HC Deb 25 January 1963 vol 670 cc443-537

Order for Second Reading read

11.5 a.m.

Mr. Marcus Lipton (Brixton)

I beg to move, That the Bill be now read a Second time.

This is the first occasion since I became a Member of the House, in 1945, that I have been lucky in the Ballot for Private Members' Bills. When it became known that I was so fortunate I had plenty of suggestions from various quarters as to the subjects which I ought to introduce. After careful consideration of all the suggestions which were brought to my notice I came to the conclusion that I could not put this opportunity to better purpose than to make a further attempt to secure justice for the hard-pressed section of our community, namely, the widows.

My Bill is couched in simple terms so that the general public may understand what I am driving at. In fact, the terms are so simple as to be, from the point of view of technical drafting, almost unparliamentary. It would, however, require the experience of a lifetime to master the technical jargon which is, unfortunately, made particularly necessary by the complexities of the National Insurance legislation. However, let me make it clear that if the Minister accepts the proposals he can use whatever language he likes to put them into effect.

Since announcing my intention to introduce the Bill I have had a vast correspondence from widows all over Great Britain—far too numerous to acknowledge, as may be seen from the bundle I now hold in my hand. If the Minister would like to read these letters some time to educate himself in the facts of life among these widows I shall be very happy to hand them to him. As I say, these letters are far too numerous to acknowledge individually.

Let me take this opportunity of thanking all the ladies who have written to me so movingly on the hardships from which they are undoubtedly suffering under present legislation and from which they will continue to suffer even if the Government's National Insurance Bill we are to discuss on Monday next gets on to the Statute Book. I hope these widows will write to their Members of Parliament to find out whether or not they supported the Bill whose Second Reading I am now moving.

I also acknowledge that since I announced my intention to introduce the Bill the Minister has made two important statements, one about the earnings rule, the second about the Bill, to be given a Second Reading next week, to increase benefits all round. It is a remarkable coincidence that on the very day before the Minister knew that my Bill was to be printed and circulated he arranged, by means of a Written Question, to announce the relaxation of the earnings rule.

It is, perhaps, another coincidence that within 72 hours of my asking the House to approve the Bill I am now submitting the Government have hastened to introduce a large and comprehensive Measure which will cost about £200 million and is calculated to benefit about 9 million persons. But the Government have still not got round to dealing with two urgently needed improvements which I am now seeking to introduce. These concern continuing glaring omissions in the Government's National Insurance policy.

Without further preamble, I will proceed to examine the specific proposals embodied in my Bill. Clause I seeks to improve the lot of the 10s. widows. I propose to double the pension to 20s. to take account of the falling value of money since the 10s. pension was applied nearly 15 years ago to women who before 5th July, 1948, were married to men insured under the contributory pensions Acts immediately before that date. This 10s. is paid only when the widow is not qualified for one of the National Insurance widow's benefits—widows' allowance, widowed mothers' allowance or widows' pension.

Ten years ago there were 190,000 of these 10s. widows. There are now 85,000. From the Minister's viewpoint, this is a diminishing financial liability. The number will decrease even more rapidly within the next few years. That is an added reason for dealing generously with them now. It is heartless to wait until death finally removes this problem from the Minister's files.

The principal misfortune of these widows is that their husbands died under the wrong Act, and that is a misfortune for which the widow should not be held responsible for the rest of her days. The problem has, I know, been discussed in the House more than once in recent years, and we shall continue to discuss it and raise it at every possible opportunity until the Minister sees reason. Despite the numerous improvements that have been made since 1948 in pensions of all kinds, the one group which has been consistently ignored throughout is that of the 10s. widow.

By now I think I know, and most of us who have been following this matter know, the Minister's objections by heart. I hope that they have not again been typed out and included in the departmental brief. The 10s. pension is a reserved right. All I ask is that the purchasing power of this reserved right shall be restored to what it was originally.

The Minister will say that the 10s. is not a pension, that it is like an annuity or investment in War Loan or something of that kind and has a diminishing value over the years. He will probably repeat what the Chief Secretary to the Treasury said when he was Minister of Pensions and National Insurance during the debate on 13th December, 1961. He then stated that the 10s. is not … a National Insurance provision … It is simply an old provision preserved by the National Insurance Acts. It is not part of the National Insurance Scheme."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 13th December, 1961; Vol. 651, c. 473.] The right hon. Gentleman argued that, apart from their reserved right, the 10s. widows are indistinguishable from those widows who today receive no pension at all. If past and present Ministers cannot distinguish between these two categories of widow—all the official publications of his Ministry can—what the Minister is saying boils down to this, "If a widow is not getting this 10s. pension, she would not be getting it." This kind of specious dialectic is playing with words, and is from the point of view of the hard-pressed widows a bit of humbug from beginning to end. It does not convince anyone. Every official leaflet dealing with widow's benefit under National Insurance includes a reference to the 10s. widows. Statistics relating to the 10s. widows are invariably included in the Annual Reports of the Ministry of Pensions and National Insurance.

I cannot accept the spurious contention that because some widows do not qualify for pension at all under current legislation the 10s. widow must continue to be ignored. Is the fact that we cannot put everything right an argument for not rectifying the one injustice in the case of the 10s. widow? It may be asked what the cost of accepting the Clause will be. At the outset, it will be about 85,000 times 10s. per week, Which would amount to about £2,200,000 a year, a liability which is bound to diminish even more rapidly each year until it disappears entirely within perhaps eight or nine years. If the Minister is adamant in refusing to do anything about the 10s. widow, he will hear a great deal more about this between now and the General Election.

The aim of Clause 2 is to abolish the earnings rule entirely for all widows. It is true that the Minister proposes to increase the earnings limit for widows, subject to the approval of the National Insurance Advisory Committee, from £3 10s. a week to £4 5s. and for widowed mothers from £5 to £6 weekly. For the first 10s. the widow earns over that limit, she will lose 10s. of her pension, and in respect of the second 20s. she will lose 20s. These widows are the only section of the community taxed at the rate of 20s. in the £ on part of their income, and this is monstrous and indefensible. Even millionaires do not pay tax at that exhorbitant rate.

Even the National Insurance Advisory Committee, in its Annual Report published in 1956, from which I have no doubt the Minister will quote, said: We think it highly undesirable that as soon as a pensioner earns more than the minimum below which his earnings are wholly disregarded he should lose the whole of his excess earnings, however small, by deduction from his pension. But that is what is happening today and will continue to happen in respect of one part of the widow's earnings.

The concession which the Minister has proposed to the National Insurance Advisory Committee does not go far enough. I will give some figures to show how little it is really worth and how few will benefit from this tricky piece of window-dressing. His present limited intention is worth only £700,000 per annum, but to abolish the earnings rule for all widows would cost only a further £4½ million. The concession worth £700,000 which he is willing to introduce for widows will benefit only about 30,000 of them, while 325,000 will not benefit at all.

For widowed mothers, the concession he proposes—raising the earnings limit from £5 to £6 a week—will cost only about £400,000 a year, benefiting 15,000 widows but giving no benefit to 130,000. The abolition of the earnings rule entirely for all widowed mothers would only cost an additional £1½ million. These figures prove conclusively how little the right hon. gentleman's concession for widows and widowed mothers will cost—a total of £1,100,000.

The Minister of Pensions and National Insurance (Mr. Niall Macpherson)

I am interested in the hon. Gentleman's argument. Can he explain how 130,000 widowed mothers and 300,000 widows who are not affected by the earnings rule will be benefited by its abolition?

Mr. Lipton

That is a very fair question. I am hoping that the other legislation which the Minister is introducing will help those widows who will not be benefited by abolition of the earnings rule.

All I seek to obtain here is the agreement of the right hon. Gentleman to abandon this further penalisation of widows through the earnings rule. The abolition of the limit entirely on the basis of the figures I have mentioned will only cost an extra £6 million, representing a very small addition to the increased benefits for all insured persons covered by the National Insurance Bill to be debated next week.

For very good reasons, which I do not challenge, the pensions of war widows and widows under the Industrial Injuries Act are not subject to an earnings limit. Furthermore, rents, dividends and any other forms of unearned income a widow may be fortunate enough to have, do not affect her pension. It is quite indefensible that the dice should be loaded so heavily against what I might describe as the ordinary widow, whose needs are just as great as the needs of the other widows I have mentioned.

If unearned income is to be disregarded, then earned income should also be disregarded. In any case, the income of all widows, whatever the source, is a subject of Income Tax, so that the wealthier class of widows will continue to make their contribution to the Exchequer. But a widow who is compelled to go to work is penalised by the earnings rule. A widow who is well off and does not have to work suffers no deduction at all.

The time has come to save the time and trouble involved in the dreary business of having to declare earnings to the local insurance office so that calculation of petty deductions can be made from week to week. I know that local insurance officers would be glad to be rid of this miserable task of deduction and recovery. As was pointed out in the Report of the National Insurance Advisory Committee, in 1956, on the question of the earnings limit, evasion of the earnings rule occurs on an appreciable scale. The time has come to wipe out this sordid feature of our social welfare provisions.

I am supported in this Clause by every women's organisation of importance in Great Britain, including the National Council of Women, the Women's Group on Public Welfare, the Standing Conference of Women's Organisations, and other bodies representing many millions of women. This includes Conservative, Liberal and Labour women through their political organisations. For all these reasons I ask the House to give the Bill a Second reading.

11.26 a.m.

Dame Irene Ward (Tynemouth)

I should like first, to congratulate the hon. Member for Brixton (Mr. Lipton) on his good fortune in drawing first place in the Ballot. I should also like to congratulate him warmly on the subject he has chosen and on his speech. I am not seeking for a moment to make a political point, because I believe it to be important, in the interests of widows, that we should try to discuss their case from the human approach in seeing what can be done to help the many unfortunate widows in our midst.

However, I would like to say that the difficulty in which we find ourselves has resulted from the transfer from the old type of contributory pension to the new system introduced by the Labour Government after the war. As with so many things in our modern social life, we had to learn by experiment. I think it fair to say that all the provisions and legislation under which we are operating today were thought at the time of the introduction of the 1946 Act to be perhaps the right way of proceeding.

I think, therefore, that I am right in saying that none of us can really score any political points in this matter. I believe, also, that in nearly all social matters we on both sides of the House try to do the best we can to deal with problems as they arise. It is in this sense that I wish to make my own remarks, and I hope they will have the approval of the House.

It is a very long time since we had an overall examination of the problems affecting widows. A great deal of the difficulty in which widows are placed arises from the historical position through finding themselves in the National Insurance legislation. I am not an expert in these matters, but I do not necessarily agree that the present system is the right approach. The facts of history have gone against the widow.

It is time that we bad a full examination of all the problems, especially those of the widowed mother and the 10s. widow and certainly of the anomalies mentioned by the hon. Member for Brixton. It is most important that we should have an independent examination, for although the original National Insurance Act set up a National Advisory Committee, its main object was to maintain the stability of the fund and not to study the basic problems in the way I want. I know that my right hon. Friend will speak of the recommendations and guidance Which he is given by his Advisory Committee, but that Committee is much too committed to the present National Insurance legislation to be able to give overall guidance on these problems.

I have the support of practically all the women Members of the House—Conservative women have often discussed this—when I say that we must have an independent examination not only of the problems mentioned in the Bill, but of the anomalies which have arisen, for it is the anomalies which create the feeling of injustice.

One of the anomalies occurs with the earnings rule. While everybody accepts that war widows are in a special category, and no one would wish to make any alteration in what we have been able to do for them, we have also to remember the widowed mother who earns and how her position compares with that of a wife who earns. I have been a Member of the House for a long time. I was here during the war. I recollect that during that period the country made the greatest possible use of married women, even directing them into national work. To encourage women to go into work of various kinds, they were given tax reliefs, which they continue to enjoy today.

It is extraordinary that a wife who goes out to work should get all the advantages to which she is entitled, when she has her husband to help her look after her children, whereas the widow, who must be mother and father, is not so favourably treated. That is one of the problems which I should like to be examined. It arises because widows come within the ambit of the National Insurance Acts and wives who earn do not.

We have also to consider whether we do enough for the widowed mother who remains at home. I do not have much up-to-date information about the legislation of other countries in this respect, but I have always been interested to observe that France has a different system. France gives more to women who stay at home than to women who go out to work. In a period of full employment when the national economy demands that everybody should do as much as possible in the national effort, the French system might be a drawback. Unfortunately, however, we are now in a rather different position. I have not the slightest doubt that it would be to the country's advantage if women, adequately provided for, stayed at home to look after their children. That is something else to be considered, but it is not a matter on which the Advisory Committee could advise my right hon. Friend.

I congratulate my right hon. Friend and other members of the Government on the steps taken to improve the position of widows. I hope that my right hon. Friend will forgive me if I say that I have not always thought that the Government have been as generous as they could to widows, but I am always grateful for small mercies. However, the fact remains that the child of a widow does not have the advantages which the child who has both parents living normally enjoys. In the normal course of events, if a child has an active and good father—and I am glad to say that that goes for most families of this country—the general standard of living of the family rises as the father is promoted or builds up his business.

That increased standard of living which flows from the increased earning capacity of the father and mother spreads to the children. However, the standard of living of the children of a widow is not so likely to rise, for there is not the same chance of increasing earning capacity. That, too, is another reason for an overall inquiry into the whole problem. Even the widow without children has commitments which may have arisen during her married life and which are related to her husband's status, position and work. She is left with the problem of attempting to maintain her former position. None of us can be satisfied about a situation in which the widow is dealt with solely within the framework of National Insurance.

There is another matter in connection with which I have not made any progress, but about which I am always hopeful. It always takes about ten years to win a battle, and we have now been trying for over ten years to win the battle for the suitable and humane treatment of widows. Many widowed mothers have children who have gone to grammar schools and have then qualified for university places. Unfortunately, not sufficient university places are available, and when these boys or girls reach the age of 18 and have qualified to advance to universities there are no places for them.

At the same time, widowed mothers' allowances cease. Just at the time when her children are ready to take their first step into the adult world—I have had a great deal Of evidence about this from old girls' and old boys' associations, besides public and grammar schools—the standard of life of the widowed mother falls, because her allowance ceases and she is covered by the earnings rule.

The situation is different for a child who has both father and mother. Many of these children stay on at their various schools, continuing full-time education before finally securing a university place. In such a case, if the effort of keeping the children at school becomes a burden on the family the mother can go out to work, if she is capable, without losing anything; in fact, she receives an additional allowance in the way of tax relief. The position of her children is thereby protected. Only the children of widows have a difficult time. It seems extraordinary that in our modern society we have not been able to find a way of dealing satisfactorily with the situation.

My right hon. Friend will probably say, "This is not my responsibility." This is one of the irritating aspects of Parliamentary life. It may not be his responsibility. That is why I say that it is regrettable that we have to discuss the problem of widows purely from the point of view of National Insurance.

Mr. John Parker (Dagenham)

There is one point in respect of which the Minister has some responsibility, and which is relevant to what the hon. Lady is saying. The widow's pension ceases when her child reaches the age of 18. When a widow's boy or girl is in the last term at the grammar school and is trying to get a university place or to pass the G.C.E. the grant suddenly ceases. Surely the grant should continue until the end of that school year, and not when the child reaches the age of 18.

Dame Irene Ward

I am grateful to the hon. Member for the support that he is giving me. That is just the kind of situation that ought to be dealt with. There is ample freedom for my right hon. Friend to make representations to the Minister of Education on this matter, or for the Minister of Education to be sufficiently interested in what is happening in the National Insurance world. That is the whole problem.

I am not arguing whether or not the Bill is the right way to deal with the matter. We welcome the human points of view that are dealt with here, but there is a great deal more to the problem. Anomalies arise out of the Industrial Injuries Act, under which the widow can earn anything she likes without deduction. That requires consideration. That is the responsibility of my right hon. Friend. But I always have the uncomfortable feeling—and I am sure hon. Members opposite feel the same—that our economic stability depends on various priorities involving security in employment and trade.

Naturally, the Ministers dealing with those aspects are in the Cabinet. When we read our newspapers we often find that my right hon. Friend has been summoned to the Cabinet. But I know the machinery of Government well enough to realise that Ministers who are not in the Cabinet have less opportunity of arguing their cases than do Cabinet Ministers. These problems are rarely discussed in the detail in which we are able to discuss them today.

That is why I am grateful to the hon. Member for Brixton for having chosen to bring forward this Bill now. We have the opportunity of discussing the whole matter in greater detail than we have been able to do for a long time. I hope that the hon. Member will accept my thanks and appreciation. I am sure that my Conservative colleagues join with me in that.

I shall listen very carefully to what my right hon. Friend has to say. Most of what I have said will have the full support of Conservative women, and, I am sure, of hon. Ladies opposite. I am anxious to know how much of what I have said has gone into my right hon. Friend's head. I am sure that he has become acquainted with many of the problems to which I have referred. I am delighted that we now have a woman Parliamentary Secretary. It is sometimes easier for a woman to appreciate these problems. My male colleagues may not agree with me, but I believe that there are certain aspects of Parliamentary life about which they are much more competent to talk, while other aspects are better dealt with by women. We all have our expert contribution to make. In this case, I consider that an expert contribution can come from the women.

I agree with the hon. Member that all the women's organisations support the Bill. I work closely with those organisations. They include women of great intellectual attainments and very wide social experience, and if my right hon. Friend were to go further and talk to probation officers and magistrates, or anybody else engaged in social work, he would be told that the problem of widows and their children is a vital and human one.

I am looking forward to a great advance when my right hon. Friend discusses the Bill. I hope that when he replies he will agree with every word that I have said, and will give an undertaking that an overall examination of the problem will be carried out, without delay. I hope that he will say that the people who will form the committee will have very wide experience. If that is done, not only will the Government gain valuable advice but, arising out of the committee's work, the general position of widows will be helped forward. I am sure that is the wish of the whole House.

11.50 a.m.

Mr. James Griffiths (Llanelly)

I join with the hon. Lady the Member for Tynemouth (Dame Irene Ward) in offering congratulations to my hon. Friend the Member for Brixton (Mr. Lipton) on his luck in the Ballot, on his choice of the subject for his Bill and on the admirable speech which he made when introducing it.

I intervene in the debate, because I have some responsibility for the 10s. widow. It would be a wonderful thing if the Minister of Pensions and National Insurance could begin with a clean slate. Our social insurance system has grown piecemeal over very many years. Consequently, when I came to frame the proposals in the National Insurance Bill, 1945, which became the Act of 1946, I found that there were a large number of Acts in existence under which people of various categories, old-age pensioners and others, were entitled to benefit. It was a difficult problem.

What I found difficult—very difficult at times—was how to bring the old schemes into the new, how to bring beneficiaries qualified under the old Acts and who had been paying the old contributions into the provisions of the new Act. There were at least three Old-Age Pensions Acts at that time. There was the contributory Act of 1936, the earlier one and the Lloyd George Act. How many people realise that there are still 150,000 old people in this country receiving pensions under the 1908 Act?

I hope I shall not be thought to be immodest when I say that I brought them up to the new level. No one has done that since. Some of those old people are now on National Assistance. I appreciated at once how difficult it would be to fit people receiving pensions under the old Acts, pensions which were at first 5s. a week and then 10s. a week, into the new Act. I turned the 10s. pension into the 26s. pension.

