§ A sum of £1 per week shall be paid at the end of the period covered by graduated benefit so long as incapacity for work due to sickness 1554 continues or at the end of the period under the Bill for which but for low earnings or the 85 per cent. rule graduated sickness benefit would have been paid, and shall be disregarded for the purpose of benefit under the National Assistance Acts.—[Sir K. Joseph.]
§ Brought up, and read the First time.
Further payment on expiry of entitlement to earnings-related supplement
For so long as the interruption of their employment continues, there shall be payable to persons who have been in receipt of unemployment benefit, including earnings-related supplement, the sum of £1 per week at the end of the period of their entitlement to that supplement, or at the end of the period which, but for low earnings or the 85 per cent. rule, such earnings-related supplement would have been payable; and the sum of £1 referred to shall be disregarded for the purposes of benefit under the National Assistance Acts.
§ Sir K. Joseph
This new Clause proposes that extra money should be paid out of the National Insurance Fund. The Committee will remember that the Opposition tried, although unsuccessfully, to save the equivalent sum of money by means of an earlier Amendment. We are not, therefore, making any proposal to spend extra money out of the National Insurance Fund and I should like to explain our proposal.
It is that the community should make a beginning on the important task of providing some extra benefit for the chronic sick. I doubt whether there is anyone in the Committee who will disagree with the good sense of this purpose. What is at issue is when and how we can begin to carry out that purpose. At the moment, the result of the Bill is that a person who is sick either by a combination of his or her employer's sickness scheme and the graduated benefit, or by the graduated benefit alone, is provided with the flat-rate sickness benefit and some additional help for the first six and a half months of any spell of sickness. But after the first six and a half months, the sick person who continues to be incapable of work because of sickness fails altogether, unless his employer has an unusually generous sickness scheme at flat-rate sickness benefit, supplemented, where the resources of the household make it necessary, by assistance from the National Assistance Board.
1555 It is probably common ground that, as the weeks and months go by, most households begin to exhaust the resources which they have accumulated both in the form of financial savings and of assets on their shelves. Therefore, as sickness is prolonged, it becomes more and more important that some sort of extra benefit shall be available to them. Our proposal is that, from the end of the graduated sickness benefit period, the sum of £1 per week shall be paid for the duration of incapacity due to sickness. We do not begin to pretend that £1 is the right amount. It is on the low side, but it is a practicable and modest starting point.
There is little doubt that it would bring great benefit to the households concerned and would be much more socially relevant than the use to which the Bill proposes that the equivalent sum of money shall be put, at any rate for the next 10 years, that is by a very modest supplement to the retirement benefit.
Normally, when one makes an addition to a flat-rate social benefit, one encounters the difficulty that such a flat-rate increment brings no help whatsoever to the poorest in the community, because it merely gets deducted from the National Assistance supplement which such people receive. That is why, in the Clause, we provide that the 20s. per week proposed payment shall be disregarded for the purpose of National Assistance benefit.
Of course, if the right hon. Lady advises us that the Government accept the purpose of the Clause, but would like it withdrawn so that it can be introduced in better technical shape, we shall gladly withdraw it for that purpose.
The Clause is drawn also with the thought of the lowest-paid wage earner particularly in mind. As the Committee is aware, people who are paid sufficiently little or whose children are sufficiently many for the 85 per cent. rule to exclude them from graduated benefit would not get any graduated benefit at all and would thus be excluded from the benefit of any new Clause which merely continued the graduated benefit period of £1 flat rate in respect of the graduated benefit itself.
The Clause would provide that, where a person would have been entitled to 1556 graduated benefit but for the circumstances of his earnings and/or the application of the 85 per cent. rule, then, from the end of what would have been the graduated sickness period had it been applicable, the £1 benefit shall be paid. The Clause, both by the provision that the payment shall be disregarded for National Assistance and by the provision to which I have just referred, is slanted heavily in favour of the lowest paid. We hope, therefore, that the right hon. Lady will look kindly on the Clause.
I hope that it will also be of some benefit to those households which suffer from incapacity of work due to ill-health but where the ill-health is due to disability rather than sickness. There is, as the Minister knows, a large number of people whose lives are crippled by disability and the Clause would bring them some benefit as well as giving it to the more normally incapable due to temporary or chronic sickness. I could go on at length, but my only other point is the possible scale of the problem.
