Orders of the Day — Social Security

– in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 10th December 1963.

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4.5 p.m.

Photo of Mr Gilbert Mitchison Mr Gilbert Mitchison , Kettering

I beg to move, That this House calls upon Her Majesty's Government to introduce without delay a comprehensive social security system to provide adequate guaranteed minimum incomes and wage-related benefits applicable on retirement, sickness, unemployment and widowhood and. pending the introduction of such a system, to take immediate steps to meet the hardships of pensioners and widows and to provide better facilities for the seriously disabled. In this Motion we invite the House to call upon the Government to introduce a comprehensive social security system without delay. We go on to say what we think it should cover and we also ask for some immediate help for the people concerned.

I propose to begin by saying why we think that a comprehensive social security system does not exist at present and is needed. We think that the present system is gradually breaking down and we have reason to think so. So far as we can tell, National Assistance will be relied on for purposes quite different from those for which it was introduced. I crave leave to go back to the time when it was introduced and to remind right hon. and hon. Members of what it was said to be.

On 24th November, 1947, the late Aneurin Bevan, when introducing the Bill which became the National Assistance Act, called it …a national scheme to assist people in peculiar and special circumstances. He went on to say what he thought that they were: There will be a number of persons who will not be eligible for insurance benefit. There will be some who will not be eligible for unemployment benefit, and there will be persons who will be the subject of sudden affliction, like fires and floods and circumstances of that kind, who will need to have help from some special organisation."—[Official Report, 24th November, 1947, vol. 444, c. 1604.] These were the purposes for which National Assistance was introduced and, as it was put in the same debate by my right hon. Friend the Member for Llanelly (Mr. J. Griffiths): …the main job to be done under the provisions of this Bill will be to care for those people whose lives are so afflicted that they will not come inside the insurance field at all."—[Official Report, 24th November, 1947; Vol. 444, c. 1710.] Those were the purposes for which National Assistance was introduced. Accordingly, provision was made for National Assistance to be at a subsistence level and it is still the case that if one turns to the explanatory leaflet it will be found that one of the earliest sentences is A grant can be made only to persons who need it. It was a scheme to meet special needs, and accordingly the scales—which are the maximum scales and do not include rent—together should be enough, and no more than enough, to provide a minimum subsistence benefit.

If it were the case that only some small or varying proportion of the recipients of National Insurance also had to obtain National Assistance, I could regard that as a matter capable of discussion. It might be due to some temporary circumstances. But out of those receiving National Insurance benefits at present, and for many years past, more than one-fifth have had to get National Assistance benefit as well. In those circumstances, how can it be said that National Insurance benefits are sufficient?

Let us look for a moment at what is the position at present. As against the £3 7s. 6d. for a single man, the National Assistance scale is £3 3s. 6d. But we have to add the rent on to that. We get the rent figure from the National Assistance Board report. For a single person it amounts to £1 0s. 10d. and the result is a total of £4 4s. 4d. That is supposed to be the least with which a person in need can manage.

We get the same picture on the married side. There is the National Insurance standard benefit of £5 9s. and, adding together the National Assistance figure of £5 4s. 6d. and rent of £1 3s. 7d., the result is £6 8s. Id. Both those figures are supposed to indicate the limit to which need can go. People cannot get along with less and, to the extent of one in five, they have to go to National Assistance. That represents an addition of roughly £1 to the National Insurance figures.

Those figures fit in very well with what was said by my hon. Friend the Member for Sowerby (Mr. Houghton) in the debate on the National Insurance Bill on 28th January, 1963. He pointed out, as reported in column 621 of the Official Report for that date, that the Trades Union Congress had been asking for a pension for a single person to be increased from £2 17s. 6d. to £3 19s. 6d.. which is about the same as would be required to bring the present flat-rate National Insurance benefit up to the figure for National Assistance purposes which is composed partly of the rate and partly of the rent. He went on to say that that was the figure which had been asked for at the Labour Party conference in Brighton, in October, 1962. What is required is clearly indicated.

I turn from that to appeal to hon. Members who are at present in the Chamber because they have a real interest and sympathy in these matters, to search their own experience and their own consciences. Do they really believe it pos- sible for a single man today to live on the National Insurance benefit, or for a married couple to do so? I have given the figures and I shall not repeat them. Surely every hon. Member knows from his constituency experience that those figures are completely insufficient at present. I am not concerned at the moment with what they have been, or whether they have been increased, but with the one question, is any hon. Member prepared to say that those amounts are enough to live on and that they reach subsistence level?

Photo of Mr Gilbert Longden Mr Gilbert Longden , South West Hertfordshire

I ask this for information. Was it the intention of Lord Beveridge, when these rates were first introduced, that they should be enough to live on, or should be only a supplement to people's savings?

Photo of Mr Gilbert Mitchison Mr Gilbert Mitchison , Kettering

Lord Beveridge did not introduce these rates. They were not Lord Beveridge's rates and I have no idea what his intention was in the matter. He was certainly not in a position to carry it out. They were brought in as subsistence rates. I have read to the House the circumstances they were intended to meet, exceptional cases.

I turn to another way of looking at the present system. We have at present an average earning of somewhere over £16. The last Ministry of Labour figure is £16 for an adult male worker in manufacturing industry and a very similar figure is given in one or two other industries. A man earning that amount, when he retires and is dependent on his pension, finds if he is single that he gets only about one-filth of his previous earnings. If he is married he gets only about one-third of his previous earnings. That is a terrific and cruel change. It is a matter which is becoming more and more important as the increasing wage level rises above the level of benefits.

In other countries this is not the case. In Germany, I understand, a man on retirement gets more than half his previous earnings—I am talking in terms of averages. In Sweden, a man gets about two-thirds and in Belgium a man gets much the same. In Holland, I think that it is even higher, somewhere about three-quarters. In this respect, we introduce a bump from the comparative affluence—it is only comparative—of average earnings to this extremely low level.

Photo of Mr Arthur Tiley Mr Arthur Tiley , Bradford West

It is fascinating to compare the position here with that of other countries, but it is only fair to state the whole facts. For instance, in Sweden a man retires at 67, not 65.

Photo of Mr Gilbert Mitchison Mr Gilbert Mitchison , Kettering

I quite agree with the hon. Member that there are all sorts of minor differences. If he goes through all the National Insurance schemes the hon. Member will find hosts of differences. There is almost every possible variety, but we in this country have a drop from earnings to National Insurance flat-rate benefits which is very much greater than the average. I was going to say, and I think that I should be justified in saying, that it is almost unparalleled in European countries. No one could regard that as right, or even faintly right.

This being the position, what have the Government done about it, and what do they propose to do? First, they will tell us that they have made flat-rate increases. There is no doubt that they have. There is no doubt, also, that the real value of the standard benefit, the flat-rate benefit, has gone up. The point is that the rise in real valueof the flat-rate benefit has been considerably below the rise in the real value of wages and national prosperity, the national income. Instead of keeping the share they had—not very large though it was—before the succession of Tory Governments came to power, those dependent on fiat-rate increases have lost in the race. They slip further and further behind.

It is somewhere about three-quarters of the actual national increase. I want to put it fairly to the House. The difficulty has been largely one of the whole concept of National Insurance. There have been three views about it. The first was that it was merely relief. The second was that it was some form of insurance. The third was that it was more than those; it was to provide for a reasonably comfortable old age. I deal with the insurance point first. It arose very well in a question put by one of his hon. Friends to the Minister on 2nd December.

The Minister was asked by one of his hon. Friends: Can my right hon. Friend say what proportion of the National Insurance retirement benefit has been paid for out of contributions? The right hon. Gentleman very wisely repied: I should have to have notice of that very complicated question."—[Official Report, 2nd December, 1963; Vol. 685, c. 755–6.] The question certainly is complicated; it is unanswerable, for the reason that this is not an ordinary insurance contract. A number of contributions are being made by different people for benefits which, when they come to fruition, will almost certainly not be the same benefits as they would be today.

There has been, and there was bound to be, with rising prices and the rising level of wages, some corresponding rise in the level of insurance benefits. It therefore presents to anyone who looks at it as an insurance question an entirely insoluble matter. There is no answer to that question. That is why the right hon. Gentleman politely burked it.

The second view is that this is bare relief. This is the view to which the Government are increasingly tending. It is not, and never has been, the view of the Labour Party. We do not regard it as a matter of relieving people who are in need. We think that those exceptional cases of need ought to be dealt with by National Assistance. We regard it as affecting a far greater number of people—as the share of people in their old age of national prosperity, whatever it is; their share in the broad national income; their right to have, at the expense of the contributions they and others have made and the contributions which are due from their employers and from the Government, a reasonably comfortable old age. That is what we are asking for. It is a very modest request. I shall turn soon to what happens in other cases.

I have been talking about the flat-rate benefit. I turn now to graduated contrbutions. These are no desperate novelty. They are the rule rather than the exception in most countries. They were put forward in this country by a Labour Party pamphlet, issued in 1957. What has happened about the idea contained in that pamphlet? What action have the Government taken about it? By 1959, the Government found that they were faced with a mounting bill of Exchequer contributions. To get out of it, they have introduced a graduated contributions scheme, the effect of which is that the graduated contributors are paying what, according to bargain and according to all arrangements previously made, the Exchequer ought to be paying. Consequently, we are getting an arrangement under which the Exchequer, instead of losing very considerable sums, will, in fact, make a small profit some time ahead.

I cannot do better than repeat what my hon. Friend the Member for Sowerby said in debate in January of this year. This was the debate on the last National Insurance Bill. My hon. Friend congratulated the then Minister on the extraordinarily good bargain he had made for the Exchequer. He said that the Minister deserved a good place in the City for it. My. hon. Friend said this: If anyone likes to see a vivid illustration of this he has only to look at Command Paper 629 of 1959"— that was the Report of the Government Actuaryto find out that the estimated deficit on the National Insurance Fund in the year 1981–82 was going to be £424 million, and if he will now look at the White Paper now before us, Table 2, he will see that in 1981–82 there will be a surplus of £122 million."—[Official Report, 28th January, 1963; Vol. 670, c. 621.] This was to come out of using the contributions of the graduated contributors. The graduated contributors are those earning between £9 and at present £18 a week. It was at their expense that the Exchequer was to be relieved of this increasing liability.

There was no bones about it. The previous Minister had to address the National Association of Pensions Funds. He made it perfectly clear to the Association that that was the intention of the Measures then taken and that that would be their effect. So far the result has been that the Exchequer contribution, which used to be one-third of the total when the National Insurance Bill was originally brought in, has now fallen to about one-sixth or one-seventh of the total. That is the result of this raid on the graduated contributors. Yesterday, one of my Scottish hon. Friends, in a Question which received a Written Answer, asked the Minister what proportion of total receipts to the National Insurance Fund came from Exchequer contributions for the years ended 31st March, 951, and 1963, respectively."—[Official Report, 9th December, 1963; Vol. 686, c. 31.] We learned that during that period it had fallen from 26 per cent. to 16 per cent.

If that is the way in which the Government are trying to meet the deficiencies in the amounts of National Insurance benefit, all I can say is that it is time they thought again. If it were generally known—I think that it is beginning to be generally known—that the Exchequer contribution has fallen from about one-third originally, first, to one-quarter and, finally, today to about 16 per cent., that, at the same time, the flat-rate benefits are considerably less than what is given on National Assistance, and that the graduated benefits are simply being used to meet the deficit that the Exchequer would otherwise have had to meet, people would be even more indignant with the Government than they are at present.

It may be said that we cannot afford any more. In relation to that aspect, I want to say something about the employers' side of the picture. Some figures were published in the E.E.C. report about what employers do contribute by way of social security contributions in this and in other countries. The contribution of British employers works out at 5 per cent. of their payroll, whereas in every country listed here—Belgium, France, Western Germany, Italy, even Luxembourg and the Netherlands—it is never less than 13·65 per cent.—that is, nearly three times as much as British employers pay. In France, it amounts to 31 per cent. In Italy, it rises to nearly 45 per cent.

Photo of Mr John Vaughan-Morgan Mr John Vaughan-Morgan , Reigate

Will the hon. and learned Gentleman give comparable figures for the employee?

Photo of Mr Gilbert Mitchison Mr Gilbert Mitchison , Kettering

Yes, if the right hon. Gentleman likes. In Britain, the figure is 5½ per cunt., in Italy, 5·40 per cent.: in France, 6·05 per cent.; and in Western Germany between 12 per cent. and 13 per cent.

They are on the low side by comparison, but it is nothing like the disparity in the employers' contributions. If one puts it in terms of the average weekly amount paid by an employer on behalf of an employee, one gets the same result, a result that is, perhaps, easier to follow. It is 15s. 9d. in this country, and in other countries it ranges from about double that in the Netherlands to about £3 13s. in France and £2 7s. in West Germany.

The result is that, taking this country by comparison with others, instead of the original one-third, one-third and one-third arrangement, we now have an Exchequer contribution at a much lower rate and an employer contribution which compares astonishingly badly with that obtaining in other countries. I do not see why we should subsidise the British employer in international competition at the expense of the old folk of this country, for that is what these figures mean.

Photo of Lord  Balniel Lord Balniel , Hertford

The hon. and learned Gentleman's figures do not give a fair comparison unless, at the same time, one makes an equivalent comparison between the wage rates operating in the countries he quoted. The figures which he gave, in isolation, are utterly irrelevant.

Photo of Mr Gilbert Mitchison Mr Gilbert Mitchison , Kettering

No differences in wage rates between that group of countries can possibly cover that sort of disparity. Is the noble Lord saying that West German pay is about two-and-a-half times less than ours? It is absurd to suppose that differences between pay rates in different Western European countries can account for this difference. What does account for it is the different view taken in different countries of the responsibility of the employer and the government towards old people. There is no denying that.

Photo of Mr Enoch Powell Mr Enoch Powell , Wolverhampton South West

Can the hon. and learned Gentleman say whether the contributions abroad cover health benefits as well?

Photo of Mr Gilbert Mitchison Mr Gilbert Mitchison , Kettering

I do not think that they do. I cannot be certain about that, but I can tell the right hon. Gentleman, whose experience in this matter is unrivalled, that no addition of health benefits can possibly account for the disparity. There is an astonishingly large difference and, without committing myself to exact figures in a matter of this kind—because there are differences in the various systems—the broad fact, an indisputable fact, remains; that our employers contribute far less towards retirement and other benefits.

Photo of Mr Arthur Tiley Mr Arthur Tiley , Bradford West

I am the first to say that the hon. and learned Gentleman is always fair in debate. I am anxious to make it clear that in this country and throughout Europe our employers are not of the type that he is suggesting. The main difference is that our employers, without impetus from Parliament or anyone else, have introduced private schemes of their own volition covering 10 million of our workers—and that does not apply on the Continent.

Photo of Mr Gilbert Mitchison Mr Gilbert Mitchison , Kettering

I appreciate the hon. Member's point and I shall have something to say about private schemes later. However, they do not cover the ground covered by the standard State scheme. All I am pointing out in answer to the question "Can we afford this or that?" is that there is the possibility—I go further, the advisability—of making British employers "cough-up" as much as their Continental rivals, allowing, of course, for the differences in incomes and other matters between the various countries.

I now deal with what I believe the Government are planning to do. We have some guide to this in the terms of the Amendment which they propose to move today. They …will have regard particularly to those groups whose need is greatest As I understand it, that means that the Government are to accept what I call the relief theory of National Assistance and confine what is given to people to their needs, just as National Assistance does today.

I have another indication of this. The right hon. Member for Enfield, West(Mr. Ian Macleod), speaking at the Conservative Party conference, at Blackpool, said—and I am quoting only sentences of his speech, although I think that I am giving the effect of his remarks fairly: We accept too easily the structure of the social services. We must ask a much more fundamental question: should the wall of social security be the same height for every one? The right hon. Gentleman had been criticising my hon. Friends for doing some patching or replacing a brick here or there—or, in fact, doing exactly what the Prime Minister was doig when replying to a Question earlier today.

The right hon. Member for Enfield, West, raised a broader point: Should the wall of social security be the same height for everyone? Does it make sense when every year more and more of those retiring are covered by non-State pensions and other benefits? That is to say, he proposed to rely on the non-State schemes to deal with all cases except those of sheer need. That is how I understood it. The right hon. Member went on: I sense a feeling in this Conference that we may be doing less than we ought to do for those with special needs and problems because we insist on providing an average level of benefits for everybody". I am the last to say that we should not provide for special needs in special cases, but that is no excuse for turning what was originally intended to be a provision for comfortable old age into a provision merely for meeting acute needs. That is what the Government have in mind now, it seems. The right hon. Member for Enfield, West talked about his wall. We find, in "A Midsummer-Night's Dream": …we must have a wall in the great chamber; for Pyramus and This by, says the story, did talk through the chink of a wall. It was the chink, I suppose, with which the Prime Minister was dealing today. Bottom then says: Some man or other must present wall… We had the man or other presenting the wall today. We shall no doubt have others, but all this seems to be getting far away from the original and right intention of the scheme.

I do not wish to delay the House and I come, by way of illustration, to the sort of things we think should be done. If hon. Members are in any doubt about this they can perfectly easily obtain the pamphlet New Frontiers for Social Security and read in more detail than I have time today to relate the kind of things we propose.

We propose, for instance, that those who are looking after the substantial reserve funds—and they are large amounts of money—standing to the credit both of National Insurance and industrial injuries should be allowed to invest those funds just as the managers of life insurance and similar funds. They are not restricted by a statutory obligation to buy only Government stock and they make use of their freedom. They put advertisements in the newspapers about the excellence of the benefits they offer and how that depends on their freedom of action.

Hon. Members opposite say, "Yes, the insurance companies, the private employers, may do this. They may invest as they choose. They may draw their trustees as they choose. Only the Government in dealing with the poorer people, the mass of citizens in this country, are bound not to exercise that facility of investment." The suggestion is in those advertisements that they lose by doing it. Whether or not they do, I see no reason why they should be constrained in that way.

We propose to change the contributions. At present, they are a fixed amount up to £9, then they consist of a fixed amount plus a graduated addition, and then they disappear on the upper limit of £18. We propose to make them a percentage right down to the bottom, but not right up to the top. We shall have a high limit and see that it is high enough because, for the benefit of the fund, it is right that we should bring in some of the people who are not at present brought into the Government scheme.

We propose to change the basis of the Exchequer contribution and to make that depend on the national income, that is to say, to make it a percentage of the national income, and we shall in that way have hitched the contributions partly to individual earnings and individual pay rolls—that is, in the case of the employers and the employees—and partly to the national income itself.

Surely, if we are to make the benefits depend, as we are to make them depend, on national earnings—the average earnings of people in manufacturing industries—it is right and prudent that contributions should have a similar dependence.

Photo of Sir Spencer Summers Sir Spencer Summers , Aylesbury

Are we to understand that the benefits are not to be linked to the cost of living, but to the contributions paid into the fund?

Photo of Mr Gilbert Mitchison Mr Gilbert Mitchison , Kettering

I would not understand anything yet if I were the hon. Member, because I have not got to the benefits. I was talking about contributions. I think that I can answer the hon. Member's question completely. If he finds that I have not, and he cares to intervene again, I shall gladly give way.

Let me turn to benefits. Taking retirement benefits, which represent the largest number of people affected, and the highest amount affected, they ought to be adjustable in the sense that year by year they should follow the same index to which I have referred—the average earnings in manufacturing industry. Next, the graduated retirement benefit, which will come on top of the fixed amount to which I have referred, should be a percentage either of contributions or of earnings, since the contributions are themselves to be a percentage of earnings. We propose to provide that those contributions should be taken to continue during sickness and unemployment. We propose, transitionally, to allow for an increase in the case of older people who will not by reason of their age have had the opportunity to establish their full paying position in the fund. We propose, further, to add the amount which has already accrued to graduated contributors under the present scheme, that is, a vested right to which they are entitled.

We also propose to supplement the income of everybody who needs it, under the guaranteed incomes scheme to which the Motion refers.

I desire to say a word or two more about that. The intention is that the income there should, broadly speaking, be the income subject to tax. Accordingly, we should not take account of war pensions, savings bank deposits, and so on, which are exempt from tax. There should be some disregards, generally speaking, those that apply to National Assistance at present, and the income of everybody which falls short of that amount should be made up to it.

Photo of Mr Percy Browne Mr Percy Browne , Torrington

To put it in a nutshell, the hon. and learned Gentleman is saying that he would have a universal means test for retirement pensioners.

