asked the Minister of National Insurance whether the National Assistance Board have now given consideration to a revision of the membership of the local advisory committees which will have to deal with the level of rents charged to old age pensioners, as steps in this direction were promised by the National Assistance Board on 22nd April, 1949, in a letter sent to the hon. Member for Ince, consequent upon a deputation which awaited upon the National Assistance Board on 30th March. 1949.
As my hon. Friend is aware, the membership of the Board's advisory committees is to be linked with that of the advisory committees which I am setting up under the National Insurance Act. Active steps are now being taken to reconstitute the Board's committees with this end in view and invitations to nominate suitable persons have been sent to local authorities and other bodies. As regards rent, the Board inform me that pending further advice from the committees their officers are exercising their discretionary powers to make additions where necessary in cases not covered by the present rules.
Can my right hon. Friend tell the House how many secret instructions have been issued by the National Assistance Board on this particular subject, and what those secret instructions contain? Furthermore, will he consider representations from the British Federation of Old Age Pensioners when setting up the local advisory committees?
I do not agree that there are any secret instructions. The rent rule which is operated by the Assistance Board is the rule devised by these committees. The Board agree that it is now time to revise these rules, and that is why they propose to ask these committees, as soon as they are constituted, to look at the rent rules they are now operating and to make any recommendations necessary.
With the first point I agree, but is my right hon. Friend aware that, pending the setting up of these advisory committees, secret instructions are being sent out by the Assistance Board informing area officers what they should do despite the regulations now existing?
When these committees are set up, has my right hon. Friend any special method of advising the public about their existence, because that is a very important feature of the matter?
Yes, Sir. I hope the House will agree that, having regard to the close relationship between the National Insurance Act and the National Assistance Act, it is desirable that we should link up the two advisory committees, and if my hon. Friend will put down a Question, I will give him further details of how we propose to set up these committees and of the publicity we shall give to their work.