Perhaps I have not got the right figures, but I have not seen anywhere an analysis in detail of the exact numbers of the people incapable due to sickness for different lengths of time. This may have been my fault, but I have in front of me the National Assistance Board Report for 1964, in which I find that 26 per cent. of those receiving supplement to sickness benefit were ill for more than six months and that the total number receiving supplement before sickness benefit was about 146,000 people.
Therefore, from the point of view of the Assistance Board, which covers the poorest in the land, the numbers to whom the Clause would apply would be about 35,000. I am certain that many more than this—but I do not know how many-would be covered by the Clause. I am sure that the right hon. Lady will give us the figures.
§ Mr. Kenneth Lewis
I support the new Clause and agree with my right hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, North-East (Sir K. Joseph) that the amount stated in it may not be as high as it should be. Doubtless if the Government accept it they will say what amount would be appropriate.
I particularly support the Clause because of the discussion we had last night. 1557 I am sure, arising out of that discussion, that the point I was attempting to make is not covered for a great many people and that, therefore, something extra—at least the amount stated in the Clause—is necessary. I remind the right hon. Lady of what she said last night:The £3 will go not only to people at home"—she was referring to those who get the normal constant attendance allowance—…but to pensioners and industrially disabled people in hospital who do not get this allowance".Later, she added:We have carried out to the full those recommendations…."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 16th February, 1966; Vol. 724, c. 1431, 1433.]The right hon. Lady was referring to the McCorquodale Committee's recommendations which could be dealt with in a Bill of this kind. Bearing that in mind, I will quote what the McCorquodale Report stated. It made certain recommendations to the effect that the Government should consider additional allowances for certain groups of people. The first group which it recommended should receive an increase was those receiving either the exceptional or intermediate rate of constant attendance allowance. The second group contained:…any others suffering from multiple disablement (whether due to one or more conditions) of which in the opinion of the Minister the net total effect is as disabling as that of pensioners receiving one of those rates. (This would cover mainly hospital cases, but would also allow the inclusion of pensioners, should there be any, who had not qualified for constant attendance allowance at the intermediate rate because of exceptional efforts.)In my view, the people in that second group are not fully covered by the Bill. Does the Minister dispute that?
§ Miss Herbison
Yes. As I said yesterday, the groups mentioned by the McCorquodale Committee are, from the point of view of the industrially injured, completely covered. The groups mentioned by the hon. Gentleman will be covered in the Royal Warrant; the war disabled will be covered in the same way.
§ 4.15 p.m.
§ Mr. Lewis
I must, of course, accept that as being the case. However, when I compare what the right hon. Lady stated last night with the Bill it seems that a group of people will not be 1558 covered. However, many people who are in need of extra would be covered by the new Clause, remembering that they do not come within the regulations to be made under the Bill. I should have thought that there was a great deal to be said for at least considering the people in the groups I have mentioned.
I have recently been in correspondence with the right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Labour on this issue. I will quote from a letter, of yesterday's date, which I have received from the right hon. Gentleman concerning certain disabled people who are employed in sheltered workshops. The letter states:These residents accommodated in the centres under welfare arrangements are so severely disabled as to be capable only of diversionary occupation as distinct from employment; but I understand that committees of management arrange for payments additional to the statutory pocket money to be made available to those residents engaged on occupational work.That letter, signed by the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Labour, shows that that Ministry believes that there is a need for additional payments to be made. If that is the view of the Ministry of Labour, should not the right hon. Lady consider this matter, particularly in relation to the new Clause, remembering that it would be far better if the money were available from the State than that these people should be at the hazard of any charity which might be provided for them?
If one considers the payments that are made—for example, the training allowances given to these disabled people—one finds that a man living away from home receives £5 a week while a woman receives £4 a week. A man with a wife or maintaining an adult dependant gets £7 5s. a week. These rates are extremely low.
