HC Deb 25 February 1975 vol 887 cc279-80
16. Mr. Michael Marshall

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services whether she will introduce legislation to give relief from national insurance contributions for self-employed blind persons.

The Under-Secretary of State for Health and Social Security (Mr. Alec Jones)

No, Sir. A self-employed person with low earnings is already able to obtain exception from contribution liability but it would be wrong to deprive self-employed blind persons generally of their benefit rights by relieving them of contribution liability,

Mr. Marshall

Is the Minister aware that there is a grey area and that there are people who are in the same situation as one of my constituents about whom I have corresponded with him—a self-employed person making wire brushes who, out of a net income of £900 per annum, has to find £125 to pay his national insurance contributions? Is not that typical of the way in which legislation hits unfairly at the self-employed, particularly those facing hardship such as the constituent I have mentioned?

Mr. Jones

The hon. Gentleman is right in his general remarks, and we have corresponded on the particular case he mentioned. He should bear in mind that if we were to accept the apparent attraction of his proposal we should be denying to his constituents the right to retirement pension, sickness benefit, widows' benefit, maternity grant and death grant.

Mr. Fowler

Is not my hon. Friend the Member for Arundel (Mr. Marshall) right in saying that this is a further example of the grave hardship caused by the Government's discrimination against the self-employed? Is he not aware of the intense public feeling on this issue? Will he, at this late stage, announce a Government response to this public feeling?

Mr. Jones

May I say with great respect to the hon. Gentleman that he is showing his ignorance in this case. In the case to which the hon. Member for Arundel (Mr. Marshall) referred, the constituent will from next April pay no increase in contributions.