HC Deb 27 April 1964 vol 694 cc1-3
1. Mr. Randall

asked the Minister of Pensions and National Insurance if he will give statistics regarding the number of applications and appeals for death grants which have been refused on the death of invalids from childhood unable to satisfy the contribution conditions for death grant, and who were beyond an age where entitlement could be claimed on their parents' insurance.

The Joint Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Pensions and National Insurance (Mrs. Margaret Thatcher)

I am afraid that this information is not available because separate records are not kept of these cases. Under the 1964 Act, which came into operation last month, these persons will qualify for death grant on the insurance of the parents up to the age of 19 instead of 18.

Mr. Randall

Whatever the figures may be, in the view of some hon. Members there are 100 per cent. too many. Does not the hon. Lady agree that the present arrangement whereunder the parents of children 19 calendar years of age but only five years of age physically are denied the death grant is a matter which ought to receive the attention of the Government, and is not the need reinforced because these parents are unable to take on any private insurance and the young person reaching the age of 18 is not capable of being insured? In the circumstances, having regard to the great hardship which many parents have suffered because of the appalling burden of keeping such children for a number of years already, will not the Government do something in the matter?

Mrs. Thatcher

My right hon. Friend is not unsympathetic towards these cases, and we recognise that they command a great deal of sympathy. However, there is the difficulty that death grant is a benefit of the National Insurance Scheme and, consequently, is paid against a record of contributions. As the hon. Gentleman has said, most of these young people have not yet paid any contributions at all and have probably been on a National Assistance grant.

Miss Herbison

Since these young men and women are able, after reaching the age of 16, to get National Assistance in their own right, would it not be possible for the Minister to consider the possibility of a death grant being made payable through the National Assistance Board, if it is the age of the child and the contribution record which makes it impossible to pay under the present system?

Mrs. Thatcher

I think that it would be much more fruitful to pursue a line through National Assistance rather than through National Insurance in view of the inherent nature of the scheme. My right hon. Friend already has this in mind.