Photo of Mr Gilbert Mitchison Mr Gilbert Mitchison , Kettering

I fully appreciate the force of what the hon. Member says. This is not a matter to decide on a play of words. The point is that Income Tax itself is a means test. P.A.Y.E., and so on, are all means tests in one sense, but, of course, means tests can be used in two ways. A means test can refer to need and it can refer to one's income.

All we have to find out here is what a man's income is, or a married couple's, and make it up to the required amount. In a sense one can say that it is a means test, just as an Income Tax return is a means test, but it is in a quite different sense from what it has been in the past, and, in practice, it comes to a very different matter indeed.

The majority of people who will be concerned in this will be subject to this means test, if we like to call it that, under their existing P.A.Y.E. arrangements. All that we have to do is to turn our Income Tax arrangements in reverse. Instead of taxing people according to what they get, let them receive according to what they need. If one works this out in detail, there are obviously new things to be introduced—not many, I think—which should fit in clearly, and, I hope, to the understanding of those concerned, with the present arrangements for collecting tax and be tied to it as closely as possible.

Photo of Mr Percy Browne Mr Percy Browne , Torrington

I hope that the hon. and learned Gentleman will accept that I was not interrupting to make a play on words or a party point. This is a point of view which I and many of my hon. Friends have held for six years. I was trying to make quite sure that the hon. and learned Gentleman was saying what we have pressed for. This was suggested by the hon. Member for Sowerby (Mr. Houghton) in the debate last year.

Photo of Mr Gilbert Mitchison Mr Gilbert Mitchison , Kettering

That is perfectly correct. My hon. Friend the Member for Sowerby put it forward, and I accept from the hon. Member that he supports the idea. I am very glad that he does. This is not a matter that we want to debate in terms of slogans, or anything of that kind. We are dealing with old people who have not enough to live on, and we are trying to make their lot more comfortable. Let us for heaven's sake not get this thing cockeyed by putting the wrong label, or the right label in the wrong way, on it. Let us look at the scheme on its merits.

I turn to unemployment and sickness. These are two benefits under the existing arrangements, and I think that the main points we have in mind are two: first, to lengthen the temporary period which is now about half a year, or 180 days' entitlement to a full year; and, secondly, to provide for continuing benefit after that. The continuing benefit would be in this case, as we see it, at flat rates—proportions of the average earnings of the male adult worker—and adjustable in the way that I have indicated from year to year because average earnings themselves vary from year to year. The proportion we have in mind is one-third in the case of the single man and one-half in the case of a couple. We have the strongest support from the N.E.D.C. on unemployment. In conditions favourable to faster growth the N.E.D.C. came out in very definite terms in favour of a wage-related scheme to deal with unemployment and to maintain that ability to move from place to place and job to job which it recognised as being so essential to the country in modern conditions.

Widows' pensions and allowances are a very complicated matter, and in view of what was said today it seems likely that there will be legislation and Orders about them. First, we think that the widow's pension—the one that she gets immediately on her husband's death, and which is called the widow's allowance—should also be a flat rate added to a proportion; say, one-half of the husband's former earnings.

We propose, too, that the earnings rule should be abolished. As I see it, there can be no messing about with the earnings rule. I agree that there is much to be said about it on both sides, but, on the whole, the rule is unjust and is not worked properly, and it is recognised that something must be done about it. I think that the right and the simplest thing is to abolish it.

I turn now to contracting out. There are conditions at present allowing for contracting out of the Government's graduated scheme, and there are three ways in which we think the alternative private schemes may break down; two, where they may break down and one where they very often do break down. The two where they may break down are the provision for widows and the provision for deferred retirement.

The third, which is the one that I emphasise most of all, is that the pensions are not by any means always fully transferable; that is to say, a man does not carry his pensions rights on his back on going from one employer to another. It is, however, perfectly simple to enforce that. It can be done either by a provision in a National Insurance Bill, when it is introduced or, as an alternative—or, perhaps as an addition—by restricting the very considerable tax concessions at present given to these schemes in cases where there is full transferability.

After all, a very large number of people, the estimate was over 1 million but we shall probably get the answer in detail later, lost their pension rights in recent years by moving from one employment to another. The facts about this are extremely difficult to ascertain, largely, I think, because of the variety of the schemes involved. If the Minister can tell us something about it, I know that my hon. Friends and myself will be grateful. We should like to know how many people are involved in what sort of private schemes, and how many of them loss their rights by moving from one job to another either last year or in a previous year. What is the position about transferability, and do the Government propose to do anything about it?

The figure is very considerable. The right hon. Gentleman will remember that the Phillips Committee, some time ago, was unable to give any accurate figure at all. Quite obviously, it had not the requisite information for the purpose, and spoke of about £100 million a year being involved. I do not know where the Committee got that figure from, but I do know that attempts to find out on what it had founded that figure were quite unsuccessful. Anyone doubting that should read what Professor Titmuss has written on the subject.

I hope that I have shown that we on this side find the present system quite unfair and insufficient; that we see no reason why there should not be a perfectly feasible and workable—and fight—alternative on the lines I have indicated; that we believe the purpose of this kind of provision is to secure a comfortable old age, not just to relieve need or get muddled up with insurance arrangements.

This is also an urgent matter. These people have not enough to live on—and they have not enough to live on now. They are not getting enough. There are old folk in the constituency of every hon. Member who are really getting an insufficiency of food, heat, or whatever it may be. They are not able to live a reasonably comfortable life. We in this House are defaulting, here and now, in our duty to them. It is up to the Government to do not only what I suggest should be done in the long run, but something immediately, while winter is on us.

I could cite a lot of cases, but I will only mention one because I know that it affects a great many of my hon. Friends who are miners, and who know the facts. For some reason, crippled miners cannot at present get about in Government-provided tricycles or bicycles with engines to them. For some obscure reason, war pensioners can. Industrial injuries do not give the same rights as war injuries, but why not? These people are in substantially the same position, and I am sure that, if he gets the chance, one of my hon. Friends will develop that point further.

That is just one instance of hardship, but there are other instances which I am sure my hon. Friends—and, I hope, hon. Members opposite—will develop as the debate proceeds. Whatever be the faults of the present scheme, whatever be the merits of the alternative scheme, there is an immediate and urgent human need to do something for these old folk now that the winter is coming on.

4.57 p.m.

Photo of Hon. Richard Wood Hon. Richard Wood , Bridlington

I beg to move, to leave out from "House" to the end of Question and to add instead thereof: notes with satisfaction the many improvements made by Her Majesty's Government which have given national insurance and other benefits a greater value than ever before;welcomes the Government's examination of the possibility of further developments in relating benefits to earnings; and is confident that the Government will continue to improve benefits, and in doing so, will have regard particularly to those group3 whose need is greatest". The speech of the hon. and learned Member for Kettering (Mr. Mitchison) contained such a collection of facts that seem to be at variance with the information at my own disposal that perhaps I had better first try to explain what the Government have already done, because it is not by looking directly at shadowy and uncertain plans for the future but by examining the developments that have taken place since the war under Socialist and Conservative Governments that it is easiest to make intelligent judgments between them.

We took over the administration, 12 years ago, of a system under which the 26s. basic rate of pension had very recently been increased to 30s. for most retirement pensions and for widowed mothers' allowances. The equivalent of that 30s. at today's prices would be 43s. 6d., which compares with the present basic rate for a single man of 67s. 6d., representing an increase in real terms of 55 per cent. The real increase for a married couple is very slightly less than that.

I will not go into the details of every successive step that has been taken since 1951, but will come immediately to the improvements made earlier this year. Between April, 1961, and May, 1963, the Index of Retail Prices rose by nearly 8 per cent.; retirement pensions were increased last May, not by 8 per cent. but by between 17 per cent. and 18 per cent. Since then, that price index has fallen slightly, so that, today, the rates represent a higher real value than they have ever represented before.

But, even more important than the increase in the pension's real value in terms of prices, is its comparison with average earnings, and the hon. and learned Member for Kettering dwelt on this for a short time. Unlike both the Labour and the Liberal parties, our party made very few promises in this context at the last election, but what we undertook to do was to continue to give pensioners a share of the increasing national prosperity.

The hon and learned Member for Kettering quoted some rather different figures or suggested a rather different conclusion, but between 1951 and 1963, which a week or two ago were called "12 wasted years", while men's average earnings have increased by 95 per cent., the retirement pension for a single man has gone up by 125 per cent. At the same time as the real value of the pension went up by more than half, the number of pensioners, as I made clear the other day, also greatly increased. In 1951 there were just over 4 million and there are getting on for 6 million today, that is seven pensioners for every five there were 12 years ago.

The consequence is that the cost of all benefits now is far greater than it was then. The total cost of all benefits has gone up by three times and of retirement pensions by about three and a half times. More important is the proportion of the national income spent on these benefits. In 1951, we spent 2·3 per cent. of the national income on retirement pensions and in 1962 we spent 3·6 per cent., which is almost half as much again. Since the rise in the rates earlier this year the percentage will have risen still further.

The hon, and learned Member for Kettering this afternoon, and in Questions to me the other day, drew atten-to the large proportion of retirement pensioner householders who were receiving supplements from the National Assistance Board last June. I explained last week that the proportion of retirement pensioner householders on assistance, at 22·6 per cent.—which was the figure I gave the hon. and learned Member—was almost exactly the same as was the proportion in December, 1951. The truth is that a real lead existed in the early days of this scheme, but that lead was destroyed by the increase in National Assistance in 1948 leading to the kind of proportion I have mentioned, which has fluctuated over the years but is now the same as it was 12 years ago.

The proportion who are receiving a supplement clearly reflects the policy followed over a number of years of increasing both the insurance and the assistance rates. It would be easy, therefore, as I tried to explain to the hon. and learned Gentleman, to reduce the proportion by increasing National Insurance benefits without improving the assistance scales, but the effect of this would be to give little or no increase to the poorest pensioners. All it would mean would be that they would get more of their total income on the pension order book and less on the National Assistance order book, and the extra contribution and the Exchequer payment, would go mainly to improving the position of the pensioner who was relatively better off.

The Motion calls for a system of wage-related benefits. There is no mention in it, and there was not very much mention in the hon. and learned Member's speech, of the scheme of my right hon. Friend the Chief Secretary to the Treasury which relates retirement pensions to earnings. Admittedly, my right hon. Friends scheme is not exactly the scheme which the party opposite approves, but perhaps it is none the worse for that.

The scheme which my right hon. Friend introduced is intended to allow full freedom for private and occupational provision, and in the 1959 Act graduated additions to flat-rate pensions were deliberately introduced at a modest level so as not to discourage private provision and to provide a reasonable system of contracting out for those who had an occupational scheme. The Act this year continued that policy by extending the scope of the graduated scheme broadly in line with the rise in average earnings since the scheme was first announced in 1958.

I admit to having read New Frontiers For Social Security three times, and I still have a good way to go in understanding the whole problem, but I understand that the scheme of the party opposite is planned to come to full fruition when the growth in occupational schemes, which now cover between 9 million and 10 million workers, would mean that private pensions were being paid in addition to State benefits to a large number of people retiring from work.

It is difficult, frankly, for me to see how these occupational schemes would survive under the scheme of the party opposite. It is certainly true that in "New Frontiers" it is envisaged that contracting out would be possible, but as very high contributions on a wide span of earnings would be involved as well as fairly extensive redistribution, it is difficult to see what would happen to the system of contracting out. Under the Labour Party's scheme, the State would be making the main provision, but the popularity of occupational schemes since the war does not suggest to me that people are particularly anxious that the State should do that. We all agree that it is right for people to have adequate provision, but it is very much less easy to show that it is right to compel them to allot a high proportion of their income to provide high benefits. People may want to use their resources in some other way.

Photo of Mr Richard Crossman Mr Richard Crossman , Coventry East

Is the Minister referring to the employer or to the employee when he speaks about a decision? It seems to us that the decision is taken not by employees but entirely by employers. These occupational pension schemes are conditions of service. They are not voluntarily chosen by individual employees.

Photo of Hon. Richard Wood Hon. Richard Wood , Bridlington

That is perfectly true. All I say is that people have different wishes in this matter, and there are a number of people who will want to use their resources in another way. If I may help the hon. Member in his question, I would say that some people will prefer to contribute to an occupational pension scheme, whilst others will want to devote resources to buying a house for their old age or to bringing up their children, from whom often they will receive help later. But if the overall burden for future pensions is drastically increased it is certain that some of these other outlets must be curtailed.

Photo of Mr Ernest Popplewell Mr Ernest Popplewell , Newcastle upon Tyne West

This is a very important point. The Minister refers to "some people". Whom does he mean? Does he mean the employers' organisation or the employees' organisation? The Minister will understand that it is not the employee who opts in this direction. This is the employer's decision. Would, the right hon. Gentleman go into this matter more fully and make this clear?

Photo of Hon. Richard Wood Hon. Richard Wood , Bridlington

It is clear that employers introduce these schemes only if they are thought by them to be to the benefit of their employees. That seems to me to be a perfectly clear answer to the hon. Member, and that is the answer I stand by.

It is impossible for me to gather from the information given so far by the party opposite the extent of the increase in contributions which is likely to be necessary under their scheme. I read New Frontiers expecting and hoping for greater enlightenment, but I could not find in it any figures, which seems a sad retraction from the party's last publication, National Superannuation, which at least contained some figures. So far, we have little enlightenment on this scheme. I hope that in the course of the debate the hon. Member for Coventry, East, may be willing to answer some of the questions which New Frontiers has left tantalisingly in suspense.

To turn from the long-term to the short-term benefits, the House will be aware—

Photo of Mr Gilbert Mitchison Mr Gilbert Mitchison , Kettering

Before the right hon. Gentleman goes on, will he deal with transferability? It is very important.

Photo of Hon. Richard Wood Hon. Richard Wood , Bridlington

I think that it would be easier if I left that important subject to my right hon. Friend, who will deal with it with his usual skill later in the debate.

The short-term benefits occupied a considerable and important part of the hon. and learned Gentleman's speech. The House will recall that the N.E.D.C. Report, Conditions Favourable to Faster Growth, referred to the possibility of replacing the existing National Insurance scheme by a scheme of wage-related benefits. The Council said that a higher level of benefits in relation to earnings would substantially reduce the financial hardship of unemployment, but it saw, at the same time, that a fundamental reorganisation of the existing system would be involved and that it could not be brought about quickly.

My predecessor began an examination of proposals for a scheme of short-term benefits related to earnings. I have myself had talks with the British Employers' Confederation and I hope to meet the T.U.C. next week. When I mentioned these discussions at Question Time a week ago, I pointed out that the issues were bound to be complicated and that it would be hard to make rapid progress.

The present scheme is heavily weighted—and I think that it is generally agreed that it should be—in favour of the married man with children. A married man with a large family can at present receive, when out of work, a substantial proportion of his earnings where those earnings are at about the average level. And fathers of large families whose earnings are below average receive an even higher proportion when they are ill or out of work.

Another important set of problems is this: how is it best to assess previous earnings? How long should the period be over which the earnings are assessed? What earnings should be taken into account? Which is the quickest and best way to get the information? Clearly, all these are important questions which we have to answer.

A recent record of earnings could be obtained only from employers. In 1962, there were 3£ million claims for unemployment benefit, which would be certain to mean millions of inquiries and a large burden placed upon employers, with a real danger—there are these dangers—that payment of benefit would be delayed. Also, we should have to decidehow to collect the graduated contributions necessary to support benefits. Still another and wider question is whether this kind of development could or should be restricted to unemployment benefit. Sickness benefit and unemployment benefit are closely linked in the present scheme and there would be difficulty in treating the sick differently from the unemployed.

On the other hand, sickness benefit claimants normally have a job to return to. A recent inquiry by my Department showed that more than half the workers of this country are covered to some extent by employers' sick pay schemes. Relevant also are the number, the frequency and the temporary nature of sickness benefit claims; and the relation to earnings of 9 million claims a year—as there were last year—would present considerable difficulties of administration.

Apart from this important examination now being carried out, there is a wide choice of directions in which benefits might be developed in the future. I have found no shortage of ideas since I returned to the Ministry of Pensions.

Photo of Mr Gilbert Mitchison Mr Gilbert Mitchison , Kettering

I am sorry to disturb the right hon. Gentleman again, but do I gather from what he has said that the examination, with all the resources of the Government behind it, has not extended tc any questions of cost?

Photo of Hon. Richard Wood Hon. Richard Wood , Bridlington

I am not quite sure what the hon. and learned Gentleman means—the cost of the scheme?

Photo of Mr Gilbert Mitchison Mr Gilbert Mitchison , Kettering

The right hon. Gentleman was inquiring about the costs of the scheme in New Frontiers for Social Security, think that he forgot that I had made several references to them. I am asking now, if the Government are thinking of a scheme, what it is to cost and who is to pay for it.

Photo of Hon. Richard Wood Hon. Richard Wood , Bridlington

Certainly, that is one of the considerations, and I had hoped that, even if I had not mentioned it, it would be clear that the financing of the scheme and its cost would be important questions. But the questions which I am investigating with the B.E.C. and the T.U.C.—I think that they have a right and a duty to give their views—are the questions which I have already mentioned, and they are the ones I am trying to make progress with now.

As I say I have found no shortage of ideas about what should be done in the future. Hardly a day goes by without someone giving me the benefit of his or—perhaps even more often—her wisdom. The most recent letter of advice which I received, evidently written by someone who thought me unlikely to take it, ended with the cheerful woods, "Such like as you want putting to bed with a shovel"—a sentiment which will, perhaps, find echoes of approval opposite. But I am at present doing my best to digest all the advice which I have received, though I am not ashamed to admit, that after 50 days, I am suffering from acute indigestion.

The first possible direction of advance in the future is to try to improve benefits for identifiable classes of pensioners. We have had the announcement by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister today. The Government have considered for some time the National Insurance provisions for widowhood, and they are conscious of the natural sympathy which exists in the House for women whose husbands have died and who are left with children to bring up. Consistently, over recent years, with the approval of the House of Commons, we have given to these widows preferential treatment. The purpose of my right hon. Friend's statement was to make clear that we intend to carry this preference rather further.

Widowed mothers already have higher rates of child allowances than other National Insurance beneficiaries, and these allowances are exempt from the earnings rule. This gives help to all widowed mothers, especially those with larger families. We have now decided, as my right hon. Friend made clear, that the payment for a widow's child ought not to be any less than the payment to the guardian of an orphan, and we propose, therefore, a new allowance for the child of a widow of 37s. 6d. instead of the present amounts, which include family allowances, of 30s. for the first and second child and 32s. for subsequent children.

The second improvement we have in mind relates to the age up to which child allowances can be drawn. There are many more children now staying at school beyond the age of 18, and many of them expect to go on to a university. When the age was raised from 16 to 18 in 1957, this was not nearly so common, but I am now concerned by the growing number of widows who lose their allowances when their children reach 18 years of age although the children's schooling continues beyond 18.

This, naturally, as the House will have perceived, affects the children of the sick and the unemployed—it affects children generally. Therefore, the proposal is to raise to 19 the age to which child allowances for both National Insurance and Industrial Injuries beneficiaries, and family allowances, will be paid for children in full-time education.

Photo of Mr Harold Finch Mr Harold Finch , Bedwellty

Does that include apprenticeships?

Photo of Hon. Richard Wood Hon. Richard Wood , Bridlington

It includes apprentices, as at present, who are earning less than 40s. a week. It is on exactly the same basis as before except that it goes on for another year.

Photo of Dr Jeremy Bray Dr Jeremy Bray , Middlesbrough West

Why does the right hon. Gentleman choose 19 years of age? Since he is changing the age, why not make the regulations consistent with those which apply to Income Tax, under which the age is higher?

Photo of Hon. Richard Wood Hon. Richard Wood , Bridlington

We considered this very carefully. We thought that the extension of the age limit by one year would take care of most of the boys and girls in transition from school to university. We thought, to be perfectly frank, that if one goes any higher one runs into more and more difficulties such as where children leave home and where the widowed mother's personal allowance would, therefore, be affected by factors rather out of her control and certainly out of the Government's control.

May I explain, because I think that it is important, the position about the widowed mother's personal allowance of 67s. 6d. This is paid when her child has left school.

Photo of Mr John McKay Mr John McKay , Wallsend

I assume that the right hon. Gentleman is aware that we leave the door open for youngsters who are below the age of 16 to leave school. To that extent, we encourage them. In view of that, is it not a terrible thing that we should say to the child of 15, "You can get work if you can, but if you cannot you will get nothing from the Welfare State except what your father is receiving by way of National Assistance"? Does not the right hon. Gentleman think that that situation wants remedying?

