Orders of the Day — Retired Persons (Cost of Living)

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 27th June 1952.

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Photo of Miss Irene Ward Miss Irene Ward , Tynemouth 12:00 am, 27th June 1952

I am only asking for an inquiry. I have been a long time in this House and I have tried to learn the procedure. I know that it is in order to suggest that there should be an inquiry into the circumstances of any section of the community however payments from Government sources reach the individual. I ask that my hon. Friend should initiate an inquiry into the circumstances of the people about whom I am speaking.

I should like to see set up a committee consisting of representatives from the National Council of Social Service. We have had great benefit and assistance on Tyneside from that Council, and I regret that my hon. Friend cut the grant to them. I should also like to see representatives from the National Assistance Boards who know this problem. I should like to see representatives from the Women's Public Welfare Committee, who are closely in touch with the problem and from a number of voluntary organisations which are dealing with certain monies which go to supplement, in a voluntary way, the income of elderly people who are left with slender resources.

Then, of course, there is another angle. My hon. Friend, if he so liked, could most certainly go into consultation with the Minister of Health and find out just how far the charges imposed by the Socialist Government and continued by this Government in regard to spectacles, dentures, certain appliances and indeed prescriptions could be withdrawn from this particular section of the community. We have been assured by the Minister of Health that people of slender resources, even though not on National Assistance, are entitled to relief, and I myself took the trouble to go into a chemist's shop to see what sort of notice was displayed there for their benefit, and I am bound to say that I found it far from satisfactory.

I know only too well that, if my hon. Friend so desires—and I know that he is sympathetic to this case, as his speeches have indicated—he could turn his mind to the establishment of such a committee to look into the circumstances of these people, and even the overspill to other people of small incomes. After all, the people who are on National Assistance have had an increase in the assistance scales.

At the present moment, the position is that thrift is penalised, and the people who have very slender resources are not people who go about trying to find out what they can get out of the nation. They are much more inclined to withdraw into their own homes, or into rooms where many of them are very unhappy, and say nothing. I really cannot bear to think that there is a considerable section of the community absolutely afraid to face life and the difficulties which life presents at the present time, and I think it is our responsibility, however difficult it may be, to do something for them.

I think that sometimes the Treasury is apt to over-estimate the difficulties of dealing with these problems. I have given a rough indication of how I think the problem can be met, but it is absolutely important that I should enlist the co-operation and sympathy of my hon. Friend in support of those people who have in the past been magnificent members of the community.

After all, we are trying to save the country for the benefit of all, and that really should mean the benefit of all. I therefore hope my hon. Friend will consider the points I have made, and will promise to set up a small expert committee. It is no good setting up a committee of people who do not know the problem, and, sometimes we are apt to set up, on the human plane, committees of people who do not know very much about the problems they have to consider. I sit in my surgery Saturday by Saturday, and it touches me a very great deal. Quite seriously, I want my hon. Friend to look at this problem sympathetically in the hope that we as a House of Commons, representing all parties, may be able to do something to help.