We are having to look after a large number of people who are unemployed or sick, but, in addition, there is a smaller number of people who are living on the poverty line. This point was made by my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition in a speech recently. These are the people whom the party opposite is inclined to forget, perhaps because their numbers are not large. Do I see the right hon. Lady smiling? I trust she realises the plight of these people and the fact that the Bill does not cover 1559 their needs. For this reason, I support the Clause and warn the Government that they will be judged by whether or not they accept it.
The right hon. Lady has not accepted any Opposition Amendments so far. We hope that she will accept this proposed new Clause. If she does not she will be judged accordingly.
§ Mr. R. H. Turton (Thirsk and Malton)
I support the remarks of my hon. Friend the Member for Rutland and Stamford (Mr. Kenneth Lewis). The new Clause illustrates the difficulty we have got ourselves into by this Bill being introduced before the debate on social security next week. In other words, the Bill, good as it is, is making a scheme that requires revision more anomalous by its provisions.
I cannot understand how any hon. Member can justify a state of affairs in which a man with a family who, from the 14th to the 169th day, has received a graduated supplement to his benefit, is cast back on to the basic rate after that time. I am certain that if the right hon. Lady got the approval of her colleagues she would want to see that that anomaly was not perpetrated.
The weakness of the Beveridge scheme is its failure to deal with the problem of the chronic sick. I have held that belief for a number of years. I learned it when I was at the right hon. Lady's Ministry. We therefore need a provision, such as that contained in the new Clause, to provide some form of invalidity benefit. I cannot understand why, when the war and industrially disabled are so incapacitated that they receive the constant attendance allowance, somebody who is struck by a disabling disease gets no help at all towards paying for those who must look after him.
I think of a very low-wage family in my constituency. Four of the five daughters suffer from disseminated sclerosis. One can imagine the extra burden on that small-income family, yet, with the best will in the world, neither the welfare authority nor the Government are able to provide sufficient to help it meet that extra expense. I know that this one small illustration can be repeated in any constituency. In all constituencies we could find scores of similar 1560 illustrations of the problem of the long-term sick who, with the old, are the two sections of poverty with which—notwithstanding Beveridge's high ideals—we have failed to deal.
I beg the right hon. Lady to tackle this problem through this Bill. It is no good saying that we are to have a review and that this matter can be caught up in it. Time does not wait for these people, who are suffering from long-term sickness. When we have already given a graduated benefit for the sick, we must not have the anomalous position in which they are cut off from extra benefit just when they most need it. The 1966 Report of the Ministry said that there were 162,000 people suffering from spells of incapacity of more than six months' duration. That figure shows the size of the problem.
I cannot believe that the ordinary insured contributor would be worried if we had to put up the rate of contributions by the amount necessary to give these long-term sick a more adequate income after they had been ill for six months. I am sure, knowing the people of Britain, that they would be very ready to pay the extra coppers a week in order that these sufferers might be removed from their present low-subsistence position.
The Minister has a choice of two new Clauses here, either of which would fairly meet this problem. My own view is that £1 a week is too little, and that the amount should be nearer to the constant-attendance figure of £3. Nevertheless, even £1 would be some measure of help. I beg the right hon. Lady to see' that either of these two Clauses, or a Clause with similar effect, is inserted in the Bill before it receives the Royal Assent.
§ Mr. Paul Dean (Somerset, North)
The intention of new Clause No. 7 is to extend the proposed invalidity benefit to the unemployed. I am not here thinking of that category of unemployed who do not want further employment. The right hon. Lady referred to the two distinct categories of those who, for various reasons, do not want further employment, and those who are suffering from some disability. Some of those in the latter category are virtually unemployable, although for various reasons they are still on the register and therefore get unemployment benefit. They have needs that are quite 1561 as great as those of the long-term sick. In practical human terms the two categories are virtually identical, although at present they get different benefits. The object of the new Clause is to bring in that other category as well.
§ Mr. Bernard Braine (Essex, South-East)
I strongly support the plea made by my right hon. Friend the Member for Thirsk and Malton (Mr. Turton) on behalf of the chronic sick. My right hon. Friend said that one of our difficulties is that we are discussing the Bill, as it wore, in isolation—as we must—in advance of a general debate next Wednesday on welfare provisions. He could have gone further and said that it appeared from the exchange across the Floor earlier today that we are also to discuss next Wednesday the welfare provisions and the whole concept and practice of the Welfare State in advance of the review promised by the Government, and being conducted by one of their ablest members—the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Sowerby (Mr. Houghton). I think this is a pity. It simply does not make sense.