Photo of Hon. Richard Wood Hon. Richard Wood , Bridlington

The Hon. Member seems to be raising a very much wider issue. I do not believe that anything I have said this afternoon is an encouragement to children to leave school earlier. It seems to me, if anything, an encouragement to children to remain at school longer, because their mothers will now be able to draw allowances for another year.

I should like to explain the position, which I think is important, about the widowed mother's personal allowance. This is paid even though her children have left school but when the child is still under 18 and living with her. This will now continue to be paid if the child remains living with her until the age of 19.

The third and last improvement is the further relaxation which is now proposed in the earnings rules. There has been a great deal of discussion about the complete abolition of the earnings rule for widowed mothers, but, as hon. Members who understand this scheme will realise, there are great difficulties here in the context of the present National Insurance scheme, the purpose of which, in general, is to provide benefits in the absence of earnings, even though a certain level of earnings is disregarded.

Photo of Mrs Harriet Slater Mrs Harriet Slater , Stoke-on-Trent North

Does this relaxation apply only to widowed mothers, or does it apply to widows as a whole?

Photo of Hon. Richard Wood Hon. Richard Wood , Bridlington

I am sorry that the hon. Lady did not wait for a few seconds, because that point is dealt with in almost my next sentence.

To pay benefit on top of earnings, however large, would change fundamentally the character of the present provisions. Therefore, what we have always tried to do is to set the earnings limits as high as reasonably practicable. We think that the present limit—here I come to the hon Lady's point—for widowed mothers of £6 should be raised to £7. We also think—and I hope that this answers the point—that some corresponding relaxation should be made in the earnings limit for widows and retirement pensioners, from £4 5s., as at present, to £5.

I should like to say a few words about the 10s. widow. Although no proposal has been made by my right hon. Friend, this was a matter in which interest was expressed by the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition.

Photo of Sir Spencer Summers Sir Spencer Summers , Aylesbury

Before my right hon. Friend leaves the matter of the earnings rule, may I put this to him? He has told us about the intended change for the widowed mother and widows. Does he intend to make no change in respect of the retirement pensioner?

Photo of Hon. Richard Wood Hon. Richard Wood , Bridlington

I am sorry that my hon. Friend did not hear what I said. I said that a relaxation should also be made in the earnings limit for widows and retirement pensioners, from £4 5s. to £5.

Photo of Sir Spencer Summers Sir Spencer Summers , Aylesbury

The figure is £3 10s., not £4 5s.

Photo of Hon. Richard Wood Hon. Richard Wood , Bridlington

I will have a talk with my hon. Friend, but I think that he has the figures wrong.

May I explain the position of the 10s. widow. The House will be well aware of the effect of the new scheme introducer by the party opposite in 1946, which made long-term benefits payable only to those widows who cannot reasonably be expected to support themselves by their earnings, those who have young children to look after, and those over the age of 50 when they are widowed or when their children grow up.

There are two main classes of widows receiving a 10s. weekly pension. The first covers those who were already receiving the pension before July, 1948, and who did not then qualify for the new benefits, and the second those women who were already married before July, 1948, to men insured under the old scheme and who, on subsequent widowhood, did not qualify for a pension under the new scheme.

What this Leader of the Opposition was suggesting was an increase in the 10s. widow pension, but I want to make it perfectly clear to the House that suchan increase would only enlarge the disparity between the widows who are entitled to the 10s. pension and, on the other side, those widows whose age and family circumstances at widowhood are identical but who, under the new philosophy of widowhood, get no long-term benefit at ell. That is why consistently, and I am sure rightly, the Government have taker the view that it would be wrong to increase this pension and enlarge the disparity between those who receive it and widows in similar circumstances who do not.

Photo of Mr Harry Taylor Mr Harry Taylor , Mansfield

The Minister has made some observations about the 10s. widow. Has he any observations to make about the 20s. widow who comes under the Industrial Injuries Act and who, like the 10s. widow, has had no increase since 1948?

Photo of Hon. Richard Wood Hon. Richard Wood , Bridlington

I have nothing to say other than what I have already said, or to add to what my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister said before the debate began.

Since, no doubt, they will figure largely in the debate, I will leave my right hon. Friend the Chief Secretary to the Treasury to deal with two major questions. One of them has been raised already, namely, the Labour Party's R.A.Y.N. scheme—"Receive As You Need"—which the hon. and learned Member for Kettering explained to us, arid the other is the relation of National Insurance benefits to any kind of means test.

In order not to take up too much time, I merely look at one other possible direction in which we may advance in future. This concerns the conception of National Insurance benefits as a foundation of total income. Many of the schemes which have been put before us, the R.A.Y.N. scheme among them, and which have attracted the widest publicity, contain a number of serious problems and objections. Some of them, even if adopted, would take time to bring into effect. Meanwhile, it seems to me sensible to build as soundly and robustly as we can on the foundations which already exist.

In a world which is changing and a society which is developing, it is clear that our social provisions cannot remain immobile. They must also change and develop. But, when talking of our social security system, it is very important to remember that we are dealing with the rights and expectations built up over many years by millions of our fellow countrymen, and any changes that we make must respect those rights and expectations; and I think that this is the first requirement. We cannot drastically alter the system merely by the stroke of a pen. I know that this is frustrating sometimes to vigorous and radical minds.

The change must take the form of adaptation to society as it changes. This adaptation has been going on over recent years. We have had the general development of special provisions for widows with children, which I hope, will receive a fresh impetus from the proposals which I have described this afternoon. We have also had the introduction in the last few years of the graduated pension scheme, and we are now considering, as I have made clear today, further developments in earnings-related benefits. At the same time, we have and are developing a system which still leaves room for savings, for thrift and for individual provisions both for old age and for other eventualities.

The quality of self-reliance is one which we all think well worth preserving and encouraging in our modern society, but it is right that the State should provide a firm basis on which individual effort and enterprise can build. That firm basis exists in our social security system, which we as a Government have strengthened and improved over the past twelve years. Our record, we claim, is a good one and can inspire confidence that we shall continue our policy of steady improvement of our social insurance provisions.

Finally, I must draw the attention of the House to a comparison which, I hope, hon. Members will find as instructive as I do. The Motion of the Opposition today is the tenth such Motion which they have moved since 1951, yet in the five years after the scheme began the Socialist Party made one small increase, which was limited to some retirement pensioners. The Conservative Party in opposition moved no Motions, but in office has made five increases in pensions and insurance benefits generally. I hope that the House and the country will draw the appropriate conclusion.

5.31 p.m.

Photo of Mr Richard Crossman Mr Richard Crossman , Coventry East

All of us, listening to the Minister this afternoon, agreed and sympathised with him when he spoke of being plunged for the first time into this subject, which is a complicated one. We all congratulate him on the clarity with which he has expounded what I well know it is not easy to be clear about. He has made it easy to begin the backbench debate.

I start straight away with the Minister's central thesis at the beginning of his speech. He said, quite fairly, that the choice before us was between a scheme which basically relies upon the employer to provide a really full level of old-age pension or sickness benefit and a scheme which relies upon the State. The Minister prefers a scheme under which the State puts down the basis or foundation, on which the good employer will build.

The right hon. Gentleman spoilt his argument at that point by suggesting that we are making a choice between a scheme in which we compel people to pay contributions to the State and an arrangement in which people are free to join a superannuation scheme. This is a somewhat naive description of what goes on in industry. The Minister was proud of the nine or ten million workers in contributory schemes. There still are, I agree, a few contributory schemes which are genuinely voluntary, but the vast majority of employers' schemes are conditions of service and they are compulsory upon the worker in the industry. It is not proper, therefore, to make that division and to say that whereas the Conservatives, by favouring private superannuation, favour freedom of choice, we on this side are in favour of compulsion. They are simply different forms of compulsion or compulsory saving which we are now considering.

Let us all be quite clear that personal provision for old age by free choice is done by a small fraction of people who take out an insurance policy; from them it is genuinely vòluntary. Anybody who takes out an individual life insurance policy is voluntarily choosing to save for his old age. Everybody, on both sides of the House, agrees that this is something to encourage and that every individual must be allowed the right voluntarily to put away part of his earnings for the sake of insuring his life or his old age.

The issue which we have to face, however, is that in addition to voluntary life insurance, which is an important private element, we all agree now that there has to be compulsory group saving. We on this side believe that the State should create the basis for it in a State system, whereas the Minister prefers private employers to do it. I spoke to a good many private employers about this, and one thing which has changed a great deal in the last five years is the attitude of the progressive employers to private superannuation schemes. They are now ready to wonder whether such schemes are an unmitigated advantage to themselves.

In a period of inflation and rapidly rising wages and prices, employers are constantly finding that they have to put their hands into their pockets and pay out vast sums to satisfy their older employees, who are overtaken by circumstances, as the employees of the State are sometimes overtaken, and who find that they went out ten years too soon and are now starving under what they have got. There is a growing belief, even among employers, that not only the foundation but also the first floor must be with this State. I wanted to put the debate in this form to eradicate what was, I thought, one of the few unfair things that the Minister said, which was a false distinction between freedom of choice, on the one side, and compulsion, on the other side.

I turn now to the two objections to the Minister's solution. His solution is for the State to provide a low level of insurance—deliberately to keep its own graded scheme low so as to encourage employers to introduce a scheme of their own. The effect of this is two nations in old age. The Minister proudly states that half the people are in employers' schemes. That means that half are out of them. This is a question which must be faced frankly.

The Minister knows as well as I do that in the building trade, for example, there is virtually no superannuation. If a person chooses to join the building trade as a worker he will get little at the end of his service unless he goes to National Assistance. That is his fate as a worker in the trade. But if his friend works as a coal miner in a nationalised industry, lie has a quite good superannuation scheme.

There is no evidence to suggest that if we wait another 20 years all employers w 11 automatically insure their workers for half pay. I remind the House also that of the 10 million workers who are in private schemes only a minority are in schemes which really give adequate security in old age, only a minority get 60 or 65 per cent. of their pay. A very few may get 75 per cert., as a town clerk does. The school teacher does fairly well, as do a number of municipal servants and a number of the servants of LCI. But the vast majority of workers, even in private schemes, receive far less than the half pay on retirement which we believe to be the minimum which should be provided for everyone.

It is not tolerable to suggest, as the Minister suggested, that we should deliberately keep down the State level of insurance so that employers will be encouraged to introduce private schemes. That means deliberately forcing on to National Assistance millions of workers whose employers will never be induced in their lifetime to go in for a private scheme. That is the effect of the Government scheme.

I have a certain feeling of exasperation with these debates, because they all take the same form. The new Minister comes along and, having read his brief about the history of pensions since 1945, asks for more details of the Labour Party's scheme. Then he adds, "I am feeling my way and I have a few little ideas which I will ventilate." Thus we have the strange spectacle of the Conservative Government ventilating ideas and relying on the Opposition to work out a practical scheme. [Laughter.] Very well. We will now consider what the right hon. Gentleman did today.

The Minister said that he was airing views on a wage-related scheme for redundancy. He produced nothing practical. He gave no figures. He said that there were difficulties and that this was as far as he could go today, since he was feeling his way. I take it that the redundancy scheme is to be spatch-cocked on to the Government scheme as the graded pension scheme has already been spatch-cocked on.

I beg the right hon. Gentleman to have mercy on the civil servants. Ministers relied on their civil servants in this Department to draft the graded pension scheme. The civil servants knew that they would get bad value for their money and they have all opted out. They know a good scheme from a bad one. Their attitude was afterwards, "We must get out at all costs because it gives bad value for money." Yet each of them in the right hon. Gentleman's Ministry has had to suffer under the bureaucratic nightmare, of a graded pension scheme spatch-cocked on to a flat-rate scheme, plus contracting out.

Every change in the rate of benefit and contribution means that every employer who contracts out has to recalculate whether his men are still in or out. Each time, millions of cases have to be considered by the Ministry, which has to trace every individual throughout his life. Every week these tiny sums have to be added together, as the Ministry traces our fragmentary pensionable lives, year by year, until a miserable sum like 5s. 2½d. is added to our pension when we retire at 65. And this is called "Conservative pragmatism".

The fact is that the flat-rate system is totally out of date and unjust, and merely to put something else on top of it is neither efficient nor just but a typical failure to think clearly. Of course, the right hon. Gentleman is right in saying that we must keep our obligations to pensioners and contributors. Of course he is right to say that every change has to be related to the past in such a way that we do not break our promises. We all agree with that proposition.

It is now seven years since we first put forward our scheme for national superannuation. It was a clear-cut reconstruction of the pension structure on clear principles, and it was infinitely preferable, both injustice and bureaucratically, to what is now going on. But what happened? The Government said of our scheme that it was an idiotic invention by a skiffle group. Yet later they introduced their own graded pension scheme. But they deliberately made it so bad that everyone was compelled in his own interest to contract out. The number of people who have contracted out is three times as great as was originally estimated by the Government.

Having introduced such a scheme, they now have to administer it, bad as it is. It takes as much trouble to administer a bad scheme as it takes to administer a good one. In our Motion we urge the Government to make a clear reconstruction of the pension structure on rational lines. The Government have already introduced a miserable little graded pension scheme. They are now trying to work out a quite separate graded redundancy scheme. Why on earth can there not be an overall scheme for graded benefits and contributions for sickness, redundancy and old age?

We have put forward proposals for the clear-cut substitution of graded contributions and benefits for sickness, redundancy and old age for the present flat rate scheme. The Minister concedes the point on pensions and now thinks of conceding it on redundancy, so it will be a little difficult to deny it to the sick. No rational person can go to someone who is sick and say, "You deserve less insurance money from the State than someone who is unemployed" when both the sick man and the unemployed man are young and vigorous and have families to support. One surely cannot claim that the sick should be treated worse than the redundant. If one does, one is in trouble.

I am glad to see severance pay introduced by employers for those made redundant. But that is no adequate substitute for a State redundancy scheme which recognises the obligation to see that, where an employer is not so generous, his redundant workers will not suffer. The same principle applies in sickness and in old age.

The Minister asked me to deal with non-transferability. I have been thinking about this for some time and I have brought some ideas with me. The question of transferability of pension rights is one of the most important for the good of the economy. It is not only a question of social justice but is absolutely vital to enabling people over middle age to be ambitious. A terrible fact about Britain today is that in the progressive firm—it is not such a firm's fault—if one is over 40 and has children one dare not move.

We all know that one of the greatest obstacles to attracting scientists from industry to help the Government is the non-transferability of their pension rights. The greatest difficulty in the way of sensible circulation between the universities, Whitehall and industry is non-transferability of pensions. It is obviously sensible as well as just that in changing jobs we should carry our pension rights with us. [Hon. Members: "Hear, hear."] I am delighted that there appears to be such general agreement in the House.

How do things work in the Treasury? I know the case of a scientist, an expert on pneumoconiosis, who got very interested in the problem of light-ray detection of dust particles. It was essential for him to go to the United States and he was offered a job as assistant professor at Rochester, New York State. He specifically said that he would wish to come back here after about five years. He said, "I want to come back but I might go to a university before returning to Whitehall". The Ministry of Fuel and Power first said, "In that case you are out; no pension rights for you; you left voluntarily and you shall not have a pension." Whereupon his trade union took up the case and I have with me a fascinating correspondence between the Treasury official and the secretary of the union on the subject of what is public service. After some months of discussion the Treasury official conceded the point that where there is a real public interest it may be possible for someone who has been in the Civil Service to break his service and then have his years counted when he goes back. The letter reads: …it must be shown that there is a real public interest—and this we interpret as meaning an interest to the public service—in allowing a civil servant to leave the Service to do that work. The fact that a particular line of research is likely to be of general public interest is not of itself a sufficient reason for this. The debate went on. I have a later letter which was written because the trade union secretary was pertinacious and received another reply, which is a classic. He had pointed out to the Treasury that if the Treasury wanted to drive scientists to living in America, this was what it ought to do to them—treat them in this way and rot encourage them to come back by giving them their pension rights. The Treasury reply was: While it is certainly important that we should try to regain the services of scientists who may already have gone to America, we are equally anxious that British scientists—particularly those already in Government employment—should not be encouraged to go in the first place. An offer to reinstate a scientist's eligibility for civil service superannuation should he choose to return is just as likely to encourage existing staff to leave the Service as to tempt former staff to return. This is a state of affairs we do not feel able to encourage. The scientist had said that he wanted to go to America because that was the only place when: he could get the knowledge which was needed in Whitehall, but he was told that he might be encouraged to go to America and to stay there if this eligibility was given to him.

I do not blame the Treasury civil servant, who was doing his duty, but I remind hon. Members that, strangely enough, the Treasury has power to allow such a man to take his pension rights with him but finds itself unable to accept such a case because of the present attitude to transferability.

Again, I do not want the Minister to tinker with this. I do not want him to say, "We will modify it a little for scientists." I want something much more drastic, something which we have put in our document. Perhaps the Minister will read and understand the passage which runs: Steps will also be taken to ensure transferability in all private pension schemes. Is there doubt about that? If there is, I will spell it out. It means that we shall do two things. First, no pension scheme will be eligible for tax concessions unless its benefits are fully transferable. That is a very simple way to do it. Of course, if an employer chooses to sacrifice his tax concession, he can have any scheme he likes, but if he wants the Income Tax authorities to O.K. it he must write in full transferability of the employer's contribution and the employee's contribution. But to make it crystal clear I would go further and pass a law which would not permit any pension schemes which did not allow full transferability.

Strangely enough, it is a delusion to believe that industry will oppose this proposal. We have already seen that N.E.D.C. has supported the idea. There is a very wide understanding throughout industry that one should not try to keep a grip on staff in a feudal relationship. A Government with the courage to legislate for transferability of pension rights, or to make non-transferability illegal, will have widespread support from many realistic employers' associations, as well as from the trade unions.

Photo of Mr Arthur Tiley Mr Arthur Tiley , Bradford West

Transferability is very important. Would the hon. Gentleman include in his proposals the provision that after the policy is laid down the pension should be frozen until retirement age and not encashed at the moment of changing jobs, as is the case with most schemes now?

Photo of Mr Richard Crossman Mr Richard Crossman , Coventry East

I agree that the question of the conditions in which people are allowed a lump sum out of a pension scheme is extremely important. Certain schemes allow it, and in private life insurance I do not see how that kind of thing could be prevented. But we are discussing not individual life in- surance, but collective pension schemes, superannuation schemes, and I can see no difficulty about saying of such pension schemes that the pension is frozen and that there will be no lump sum. It will be deliberately arranged that when a man is in America or merely changing his job in the United Kingdom, he will go on earning pension rights as he moves from job to job, and that all the rights will be added up so that in the end he receives an amalgamated pension resulting from his circulation among those different jobs. We have put it rather briefly in this document, not because we do not think that the subject is important—it is extremely important—but to air it this afternoon in order to find out what the Government's reply can be.

Photo of Mr William Robson-Brown Mr William Robson-Brown , Esher

I am most interested in all this and I support the hon. Member in general principle. I interrupt him with one question. Let us suppose that a man is 55 years of age and, under the hon. Member's scheme, wishes to transfer to another company. That company may have no pension scheme but may employ the man for the rest of his working life without continuing his pension payments. This could be very important, because a company could be robbed of a good man nearly all of whose pension contributions had been paid. The man could suddenly go to a competitor which did not have to continue the pension contributions. What has the hon. Gentleman to say about that?

Photo of Mr Richard Crossman Mr Richard Crossman , Coventry East

I am fascinated to find that once again the Opposition is placed in the position of having to take the decisions and the responsibility. That is a question which the hon. Member for Esher (Sir W. Robson Brown) should have addressed to the Minister. The answer to it, if I have to give an answer, is that on the whole it is true that if a firm pays good pensions people will not leave it to go to another firm, unless there is a comparable pension scheme at the other firm. I see the difficulty that at the age of 60 an attempt to "steal" contributions might be made, but I can only say that I could not work out a scheme on my feet which would meet that. I am laying down the general principle of transferability and asking that it should be made the law of the land.

The Minister asked about contracting out. We have made it absolutely cleat that the contracting out which we discussed in Committee when the Government scheme was being put through the House has not worked out as badly as we predicted. We would make some minor changes, but. broadly speaking, conditions for contracting out—which are that the employer must give better than the Government scheme—are workable—administratively difficult, but workable. However, it ought to be clear that if instead of a deliberately bad scheme there is introduced a deliberately good scheme, employers will be faced with an entirely different problem.

