HC Deb 20 November 1940 vol 365 cc2034-7W
Mr. E. Smith

asked the Minister of Health whether he will set out in tabular form each Assistance Board administration area, and give for each area the number of applications received for a supplementary pension, number rejected, the number of appeals to the tribunals, the number rejected and the percentage of rejections by the tribunals, the total numbers of the chief amounts allowed, and the average amount allowed in each area and whether he will prepare a report on the first few months' administration of the Supplementary Pensions Act?

Mr. M. MacDonald

I regret that all the information necessary to enable a tabular statement on the lines indicated to be compiled is not available and could be obtained only by the expenditure of a large amount of staff time which would not, in the present circumstances, be justified. In view of the recent announcement regarding impending changes in the means test I do not think an interim report on the administration of supplementary pensions would serve any useful purpose at this stage.

Mr. White

asked the Minister of Health whether the Assistance Board is authorised by him to suggest to recipients of supplementary pensions that they should move to lower-rented houses?

Mr. MacDonald

Supplementary Pensions are adjusted to provide in full for the payment of any rent which, in the light of the recommendations of the local advisory committee and all the circumstances of the particular case, can be considered reasonable; but, where the rent is in excess of what can be regarded as reasonable in the circumstances, the Board have not felt they would be justified, under the Regulations, in making provision for its payment out of public funds indefinitely. Where, therefore, a pensioner is paying rent for which provision cannot be made in full, and is consequently in financial difficulty, he may be advised to take steps to obtain cheaper accommodation. I am taking the matter up with the Board in the light of present circumstances.

Mr. E. Smith

asked the Minister of Health the total number of applications made for supplementary pensions in Stoke, Fenton, Longton and the city of Stoke-on-Trent, respectively, and set out in tabular form the numbers, showing the chief amounts of supplementary pensions awarded, the number rejected and the percentage rejected, the number of appeals to the tribunal, and the numbers rejected?

Mr. MacDonald

Information with regard to the individual places mentioned is not available. The Assistance Board's administrative area of Stoke-on-Trent covers the southern portion of the county borough of Stoke-on-Trent, including the city of Stoke-on-Trent, Fenton and Longton as well as a considerable area of country to the south and south-east of the county borough. In the Board's area there were, up to 23rd August, 1940, about 3,780 applications for supple- mentary pensions, of which number about 2,560 were granted and the remainder either refused or withdrawn. Since 23rd August, applications have been received at the average rate of 37 per week, of which 28 have been granted and nine refused or withdrawn. During the period from the commencement of the Act to 25th October, 152 appeals against the determinations made by the Board's officers were lodged. Leave to appeal was refused in eight cases, the determinations were confirmed in 115 cases, a substituted determination was made in 18 cases and the remainder were awaiting hearing. Information regarding the weekly amounts payable is not available.

Mr. G. Strauss

asked the Minister of Health whether he is aware that the decision in straightforward cases of contributory old age pension applications sometimes takes over five months; and will he take steps to remedy this delay?

Mr. James Hall

asked the Minister of Health, when it is anticipated that payments wil commence to women between the ages of 60 and 65 whose applications for pensions under the National Health Insurance Scheme were made six months ago?

Mr. MacDonald

I am not aware that there are any outstanding claims for contributory old age pensions which have been in the hands of my Department for the periods mentioned, apart from a few exceptional cases presenting special difficulties in which the establishment of a claim depends on further evidence being presented on behalf of the claimant. I would also refer the hon. Members to the reply which I gave to my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Accrington (Major Procter) on 7th November last. If they have any particular cases in mind in which they consider there has been undue delay, perhaps they would he good enough to let me have details.

Mr. Gledhill

asked the Minister of Health whether he is aware of the anomaly in the Supplementary Pensions Regulations whereby a pensioner with £300 capital invested gets no supplementary award, but another pensioner living in his own house, purchased say, for £300, thereby lives rent free and gets 9s. 6d. per week supplementary pension; and whether he intends to take any steps to remove this anomaly?

Mr. MacDonald

The effect of the Regulations is as stated in the Question. While opinions may differ as to the proper treatment of other capital belonging to a pensioner there will, I think, be general agreement that special protection should be given to the house in which he lives. Further, although a pensioner living in his own house would not be liable for rent he has to pay rates and other outgoings.