In 1938, shortly after I came to the House, Sir Kingsley Wood, who was then, I believe, Minister of Health, brought forward a scheme by which people under 50 years of age could by making a contribution of 6d. a week receive a pension of 10s. a week on retirement provided that they paid the contribution for 10 years. These people also had to be brought in. That was a separate class entirely. I forget the number of them, but they, of all the old beneficiaries, were the most fortunate. Some of them joined at the age of 50 in 1938 and paid a contribution of 6d. a week in the expectation that they would receive a pension of 10s. a week. Women contributors under that scheme, on becoming 60 years of age, received a pension of 26s. a week in 1948. Those are the difficulties.

The question which worried me most, perhaps because of my background before I came to the House, was the weaving of the old into the new, not into the Pensions Act but into the Industrial Injuries Act. It was the question of whether I could bring all the men and women injured in the old days, before the new Act of 1948 came into force and whose compensation, as it was called, was governed by the provisions of the old Act and was related to their wages, many thousands of whom were receiving less than 20s. a week, so that they could be given some of the new benefits.

I now come to the Bill before the House. Until 1948, there was only one provision for widows, and that was the 10s. State pension. It was paid to a woman at that time whatever her circumstances. We changed the provision for widows. It varied from other provisions in the Bill. There was the mother with children and the mother without children. Opinion on these matters changes, even among women. There were a large number of women at that time who were against awarding a pension to a widow just because she was a widow. Indeed, they came to see me and discussed the matter.

Dame Irene Ward

I absolutely agree with the right hon. Gentleman. I think that it was probably the very young widows to whom they really objected.

Mr. Griffiths

The views held at the time can be gleaned by anyone who reads the evidence given before the Beveridge Committee. We adopted, very largely, the suggestions made in the Beveridge Report.

Then I found the difficulty that there were some widows who would not qualify for the new pensions provided under the new Act, but who were entitled to a pension of 10s. by virtue of their husbands' contributions under the old Act. I made up my mind that if these widows could not be fitted into the new scheme it was my duty to see that they received the pension to which they were entitled by virtue of their husbands' contributions. This is the 10s. pension. It was an attempt to be strictly fair to the widow and to see that she did not lose the pension to which she was entitled. That is the position. As far as I know, nobody else made such a proposal.

My hon. Friend's Bill is not an attempt to bring the 10s. widow into the new scheme entirely. All my hon. Friend is proposing, and I support him, is that the 10s. pension, which was not fixed in 1948, is too modest if it is to be based on the cost of living. The 10s. pension was fixed in 1936. It is still 10s. I would impress upon the Minister that the proposal that it should be doubled to 20s. is a very modest one. After all, all the old beneficiaries have received something. There will be many millions of beneficiaries, for example, under the new Bill. There will be people receiving benefit, quite rightly receiving it, who, in a sense, would be technically in the same position as the 10s. widow, that is to say, they would never be in the new scheme.

As I say, this is a very modest proposal and I hope very much that the Minister will not say, "No". It may be that he cannot accept the provisions in my hon. Friend's Bill now, but will give an undertaking to incorporate them into the new Bill.

Regarding contributions, perhaps the Minister will tell us what is in his reserve fund at the present time. My hon. Friend said that his proposal would cost less than £2½ million a year. The Minister has over £1,000 million in his reserve fund. When I took over in 1948 there was £700 million in reserve. If we do not want to add to the contribution and burden the Treasury, why not pay this £2½ million out of the reserve in hand? I repeat that I hope that the Minister will not say "No" to this very modest proposal.

Hon. Members can do much better than just vote on these proposals. Hon. Members on both sides can join together in urging the Minister to accept the proposals, and, if he cannot do that at the moment, in asking him to find a way of incorporating them in the Bill which he is bringing before the House next week.

I wish to say a word about the earnings rule and tell the hon. Lady the Member for Tynemouth that I appreciate that there is a case for an examination of the place occupied by widows in our modern society. We have built up all these social measures piecemeal. Reference was made to ages which are important in education. I am not apologising for what we did in 1945, I am proud of it. But at that time we were working at a tremendous pace. Let us consider the amount of legislation dealt with in that Parliament, the amount of social legislation in the first three years, including that relating to education. It was Ellen Wilkinson, bless her memory, who was determined to raise the school-leaving age to 15.

We are today considering the earnings rule in relation to widows and I think that there is a case for abolishing it in respect of them. The same considerations would not perhaps apply in respect of other people. When I was Minister this question, rightly or wrongly, was regarded from the point of view of the experiences of the 1930s. The attitude of some of my colleagues regarding the earnings rule was conditioned by what happened in those years and by the recollection that before 1939 there were some employers whose practice it was to deduct the amount of pension from wages.

If hon. Members care to make inquiries among their constituents, they will find that to be the case. It was feared that the pensions of old people and of widows would be used by some employers in this way, and the trade unions were concerned to avoid social provisions becoming an instrument in the hands of unscrupulous people to be used to undermine the wages structure. That happened in the 1930s. I hope that that kind of practice has disappeared for ever and that we shall never return to the conditions of unemployment which existed at that time.

In our present-day society, and with our industrial system, and bearing in mind the influence and power of the trade unions, it would, I think, be the general opinion that a concession of this sort might be made in respect of widows, and that the earnings rule for them could be abolished. I do not know what pronouncement might be made by my colleagues in the Trades Union Congress. But trade unionists were genuinely concerned at one time that the wages structure should not be undermined. However, I think that they might well come to the conclusion that under present conditions, and having regard to the way in which our society is likely to develop, the earnings rule could be abolished.

For those reasons, I hope that the Minister will not say "No" to my hon. Friend's Bill. If it is not acceptable in its present from I hope that in the coming weeks this provision will be included in new legislation to be presented to the House.

Mr. Charles Curran (Uxbridge)

From his great experience in these matters, can the right hon. Gentleman say whether he thinks that it would be practicable to abolish the earnings rule in respect of widows without, at the same time, abolishing it in respect of retirement pensions?

Mr. J. Griffiths

Yes. The earnings rule in regard to retirement pensions is a criterion of retirement. I do not think that the same problem arises in the case of pensions for widows.

Mr. Curran

May I take it, then, that the right hon. Gentleman is in favour of retaining the earnings rule in respect of retirement pensions?

Mr. Griffiths

The hon. Gentleman most understand that a retirement pension means a pension after retirement from work, from earnings, and someone has to define what are earnings. It is not so much an earnings rule as an earnings criterion, an indication whether a person has retired and is therefore entitled to a retirement pension. So long as we have retirement pensions there must be such a criterion. But I do not think that the same consideration would apply in respect of pensions for widows.

12.5 p.m.

Mrs. Evelyn Emmet (East Grinstead)

I had not intended to intervene in this debate, but I was carried away by the speech of the hon. Member for Brixton (Mr. Lipton) and feed that I should like to add a word of congratulation to the hon. Gentleman and encouragement to him for what he is doing for widows today. As a rule, women Members of Parliament have to battle for themselves in respect of disabilities affecting themselves and it is nice sometimes, as on this occasion, to have a male champion.

I wish to support what was said by my hon. Friend the Member for Tynemouth (Dame Irene Ward) about the need for a thorough investigation of the position. It is now two years since some of us went to see the then Minister of Pensions and National Insurance, with representatives of all the women's societies, in connection with this question. We were given a sympathetic hearing and the case was presented elaborately and well by the representative of the various societies but there was no result from that meeting.

I am quite certain that all hon. Members have experienced the same difficulty as I have encountered in trying to explain the present anomalies to widows who are affected. One can make an explanation regarding the 10s. widow. It may not be a very satisfactory explanation from the point of view of a recipient, but there is a reasonably historic substance for such explanation.

I was one of those who, in the Standing Committee which, when discussing the widow's pension, voted in favour of an age limit of 50. I do not feel so strongly regarding the position of childless widows, because, after all, a childless widow in early middle age is in much the same position as a single woman. In itself widowhood is not or Should not be a disadvantage; but for a widowed mother the position is different.

As has been said, I think that too much accent has been placed on the retirement aspect. This has resulted in a mix-up between widows' pensions and retirement pensions and there has not been sufficient stress placed upon the word "widow". I am a widow and have brought up four children alone. I can tell hon. Members that the anxiety of having to raise children alone, added to financial difficulties, is a very heavy responsibility for a woman to have to bear. If the life of such a person can be made a bit easier from the point of view of finance it will be less difficult for her to shoulder her heavy responsibilities.

It may be difficult for a man to realise the tremendous disadvantage at which a widow is placed when she is left to bring up young children entirely alone and has no one to turn to for advice. A widower can often secure a housekeeper, sometimes quite cheaply. But a widow cannot help herself in that way. It is, moreover, extraordinarily difficult to explain the present position to two widows who may perhaps be living in adjoining council houses when one is an "industrial widow"—if I may so describe her—or a war widow, and the other an ordinary widow, and both have children. The children of the industrial, or war, widow are assured of a far better future and assistance than are those of the ordinary widow. How can that be explained to two such women? It is the widowhood that counts. It does not matter how the husband died. Once a woman becomes a widowed mother her difficulties and those of any other widowed mother are similar.

These anomalies require to be examined carefully in conjunction with a consideration of the economic position of housewives generally. I do not think that we can divorce the economic situation of women in the home who are earning, from whether or not they have husbands. I wish to press the Minister on this matter, because I think the time has come for such an examination. I warn my right hon. Friend that more pressure will be exerted from representatives of women's societies for a proper inquiry into these problems if nothing happens.

12.10 p.m.

Mr. Victor Yates (Birmingham, Ladywood)

I join with other hon. Members in congratulating my hon. Friend the Member for Brixton (Mr. Lipton) on introducing the Bill. If I have any criticism to make of it, it is that his proposal for an increase in the pension is too modest.

As I see the position, what the Minister is asked to do now is to try to give the 10s. widow a little more than 1 cwt. of coal a week. In fact, it does not equal the value of 1 cwt. of coal. Anyone with any human feeling can appreciate how difficult things are for widows in the present fuel crisis. The hon. Lady the Member for East Grinstead (Mrs. Emmet) spoke of the anxiety of a widow bringing up children. We all appreciate the struggle that she must have had. It has been expressed to me as something more than anxiety. Yesterday, I received a letter from a widow who told me that it meant years of agony of mind.

The hon. Lady the Member for Tynemouth (Dame Irene Ward) has spoken of the widow who has children growing up and going to university and other forms of higher education. I have known an example of that in Birmingham. A woman there has had a great struggle to bring up her two children. One has now passed on to the university and the other is about to do so. She now has to revert from an ordinary pension to a 10s. pension after all the struggle that she has had.

Since I added my name in support of the Bill I have been amazed to hear of the great hardship which so many widows in this category in Birmingham are suffering. Yesterday, I received a letter from one who said: It is only because I believe in God, it is only because I am God-fearing, that I have not ended my life. It has been so terribly difficult. It is bad enough for a young woman to lose her husband, but for a widow to find such difficulties about her pension it is still worse.

An association in Birmingham called the Widows Friendship Club has put some questions to me which I ask the Minister. The hon. Member for Uxbridge (Mr. Curran) asked by right hon. Friend the Member for Llanelly (Mr. J. Griffiths) whether, if we abolished the earnings rule for widows, we must hot also abolish it for those on retirement pensions. This lady Who wrote to me pointed out that the war widow and the industrial widow are excluded. I do not think we should cloud the issue by discussing the whole question of retirement pensions. She asked why the civilian widow should be expected to live on a much smaller amount than the Service or the industrial widow.

Is it fair that widows should have to pay the 2s. prescription charge under the National Health Service? Can the Minister explain why the widow should be expected to live on a smaller pension than the industrial or the war widow? I have every sympathy with the war widow and appreciate that her circumstances are special, but life is very difficult for all widows. I quote another letter I have received from a Birmingham widow: I have been a widow for seventeen years, with ill-health, and I have had two children to bring up respectably. I lost a good husband who paid insurance for 31 years. He fought and was decorated in World War I Where is the justice? There are many similar examples.

I hope that the Minister will not try to discuss this problem in technical terms. As my right hon. Friend the Member for Llanelly said, it goes back to 1936. I had the opportunity of serving on the Committee which examined the Bill which he introduced. This discrimination was always a source of great anxiety. It is called a reserve benefit or an insurance and its value should be increased. The Minister is to be very generous in relation to the new Bill which is to be introduced. We ask him at least to give the 10s. widow the value of 2 cwt. of coal a week. I think that that is modest—too modest. The widow is in a different position from the old-age pensioner.

I have had a letter from a Birmingham widow who goes out to work. She does not object to having to do so, but she objects to having her pension taxed as well as her wages. She has sent me her wages slip. I should like the Minister to note this. After Christmas she tried to earn a little more, as she said, to "keep her head above water". Her wages slip showed £7 2s. 6d., but when her pension was added she had an Income Tax deduction of 18s. Her wage was reduced to £6 3s. 11d. and then her pension was reduced by £2 3s. 6d.

A widow living alone who has to try to keep her home going with all the expenses of gas, electricity, coal and rent has to go out to try to earn a little. It is monstrous that on a small wage such as this 18s. should be deducted for Income Tax and £2 3s. 6d. deducted from her pension. I support my hon. Friend the Member for Brixton wholeheartedly in asking that the same should be done for these widows as for the war widow and the industrial widow, that we should abolish the earnings rule and enable them to earn a living. The amount involved is not very great. The Minister has admitted that some thousands of 10s. widows are drawing National Assistance.

I hope that the Minister will be generous. We are speaking of a quite small section of the community—there are only about 85,000 of these people, and their numbers are diminishing. I hope that he will recognise that to be generous in this matter will be to relieve acute anxiety and agony of a kind felt by many of these women now. I am sure that the widows of Birmingham would be most grateful for any additional assistance that could be given to them. I ask the Minister not to reject this appeal. Even if he has to modify the proposal, or consider the whole matter again, I hope that he will be generous.

12.20 p.m.

Mr. Charles Curran (Uxbridge)

I support the Bill, and I congratulate the hon. Member for Brixton (Mr. Lipton), who has brought it before the House. I hope that my right hon. Friend will accept the suggestions that have been pressed on him from both sides of the House for a radical re-examination of our assumptions about the treatment of widows. The examples that have been given demonstrate that in our present society we treat widows on all sorts of conflicting assumptions.

The right hon. Member for Llanelly (Mr. J. Griffiths) has quite rightly said that when the post-war social services legislation was being enacted, those enacting it had very largely in their minds the conditions of the 1930s; that is to say, they proceeded on a set of assumptions that might have made sense in the years immediately after the war. Those assumptions are neither sacred nor immutable. They ought to be reviewed. I think that that is true over the whole range of our social services, but I shall restrict myself now to the post-war assumptions in respect of widows and widowed mothers. Those assumptions are in urgent need of radical overhaul.

We all remember that the Beveridge Report—and the Labour Government adopted its conclusions—said that widowhood as such ought not to create a claim to benefit; that the loss of a husband was not, in itself, something that should entitle a woman to a social service benefit—

Mr. J. Griffiths


Mr. Curran

Permanently, yes.

Beveridge said that when a woman lost her husband the assumption was that she should be in a position to support herself, unless she had small children, or her age was such that it would not be possible for her to get a footing in the labour market.

Although we make that assumption in respect of the widows who are covered by National Insurance, we do not, as has been pointed out, make any such assumption in respect of other kinds of widows. I know that there are bureaucratic, if I may use the word, and theoretical explanations for it. When a war widow is given a pension she gets it without any strings tied to it, and is perfectly free, if She likes, to earn as much as she can in the labour market. The stock defence for that is that the war widow's pension contains an element of compensation for the loss of her husband on active service.

Similarly, the industrial widow is given a pension without any strings attached to it, and may earn as much as she can. I suppose that the justification for that is that the industrial widow's pension replaces the provision in the old Workmen's Compensation Acts under which the widow had the right to go to court and obtain a lump sum for the loss of her husband. In replacing those Compensation Acts by post-war legislation we have, as it were, transferred to the industrial widow one of the benefits she received from pre-war legislation.

But although these distinctions can be justified by such arguments they just do not make any sense at all to the ordinary woman—none whatever. As my hon. Friend the Member for East Grinstead (Mrs. Emmet) said and hers is probably the experience of us all, it is completely impossible when dealing with widows of different categories to explain in any fashion that carries any conviction either the sense or the case for this discrimination.

I invite my right hon. Friend to agree that when we are running the Welfare State we should do so on a basis that seems fair and reasonable to ordinary men and women. At present the legislative assumptions on which we deal with widows seem to ordinary women to be completely irrational and absurd. I therefore invite my right hon. Friend to accept the suggestion that he should make a detailed survey of all these assumptions and rules about the payment of benefit to widows—no matter whether they are war widows, industrial widows, or what may be described as "natural-causes" widows. My right hon. Friend should consider whether it is not now practicable to iron out all these anomalies and to say that we shall not discriminate between one kind of widow and another.

I know that we now seek to run our society on the assumption of sex equality. It can be argued that since we do not pay pensions to widowers there is no reason to make provision for widows as such. But any such argument does not square with the observed facts of everyday life.

A letter I have received from a widow puts this far more effectively than I can. This widowed mother wrote to me after having read something I had written criticising the earnings rule. This is what she said: Do you really know what life is like as a widow of 35 with two young children? My husband died at 37. I have lost him. I have lost his protection and his income. I have also lost the expectations I had that he would get on in the world, earn a bigger salary, and provide for me and our children. Now I have to fend for myself, which I never expected to have to do. Sex equality? It does not exist A man can earn more than a woman, he can look after himself better than she can. I forgot to pay one instalment on my T.V. set and they came and took it away while I was out. Would they have done this if my husband had been in the house? She goes on: I cannot hope to do as much for my children as my husband would have been able to do if he had lived. I can keep going, and that is about all. Can't you knock it into the heads of the Pensions Ministry that a widow who has to bring up a family all by herself should not be handicapped by any artificial limit on her earning power? There are quite enough obstacles to her earning capacity as things are, without Whitehall inventing any more. That widow has put the matter in language that I fancy would receive the enthusiastic assent of most women. I do not believe that it is any good at all for the Minister to take refuge behind any of the stock defences, either for the earnings rule as it applies to widowed mothers, or for the discrimination we now make between one class of widow and another.

I hope, therefore, that my right hon. Friend, having listened to these appeals, will agree to set up a Departmental inquiry for the purpose of a radical review of all our assumptions about the treatment of widows.

12.30 p.m.

Mrs. Eirene White (Flint, East)

I rise not for the first time in the House to plead the cause of widows. There have been a number of occasions in the past few years which have demonstrated very clearly that opinion has changed since the time when my right hon. Friend the Member for Llanelly (Mr. J. Griffiths) introduced his legislation. As he has pointed out, conditions and the climate of opinion change as time goes on, and the gravamen of our argument against the Government is that they have been extraordinarily slow to recognise this change. Surely now, after the various attempts made in the past few years, the Government can be made to give a positive reply instead of a negative one.

I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Brixton (Mr. Upton) who introduced the Bill. I am sure that he would be the first to agree that he is not the first to have introduced a Measure for this purpose. My hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Exchange (Mr. W. Griffiths) on at least two occasions tried to bring a somewhat similar Bill before the House. The last one was talked out by an hon. Member opposite. Mrs. Jeger, a former Member, was also a most assiduous champion of this cause. The Government, therefore, have had ample opportunity to consider this problem, and more particularly that of the widowed mother.

As the hon. Lady the Member for East Grinstead (Mrs. Emmet) reminded us, this has been pressed upon the Government by women's organisations. I have never known another subject on which there has been such unanimity of opinion among women's organisations as there is on this subject.

Mr. J. Griffiths

Very unusual.