When we offer half pay on retirement to the average worker, to the worker at £17 a week, and 65 per cent. to the worker at £12 a week and 45 per cent. to the worker with £40 a week, we are offering a scale which the employer who wishes to contract out will find it difficult to match. The vast majority of schemes which are now valid for tax concessions would not be able to match this on retirement. There are, of course, municipal and Civil Service schemes which give more than half pay however the period of earnings is calculated. But there will be many employers who, faced by a really good graded pension scheme, really first-rate sickness benefit and unemployment benefit and old-age benefit, will not want to opt out.

What happens then? Here I make a suggestion. At present, we think of pensions as being vertically divided. On one side are those people who have private pensions and who regard the National Insurance benefit as a mere addition, if they get it at all—it is not paid in the Civil Service where the National Insurance pension is amalgamated into the total pension. On the other side of the division is the National Insurance pensioner. If a first-rate National Insurance scheme were introduced, the tendency would be to change the shape of the division. Most employers would accept that it was good value for money to join the Government's scheme.

The better employer would add his contribution to the sum paid under the Government scheme, so that whereas the Minister wants to build the foundation of the house and leave the employer to build the rest of it, I should like to build the foundation and the ground floor and leave it to the employer to build the first floor. That is the real difference. Under us any good employer will say, "All right The State has given half pay on retirement so I shall put it up to two-thirds for my staff". A whole mass of voluntary superannuation schemes will be horizontally super imposed on a good State scheme, and not stand vertically by its side.

I am not saying that we shall compel anybody to join the scheme, because every employer will have the right to contract out, providing he guarantees benefits as good as ours. I have no doubt that during the first ten years a small but important segment—mostly those in the upper income groups—will contract out of our scheme because their pension rights will be better than ours. For at least ten to fifteen years employers like LCI. will pay better pensions than the State can provide, even in a good State graded scheme, and will want to contract their workers out and not pay for both schemes. The Minister asked me how we saw this problem, not in the detail of administration, but in the broad principle, and how we should introduce it, and I have tried to answer him.

My final point is, I think, in a sense the most important. We have talked about the future. The immediate question is what we can do now for old-age pensioners, for those who are sick, and for those who are redundant? For the sick and the redundant we could pass an Act which would automatically give them half-pay. We could change the rate of benefit and the rate of contribution overnight, and anybody who was redundant would be able to draw the new rates of benefit, and for the rest of his working life he would pay for the higher benefits he received while sick or redundant.

The people to whom we cannot do justice arc the present old-age pensioners. We cannot introduce half-pay for them, because we cannot give them half of nothing. These old people present a major problem of social injustice. We have put forward a clear scheme in our New Frontiers for Social Security. As a co-author, I think that this book explains the position very clearly, but if the Minister does not understand it, I shall explain it to him again. [Hon. Members: "No."] If hon. Gentlemen opposite know of this scheme, and appreciate that it is clearly set out in that booklet, that is fine by me. We are going to guarantee that no widow's income, or the income of anybody who has retired, shall fall below a certain level. [Hon. Members: "What level?"] If hon. Gentlemen opposite tell me what the level of National Assistance will be at the time of the next General Election, I shall tell them what the income guarantee will be. It is not possible to tell one without the other. We must first know the rate of National Assistance before we can work out the other, because these are related.

The income guarantee is related to three factors. It says that a person shall get the full National Assistance rate and something extra for rent. We know that in National Assistance the amount for rent varies between £2 and 2s. If we have an income guarantee, there will be an allowance for rent of between £1 and £1 5s. Then there will be added some 15 per cent.

The aim of the scheme is to ensure that year by year more and more people are taken off National Assistance. I know that some hon. Gentlemen opposite think that there is no difference between the two schemes. They say that it does not matter that a person has to apply for National Assistance. I assure them that it matters a great deal to the people whom I know in Coventry. We attach the greatest importance to working out a scheme under which the guaranteed supplement to the flat-rate old-age pensions is paid as of right through the Post Office and not after a request to the National Assistance Board.

Photo of Mr Richard Crossman Mr Richard Crossman , Coventry East

Yes, of course! Hon. Gentlemen opposite may say that if the money is paid through the Post Office it will still be a means test, but in my experience filling in an Income Tax form is not identical with going to the National Assistance Board and having to submit to an investigation by it.

There is an essential difference between an income guarantee and a National Assistance supplementation. If the Government think that there is no difference between the two, I advise them to adopt my proposal. If the difference is a mere formality, for heaven's sake let us accept it! If we do, I guarantee that half a million more people will receive the supplementation. Our calculations show that at least half a million people deny themselves the National Assistance to which they are entitled because they will not ask for it, and because they will not accept the means test.

Under our scheme, by filling in an Income Tax form they will automatically have the right to this pension. There is a great difference between everybody having the duty to fill in a form once a year, and having to make the terrible decision to go to the National Assistance Board. That is why they spend their savings, and why, month after month, they get rid of their capital rather than face an examination by the Board.

If hon. Gentlemen opposite say that people are silly to do that, they must remember that it is not possible to eradicate the past. The past is in the bones of these old people. They hated having to go to the National Assistance Board. We must eradicate that past once and for all by providing an income guarantee. By doing so, we reckon that within six years 2 million people at present receiving supplementation will no longer require it, and the Board will be left where it belongs, as a net to pick up those who, unfortunately, are not helped by the social system.

It is not possible to give the figures for a flat-rate pension because we do not know the level of national earnings and the cost of living. But we believe that the level of the flat-rate pension should be kept in a permanent relation to national male earnings. The Minister gave some interesting figures and claimed, I think rightly, that during the last twelve years the level of the pension had risen faster than the level of national earnings. That is fine, but what we have to do is to get the pension up to a certain proportion of national earnings, and keep it there by annual adjustments. What the Minister did not say was that in order to get the pension up by 125 per cent. it was necessary to bring in four Acts of Parliament. Pressure had to be brought on four occasions. Four times we had to go through the dreary process of fighting for the increase. Four times we had the process of lobbying, of "pensioneering" and of vote-catching. These things should be eliminated from our consideration of old-age pensions. Our aim is to eliminate the need to debate this subject in Parliament and to say that if national earnings rise by one-fifteenth in a year, the pension will automatically rise by that amount.

Once we fix the slice of the National income we want to give the pensioner we must see that it comes to him every year without another Bill. The humiliation of. the Bill is almost as bad as that of the means test. If workers had to have their wages fixed by Act of Parliament—which always come into force nine months afterwards—they would be striking the whole time. It is only the pensioners to whom we can do this. We can eliminate this difficulty by a Bill which relates pensions to average male earnings and keeps them steady by annual adjustments.

I have tried to explain not the whole of our scheme but our point of view on the most difficult parts of it. I am delighted that we should have to take the lead and do all the constructive thinking. I am delighted to have the Government following along behind us, tentatively seeing how many votes they can steal by giving a little on the earnings rule, here and there. But I know that they will not carry out this reform we shall have to have a new Government to do the job which we know must be done.

6.11 p.m.

Photo of Mr John Vaughan-Morgan Mr John Vaughan-Morgan , Reigate

The hon. Member for Coventry, East (Mr. Grossman) said that there was a certain sameness about these debates. That is true. Last year he followed me, and this year I follow him. Even the theme of the debate does not vary very much. But there are one or two changes in personalities. We are sorry that the hon. Member for Sowerby (Mr. Houghton) is not speaking for the party opposite. He always brings great humour even to his indignation. But there is a sameness about the debate, and the hon. Member will forgive me if I do not follow him on all that he says—much of which I should like to refute.

He was a little unfair when he said that he could not give the figures until he had the figures of National Assistance benefit at the time of the General Election. He might have given us the figures on the basis of the present National Assistance benefit.

Mr. Cross man:

I could.

Photo of Mr John Vaughan-Morgan Mr John Vaughan-Morgan , Reigate

The hon. Member says that he could. I shall not give way, however, out of sheer interest for all my colleagues who wish to speak, "following a rather voluble example. Hut it is a real" give-away".

He says that the party opposite has the bright ideas, but that is not true. Many ideas have been ventilated from these benches. But at least we put them forward tentatively, until we have the figures, and the figures can be supplied only by the Minister. Our duty is not only to put forward alternative policies; it is to offer ideas to our Front Bench. Sometimes hey are eventually accepted, when they become feasible.

I agree with the hon. Member for Coventry, East in principle on the question of the transferability of pensions. As an example of ideas coming forward from this side of the House, I can say that there was a pamphlet published by the hon. Member for Stratford-on-Avon (Mr. Maude) and myself nearly twelve years ago on this very point. But he is wrong in saying that every pension should be 100 per cent. transferable. He said that it was tragic how many men of middle age were unable to move from their jobs. I agree with him up to a point, but he did not seem to realise that his argument back-fired on the subject of scientists going to America. Here the non-transferability of a pension is a measure of disincentive. One of the motives of employers in introducing these pension schemes—my firm introduced its first pension scheme 85 years ago, which is not bad going—is to try to secure the long-term employment of their workers, It follows that the longer workers are employed the higher should be their benefit. This must be a disincentive to move.

I do not want to go into the other points raised by the hon. Member, out of courtesy to the other hon. Members who wish to speak. There is one respect in which this debate is not quite the same as last year. I must point this out because I drew attention to it last year. Last year the Opposition Motion referred to old-age pensioners. No doubt because it has fallen to that legal eagle, the hon. and learned Member for Kettering (Mr. Mitchison), to move the Motion this year, it is correct at least in referring to retirement pensioners. There is also a slight variation of wording in the Motion, which now refers to "wage related benefits", whereas last year it merely called for a comprehensive increase.

There is a further improvement this year in the Government Amendment, which talks about having regard to those groups whose need is greatest". I look upon that as a concession to those back benchers on this side of the House who have consistently been pressing for this, and who produced an absolutely categorical demand for it at the party conference at Blackpool.

The proposals which the Prime Minister made today are thoroughly welcome to all of us. Most important is the fact that there is a further overall increase in the disregard before the earnings rule operates. The Chief Secretary will be able to refresh his memory that the idea was one which also came from these back benches. We said that there should be some relaxation of the earnings rule. But I still feel that there is not a full appreciation of the view which is held on these benches that there should not generally be any blanket increases but that there should be even greater selectivity than there has been.

Above all, I reiterate the plea that I put forward in an earlier debate for a complete review of the whole of our social security system. I do not mean that in any derogation of what the hon. Member for Coventry, East has said, or as any discourtesy to him. He has been the author of so many schemes. He was putting forward an approach which he said would remove pensions altogether from this question. I would work for that, too, but it cannot be done by the party machine. We must have a new national look at the whole question.

Sir J. Vaugban-Morgan:

Yes, but it cannot be done from Transport House or from the Conservative Central Office. It cannot even be done from the Ministry of Pensions. We need something better than Beveridge. It is essential, but it will take time.

Photo of Mr Richard Crossman Mr Richard Crossman , Coventry East

You have had twelve years.

Photo of Mr John Vaughan-Morgan Mr John Vaughan-Morgan , Reigate

Twelve years? Good Lord—twelve years ago we were within a comparatively few years of Beveridge. Only now do we see that the present system—although not bad; it has worked very well considering all the difficulties—will not suffice, and that we need a long-term view in order to chart ahead for the next thirty years.

I hesitate to mention the Royal Commission on the Poor Law, which is what the Liberal Party was lucky enough to inherit in 1906 and on which it based its plans, just as the Labour Party inherited Beveridge and based its plans on that. We shall have the Royal Commission reporting in a year or two, and we shall be able to implement its plans in due course. But that is no excuse for inaction at present. Any drastic reform of social security carries within itself one further important difficulty. It creates further anomalies if the major principles are changed. We had the anomalies arising from the pre-Beveridge era, and we shall have the same thing again if we make a major change. Meanwhile, we must continue to try to amend the present system as we think fit.

There are three features which still stick out a mile. The first is the earnings rule, which has been improved yet further by the changes announced today. I would not advocate total relaxation but, as a corollary to the relaxation of the earnings rule, I suggest to my right hon. Friend that the increments need looking at again. If we relax the earnings rule we make greater opportunities for those who stay on at work and who are enjoying pensions, and, if the principle is the same thing, we should at once increase the increment so as to increase the incentives to those who stay on and defer their pensions.

There is another matter where the need for reform stands out a mile. I refer to the short-term sickness benefit. In the last debate I advocated that this should be made an employer's liability and I wish to repeat that, although I think that last time I was wrong in the length of time I then specified. I think that this should be made an employer's liability for, say, a couple of weeks. When I made that point—the hon. Member for Coventry, East shakes his head?

Photo of Mr John Vaughan-Morgan Mr John Vaughan-Morgan , Reigate

The last time I made that suggestion the hon. Gentleman said I had forgotten that employers would never employ a sick man. I have looked up his speech.

Photo of Mr Richard Crossman Mr Richard Crossman , Coventry East

I said that we should not need it for a long period but there was something to be said for a short period like ten days or a fortnight. I think that the right hon. Gentleman was recommending a period of 13 or 14 weeks.

Photo of Mr John Vaughan-Morgan Mr John Vaughan-Morgan , Reigate

I am sorry. There was a misunderstanding on my part. The last time we debated this I did say 13 weeks and I wish to make that period much shorter, although not necessarily for the same reasons as the hon. Member for Coventry, East.

I think that the hon. Member neglects the fact that many people are now subject to a medical examination in most employments and that this would cover the kind of sickness which might take up to a couple of months. At least we are agreed on that now, and I hope that my right hon. Friend will pursue the matter. If nearly 50 percent. of the people in the country are covered by occupational health services and sickness benefit schemes it would be right to have a statutory extension making it an obligation on the employer. Incidentally, it would eliminate an enormous amount of administrative work.

My last point relates to a supplementary benefit for the very old, which is something that has been advocated by hon. Members from these benches. I hope my right hon. Friend will look at that matter again. I accept that if we increase what would generally be an old-age pension, say, at 75, or at 70, for the old, we should be distributing some benefits to those who were not necessarily in need of them. But it would be a lower percentage than if we gave a blanket increase again at a lower age. My hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary dealt with the suggestion when I made it last year and said that it was a distasteful job to select which misfortune was worse under the scheme. I agree. But of course there is already a marked degree of selectivity under the scheme and the obvious case is that of widowed mothers whose position we have today further improved.

Any variation of any sort in the earning rules, involves further selectivity. We reduce it for widowed mothers and equally it is for those over 70 in the case of men, or 65, who are still at work. In this connection I interviewed a constituent last week. He is over 70 and has earned the full increment and is still at work. He was complaining of the disincentive effect of Income Tax, which was rather an eye-opener.

I am asking only for an extension of selectivity. I have found no arguments which are convincing against taking a further section out of the general scheme, that is to say, the very old. We may disregard the fact that it would be an injustice to other classes because this is a class in favour of whom we could discriminate deliberately. That would certainly be better than the rather nebulous proposals of the party opposite about an income guarantee, which, however they may say it, does involve—I will not say a means test, that is an anathema. But a certain distinction does exist between those who pay Income Tax—like my constituent—and those who do not. I hope that this sort of suggestion will be looked upon with favour by my right hon. Friend.

I end as I began. We are all, as it were, grouping and arguing round minor facets of our social security scheme. I hope that, sooner or later, we shall have a completely new review of the whole problem.

6.25 p.m.

Photo of Mr Harold Finch Mr Harold Finch , Bedwellty

I am glad that the Minister has decided that war widows whose husbands, before their death, suffered from serious incapacities are to get an increase by way of a 13 weeks' allowance. I understand that this will apply in the case of those men who were in receipt of constant attendance allowance or the unemployability allowance. On their death their widow will receive an amount depending largely on the allowances previously paid. That is a very humane act on the part of the Minister.

It is possible to give examples. There is the war pensioner ex-Service man who may have been in receipt of £12 or £14 a week. I refer to the seriously incapacitated and bedridden cases where constant attendance allowance, disablement benefit and other allowances may well amount to £12 or more. According to the statement by the Minister, the widow will now receive about £10 a week for the first 13 weeks.

It would have been equally humane on the part of the Minister had he applied the same principle to the widows of men employed in industry, those who worked in factories and mines and workshops and who became incapacitated and bedridden. They include spinal cases and paraplegics and others who will never work again and whose position is precisely the same as that of the war pensioners. I could cite case after case of miners who have been injured and totally disabled and who have been in receipt of £12 a week, representing the combined disability and constant attendance allowances and other allowances. At their death the income for the family drops to £4 15s. a week and eventually to 75s. That is a serious drop in income, and the effect is as serious for the widows of these men as for the widows of war pensioners.

This involves the whole question of pensions. A widow whose husband died from natural causes receives £3 7s. 6d. a week. Old-age pensioners get £3 7s. 6d. and a married couple receive £5 9s. As was pointed out by my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Kettering (Mr. Mitchison) £5 9s. represents poverty for old-age pensioners. All the arguments we may deploy cannot belie the fact that £5 9s. is poverty for old-age pensioners. I should have thought that the Minister might have indicated that he was prepared to increase this amount for those in retirement and for widows, especially for "industrial widows" as I term them. In my opinion, these benefits are much too low to allow for proper subsistence let alone a decent standard of living.

I do not wish to repeat the arguments used about pensions, but to return to the main point and indicate the disparity between those injured in industry and those who were injured during their war service. Over the years this aspect of the Industrial Injuries Scheme has been lost sight of. The Government have always said, and on this I do not disagree, that war pensioners should have preference and priority in social services. One accepts that if there is not an unlimited supply of benefits and services, but it is pertinent to remember that the war has been over now for 18 years. Priority does not mean that the industrially injured should never be considered, but that is what is happening today. To our way of thinking priority means that if there is a queue for payments those with the most urgent need should receive first attention. I am dealing with the man injured in industry, in the factories, mines and workshops, from whose industrial activity the nation has benefited.

I point out certain marked differences between those injured as a result of war and those injured in industry. There is a constant attendance allowance. In 1961 the Minister said that a man who was 80 per cent. disabled by war service but 100 per cent. disabled from other causes would have constant attendance allowance, but a man disabled industrially has to be 100 per cent. disabled from his accident to gain the allowance. It has been of great help to seriously incapacitated war pensioners, but there are scores of injured men who are 80 per cent. disabled, and many of them can never work again. Owing to their age, they are actually incapacitated 100 per cent., the same as the ex-Service men, but there is no constant attendance allowance for them.

I do not know how the right hon. Gentleman can justify this situation. There the man who has been injured in the war and the miner who may be suffering from pneumoconiosis, or may have a spinal injury and be bedridden. They are both the same kind of case; why is there the difference in treatment? I make the allowance that in the early days after the war some priority should be granted to ex-Service men, but 18 years after the war there is this marked difference between those industrially injured and those injured on war service.

Unemployability allowance is 74s. a week for a war pensioner as against 67s. 6d. for an industrially injured man. Both have been officially described as unable to work for the rest of their lives. The comforts allowance is 10s. or 20s. for the most seriously disabled and was introduced in 1951. It is greatly appreciated by war pensioners, but it does not apply to the industrially injured. There is an age allowance for war pensioners of 5s. to 15s. a week for those over 65 who are 40 per cent, war disabled. That was introduced because often the effects of old age on an injured man make a great deal of difference to his state of incapacity. This allowance applies to war disabled, but not to the industrially injured.

There is a clothing allowance which was introduced in 1946 for ex-Service disabled pensioners who have to wear artificial limbs but there are scores—hundreds—of injured men from the mining industry who have to wear artificial limbs. The ex-Service man gets an extra allowance for this, but not the industrially injured man. Then there is the occupational allowance of 20s. a week for war pensioners. That is to provide for the fact that when those men are normally employed their earnings are low. There are industrially injured who are in exactly the same position.

Then there are the injured miners, paraplegics, who can get about only with a one-seater tricycle. Motor cars are provided if they are war pensioners. They can go out with their wives in the summer and make the best of their unhappy circumstances. But there are hundreds of paraplegic workers who have been in mining and other industries and cannot now work, who also would like to take out their wives in the summer. We have brought to the notice of the Government case after case in which one-seater tricycles have broken down, and men have had to wait for hours on lonely roads for assistance to come to them. Repeated representations have been made to the Minister of Health, but nothing has been done about this.

I appeal to the right hon. Gentleman seriously to consider the man who is unable to get about except in the com- pany of hi; wife or a friend with a motor car. We have put several cases to the Minister in which these tricycles have broken down on a lonely stretch of road and the paraplegic has had to wait for hours before he could obtain assistance. The Coal Industry Social Welfare Organisation has met the Minister on this. It is prepared to come part way to meet the cost because there are so many of these cases in the industry. The organisation is prepared to come half way so that these unfortunate men may be able to have motor cars the same as ex-Service men who are similarly incapacitated.