When the Beveridge proposals were first adumbrated in the war years, Sir William Beveridge, those advising him, and the Government of the day had in mind conditions that have changed out of all recognition. Those who founded the Welfare State were influenced by recollections of the chronic unemployment and deflation of the 1930s. Ever since then we have lived—and especially today—in conditions of full, if not overfull, employment and inflation such as Beveridge could never have envisaged. We have seen a tremendous improvement not only in the general standard of living of the people but in general social conditions.
What has happened, however, is that, in the process, in strictly relative terms, certain categories of our sick and needy have fallen far behind. I must not anticipate the kind of argument which we shall hear from both sides next Wednesday, but we are now discussing a simple demand for social justice for a relatively small but extremely deserving category of citizens. I do not think that there is any division in the Committee on this point, and I would be very surprised if in the review being conducted by the right hon. 1562 Member for Sowerby some improvement in the position of the long-time sick was not recommended.
The question is: when shall we get that review? We have not got it now. We shall not have it on Wednesday. The Bill has been described by the right hon. Lady as a temporary Measure which may be modified in the light of the review when it is published, and so on. The Bill excludes any provision for the chronic sick. I hope, for reasons advanced by my right hon. Friend yesterday and today, that the Minister will make this one concession, which would be the best concession she could make.
I hope that she will approach this subject in a conciliatory and generous frame of mind. Our plea is made on behalf of a small category of our fellow citizens who are sorely afflicted. My right hon. Friend has referred to cases and I, unhappily, have similar cases in my constituency—as I am sure that other hon. Members have in theirs. I therefore trust that the right hon. Lady will approach this very modest proposal in a generous spirit.
§ 4.30 p.m.
§ Miss Herbison
The people who would be covered by this new Clause are the concern of all of us, and have been for a considerable time. I was a little surprised when the hon. Member for Rutland and Stamford (Mr. Kenneth Lewis) pointed to this side of the Committee and said that it seemed that hon. Members here forgot those who are suffering poverty.
This is a matter with which we have been concerned for a very long time—the problem of the chronic sick, those unemployed over a long period and families depending on low-wage earners. In our review, when considering the possibilities for legislation, we had to start completely from scratch. That was only 16 months ago. What we have been able to achieve in those 16 months has been considerable in the help given to some who were among the poorest.
§ Mr. Arthur Tiley (Bradford, West)
The right hon. Lady says that the party opposite started from scratch, but that is not what hon. Members opposite were saying to the country at the time of the General Election. It was said then that 1563 the minimum income guarantee which would cover these cases was ready to be implemented immediately, as a first task.
§ Miss Herbison
The hon. Member has misunderstood what I said, just as he misunderstood the coverage of the minimum income guarantee. It was made very clear that the guarantee would cover pensioners, widows and people without retirement pensions. Those were the people to be covered, not those which this Clause seeks to cover.
From scratch we made it perfectly clear that something would be done for the chronically sick. Anyone who has been a Minister, as the right hon. Member for Leeds, North-East (Sir K. Joseph) has been, and the right hon. Member for Thirsk and Malton (Mr. Turton), who has been a Minister in my Department, knows that it is one thing to have plans worked out and another thing to put those plans into operation in a legislative framework. It takes some time. Although we have had to start from scratch we have done a number of things, but a great deal still remains to be done. The people whom this Clause would help are among those who will be amongst the earliest to benefit under the review and the legislation when it is completed.
All those hon. Members who spoke on Second Reading were genuinely concerned about the position of the chronically sick. All who have spoken this afternoon have been concerned with those who are chronically sick at the present time. The right hon. Member for Thirsk and Malton gave the example of a tragic family with daughters suffering from disseminated sclerosis. All of us have in our constituencies families suffering from such diseases, but none of them would be helped by the provisions of new Clause 1. At present, there are 350,000—a larger figure than that given by the right hon. Member for Thirsk and Malton—in receipt of sickness benefit for over six months. One could almost say that they are chronically sick. The provisions of this Clause would not touch them.
