§ Major TASKER
asked the Minister of Health whether he is aware that boards of guardians are advised that they have no power under the existing law to refuse the admission to Poor Law institutions for the purpose of medical or surgical treatment of persons who can afford to pay for the necessary treatment; and whether he will introduce legislation giving boards of guardians convenient powers to take, where necessary, legal steps to recover from the estates of the patients the whole or a suitable proportion of the cost of their treatment and maintenance both in cases in which the patient is in receipt of an old age pension or of sickness or disablement benefit under the National Health Insurance Acts, and in cases in which the patient is not in receipt of any such moneys?
§ Mr. NEVILLE CHAMBERLAIN
It is the duty of a principal officer of a Poor Law institution to admit an applicant, without any order for relief, in any case of sudden or urgent necessity, but the guardians have powers in certain circumstances to recover the cost of relief.
As regards health insurance benefits, it is an essential feature of the National Health Insurance Act, embodied in the original scheme of 1911 and repeated in subsequent enactments, that money payable by way of benefit shall not be diverted to Poor Law authorities or otherwise used to relieve local rates. The intention of the Act is that sickness benefit should primarily be devoted to the necessities of the individual and his family and benefit. is not assignable.
As regard old age pensions, the relevant part of the Contributory Pensions Act re-enacts Section 3 (1) of the Old Age Pensions Act, 1919, which provides that a person shall be disqualified for receiving or continuing to receive a pension 1682W while he is an inmate of any workhouse or Poor Law institution—with a saving proviso which raises the disqualification for three months where recourse is had to a Poor Law institution only for the purpose of surgical or medical treatment. A suggestion that inmates of Poor Law institutions should not, as such, he disqualified for receiving old age pensions but that the pensions should be appropriated by the guardians was considered, but rejected by the Departmental Committee on whose recommendation Section 3 (1) of the Act of 1919 was based.