Up to now excuses have been made. Some say that it is a matter for the Ministry of Health, but the Ministry of Health says that it has no powers to deal with the matter. I draw attention to Section 75 of the Industrial Injuries Act, which makes provision for appliances of this kind. I appeal to the Minister seriously to consider the granting of cars for these men. There are not so many of them in total. Surely the Government are in a position to allow the cost to be paid for these paraplegics who otherwise have to travel by one-seater tricycles.

I refer to another matter which I have raised on many occasions. That is the question of men suffering from pneumoconiosis who go before medical boards. I challenge the Government on this. On the highest medical authority it is impossible to say the extent to which a men is suffering from bronchitis, pneumoconiosis or emphysema. In these cases a medical board can arrive at its decision only by guess work. When a man is suffering from pneumoconiosis and it is agreed that to some extent it is accompanied by bronchitis or emphysema, he should be given the benefit of the doubt.

Medical opinion differs following the death of a miner. There are many cases in which a pathologist disagrees with the findings of the medical board. Where experienced pathologists come to a decision that in their view a man has died from pneumoconiosis and they differ from the medical board, there should be means whereby there can be an appeal. I hope that the Minister will seriously consider this question. He comes to his present office after having been Minister of Power. He has had considerable experience of the mining industry and no doubt he has met men suffering from pneumoconiosis. No doubt he has been down the pits and met officials of the National Union of Mineworkers and of the National Coal Board. I am sure that he comes to this office with a fair knowledge of industrial diseases. He must know of the serious and terrible diseases suffered by so many miners and of the grave dissatisfaction which still exists at some of the decisions of medical boards. I hope that as a result of his experience as Minister of Fuel and Power he will give consideration to the medical evidence submitted about pneumoconiosis, particularly when it is accompanied by bronchitis and emphysema.

Photo of Mrs Harriet Slater Mrs Harriet Slater , Stoke-on-Trent North

My hon. Friend would surely agree that this applies not only to miners but to potters and others? Does he agree that it would be a good idea to lay down a condition that, if someone is suffering from chest trouble after he has worked in an industry for 10 years, he should be given the benefit of the doubt from the point of view of industrial injury benefit?

Photo of Mr Harold Finch Mr Harold Finch , Bedwellty

This issue has been raised before. I agree with my hon. Friend. If a man has worked in an industry for 10 years and has a disease, he should be given the benefit of the doubt. For the moment I ask the right hon. Gentleman, in his early stages in this important Ministry, to consider the matter thoroughly and examine the evidence of medical men, who are very definite in their view that on the subject of pneumoconiosis injustices are being done to many men and widows where there should have been a certification. If we press the Government hard enough, we shall get more increased benefits before the General Election. We shall welcome them. All we need to do is press a little harder. We on this side will be entirely satisfied if we can gain security for the mass of men and women who are unable to help themselves.

6.42 p.m.

Photo of Miss Edith Pitt Miss Edith Pitt , Birmingham, Edgbaston

This debate on social security has become a hardy annual, but this is the first time ever that I recollect anyone from the Opposition benches saying, as the hon. and learned Member for Kettering (Mr. Mitchison) did today, that the real benefit of the flat rate had risen. I am grateful for that admission, because in general the Opposition have a convenient blind eye which they turn on the Conservative Government's record in social security.

I shall not try to follow the hon. Member for Bedwellty (Mr. Finch) into all the complications of the industrial injury side of the work, because that would take far too long. The hon. Gentleman said that £5 9s. is poverty and he asked how anyone could live on it. The answer is that no one has to live on £5 9s. If that is all that a married couple in retirement have, they are eligible for National Assistance. In any event, does not the basic pension of £5 9s. contrast extremely favourably with the 42s. available in the day when the Labour Party was in power? [Interruption.] These are the facts. We are entitled to remind hon. Members of the record, because it is on the record that both Parties will be judged.

Photo of Mrs Harriet Slater Mrs Harriet Slater , Stoke-on-Trent North

Does the hon. Lady recollect that she herself said from the Front Bench when she was Parliamentary Secretary that she considered that 40s. was not a bad pension, that her father had lived on it, and that she did not see why we should not be able to live on it? The hon. Lady made that remark in a debate in which we tried to raise the old-age pension.

Photo of Miss Edith Pitt Miss Edith Pitt , Birmingham, Edgbaston

The hon. Lady must not misquote me. I compared 40s.with the expectation which people like my father had of only a 10s. pension in the old days. He, in turn, compared it with the average wages in pre-war years.

I think that the Government have cause for sober satisfaction in the improvement they have brought about in the economy which has made possible in the past 12 years five increases in National Insurance benefits and eight increases in National Assistance. The benefits have been more than doubled in terms of cash, or three times in terms of prices. The hon. and learned Member for Kettering suggested that benefits had slipped back compared with earnings. Unless my simple arithmetic is very much at fault, the present rate of benefit for a single person of £3 7s. 6d. compares more favourably with the average earnings of about £16 than did 26s. in the days of the Opposition with an average pay packet of £8 a week. The hon. and learned Gentleman's point is therefore disproved. I believe it to be unarguable that retirement pensioners and others who receive National Insurance benefit are better off today after 12 years of Conservative administration. We can claim with truth that pensioners have shared in the good things which a steadily expanding economy makes possible. The pensioners themselves know this and acknowledge it. I believe, therefore, that they are much more likely to put their confidence in the Tory Party, because they can judge us on the record, than they are in Opposition promises.

The Opposition Motion contains the word "hardships". I wonder how they define "hardship", particularly amongst pensioners. There is one group I can quote where I know of cases of hardship, but these people are entirely outside the State scheme. These are the very old people, people who were precluded before 1948 from contributing to the previous National Insurance scheme, and who because of their age could not come into the present comprehensive scheme. They are diminishing in number, but at the same time are seeing the precious assets which they saved in years gone by, hoping to be comfortable in their old age, also diminishing.

I am very sorry for these people. I realise that there is practically no way of bringing them into insurance so long after the event. [Hon. Members: "Why not?"] I hope that we shall continue to make National Assistance more generous and, in particular, to keep in mind the disregards of capital under National Assistance, because this system causes hardship in some instances. I know one elderly lady who is left with £1,000 capital. She is terribly reluctant to spend it, but it brings her in only 10s. a week. But for the help of the family she could not exist. This is where I wish the Welfare State were able to extend the security that we give.

I must make the point that not all the people in the group of whom I am speaking—those who are outside comprehensive insurance—are in this pre- dicament of facing hardship. Some of them, probably because their investments have prospered, are still in a comfortable position. There are other ways in which there can be hardship. These have not been even touched on yet. Loneliness can mean hardship, particularly in old age. That is why I attach importance to the progress the Government have made in other social services. I believe that the emphasis on special lousing and the encouragement that has been given to local authorities 10 step up the rate of building of one-bedroomed houses and flats do much to help retirement pensioners, because it enables them to live in a small place where they can keep their independence and where they can manage.

The increase in the number of home nurses and home helps has the same purpose. The development of the meals on wheels service has been a boon to old people. The extension of the chiropody service, which we have been able to introduce, literally keeps people on their feet. The elderly do not want to go into Part III accommodation or occupy beds for chronic geriatrics. They want their own homes with their own things around them. The more we can develop these ancillary social services the better we will deal with the hardship of the aged.

It is equally important to help them to maintain their interests. By this I do not mean that they should be enabled to continue digging the garden, good though that is, or have a hobby which occupies their hands. It is essential, if old age is to be enjoyed, that the mind should be kept alert. This is a job for both the Government and the voluntary services.

I return to the question of the elderly who live on State pensions, supplemented by National Assistance in some cases. I make the same point on this as I did about the smaller group of people who have no State pension. They are not all like. Thousands of people are drawing the State retirement pension who have other resources and who live in the comfortable old-age which the hon. and learned Member for Kettering desires for them.

For those who must be content with the basic, I agree that it does not permit of any frills or luxuries. Although food prices have remained fairly stable, people need knowledge, time and energy to shop for bargains. It is often the old who do not have these qualities. In fact, some of them are not able to leave their homes even to do their shopping. Electricity has goneup in price this year and the word the pensioners use to me to describe the price of coal is "horrible". They need food, warmth and light all the time if they are to live in even reasonable comfort.

It is natural pensioners should wish to improve their position, for they see all around them people doing exactly that. It is along these lines that I receive complaints, not so much from the pensioners themselves as from people who are working; people who are doing well and who feel that more should be done for the aged. Despite this, they never begin to consider how all this is to be paid for.

I regret that the hon. Member for Coventry, East (Mr. Crossman) is not in his place. Some of the workmen I know in Birmingham are in occupational schemes. They have expressed concern about the Opposition's proposals for minimum incomes and wage-related benefits. They are wondering from where the money is to come. They fear that if by misfortune we have a Socialist Government who try to introduce such a scheme, they may bepenalised. These people have by choice decided that the right thing for them is to contribute to their firm's pension scheme and they fear that if the Opposition's proposals are implemented they will have to find a great deal more money to build up the airy-fairy schemes of the party opposite.

The Opposition's proposals are asking for a blank cheque. The hon. Member for Coventry, East queried the assertion that workmen were free to join occupational schemes. He said that the vast majority of these schemes were a condition of service. I agree, but I do not think that the hon. Member for Coventry, East knows much about these schemes. I have not only been a member of one but I helped to introduce one in a factory with about 1,000 workpeople. To begin with we had to persuade and sell the idea to them. They were rather hesitant about what they would get for their money. In the end we got 100 per cent. accept- ance of the scheme and now it is a condition of service. It is valued by those who contribute to it, for it has been specially arranged to suit them in their particular trade. They feel worried about the proposals of the party opposite, and I warn Socialist hon. Members that if they do anything to prejudice the rights of those who have expectations as a result of joining occupational schemes they will find themselves extremely unpopular in the country.

The hon. Member for Coventry, East said that contracting out would be possible. He also made great play with all the work that had been involved in the calculations of contracting out. He said later that employers would find it difficult to match the provisions of the Opposition's scheme. I wonder if he truly believes in contracting out or if he really thinks in his heart that if the sort of device the Opposition propose was introduced—the fourth edition of such proposals, if I remember aright—a large number of occupational schemes would come to an end. If this did happen the party opposite would be making a grave mistake.

In any case, I doubt whether the finances of their proposals would stand investigation. The hon. Member for Coventry, East talked about the State providing the ground floor of the house and the employer topping it up with another storey. While he was speaking I had the feeling that he was building an edifice of candy floss, particularly since he did not want to commit himself to figures. Had he revealed the figures the public would be sharply disillusioned at the promise of half pay on retirement.

If employers should be called on to pay more—and I fear that the hon. Member for Coventry, East made suggestions which would have inflationary effects—and if contributions are to be heavily increased, will not the increases be added to the price of goods, the price of the exports by which we live? I fear for the strength of the economy and the maintenance of our social services.

Before the party opposite go to the country, they will need to place the £ s. d. of their scheme before the public. They will need to be more certain than they have been on previous occasions that their figures are accurate. I recall that when the first edition of the Socialist superannuation plan came out it had to be withdrawn in a hurry. I cannot remember all the details, but I do recall one sum being put on the income side when it should have been on the debit side. That first edition contained an element of contributions from Northern Ireland which could not possibly have been included. I cannot remember all the details, but I am sure that when the Minister replies to the debate tonight his memory will be better than mine and he will be able to stress once more that, if the scheme of the party opposite is to be considered objectively, correct figures must be produced.

I agree that the time has come for reshaping our social security system generally. I said that a year ago. However, it must be properly worked out and be workable. We are up against an increasing difficulty each time we improve the flat-rate benefit. We have been told that there are nearly 6 million retirement pensioners in Britain. If we are to spread the available money across the board, then obviously there are limitations not only on what can be paid out but on the contributions we can take from the lowest-paid workers. This means that in future we should concentrate on selective and long-term benefits. I was glad that the Minister spoke this afternoon of the consultations he is having with representatives of industry on short-term benefits. I made this point last year; that if acceptance of responsibility for short-term sickness and unemployment benefit could be that of the employers, we could do more to develop the long-term benefits in the selective areas of need. I was glad to note in the Amendment that the Government are continuing their examination of the possibility of further developments related to earnings. However, anything done in this direction must be fair to all contributors.

I am delighted with the announcement of help for widowed mothers. I have always felt that the problems of this section of the community—problems peculiar to widowed mothers—need special consideration, because a widowed mother finds herself both the head of her family and often the breadwinner. A whole range of social problems arise as a result of her widowhood and we should help her as much as possible. Her problems have been enhanced in recent years by the tremendous increase in the standards of other sections of the community. She can make only slow progress. There is nothing for her in the Insurance Scheme when one considers the lost potential of a man who would no doubt be improving his earning capacity as the years go by. Whatever her income before, the widowed mother is shown up more sharply against the rising prosperity of the country than any other group of people.

I am glad to recall that in years gone by we have done something to assist her. It is almost ludicrous to think that in 1951 her only benefit for her children, apart from any personal income she might have had, vas 7s. 6d. per week for her first child. She got nothing for her other children and until today the allowance has been 30 s. for the first child and 22s. for the remainder. I was delighted to hear the Prime Minister's announcement that this is to be raised to 37s. 6d. for each child. This is the best way of helping widowed mothers, irrespective of their earnings. I am glad that this amount will continue to be paid until the child's nineteenth birthday if full-time education is being taken.

We have been whittling away at the earnings rue for some time. I have a good deal of sympathy with those who think that it should be completely removed for widowed mothers, although I realise the practical difficulties of doing this, for once one conceded it for one section of the community there would be demands from others, retirement pensioners for example. Nevertheless, the higher we take the amount earned before deduction—and it is now suggested that it should be £7, so that, in terms of gross earnings, I suppose that it will be about £9—the more we will benefit a large number of widowed mothers.

For what has been announced today and the continued improvements for widowed mothers—along with the modest improvement for retirement pensioners in connection with their earnings rule—I am grateful to the Government and certain that, with the record we have behind us in matters of social security, along with the practical plans we will advance when present considerations are completed, we are entitled to ask for, and I have no doubt that we shall receive, a very good vote of confidence from the recipients in the country.

7.4 p.m.

Photo of Mr John McKay Mr John McKay , Wallsend

I congratulate the hon. Lady the Member for Birmingham, Edgbaston (Dame Edith Pitt) on her speech. She is no longer in office but she still shows the great ability she has on the subject of pensions and matters connected with National Insurance.

The plight of the aged presents us with a challenging problem and we all wish to do everything possible to solve it. A different attitude of mind is necessary if this problem is to be overcome; and the Labour Party is prepared to overcome it. We intend to increase contributions on a graded scale and by so doing, improve the generalsituation of pensioners. There is no doubt that some improvement is needed.

Where exactly is the weakness? What causes lack of finance in National Insurance? I believe that most ordinary people have good will towards those in the community who are in difficult circumstances, and are ready to do a little more for them if there should be the necessity—and, apparently, we have the necessity today. There is no doubt that most people would like to see the poorest in the community made better off. The country is doing comparatively well, so how is it that we have so many people at the very bottom of our economic life, and why do we find difficulty in knowing what to do about it, and how to help those people?

One thing that strikes one is that employers in Europe are doing vastly more for social security than are British employers. It may be that we do not feel so much about it; that we are not in that section of the community that feels this economic pressure and therefore do not allow these matters to weigh very heavily on us, but there is no doubt, looking at the various tables supplied, that employers in Europe are contributing to social security three or four times as much, on the average, as are our employers.

Realising that, we ask at once, "Why cannot we do better, when others operat- ing under the same competitive system can do so much?" This is a matter of feeling. It is a question of whether the individual will be bothered to help his fellow countrymen. I do not worry so much about the number of unemployed, sick, and the rest, but I want to show, from the Monthly Digest, the number of people who, though getting their benefits, yet have to reveal all their income and the little bits of property they may have in order to get National Assistance.

There are 1,381,000 sick, injured, unemployed and retired people, and widows, who are getting National Assistance, and if we double that figure we include those of some independence but relying on National Assistance. When the ordinary man realises that, in our present economic condition, so many people in the insured category have to apply for National Assistance, it strikes him that it is time that something was done.

We have carried on like this for many years. I admit that in 1948 there was only 2s. difference between the married couple on National Assistance and the married couple under National Insurance, but that was apart from rent, of course. As rent has always been a big item, there has always been a biggish difference. The point is that the difference exists. The actual need is well known and acknowledged, and there is no doubt that most people recognise that despite what may have been done in the past or the good that may come in the future, there is a great need for a strong move by the Government to deal with the present situation.

The man who leaves his job without proper cause or notice has his unemployment benefit stopped for six weeks, and there is no doubt some reason in that. On the other hand, there are about 30,000 boys aged 15 or 15½ years who are wandering about unemployed and who get absolutely nothing unless—and I emphasise this to the Minister, because I know that he is a good chap—their fathers are on National Assistance. A man who is working can get nothing on account of his unemployed son. Further, if the father is unemployed or sick and the boy is at school, the father gets about 20s. for him, but when the boy leaves school he himself gets nothing and the father loses that 20s.

It is all very well to say that it is a boy's own fault, but we must remember that though the hundreds of men who leave their work without giving proper notice may be penalised, they are not penalised for ever. As I had said, they lose their unemployment benefit for six weeks only. It is not sufficient to say of these youngsters that they can go back to school. Their parents want them to be earning, and so do they, but they cannot find the work. The only boy for whom something is allowed is the son of a man who is on National Assistance—on the lowest scale of all.

But is the boy who remains at school until he is 16—does as the educational authorities want him to do—thrown on the scrapheap? Is he ignored by our welfare society? No—he gets 37s. a week in National Assistance in his own right. He is not an outcast from society until he gets work. He has a means of living, because he is 16 but out of the labour market. Why should we allow these 30,000 youngsters—probably 60,000—to leave school and then treat them so differently from the way we treat the youngsters who are at school at 16? I agree that it is, on the whole, far better for boys to continue at school until they are 16 years of age, but that is not the present position. It would be far better to decide that either these boys must go back to school or that they must be provided for so that they are not dependent upon their parents.

I should like to draw attention to an attitude on the part of National Assistance officials which is prevalent at least in the north of England. Men who have been out of work for four or six months and who during that time have been receiving National Assistance often find themselves having to start work in the middle of a week. They are entitled to National Assistance pay for that week but many of them do not receive any pay during the first week. It is deferred until a week later. I know of a man who went to work after about five weeks' idleness. When he was on National Assistance he received £9 3s. because he had a large family. He worked for half a week and received about £7 in National Assistance. He received no more during that first week.

Men like him have to go to their employers and ask them for money to enable them to live during that week. They are not allowed to have the balance made up to National Assistance level and pressure is brought to bear by National Assistance officers to compel them to go to the employer for help. This is not right. In other parts of the country these men receivetheir money each week us they work and the difficulty does lot arise. I hope that the Minister will look into this matter.

The Minister has said that people with large families seem to enjoy a more advantageous position on National Assistance. We all know why. When a person is on National Insurance he receives 20s. for each dependant, but on National Assistance he receives for three youngsters sums of 23s., 28s. and 37s., respectively, and therefore there is a big increase in the income. The principle should be not only recognised but implemented by law and regulation that a person on National Insurance benefit should be entitled to the sum which he would receive if he were on National Assistance.

Money must be brought into the scheme so that the man on National Insurance shall be at least equal to the man on National Assistance. This would avoid a great deal of trouble and would save many people much mental anxiety. If the Minister examines these matters without bias he will find that there are any number of ways of getting money into the National Insurance scheme which would not penalise the high-income group who should bear a greater responsibility within the nation. There are many people in the country who could well afford to pay more but who do not like to pay out money even for a national charity. The generality of British people, however, are prepared to pay far more than employers are now paying to enable men to receive bigger benefits under the National Insurance scheme. People do not want a scheme which will increase the benefits many years later for those who pay more now. Our primary object should be a scheme which will bring betterment not 40 years hence but now, to enable people to have a reasonable standard of living.

The nation as a collective society should say to the pensioners that the time has arrived when we are prepared to do at least as much for them as is done in other countries in Europe to secure for them a reasonable standard of living now. It could be done. There would be no difficulty at all if politics did not enter into the matter so much and we had a greater moral sense and the desire and determination to help pensioners. Candidates go to the polls and express the desire to do this and that. We should get these things done. We here are the people who should be doing these things. There is no financial difficulty in the way. It is time that we showed ourselves prepared to do something real and warmhearted for out pensioners.