§ Sir K. Joseph
I do not understand why the new Clause would not touch them. I am sure the right hon. Lady is not criticising the Clause for being badly drawn technically, because she could ask for it to be withdrawn and to be technically 1564 improved. Why would this Clause not cover the 350,000?
§ Miss Herbison
I am not criticising the Clause from a technical aspect. From my experience as a back-bencher in opposition, I would consider that a Minister had a bad case if he opposed an Amendment merely because it was not technically correct. We know that it is not easy to draft an Amendment, particularly to a Bill as highly technical as this one.
The Clause says:A sum of £1 per week shall be paid at the end of the period covered by graduated benefit so long as incapacity for work due to sickness continues".We come to another group of people who would not come within the provisions of the new Clause. I have spoken about the 350,000 in receipt of sickness benefit. Sickness benefit can go on for years so long as the person concerned can prove that he is incapacitated for work through illness. A number of people such as those about whom the right hon. Member for Thirsk and Malton spoke might come into another category. Take, for example, those who become adult, but who, from birth or early childhood, have been physically or mentally handicapped and have never been able to work. Never having been able to work, they have never contributed. There is a fairly big class of men and women who, because they have no contribution record, get no sickness benefit at all, nothing from the contributory scheme. They get whatever help is available from the National Assistance Board.
There are large groups of people who would not be touched by the Clause. I shall deal with those who would be covered by the Clause. If we were to give an extra £1 a week, as suggested, to those who are chronically sick, when they reached pension age it would be impossible to take that £1 away. We would have to continue to pay the £1 a week because it would be inhuman to take it away. It would have to be paid after retirement pension took the place of sickness benefit.
A person who is able to work until he is 65 then goes on to pension. We all know that on the whole there is more ill-health among pensioners than in the rest of the population. Should we then say that if men or women in receipt of retirement pension became chronically sick 1565 after retirement they should be denied the extra £1? If this provision were there we could not deny it to those people. We would have to add that number of people. We would then have two kinds of pensioner, the one who had the extra £1 a week and the one who did not have it.
Everyone in this Committee realises the pressures which would develop to give an extra £1 a week to all who retire. There would be the anomaly which occurs in so much of our social insurance of two people living next door to each other and one of them having a clear £1 lead. If there were that clear £1 lead, there is no doubt that pressure would be very strong to give the £1 a week to all retired people, particularly when almost any day a retired person could be feeling not very well.
§ Mr. Kenneth Lewis
The right hon. Lady's argument is rather weak in the context of the Bill. The constant attendance allowance which is to be made available on the basis that the Committee discussed yesterday in particular cases, will create the very anomalies which she says the Clause will create.
§ Miss Herbison
I am sorry, but in this instance, also, the hon. Gentleman just does not understand the provisions of the Bill. All hon. Members would want to find a solution to the human problem posed by the Amendment.
§ Mr. Kenneth Lewis
On a point of order. I submit that it is completely out of order for the Minister to suggest that I, who have sat here for two days, do not understand what the Bill is about. The fact is that the right hon. Lady would like to think that I do not know what the Bill is about.
§ The Temporary Chairman (Sir Leslie Thomas)
That is not a point of order. Such interchanges between the opposing sides of the Committee are natural and understandable.
§ Miss Herbison
I will try to explain to the hon. Gentleman the point that he has raised. He talks about a provision in the Bill for the constant attendance allowance. There is not anywhere in the Bill provision for constant attendance allowance.
§ The Temporary Chairman
If the right hon. Lady does not care to give way, the hon. Gentleman must not persist. He knows the rules of order.
§ Mr. Kenneth Lewis rose—
§ Miss Herbison
I am not giving way any further at present. I have explained to the hon. Gentleman that there is no provision in the Bill for constant attendance allowance.
§ Miss Herbison
Not for the constant attendance allowance for the seriously disabled. I have tried to explain how this would have to be extended.