Mrs. White

I grant that it is unusual. I can speak for the National Council of Women in Wales, a federal organisation to which many women's organisations are affiliated. Again and again we have had representations on this question of the widowed mother. I propose to return to her position, but before doing so I should like to say something about the 10s. widow. We all recognise the historic basis for the position of these women. We know perfectly well that they have no soft of legalistic claim to any more than they have. The claim is based entirely on a humanitarian appeal in their case.

As my hon. Friend the Member for Brixton pointed out, they are diminishing in number and increasing in age. They are mostly elderly women by now, at any rate in their fifties, and of those who are still in their fifties I make the point that if they are to hope to have any sort of increase in their own income in later life they have to buy stamps for their own retirement pensions. What will happen to the woman who at the moment is not able to earn but is trying to carry on with such small means as she has and is trying to qualify for a retirement pension?

Under the new rate proposed in the White Paper the entire 10s. will go on the stamp. The stamp costs 8s. and a few pence now, but the whole of the 10s. for the unemployed person will go, while the woman who is in a job, modest though her earnings may be, will pay 9s. 8d. The woman who for reasons of health or some other reason is not able to go out to earn and is trying to subsist on her late husband's savings, which also are diminishing in value, will have to spend the entire 10s. on the stamp. Women feel bitterly about the fact that what they get from one counter in the post office has to be handed over on another counter to pay for the stamp.

We know that there is no other ground than humanity on which these woman make a claim on the community, but we have had talk from time to time about sharing prosperity. I grant that that talk does not now come quite so glibly from hon. Members opposite. There is a little less prosperity to share. Nevertheless, the community's prosperity has increased in the past few years and surely these women should have some slight share of that increase.

As my right hon. Friend the Member for Llanelly has reminded us, the rate was settled as long ago as 1936. To keep them on that rate now is surely repugnant to our sense of what is reasonable and decent. This is an appeal ad misericordiam. If they want anything greater when they reach the age of 60 they have to pay for it themselves. It is for this relatively small group of people in this position that we appeal and say that if they are entitled to anything at all we should have a sense of decency and make this modest increase, not even to keep pace with the fall in the value of money, but as a token payment to this group.

To turn to the other widows, on 26th November, on the position of widows and the earnings rule, which is the other substantial section of this Bill, the Minister said that that matter was "under review". I do not know what he meant by those words. Perhaps he will be able to tell us. I cannot suppose that he meant by that phrase what has been suggested in several quarters of the House, that is that the whole position of widows in relation to insurance and so on Should be considered in the broadest possible way from the point of view of social policy and not merely from the narrower considerations of the insurance system. Could the Minister please tell us what he meant then?

On the question of the widow who has no dependent children, it is argued from the Minister's point of view that a pension to such a widow is paid on the general assumption that she is not in any position to earn. In other words, she receives a pension on this basis only if she is of an age when it would be more difficult for her to earn a living. If she is a young widow without dependent children she of course gets nothing at all. It seems to me that we have already done the discounting for this widow and therefore if a widow is in the category of those over 50 but nevertheless able to earn we should give her the benefit of the doubt. Where is the real issue of public policy in deducting according to her earnings? If she is able to earn at an age when, by definition, it would be more difficult for her, surely we should welcome it and not try to discourage her.

I cannot see the basis in public policy for telling her that she is not allowed to have her pension, for which, after all, her husband paid contributions. This is what I find in the minds of many widows. They say, "You call it an insurance. Contributions are paid and the eventuality against which one is insured happens. That is what would be said in any private insurance scheme". I know that the Minister does not accept this as a complete analogy but I am saying that this is what is in the minds of many women. They say, "One of the elements for which my husband paid his contribution was precisely that if I were left a widow something should come to me out of the fund" We understand there are limitations of age and so on but, having met those conditions, surely this should be a pension as of right and should not be subject to limitations.

Mr. R. Gresham Cooke (Twickenham)

I do not know whether the hon. Lady has pointed out to the widows the unfortunate fact that contributions paid by widows' husbands during their lifetime have built up a fund which is sufficient only to pay a small part of the pension. The rest of the pension comes from the ordinary taxpayer. That is the difficulty in which the widow is placed when she says, "This pension has been earned by insurance." That is not in fact true.

Mrs. White

I take the point. In fact, I have already said that I appreciate that this is not a complete analogy. On the other hand, are we going to say that there is no force at all in the argument that some of the benefits for other purposes also are not met fully out of contributions? We have accepted as a national principle that part of the money for these other various benefits also comes out of taxation. We have said that this is the way in which we in this country choose to meet these liabilities. Of course, we know very well that if we should go into the Common Market we might find that the whole system would be changed, because the basis on which some other countries deal with pensions is quite different, but we have accepted the principle of the tripartite contribution and the fact that part of these benefits, not only for widows but for others, should be met out of taxation as well.

I cannot see any strong force in the hon. Gentleman's argument if we recognise that widowhood at a relatively late age is a misfortune which is covered by these provisions. I cannot see any argument for telling this type of widow that if she earns more than a certain amount her pension should be reduced. The anomaly has been pointed out by many other speakers. It is only the widow from natural causes, as she is often called, who has to suffer these deductions. There are other widows in similar circumstances in every other respect who are able to earn without any limitation whatsoever.

When we are dealing with the widowed mother, it seems to me that every argument we might use for the other type of widow is strongly reinforced on grounds of public policy. I have argued this before and I cannot understand how the Ministry should fail to appreciate the point. There is a different earnings limit for the widowed mother. The Government, therefore, admit in theory and in practice that the widowed mother is in a particularly difficult position.

I am always happy to recall that the first differentiation in favour of the widowed mother was made in response to an Amendment moved by myself when Baroness Summerskill was at the Ministry. As I pointed out then, and as I have said to various Ministers since, the widowed mother has to look after children and it is obviously in the public interest that she should earn the maximum amount in the shortest possible time. Therefore, anything we do to diminish her income, which means that she has less to live upon and with which to look after her children, or else that she has to work longer in order to earn the same amount, is against public policy. It is stupid not to recognise this fact.

If a mother has children to look after and if she feels that in order to look after them properly she should leave home and go out to work, what is the sense in making it more difficult for her to earn the maximum amount in the shortest possible time, and in saying, "If you are capable of earning so much we are going to dock it from your pension"? Instead of doing a part-time job she then has to work full-time in order to earn the equivalent amount. What is the sense in this?

The hon. Lady the Joint Parliamentary Secretary is looking puzzled, but it is perfectly clear. If we are going to dock part of the pension if the widow's earnings reach a point beyond the earnings limit, and she wants the equivalent income, obviously she has to work longer in order to get the equivalent income. Therefore, the amount of time that she has to devote to her children is diminished. I cannot see how anyone can fail to appreciate the logic of this argument.

The very least we expect from the Minister today is that he will meet this point about the widowed mother. It has already been recognised in principle over a number of years. Why keep this irritating limit? It does not affect a great many people but, after all, they all have children and any children who are in this position are at a disadvantage. Why should we, through some mistaken adherence to past practice, fail to raise this limit ion the earning powers of widows who have children to support?

As I understand it, the number of widowed mothers who have some reduction made is about 21,000 and, according to the figures which were given last November, there are only about 400 whose pension is completely wiped out. Therefore, the numbers concerned are small. The amount of money involved is infinitesimal in relation to the total expenditure on our various insurance benefits. Yet the number of children involved, even if they are only a few hundred or a few thousand, should surely appeal to the good sense of this House. Why make the lives of these children more difficult and more restricted than they might otherwise be, simply by some mistaken notion of consistency? I repeat, we have already recognised that they are in a different category. Why, then, cling to this remnant of the earnings rule? The argument has been put from so many quarters so frequently that we have at least a right to expect that on this point the Minister will give us a positive assurance today.

12.48 p.m.

Mr. Frederick Gough (Horsham)

I remind myself that just over 50 years ago my mother was widowed when she was just under 40 and she was left with two small boys. One of them still survives today. Therefore, I know what I am talking about when I speak of the struggle that a widow has to make to live and bring up her children.

My mother was the widow of an Indian Army colonel, so that in a sense she was better off than many widows, but in one respect at least she suffered what every widow suffers. In comparison with what she had before her husband died, she suffered a tremendous loss in money terms and she also suffered what was so well described by the hon. Member for Birmingham, Ladywood (Mr. V. Yates)—that terrible sense of loss and feeling of being left alone in the world with her children to bring up.

On that score, I congratulate the hon. Member for Brixton (Mr. Lipton), Who is not in the Chamber at the moment but who has been here during most of the debate, on having introduced the Bill. I have only one point to put to him. I believe that it would be a better approach to adopt the suggestion made by practically every speaker on both sides, the suggestion put initially by my hon. Friend the Member for Tynemouth (Dame Irene Ward), that there should be an inquiry into the whole matter.

There are many anomalies. My hon. Friend the Member for Uxbridge (Mr. Curran) referred to the war widow. I think that I can explain why, in a sense, the war widow has slightly better benefits in some ways. I think that it is that the pension of the war widow is looked at directly after the war, when there is—I say this as an ex-Service man—a great deal of glamour about her position and a great deal of sympathy for her, and rightly so.

Today, however—I am sure that no war widow will mind my saying it—we are eighteen years from the last war. There have been few war widows since then, apart from some from the Korean War, and so on, and during this period the children of the war widows have grown up. I am convinced that there should no longer be any difference or anomaly between that category and other categories of widows.

The only possible criticism I have of the Bill on that basis is that it merely continues an anomaly. It makes the anomaly not quite so bad, but it still continues it. It increases certain benefits, but it does not deal with all widows together.

My right hon. Friend must have sensed, as I have, in listening to the debate so far, that there is on both sides of the House a real feeling that the widows of our country are at the moment not getting fair treatment and not getting full and generous treatment. There are not receiving their fair share of the cake, and there are different slices of the cake for different categories of widow. This is why I am very grateful to the hon. Member for Brixton for bringing this matter to our attention. In many ways, I wish that this were a Motion rather than a Bill because, frankly, I feel that, if we gave the Bill a Second Reading—which we might have to do if my right hon. Friend does not give us a sufficient assurance—the Bill might not achieve the object which I have and which, I believe, all hon. Members on both sides have.

I ask my right hon. Friend to follow the advice started by my hon. Friend the Member for Tynemouth, repeated, I think, by every hon. Member, and recognise that the House demands that the whole case of widows should be looked at, that we should as a nation be more generous to all widows, and that we should treat them with the equity which they do not receive at present.

12.52 p.m.

Dr. Horace King (Southampton, Itchen)

As one who has constantly raised in the House during the past ten years the subject of widows and their problems, I am singularly happy to note the unanimity which has been so far expressed in the debate. I would say to the hon. Gentleman the Member for Horsham (Mr. Gough) that the two propositions he had in mind are not mutually exclusive. There is no reason why we should not have both the inquiry for which the hon. Lady the Member for Tynemouth (Dame Irene Ward) asked and this Bill. There is no reason why, pending a decision to deal with other even greater anomalies than would be put right by the Bill, we should not deal with some of them now.

Mr. Gough

I should not like it to be thought that I am against the Bill. I should not like it to be thought that I do not want these benefits to be increased. I certainly do. However, I feel that, if we were to allow the Bill to go through, there might be an excuse—I do not say that this applies to my right hon. Friend, but it might apply to the bureaucracy to which someone referred—for saying that something had been done for widows and they must now go to the end of the queue.

Dr. King

I take the opposite view, that we should make any minor reform we can on the way to greater reform. My experience in Parliament has been that the Treasury's excuse for not putting one wrong right is that another wrong exists, and, sheltering behind that argument, the Treasury sees to it that neither wrong is put right. I think that we should deal with these two particular anomalies pending the result of an inquiry.

From my knowledge of the feelings of widows' groups throughout the country, I can say that all the widows of Britain are grateful to my hon. Friend the Member for Brixton (Mr. Lipton) for using his opportunity in the Ballot to introduce the Bill. I congratulate him on the eloquent and factual way in which he presented the case for it. The House will remember that, last October, I presented a petition from about 30,000 widows which asked, among other things, for the abolition of the earnings rule and for the problem of the 10s. widow to be dealt with.

I have always argued that the one great gap in our Welfare State is in the provision we make for widowhood. I am the first to admit, and I always do, the tremendous improvements which have taken place in the past ten years, the outstanding work of the present Minister's predecessor, and, especially, what has been done for widowed mothers and the children of widows. I welcome wholeheartedly the improvements to be made by the Bill which the Minister announced to the House this week. But I consider that even now, even in regard to the categories dealt with by the Minister's Bill, we do not go far enough.

To look at the matter in a little detail for a few moments, I go back to the time when my right hon. Friend the Member for Llanelly (Mr. J. Griffiths) introduced his great National Insurance Scheme. We are always very happy to hear my right hon. Friend speaking on his favourite topic. We regard him as one of the great architects of the Welfare State, and it is a great joy to us to hear him take part in this debate.

When my right hon. Friend established the National Insurance Scheme, one of the principles embodied in it was that of insurance. The citizen paid contributions and, therefore, could argue that the benefits he received were as of right. There was an argument among us about whether that was the right way to deal with it, but Beveridge, the trade union movement and the Labour Government all insisted that this was the correct way of approach towards a Welfare State. I confess that few of us imagined that the contributory element, the poll tax element, in the insurance scheme would reach the fantastic and, I believe, unjust heights which it has reached today.

The corollary of the insurance principle was that those who had not paid in long enough to qualify for insurance benefits were deprived of those benefits. It is that principle which produces the two groups of aged widows whose problems we are considering now. Both groups had husbands who died before 1948. If the late husband had paid into Lloyd George's National Health Insurance scheme, there was a guaranteed flat-rate widow's pension of 10s. a week. With all respect to my right hon. Friend the Member for Llanelly, no Government could have dared to take that away. It is a reserved right, but it is a right.

What Governments since then seem to have insisted on is that this reserved right was an anomaly, that there was some kind of charity in it, that the widows were lucky to get their 10s. and, therefore, that it should remain in the least anomalous form possible and not be tampered with in any way, although its value has shrunk year by year, especially if measured against its value in the year when it was fixed, that is, 1936.

Thus, this group of ageing widows receives 10s. a week for which the husbands paid in year by year under the old National Health Insurance scheme in good and valuable money compared with money today. I believe that, as of right, not charity, this pension might at any time during the past ten years have been restored at least to its original value. Clause 1 of the Bill deals very rough and inadequate justice to the 10s. widow by doubling the 10s. It is not enough, but it is something.

The second group of pre-1948 widows is even worse off. These are the "no-shilling" widows. To speak of the 10s. widow may sound dramatic and picturesque, but we must not forget that there are also the no-shilling widows. For one reason or another their husbands were ineligible to contribute under the old National Health Insurance so that there was no residuary benefit for them, and, like the 10s. widow, they cannot draw National Insurance benefit. The time has come to get rid of both anomalies

Again and again—we saw it in December in the debate on Service men's pensions—we have two groups of widows receiving different treatment for chronological reasons, for accidental reasons, not even according to the age of the widow, but according to the age of the husband who died. Some years ago, we fought and won the battle of the pre-Oaksey Report police widows. We have not yet won the battle of the two kinds of Service pension widows who get, as the House learned at Question Time this week, a fantastically different rate of pension according to the year in which their husband died.

The Bill tackles only a fragment of the problem of the widow whose husband died before 1948 or widows in other groups whose husbands died before certain enactments were made. The double group is fairly old and, in the nature of things, rapidly diminishing. I believe that the Government would be mean if they did not accept Clause 1.

The second great injustice of widows lies in the treatment of widowhood itself. We have always said, quite rightly I think, that the State could not afford to look after a very young widow for the whole of her life. It has, therefore, fixed the age at 50, and that is applied rigidly, as I hope to show. I have taken up case after case of the widow who is just under 50—who is even 49 years 11 months and 3 weeks, but because she is seven days out—

Mr. J. Griffiths

When was the limit put up? I thought that the age was 40. Someone must have increased it to 50 years afterwards.

Dr. King

It was increased. Even if the proposed inquiry does not consider whether 50 is the appropriate age—there is an argument for some new limit, between 40 and 50 years of age being fixed—the inquiry might consider the possibility of flexibility being applied to the 50 years of age rule so that widows who are just outside it and for whom a human case can be made out might qualify. I do not blame the present administrators of the law. The law is the law and it must be carried out, but I believe that there is room for flexibility. I hope that one of the things that the inquiry into widowhood will consider is whether we were right in fixing the limit at 50 years of age, and whether any limit ought to be a flexible one.

The third reform is contained in Clause 2. This seeks to abolish the earnings rule. The Minister has gone quite a long way this week towards this Clause. Indeed, he has gone so far that no argument of principle remains. He has stepped up the amount which a widow can earn without losing her pension. He has allowed a residuary amount of pension which is hers as of right no matter what she earns. The fact that he has gone so far in that direction rendered pointless the interruption which he made in the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Brixton when he asked how the Bill would help widows who do not earn money. Almost two-thirds of what my hon. Friend is seeking in Clause 2 has been conceded.

This Clause will help some widows. It will help those who can help themselves. Incidentally, while we take note of the money which a widow earns, we take no note of the money which a widow does not earn. If a widow is wealthy and is in possession of unearned money, that is not taken into account in any way when fixing her pension. This principle surely cannot be defended any longer.

However, Clause 2 does not help a very large group of widows. The widowed mother with three young children cannot go out to earn a living or even part of a living. I agree with what the hon. Lady the Member for Tynemouth said. I should dearly like to think that this is a country in which the mother who is looking after three children is regarded as a woman doing a full-time job, the most honourable job that any woman can do.

Ageing widows find it difficult to get a job of any sort. I have often said that the job that they get is one that no one else wants unless they are fortunate enough to have entered married life with a profession or trade. The widowed doctor can go back to medicine—indeed, she rarely leaves it. The widowed teacher can go back to teaching. The country is eager to employ her. But many an ageing or middle-aged widow, after having given the best of herself to the great task of bringing up a family, has no career to go back to. She cannot compete with attractive young girls for the more attractive jobs.

This is a problem which I hope some day Britain will address itself to. A number of part-time jobs which could be filled by widows and widowed mothers are at present occupied by married women whose husbands already earn enough to keep the home going and who have not the same dire need as widows. I should like all employers to give sympathetic consideration to the possibility of certain jobs being given to the women whom we are considering today, just as I hope that we shall one day reserve certain light jobs for disabled people.

The widow who has no children or whose children are grown up, if she was widowed before 1948 or is under 50 when her husband dies, gets nothing, or the notorious 10s. pension. She has to earn a living and has to pay for her insurance stamps to qualify for the other National Insurance benefits.

The petition which I presented to the House last October asked for three things chiefly: the abolition of the earnings rule, which the Bill proposes; pension for the widowed mother to continue after her children have grown up, whether she is under 50 or not—the Bill does nothing about that and it is something which the proposed inquiry could look into; and a fair pension for the 10s. widow and no-shilling widow. We will take a tiny step towards the last demand if we give a Second Reading to the Bill today.

I believe that we still have to deal much more fairly with the problem of widowhood itself. I was deeply moved by the remarks of the hon. Member for Horsham and of the hon. Lady the Member for East Grinstead (Mrs. Emmet), who spoke from her own personal experience. Whatever the previous circumstances of a woman, when she loses her husband, in addition to the terrible human loss, she suffers a sudden economic loss. The House has witnessed during the last few days a very poignant example of that. For many widows, this loss is catastrophic. A husband may have ailed a long time before his death. This is a quite frequent occurrence.