I do not wish to detain the House further. I have expressed my feelings on the matter, and I believe that I have been expressing the feelings of many people on both sides of the House who are determined that we should use what power we have collectively to look after our aged people better. Is it really suggested that £5 9s. is sufficient for a married couple to live on? After the rent is paid, which may be 29s., there is only £4 left to buy food, clothing, coal and all the rest. No man with any humanity can accept that £4 net is sufficient for all the necessities of the household to give a married couple anything like a sufficient standard of life.

It is pleasing to hear in the debate that there are to be improvements, but is there the real determination, the collective will within the nation, to help our aged people to have something like a reasonable standard of life? The necessary money could be obtained without real harm to any section of the community. The 4½ per cent. which the workers are paying to swell the funds is helping to meet the financial obligation of paying the level rate pension, but the time has arrived when even the Labour Party ought to look at this level rate pension in a different light. It should be raised far beyond what it has been if we are to do our duty to our old people.

7.32 p.m.

Photo of Lieut-Colonel Sir Walter Bromley-Davenport Lieut-Colonel Sir Walter Bromley-Davenport , Knutsford

A little while ago an article appeared on the front page of one of our leading daily newspapers under the heading "Means Test Plan"—these words which we have been hearing from hon. Members opposite. The article implied that in future a means test would be applied to the payment of State pensions. It also implied that applicants for pension who were in receipt of private incomes, including a pension in respect of former employment and quite irrespective of whether the persons concerned had contributed over the years in order to obtain greater security and happiness for themselves and their families later, would find that their State pension would be reduced or forfeited.

Many people who read that article assumed that the writer was outlining Government policy. They believed that it was, perhaps, the result of an inspired "leak". Can my right hon. Friend assure the House that there can be no question of reducing people's existing rights to National Insurance pensions? These rights, incidentally, have been improved consistently over the years under this Government's administration. The article has caused grave anxiety in my constituency and, I am sure, in many others among people of all classes who have retired or who are about to retire and live on fixed incomes. The people concerned in my constituency include promiment insurance and bank officials and elderly people whose total income, including State pension, would come in the range of, say, £500 to £1,000 a year. I hope that my right hon. Friend will give an assurance on this point. In that event, there is another question I wish to raise.

It is useful for the provisions which we make for social security to be publicly discussed, but if that article did not represent Government policy, all I can say is that it brought unnecessary alarm and distress to a very large number of people. Therefore, would it not have been wiser on this occasion for the Government to have issued a public statement on this matter at the time? I realise that it is impossible for any Government to deny all the inaccurate statements which are made in the Press, but if it had been done on this occasion a great deal of worry would have been saved, because the article received considerable publicity. For if statements of this kind go undenied for a considerable time, it can do nothing but harm to Her Majesty's Government.

Photo of Hon. Richard Wood Hon. Richard Wood , Bridlington

I understand that there has been considerable interest and alarm caused by the article. I take this opportunity to do as my hon. and gallant Friend suggests and I confirm that there is no question of reducing the existing rights to National Insurance benefits.

Photo of Mrs Harriet Slater Mrs Harriet Slater , Stoke-on-Trent North

Can the right hon. Gentleman go further and say whether the article was referring, not to the particular point which the hon. and gallant Member has raised, but to the suggestion that there would be no future increases in basic pensions without there being a means test? What about that suggestion?

Photo of Hon. Richard Wood Hon. Richard Wood , Bridlington

I have made perfectly clear in answer to my hon. and gallant Friend that there can be no question of reducing the rights which at present exist.

Photo of Mr Gilbert Mitchison Mr Gilbert Mitchison , Kettering

Before we leave the matter, may I just identify the article? The hon. and gallant Member for Knutsford (Sir W. Bromley-Davenport) and the Minister have been talking about it without direct reference. It was an article published in the Daily Express on Monday, 18th November, and what it said at the end was: The Government is especially determined to tackle the problem of the mounting pensions bill by introducing a means test". I do not know whether it was right or wrong, but that is what was said.

7.39 p.m.

Photo of Dr Jeremy Bray Dr Jeremy Bray , Middlesbrough West

I do not wish to cut short this exploration of the Government's future intentions, and I hope that the hon. and gallant Member for Knutsford (Sir W. Bromley-Davenport) will find further enlightenment in the Minister's reply at the end of the debate. I must confess that I thought for a moment that he was doing a clever take-off of the Labour Party's proposal when he started talking about the future for people with rather higher levels of pension. I think that he can be assured that they would stand to gain substantially more from our proposals than they would from any proposals of the Government. I should like to return to this matter later.

I think that in dealing with pensions every hon. Member is concerned that we should, in the first place, do justice to the individual. We should do justice to the individual's expectations as they have been built up over a lifetime of pensions contributions to a variety of schemes and to the individual facing particular needs and family situations living in a community in which there is a rising level of expenditure. But we do not serve the cause of the individual by losing sight of the economic considerations, of the cash.

I think that the hon. Lady the Member for Birmingham, Edgbaston (Dame Edith Pitt) was a little unfair in rebuking my hon. Friends for overlooking this side of the question. The Minister in his speech did not refer to the economic problem of pensions at all. His predecessor opened the debate last year with a reference to the fact that a limited range of benefits was costing the country £1,400 million a year. To bring this up to date and to extend it a little, the total cost of National Insurance benefits and other current grants from public authorities is running at about £2,000 million a year, or 8 per cent. of the total of personal incomes of the country. That has been fairly steady since 1946. From 1946 to 1957 the figure was 7 per cent. Now it has risen just slightly to 8 per cent. I think that any actuary describing a satisfactory pension situation would expect it to rise to between 10 and 12 per cent. in the course of the next few years.

In facing this enormous pull on the economic resources of the country one would expect a measure of foresight in the Government's approach. I was somewhat disconcerted when the Minister, in replying to a Question which I put to him on Monday this week, said that the Government would not announce a planned rate of increase because they found that they could get more out of the Treasury by begging from hand to mouth in the situation in which the Government found themselves in any particular year; and that if one considers the supply and demand in the country as a whole one can plead the cause of all the hardship cases which it is possible to trot out and which we all know so well and thus melt the Treasury's heart in a way in which it could not be melted in a cool and deliberate forward projection of meeting the cost of benefits for the country as a whole.

When one starts examining the total income position of the country one finds that this kind of projection cannot possibly be happening. The Inland Revenue collects a great deal of information about incomes and it has published a very full survey of incomes. However, it does not cover the class of people we are interested in because most of them do not pay tax. The Ministry of Pensions and National Insurance publishes a fine break-down of its own expenditure, but does not co-ordinate it with either the Inland Revenue's figures or the National Assistance Board's figures. The National Assistance Board, too, accounts for how it spends its own money. Now we are to have local authorities applying some sort of hardship test, a sort of means test, as well.

It will be absolutely impossible to keep track of the needs of the individual as they are met, or are failing to be met, by Income Tax, the Ministry of Pensions, the National Assistance Board and local authorities.

In the Blue Book containing the national income and expenditure accounts, showing the distribution of personal income, the rather discouraging remark is made that Estimates of non-taxable incomes have been allocated to what seems to be the most appropriate income ranges. The figures may be right. There are only a couple of columns of figures in half a page in the national income and expenditure account and it is impossible to form any idea of how far we are meeting the social needs of old people and others in hardship. When one starts wondering why there is this appalling state of ignorance, one finds that there are only two statisticians in the Ministry of Pensions and that the National Assistance Board has no statisticians, although it has a finance and a statistics section.

Looking deeper still, one finds that the census of 1961, which must necessarily be the basis of the Government's knowledge concerning the composition of households, and so on, has not yet been fully published and is taking second place, no doubt rightly, to paying the Army on the Royal Army Pay Corps computer. If we are to work with this completely obsolete administra- tive framework, which all sociologists, whatever their political belief, abhor, we cannot possibly get a sensible basis for tackling the many hardship cases which we present to the Minister.

Will the Minister use his good offices with the Registrar-General to make sure that we get out of this position as quickly as possible? If he asks the Registrar-General for an up-to-date sampling frame so that he can get a quick reply to any question which he asks about income distribution or the position of different classes of hardship case, then the Registrar-General, with modern methods of sampling, can give him the answer within a month. It needs a simple administrative change from this gargantuan ten-year spasm of the census to a much quicker-acting sampling system within a sample frame devised by the Registrar-General. This is surely the basis for answering all the questions which individual Members can deal with only in terms of personal cases without having a knowledge of their importance to the scene as a whole.

May I give a further example? The Prime Minister occupied the House's time and his own most valuable time in making a very welcome statement which will cost the Ministry of Pensions and the Treasury £8 million a year. Perhaps the Minister of Pensions will inform the Prime Minister that he can come to the House and make such a statement after every Question Time between now and the election without unduly straining the national resources. He can keep it up for quite a time to come, even until an October election.

One very sad victim—and there are about 25,000 like him—of this lack of feel for the total national situation, to which I should like to refer in more detail, is the victim of the way that the wages stop is applied bythe National Assistance Board. The effect of this is not to make sure that a worker is not paid more than he would get if he were employed, but to depress the level of wage of the lowest-paid worker. If there is, as there is in the North-East, a reserve of people on the wages stop, an employer knows that he has only to offer 10s. more than the wages stop for a married man, and a single man will be delighted to get the job because it will give him at least £2 or £3 more than he is getting on National Assistance. This means that we peg permanently the level of the lowest-paid workers at what the National Assistance Board thinks is the level of the lowest-paid workers but which, in fact, is merely the rate fixed by the National Assistance Board some time before.

The National Assistance Board Annual Report gives no information about the variation of the way in which the wages stop is applied in different regions. It tells us that in London and the South-East the average rent paid is up to 10s.a week more than in some parts of the country; and coming from another part of the country, one quite understands that this should be met. I cannot, however, see why the National Assistance Board gives no information about the distribution of people who suffer from the effect of the wages stop.

The National Assistance Board has, I think, a guilty conscience about this. It delights in telling us of the individual cases that it is able to help, the cases to whom it is able to make discretionary additions to their grants—for instance, for the cost of frequent washing of wigs worn by a mentally deficient person whose personal appearance is of great concern to her, and the cost of shaving for a man whose disabilities prevent him from shaving himself.

We are glad to hear of those personal cases, but we do not hear of the case of a constituent of mine who, under all the rules but one of the National Assistance Board, because he has nine children, would be getting National Assistance of £17 0s. l0d. a week, but who, as a result of the means test, gets his £3 18s. family allowance but only £7 6s. 6d. National Assistance, taking care of a family of eleven people on £11 4s. 6d. a week. It cannot be done. The family is suffering gravely in health. It is suffering gravely in the respect in which inevitably it is held when it is not able to maintain the standards of the solid working-class community in which it lives. If the Minister caused an investigation into the variation of the wage stop from one part of the country to another, he would have cause to revise the way in which it is applied in the regions of lowest employment.

The root of the difficulty is the difference in the treatment of children under the various schemes which the State offers On National Assistance, a man gets about 30s. for each child. The ordinary employed man who is not paying Income Tax gets a 10s. family allowance for the third and subsequent children. The man who pays the standard rate of Income Tax gets 20s. relief of Income Tax or thereabouts on account of his child, plus the 10s. family allowance.

At the two ends of the scale, therefore, we have the man on National Assistance getting 30s. a week for his children and the man paying the standard rats of Income Tax also getting 30s. a week for his child, but the man in between getting only 10s. a week. Obviously, this will cause all sorts of jealousies within the community between the people who are working and the people who are not working, between those who have children and those who have not. If a more uniform basis for the treatment of children could be devised, it would help enormously. My suggestion is that the Income Tax allowances for children should be set, not against taxable income, but against tax due, so every person, whatever his level of income or the lack of it, got the same sun of money for each of his children. This would get rid of the existing absurdities in the application of the wages stop.

The other point which I should like to treat slightly also deals with the narrowness within which the pension problem is seen in this country. My hon. Friend the Member for Coventry, East (Mr. Crossman) pointed out that the transferability of pensions in private pension schemes was a cardinal point of importance for industry and for the economy. The Government feel that they have done something about this. They feel that the State superannuation scheme, requiring transferability up to the level of the State superannuation pension, has gone a step towards meeting the case, but this is not so at all.

Generally, the kind of person who is stopped from moving because of his pension rights often has an income greatly in excess of £15 a week. This is highly restrictive to the effiecient use, not only of scientists and engineers, but of all grades of management who, held within an organisation, are unable to respond to the pressures of the market and to the opportunities which are open to them. I recall a phrase used by the right hon. Member for Reigate (Sir J. Vaughan-Morgan), who, in dealing with this point, said that the object of a private pension scheme was to secure employees to one's service.

A hundred years or more ago, the House of Commons abolished slavery. Now, we are having this form of the slavery of the private pension scheme shackled upon us as the Government force the spread of private pension schemes as the cost of a completely transferable scheme.

Photo of Mr Eric Lubbock Mr Eric Lubbock , Orpington

Does the hon. Member agree that in addition to the categories of people he has mentioned, sales representatives are particularly affected by the lack of transferability?

Photo of Dr Jeremy Bray Dr Jeremy Bray , Middlesbrough West

Yes; I certainly include all branches of executive and management people generally, although they are not the only people affected. Letus consider those who are declared redundant because their firm is contracting or is moving or developing in some way. When a man who has a contributory pension scheme leaves his job, he generally is repaid his own pension contributions with an appropriate rate of interest. The contributions of the employer, however, simply go back into the "kitty". There are some private pension schemes—the I.C.I, scheme is one—in which a worker who is declared redundant is given the option of taking his pension rights with him or of taking a deferred pension, if he has five or ten years' service. Even this provision, however, is not available to the worker who has the enterprise to move into another job when he sees the red light, when he sees the redundancy coming and so oils the wheels of the economy by his own initiative. We get no response here from private employers to make pension rights transferable when a man moves on his own initiative.

A third class of person who is affected by transferability is the public service pensioner. Many of us on this side of the House have pressed the Minister of Education to allow teachers to return to teaching without loss of their pen- sions as a result of the money which they are able to earn. This is important to meet the great need for teachers today and in the years ahead.

If public service pensions were transferable, we could not in equity stop that pension on an earnings test when a person had retired, because a civil servant or teacher could argue that he could just as easily have transferred the day before his retirement into some other occupation, taken an inalienable pension right with him and then gone on earning after retirement age. This is a highly desirable reform.

The Minister does not give weight to the social aspect of the question of transferability. I think that perhaps this is because few hon. Members opposite have actually been members of private pension schemes; most have generally been administering them. The hon. Lady the Member for Edgbastonwas a member of such a scheme, but she is in a minority.

I have had representations from Tory candidates asking us to get something done about transferability before the next General Election so that when they entered the House they would not lose their rights. Purely as an acedemic point, one may point out to them that they are so unlikely to come here then that they need not worry. But the party opposite is definitely suffering in the range of people it represents because employees in industry are unwilling to lose their pension rights to come here as Conservative M.P.s. There is a generous thought for the Minister.

Obviously, if we are asking for transferability we must have some idea of the cost. It is extremely difficult to give an estimate. The hon. Member for Bradford, West (Mr. Tiley) suggested that we should be able to give it, but in view of the lack of information from the Government I did not think this a fair rebuke. But on certain assumptions one can make a rough estimate.

Looking at a particular private pension scheme, I gather that the level of refund of employees' contributions to people leaving the firm runs at about 25 per cent. of employee's contributions. Therefore, in one year, if £1 million have been contributed by the employees, £250,000 are paid back to employees leaving the employ of the company. That is about 1 per cent. of the total income of the employees.

Assuming that one-third of the workers in the country are in private pension schemes, the additional cost of transferability would be about £70 million a year throughout the existing private pension schemes. If we had a pension scheme covering the whole of the working population, then the 1 per cent. would work out at about £230 million a year as compared with the £70 million which is relevant now. But the economic effect of transferability would certainly not lead to increasing anyone's costs by £70 million.

The present situation is that these contributions refunded to employees on changing their jobs are spent. They are currently consumed often in meeting the costs of changing from one job to another. These costs should properly be made by redundancy schemes. But if pensions were transferable then the amount of money at present refunded would not be spent, but saved. The contributions of the employers would also be saved. We would thus reduce spending by £70 million and increase saving by £140 million. Whether the Government wished to use this increased saving or not would depend upon the balance of supply and demand for the country as a whole throughout the year. In those circumstances, if the Government felt that we were already saving enough they could reduce taxation by £140 million to see that demand was maintained.

This argument has been terribly crude, but qualitatively it is in the right direction. The lack of economic appreciation of the factors involved is what discredits Government critics of the Labour plan. They claim that we have not thought of what we can afford, but we have. We have thought of what it involves, and not only for the Budget which is often just a matter of the way one does sums. We have thought of the effect on the economy itself, and here it is indisputable that a much more systematic approach to pensions would not reduce the amount we spent on pensions but would increase it and also humanise it enormously.

It is because we on this side of the House have the feeling that the Govern- ment have not really got down to the fundamental study of the problems of the Welfare State, in the payment of pensions and the meeting of need, that we have put down our Motion which, if the House reflected the views of the country, would be carried overwhelmingly.

8.5 p.m.

Photo of Mr Anthony Kershaw Mr Anthony Kershaw , Stroud

The Labour Party may have thought out the mathematics of its scheme but it has kept it from everyone else. That is our complaint, and, in spite of the most urgent temptations, the hon. Member for Coventry, East (Mr. Crossman) persisted in saying that he could not possibly give any financial estimate of the cost of the Socialist scheme because he did not know what the level of National Assistance would be early next year. If that is not the feeblest excuse I have ever heard n my life, I should like to know what is.

I was a little intimidated when I read in Dod that the hon. Member for Middlesbrough, West (Dr. Bray) is a professor of mathematics.

Photo of Dr Jeremy Bray Dr Jeremy Bray , Middlesbrough West

I never have been a professor and I air afraid that I never shall be.

Photo of Mr Anthony Kershaw Mr Anthony Kershaw , Stroud

The write-up does the hon. Gentleman no more than justice. What did appear in the hon. Member's remarks about transferability was the hatred which hon. Members opposite have for private enterprise and all that goes with it I have never been able to understand the argument that it would be so much better to fix the level of pension benefits, in all their complicated ramifications, at a certain date and then tie them to some figure either in the national income or in the cost of living.

We must remember that, if the Government had adhered to the level of pensions fixed by the Socialist Party when in office, which it considered suitable then, the pensioners would now be 55 per cent, worse off than they are. What possible argument can there be for that? We have had this argument before and I simply do not understand why the party opposite should constantly put it forward.

Like other speakers on this side of the House and one speaker from the opposite side—the hon. and learned Member for Kettering (Mr. Mitchison)—I congratulate the Government upon the steady expansion which they have been able to effect in retirement and other pensions. They have improved the levels to keep ahead of—and, indeed, to gain on—the cost of living. The result is that they stand at 55 per cent. better in real terms.

Today's announcements were very satisfactory, but while all the things that have been said about them are true, and we in this House may take such credit as we deserve, we must nevertheless reflect that those becoming old and lonely at the present time will hardly be comforted by a calculation in percentages of whether they are a little better or a little worse off. Rather will they compare themselves with the hon. Member for West Ham, North (Mr. A. Lewis), living next to them, who has a very much larger income than they have. I am not trying to be offensive to the hon. Member or to pick on him. I am merely saying that older people compare themselves with their neighbours rather than with what their own situation may have been five years ago.

Photo of Mr Arthur Lewis Mr Arthur Lewis , West Ham North

The hon. Member may not have been picking on me but he mentioned my name. He could also have mentioned almost every other hon. Member opposite. His hon. Friends have vast incomes, many of them unearned, and most of them have never even troubled about the fact that most of the food and commodities, including rent, which the pensioner must pay have gone up in cost much more drastically over the last few years than ever before.

Photo of Mr Anthony Kershaw Mr Anthony Kershaw , Stroud

I agree. I could have chosen any other hon. Member present, but the hon. Member for West Ham, North (Mr. A. Lewis) does fill the eye more than most and I happened to pick on him.

Can we afford in our future policy to pay to all an income sufficient for a reasonable standard of living, irrespective of age, merit, health, other resources or savings which any individual may have? If any increase over the basic minimum pension is made, it must be based upon an increase in contributions. I think that both sides of the House largely agree with that, for anything else strikes a blow at the savings and independence which are rightly valued by the individual.

