, Lt.-Cmdr. S. L. C. Thomas, Peter (Conway)
Gibson-Watt, David Mills, Stratton Thompson, Sir Kenneth (Walton)
Gilmour, Ian (Norfolk Central) Miscampbell, Norman Touche, Rt. Hon. Sir Gordon
Gilmour, Sir John (East Fife) More, Jasper (Ludlow) Turner, Colin
Glyn, Sir Richard (Dorset, N.) Morrison, John Turton, Rt. Hon. R. H.
Goodhart, Philip Mott-Radclyfle, Sir Charlee Tweedsmuir, Lady
Goodhew, Victor Nabarro, Sir Gerald van Straubenzee, W. R.
Gough, Frederick Nicholson, Sir Godfrey Vane, W. M. F.
Grant-Ferris, R, Noble, Rt. Hon. Michael Vaughan-Morgan, Rt. Hon. Sir John
Gresham Cooke, R. Nugent, Rt. Hon. Sir Richard Vickers, Miss Joan
Grosvenor, Lt.-Col. R. G. Orr, Capt. L. P. S. Wakefield, Sir Wavell
Gurden, Harold Orr-Ewing, C. Ian Wall, Patrick
Hamilton, Michael (Wellingborough) Osborn, John (Hallam) Webster, David
Harrison, Brian (Maldon) Osborne, Sir Cyril (Louth) Wells, John (Maidstone)
Harvey, John (Walthamstow, E.) Page, Graham (Crosby) Williams, Dudley (Exeter)
Harvie Anderson, Miss Page, John (Harrow, West) Williams, Paul (Sunderland, S.)
Hastings, Stephen Partridge, E. Wills, Sir Gerald (Bridgwater)
Hay, John Pearson, Frank (Clitheroe) Wilson, Geoffrey (Truro)
Henderson, John (Cathcart) Peel, John Wise, A. R.
Hendry, Forbes Percival, Ian Wolrige-Gordon, Patrick
Hill, Dr. Rt. Hon. Charles (Luton) Peyton, John Woodhouse, C. M.
Hill, Mrs. Eveline (Wythenshawe) Pickthorn, Sir Kenneth Woodnutt, Mark
Hirst, Geoffrey Pike, Miss Mervyn Woollam, John
Hocking, Philip N. Pickington, Sir Richard Worsley, Marcus
Holland, Philip Pitman, Sir James Yates, William (The Wrekin)
Hollingworth, John Pitt, Dame Edith
Hopkins, Alan Pott, Percivall TELLERS FOR THE AYES:
Hornby, R. P. Mr. J. E, B. Hill and Mr. Rees.
Abse Leo Boardman, H. Carmichael, Neil
Alneley, William Bottomley, Rt. Hon. A. G. Castle, Mrs. Barbara
Albu, Austen Bowden, Rt. Hn. H. W.(Leics, S. W.) Chapman, Donald
Allaun, Frank (Salford, E.) Bowen, Roderic (Cardigan) Cliffe, Michael
Allen, Scholefleld (Crewe) Bowles, Frank Collick, Percy
Awbery, Stan (Bristol, Central) Boyden, James Craddock, Ceorge (Bradford, S.)
Bacon, Miss Alice Braddock, Mrs. E. M. Crosland, Anthony
Baird, John Bradley, Tom Cullen, Mrs. Alice
Beaney, Alan Bray, Dr. Jeremy Curran, Charles
Bellenger, Rt. Hon. F. J. Brockway, A. Fenner Dalyell, Tam
Bence, Cyril Broughton, Dr. A. D. D. Darling, George
Bennett, J. (Glasgow, Bridgeton) Brown, Rt. Hon. George (Belper) Davies, G. Elfed (Rhondda, E.)
Benson, Sir George Brown, Thomas (Ince) Davies, Harold (Leek)
Blackburn, P. Butler, Herbert (Hackney, C.) Davies, S. O. (Merthyr)
Blyton, William Callaghan, James Deer, George
Dempsey, James Jones, Rt. Hn. A. Creech (Wakefield) Pursey, cmdr. Harry
Diamond, John Jones, Dan (Burnley) Rankin, John
Dodds, Norman Jones, Elwyn (West Ham, S.) Redhead, E. C.