I have often instanced in the House the cases of widows of Service men who were 100 per cent. disabled and who were nursed by their wives for many years before they died prematurely and their widows did not get a widow's pension. If the death follows a long illness the woman faces widowhood without the will, energy and ability often to earn a decent living. Her chances are very small.

I noted with real pleasure that the British Medical Association, at its last conference at Torquay, asked for the abolition of the earnings rule. It used intemperate language for doctors and called the earnings rule in respect of widows the invention of a computer-minded Treasury Scrooge". I have said some hard things about the Treasury, but I do not speak as hardly as that.

I would put before the House one or two simple cases from hundreds which I have received from up and down the country. Here is one: My husband died 15 days before my 50th birthday. My son had just taken up his scholarship at Cambridge. I was awaiting an operation. After 13 weeks my widow's benefit ceased, and since I could not live on 10s. a week"— she was a 10s. widow— I had to take a job, though I was by now 50 years of age. The strain of shouldering all the responsibilities my husband had previously borne, in addition to a job which took me away from home from 8 a.m. to 6.30 p.m., proved too much. My weight dropped to 6 stone, and I finally suffered a nervous breakdown. I feel that had I not been forced to take a job so soon after my bereavement I would now be perfectly fit. It seems quite iniquitous that a matter of 15 days should prevent my having the widow's pension I would have received had my husband died after my 50th birthday. A widow's pension at the age of 50 with no earnings rule would have enabled me to take a useful place in society and to have been spared four years as an invalid. I will quote from another letter which I received from a lady who writes on behalf of a neighbour, a widow. Incidentally, I wish that more people would write to hon. Members about other people, as distinct from writing about themselves. She tells about the widow next door. Her husband fought in the 1914–19 war and was a warden in the Second World War. He was wounded in both wars. He died in 1942. This widow, like many of the anomalous widows, had been married to an older man. She was left at the age of 37 with a child. She lost her home in the blitz. Since then, the neighbour writes: She has had a succession of more-than-very-hard jobs, and in her case, as I well know, her position in life has been thoroughly taken advantage of. Now, at the age of 57 years, she is still working an 11-hour day. She feels she cannot go on much longer". This is a 10s. widow who will get an extra 10s. if the House passes the Bill.

Others of my friends in the widows' movement have called my attention to another series of anomalies. For example, there are two widows working side by side in the same factory; one was 47 when she was widowed and the other was 50. The husband of the former had paid 13 years' more contributions for National Insurance than had the husband of the latter, and yet the second widow draws a widow's pension and the first does not. As I have said, many of the hard cases are cases in which there has been a disparity of ten to fifteen years between the wife and her late husband.

I am delighted that lady hon. Members are taking part in the debate, for I think that women can speak of this much better and in a more understanding way than can men. I will end what I have to say with a quotation from Katherine Whitehorn, who wrote in the Spectator of 23rd March, 1962, a very sympathetic and understanding article on the plight of widows. This goes to the heart of the matter. She said: They all thought people tended to give the widow an intolerable amount of attention to begin with, and then forgot all about her during the long, slow drag back to normal life". That is the heart of my criticism about what we do after the 13 weeks; we say that the widow shall have 13 weeks benefit in any case, whatever her age, to tide her over bereavement. After that, we say, let her fend for herself if she belongs to these anomalous categories.

Katherine Whitehorn writes: Thousands of women are absolutely unskilled, and can earn only a few pounds at best. … It is at far lower levels that the thing is heartbreaking; women to whom even working a telephone switchboard, having any qualification at all in home nursing … would mean the difference between skilled and unskilled labour. Of course some widows can and do train, but for those with small children or no interim money this is impossible. It is this group of widows, especially the widow between the ages of 40 and 50, especially the widow who has brought up her children and is still under the qualifying age, which causes me most distress. I believe that the time has come for a full inquiry into the problems of widowhood, into the question whether we are doing enough for them and into the anomalies of the present position, and I welcome the Bill as a step forward in that direction.

1.15 p.m.

Sir Peter Roberts (Sheffield, Heeley)

I, too, should like to tell the hon. Member for Brixton (Mr. Lipton) that we are grateful to him for raising this subject in this way and that we appreciate that he brings it forward in this way because of the form of the procedure of the House. I shall have more to say about the form of the Bill later, and I should like some advice and guidance about it.

First, may I deal with the grave problem which has been raised by the hon. Member for Southampton, Itchen (Dr. King) concerning the principles which we want to adopt. In the early part of his speech, when he was referring movingly to the work of the right hon. Member for Llanelly (Mr. J. Griffiths) in this matter, he touched upon this fundamental difference which has been argued in the House for many years: whether a pension should be looked upon as a form of contractual right or, as he movingly put it at the end of his speech, whether it should be taken out of the contractual obligations and dealt with much more as a question of emotional need. This is a fundamental issue which has been debated in the House for as long as I have been here, which is 17 years, and it was going on before that.

When we consider, first of all, the problem not so much of the hardship cases as of those people who contribute—and contribute more and more as we go along—there is a feeling that we should retain a contractual right and obligation. One of the difficulties which I have always had in trying to face up to this difficult problem of the 10s. widow's pension, is that in the beginning there was a contractual obligation. People knew what they would get, for good or for ill. They accepted something, and thereafter knew what they would receive. Once we start to move away from that principle and to say that the contractual obligation is all right in one instance but if things go wrong it will be altered, we begin to strike at the whole basis of pension schemes which Governments of both parties have tried to introduce.

The hon. Member for Itchen began by saying that he realised that this was an anomaly which could be reconsidered and adjusted, and yet he said that he would support the Bill, which only continues the anomaly. There is a slight improvement but the principle of the anomaly remains with us.

Knowing what is in the mind of the hon. Member for Brixton and that he is trying to alleviate a position which none of us likes, I nevertheless suggest that merely to substitute 20s. for 10s. does not fundamentally assist us in the problem of contractual obligations. This is an argument which both Governments, Conservative and Labour, have considered. In the long run, looking at the whole problem of insurance and widows' benefits, we have to take the view that we cannot compensate through the law for death. There can be compensation by insurance, and when we talk about the hard cases we must bear in mind that it was possible for some of those husbands when they were alive to take out death benefit policies. In many cases people do and they have to forgo in their lifetime the money they pay in premiums for benefits purely for their widows.

Those who do that get some benefit out of the payments made from the insurance funds—private insurance funds I am talking about now—and, of course, out of State insurance funds. It is very difficult in arguments of this kind, when hard cases are quoted, to realise that, if we legislate for hard cases, we are to some extent penalising those who may be more thrifty, or more thoughtful, or who look after themselves in their own way, if they are able to do so; and so avoid the difficulties we have heard about this morning.

Let me give one example from Sheffield, although it is an example from a different subject. We have had gale damage in Sheffield. Both the local council, which is run by the Labour majority, and the Conservative Govern- ment have said, "We cannot assist privately-owned houses which have been damaged by the gale because you could have insured if you wanted to. We cannot differentiate between those who have insured and those who have not."

The same principle of insurance applies here with widows' pensions. Though we are most sympathetic about cases which come before us we must bear in mind that there is a great advantage in having a contractual obligation which people know and can understand.

Mr. Lipton

The hon. Gentleman may have come across this kind of case—where an insured male contributor who is still contributing—he may be still in work—just does not know that his widow will get only 10s. a week. I am sure that in those circumstances the Ministry is under some obligation to let those insured contributors who are paying insurance know in advance that upon their decease their widows will be getting 10s. only. Quite a number of people believe that their widows will get the full rate of pension.

Sir P. Roberts

Yes, I would agree with the hon. Gentleman there. I do not know what steps are taken now, but I have no doubt that the hon. Lady the Joint Parliamentary Secretary will hear what we are saying and I am sure that if the Ministry itself can help in any way by sending round some notice of the kind it might be helpful.

Let me turn to the next point which really does rather worry me about the Bill itself. We are, after all, being asked to decide whether the Bill should have a Second Reading. My difficulty is this. Clause 1 refers to the National Insurance (Pensions, Existing Beneficiaries and Other Persons) (Transitional) Regulations, 1948, and it says that the 10s. pension Shall be increased.

I have looked very carefully at those Regulations, signed by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Llanelly, and I should be obliged if my hon. Friend could point out to me where in those Regulations this reference comes. I have read them through with a good deal of care. I may have missed it, but I find it extremely difficult to find in the Regulations or the Schedule or even the Explanatory Note how the hon. Gentleman the Member for Brixton will be able by this Bill to amend those Regulations as he wants to, by increasing the 10s. pension to 20s.

I have no doubt he has looked at them very carefully and I really am only asking for an explanation about this. I would not dream of suggesting that the wording of the Clause is not right, but, merely looking at it as it stands, and having looked up the Regulations, I do not see how, if this Bill were passed, the Clause would have any effect in doing what the hon. Gentleman wants. I should be grateful to have any explanation I can get from any hon. Member in the House. I think it is fundamental for hon. Members—anyway it is for me—to understand how Clause 1 of the Bill will operate. There is no reference in the Regulations, not even in paragraph 6 or paragraph 7, or in the Schedule, to the 10s. widows. I do not want to labour this point any further, but it seems fundamental to our discussion upon a Bill Clause 1 of which deals with altering the 10s. to 20s. I cannot find this reference, and in these circumstances all I am saying, with the best will in the world, is that Clause 1 would mean nothing. It may well have to refer back, if the hon. Gentleman wishes, to earlier legislation where the actual figure of 10s. arises. I should be most grateful for any explanation.

Mr. Douglas Houghton (Sowerby)

I will try to assist the hon. Gentleman and I would draw his attention to the fact that on 24th November, 1960, my hon. Friend the Member for Southampton, Itchen (Dr. King) moved an Amendment to a Bill then before the House to increase the Widow's basic pension payable by virtue of the National Insurance (Pensions, Existing Beneficiaries and Other Persons) (Transitional) Regulations, 1948. It is reported in column 1411 of the OFFICIAL REPORT of that date. Then on 13th December, 1961, I moved a new Clause to another Bill then before the House, and the new Clause said: A widow's basic pension payable by virtue of the National Insurance (Pensions, Existing Beneficiaries and Other Persons) (Transitional) Regulations, 1948, shall be increased to twenty shillings weekly."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 13th December, 1961; Vol. 651, c. 454.] In neither case was it suggested that either the Amendment or the new Clause failed to achieve the purpose for which either was put down.

Sir P. Roberts

I am very grateful, but I am afraid that I am not really convinced. I have the Regulations before me. They may not have been challenged before. I do not want to make any facetious point on this, but it does seem fundamental, and since we have bad reference to the Regulations on two previous occasions I have no doubt that at some time somebody looked them up. All I am saying is that although, no doubt, the ambit of the Bill we have before us is covered by the Regulations there is no reference to the 10s. and we are being asked here to increase the 10s. to £1. With the greatest respect to the hon. Gentleman, I am not able to accept without further explanation, which, no doubt, we shall get later on this afternoon, that Clause 1 will do what the hon. Gentleman wishes to be done.

Mr. Norman Dodds (Erith and Crayford)

As this is so important and as the hon. Member will not accept what my hon. Friend has said and is not a bit impressed by it, may I ask the hon. Member, does he not think it rather strange that, having had this brought up before in the House, the then Minister of Pensions and National Insurance on those occasions did not bring forward the very points the hon. Member is bringing forward now? Surely this would be elementary. Does the hon. Member think he is putting something the Minister knows nothing about?

Sir P. Roberts

I cannot speak of that. I am speaking for myself. I read the Bill with interest. I have gone to the Regulations. I have read through the Regulations, and I cannot find any reference which ties up with the wording of Clause 1 of the Bill. I may be entirely wrong and we may have an answer from the Government, but I cannot accept the answer of the hon. Gentleman. The fact that he mentions that this has been before the House twice before is not finally conclusive.

Mr. Houghton

Will the hon. Gentleman assist the House in this way? If in fact my hon. Friend's Bill does what he believes it does and what we hope it does, will the hon. Gentleman then support it? If he tells us that we shall then know where we are.

Mr. Dodds

Does the hon. Gentleman want it?

Sir P. Roberts

I am not at this stage supporting this Bill, no. I am giving arguments to the House why I am not supporting the Bill at this moment. I was giving my second argument for saying I cannot support the Bill. It is in any event, I think, badly drafted, but far be it from me—

Mr. Dodds

Does the hon. Gentleman support the principle?

Sir P. Roberts

No. I am not supporting the principle. I am in the middle of making a speech, if the hon. Gentleman will allow me, to say why I am not. What I am saying at this stage is that one cannot ask Members of this House, whether they agree with the principle or not, to support a Bill of which Clause I, as far as I can see is fundamentally wrongly drafted. Subject to any explanation one gets, and an explanation in more detail, this Clause will not as it stands do the things which the hon. Gentleman wishes to do.

The second point which worries me is one also raised by the hon. Member for Itchen. His solution is a much wider one, and is understandable and logical. But the Bill is not understandable. It has been said that if we did something for the 10s. widow by raising the amount to 20s. we should still have the anomaly of some widows having nothing. I suppose the hon. Member would argue that something is better than nothing and that we should go step by step. Even so, the Government would be unwise to recommend the House to accept a Bill which is not comprehensive in that form. Merely to increase the anomaly between those who have nothing and those who get 20s. is not an argument which appeals to me.

There is a third and wider argument. I do not want to go beyond the scope of the Bill, but in 1957 the Government took action to help certain widows to obtain sickness and unemployment benefit which they had not previously been able to do. This raises another anomaly in respect of spinsters. Once we start in this field, we shall have the most moving speeches about the next group of people who will be affected. Years ago I made long speeches about the rights of spinsters. One must bear in mind the question of the differentials between various classes.

I should like my right hon. Friend to give me some assistance about the Government's proposals in this matter. No doubt we shall hear later on what the Government are thinking and proposing particularly with regard to the problem of the earnings rule. Here I leave the question of the 10s. widow and turn to the earnings rule.

I understand that there are draft earnings regulations before the National Insurance Advisory Committee now. I understand that there are policies which have been announced to that Committee by the Government and my right hon. Friend about what we want to do with regard to the earnings rule. I am advised that there is a suggestion that the earnings limit for widows should be raised from £3 10s. to £4 5s. per week and that for widowed mothers from £5 to £6 a week. If it were also to be suggested that these earnings should be net earnings—after deducting reasonable expenses and Pay-As-You-Earn—that would be a very big advantage. If my right hon. Friend can tell us what the Government's proposals about the earnings rule are—admittedly, there are only draft regulations before the Advisory Committee at the moment—this should go a long way to satisfy some hon. Members that the action being taken by the Government, although not going as far as the hon. Member for Brixton wishes, is moving in the right direction.

There is also the new legislation referred to by the hon. Member for Birmingham, Ladywood (Mr. V. Yates)—he used the words "very generous legislation" with regard to the National Insurance scheme. So we are moving in this field. The Government are fully seized of the problem.

I believe that the timing of this Bill for debate is very appropriate, and I thank the hon. Member for Brixton for bringing it forward at the present time. However, the form of legislation that he proposes is not appropriate. It would be far better for the Government to do this—and I appreciate that one of his objects is to get the Government to do it. I cannot think that a problem so wide and complex and full of such high principles as this can be dealt with by means of a Private Member's Bill. It would be far better first to see what the Government's proposals are. Leaving aside the question of the wording of the Bill, I cannot support the Measure in its present form, and would much prefer to hear what the Government have to say on the matter.

1.35 p.m.

Mr. Emlyn Hooson (Montgomery)

I disagree very much with what the hon. Member for Sheffield, Heeley (Sir Peter Roberts) has said. Dealing, first, with the point about the penalisation of those who have been thrifty, he mentioned husbands who save during their lives and invest in insurance and said that by increasing the benefits to those who have not so done one penalises those who have been thrifty. This is the classical argument against the Welfare State. In relation to the very modest proposals in the Bill, I find it very difficult to believe that the hon. Member would have support for that argument from either side of the House.

Reference has been made on both sides to the need for an inquiry generally into the pensions position and for rationalisation. I agree that there is a pressing need for this, but it should not blind us to the fact that no investigation is needed to realise the great hardship in one case and the glaring injustice in the other which this short Bill seeks to remedy. One of the great merits of the Bill is that it deals with two short and straightforward points, and I add my congratulations to those tendered to the hon. Member for Brixton (Mr. Lipton) on bringing the Bill forward.

There is obviously a glaring hardship in regard to the 10s. pension, and the Bill seeks to alleviate it. If the hon. Member for Heeley is suggesting that in Clause 1 the question of principle is not dealt with, I agree with him, but surely that is no reason for voting against the Bill. In the second Clause we are dealing with a question of principle. There the Bill seeks to remedy the glaring injustice which is felt by all women's organisations and is increasingly felt by the male section of the community.

I go back to the point of principle which has been made. It is important as far as possible to relate all social legislation to principle. First, I should have thought that it was now accepted on both sides of the House and in the country that the basis of benefit under our social legislation is welfare; that is, there is an assessment of need made by the Government in accordance with Acts passed by Parliament. The Government and Parliament decide what the contribution should be, and the Government and Parliament decide what the pension should be. Nevertheless, it is not an insurance scheme as such. It is true that there is a contribution, but the basis of it is that the State has accepted responsibility to meet certain immediate needs which are assessed by the Government.

In the light of this principle I find it impossible to justify the continuation of distinctions between classes of widows on a straight State pension. I have said this in relation to Service pensions. I see no justification for discrimination between widows who happen to have been married before 5th July, 1948, and also come under the old Act, and those who married subsequently and come under a later Act.

Does a widow who was married before 5th July, 1948, eat less? Does she need less clothing? Are her needs less than those of a widow who has been provided for under the second Act? What is the justification for this anomaly seventeen and a half years after the war? Surely there is need to review the position? In the meantime, one thing we can do is to give this very modest increase.

In 1961, the Conservative Party's Research Department published a pamphlet called "Ten Years' Work". Under the heading "Sharing Prosperity" it quoted from the Conservative General Election manifesto of 1959, which said that pensions would … continue to share in the good things which a steadily expanding economy will bring. Under the heading "Widows and Widowed Mothers", it said: Specially favourable conditions for widows to draw unemployment and sickness benefit (the 'flying start' introduced in January, 1957) and the reduction in the length of marriage qualification (August, 1956) greatly extended the cover available, and also removed the remaining causes of real hardship for the dwindling number of '10s. widows'. That is the only reference to the 10s. widows in that document about sharing prosperity. I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman will agree in retrospect that this statement, as a statement of fact, is simply not true. On both sides of the House we have received letters and know of 10s. widows who are suffering very real hardship. Something must be done urgently to alleviate their position.

Then there is Clause 2 of the Bill, in which a question of principle is directly involved. The earnings rule is an anomaly in respect of widows and widowed mothers. A policeman with a pension who takes on a job, as most policemen do when they retire, does not have his pension docked in consequence. A schoolteacher on pension who has a job does not get his pension docked either. An industrial widow with a widow's pension who takes a job does not have her pension docked. A Service widow is in the same position. What possible justification can the right hon. Gentleman therefore give for the continuation of the earnings rule in relation to ordinary widows?