Secondly, these very large increases in contribution paid solely to the State, as they may well be, will afford the State through its investment policy large powers of intervention in our economy in the future. It is no secret that this was one of the attractions to the party opposite of the scheme of the hon. Member for Coventry, East before it was abandoned as mathematically incorrect and practically impossible. The party opposite foresaw that very large funds in the hands of the State would permit very interesting and drastic development of our economy, if they were invested in certain ways.

If it is intended to alter or socialise or nationalise our economy in any important way, it would be very much better for the party opposite to come before the electorate and to say plainly exactly what is proposed than to say that with the aid of very large funds, which hon. Members opposite will by law extract from everybody in the community, they propose to alter the circumstances of our economic and national life. Therefore, it is desirable that there should be left to individuals some choice of the type of retirement pension or insurance which they have, whether they should go into a State scheme, a private scheme, or make some other provision for their own future.

I therefore conclude that the general lines of present Government policy, a graduated scheme with the possibility of opting out over a basic minimum, are sound and should be applied in future and not wholly discarded. If a substantial pension means substantial contributions, as I think it does, the thought for the people is whether they are prepared to pay. The contributions will be very much larger than we are now used to. Over the years, other countries have become used to much larger personal contributions towards their various insurances than we accept in this country, notably in Germany. I am sure that we will have to face that necessity.

We are then left with the difficulty that if contributions are very high, there will be an increasing number of people not able to afford them, because they fall out of work, or are late entrants, or for various other reasons. It is for those people, whose number may be rather large, that the basic pension must continue to exist, with some element of National Assistance. I take the opportunity to pay tribute to the way in which the National Assistance Board and its officers do their work. I know that hon. Members, will agree that nothing could be more sympathetic or more skilled than the way in which officers throughout the country work.

There are one or two points on National Assistance which I should like to urge on the Government. The first is that in country constituencies such as mine, where there are elderly people living in remoter areas, there are certain expenses which add to the cost of living, delivery of groceries and travel and so on, and which are greater than those incurred in towns. I wish that these things could be given more weight in National Assistance grants than is now the case. Some account is taken of them, if my information is correct, but I do not think that the difficulties encountered by old people living in the country, compared with those living in the town, are given sufficient weight. Last year, I mentioned renting a telephone, which for country people is tremendously important, not because they necessarily want to use it, but because they want to be able to get in touch if there is an emergency at home.

While paying my tribute to the National Assistance Board, like other hon. Members I look forward to the day when it will not be necessary for old people to have National Assistance. As the hon. and learned Member for Kettering said, it was devised for the disasters, for the personal accidents, for those who fell out of work or met some other disaster at home. But those people are not necessarily old. I look forward to an increase in the basic pension and, far more, to a greater variety of measures which individuals can take to increase their income after retirement.

This leaves the basic pension fairly low in the priorities, but there are certain individual classes which have only the basic pension and which have to be identified, but which can be helped. If we approach the problem on a personal basis, as National Assistance officers are bound so do and as they do very well, we will perpetuate the means test sort of approach. That is inevitable and we could not do otherwise. It would be socially advantageous if we could get rid of that approach and identify whole groups of people, the very old, for instance.

I have great sympathy with the idea of increasing pensions for the very old whose expenses rise gradually, never getting less and never getting much greater, but getting greater every year. There is a clear case for doing something for these people, who can be easily identified. It would be done not personally, but by category. I hope that my hon. Friend will be able to say that he is taking that idea aboard for his deliberations.

8.18 p.m.

Photo of Mr Eric Lubbock Mr Eric Lubbock , Orpington

The hon. Member for Stroud (Mr. Kershaw) asked whether there could be higher National Assistance benefits, but his question was rhetorical, because he went on to say that higher National Insurance contributions would then have to be paid. That illustrates that the country as a whole and its political thinkers have become hidebound and require a fundamentally new approach to the social security system. I hope to be able to demonstrate that the hon. Member's is not the only solution. I agree with the hon. Member for Reigate (Sir J. Vaughan-Morgan) about the need for a review of the social security system and his hope that something canbe done to cut across party lines. It is a great shame that in these debates on pensions and other farms of social security we tend to turn the House into a political forum. This speech of the right hon. Lady the Member for Birmingham, Edg-baston (Dame Edith Pitt) was an outstanding example.

If we can get agreements on social security cutting across party lines, they must be concerned with general principles rather than with specific details. We shall all disagree when we discuss the exact amounts to be paid to each beneficiary. My remarks will be concerned mainly with principles. I think, first, that the basic level of pensions and other social security benefits should be fixed at a higher level so that people do not have to apply for National Assistance. I am sure that that principle is generally accepted by both sides of the House.

Secondly, once the benefits have been fixed at that level they must not lag behind earnings. I am not saying that they have done so in the past, but they started at levelsvery much lower than those of subsistence. Therefore, the first thing must be done before we get round to tying them to national earnings.

Thirdly, the income from the State scheme—that is apart from any benefits provided under occupational schemes—at times of sickness and unemployment must bear a fixed relationship to an individual's previous earnings, and I am glad to see that the Government have accepted this principle in their Amendment to this Motion.

Fourthly, these benefits should be provided by a combination of Government and private occupational schemes. I agree with the Minister's remarks that one should leave as much as possible to individual initiative, and I shall later deal with the relative proportions which we think are appropriate.

Lastly, I think that the social security scheme must be as simple as possible to minimise the cost of administering it.

I propose to examine our proposals to see how far they fit those criteria. We do not expect to introduce our scheme in one or even two years. It is so revolutionary that it will take five to seven years to apply all its provisions.

We differentiate between unemployment and sickness on the one hand and retirement pensions on the other. Dealing with sickness and unemployment benefit, we believe that the minimum should be two-thirds of the level of previous individual earnings, with a maximum of four-thirds of the average level of all industrial earnings; a minimum of half the average level of industrial earnings for a married couple, with five-eighths of that amount for a single person, those proportions being roughly the standard rates of benefit at the moment. I do not think that the difficulty in determining average earnings is insuperable. One way of doing it is to use the previous tax return of an individual as a basic guide.

I said that we would deal with pensions in a simple manner. We would have a basic pension of 50 per cent. of average industrial earnings, which, as hon. Gentleman opposite are so keen on figures, would amount to about £8 for a married couple at the moment, with five-eighths of that figure, or £5, for a single person. I want hon. Gentlemen opposite to bear in mind that I am talking about a scheme which is to be introduced over a number of years. These proposals represent a fairly large rise on present levels, and it would be impossible to introduce them straight away in one measure, coupled with the benefits about which I am talking

This rate, and also the maximum and minimum unemployment or sickness benefits—which as I explained would be related to average industrial earnings—should be adjusted periodically to take account of increases in that average. This could be done in one of two ways—either by adjustments at fixed intervals of one or two years, or by making the adjustment automatic consequent on a rise of a given percentage in the average. Whichever way one does the sum, the end result is simple. It is to ensure that the pensioner, the sick person, and the unemployed man, share pro rata any increases in the standard of living of people who have jobs and who are participating in the general rise of the nation's wealth. Not only is that very much fairer than the present system of arbitrary increases, but it fulfils those criteria which I mentioned. It takes the subject of pensions and social security benefits out of the political arena altogether, an object which I believe to be desirable in itself.

Having raised the level of basic pensions to what we believe to be an adequate subsistence level, we propose to abolish the graduated scheme altogether.

Photo of Miss Peggy Herbison Miss Peggy Herbison , Lanarkshire North

I followed with great interest what the hon. Gentleman said would be the benefit for a married couple and a single person. He said that it would be some time before they received £8 and £5, respectively. In the meantime, what proposals has the Liberal Party for dealing with the real hardship which retired people are suffering now?

Photo of Mr Eric Lubbock Mr Eric Lubbock , Orpington

I did not say that there could be no immediate rise in benefits. I said that the increase we envisaged was such that no one would expect it to be paid in the immediate future.

Photo of Mr Arthur Lewis Mr Arthur Lewis , West Ham North

What does the hon. Gentleman mean by the "immediate future"?

Photo of Mr Eric Lubbock Mr Eric Lubbock , Orpington

At least I am mentioning some figures, which is more than what the hon. Member for Coventry, East (Mr. Crossman) said.

I was about to say why we objected in principle to the graduated scheme. The intention of that scheme was to bridge the gap between the State scheme and occupational pension schemes. The Minister brought out the fact that the effect of the graduated scheme was purely marginal. That is why so many private employers are contracting their employees out of it. The number is increasing all the time.

Secondly, the graduated scheme provides a worse bargain—and this is another reason why employers are contracting out of it—than that provided by many of the occupational schemes which can be obtained from commercial assurance companies. Broadly speaking, this is true for any employee who is earning more than £12 to £13 a week, so one finds companies devising schemes by which all the employees earning more than that figure are contracted out, while those earning less than that sum are contracted in. The scheme can never work because there is an element of redistribution. It means that the people at the top of the scale are getting a worse bargain than those earning less than £12 to £13 a week, and the larger the number of people earning more than £12 to £13 who are contracted out, the more financially impossible the graduated scheme will become.

Finally, the graduated scheme is extremely burdensome to operate. This applies not only to the Ministry of Pensions and National Insurance, but to every company which has to do all the arithmetic on behalf of the Government.

In place of the graduated scheme we would encourage occupational schemes wherever possible, in order to bring final retirement pensions up to the level of about two-thirds, or 80 per cent., of final earnings. We could do this by providing model schemes for employers to copy and where wage: boards existed we could even require employers to provide this kind of benefit in supplementation of the State scheme. Where people were not covered by occupational schemes in supplementation they could continue to take out annuity policies and receive tax relief on them, as they are entitled to do under the 1956 Finance Act. But we would propose that part of their contributions paid like this should be financed by an additional sum from the Government, in the proportion of three-fifths of whatever contributions they made, and that this scheme should be financed by a levy on all employers who did not provide occupational schemes for their workpeople.

The other major change that we propose is that the entitlement benefit should no longer be based on the record of contributions, but only upon citizenship and resident. This means that we would make no distinction between contributory and non-contributory old-age pensions. The person who reached retirement age would be entitled to a retirement pension as of right, no matter what his contribution record might be, provided he fulfilled certain conditions as to citizenship and residence. Both classes of people, who are treated separately at the moment, would receive the same standard rate of benefit. This would result in considerable administrative savings and would also not be very expensive, because most of the people concerned are receiving National Assistance at the moment.

The Annual Report of the National Assistance Board for 1962 shows that of the 114,030 non-contributory old-age pensioners in December, 1962, no fewer than 85,000 received National Assistance supplements, and that those supplements brought their average incomes, taking pensions and supplements together, to considerably more than the ordinary basic pension. The figures were 71s. 10d., compared with 57s. 6d. This change would not be very expensive, and the number of people in this group is rapidly diminishing. Seventy-five per cent. of non-contributory old-age pensioners were over 80 years of age on 9th October, 1962, which was the date selected for this examination by the National Assistance Board.

Since, under this scheme, the retired old-age pensioner would receive the retirement pension as of right, on reaching the age of 65 for men or 60 for women, the present arrangements for people continuing to earn by working after retirement age and continuing to receive a pension at the same time would be scrapped. This would bring consequent administrative savings.

We also propose to abolish the earnings rule for widows and pensioners. I heard one hon. Member opposite say that he had mentioned this subject several times in previous debates. I put it in my election address two years ago, and have spoken consistently about it ever since. I am glad to see that we are going a little way towards the principle of abolishing the earnings rule, and I hope that this is only the first step towards getting rid of it altogether.

We consider that the earnings rule prevents many widows and pensioners from taking jobs when they are still quite capable of doing so. At a time when there is so much talk about raising the gross national product by 4 per cent. per annum it is a great error to have, as an integral part of our social security structure, a provision which acts quite deliberately as a disincentive to people to work.

It is not even fair, because unearned income received by widows or pensioners is totally disregarded in calculating their entitlement. We believe that the implementation of our proposals would remove much of the need for National Assistance. It is calculated that as high a proportion of 90 per cent. of those receiving National Assistance payments at the moment would not need them if our proposals were carried out. There would then be no justification for continuing the National Assistance Board as a separate department. In fact, it might streamline the administration now if we created a single Ministry of Social Security, in which we merged the functions of the Ministry of Pensions and National Insurance and the National Assistance Board.

I want to deal with the methods of financing these greatly increased social benefits about which I have been talking. We dislike the flat-rate contribution system, which the hon. Member for Stroud seemed to think was the only way in which social security benefits could be financed. We also, dislike mixing up the payments which people make, through their stamps, for National Insurance benefits, with those that they make as contributions towards the National Health Service, which amount to about 2s. 8½d. on every insurance stamp. We would take this out altogether and finance National Insurance and the National Health Service entirely out of taxation. We hate the paraphernalia of stamps and cards, which seem to appeal so much to the bureaucratic mind.

As I say, first, we should make the whole of the National Health Service a charge on taxation, but abolish the graduated scheme altogether and replace the fiat-rate contribution which people pay now by a graduated social security tax which would be a proportion of the income of the people concerned. It would be one-third paid by the employees and two-thirds by the employers. No records would be kept of individual contributions. These would not be necessary as a record of contributions would no longer establish an entitlement to benefit. We think that the level would have to be at about 12 per cent. of incomes and therefore the contributor would pay 4 per cent. and his employer 8 per cent. This as I realise is a very much higher rate of employer contribution than is the case at present. But, as was emphasised by several hon. Members, this would bring us closer in line with the situation in many countries on the Continent.

I think that the Labour Party scheme would be very much more expensive, if they accept the figures which I have given of what should be the benefits, because they would have to begin by building up the national pensions fund which is referred to in their green booklet. I am ashamed to say that I have read it only once, but I think I understand what it means. While this national pensions fund was being built up they would have to continue to pay for current benefits out of contribution from the people concerned. I also object to this building-up of the national pension fund because it appears to me to be a type of back-door nationalisation, and I agree with the hon. Gentleman who said that he would prefer this to be done openly rather than by a scheme which might be calculated to mislead the public about the intentions of the Labour Party.

Another reason why the Labour Party's scheme would be more expensive than ours is that retirement pensions, the largest by far of the calls on the National Insurance Scheme, will be related to individual earnings, just as payments for unemployement and sickness are under our scheme. The payments for retirements in 1962 amounted to about £740 million whereas payments for sickness benefits, for example, were only £36 million. Therefore, if sickness and unemployment benefits were wage related in a basic scheme that would be much less expensive than applying it to retirement benefits as well. I dislike the Labour Party's scheme because it does not seem to give adequate scope for occupational schemes, and I agree with the Minister that so far as possible it is a good thing to leave room for individual incentive.

The Tory Party claimed to have doubled the level of benefits over the last 10 years. I have heard that stated in one or two speeches and it has been used in Tory Party advertisements as well. But hon. Members opposite ignore the fact that between October, 1953, and October, 1963, the index of retail prices rose by almost precisely one-third; so that in 1963 the £ was worth only 15s. at 1953 prices. Instead of having doubled in the last 10 years, the real value of the basic pension, unemployment benefit or sickness benefit—there is not much difference between the rise of the one or the other—has risen by only 50 per cent. from the appallingly low values which obtained 10 years ago.

The fact that nearly 2 million people were on National Assistance in September, 1963, which, incidentally, was the highest number for any September since the scheme started, shows that in relation to present-day needs—and that is what we are concerned about—the benefits provided by National Insurance are not at all realistic. No less than 22·6 per cent. of pension households were receiving supplements in June, 1963, and the Minister admitted that this was almost the exact proportion as at the end of 1961.

We maintain that the benefits must be improved substantially. We also maintain that this by itself will not be enough. There must be a radical overhaul of the whole of our social security system. That is something we shall never get so long as the present Government last.

8.41 p.m.

Photo of Lord  Balniel Lord Balniel , Hertford

It is a great pleasure to follow the hon. Member for Orpington (Mr. Lubbock) after his lucid exposition of Liberal Party pension policy. Obviously, it is impossible for me immediately to comment on it. I shall not attempt to dissect or criticise him. Rather I welcome two broad features immediately.

The first was the emphasis which he placed, I believe rightly, upon pensions being a combination of Government action and private occupational schemes. These dual pillars to sustain dignity in old age seem to be the right emphasis. The second feature of the policy which the hon. Member explained, and which I particularly welcome, is the fact that the Liberal Party, unlike the Labour Party, has at least had the guts to give some figures both as to pensions and the means of financing them.

Like other hon. Members, I very much welcomed the news that we were to have a debate today on pensions and National Insurance, because in my innocence I had assumed that at very long last the Opposition would explain something about its plan for the reconstruction of social security. I had imagined that at long last we were to be told the scale of the pension which is being promised. I imagine that at long last we would be told how it is to be financed, and perhaps we would even be told how much contributors would have to pay. I am sorry that the hon. Lady the Member for Lanarkshire, North (Miss Herbison) is leaving the Chamber, because I had hoped to refer to her.

Photo of Miss Peggy Herbison Miss Peggy Herbison , Lanarkshire North

I was going to listen to the debate from another part of the House.

Photo of Lord  Balniel Lord Balniel , Hertford

Do not let me detain the hon. Lady; I was going to mention her only in passing. I of course have read—not three times like the Minister but once—the pamphlet entitled New Frontiers for Social Security. I must confess, having listened to the hon. and learned Member for Kettering (Mr. Mitchison) and to the author, the hon. Member for Coventry, East (Mr. Cross-man), I find these frontiers as undefined, as misty and vague as they were when they were originally put into the pamphlet.

Like other hon. Members, I want to concentrate my remarks on the future, on the policies we should pursue and the direction in which we should march and also on how we should try to re arrange and reorientate our structure of social security so that we can make a new drive towards eliminating poverty in old age and a new impetus in ensuring dignity for elderly people. I want to talk about policies for the future, rather than administration in the past. I feel though bound to say a word or two about the Labour Party plan because all the facts and figures of the plan are, of course, known to hon. Members opposite. The hon. Lady the Member for Lanarkshire, North who has now disappeared—

Photo of Mr Arthur Lewis Mr Arthur Lewis , West Ham North

That should not be said because my hon. Friend did wait for a time and the hon. Member for Hertford (Lord Balniel) did not mention the point he now wishes to make. If he wishes to talk about people leaving the Chamber, he should note that not one hon. Member opposite who has spoken has stayed for any time to listen to the debate.

Photo of Lord  Balniel Lord Balniel , Hertford

I have no intention of being unfair. I was merely going to say that the hon. Lady, who I believe is listening to me in another part of the Chamber, in introducing this new Labour Party Plan to the Labour Party Conference said that the plan was based, on detailed and rigorous technical, financial and actuarial advice. It would be interesting to see the actuary's affidavits on this plan. If it is based upon actuarial advice and if it is based upon a technical examination of the facts, why can we not know about it? What is so secret? What is it that hon. Members opposite do not want the British public to know? The hon. Lady the Member for Lanarkshire, North and I share in common the heritage of Scottish culture. I remind hon. Members opposite of the poem which was addressed by the Scottish National poet, Robert Burns, to Members of Parliament. Robert Burns wrote this: In gath'rin' votes you were na slack;Now stand as tightly by your tack;ne'er claw your lug, an' fidge your back, An' hum an' haw;But stand up straight, an' tell your crack Before them a'. Hon. Members opposite ought to stand up straight. They ought to defend their pension policy with facts and figures. They ought to be prepared to allow the British public to know something about what is involved, what benefits will be received, and what contributions will be paid.

Photo of Lord  Balniel Lord Balniel , Hertford

No, I will not give way. The time is short. Perhaps it would be expecting too much to know what the minimum guaranteed income should be. Let me say in passing that I share the Labour Party's view that this minimum guaranteed income is the right way of tackling the problem. I welcome the principle of the minimum guaranteed income for old people. The way the Labour Party is treating it though is almost like a turkey which is being fattened up for production just before Christmas. Public expectation is being built up about this minimum guaranteed income, but it will be produced at the last possible moment before the general Election. It will be produced before a bewildered and amazed audience, including many unsophisticated and rather humble people. They will not have time to work out the sums.

Photo of Miss Peggy Herbison Miss Peggy Herbison , Lanarkshire North

The noble Lord has been taunting us for not giving figures. The Conservatives now form the Government. His Minister has spoken today. If the noble Lord really believes in a guaranteed minimum income, as we do and say we will operate, it is for his Minister or for the noble Lord to state the figure which they think should be the guaranteed minimum. They have the chance to do so at this moment.

Photo of Lord  Balniel Lord Balniel , Hertford

The right hon. Member for Belper (Mr. G. Brown) wishes to speak in a moment or two. I should like to ask him two questions. One of the three aims in the Labour Party pension plan is To finance the improved benefits by substituting wage-related for flat rate contributions. In the place of flat-rate contributions there is to be a graduated contribution which will be a fixed proportion of all earnings up to an upper limit.

