HC Deb 20 May 1965 vol 712 cc1660-1
Q3. Sir W. Teeling

asked the Prime Minister what forms of financial aid have been given by Her Majesty's Government representatives in France, India and Malta to British subjects resident there over 60 years of age in the last financial year.

The Prime Minister

Monthly relief payments were made to 176 British subjects resident in France and to one British subject resident in India. Most of these beneficiaries were over 60 years of age, but precise information is not readily available. No financial aid was given to elderly British residents in Malta.

Sir W. Teeling

Could the right hon. Gentleman tell us whether that in any way compares with the amount of public assistance which could be given, if it is decided to do so, to British residents of great age in those parts of the world?

The Prime Minister

I am not quite sure what the hon. Member has in mind. It would not be possible for the National Assistance Board to operate overseas: it has no statutory or other powers to do so. Traditionally, it has been the duty of the Foreign Office and the Commonwealth Relations Department to help in cases of destitution of British subjects overseas. Traditionally, this has been done under the sums voted in the Estimates. If the hon. Member has any evidence that this is not being done on a satisfactory scale, perhaps he will let me or the Ministers concerned know about it.

Sir G. Nicholson

Is the Prime Minister satisfied that there are not many more cases than those represented by these figures? Most people think that there is a considerable amount of tragic poverty among elderly British subjects abroad which is not dealt with. Will he assure us that it is not shortage of funds which prevents more being done?

The Prime Minister

One of the things done by consular officers and by the officers of the Commonwealth Relations Department is to help to repatriate British citizens who are in the acutely strained circumstances to which the hon. Member has referred. Where this is not possible, relief is made available. I have no evidence that there are a number of others who are not getting relief, but I am sure that if hon. Gentlemen know of any cases, they could be looked into. It is not shortage of funds which prevents the relief of destitution or the provision of help to bring them home. But the amounts which can be paid—the amounts—must be limited. I am not aware that people are kept out of the scheme because we have no money for them.