HC Deb 17 June 1963 vol 679 cc4-6
6. Mr. Frank Allaun

asked the Minister of Pensions and National Insurance approximately how many people are at present being refused the full National Assistance to which they would be otherwise entitled because their earnings are smaller than that amount.

Mrs. Thatcher

About 27,000.

Mr. Allaun

Does not this mean that more than 100,000 children are living on lower than the subsistence level because of the breadwinner's unemployment or sickness? Therefore, would the Minister consider either increasing the family allowances for these children or paying family allowances in all cases up to the third or fourth child?

Mrs. Thatcher

My right hon. Friend at the moment has no proposals for increasing family allowances.

Miss Herbison

Surely the hon. Lady is aware that the families in the 27,000 which she has mentioned are living sometimes very much below what the Government have decided is the subsistence level? Since that is the case, surely the Government must give serious thought to what they are going to do to help these families?

Mrs. Thatcher

As the hon. Lady knows, the problem arises because National Assistance takes account of a person's private obligations and the wages system cannot. We do not think it right to pay more to a person when he is out of work than he could possibly earn when he is employed.

16. Mr. Hector Hughes

asked the Minister of Pensions and National Insurance if he is aware that many poor persons with obligations are penalised by the National Assistance earnings rule; and what steps he will take to assist them by an alteration of the rule.

Mrs. Thatcher

The Board has no proposals for changing the amounts of earnings which are at present disregarded for the purpose of assessing National Assistance allowances.

Mr. Hughes

The earnings rule penalises people who are willing to work and also reduces national productivity. Is this not a thoroughly unpatriotic penalty upon the people concerned? Will the Minister take steps to see that justice is done to this class of people?

Mrs. Thatcher

National Assistance is related to actual need. The more one increases the disregards the further one gets away from actual need.

Mr. Lawson

Is the hon. Lady aware that at present many workers are being given a wage or earnings limit of £9 a week? Irrespective of the children that they have, they are allowed no more than £9 a week, and will the Minister see that these scales are brought up or that the earnings rule is altered?

Mrs. Thatcher

The weekly earnings limit was changed in 1959. It is now 30s. a week plus half of the next 20s. for persons not required to register for work. For an unemployed person who has to register for work it is 15s. a week.

17. Mr. Lipton

asked the Minister of Pensions and National Insurance how many widows now have their pensions reduced by the new earnings rule; and what is the saving to public funds as a result.

Mrs. Thatcher

It is too soon to assess the effects of the recent changes in the earnings rules, but from earlier information, we think that the number of widow beneficiaries affected will be of the order of 70,000 and the annual amount involved about £6½ million.

Mr. Lipton

In view of those figures in comparison with the figures announced in reply to previous Questions, does not the hon. Lady think the time has come to abolish the earnings rule altogether and also to remove many of the other anomalies and injustices which affect widows?

Mrs. Thatcher

There is a good deal to be said for a view to which I do not think the hon. Gentleman has given quite enough consideration, namely, that the widow whose family responsibilities preclude her from being able to go out to work should get more from the National Insurance Fund than the widow who can earn quite appreciably.

Mr. Speaker

I must ask the House to exercise some restraint about the number of decibels in conversation.