Oral Answers to Questions — Old Age Pensions.

– in the House of Commons on 2nd July 1942.

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Photo of Mr Ellis Smith Mr Ellis Smith , Stoke-on-Trent Stoke

asked the Minister of Health whether he will make clear the position in regard to supplementary pensions when a woman and her children, if any, return home temporarily while her husband is serving in the Forces?

Photo of Mr Ernest Brown Mr Ernest Brown , Leith

I am informed by the Assistance Board that the normal rule in such cases would be to regard the woman as contributing towards the rent and other overhead expenses of the supplementary pensioner in whose house she is for the time being living a sum of from 2s. 6d. to 7s. a week according to circumstances.

Photo of Mr George Daggar Mr George Daggar , Abertillery

asked the Minister of Health the nature and object of the inquiry now being conducted by the Assistance Board info the conditions of the old age pensioners; and whether the distribution of blankets, clothes, etc., is in addition to, or in substitution of, the undertaking given by the Government on the need for improving the conditions of the aged people and widows?

Photo of Mr Ernest Brown Mr Ernest Brown , Leith

As my hon. Friend is aware, the Supplementary Pensions Regulations contain express provision for making special grants for meeting needs of an exceptional character and such grants are, in fact, frequently made. The Assistance Board, however, felt that many supplementary pensioners may not be aware that they can apply for such grants and they accordingly decided that all cases where on the known facts it appeared that a supplementary pensioner might be short of clothing or similar articles, should be specially examined so that the pensioner should not be at a disadvantage because of ignorance of the extent of the Board's powers. As regards the second part of the Question, I cannot anticipate the statement which my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer hopes shortly to make, but in the meantime my hon. Friend should not assume that this is the only measure contemplated by the Government.

Photo of Mr George Daggar Mr George Daggar , Abertillery

Will the right hon. Gentleman give an assurance that what is being done now will not interfere with the inquiry which is to be undertaken at the suggestion of the Chancellor?

Photo of Mr Ernest Brown Mr Ernest Brown , Leith

This is an attempt to be really helpful, and the House knows it is not easy for old people now to get the kind of goods they require, whether they have money or not.

Photo of Mr George Daggar Mr George Daggar , Abertillery

The right hon. Gentleman has not replied to my question. Can he give us an assurance that what is being done now to meet the needs of old age pensioners will not interfere with the proposed inquiry and its effects?

Photo of Mr Ernest Brown Mr Ernest Brown , Leith

I am sorry if I did not make myself clear; I said so.

Photo of Mr George Griffiths Mr George Griffiths , Hemsworth

Did not the right hon. Gentleman make a mistake when he used the word "frequently"? They are not frequently given; they are infrequently given.

Photo of Mr Ness Edwards Mr Ness Edwards , Caerphilly

asked the Minister of Health by what authority public assistance committees are authorised to confiscate the pension book and pensions of elderly persons who are in public institutions and are entitled to old age pensions?

Photo of Mr Ernest Brown Mr Ernest Brown , Leith

Section 20 of the Poor Law Act, 1930, empowers the authority to take any money or the produce of any valuable security for money in the possession of a person in receipt of relief, so far as is necessary to reimburse them for the cost of his relief. The authority is, of course, not entitled to confiscate the pension book of a pensioner relieved in an institution, but it is customary to arrange for the safe custody of this book and any other documents in the pensioner's possession. If he gives the necessary authorisation pension payments are collected on his behalf and a suitable amount is taken towards the cost of his relief.

Photo of Mr Ness Edwards Mr Ness Edwards , Caerphilly

If a pensioner retains his position as a pensioner and draws his pension himself, has a local authority any right to extract any part of that pension from his old age pension?

Photo of Mr Ernest Brown Mr Ernest Brown , Leith

I would like to see that Question on the Paper. It cannot be answered in reply to a Supplementary Question.

Photo of Mr Ness Edwards Mr Ness Edwards , Caerphilly

asked the Minister of Health whether he will inform the House of the general nature of the instructions issued recently by the Assistance Board whereby the cases of applicants for supplementary pensions shall be reviewed for the purpose of affording a certain standard of clothing?

Photo of Mr Ernest Brown Mr Ernest Brown , Leith

I explained the general purpose of the steps now being taken by the Assistance Board regarding clothing, etc., in my answer to an earlier Question by my hon. Friend the Member for Abertillery (Mr. Daggar). The Board inform me that with tins purpose in view, they instructed their officers to visit specially any case where, on the known facts, it appears that there might be a shortage of clothing or household necessaries by reference to certain standards laid down for their guidance, and in particular cases of single pensioners and married couples living alone with no substantial resources beyond the old age and supplementary pensions, and to make a grant of appropriate amount where required.

Photo of Mr Ness Edwards Mr Ness Edwards , Caerphilly

Will the Minister answer the first part of my Question, which asks for information as to the general nature of these instructions, and, further, will there be no indecent examination of the clothing of pensioners in their households by investigators from the Assistance Board?

Photo of Mr Ernest Brown Mr Ernest Brown , Leith

If the hon. Gentleman means that he would like information on the standards laid down for the purposes of the inquiry, I will see what I can do to have the details published in the OFFICIAL REPORT.

Photo of Mr William Thorne Mr William Thorne , West Ham Plaistow

asked the Minister of Health whether he is aware that Mrs. Pollard, an old age pensioner, of 41, Chargeable Street, Plaistow, E.13, has had her supplementary pension reduced by 1s. per week, because of her rent being reduced; and what action he intends taking about the matter?

Photo of Mr Ernest Brown Mr Ernest Brown , Leith

I am having inquiry made and will communicate with my hon. Friend as soon as possible.

Photo of Mr William Thorne Mr William Thorne , West Ham Plaistow

Is the Minister aware that I have in my hand a letter from this woman, who states that because she left three rooms and went to live in one room her rent was reduced and is was stopped from her supplementary pension?

Photo of Mr Ernest Brown Mr Ernest Brown , Leith

If the hon. Gentleman will let me have the letter, I will look into the matter at once.