HC Deb 27 May 1963 vol 678 cc895-6
8. Dame Irene Ward

asked the Minister of Pensions and National Insurance the estimated cost of abolishing the earnings rule in respect of widowed mothers.

Mr. N. Macpherson

Rather more than £1 million a year assuming that no other changes were involved.

Dame Irene Ward

Is my right hon. Friend aware that practically the whole of women's public opinion is in favour of the withdrawal of the earnings rule as applied to widows with children? Why is it that in a free country, on a basis of partnership, women's views are always neglected? When will we get this alteration?

Mr. Macpherson

I assure my hon. Friend that neither her views nor those of other women are neglected in this matter. It would, however, be very doubtful whether the abolition of the earnings rule for widowed mothers could be restricted to widowed mothers.

Mr. Mitchison

Is the Minister aware that on this matter the Labour Party and the women agree?

Mr. Macpherson

I am aware that on this matter the Labour Party do not seek to restrict the abolition of the earnings rule to widowed mothers. That is part of the difficulty.

Mrs. Emmet

Is there not a certain confusion in the Minister's mind in classing widows' pensions with retirement pensions? One thing that a widow cannot do is to retire. It seems to me that, in respect of earnings, this class of person should come under a totally different heading from the retirement pensioner.

Mr. Macpherson

The risk against which insurance is provided is the risk of the absence of earnings, and it has been accepted since the beginning of the scheme that if a widow is able to work, and does work, it is reasonable to take into account her earnings beyond a certain point.