HC Deb 27 February 1924 vol 170 cc490-2W

asked the Minister of Health if he is aware that, at present, the effect of arrears to insured persons under the National Health Insurance Act is that, if an insured person is 7s. in arrears in November and cannot pay them, he is liable to lose 7s. per week for 26 weeks in the next insurance year if he has need to declare on sick benefit; that, if the insured person was on sick benefit for the full 26 weeks, the total penalty would amount to £9 2s.; and that, if after the sickness benefit was exhausted the insured person required disablement benefit, this is also reduced by 3s. 6d. per week for as long as the insured person remains on the funds; and will he take steps to have the table of arrears' penalties revised so that the penalty is brought more into harmony with the amount of the arrears?


The principle underlying the arrears scheme is that an insured person who has paid a reduced number of contributions must be subject to a reduced rate of benefit for the succeeding year. The reduced rates provided under the scheme are, however, on an exceptionally generous scale and provision has also been made by which any reduction of benefit can be avoided by the payment within a period of grace of a sum which is materially less than the value of the contributions unpaid. It would not be possible to alleviate still further the position of members in arrears without placing an undue burden on the funds of the approved societies.


asked the Minister of Health on what grounds optical treatment is withheld from the Irish National Foresters (England and Wales) Approved Society No. 401; and whether he will give instructions for this benefit to be administered when required?


Payment for optical treatment as an additional benefit can only be made where a society which had a disposal surplus on valuation decided to apply part of such surplus to this benefit. The society referred to by the hon. Member was formed by the union of the English and Welsh Branches of the Irish National Foresters Society, and as neither of those branches had any disposable surplus the society is not in a position at present to provide additional benefits for its members in general. A small group of the members, however, who were formerly members of other societies are entitled to some additional benefits, but the societies in question did not elect to include optical treatment amongst their additional benefits.