HC Deb 01 August 1966 vol 733 cc22-3
34. Mr. Hornby

asked the Minister of Pensions and National Insurance what is the amount of overtime necessary in the National Assistance Board to implement the provisions of the Ministry of Social Security Bill; to what extent this overtime is compulsory; and what steps are being taken to mitigate this burden by staff recruitment and more realistic allowances.

Miss Herbison

As I said in debate on the Bill a great deal of overtime will be needed to bring in the new scheme of supplementary benefits. Exactly how much cannot be estimated with any certainty before the new claims come in; but I have no doubt that the staff will do all that is required even at the cost of some personal inconvenience. Everything practicable is of course being done to ease the burden on the staff by recruiting reinforcements and suspending other work. The usual Civil Service rates for overtime will apply.

Mr. Hornby

Will not the right hon. Lady agree that prolonged spells of compulsory overtime are an extremely unsatisfactory practice in any business? Is this not just one more case of the Government failing to look ahead at all the administrative consequences of their own legislation?

Miss Herbison

Certainly not. When the Bill was introduced, and in the course of discussion on the Bill, I made it clear to the House, as I have made it clear in other quarters, that if we were to ease the burden on the old, the chronic sick and the others who will be assisted by the Bill it would involve much overtime. But we are recruiting 1,100 additional staff, some of them casual staff. We shall also be easing ordinary work, for example visiting. I know that the staff are devoted people who will do everything possible to see that the work is shared fairly and that hardship does not arise.

Miss Pike

Does the right hon. Lady realise that she has not answered the Question? Has she looked ahead to the requirements of staff who will be involved in legislation which is coming forward? Would she not accept that whole situation will be greatly exaggerated by the demands upon her Department of the Selective Employment Payments Bill? Will she not run into great difficulties because of this?

Miss Herbison

No. We looked at all these matters. Knowing the staff—and I have met many of them—I am quite certain that, although they will have to work overtime, they are not trying to find political arguments against what the Government have been trying to do. My experience is that the staff have been as much concerned in their devoted service for these people as we, as the Government, have been concerned.