When I went into our legislation on this subject I was very interested to read the speech of the right hon. Member for Llanelly (Mr. J. Griffiths) on the Second Reading of the National Insurance Act, 1946. I had great pleasure in reading it. I am sorry that he is not present at the moment. Clearly, it was a very great Parliamentary occasion and a very fine speech. I was particularly interested to read what he said about the earnings limit for widows. He said: Finally, there will be a widow's pension of 26s. instead of 20s. as proposed in the White Paper. I should point out, because this principle runs through the scheme, that the widowed mother's allowance and the widow's pension will be reduced if the widow earns more than 20s. weekly. These benefits will ultimately replace the existing provision of 10s. pensions for widows."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 6th February, 1946; Vol. 418, c. 1747.] My only quarrel with that statement would be that the right hon. Gentleman was lifting an arbitrary rule to the status of a principle. Suffice it to say that having once been introduced it remains seemingly for ever. It is interesting to note that during the Second Reading debate, in 1946, no reference was made to this from either side. It was simply accepted. Quite clearly, it was imported from the Beveridge recommendations. From neither side of the House was it even discussed.

One of the difficulties about social legislation is that it has grown up piecemeal and is difficult to rationalise thereafter. I think that most hon. Members would agree with the right hon. Member for Llanelly that it must be the dream of any Minister of Pensions and National Insurance to be able to start from scratch. That is impossible, but what is possible is surely to remedy the glaring injustices.

The fact that an inquiry is needed into the widows' pension position and that it would be far better to have a complete investigation to see what can be done to do away with anomalies and injustices, is no excuse for not remedying an injustice which we know about, and thus alleviating a hardship of which we are all aware. That is all that this Bill asks for and if it is pressed to a Division, as I hope it will be, I will certainly be entirely in favour of it.

1.45 p.m.

Mr. R. J. Maxwell-Hyslop (Tiverton)

I wish particularly to commend the principle contained in Clause 2 of the Bill, because the earnings rule for widows and widowed mothers falls into one of two conflicting categories. Is it the case that the object of the manœuvre is in effect to apply a means test and claim that a widowed mother earning more than a certain amount does not need a pension and therefore should not be paid one? But surely that should apply just as much whether one's source of income other than the pension is earned or unearned.

If, on the other hand, the objection to this proposal is that it would cost money, then if one knew, as one could find out, the saving that would accrue from applying the rule to all sources of income, whatever the origin, and then adjusted the level of the earnings limit so that there was neither any increase or decrease of public expenditure involved, then the expenditure argument could not be used. What level that would put on the earnings rule I do not know and nor am I in a position intelligently to guess; but it would at least make it a more equitable rule.

I am assuming, however, that it cannot be purely the expenditure objection in view of the increases announced in other pensions this week. I suspect, therefore, that it has passed unnoticed that if the intention of the rule is to be a form of "needs" test, then it is a somewhat half-baked one.

Clause 2 as drafted is not an unreasonable way of doing it. If my right hon. Friend says that there is a defect in the drafting and asks the House not to support it, I hope that he will give an undertaking that in some way this will be remedied by his own action. I repeat that it seems inconsistent, if the object of the rule is a "needs" test or a "means" test, that it should be applied only to earned income and not to unearned income.

In the case of the 10s. widows, I feel very much less strongly because I have heard the arguments both for and against. On the one hand, we have the argument that the sum of money is being paid which was contracted for. But that could be a perfectly consistent case only if it were applied to every pension. But as it is not so applied it is weakened, though not demolished, as an argument for retaining it in this case. It would be wrong to abolish the 10s. widows' pension, because it is a benefit which has been intentionally paid for, and one ought not to abolish something intentionally paid for.

However, I have my doubts about the whole basis of discriminating by dates with respect to widows' pensions and the whole range of public service pensions, whether in the Armed Forces or not. Not long ago, in a debate Which was wound up by my right hon. Friend the Chief Secretary to the Treasury, the principle of the immutability of pensions was definitely and publicly buried without any regrets on either side of the House. That principle has a very shaky parentage. A letter more than 30 years old, signed by the Chief Accountant at the Admiralty, was sent to a constituent of mine to inform him that part of his naval pension was being cut by 20 per cent. because of the reduction in the cost of living, and to say that it would be subject subsequently to a triennial review in view of changes in the cost of living. However old or young the principle of immutability may be, apparently it did not exist at that time.

I hope that my right hon. Friend will tell the House the Government's philosophy of the purpose of these pensions, specifically those covered by the Bill, that is, the 10s. pension, the widowed mothers' pension and the widows' pension. That would make it much easier for us to judge the Bill. If the objectives are to avoid hardship for widowed mothers, which is probably the most extreme case, any earnings limit should be applied at such a level that hardship should be avoided, and we would welcome my right hon. Friend's opinion of whether the existing level does exclude the possibility of hardship. I would like a general statement of policy, or at least an inquiry leading to a general statement of policy, on the whole subject of categorising pensions by the date at which people enter or leave a given pension scheme.

In some ways, it seems incongruous to make decisions about this general principle pension by pension. If the principle is sound in one case, it is sound right across the board. Therefore, I would welcome a statement of policy covering all forms of pension emanating from the State to show whether it is believed as an item of national policy that different rates of pension or benefit should be awarded according to the date at which people entered or left historically elderly pension schemes. That would be of great value to the House.

If it is necessary to have an independent inquiry to show what the financial effects of adopting the principle once and for all would be, so be it. I do not know what would be the overall cost for every pension emanating from the State of applying the comparability rule. In some cases it would be very difficult to work it out, because the relative responsibility and rates of pay of different kinds of jobs have altered, but if that is a difficulty—as I accept that it is—such difficulties do not arise in the case of flat rate pensions such as those covered by the Bill. We could profitably have a statement of general policy, together with supporting argument, to show why it is believed to be reasonable to pay different rates of pension to people whose needs are roughly the same although their ages are different.

1.56 p.m.

Mr. Norman Dodds (Erith and Crayford)

It is a scandal that in 1963, after this subject has been debated so many times, that, once again, we should be endeavouring to remedy a glaring injustice. A new Minister is now on trial. Most of us have read the excuses of his predecessor in previous debates, and it is because we have read them that so many hon. Members, on both sides, are so angry that nothing has yet been done. To use the same brief in defence will now not get the present Minister anywhere with either side of the House. The longer the anomalies remain, the more difficult it will be for the Minister to defend them.

It is not only in the House that there is great interest in this matter. I am sincere when I say that in my seventeen years as an hon. Member I have never known such unanimity among ordinary men and women and among the women's organisations in their condemnation of the Goverment's present attitude. It is one of the great mysteries of the age that the Government can resist the pressure to do something and that they need mention the subject only when an hon. Member raises it in the House.

There are no party politics in this matter. My experience has been that there are as many angry hon. Members opposite as on this side when we deal with this subject. I admit that there are some unique hon. Members, like the hon. Member for Sheffield, Heeley (Sir T. Roberts), but I cannot think that the Minister will get any encouragement from the sort of backhanded support which that hon. Member gave him. I hope that the Minister will deal with the argument with which the hon. Member was trying to befog the issue. When politicians are afraid to speak against a Measure, and possibly a little afraid of the women's organisations, they speak in such a way that they befog an issue so that ordinary people cannot understand whether they are for or against a proposal. The Minister will also need to say why his predecessor never used the arguments advanced by the hon. Member for Heeley. Surely he would have loved to do so after his other excuses did not wash with hon. Members.

I was very impressed by the speech of the hon. Member for Uxbridge (Mr. curran). I never thought that I would agree with him, but he made an excellent speech and got right down to the human values. I should also like to congratulate the hon. and learned Member for Montgomery (Mr. Hooson), who spoke from the Liberal benches and paid such a glowing tribute to my right hon. Friend the Member for Llanelly (Mr. J. Griffiths). The hon. Member spoke at an appropriate time, because there seems to be an attempt to suggest that there are far greater anomalies than those mentioned in the Bill and that we should wait for what would be a long investigation before making this reform. However, as the hon. Member pointed out, that would mean that a glaring anomaly was not dealt with quickly enough.

It is a sobering thought that the majority of people of whom we are speaking, and for whom the Bill attempts to do something, are nearing 60 years of age. They cannot afford to wait; time is not on their side. This should be an emergency Measure, and if it were I am sure there would be support for it from both sides of the House. It may be that the question of money is holding it up, but the Government, year after year, have been wasting astronomical sums on defence, and it ill behoves them to put forward that kind of argument for the sake of two or three million pounds.

I congratulate my hon. Friend not only on his choice of Bill, but on the way in which he put forward his argument and for the homework that he has done, especially about the earnings rule and the way in which this type of widow is left completely out in the cold. That aspect of the problem has been so clearly covered that all I need add is to say that I give my wholehearted support to the efforts being made in that direction.

I am pleased to have the opportunity to take part in the debate, because I have been asked about this point for years, and every time I have to give the same answer. I cannot understand why, when so many hon. Members on both sides are unanimous in believing that something should be done to get rid of a clear injustice, the Government still hold out. I have never been able to understand the answers made by Ministers to the wonderful speeches made by hon. Members on the subject.

Nobody disputes that this 10s. was granted in 1948. My right hon. Friend the Member for Llanelly has explained the difficult conditions that existed when this was done. Does the Minister believe that a mistake was made in 1948 in respect of these people? If he does, let him say so, and give the reasons why. If he does think a mistake was made, will he explain why, in 1963, the 10s. is still being paid? If his Government do not believe in it, why have they not clone something about it?

I suggest that it is because they were afraid of the opposition they would arouse. Let us have a little more sincerity about this, so that we know exactly what we have to deal with. If this principle was correctly accepted in 1948, on what basis are the Government now able to argue that the sum should not be increased?

The other indisputable fact is that 10s. in 1948 is worth much less now. That is another reason why the sum should be increased. That is what the ordinary man and woman, and the women's organisations feel. They are not all nitwits, even though they are not in this House. Not only the people who support my party, but even many well-known Conservatives in my area are saying exactly the same thing. They want to know why the situation should continue in this way. The argument cannot be put forward that other people have paid for their increases in pensions, because many of those have had an increasing share in our prosperity.

I hope that the Minister will deal with this point adequately. On the face of it the Minister is adopting a cold-blooded attitude. Can he deny that if there were a free vote today the House would overwhelmingly agree to increase this 10s.?

My hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Ladywood (Mr. V. Yates) referred to the cost of fuel. This is an important point. The 10s. will just about buy 1 cwt. of coal. But I want to refer to another aspect of the problem. I have met women who are claiming an increase not on grounds of hardship, but because they feel affronted, and have a deep sense of injustice. This sum is worth a mere 1 cwt. of coal. These widows have suffered a loss, but when other increases are made they are left completely in the cold.

It is not a question of argument, but a very important principle, which means much to them. Over and over again the Government have refused to accept the arguments put forward, and the 10s. has never been increased, despite the fall in the value of money.

I could have quoted from many letters that I have received from women in my constituency. As my hon. Friend says, the increase would cost less than £2½ million. I hope that the issue will be dealt with. If it is true that the Reserve Fund has £1,000 million in it, it is not exactly bankrupt. There is a strong case for an increase, and I hope that the right hon. Gentleman, as the new Minister, will review these anomalies.

In the meantime, even if he cannot accept the Bill as it stands I hope that he will find ways and means of providing what my hon. Friend suggests in some other fashion. If he cannot; if he can do nothing more than what has been done up to now, he will be condemned by hon. Members on both sides of the House and by the majority of the public.

Mr. Lipton

I must correct a little error which my hon. Friend made, quite inadvertently. The total cost of accepting my proposals under Clause 2, would be about £6 million more than the cost of the Minister's proposals.

2.8 p.m.

The Minister of Pensions and National Insurance (Mr. Niall Macpherson)

I hope that hon. Members will think it appropriate and helpful if I now intervene on behalf of the Government. My duty will be to examine the Bill and suggest what its consequences would be. I do not want to put forward any excuses—although what I have to say may be looked at as excuses from one angle. I want rather to put forward valid arguments. I can assure hon. Members that what goes into my brief are not excuses. A Minister expects to be informed of the facts and, in turn, the House expects him to be able to give the facts and the arguments as the Government see them.

I congratulate the hon. Member for Brixton (Mr. Lipton) on introducing a Bill which has provided an opportunity for a wide-ranging debate. This is only proper on the Second Reading of a Bill. I have listened to all the speeches— I missed only parts of two—with pleasure as well as attention.

I want to refer particularly to the excellent speeches made by my hon. Friends the Members for Tynemouth (Dame Irene Ward), East Grinstead (Mrs. Emmet) and Uxbridge (Mr. Curran). I should like to say that I understand their feeling that it is time to have an overall review of widows' needs. My hon. Friend the Member for Horsham (Mr. Gough), the hon. Member for Southampton, Itchen (Dr. King) and the hon. and learned Member for Montgomery (Mr. Hooson), who went rather further, all support this idea. Of course, it is only fair to recognise that many anomalies—and I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Tynemouth, that we learn by experience of these things—have already been removed, largely on the advice of the National Insurance Advisory Committee.

I quite realise that the National Insurance Advisory Committee deals with National Insurance problems and that my hon. Friend the Member for Tynemouth wants a wider examination than that. I thought that her strictures on the National Insurance Advisory Committee, if I may describe what she said in that way, were not merited. After all, it is not the National Insurance Advisory Committee but the Government who have financial responsibility for the Fund, although, like any other responsible body, the Committee must consider proposals in relation to alternative uses of the money.

What the Committee considers is what is referred to it by the Government. I hope to deal in the course of my speech with the effects of some of the recommendations which it has made and with some of the anomalies that have been removed. I shall certainly consider what my hon. Friends have said, and I take note of the stern warning given by my hon. Friend the Member for East Grinstead. But on merit, quite apart from that, I will consider what they have said, and, where necessary, of course, I shall consider what they have said in conjunction with my colleagues.

Perhaps it might be helpful to the House if I refer to one particular change that was made, and it will enable me to pick up straight away the point made as to when a widow becomes entitled to pension. The Beveridge recommendation was that a widow should become entitled to pension at the age of 50. The right hon. Member for Llanelly (Mr. J. Griffiths), in his Bill, reduced that age of 50, in the case of those who passed from being widowed mothers to widows, to 40. It was found, however, that this gave rise to a great many anomalies, and it was one of the recommendations of the National Insurance Advisory Committee that it would be better to increase the rates given for widows' children and, in particular, to give widows, as they reached widowhood, a "flying start", so to speak, on the basis of their husbands' contributions so that they would be covered for unemployment and sickness benefit as soon as they finished the 13 weeks' period of the widow's allowance.

Mr. J. Griffiths

This is a very important point. Even in these days, for a man, let alone for a woman, getting a new job at the age of 40 is difficult. What I had in mind was that the woman would have children, that the children would grow up and that if she were 40 by that time and ceased to be qualified she would then be treated as a widow and get the full benefit. She might be in the position at the age of 47, 48 or 49 where the children grow up and go to work and then she would not get the pension. Is that the position?

Mr. Macpherson

That is so. She would then be in the position of being covered for sickness and unemployment benefits and be credited with payments while sick or unemployed until she is in a position to work. When she works she will pay her contributions which will be added, in turn, to the contributions of her husband to qualify her for pension at the age of 60. I thought I should mention that as one of the examples of the ways in which the National Insurance Advisory Committee had dealt with its task.

It must be very unusual for the House to be considering two Bills both dealing with National Insurance Benefits on successive sitting days. We shall be dealing with a Government Bill to increase the main rates of benefit on Monday, and today, owing to the hon. Gentleman's astute choice of a Friday, we are considering a Bill designed to help widows.

It would not, of course, be appropriate, and probably not even in order, for me to dilate on the provision made in the Government Bill for widows. But with your permission, Mr. Speaker, I shall try and draw the attention of the House to the differences between the hon. Gentleman's approach and the Government's approach, as illustrated by what the Government have been doing and are continuing to do for widows.

There is one remarkable point of contrast between the two Measures, which I think I should mention straight away. This Bill proposes additional benefits but does not say how the money to pay for them is to be found. I put the cost of the hon. Gentleman's proposals in a full year at £10 million, and as we go over the various Clauses I shall show how that figure is arrived at. This would involve an increase of 1d. a side in total contributions, and, of course, under the 1959 Act increases in contributors' payments are automatically matched by increases in Exchequer payments.

It might have been conceivable for the cost of the benefits proposed to have been taken from the Insurance Fund had the benefits been confined to a single payment or a series of payments in one financial year. But it would obviously be thoroughly bad finance to make provision for expenditure on benefits which will continue from year to year without making corresponding provision for continuing income.

Moreover, it is open to question whether it is proper to devote funds accumulated for specific insurance purposes to other purposes for which they have not been contributed. I know that this is very debatable, but it is at least open to question. The right hon. Member for Llanelly mentioned the question of the Insurance Fund from which, he said, this money could be taken. He said the "Reserve Fund", I think. The Insurance Fund itself is not at rock bottom, so to speak, to the extent that it would have to draw this amount of money from the Reserve Fund in order to meet the benefits. But the principle remains that where we are putting continuing benefits on to the Fund we ought really to make provision for a continuing source of revenue.

At the beginning of the year there were £1,168 million in the Reserve Fund and there was a considerable amount less in the Insurance Fund.

Mr. J. Griffiths

The first Clause is the 10s. widow. What is wrong in using some hundreds of millions of pounds that were in the Fund when the new scheme started and to Which the husband contributed?

Mr. Macpherson

I was dealing with the Bill as a whole rather than with any particular Clause.

Mr. A. E. Hunter (Feltham)

Could the right hon. Gentleman please give us the cost of Clause 1—the 10s. widow?

Mr. Macpherson

I shall be giving this as I come to the Clauses.

I turn now to the provisions of the Bill. The first main Clause deals with a benefit which is outside the present National Insurance Scheme, and the second Clause deals with the benefits that are within it. My first duty, I think, is to recall to the House the conditions under which widows' benefit was paid under the contributory pension scheme in force before the 1946 Act was passed and the fundamental changes that were made by the 1946 Act itself. We have to start from there.

Under the old scheme, provided her late husband had fulfilled the contribution conditions—and that, I think, is an important proviso when we come to consider the difference between those entitled to benefits and those who are not—any widow was entitled to a 10s. pension whatever her age or family circumstances. I am sorry to have to take the House back 20 years. But I think it is relevant to point out that the Beveridge Report criticised the 10s. widow's pension as being inadequate in some cases and superfluous in others. The Report went further and said: There is no reason why a childless widow should get a pension for life; if she is able to work she should work. On the other hand provision much better than at present should be made for those who because they have the care of children cannot work for gain or cannot work regularly. Beveridge proposed only a short-term resettlement benefit for three months for widows generally. Thereafter the only widows qualifying for benefit would be those with children. Other widows were not to get any continuing benefit.

The Coalition Government—this is not a party matter—recognised, however, that older widows could find it difficult to re-establish themselves in employment after having been housewives, perhaps for many years, and so the Government modified the Beveridge proposals. They decided that widows who had no children of their own to look after and were over 50 when their husbands died should receive a pension subject to an earnings rule. This decision was followed later in the 1946 legislation, introduced by the right hon. Member for Llanelly. The benefit for both widowed mothers and widows was made subject to the earnings rule since it would not have been consistent—I may say to the hon. and learned Member for Montgomery that the earnings rule is not itself a principle but the consequence of a principle—with the principle accepted that a widow who had proved able to get a job and earn and support herself in the normal way should draw a pension as well.

Mr. Hooson

Why does the Minister say that it is not a principle that someone who is earning should receive a pension and the pension should be reduced because he or she is earning?

Mr. Macpherson

The central principle of the whole Beveridge scheme, and of the legislation introduced by the Labour Government in 1946, is that benefits are paid when earnings cease. That is the cardinal principle. Pensions are paid in substitution for or in replacement of earnings. That is a point to which I shall be bound to refer again and again, because it is from that principle that the other consequences derive.