The right hon. Member for Leeds, North-East made a very fair point when he said that, with a few exceptions, any increase given would have to be taken into account by the National Assistance Board. Thus, a person might receive an increase in sickness benefit, on the one hand, and suffer a cut in National Assistance, on the other. For this reason, the right hon. Gentleman suggested that the £1 ought to be disregarded by the Board if someone made a claim for National Assistance.
The Committee knows that National Assistance is payable to people who have sickness benefit, as it is payable to many others. The Board tries to cater, as far as possible, within the regulations, through its standard scales and through its discretionary allowances, for the individual needs of the chronic sick, as it tries to cater for others—for example, the old. In the first place the Board grants the scale allowance, plus rent. Apart from the scale allowance, plus rent, the Board has discretionary powers to make additional allowances. Someone who is chronically sick often needs extra nourishment, and the Board can make a payment for that. People often need extra heating, and the Board is able to make a discretionary payment for that. Domestic help and laundry 1567 charges, which can be very high for the chronic sick, are taken into account by the Board. So these people are not completely left out in the cold, though I am the first to admit that something further needs to be done for them.
I come to the cost of providing for those that the Amendment would cover, not the 350,000 who would be left out. The extra £1 a week payable only until retirement age would work out at about £18 million a year. If it were continued after retirement age, it would add at least another £5 million. That comes to £23 million. As I said earlier, there would be very great pressure to extend this provision to all pensioners. If that were done, the cost would be £250 million a year.
§ Mr. Turton
I am sure that the right hon. Lady did not mean to give the figure of £250 million, because, quite clearly, this provision would not be extended to pensioners who are not sick. A man can perfectly well be a pensioner and be earning and, therefore, he would not qualify for the supplement.
§ Miss Herbison
That is true. Knowing what happens in Parliament and in the country, I gave three figures, first, the £18 million and then the extra £5 million if it were continued after retirement age. I am not able to give a figure of the cost of extending it to those who become chronically sick after retirement. One assumes that everyone would want them to benefit from such a provision. If we went as far as that, there is no doubt that there would be a great deal of pressure to extend this to all pensioners. That is why I gave the figure of £250 million.
Much has been said about doing something for these people now and not waiting until the result of the review. If the Amendment were accepted, we should not deal with the thousands of people about whom we have been concerned for a long time. I can give the Committee the assurance that the matter is receiving the closest attention in the review. Again, I want to stress that the Bill is only the first of a number of developments which will emerge as a result of the Government's review.
The hon. Member for Essex, South-East (Mr. Braine) said that it was wrong 1568 for us to have a debate on the Welfare State next Wednesday before the result of the review is known. Over all the years I have been in Parliament—I shall soon have spent 21 years here—we have had many debates on the Welfare State which did not wait for the result of a review or anything else. I am glad that new Clauses such as this are tabled. It is a good thing that we should let the country know the problems that are still to be solved and ventilate these matters.
§ Mr. Braine
I am sure that the right hon. Lady would not wish to misrepresent what I said. I do not think I said that it would be wrong to have a debate on the Welfare State. I have myself pressed in the past for more frequent debates on this sort of subject. I said that I thought it a pity that we were having the debate when the review was nearing completion, but not yet available to us. Both sides of the Committee are well aware that the Chancellor of the Duchy has been engaged upon a thorough and painstaking review—incidentally, a review which we ourselves, when in office, promised to undertake if we were returned. I presume that the review is nearing completion and is almost ready to be published. If it is not, I am sure that the Committee is entitled to know when it will be.
§ Miss Herbison
My right hon. Friend, who can take good care of himself in the debate on Wednesday, will deal with these points. It may be a pity that we are having the debate before the review is completed, and it may be that the hon. Gentleman's own Government had promised a review. There were 13 years for that review. This is why I said that in this matter we started from scratch.
§ Miss Herbison
I am sorry, but I shall not give way. If the hon. Gentleman makes a remark of that kind, he must not take it too hard if I take him up on it.
I come now to new Clause No. 7, and I shall not spend long on it, because several of the points I have made apply to this, also. The hon. Member for Somerset, North (Mr. Dean) suggested that the extra £1 a week should be applied only to the one class—I divided them into two classes last night—that is, people 1569 who, for disability, ill-health or social reasons are unemployed for a long time. But this is not what his Clause would provide. It would give it to both classes. That is the first point.