Driberg, Tom Jones, J. Idwal (Wrexham) Reid, William
Dugdale, Rt. Hon. John Jones, T. W. (Merioneth) Reynolds, G. W.
Ede, Rt. Hon. C. Kelley, Richard Rhodes, H,
Edelman, Maurice Key, Rt. Hon. C. W. Roberts, Albert (Normanton)
Edwards, Rt. Hon. Nets (Caerphilly) King, Dr. Horace Roberts, Goronwy (Caernarvon)
Edwards, Robert (Bilston) Lawson, George Robertson, John (Paisley)
Evans, Albtrt Ledger, Ron Rodgerg, W. T. (Stockton)
Fernyhough, E. Lee, Frederick (Newton) Ross, William
Finch, Harold Lee, Miss Jennie (Cannock) Shinwell, Rt. Hon. E.
Fitch, Alan Lever, L. M. (Ardwick) Short, Edward
Fletcher, Eric Lewis, Arthur (West Ham, M.) Silverman, Julius (Aston)
Foot, Michael (Ebbw Vale) Lipton, Marcus Silverman, Sydney (Nelson)
Forman, J, C. Loughlin, Charles Skeffington, Arthur
Fraser, Thomas (Hamilton) Lubbock, Eric Slater, Mrs. Harriet (Stoke, N.)
George, Lady Megan Lloyd (Crmrthn) Mabon, Dr. J. Dickson Slater, Joseph (Sedgefield)
Ginsburg, David McCann, John Small, William
Gourlay, Harry MacColl, James Smith, Ellis (Stoke, S.)
Greenwood, Anthony McInnes, James Soskice, Rt. Hon. Sir Frank
Griffiths, David (Rother Valley) McKay, John (Wailsend) Spriggs, Leslie
Griffiths, Rt. Hon. James (Llanelly) Mackie, John (Enfield, East) Steele, Thomas
Grimond, Rt, Hon. J. McLeavy, Frank Stones, William
Hate, Leslie (Oldham, W.) Mallalleu, E. L. (Brigg) Swain, Thomas
Hamilton, William (West Fife) Manuel, Archie Taylor, Bernard (Mansfield)
Hannan, William Mapp, Charles Thomas, Iorwerth (Rhondda, W.)
Harper, Joseph Marsh, Richard Thompson, Dr. Alan (Dunfermline)
Hart, Mrs. Judith Mason, Roy Wade, Donald
Hay man, F. H. Mellish, R. J. Wainwright, Edwin
Henderson, Rt. Hn. Arthur (Rwly Regis) Mendeison, J. J. Warbey, William
Herbison, Miss Margaret Milne, Edward Ward, Dame Irene
Hewitson, Capt. M. Mitchison, G. R. Weitzman, David
Hill, J. (Midlothian) Moody, A. S. Whitlock, William
Hilton, A. V. Morris, John Wigg, George
Holman, Percy Neal, Harold Wilkins, W. A.
Holt, Arthur Dram, A. E. Willey, Frederick
Houghton, Douglas Oswald, Thomas Williams, LI. (Aberttllery)
Howell, Charles A. (Perry Barr) Pargiter, G. A. Williams, W. R. (Openahaw)
Hoy, James H. Parker, John Williams, W. T. (Warrington)
Hughes, Cladwyn (Anglesey) Parkin, B. T. Willis, E. G. (Edinburgh, E.)
Hughes, Emrys (S. Ayrshire) Pearson, Arthur (Pontypridd) Wilson, Rt. Hon. Harold (Huyton)
Hughes, Hector (Aberdeen, N.) Peart, Frederick Winterbottom, R. E.
Hunter, A. E. Pentland, Norman Woodburn, Rt. Hon. A.
Hynd, H. (Accrington) Popplewell, Ernest Woof, Robert
Hynd, John (AtterCllife) prentice, R. E. Yates, Victor (Ladywood)
Irving, Sydney (Dartford) Price, J. T. (Westhoughton)
Jay, Rt. Hon. Douglas Probert, Arthur TELLERS FOR THE NOES:
Johnson, Carol (Lewleham, S.) Mr. Ifor Davies and Mr. Grey.

Clause ordered to stand part of the Bill.