After all, many married women are already working full-time when they become widows. Some may have professional qualifications, and when widowed they can resume their professional careers, and some do so. Others find no difficulty in getting a full-time job—I agree that not all of them find no difficulty—and in adjusting themselves to earning their own living. Naturally, everyone feels sympathy for a widow. Not only has she lost her husband, but her whole way of living is changed, even though her husband may have been able to make substantial provision for her in some way or other. But surely it is no part of a national insurance scheme designed to provide benefits in the absence of earnings to pay money out of the Insurance Fund to women who are, in fact, providing for themselves by their own work.

This fundamental change in the approach to widowhood was approved in 1946 by a Parliament in which the party opposite had an overwhelming majority. I recognise that attitudes may change, but if the arguments were well-founded then, surely they are equally well-founded today, when it is much more common for a married woman to be in regular work.

The adoption of this approach meant that there was no place for the kind of widow's pension paid under the old scheme, a pension paid irrespective of age and circumstances. Nevertheless, it seemed proper—I am sure that it was —that rights to the old widow's pension should be preserved—the right hon. Member for Llanelly did that—at any rate where they were not at that time converted to the new widow's pension for those widows who at that time were incapable of supporting themselves either through ill-health or through having children to look after.

I ask the House to consider exactly whom the hon. Gentleman who introduced this Bill wishes its provisions to cover, because that is not as clear as might appear on the face of it. I think I know what is his intention. But I must tell the House how the matter stands. Those widows whose pensions were not converted in 1948 retained their existing rights. They include, first, those who were already receiving the 10s. pension at 4th July, 1948, and did not qualify for the new benefits at that time. This, in fact, is the only class referred to in terms in the Bill. Secondly, they are those women who at that time were already married to men insured under the old scheme and who, when widowed later, did not qualify for the new widow's pension.

Some widows are still becoming eligible for the 10s. pension although their husbands have paid no contributions for it since 1948. They do not necessarily get it, since they cannot get it as well as the National Insurance benefit The hon. Gentleman assessed the number of those widows who are still drawing the 10s pension at about 85,000. I do not disagree with him. I believe that the figure is about 87,000. But this does not include those with a widow's benefit under the present scheme who also have the 10s. reserved right which is protected from the earnings rule because of the old insurance scheme to which their husbands belonged.

In the calculation of what the Bill will cost this has to be taken into account. As drafted, the Bill would improve the pensions of only a small minority of these widows, those already drawing the pension in 1948. It would be difficult to differentiate between those who qualified for the pension before 1948 and those who have done so since, and I do not suppose that the hon. Gentleman would wish to do so. All the same, I feel bound to point that out.

Let us come back to the figure of 87,000. The House might like to know how these women stand in relation to the rest of the population. Most of them are working. In December, 1961, only about 6 per cent. were receiving a National Assistance supplement. To the extent that we increased the pension for them, who are the worst off by definition, they would at the same time be bound to lose National Assistance to the same amount, and so they would be no better off. Compare that with widows under 60 receiving National Insurance benefits. Of these 15 per cent. receive National Assistance supplements. There are also some widows over 60 who are receiving a contributory old-age pension of 10s. Most of them will receive a retirement pension when they do retire.

Naturally, the widows receiving only 10s. compare their lot with those receiving National Insurance benefit and not earning enough for their benefit to be affected. They do not compare—I appreciate the point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield, Heeley (Sir P. Roberts)—their own position with the position of spinsters or of other widows who get no pension at all but whose circumstances are exactly the same, except that they were not married before 1948 or that their husbands were not insured under the old pensions scheme. This point was referred to effectively by the hon. Member for Itchen.

I do not want to introduce any levity into this matter because it is an intensely serious one, but this illustrates the position. I have actually heard a spinster in my constituency comparing her circumstances with those of a 10s. widow and saying, "She gets ten bob more than I do, and she had a man forby". While understanding the point of view of the 10s. widow, therefore, one should consider the point of view of others who receive nothing—whom my predecessor and the hon. Member for Itchen called the "no-shilling" widow. To increase the old preserved 10s. benefit would simply widen the gap between those widows who happened to be entitled to it and those who are not.

Mr. Lipton

We have heard it all before.

Mr. Macpherson

The hon. Member says he has heard it all before. He will no doubt hear it again, because these are the facts. I am bound to put all the facts. In my view there is no more reason why this preserved right should be increased than why we should increase any-private insurance benefits that have already been fixed once and for all.

I said that I would say what the actual cost of Clause 1 would be. The hon. Member suggested that the cost of doubling the 10s. pension would not be very great and that it would decline quite rapidly. He gave the figure of £2.2 million. Actually, taking into account what I have said and the fact that he was computing it only for the 87,000, the cost would be something of the order of £4 million to start with. That is not a negligible sum, but it is not the cost so much as the principle on which we have to stand. One must say again that this is a preserved right from a scheme which no longer exists. There is no case at all for increasing it.

Mr. Lipton

I hope the Minister will not mind my intervention, but we have heard all this before. He is merely repeating what has been said in this House on many previous occasions. Will he at least go so far as to admit that the 10s. preserved right is a diminishing liability?

Mr. Macpherson

Oh, yes, it is a diminishing liability, but I think the hon. Gentleman said today, or implied, that the numbers involved had fallen by half, and he is proposing to double the amount of the pension. Therefore, are we to understand that when the number falls by another half he would then propose to double the pension again, and so on? I do not think it is a very strong argument that it is a diminishing liability.

Mr. Dodds

If it is a diminishing liability, can the right hon. Gentleman explain why in 1963 he says that it is £4 million and his predecessor in 1960 said that it was the same amount?

Mr. Macpherson

It is liable to diminish but, as I said, there are still people widowed now who ate becoming entitled to the 10s. pension.

Mr. Hooson

On the question of arithmetic, if 87,000 widows have 10s. a week, that makes a sum of £43,000 a week and, if we multiply that by 52, we get just over £2 million.

Mr. Macpherson

I envy the hon. and learned Member's facility at mental arithmetic, but I am not quite certain whether he was in the House when I mentioned these other people who are entitled to the 10s. and who are losing their widow's pension because of the earnings rule but still keep the 10s. reserved right. They are not included in the 87,000.

Mr. Hooson

The fact is that the Government do not have to pay those people. If they have a reserved right and are not drawing it, the Government do not have to pay it.

Mr. Macpherson

I am sorry if I have not made myself quite clear. It is a difficult point. I am coming on to the point about the earnings rule. Quite a number of widows are affected by the earnings rule. There is a certain number who are losing all their pension because of the earnings rule but for the 10s. reserved right. They keep it by virtue of having that 10s. reserved right and that is where the additional cost comes from.

I now turn to Clause 2. That is the Clause which would abolish the earnings rule for widows and widowed mothers. The rule was established by Section 17 of the National Insurance Act, 1946, which then set the earnings limit at 20s. for retirement pensioners and 30s. for widows and widowed mothers. The provisions of the Act came into force on 5th July, 1948. From then on, given the earnings limit of 30s. coupled with the single pension rate of 26s., a widow received no pension at all if her earnings exceeded 56s. The earnings limit was raised in 1951 to 40s. for a widow and 60s. for a widowed mother.

The present limits are 70s. and £5 respectively. Under the present limits, a widow will not lose the whole of her pension in any week in which her earnings are less than £6 18s. For widowed mothers the point at which the pension is extinguished is £8 8s. It is clear from these figures that the earnings limits have been relaxed substantially over the years and that widowed mothers in particular have been generously treated. It has been the Government's policy to keep the limits as high as possible bearing in mind the main principle that the benefit is generally payable in substitution of earnings.

Consider what would happen if the earnings rule for widows were abolished. A widow whose husband died on her 50th birthday would receive a pension for the rest of her life in addition to anything she might earn, and no matter how much she earned. Moreover, she would not be required to pay National Insurance contributions. A widow whose husband died the day before she reached 50 would not only have to wait 10 years before she could draw a retirement pension, but she would have to pay insurance contributions meantime in order to qualify for a full pension. Yet the first widow might be much stronger and more capable of earning a good living than the second.

Obviously such a distinction would be intolerable. If the earnings rule were abolished there would be no good reason for retaining the rule that a widow must be 50 at her husband's death in order to be entitled to a widow's pension. In other words, we would be forced either to give pensions to all widows without children or whose children had grown up—which would cost about £30 million a year—or to no widows at all until they qualified for retirement pension, that is, to go back to the original Beveridge recommendations.

It has been argued that if a woman with capital resources can get a widow's pension a woman without investment income should be able to get it in addition to anything she may earn. But the same applies to any of the National Insurance benefits—retirement pension, sickness benefit, unemployment benefit. They are all paid because the contributor is unable to earn substantially. I wonder if the hon. Member thinks that a man should be denied unemployment or sickness benefit because he has some capital saved up or even inherited? Does he think that a man who has worked hard all his life and saved a bit should be denied a retirement pension because he has capital resources?

The reason why a man is entitled to unemployment or sickness benefit is not to compensate him for being unemployed or sick, but for the fact that he is not earning. The reason why there is such a thing as a widow's pension is that it is presumed that if a woman is widowed when she is over 50 she may not be capable of earning to a substantial extent. If that presumption is rebutted in fact and in any week she is capable of earning, and does earn, to a substantial extent, then at a certain point she ceases to be eligible for widow's pension, but she will always have her widow's pension to fall back on if her earning capacity is reduced.

There is another reason why the earnings rule could not easily be abolished for widows. A widow's pension lasts until she reaches retirement age; after that, it is replaced by retirement pension, but she goes on drawing her widow's pension until she actually retires. Retirement pension is subject to the earnings rule, and the hon. Gentleman does not propose in his Bill to alter that limitation. It follows that if the proposal to abolish the earnings rule for widows became law, a widow would be able to draw her widow's pension while earning as much as she likes, and she could go on drawing it until she retired—right up to age 65.

Is that what the hon. Gentleman intends? If so, I must say that he will get into hot water with other contributors. Why should one woman, simply because she is a widow, be allowed to receive a National Insurance pension after 60 while in full-time work, while another, whose husband is still alive, or who has never married, will not get a pension until she retires and, if she does, will be subject to the earnings rule? That contrast alone, even apart from the general breach in the whole principle of the National Insurance Act, shows how hard it is to deal with widows' pensions without also considering retirement pensions. It is, I think, significant that when the National Insurance Advisory Committee examined the earnings rule as applied to widows and widowed mothers in 1955, it reached the view that the rule could not usefully be considered apart from the earnings limits for retirement pensions and other pensions.

In other words. I really do not think it right for the House to take the view that this Clause would cost only £6 million or £7 million. If the Bill became law, I am sure that it would not be possible—for long, at any rate—to keep the earnings rule for retirement pensions —and, as the House knows, the cost of abolishing it would be of the order of £100 million a year immediately, dropping to about £50 million in 20 years' time. There have been some suggestions that the £100 million would dwindle very rapidly and disappear altogether, but the fact is that it would only drop to £50 million in 20 years' time. That would not be the end of the expenditure. As I have said, I doubt very much whether it would be possible to maintain the age qualification for widows' pensions, and if this had to go the cost would be an extra £30 million a year.

The hon. Member for Brixton complained that the widows' pensions of war and industrial injuries widows—I think that it was he, or it may have been my hon. Friend—

Dame Irene Ward

A lot of people did.

Mr. Macpherson

—were not subject to an earnings rule, and argued that the National Insurance widows' provision should be brought into line with the practice in the war pensions and industrial injuries fields—

Dame Irene Ward

No, I said industrial injuries.

Mr. Macpherson

With respect, I think that it has also been mentioned by my hon. Friend the Member for Horsham—

Mr. V. Yates

I asked a specific question of the Minister that had been put to me by widows. Why are we discriminating with war widows and industrial widows, and not considering the same justice for ordinary widows?

Mr. Macpherson

I am about to give the hon. Member for Birmingham, Lady-wood (Mr. V. Yates) an answer. The fact is that the war pensions and industrial injuries provisions designedly give preferential treatment. Indeed, this is the purpose of having separate schemes for widowhood caused by war or industrial accident or disease. Otherwise, it would have been enough in these cases as well simply to rely on the National Insurance provision.

The National Insurance Scheme provides cover simply against the loss of earnings through inability, for one reason or other, to work. The war pensions and Industrial Injuries Schemes operate in much more special fields to provide compensation for the particular risk of death due to service in the Armed Forces or arising from industrial employment. The House must realise, as it has in the past, that some kinds of employment are more dangerous than others, and that without this kind of provision one might not be able to get enough men to undertake them. That is the answer to the hon. Member for Ladywood.

I should now like to say a little more about widowed mothers, with whom I have already dealt to some extent when speaking of widows. My hon. Friend the Member for East Grinstead made a most moving plea on behalf of widowed mothers. I know that we all sympathise with them particularly, and we must ask ourselves whether it might be possible to abolish the rule for them alone. I must tall the House that in the view of the Government this is not practicable. If we were to abolish the earnings rule for widowed mothers alone, it would not be long before we would have to abolish it for widows also, and so set the whole wheel in motion.

When a widow's children have grown up, she ceases to be a widowed mother for the purposes of National Insurance and becomes a widow. If, up to that time, a widowed mother were allowed to draw her personal allowance—at present 57s. 6d.—in addition to anything she could earn, no matter how much, would she readily submit to the earnings rule thereafter? I know that some of them say they would, but I very much wonder whether, when the time came, pressure would not again develop.

May I remind the House that last year we were invited to abolish the rule only for widowed mothers. Now, some hon. Members who backed that Bill are now backing this one. Presumably they feel that they can no longer draw a distinction between the widowed mother and the widow, and that both must be treated alike. I think it is clear that abolition of the earnings rule in the widowed mother's case would lead immediately to pressure for abolition of the rule for widows also—and, if for widows, then, in turn, for retirement pensioners. That could not be done without fundamental changes in the whole basis of the National Insurance Scheme.

It may be that we need some fundamental reshaping of the scheme, and I should certainly not like to give the impression that our minds are closed to change—far from it. I am always glad to listen to new ideas, and I have been listening, and shall be listening, with interest to all that is said in this debate. All I say is that if we contemplate changes which have far-reaching implications for the whole basis of our closely integrated social insurance scheme affecting the lives and interests of everyone, we must tread carefully, and be quite sure that we are moving in the right direction. I am not against change, but I am sure that it must be well-considered change, with all the conssquences properly enumerated and understood.

Let me now return to the facts and figures, in which the House will be interested. A complete abolition of all earnings rules could not be done without a significant increase in contributions: of the order of 10d. each from employer and employee, with accompanying Exchequer addition—enough to provide an extra 4s. on the single rate and appropriate additions for all other benefits.

If the rule were simply abolished altogether, the pension would cease to be a retirement pension and become an old-age pension payable as of right at 65 for men and 60 for women. If we did that, I do not see how we could continue the present system of increments to pension which people earn by refraining from retiring at pensionable age and going on working. At present, about two men in five and one woman in three are choosing to continue work beyond pensionable age, earning increments in this way. They would be the losers, in that way.

The real trouble is that many widows who complain about the earnings rule genuinely think that they are being wrongly deprived of pension. They say that their husbands have paid for it but, of course, they are quite mistaken. The insurance policy to which their late husbands contributed does not give them any title to an unconditional widow's pension. To grant it to them now would be to vary the policy in a way that could be justified only by real hardship.

But what is the position? An inquiry carried out in July, 1961, showed that out of nearly 150,000 widowed mothers only about 21,000—or one in seven—were affected by the earnings rule. These were widows who were earning over £5 net—'net, that is, of P.A.Y.E. Income Tax, net of National Insurance Contributions, and net of payments made to other people to sit in to look after their children. They were in addition receiving at least 25s. for their first child and 17s. each for their other children. A widow with three children earning less than the earnings limit would be receiving £5 16s. 6d. insurance benefit plus 18s. family allowances in addition to her earnings. If she earned £5, her total income would thus be £11 14s. 6d. before she was affected at all by the earnings rule.

Under our Bill, together with the draft regulations referred to the National Insurance Advisory Committee, she would receive £7 19s. 6d. in benefit and family allowances and would be able to earn up to £6, a total 6d. short of £14 before she was affected by the earnings rule. Even if she earns £100 a week she will still be left with £5 18s. in family allowances, National Insurance allowances for her children and the minimum 26s. of her personal allowance which under the Bill she will always keep.

When the earnings rules were last before the National Insurance Advisory Committee, it considered that it would be much better to devote any further money to be spent on widowed mothers to increased children's allowances, which would benefit all widowed mothers, not just one in seven, and those the least necessitous. The Government have followed this and earlier advice and the result is that the allowance for the children of widowed mothers is now 7s. 6d. a week more for each child than for the children of other beneficiaries.

To abolish the earnings rule today for widowed mothers would cost about £2 million a year. It will be rather less— £1½ million—when the draft regulations have been approved. But the extra allowances for children, the alternative favoured by the Advisory Committee, already cost about £3½ million a year. That is to say, the choice between these two was suggested by the Advisory Committee some years ago and was then made. There is also the further differential of 2s. 6d. a week for widows' children proposed in the Bill now before the House. This would increase the cost to over £4½ million a year. Indeed, the combined cost of allowing widowed mothers to keep 26s. of their allowance in all circumstances, of the extra 2s. 6d. per child, and of the proposed increase of the earnings limit to £6 amounts to about £2 million a year.

Nothing could make it clearer that it is not on cost that we reject this proposal, but on principle. There really are limits to which in an insurance scheme one can permit beneficiaries to reap where they have not sown. The right to a widow's pension free of the earnings rule has not been paid for. To grant it now would involve in the long run a complete revision of the whole basis of the National Insurance Acts, with perhaps some very unwelcome results for contributors.

The right would be presented to widows who are manifestly in a position to provide for themselves, though not necessarily as lavishly as all would wish. This is not what our National Insurance scheme is for. Essentially it aims at providing basic uniform payments for those who are unable to earn, not supplements for those who are earning a livelihood. That is the principle on which the National Insurance Scheme is based and it would be inconsistent with it and dangerous to abolish the earnings rule even for such a relatively small group as the widowed mothers.

The Bill would involve us in a total expenditure of at least £10 million a year. The great bulk of it would go to the minority of widows who are working and supporting themselves and would be paid to them on top of their earnings. This is to concentrate additional expenditure on the least needy of the widows. The Government consider that there are better ways of distributing what is available, which will help all widows rather than concentrate on those of them who can earn for themselves, and I must invite the House to reject the Bill.

Hon. Members


Mr. Douglas Houghton (Sowerby)


Mr. L. M. Lever (Manchester, Ardwick)

On a point of order. Do these speeches end the debate on this matter?

Mr. Speaker

No, certainly not.

2.55 p.m.

Mr. Houghton

My brief is to sit on this Bench and watch the Bill and make a short intervention if moved to do so. This is a Private Member's Bill and this is a Private Members' day. Clearly, the Minister is entitled to give the fullest explanation of the effect of the Bill and his reasons for advising the House to reject it, but I would be justified in claiming only a modest amount of the time of the House because other hon. Members probably on both sides still wish to speak.

I want to add to the congratulations already given and, indeed, showered upon my hon. Friend the Member for Brixton (Mr. Lipton) on being successful in the Ballot for Private Members' Bills and in choosing as the topic for his Bill two matters of considerable importance and of great public interest. When the Minister was speaking, my hon. Friend objected that we have heard all this before. It is true that we have heard most of it before but, as the Minister said, when dealing with the same question and answering the same arguments he is almost bound to go over much of the ground that we have covered before.

