HL Deb 18 July 1951 vol 172 cc992-4

2.55 p.m.


My Lords, I beg to move that the National Assistance (Determination of Need) Amendment Regulations, 1951, reported from the Special Orders Committee on Wednesday last, be approved. For the same reason as that given by the noble and learned Viscount a moment ago, I do not propose to detain the House on the matter. except to say that these regulations do not in any sense interfere with. or alter, the general scheme for the determination of need; they merely increase the amounts that were decided upon about this time last year. In future tile new rates for a married couple will be 50s. a week, instead of 43s. 6d., and for a single adult, 30s., instead of 26s. I beg to move.

Moved, That the National Assistance (Determination of Need) Amendment Regulations, 1951, reported from the Special Orders Committee on Wednesday last, be approved.—(Lord Kershaw.)


My Lords, I think it right to say that these regulations will be none the less welcome because they are long overdue. The last time rates were amended was in June, 1950, and since then prices have been steadily rising. In April last, I complained that no proper index was kept to enable these figures to be more rapidly adjusted. I have since been told that they are adjusted to a certain percentage over the cost-of-living index. As these scales do not come into operation until next September, they have already been very largely overtaken by events. I suggest, therefore, that the cost-of-living index needs serious consideration, because everybody I know who is dealing with the matter realises that the figures bear no relation to the real facts.

If I may give one example, I would draw your Lordships' attention to Regulation 2 (1) (c), which provides for a payment, in respect of a child under five years of age, of 9s. 6d., instead of 8s., and, for a child over five years of age, 11s. 6d. But of the 9s. 6d., half must go on the necessary milk for the child. The child of over five gets meals at school and the child of under five does not. I think it is probable that what has been done is that the average cost of maintenance of children between one minute old and five years old has been taken, and an average struck. If that is so, the child of, say, three years of age is going to suffer, because he comes above the average. I conclude by repeating my point about the cost-of-living index, because I feel that that needs very careful overhauling. Otherwise I welcome the changes indicated in the regulations.


My Lords, I think it will interest the House to know that, the National Assistance Board do not slavishly follow any index figure. Had they followed any index figure the rates proposed to-day would have been 45s. 11d. and 27s. 7d. respectively, instead of the figures I have given. It is quite wrong, therefore, to assume that the National Assistance Board proceed simply on the basis of the cost-of-living index. The Board have special ways of finding out how these rises in prices impinge upon the particular people with whom they are concerned, and they recognise that it would not always be appropriate to stick too closely to the cost-of-living index, since this would not necessarily apply exactly to the class of people with whom they have to deal. I may add that, in addition to the scale laid down, considerable discretionary powers are given to the National Assistance Board to deal with special circumstances—and this provision last year cost something like £5,000.000.

On Question, Motion agreed to.