Supplementary Grants

Oral Answers to Questions — National Insurance – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 5th February 1951.

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Photo of Mr Nigel Fisher Mr Nigel Fisher , Hitchin 12:00 am, 5th February 1951

asked the Minister of National Insurance to what extent her regulations permit fuel and clothes, or a monetary grant in lieu thereof, to be granted by the National Assistance Board to old age pensioners in genuine need.

Photo of Dr Edith Summerskill Dr Edith Summerskill , Fulham West

The scale rates laid down in the regulations are intended to cover normal expenditure on fuel and clothing. Additions, whether in cash or kind, can, however, be made where necessary to meet some special circumstance or exceptional need.

Photo of Mr Nigel Fisher Mr Nigel Fisher , Hitchin

In these days of almost prohibitive costs of clothing and coal for those living on fixed incomes, could not the Assistance Board, which is so sympathetically administered by Mr. George Buchanan, be given extended powers in this matter?

Photo of Dr Edith Summerskill Dr Edith Summerskill , Fulham West

They are given wide powers of discretion, and I am sure that the hon. Member will be glad to learn that last year they made 132,500 lump sum grants.

Photo of Mr Albert Davies Mr Albert Davies , Stoke-on-Trent North

In view of the rising cost of living, which is nobody's fault particularly—[Laughter]—it is certainly not that of the Government—can my right hon. Friend tell us whether, in the case of old age pensioners and people qualified for supplementary assistance, it is proposed to extend the discretionary allowances in order to help them in their present difficulties?

Photo of Dr Edith Summerskill Dr Edith Summerskill , Fulham West

If people are given wide discretion there is no need to extend it.

Photo of Mr Geoffrey Lloyd Mr Geoffrey Lloyd , Birmingham King's Norton

Is it clear that the Board have discretion to take immediate action to increase the allowances, following on the increased price of coal announced by the Minister's right hon. Friend last week?

Photo of Dr Edith Summerskill Dr Edith Summerskill , Fulham West

They have discretion to take into account the circumstances in which a person lives.

Photo of Mr George Thomas Mr George Thomas , Cardiff West

asked the Minister of National Insurance what additional steps she proposes to take to alleviate the distress amongst old age pensioners in view of the effect of re-armament upon the cost of living.

Photo of Dr Edith Summerskill Dr Edith Summerskill , Fulham West

I would remind my hon. Friend that if any pensioner is in need it is open to him to apply to the National Assistance Board for supplementary assistance.

Photo of Mr George Thomas Mr George Thomas , Cardiff West

Is my right hon. Friend aware that that does not answer the question I addressed to her?

Photo of Mr George Thomas Mr George Thomas , Cardiff West

asked the Minister of National Insurance whether she will consult with the Assistance Board with a view to giving greater assistance to supplementary pensioners in need of boots, bedclothes and wearing apparel, in view of the rising cost of living.

Photo of Dr Edith Summerskill Dr Edith Summerskill , Fulham West

I would refer my hon. Friend to the reply given to the hon. Member for Govan (Mr. Browne) on 28th November, a copy of which I am sending him.

Photo of Mr George Thomas Mr George Thomas , Cardiff West

Can the Minister tell me whether that reply is encouraging, or is couched in the usual language?

Photo of Dr Edith Summerskill Dr Edith Summerskill , Fulham West

It is always very difficult to satisfy my hon. Friend, but perhaps the figures which I have given—he may not have been in the House when I gave them—will go some way towards doing so. During the last year, we gave 132,000 lump sums in supplementary grants to assist pensioners, which totalled £490,643.