HC Deb 29 June 1964 vol 697 cc913-5
7. Mr. McLeavy

asked the Minister of Pensions and National Insurance what representations he has received from women's organisations urging an increase in the 10s. widow's pension to 20s. and for the removal of the earnings rule in respect of all widows; and what reply he has made.

The Minister of Pensions and National Insurance (Mr. Richard Wood)

Five such organisations have written on these points during the last 12 months, although none suggested exactly the combination of proposals to which the hon. Member refers. The Government's views on these matters were given on 30th January last during the debate on the Measure which improved the provisions made for widows under the National Insurance Scheme.

Mr. McLeavy

Is the Minister aware that, apart from the organisations which have made representations to him, a recent conference of Conservative women passed a resolution, against the Minister's advice, to abolish the earnings rule? If the Minister feels that it is not possible to abolish the earnings rule altogether, will he consider the rather modest suggestion contained in my Bill, which has been blocked by hon. Members opposite, whereby widows would be relieved from the earnings rule? Will the right hon. Gentleman tell the House why it is not possible for the Government to make this reasonable concession to widows, who have great responsibility and who, in my judgment, are entitled to this consideration?

Mr. Wood

I was aware of the resolution passed by the conference to which the hon. Member has drawn my attention. The reason which I gave on that occasion, and which it is perfectly suitable to give on this occasion also, is that the removal of the earnings rule, either for widows, or for widows and retirement pensioners also, would impose a substantial extra cost. That, however, is not the main consideration, which is that the substantial extra cost would not be devoted to helping the most needy among the widows whom the hon. Gentleman has in mind. That is precisely why the Government have opposed the principle of his Bill and introduced their Measure early this year to help widowed mothers, for whom great sympathy is felt on all sides of the House.

Mr. H. Hynd

Will not the Minister at least bring up the 10s. to the present-day value of what it was when it was first paid?

Mr. Wood

This matter also has been debated. To increase the 10s. widow's pension would merely widen the gap between widows in exactly similar circumstances, some of whom have reserved rights and others of whom do not. I do not think that this would be the right thing to do.

Mr. Lipton

Is it, therefore, the Government's final determination to do nothing for the 10s. widow or in respect of the abolition of the earnings rule for widows during the lifetime of the present Government?

Mr. Wood

The hon. Member must continue to be patient.

Mr. Lipton

There is still a chance?

Mr. Wood

He may hear all kinds of information about all kinds of subjects which may be very interesting to him.