If I agreed that what the hon. Gentleman wanted to do was feasible at this time, I could provide for it. Whenever a Minister is convinced of the need for something, that Minister can put an Amendment down to meet the point which has been made by the Committee. But how is one to decide whether people are genuinely seeking work? We come back to that problem again. At least, new Clause No. 7 would cover all people at present unemployed and who have been unemployed for a long time. We should not have cut any of them out as some of the chronic sick would be cut out in new Clause No. 1.
We want to give help to both these categories at the earliest possible moment, the long-term sick and the long-term unemployed. The right hon. Gentleman was entirely right to speak about what happens in a home after there has been a long period of sickness, and the same happens after a long period of unemployment. I think that the best way to deal with this is to ensure that, whether people become chronically sick or whether they have already been chronically sick for a long time, steps are taken to alleviate their position. This is what we hope to achieve as a result of the general review.
§ Miss Herbison
The cost would be £9 million a year, and there would then be an addition of £2 million if the £1 were continued to be paid after pensionable age. Again, it would be very difficult to take it away. Moreover, the Clause speaks of "interruption of employment" instead of unemployment. There are people who are not even going to the employment exchange but, if they had £1 dangled in front of their noses, they could come along and claim that they were still suffering a period of interruption of employment.
§ Mr. Kenneth Lewis
I would not have intervened again if the right hon. Lady, who started off yesterday by being 1570 thoroughly bad-tempered, had not been thoroughly discourteous to me a few minutes ago. She went on to be thoroughly inaccurate. She knows perfectly well that, in referring to the constant attendance allowance, I was talking about the related plus in the Bill, and constant attendance allowance is mentioned in this context several times.
The truth is that the right hon. Lady, as yesterday, is anxious to make as much political capital out of the Bill as she can. We have, quite properly, treated the Bill as non-controversial and we have supported it all the way through. In view of her attitude to me a few minutes ago, I can only say that, if the Prime Minister is thinking of appointing an ombudsman, perhaps a lady ombudsman, I hope that he does not appoint the right hon. Lady.
§ The Temporary Chairman
Order. I gave the hon. Gentleman a second opportunity to speak, which he is entitled to have, but I thought that he would confine himself to the new Clauses.
§ Sir K. Joseph
The right hon. Lady has been helpful in analysing the implications of the new Clause, and some of the figures she has used must cause us on this side to hesitate a little. It is not so much the cost of the new cases as the aggregate of the new cases plus the existing chronic sick. As I understand from what the right hon. Lady said—she did not give us this figure—there must be about 30,000 new cases each year of people moving into the "more than six months" category. If that were the size of the problem, we should all want to help them, and I cannot see that there is any case at all for withdrawing the £1 a week benefit at retirement age. Most people come to retirement with some of the fat from their working lives still in their pockets, their cupboards and their savings accounts, but those who have suffered chronic sickness have very little, if any, of that fat left.
Even if we had to add £5 million to the £18 million, we on this side of the Committee would regard that as money well spent. As I calculate it, the £23 million would cost about 3d. a side on the contribution. That is the order of magnitude. But when the right hon. Lady points out that there is still, as it were, the existing load, the 350,000 1571 chronic sick, this would add something like an additional 2d. a side in order to look after the £1 a week for them. Thus, we should face a cost, if the Clause were made rational, that is, to include the existing load as well as the chronic sick, a cost of 5d. a side, that is, 10d. in all, on the Insurance Fund. That is big money, and at this stage we on this side of the Committee cannot tell whether that is the best way to use such a large sum of money.
We urge the right hon. Lady and her right hon. Friend, when they come to the stage of, perhaps, producing proposals to the House, not to be frightened of carrying over into retirement a benefit which is necessary because, as I have explained, the people concerned have had very little in their working lives. We shall support her if she wants to hold the door against extending such a benefit to all the other retired who have not been deprived in their working lives, through long unemployment or long sickness, of the chance to build up some resources. I do not think that the right hon. Lady should frighten us with that talk. But in the light of the figures she has presented, and after a useful debate, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Motion.
§ Motion and Clause, by leave, withdrawn.