Public Assistance.

Oral Answers to Questions — Education. – in the House of Commons on 26th February 1942.

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Photo of Mr John Martin Mr John Martin , Southwark Central

asked the Minister of Health whether, in view of the rise in the cost of living during the past two years, he will consider granting to pensioners and others, whose incomes are demonstrably below a certain limit, necessaries in kind in order to relieve the strain on their resources?

Photo of Mr Ernest Brown Mr Ernest Brown , Leith

Old age pensioners and certain other classes of persons are eligible to apply to the Assistance Board for supplementary pensions or other allowances if they are in need. The remainder of the community if in need can obtain assistance from the public assistance authorities. Assistance may be given in kind in certain circumstances, but I think that as a general rule the recipients prefer to receive it in money.

Photo of Mr John Martin Mr John Martin , Southwark Central

Does the Minister realise that many people have gone on to public assistance who would not otherwise be there, and can he do anything about it?

Photo of Mr Ernest Brown Mr Ernest Brown , Leith

As the hon. Member knows, the subject was carefully considered when the last Act was passed, and my recollection of the Debates is that the House was reluctant to extend relief in kind.

Photo of Sir Smedley Crooke Sir Smedley Crooke , Birmingham Deritend

asked the Minister of Health whether he is aware that the British Legion has instituted what is known as a Prince of Wales' Pension of 10s. per week to needy prematurely aged ex-Service men, and that some public assistance committees on being advised that this is in issue, reduce the amount of their allowance; and whether he will issue instructions to the public assistance committees that these pensions be placed in the same category as disablement pensions, where the first 20s. of the pension is ignored, and not taken into account?

Photo of Mr Ernest Brown Mr Ernest Brown , Leith

I am aware of the facts stated, but I have no power to issue such instructions as my hon. Friend suggests. The disregarding of Disablement Pensions to the extent mentioned in the question is authorised by the Poor Law Act, 1934.

Photo of Sir Smedley Crooke Sir Smedley Crooke , Birmingham Deritend

Does the Minister not realise that the Legion pensions are only given in cases of special hardship and that if public assistance committees reduce their allowances this will lead to State grants being subsidised by Legion funds?

Photo of Mr Ernest Brown Mr Ernest Brown , Leith

If my hon. Friend will look at the admirable little booklet pub- lished on the subject, he will find that that matter has been kept carefully in mind.

Photo of Sir Smedley Crooke Sir Smedley Crooke , Birmingham Deritend

Will the Minister give further consideration to this matter? Will he allow me to see him about it?

Photo of Mr Ernest Brown Mr Ernest Brown , Leith

I will very gladly see my hon. Friend, but the question raises the whole principle of disregards and reconsideration of the Poor Law Acts.