asked the Minister of Pensions and National Insurance what is now the total number of widowed mothers with dependent children, the number of them receiving pensions and allowances as war widows, the number of them receiving pensions and allowances under the Industrial Injuries Act, and the number entitled to receive widowed mother's allowances under the National Insurance Act.
About 16,000 widowed mothers with dependent children receive pensions and allowances as war widows; some 6,000 receive pensions and allowances under the Industrial Injuries Act; and about 115,000 receive widowed mother's allowances under the National Insurance Act. The total number of such widows is not known, but it is not thought that there are many who are not eligible for one or other of these pensions or allowances.
None, Sir. The effect of the new earnings rule will, on the contrary, be to reduce by about 5,000 the number of widowed mothers whose allowances are not payable in full because of their earnings.
The hon. Lady asked
how many widowed mothers will suffer a reduction in their allowance when the £4 earnings limit takes effect…".
That is the question which I have answered.
I apologise to the hon. Lady the Member for Holborn and St. Pancras, South (Mrs. L. Jeger) if I have misunderstood the Question, but I understood it to ask what would be the effect of the step, which the House has approved, of raising the earnings limit, and that is what I have tried to answer.
That raises wide questions, but this particular matter to which the hon. Lady refers is part of the Insurance Scheme, and I think that it has always been understood that in any insurance scheme a deficiency in contribution must be reflected by a reduction in benefit.
Surely, there has been no fault in contribution on the part of the widow. Does it not seem a hardship that she should be penalised for the errors of her husband's ways?
asked the Minister of Pensions and National Insurance if he is aware that the present provisions of the National Insurance Scheme relating to widows under 50 years of age are too rigid and, for this reason, inflict hardship on some widows who do not fall within the three classes who, after the widows' temporary allowance for the first 13 weeks of widowhood, are denied widows' pensions; and if he will take steps to introduce elasticity which will provide for the hard cases of widows under 50 years of age who are unable to support themselves.
I would remind the hon. and learned Member that as a result of the provisions of Section 2 (6) of the Family Allowance and National Insurance Act, 1956, there are now arrangements under which widows who fail to qualify for a widow's pension are given full and immediate rights to sickness or unemployment benefit if they are unable to support themselves because of illness, or cannot get work.
The hon. and learned Gentleman may recall that the National Insurance Advisory Committee, prior to the improvements to which I referred in my main answer, gave exhaustive and detailed study to the position of widows. If he will study that report, and the action taken subsequently, I think he will find that we have done a great deal to improve the position of women who find themselves in this unfortunate state.
I have been informed by the National Assistance Board that the practice in future in determining need will be to disregard the first 10s. 6d. of the amount by which a war widow's pension exceeds the standard National Insurance widow's pension. One consequence of this decision will be that where a war widow over 70 is receiving assistance she will be able to receive the new 10s. allowance without reduction in her assistance.
asked the Minister of Pensions and National Insurance (1) if he will now reconsider the pensions of widows and widowed mothers, in view of the changed economic position of the country;
(2) if he will now recommend an immediate increase of pensions for retired workers in view of the changed economic position of the country.
Is the Minister not aware of the hardship suffered by most widows as a result of the pensions now being paid? Will he, with his colleagues, examine the pernicious system of deducting the part or whole of the pension where a widow goes out to work? Is he prepared to amend the regulations to encourage widows to go out to work?
As the hon. Gentleman may recall, I have just amended the regulations to ease the earnings rules. That will come into operation today week. As regards the first part of his supplementary question, there has been an improvement in the provision for widowed mothers quite out of proportion to the general improvements in the National Insurance Scheme. The increase since October, 1951, in real values has been about 55 per cent. in the case of a widowed mother with three children.