There is this difference between the present Minister and his predecessor. The present Minister seems not to be enjoying himself quite so much. Not being a dialectitian as skilful as his predecessor he applied himself to the merits of the matter very conscientiously and in an agreeable spirit and the House appreciated that. He has put before the House some weighty considerations. We must not deny that. But upon these two matters there are very strong, one might almost say emotional, feelings of acute injustice. It is a measure of that that these two questions come before the House again and again.

We must not lose sight of the fact that we have a National Insurance Bill before the House on Monday and a Committee stage to follow. In the matter of order I assume that this fight could be carried on in the Committee stage of that forthcoming Bill. We have had several attempts at tackling this question on previous Bills before the House. It is a running fight on these two matters. The Minister will hear about both of them again and again and then, one day, the Government will decide to get rid of these grievances for good and all.

I want to say one or two words, first, about the 10s. widow. There is, I may say, a very admirable and lucid case for the 10s. widow which hon. Members will find was presented by the hon. Member for Sowerby on 13th December, 1961, and begins at column 454, though I would be trespassing on the patience of the House if I were to repeat it. The simple issue here—and it really is a simple issue—is whether the House wishes to see some restoration of the original value of a residual benefit from the old National Insurance Scheme.

Let us recall that when the new scheme was introduced, it swept away the 10s. old-age pension provided for by the old scheme, and replaced it by the retirement pension. All people who had in 1948 an expectation of an old-age pension of 10s. a week were deprived of it and that benefit was replaced by a retirement pension granted under quite different conditions. So to that extent the old 10s. pension, the old-age pension of 10s. a week, was abolished. But the residual night of the widow was not, and that is a very big difference. The new Act abolished the old 10s. pension payable at 60 and 65 years of age, but it retained the old 10s. pension for widows.

As the Minister has pointed out, there are today widows who are getting 10s. a week pension under the reserved rights of the 1948 scheme. There were 5,500 widows who got the 10s. pension in the two years 1960 and 1961 as reserved rights from the old scheme because the 10s. widow pension covers not only those whose husbands died before 5th July, 1948, but also a number of widows who were married before 5th July, 1948, but who were not widowed until long after the new scheme came into operation.

The fact remains that Parliament decided deliberately to retain this reserved right for certain widows, and the question is: are we prepared to bring that amount up to date, or are we prepared to see it eroded by the passage of time and the fall in the value of money? Do we regard this as an annuity conceded as a reserved right under the old scheme, never to be improved and to be left to wither away as something of no consequence, something whose value the House feels no obligation to maintain?

If we were to restore its value in terms of purchasing power we should probably increase it to about 17s. 6d. a week. If, however, we were to increase it in harmony with the increase in other National Insurance benefits from 1948 to date we should probably increase it to about 30s. a week. But the proposal of my hon. Friend to increase it to 20s. a week lies somewhere between the two.

In the past the Minister has stated, as the right hon. Gentleman has done this afternoon, that there is no need to do anything about this 10s. widow's pension, because these widows are getting what they were entitled to get under the old scheme, and, unless an overwhelming case is made out on the grounds of hardship, there is no reason to increase that amount. We take a different view. We think there is an obligation resting upon Parliament to bring that reserved right into harmony with the current level of benefits and to improve it quite substantially so that those who receive it will not feel they are being paid a reserved right in a devalued currency.

That is the simple issue, and we take different views about it. I think all I need add on the matter of Clause 1 is that the Labour Party is pledged to increase the 10s. widow's pension if and when it has responsibility of government.

Now I turn to the earnings rule. I agree with the right hon. Gentleman and other hon. Members when they say that we must not allow this question of the earnings rule to obscure the much more important issue of adequate provision for widowhood and especially for widowed mothers. I am not sure whether it is really necessary to have a comprehensive inquiry into the problems of and the provision for widowhood in present circumstances. Widowhood is as old as the institution of marriage itself. We all know from our everyday lives what the problems and needs of widows are.

We have not treated with very great respect or consideration the hard work done by previous inquiries into matters affecting our social insurance scheme. Consider how badly the members of the Phillips Committee were treated. They spent a long time considering the financial and economic aspects of National Insurance. They were pressed by the then Minister to hurry on and produce their Report. They did so. The Minister ignored it, and took a political decision in spite of it.

That Report has never been debated in the House. That is how those people were treated. I think 'that the Minister might have some difficulty in persuading persons of standing and repute outside to devote a great deal of time to the consideration of further questions unless the House and the Government would take more serious notice of the product of their investigations.

What we all want to see is social security giving the widow and the widowed mother ample protection against the difficulties of life caused by the loss of the husband. Especially, of course, our sympathies are with the widowed mother who has to bring up her family. We should give her not only justice, but generosity, in the interests of the family and to satisfy our social conscience.

On these benches, and probably on the benches opposite, too, we wish that widowed mothers should never be compelled to go out to work, that it should be a matter of choice. I do not say that widowed mothers should necessarily always stay at home. We have probably all read moving accounts of the lives of widowed mothers, some of whom have said that they feel that they must get out and mix with other people, do some other work and take their minds off their domestic duties and away from the claims of their children. But we should not force them to go out to work. We should give them reasonable comfort and adequate resources to bring up their families without being compelled to go out to work.

We take the view that, if a widowed mother does go out to work, she should be allowed to retain what she earns. It would be an addition to the resources of the family, though probably not an over-liberal addition, because most widowed mothers are not in a position to earn large salaries. Most of them are doing part-time work.

In the Labour Party, we have, more recently, taken a decision about the earnings rule for widows. It is true that on a previous Bill we confined our amendment to widowed mothers, but at the Labour Party conference last autumn the decision was taken that the party was in favour of the removal of the earnings rule for all widows. That is Labour Party policy, and a very firm pledge has been given about it. I think that the House and the country should note that.

The Minister has, I think, exaggerated the consequences of the removal of the earnings rule for all widows. We can clearly distinguish between the retention of the earnings rule as a test of retirement and the retention of it in respect of a benefit which has nothing to do with retirement, a benefit which really represents some attempt at com- pensation for the loss of the husband's earnings. That is what the widows benefit is for; it is a replacement, inadequate though it may be, of the earnings of the husband. A widow, whether she be a widowed mother or not, may have been at home before her widowhood, doing her domestic duties and not gainfully employed. Her husband is the breadwinner; he brings home the money and gives her the housekeeping. That is how millions of people live. When the husband dies, nothing comes in; no wages are brought home. How she then will live depends upon what provision our social insurance scheme will make. We are compensating her, trying to restore to her some part of the maintenance previously provided by her husband. There is no question of a retirement condition. We can differentiate very clearly between the two.

The Minister referred to the possible anomaly that a widow retains any income from widow's pension after the age of 60 if she still continues working. Only when she retires is the widow's pension converted into a retirement pension. Therefore, certain widows might continue to work after the age of 60 and be unaffected by the earnings rule whereas a retirement pensioner, whether a married or single woman, would be affected by the earnings rule. I am sure that that could be put right by differentiating on age grounds between the widow who would be free of the earnings rule and the widow who would not. So long as an earnings rule was retained for the retirement pensioner after the ages of 60 and 65 respectively, the earnings rule would apply to people who pass that age, whether they were nominally a widow pensioner or a retirement pensioner. I understand that it is not the intention of the Bill to disturb any arrangements for the earnings rule in connection with retirement pensioners.

The Minister mentioned one problem of considerable difficulty, that of the difference of treatment between the widow under 50 years and the widow over 50 for the purpose of widows' pensions. I doubt whether the Minister will, in any case, be able to preserve that differential in its present form very much longer. Our approach to that problem is to find some way of removing the sharp distinction between the widow of 49 years 11 months and the widow who has just passed her 50th birthday. This is an arbitrary distinction which it is difficult to defend.

It is likely that a fresh look at widows' benefits will lead us to consider some graduation of widows' pensions by reference to age Certainly, this idea is well worth examination. I do not think that the Minister can reject the Bill on the ground that the present differential would necessarily be maintained for all time.

Sometimes Ministers are tempted to resist reforms in a narrow field because they fear too greatly the repercussions and reactions elsewhere. This is because they are surrounded by civil servants whose job is to warn them of these possible consequences. But we hope that the day will come when we shall have a Minister of Pensions and National Insurance who will say, "We will deal with the consequences and the reactions and fit them in, but this shall be done. Bring your scheme to me". I think that the right hon. Member for Woodford (Sir W. Churchill) is reputed to have said, "I do not want to hear anything about your difficulties". That is the way to do it. The Minister could have taken this action with force and decisiveness and could have come to the House with a different story.

On the question of cost, I remind the Minister that he will make a quite big profit on the National Insurance Scheme in the years to come. He is in no real difficulty about finance. There would be no need to increase contributions in order to pay for the provisions in the Bill. One has only to look at the recent White Paper Cmnd. 1935 to see that one fine day, not far ahead, the Minister will be making a profit of £122 million on the National Insurance Scheme. The fact is that he has found a gold mine in the graduated scheme. It provides an unlimited supply of money to the finances of the National Insurance Scheme. When in difficulties, the Minister has only to raise the limit on income for the graduated scheme from £15 to £18 and another £44 million comes in to help pay for the increased flat-rate benefits. He could find the money without worrying the country with increased contributions.

Mr. Lipton

He has already got it.

Mr. Houghton

I wish to say one or two things, in conclusion. There are enough widows to make their case felt electorally and politically if they choose to do it. There are approximately 1½ million women drawing pensions on their own insurance, approximately 1 million wives drawing pensions on their husbands' insurance, and nearly 2 million widows. If they would form themselves into a national federation of widow-pensioners, harry the Minister, hold rallies, circularise hon. Members and have banners and manifestos and marches, the impact of the widows' case would come to the notice of the House much more forcibly. Widowhood is a growing occupational risk of the married woman. Men are killing themselves off more quickly than they have done in the past.

It astonishes me how willing women are to link their economic future and their social and personal life with men without more adequate safeguards against the enormous risk which they are taking. Men have been able throughout history to gratify their most selfish instincts by the willingness of women to let them. I believe that it is not an inquiry into the problems of widowhood which we need so much as an inquiry into the whole question of the institution of marriage and its economic foundations, so that these millions of hapless and gullible women will not sacrifice their economic and social and personal future by the risk of marriage without more adequate safeguards than they have at present.

3.17 p.m.

Mr. R. Gresham Cooke (Twickenham)

I am sure that we all enjoyed the peroration of the hon. Member for Sowerby (Mr. Houghton), particularly his propaganda for safety belts in motor cars, and against mountain climbing by husbands and husbands taking part in dangerous sports—in other words, taking away all the pleasures for which husbands live. Nevertheless, much of his contribution was very interesting.

I should like to congratulate the hon. Member for Brixton (Mr. Lipton) on having had the good fortune to be near the top in the Ballot. I notice that very many assiduous hon. Members—leaving myself out of it—get to the top of the Ballot and sometimes bring forward useful Bills. It is, of course, unfortunate that the hon. Member has brought forward this Bill a few days after the Government's announcement about an increase in pensions, because that has rather reduced the urgency of what is written in the Bill.

Mr. Lipton


Mr. Gresham Cooke

We all have a great deal of sympathy with widows. In my constituency and neighbouring constituencies there are what are known as "cruse clubs", in which widows meet and discuss their difficulties and try to help each other. I am amazed by the amount of good will and social work which takes place in trying to alleviate the lot of unfortunate women, particularly in the "cruse clubs" and other organisations of that kind.

What we emphasise in our constituencies is that all pensions schemes and National Insurance Schemes are based on the contributions which are paid by the contributors in the first place. I do not know whether my right hon. Friend mentioned this in his speech; he may have done, and I am sorry that, because of constituency business outside, I missed his speech. It is not generally realised that the contributions paid by an employed person and his employer over the years provide for only a very small part of the pension which he will get at the age of 60 or 65.

I have heard it said that if a man worked for thirty years, and he and his employer paid their contributions during that period, he would earn only 15s. of his pension by contributions. The remainder must be made up by the taxpayer, which means the State. The question therefore arises as to what extent the taxpayers, the State, should take voluntarily upon themselves the burden of increasing pensions and other benefits to which these people feel that they are entitled.

Mr. N. Macpherson

I think that perhaps it would be worth while just to correct that impression. We are, of course, now on what is called the pay-as-you-go basis, and presumably we shall continue to be on the pay-as-you-go basis. We are not now on the actuarial basis so far as pensions are concerned.

Mr. Gresham Cooke

Yes. I am very much obliged to my right hon. Friend. That is so at the moment, but there are many residual benefits which are being paid for by the taxpayer, and that brings me to the next point, that of the 10s. widows.

This is a very difficult question. It raises great doubts in one's mind both ways. After all, as the hon. Gentleman the Member for Sowerby said, this is a residual right arising out of an old scheme. His argument was that one ought to try to increase these residual rights over the years. On the other hand, if we do that, we are increasing the disparity between these 87,000 widows and all other widows. We are increasing that disparity and that is the great difficulty which faces one. If one were to put up the pension of the 10s. widow I think that one would then be faced with claims from other widows who would say, "You have increased this disparity, so why do not you now bring about an increase for every other widow?" That is the difficulty we are up against and it is difficult to resolve, I feel.

Personally, I see the case for the 10s. widow. I see, also, the childless widow has difficulties, too, but I am much more interested in the widow with children who, I think, has a real problem which we have to face. She is the widow who cannot so easily go out to work as can the childless widow, or, perhaps, the 10s. widow.

I was particularly pleased to see in the White Paper now before us that the widow with children really will get some quite substantial benefits. For instance, a widowed mother with one child will get £4 17s. 6d. a week, a widowed mother with two children will get £6 7s. 6d., one with three children £7 19s. and one with four children £9 11s. 6d. That, of course, is bringing one into the scale of pay of the agricultural worker. So I think that a widow with four children today can say that she is reasonably well paid, and as well paid as if she were still married to a man working on the land. If she does go out to work 41s. 6d. of those payments will be paid regardless of her earnings and that 41s. 6d. is not withdrawn till her net earnings reach £8 12s. That does take a great deal of the sting out of the talk we hear about the earnings rule as it affects widows.

We must not forget that there are a great many people up and down the country who object to the earnings rule. Not only widows but married women and others object to the earnings rule. If we were to abolish the earnings rule for widows we should have to abolish it altogether for every class of person. I do not think that we could abolish it merely for widows, particularly widows with children, who are, as I say, being fairly well paid.

That raises the question: how much would it cost the nation? We understand that to abolish it for widows would cost about £30 million and that to abolish it altogether would cost £100 million, and the Government, and the nation, have to ask, "Can we afford to pay another £130 million to abolish the earnings rule, with all that that implies when, after all, the earnings rule was put on to encourage people to go out to work? We do not want to have to pay pension as well as earnings. We are trying to encourage people to go out to work."

So, again, I think that Clause 2 of the Bill raises a much larger problem than just that of widows and a much more difficult one.

Mr. Hunter

Has not the hon. Member gone wrong when he says that it encourages widows to go to work? Does it not have the opposite effect?

Mr. Gresham Cooke

I was talking about other classes of people. I think that it does encourage them to go out to work.

Dame Irene Ward


Mr. Gresham Cooke

Because they can draw only a Limited pension if they are staying at home, whereas if they go out to work they will earn more, which encourages them to go out to work.

This issue therefore raises a much wider issue among all types of persons. The White Paper does the right thing by widows with children, and that is my main concern. Therefore, I do not think that 'there is a need to deal with Clause 2 as suggested by the hon. Member for Brixton, because it would not make a great deal of difference. I am pleased about the pension increases in the White Paper, and also about the children's allowance going up to 5s., which is a hopeful sign.

In the stage that we have reached when Conservative Governments over the years have brought in about five pensions increases, and when the present White Paper has been put before us, I think that it would be wrong to deal with this issue in isolation, although there is a great deal of pressure for this to be done. I have received a good deal of propaganda from organisations and a great many letters from widows, but I believe that it would be out of tune to deal with this matter now in isolation, when we are dealing with the whole matter of pensions to the satisfaction of a good many people.

On the way to the House this morning I was tackled by an old-age pensioner I happen to know. He slapped me on the back and said, "I am delighted with what the Government have done for old-age pensioners. It is the best thing they have done during the last few weeks." On that note, I approached the House quite happily.

Mr. Hooson

If the hon. Member is in favour of the earnings rule for widows, would he also be in favour of the earnings rule for industrial or Service widows, and if so, why?

Mr. Gresham Cooke

There are special considerations. Service widows are a class apart, and, once one has admitted that principle, industrial widows fall into much the same category.

3.28 p.m.

Mr. L. M. Lever (Manchester, Ardwick)

I have been in my place for four and a half hours, waiting patiently to be called to support the case for the 10s. widow. I think that my hon. Friend the Member for Brixton (Mr. Lipton) ought to be congratulated on bringing his Bill forward. I was hoping also to be able to congratulate the Minister of Pensions and National Insurance. I am very sorry and disappointed, as I am sure countless thousands in the country will be, that the Minister has not taken this opportunity to agree to the Bill being given a Second Reading.

The object of a Second Reading is to approve a principle. The Bill embodies two principles which the Minister could easily have accepted, and then at a later stage, when he introduced his own Measure, he could have incorporated them in one form or another. I am still not without hope that the Minister, feeling that this should not be left to a private Member, will give himself the satisfaction when he introduces his own Bill next week, or perhaps during the Committee stage, of incorporating in it what has been pressed this morning. I have seen nothing inconsistent between taking the Second Reading of this Bill today and the right hon. Gentlemam's Bill, which, I am sure, will be welcomed throughout the country.

The hon. Member for Twickenham (Mr. Gresham Cooke) extolled the virtues of the Government for increasing the allowances, and I am sure that his rejoicing is universal. At the same time, while we are envisaging the future, we should not be oblivious of the past and of the unhappy position of the 10s. widow. The 10s. widow is obviously a relic of the past and I feel that it would be tidier if we could just eliminate the 10s. and bring it up to somewhere in conformity with our modern notions of pensions and allowances.

I think that my hon. Friend the Member for Brixton was all too modest in suggesting a 10s. increase instead of substituting a greater allowance for the old one. The new payment proposed will still be quite inadequate.

I make this plea, particularly for widows with children, because I have always taken the view that wives and widows should find their place in the home as far as possible to sustain and encourage their families. It is a sorry social phenomenon that wives and widows with young children have to go out to work. It means that the children, especially those without their fathers, lose the benefit of that material, homely background which should be their right.

We should not look askance at those widows who are trying to maintain their independence. We should encourage and help them. The principle suggested here is to increase the 10s. allowance while, at the same time, relieving them from having their earned income taken into account. The ground has been very well covered in the debate. There are far-reaching social consequences in having mothers at home with ample economic security to look after the children, particularly young children.

We must pay attention to the question of teen-age crime, which is so rife in parts of the country. We can attribute that in large measure to the fact that there has been no home background or security for many children. By seeing that the widow is economically secure and, therefore, able to look after and guide them we can eliminate much of the crime manifested throughout the land by teen-age children.

I do not at this late hour need to say any more, but I felt that a voice from Lancashire, a large industrial and quite prosperous area, should express itself in support of the Bill, which would eliminate an injustice which should have been removed years ago.

3.34 p.m.

Mr. Aidan Crawley (Derbyshire, West)

It is with great diffidence that I intervene in this debate, not only because I have not been able to be here throughout but because it is a subject on which so many hon. Members have such detailed knowledge and long experience. Nevertheless, it is also a subject on which I suppose all hon. Members feel strongly and on which every hon. Member is pressed frequently in his constituency. During the recent by-election in my constituency, I must have been asked as many questions about pensions, widows' pensions and the earnings principle as about any other subject.

