HL Deb 28 November 1957 vol 206 cc601-5

3.29 p.m.

Order of the Day for the House to be put into Committee read.


My Lords, on behalf of my noble friend Lord Selkirk, I beg to move that the House do resolve itself into Committee on this Bill.

Moved" That the House do now resolve itself into Committee.—(Lord Chesham.)

On Question, Motion agreed to, and House in Committee accordingly.

[The LORD TERRINGTON in the Chair.]

On Question, Whether the Bill shall be reported to the House without amendment?


Before the Bill is reported to the House without amendment, may I say that, entirely through my own fault, I was unable to take part in the debate on the Second Reading, and there is one point in my mind that has not been dealt with and on which I should like to ask the noble Lord a question to which he may be able to supply an answer in the course of the next few minutes. Have the Government received special representations from the Association of Concert Artists as to their disabilities in regard to the general scheme which is covered by the Bill, some of which they have suffered in the past, I believe, because of the lack of continuity of their employment and the like? If so, perhaps the noble Lord can give us some information on the matter.


I shall be pleased to try to give the noble Viscount the answer he requires, but I must be quite frank and say that at this moment I do not possess the information. I will do my best to find it out as quickly as possible. I do not know whether he would like that information now, or whether I may communicate it to him later.


If the noble Lord's advisers (as we call them) in the Box are unable to give him an answer now, and as I failed to ask the question at the right time, I shall be content to have it later. However, I should be pleased if it could be given to-day.


With the noble Viscount's permission, I will convey the information to him as soon as I can.

Bill reported without amendment.

House resumed.

Then Standing Order No. 41 having been dispensed with (pursuant to Resolution):


My Lords, I beg to move that the Bill be now read a third time.

Moved, That the Bill be now read 3a.—(Lord Chesham.)

3.30 p.m.


My Lords, before the Bill passes into law, as it will after this Third Reading, I should like to say one or two things very briefly. First, on this side of the -House we felt that, in view of the urgency of the need of many of those who will be recipients of the increased emoluments under this Bill, we ought not to hold up the Bill for any length of time in your Lordships' House. Therefore we have not gone to the extent of criticism and moving of Amendments which we know took place in another place. I understand that the delay which will occur between now and whatever day is made for the actual commencement of this scheme—I think a day in January has been fixed—is entailed by the machinery which it is necessary to improvise in order to deal with these increases and all the notifications involved. However, one or two of my friends have asked whether there is any possibility of expediting the matter so that perhaps these increases could be made in the last week before Christmas. We are still only at November 28, and it is a point of considerable substance to many of the people concerned.

The only other thing I wish to do is to point out, from my knowledge of a great many individual cases, how hard is the decision made in the Bill as to the deduction to be made from people who have already established their claim for supplementary benefits because of their weak position, and who will now have 5s. deducted. There is also the withdrawal of the tobacco allowance, and in effect the amount of increase per head to these people is reduced to something like 2s. 8d. per week which, in relation to the facts of their life, seems wholly inadequate. It is not possible to do anything about that here to-day, because the Bill has been discussed in another place, but I want to put on record the feeling of many of us that that is a great blot on the Bill. Not only is the general rate of increase inadequate, but that particular provision is a bad blot on the Bill.


My Lords, before the noble Lord replies, I should like to follow up the point that he made. The Bill rather leaves in the air the date when it is to come into effective operation. It refers to "the appointed day", but it does not say when the appointed day is to be. It merely says "such day as the Minister may by order appoint." We have not obstructed this Bill in any way and we should be glad of an assurance that the appointed day will be as soon as possible; and if at all possible it would be a nice gesture (one of the very few nice gestures) if we could get it before Christmas. That still gives the Government at least a month in which to bring it into operation, and it would be a nice Christmas present if the recipients of these advantages could have them on that date.


My Lords, first may I express our gratitude from this side of the House to the noble Viscount who leads the Opposition and to noble Lords who sit on that side for the help they have given in putting this Bill through so that it may pass into law to-day. We are grateful for that, and we appreciate it.

On the points which the noble Viscount mentioned I must say this. There is no reason whatever for delaying these increases until the appointed day except that, as the noble Viscount surmised, it is necessary to do so because of the amount of work involved. I completely agree that it would be a good thing to bring them in as soon as possible. I give the noble Viscount my assurance that my right honourable friend desires to bring these increases in as quickly as possible, but the dates which are proposed are "as quickly as is possible." Incidentally, the date for the introduction of the majority of the increases is January 27, and it is hoped that all will have been introduced by early in February. I hope that that will satisfy the query on that point. At least, it gives the dates.

I am a little perturbed in my mind about the remarks that have been made concerning the deduction of National Assistance. Last week I tried to draw the difference between National Assistance and Pensions, in that National Assistance is in the form of a safety net based entirely on need, and is not co-related in any way directly with pensions. I make that point because there seems to be a tendency to connect the two together. The fact that the increase in pension may mean a decrease in National Assistance does not mean that anyone is getting less. I think it is true to say that in every case everyone is getting something more.


My Lords, I agree that that is so; in fact I gave the figure—2s. 8d. The thing that strikes us, however, is the comparative and relative justice of the matter. The people who are receiving old age pensions now, without National Assistance, will get the full flat rate increase. There will be a bigger gulf between their standard of living and the previous standard, whereas the other people—those receiving National Assistance—will lose 7s. 4d. of the new in creased pension. All those who did not need National Assistance are to get the full 10s. That does seem to me to be relative injustice.

On Question, Bill read 3a, and passed.

House adjourned during pleasure.

House resumed.