When I began to listen to the debate, I had a very open mind, and I still sympathise a great deal with the feelings and motives behind the Bill. Like other hon. Members, I am very grateful to the hon. Member for Brixton (Mr. Lipton) for having introduced it. However, I am not sure that the Bill, worthy though its intentions are, would not increase more than cure the anomalies. The ground has been covered very well, but the Bill obviously refers to a category which is disappearing.

To double the 10s. pension would undoubtedly merely increase the disparity between the treatment of that category of women and others who, by pure accident of the date of their marriage or the type of contribution which their husbands paid, now receive and would receive different treatment. If the Bill were passed and the earnings principle were abandoned for this category only, there would be other anomalies.

Nevertheless, like the right hon. Member for Llanelly (Mr. J. Griffiths) and several of my hon. Friends, I hope —and I am encouraged to hope by what my right hon. Friend said—that the Government will look at this whole question, not only the complication of our pensions system, not only its historical background which has grown up piecemeal and which is therefore extraordinarily difficult to explain to ordinary people in one's constituency who do not have a detailed knowledge of it, but also the earnings principle in general.

On the complications, my hon. Friend the Member for East Grinstead (Mrs. Emmet) made it plain how impossible it is to explain to two women who live next to each other, both of them widows, that they fall into different categories. The distinction now between war widows, for example, and any other sort of widow is entirely out of date. After all, in a modern war it does not really matter whether a husband is lost on active service or on equally active civilian service.

If they take place at all, wars are now universal and there is something invidious in retaining this type of system if we are to bring our social insurance system up to date. The same thing applies to industrial widows. The small farmer, or the small shopkeeper, is just as important a part of our whole economic system as anybody who works in a factory. These distinctions are out of date. Whatever their causes, the time has obviously come to look at the whole system again.

In spite of what the Minister said, it is time for the Government to consider the earnings principle. Successive Ministers have defended it because it was the basis on which the social insurance scheme was built. But I do not accept the flat figure which is always given for the increase in cost which would be incurred if we abolished the earnings principle. I know that actuarially, within the system, it would amount to roughly £100 million, but that does not take account of what would be got back in direct and indirect taxation—by the expenditure on tobacco, and so on, by these pensioners who would often be earning good money.

Nor does it take account of the effect on the economy of a large number of people who would be able to do useful part-time jobs which nobody could afford to pay a young full-time worker to do and which no young man or woman with prospects would wish to undertake. There is a tremendous amount of good work to be done in that way by elderly people who would like to go on working, but who are now deterred from it by the earnings principle, which I believe to be a drag on the economy.

For all those reasons, although actuarially we might have to find £100 million—and whether we would have to increase contributions to cover that is a matter for debate—on balance the economy might benefit. Although this is not a matter strictly for my right hon. Friend, it is a matter for the Government as a whole and for the Chancellor of the Exchequer especially to consider, and I hope that they will.

There is a general feeling that this earnings principle derives from a different period—a period in which unemployment played a far larger part than it does now, when people were much more jealous of their jobs and were afraid that the receipt of a pension might be used by employers as an excuse for paying lower wages. The right hon. Member for Llanelly brought out this point, and implied—and I agree with him—that those days are past, and that there is now no fear that reputable employers would act in that way. Further, if any such attempt were made on a large scale, our trade union movement would have enough power to see that it did not succeed.

I can understand my right hon. Friend's not feeling able to accept the Bill, but I join with those who have urged him to take a broad look at the whole question in order to see whether it can be simplified and whether these out-of-date and irritating restrictions can be removed.

3.41 p.m.

Mr. Laurence Pavitt (Willesden, West)

I listened with interest to the contribution made by the hon. Member for Derbyshire, West (Mr. Crawley), and agree with a good deal of the latter part of his speech, about the place of the earnings rule in our pensions scheme— not only because of the points that he made but also in relation to the changing pattern of health. Not only are we increasing the number of years that we expect to live; in those years we have a greater standard of health between the ages of 60 and 70 than was the case twenty-five years ago.

But I do not agree with those hon. Members who have suggested that we should take account of the precedents that may be established elsewhere. The fact that many other considerations arise, outside the Bill, does not mean that it should be rejected, or that the Minister ought not to accept it in principle. The essence of the Bill is its simplicity. It is confined to two points which are easily understood by the House.

The hon. Member for Twickenham (Mr. Gresham Cooke) talked to a great extent about precedents. I object to this sort of argument. It means that we are arguing not the present case, but some other case. I submit that we are here to argue this case, and that it is for the Minister to answer following cases if and when they emerge.

I was a little disappointed in the Minister's speech. He kept his promise. He said that the brief, of necessity, gave the facts. He gave the facts, but I had hoped that he would stray from his brief at times, especially to answer the important points raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Southampton, Itchen (Dr. King). My hon. Friend the Member for Sowerby (Mr. Houghton) shot down the argument about the cost. I hope that my hon. Friend's peroration will be noted not only in the House, but outside it—his point that if sufficient pressure is brought to bear it is surprising how quickly the House can move. My hon. Friend's words led me to recall that not so long ago the payment of about £70 million was agreed to by the House almost on the nod, for the farmers, Who have a strong pressure lobby. In that case the amount of debate was negligible. On the other hand, when we discuss the payment of an extra £10 million or a little more for widows, or an extra £1¾ million for health foods, it seems that we must devote a much greater time to debate, and arguments are put forward to the effect that grave economic consequences would follow if the extra money were paid and nothing is done.

The payment of the 10s. has continued as a residual right since it was first made in 1946. The right arises out of the husbands' contributions. They had paid for a certain commodity, and the pension has therefore been continued, although the value is now not what it was. I was rather surprised to find that the actual fixing of that was 1936 and not 1946. Of course, this seems to make the case even stronger. If it is right to receive that amount and has been right all these years to receive it, then surely it is right to have a fair and square deal for the contributions paid in.

In the same way, in Committee upstairs we are trying in the Weights and Measures Bill to give a square deal to consumers, and it seems elementary as far as the 10s. widow is concerned that she should receive that which is equivalent to the standard which we expect to find in 1963. I think that my hon. Friend the Member for Brixton made most of the points for the justice and equity of that class of pension.

The question of the earnings rule is one on which most of us on both sides of the House have received a considerable amount of pressure from widows and where we find the most amount of difficulty. I recall very much the case which I took up with the Ministry last year. It is the matter of the complications concerning the way in which the rule must be applied that leads us to this difficulty when meeting our constituents, and because of the fact that the rule has to be fairly rigid. If the Ministry gives way on grounds of sympathy or understanding in one case it opens the door to others. But we have all had heart-breaking cases and things that we find difficult to explain to the widow concerned.

The hon. Lady the Parliamentary Secretary will remember the correspondence which we had on the £7 which was added to a wage packet at Christmas and which, owing to the earnings rule, was reduced to £1 18s. My constituent came to me about the matter. Not only had the £7 been reduced to £1 18s., by the deduction of £5 2s., but it was decided that as, perhaps, next Christmas another £7 would be forthcoming then something like 2s. should be deducted weekly for the following twelve months so that she did not lose so much in one sum next year.

This is the whole problem of the earnings rule. It affects such a small section of the community that when we come to its application many difficulties arise, and most of us rejoice in the simplicity of Clause 2 of my hon. Friend's Bill which would get us out of those difficulties. I have many letters from constituents, on one of which I wrote to the hon. Lady the Parliamentary Secretary and to which she has kindly replied, which indicate the kind of difficulties that the earnings rule runs us into.

I pay tribute to the Ministry of Pensions and National Insurance. Most of us have correspondence with all the Ministries, but I think that other hon. Members will bear me out when I say that the letters which we receive from this Ministry are three or four times longer than those we receive from all other Departments and contain more detail. I think that the letter in question is two pages long and another was three pages. We are grateful for the industry that goes into these replies.

While paying tributes, may I pay one to my hon. Friend the Member for Sowerby because, when I do not understand a particular point I go to see him and ask him what it means and then I am able to explain to my constituent? I think that most of us on this side of the House are grateful to my hon. Friend, who acts as a sort of one-man advice bureau on these problems. But if it is difficult for us who are constantly meeting this kind of problem in the House, what must it be like to the widowed mother trying to cope with all kinds of problems? One letter from a lady aged 61 says, "I am very sorry, I just cannot understand," So I say "Come and see me" and I explain what paragraphs 3, 4, 7, 9, or 10 mean and perhaps relate them to what the husband paid and what the widow should have received.

Do not misunderstand me. I realise that the problem is complicated and that, therefore, we must receive complicated replies. But how nice it would be, in this matter of pensions, if the complications could be taken out of it by the acceptance of my hon. Friend's Bill as far as this small section of the community is concerned.

I was amazed at the hon. Member for Twickenham, who was, no doubt, giving us a foretaste of the speech which he will make in the debates to be held on the National Insurance Bill which will be debated in the House next week. He said that, eventually, the widow would be able to get the princely sum of £9 11s. and then she would be doing quite as well as an agricultural labourer. I cannot see that that is a large sum on which to bring up a family. The widow will still be at the bottom of the scale.

In our debates on matters such as this, why must we always try to peg things to the minimum? Why is it not possible, in the same way as in other spheres of activity, that the widow should be congratulated if she shows initiative? If other people who are earning their living show initiative and work harder and longer we commend them on what they are trying to do to provide their family with a little more comfort. If a widow is prepared to work hard and earn more money to help in the raising of her family, she should not immediately have to take into consideration how much she will lose as a result of that effort. We should be grateful to her for making the effort and she should not be penalised.

Mr. N. Macpherson

My hon. Friend the Member for Twickenham (Mr. Gresham Cooke) made it clear that the widow would be able, under the new regulations, to earn up to the £6 as well.

Mr. Pavitt

I am grateful to the Minister. Of course, we all know that. But why have the barrier at all when the whole range—as was shown by the figures given earlier by my hon. Friend the Member for Brixton—is something which can easily be contained and confined?

The Minister's answer to the debate did not surprise me. This is the 21st hour that I have been in this Chamber during the past 48 and, strangely enough, the pattern of debate throughout all that time has been the same. I have listened to the debates on the previous Measure which was before the Committee and on the Bill now before the House, and the Ministers concerned have met constructive criticism from back benchers on both sides in the same manner. Ministers have been sympathetic. They have been understanding, But there is never any action. They have promised to consider and said that something will be looked at, and that in the future they might be able to do something about it—if this, or if that. But at present there is no cause for great comfort.

During the Recess I have had an opportunity to learn about what goes on outside this "monastery". I find that on television there is a programme called "Perry Mason Show", which runs to a similar pattern week after week. I am an optimist and I am always hopeful that just once, in the last five minutes of the programme, Perry Mason will change the pattern, and that, instead of emerging from his case triumphant, he will lose it. That has never yet happened.

In the same way I always hope, having listened to earnest contributions from hon. Members on both sides of the House in a particular debate, that it will be the one occasion when the Minister will say that the arguments advanced and the reasons given justify him in saying that, with little adjustment here and there, the Measure is one which he can urge the House to accept.

It was not my good fortune to hear the Minister say that today. He has indicated that he has every sympathy and understanding. He was very complimentary about the first-class speeches which were made by his hon. Friends. He referred to the speech of his hon. Friend the Member for Tyne-mouth (Dame Irene Ward). This House is aware that, year in and year out, the hon. Lady battles on. She referred to the ten years during which she has been "battling". It is fortunate that battles are won as much by tenacity and dogged persistence as by anything else and I still hope, therefore, that the hon. Lady may achieve victory on this issue on some occasion.

I must confess that this was the first time I have ever heard a speech from the hon. Member for Uxbridge (Mr. Curran). I know the views of the hon. Gentleman, because I am able to lead them in his newspaper articles from time to time. I agree with most things that the hon. Gentleman said today, although I rarely agree with anything he writes. I wish that he would speak more often and write less.

Nevertheless, there was from the back benches opposite a considerable amount of informed, constructive support for the Measure put forward by my hon. Friend the Member for Brixton. From this side of the House there has been constructive support for what is quite a small Measure. We had the usual authoritative statement, full of facts and information, from my hon. Friend the Member for Sowerby. It was a delight to me and to the rest of the House when my right hon. Friend the Member for Llanelly (Mr. J. Griffiths), to whom we owe so much in this field, joined in the debate. We now come to the end of the day congratulating, as we all have, my hon. Friend the Member for Brixton on the fact that he was able to draw his name out of the hat and that he had the courage to bring forward such a sensible Bill. We are grateful to him that he was able to do it in a way which should have made it possible for the House to accept.

We were more than grateful that this very small section of the community, this group without a great deal of power or pressure—the forgotten ladies of the country—have today been very well remembered in this debate. We were very grateful to my hon. Friend the Member for Brixton for this opportunity. We shall be even more grateful if, when it comes to the point, hon. Members opposite will see that this is not merely a talking shop, but a place in which something can be done for these people.

Mr. Lipton rose in his place and claimed to move, That the Question be now put.

Question, That the Question be now put, put and agreed to.

Question put accordingly, That the Bill be now read a Second time:—

The House divided: Ayes 51, Noes 144.

Division No. 33.] AYES [3.58 p.m.
Beaney, Alan Hewitson, Capt. M. Plummer, Sir Leslie
Brown, Rt. Hon. George (Belper) Hooson, H. E. Redhead, E. C.
Butler, Mrs. Joyce (Wood Green) Houghton, Douglas Reynolds, G. W.
Callaghan, James Hughes, Emrys (S. Ayrshire) Stewart, Michael (Fulham)
Cliffe, Michael Hughes, Hector (Aberdeen, N.) Thomas, George (Cardiff, W.)
Crosland, Anthony Hunter, A. E. Thomson, G. M. (Dundee, E.)
Curran, Charles Hynd, H. (Accrington) Thorpe, Jeremy
Deer, George Jones, Elwyn (West Ham, S.) Warbey, William
Dugdale, Rt. Hon. John Kelley, Richard Ward, Dame Irene
Ede, Rt. Hon. C. King, Dr. Horace Weitzman, David
Edwards, Walter (Stepney) Lever, L. M. (Ardwick) Whitlock, William
Finch, Harold Lubbock, Eric Wigg, George
Fletcher, Eric Mabon, Dr. J. Dickson Wilson, Rt. Hon. Harold (Huyton)
Foot, Dingle (Ipswich) McLeavy, Frank Yates, Victor (Ladywood)
Griffiths, Rt. Hon. James (Llanelly) Noel-Baker, Francis (Swindon) Zilliacus, K.
Griffiths, W. (Exchange) Pargiter, G. A.
Hale, Leslie (Oldham, W.) Parker, John TELLERS FOR THE AYES:
Hart, Mrs. Judith Pavitt, Laurence Mr. Lipton and Mr. Dodds
Allan, Robert (Paddington, S.) Goodhart, Philip Pilkington, Sir Richard
Allason, James Goodhew, Victor Pott, Percivall
Amery, Rt. Hon. Julian Gough, Frederick Powell, Rt. Hon. J. Enoch
Atkins, Humphrey Green, Alan Price, David (Eastleigh)
Balniel, Lord Grosvenor, Lt.-Col. R. G. Profumo, Rt. Hon. John
Barber, Anthony Hamilton, Michael (Wellingborough) Pym, Francis
Batsford, Brian Hare, Rt. Hon. John Quennell, Miss J. M.
Berkeley, Humphry Harris, Reader (Heston) Ramsden, James
Biggs-Davison, John Harvey, John (Walthamstow, E.) Rawlinson, Sir Peter
Bingham, R. M. Hastings, Stephen Redmayne, Rt. Hon. Martin
Black, Sir Cyril Hay, John Rees, Hugh
Bossom, Hon. Clive Hill, J. E. B. (S. Norfolk) Ridsdale, Julian
Boyd-Carpenter, Rt. Hon. John Hobson, Sir John Rippon, Rt. Hon. Geoffrey
Boyle, Rt. Hon. Sir Edward Hopkins, Alan Roberts, Sir Peter (Heeley)
Braine, Bernard Hughes Hallett, Vice-Admiral John Roots, William
Brooke, Rt. Hon. Henry Hughes-Young, Michael Russell, Ronald
Brooman-White, R. Irvine, Bryant Godman (Rye) St. Clair, M.
Brown, Alan (Tottenham) James, David Sandys, Rt. Hon. Duncan
Buck, Antony Joseph, Rt. Hon. Sir Keith Scott-Hopkins, James
Burden, F. A. Leburn, Gilmour Sharples, Richard
Carr, Compton (Barons Court) Lindsay, Sir Martin Shepherd, William
Carr, Robert (Mitcham) Linstead, Sir Hugh Smith, Dudley (Br'ntf'd & Chiswick)
Channon, H. P. G. Lloyd, Rt. Hn. Geoffrey (Sut'nC'dfield) Soames, Rt. Hon. Christopher
Chataway, Christopher Loveys, Walter H. Speir, Rupert
Chichester-Clark, R. Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh Studholme, Sir Henry
Clark, Henry (Antrim, N.) MacArthur, Ian Tapsell, Peter
Clark, William (Nottingham, S.) McLaren, Martin Taylor, Frank (M'ch'st'r, Moss Side)
Cordeaux, Lt.-Col. J. K. Macleod, Rt. Hn. Iain (Enfield, W.) Taylor, Sir William (Bradford, N.)
Corfield, F. V. McMaster, Stanley R. Teeling, Sir William
Courtney, Cdr. Anthony Macmillan, Rt. Hn. Harold (Bromley) Thatcher, Mrs. Margaret
Crawley, Alden Macpherson, Rt. Hn. Niall (Dumfries) Thomas, Sir Leslie (Canterbury)
Cunningham, Knox Marples, Rt. Hon. Ernest Thompson, Sir Richard (Croydon, S.)
Currie, G. B. H. Marten, Neil Thorneycroft, Rt. Hon. Peter
Dance, James Maudling, Rt. Hon. Reginald Thornton-Kemsley, Sir Colin
Deedes, Rt. Hon. W. F. Mawby, Ray Tilney, John (Wavertree)
Dlgby, Simon Wingfield Maxwell-Hyslop, R. J. Turner, Colin
Doughty, Charles Maydon, Lt.-Cmdr. S. L. C. Tweedsmuir, Lady
Drayson G. B. Miscampbell, Norman van Straubenzee, W. R.
Elliot, Capt. Walter (Carshalton) Neave, Airey Wakefield, Sir Wavell
Erroll, Rt. Hon. F. J. Noble, Rt. Hon. Michael Walder, David
Finlay, Graeme Nugent, Rt. Hon. Sir Richard Walker, Peter
Fisher, Nigel Orr-Ewing, C. Ian Wells, John (Maidstone)
Fletcher-Cooke, Charles Page, Graham (Crosby) Whitelaw, William
Williams, Dudley (Exeter)
Fraser, Rt. Hn. Hugh (Stafford&Stone) Partridge, E. Wood, Rt. Hon. Richard
Fraser, Ian (Plymouth, Sutton) Pearson, Frank (Clitheroe) Woodhouse, C. M.
Freeth, Denzil Peel, John
Glover, Sir Douglas Peyton, John TELLERS FOR THE NOES:
Glyn, Sir Richard (Dorset, N.) Pickthorn, Sir Kenneth Mr. Gresham Cooke and
Godber, J. B. Pike, Miss Mervyn Mr. Bishop.