Photo of Mr Gilbert Mitchison Mr Gilbert Mitchison , Kettering

Also a percentage of the payroll. One could get quite a lot from that.

Photo of Lord  Balniel Lord Balniel , Hertford

That is interesting, but on page 14 of New Frontiers for Social Security the words appear not so different from mine, for the pamphlet states: In future the contribution will be a fixed proportion of earnings subject to an upper limit". The right hon. Member for Helper is a trade unionist and he realises that this question is of crucial importance to every employee. It is a simple question. What proportion of the earnings of employees is to be set aside in this way as a compulsory contribution to the Labour Party plan? If the right hon. Member will take out his pencil and make a note of that question my hon. Friends and I would be grateful for an answer when he winds up the debate.

There is a further important question I wish to put to him. The present Government's scheme will, by 1975, cost about £1,800 million. Harold Wincott, writing in the Financial Times about the Labour Party's scheme, suggested that its cost might be nearly double that figure. The proposal in the Labour Party plan is that a tripartite system of financing pensions based on the Exchequer, employer and employee should continue, each contributing a "fair share." Today employers and employees contribute 40 per cent. each. It is reasonable to ask a great political party like the one opposite, who will be seeking to form a Government in due course, what share do they think should be borne by the employee, the employer and the taxpayer?

Surely those two extremely simple but absolutely fundamental questions can be answered in a whole day's debate devoted to pensions, the care of our aged and the ensuring of dignity and security of elderly people. I have been asked to curtail my remarks a few minutes before nine o'clock, and so I will not be able to deal with other aspects which I should have liked to discuss.

8.53 p.m.

Photo of Mrs Harriet Slater Mrs Harriet Slater , Stoke-on-Trent North

Only five minutes remain for me in which to speak, so I hope that the noble Lord the Member for Hertford (Lord Balniel) will forgive me if I do not answer his questions. I will leave that to my right hon. Friend the Member for Belper (Mr. G. Brown).

Today the Prime Minister announced an increase in benefits for widowed mothers and a relaxation of the earnings rule. During the afternoon I have been trying to discover from my hon. Friends whether the Prime Minister said when the increased benefits would come into force. Or are they merely more promises which the party opposite will say they intend to fulfil after the next General Election?

Last week the Prime Minister was questioned on how soon he would make a statement about pensions. He promised to do so quite soon. Apparently today's statement is the only one he is prepared to make at the moment. When he was questioned last week he was not asked about particular items of pensions but about the whole concept of social security benefits. So far we have not hada statement from the Government as to whether or not there is to be an increase in old-age pensions, industrial injuries benefits and other social security benefits. As has been suggested, it may be that week by week the Prime Minister will make piecemeal statements to the House rather than making a comprehensive announcement before the General Election.

Many figures have been bandied about during today's debate. I am more concerned with the economic factors confronting the elderly, knowing that the average old-age pensioner cannot possibly adequately achieve a decent standard of life. The old, sick, unemployed and others receiving benefits are living on sums of money on which hon. Members apposite cannot credit that they can exist. Last Saturday someone came to see me after having been turned down by a medical board for the payment of industrial injuries benefits. This person attempted to go to work but collapsed. This week he does not have a penny on which to live, and is in absolutely dire straits.

The hon. Lady the Member for Birmingham, Edgbaston (Dame Edith Pitt) agreed that the basic rates of benefit are not enough to live on. This is so true. Each week I visit my grocer and take note of the prices of food. When I visit my butcher I wonder how in the name of fortune some old-age pensioners can buy not the luxuries of life but the bare necessities on which to live.

It is time that the Government realised that those in receipt of social security benefits should receive a further increase. Despite this, we will probably get the old story again tonight. We shall be told by the Minister how much the Government have done for old-age pensioners. I hope that hon. Members opposite realise that improvements have been made only after pressure from my hon. Friends.

Whatever may be said about the amount of money needed by the elderly, certain things are necessary to them. They must pay for their rent, light and coal. I see hon. Members opposite laughing at these remarks, and I invite them to try to live with no other resources than the basic old-age pension. This is a nation of two classes of people. Those who pretend that we are getting towards the classless society have no conception of the two nations there are at present.

The hon. Lady the Member for Edgbaston said that middle-class people were always asking her, "How are we to pay for these benefits?" They did not want to pay. But those same people should remember that we have to pay towards some of their middle-class educational benefits, and all the other things they have, and which all people should have by right. I believe that the general public, not an isolated section, would be prepared to pay in order that the aged, the unemployed or the sick should have a decent standard of living which kept them off National Assistance.

It is a disgrace that today we should compel thousands of old people, and other people, to apply for National Assistance in order to get a decent standard of living. Those who believe that these people do not mind applying should come to some of the Labour Members' surgeries, not to those of Tory Members; they will find that people are frightened to death lest they should have to go on National Assistance.

The hon. and gallant Member for Knutsford (Sir W. Bromley-Davenport) was worried about articles in the Daily Expresson the means test. I want to ask a straight question, to which I hope to get a straight answer. If the Government are returned again, which is not very likely, do they intend to lay down a basic pension which will not increase at all, and that, beyond that, everyone will be forced to have a means test? That phrase has been used, and I say that it is the intention of many in the Tory Party to extend the means test. If we want the answer we only have to read a Tory publication, which says that in the affluent society we ought in social security matters to move nearer to the means test. I believe that to be the basis of Tory social security policy.

9.0 p.m.

Photo of Mr George Brown Mr George Brown , Belper

This has been an interesting debate inmore ways than one and particularly in the fact that the approach from the other side of the House is one that fits in with the difference between our Motion and the Government Amendment. The Motion we are offering the House asks for a fundamental and radical change in the approach to the problem of providing an adequate minimum income for those who, for one reason or another, are unable to earn. By implication, we accept in our Motion that the present arrangements are not suited to the requirements of 1963, and we suggest ways in which a change could be made.

The Government's Amendment, on the contrary, notes with satisfaction, and the usual smugness, that this, that and the other has happened during the last 12 years. It indicates no concern with the existing situation, no concern with the way in which the financing of the scheme is proceeding; it simply hopes that the Government will do the best they can. The difference in the two approaches has been mirrored throughout the various speeches.

As my hon. Friends have said, the background to this debate is one of poverty—poverty arising from levels of income inadequate to provide people with a decent and acceptable level of subsistence. It is a problem of a poverty that is both absolute and relative. It is poverty absolute in the sense that the incomes provided for very many of these people are not enough to give them an adequate standard of living.

On the other hand, poverty is not only measured in absolute terms but in terms relative to the age in which one lives, and the environment in which one lives, and to the things that other people are having. It is true that if the affluence of which the party opposite is so apt to boast has increased for certain groups in the last 12 years and that the standard of living of those groups with which we are now concerned has not kept pace with that increase, the relative standard of poverty of the latter groups has clearly worsened. That has led to a great deal of hardship and humiliation by pushing these people to the point of confessing their poverty, in seeking some amelioration of their poverty and, with great respect, members of the party opposite seem to give that situation less recognition than it deserves.

It is, therefore, no answer to the charge to refer to what the situation was in 1946, or 1948, or 1951, or to what has happened over a selective period of years in between. We all know that we can pick any period of years between 1946 and 1963 and produce almost any picture we like of the quantitative changes that have taken place. If we talk, as the Minister talked, of a 50 per cent. increase in real terms between 1951 and today, we get one result. If we take the period from 1946 onwards, the result is different, and so is the result if we take the period from 1958 onwards—and so it goes on. But, whatever result one gets, it is no answer to the charge we make to say that this or that change has occurred in that period.

The point is that people are living in 1963, testing their income and their capacity to obtain a standard of living against 1963 needs, against what people are entitled to expect in 1963, and they are buying their way at 1963 prices in competition with other groups of the community around them. Therefore, the standards of today are more important, and the standards of this group of the community relative to those of the others matter enormously.

Our submission is that the Government's actions over the 12 years have produced a relative position different from that for which the Minister claims credit. In the first place, their actions have increased substantially the number of people who are pushed beyond National Insurance benefits to the National Assistance Board in order to get anything like a reasonable standard. One of the odd and revealing things is that the Minister claims this as an achievement. He explained that, because the Government had done certain things, more people are now going to the National Assistance Board.

It cannot be an achievement. It is a retrogressive step from all that all parties said they were committed to during the time of the Coalition Government and immediately after 1945, which was that National Assistance should be a safety net for the great bulk not adequately provided for by National Insurance. Now that the Minister admits that the Government's actions have changed that, he is admitting one of the major criticisms of what the Government have been doing. They have broken one of the bases not only of the Beveridge Report but of the national attitude to National Insurance and social welfare at that time.

The second thing that they have achieved by their own actions is that they have widened the gap considerably between benefits and earnings and, therefore, quite apart from any reductions in standards, they have increased the sense of tragedy and hardship. If a man is unemployed, or he falls out of work because of sickness or any other reason, he comes down from his precarious but nevertheless reasonable standard of living, largely based on hire-purchase and other deferred payments, a very much longer way as a result of the greater fall in his income because of the widened gap between benefits and earnings.

The third thing that the Government have done is that they have switched the incidence of cost very heavily from the general taxpayer to a direct tax on the insured person. It is still taxation, but a very large part of the insurance contributions today are paid in the form of a direct tax, with the difference that whereas when it is borne on the general taxation structure it is, broadly speaking, allocated in accordance with the assessed ability to pay, whereas when it is switched to the insured worker it becomes a poll tax which has no relation to his ability to pay. The lower he is in the scale of earnings the heavier and harsher the tax becomes. Whereas it was roughly two-thirds between employer and employee on the one side and one-third on the taxpayer at the other end, it now becomes something like four-fifths borne industrially, with a very large increase in the insured person's stamp, and one-fifth borne by the general taxpayer.

This has enormously changed the character of the scheme, and the relationship between benefit and contribution, and it has largely changed the taxation structure and the part we play in it. All this has been the outcome of the Government's actions, and, in our view, these are issues which must be tackled by any Government who want to put social welfare and social provision generally in this country back on to an acceptable basis.

But it does not stop there. The Government have done something else. We have had some discussion today about comparisons between what is done in this country and what is done elsewhere. It is true that not all the details are the same, as the hon. Member for Bradford, West (Mr. Tiley) reminded us in an interjection. As he said, in Sweden the pension starts at 67 and not at 65 or 60. There are other differences. Therefore, none of the comparisons can be exact. Nevertheless, whereas in 1946 Britain was unquestionably in front in social welfare provision, in 1963, make what allowances we like, we have fallen behind a large number of our European industrial competitors.

One of my hon. Friends has been looking at some documents prepared by a firm of pensions consultants—Noble Lowndes is the name—which has been making an investigation not for any purposes of ours but in order to see where there might be the possibility of private enterprise being undertaken by the firm or those whom it advises. It has made some comparisons. In West Germany, for instance, the position as regards retirement pension is that for people earning up to £1,300 a year there is a pension of between 50 and 55 per cent. of earnings and pensions are adjusted annually to take account of increases in wages and the cost of living. In Sweden, the level is as much as 55 per cent. of final salary up to quite a high limit. In France, there is a rather different system but, combining the various provisions made, the firm concludes that there is little scope or demand for private pension arrangements there. Belgium is even further ahead of us than the others. So one could go on.

I do not want to overstate the point or be unfair—I admit that all sorts of complicated factors have to be taken into account—but, undoubtedly, this Government have presided—probably quite deliberately, for philosophical or ideological reasons—over a situation in which the State provision, the provision which we make for ourselves collectively as a community, has been allowed to fall behind that which our fellow citizens in Europe are making for themselves.

It is not an unfair summary to say that the twelve-years' record of the Government, which the Minister claimed as a creditable achievement, is that, despite increases in particular benefits from time to time and despite large increases in contributions from time to time, the position of the insured has worsened over the period, the nature of the scheme has fundamentally changed, and those relying on social benefits have failed to share in the general advance which has occurred in the country during that time.

It is for this reason that we say that there is an outstanding need to tackle our social insurance provisions afresh and in a radical way. Here, I believe, there is a great clash between the two sides of the House which we ought to admit and have out in the open. The approach of right hon. and hon. Members opposite is very much that which the right hon. Member for Enfield, West (Mr. Iain Macleod), in happier party days, indicated in a speech at the Conservative Party conference at Blackpool, a speech for which he was thanked by the chairman who described it as "that magnificent and inspiring opening to our debate". In that speech he set out, I thought very clearly—it has been quoted already today—his view that we have accepted the present structure of social services too easily. In his words, change was the ally of his party. However, he thought that members of the party opposite should ask themselves a fundamental question, which was: should the wall of social security be the same height for everyone, and does the Beveridge approach make sense? He ended by saying: I sense a feeling in this conference that we may be doing less than we ought to do for those with special needs and special problems because we insist on providing a flat level of benefits for everybody. What he was leading to was an attitude of mind, which appeared in a Bow Group document as well, that if we concentrated simply on those we selected as being specially needy and had a rather low level of benefit for the general run of beneficiaries, we would be able to do something for the specially needy, and do it rather less expensively; to put it in the vernacular, it would not break the bank.

This is the approach of the party opposite. This is what it wants to do. It wants to get away from what it calls "the Beveridge approach" and the idea of subsistence benefits for everybody at an adequate level as of right earned by contributions shared by the insured, the employer and the State. It wants to get into a situation in which there is a minimum provision of that kind but in which we really rely on a very large proportion of the beneficiaries falling through that into the safety net of National Assistance. We do not accept that. That is not our concept of the way that a civilised society should approach the problems of those who are in need of social benefits in the year 1963.

I think that the second difference between us is that, in addition to that approach to what the State provision ought to be, the party opposite has a fixed view that we should encourage the ordinary person to rely very much more on private enterprise insurance provision for a large part of his needs. Hon. Members opposite put this forward as a very desirable and, somehow, rather bettor thing than if we do it collectively as citizens. I do not accept this on behalf of this party either. One fact never referred to by hon. Members opposite is that it costs the general taxpayer more to subsidise these so-called private enterprise arrangements than it would cost us to do it ourselves. In fact, we are providing rather more at this moment by way of tax rebates on the schemes for retirement pensioners than we are pulling into the flat-rate retirement pensions.

The Minister gave the whole game away this afternoon. One of my hon. Friends asked him about the private schemes aid some of the objections to which they were open. The Minister said that the employer would not do it unless he, the employer, thought that it was in tie employee's interests. That is a delightfully old-fashioned approach in a democratic age, but the fact that the decision about contracting out is an employer's decision and not the decision of the individual insured is the answer to the Minister's claim that people would prefer it round that way. They are not allowed to prefer it round that way. The scheme does not operate in that way.

In our view, we should return to three basic principles. In the first place, there should be National Insurance benefits capable themselves of meeting the subsistence needs of the insured people. Secondly, the National Assistance Board should perform the function of a little-used safety net for those with special needs and problems. Thirdly, there should be a fair sharing of the cost of the scheme between the three parties.

There has been a lot of talk by the Prime Minister about various challenges on which le will meet us when we get to the hustings—for example, nationalisation and defence. I am not clear whether they are both as strong runners in his mini as once they were. Why does he not make pensions a challenge, take the difference of philosophy and ideological approach on this issue and let the people decide on it? I should be happy to accept if challenged. The Prime Minister would find it a rather rewarding challenge for himself. [Interruption.] Rewards can be other than material. The Prime Minister's reward would be a broadening of his understanding and a rather higher appreciation of what people are thinking. I was certainly not thinking of material reward.

Before turning to our plan, let me look at today's announcement, which the Prime Minister came here to make before the debate. This is another piecemeal improvement, minor but very welcome, and none of us will criticise that in any way. It is very late, it comes a long while after we have been pressing for it, but better late than never. Repentance just before a General Election is repentance nevertheless, and I am a good enough Christian to welcome it whenever it comes.

The announcement, however, has two major defects which the Prime Minister did not seem to understand. The first is that we should get rid of the earnings rule altogether for widows. There does not seem to be any great case for not doing so. I was not persuaded by the Minister that he had any great case for simply raising the limit from £6 to £7.

The second defect, and a majorone, concerns the 10s. widow, of whom, clearly, the Prime Minister had never heard. She obviously did not exist in Kinross. I have never seen a more pathetic look of bewilderment on the Prime Minister's face than when he turned to his right hon. Friend the Minister to find out who she was. The 10s. widow, of whom there are a very large number, ought now to be receiving something like 30s. not merely to have the 10s. It is a great pity that if the Government were making these other ad hoc piecemeal improvements for widows, this one was not done.

I turn for a moment to our plan. It has been published in detail and unless people are wilfully blind, there is no difficulty even in anybody on the benches opposite understanding it. We have, however, just brought out a simplified version—[Laughter.]—simplified in the sense of trying to get it down to basic English, and as the great need on the benches opposite is for basic English, nobody on that side of the House should take exception to it.

The aim of our scheme is fourfold. The first is to provide adequate benefits as of right into the future for those who retire, those who are unemployed and those who go sick. The second is to establish an existing basic rate which, together with a graded element benefit related to wages, will provide adequate benefit related to a person's standard of living and, therefore, a cushion against any real drop in his standards. The third aim is to establish wage-related contributions to that we can finance a new scheme of this kind, and the fourth is to deal with the problem of the existing pensioners, the existing widows and those who will retire in the period of transition. Hon. Members opposite concentrated on the fourth case, but that is a case one gets in any transition from an existing scheme to a new scheme, and the income guarantee applies there. For the future, however, if we can establish our plan, we will no longer have that problem because everyone's benefits will be related to earnings.

When people ask what the benefit will be, our reply is that those on average earnings, as shown in the Ministry of Labour index, will receive about half their earnings; those with lower than the average will receive a benefit probably higher than their earnings; those with above-average earnings will receive a benefit lower than half their earnings. The insured person on average earnings will pay a contribution of about the same as now; those on less than average earnings will pay a contribution lower than now; but many of us who have above-average earnings will pay a contribution considerably more than now.

For the employer there will be a higher contribution than he now pays, but it will be less than most of his competitors in Europe pay. The benefits will provide this relationship to earnings both for long-term retirement beneficiaries and in short-term sickness and unemployment cases. Widows will be provided for similarly.

The problem of income guarantee has excited the most attention opposite. Let me make this plain. What we are trying to do is to provide a guaranteed basic rate which can be made available through some form of automatic supplementation, worked out on the receipt of the income return which we all make. In that sense there will be no means test in the way it is generally understood now. No one will have to confess or prove poverty in order to get supplementation. Everyone will do the same thing—make a return of income—as we do now, and will either pay Income Tax accordingly or receive supplementation accordingly if income is below a certain level.

Here again, it would certainly involve a basic rate substantially higher than that paid at the beginning. Over the transitional period, it will go up by increments to a rate considerably higher than the basic rate as it now applies.

We are asked why we do not give the exact figures. The answer is a very clear one, although it may not be politically acceptable to the hon. Members opposite and not convenient to them. I understand that as a politician. But any specific figures, other than the general proportions and the relationships which will apply at some period after the election which is to take place on a date and in circumstances which we do not yet know, would have to be hypothetical. The Government do not attach themselves to figures about future situations. They do as we are doing—attach themselves to relationships, proportions and examples.

I believe that the people outside understand our answer. [Interruption] I point out to hon. Members opposite that, in every test in these last few years, the people outside have shown that they understand. That is an inescapable fact, and if the Government want to test their view that we are wrong about this and believe that they have a winner, the Prime Minister has the answer in his own hands—he can go to the country and put the case to the people.

9.30 p.m.

Photo of Mr John Boyd-Carpenter Mr John Boyd-Carpenter , Kingston upon Thames

As the right hon. Member for Belper (Mr. G. Brown) said, we have had an interesting debate, and not the least interesting part of it was his own contribution. However, there is one oddity about what at other moments has seemed more or less like the routine and standard debates on this subject to which the House is very accustomed. That is its timing.

Previous debates—and I have taken part in many of them—have not taken place, as this has, against a background of very recent and very substantial increases in benefits. They have generally been arranged at another time, when increases which had recently been put into effect might have begun to fade from people's memories. But this debate comes—and this is the peculiar thing—against the background of—[Hon. Members: "The General Election."] I do not know whether hon. Members opposite are putting that interpretation on the motive of their right hon. Friends in choosing this subject. I am saying that the debate comes against a background, which must dominate it, of the resent massive increase in National Insurance benefits which was brought into effect early this year.

The right hon. Gentleman said that we were not concerned in this debate with improvements over the past improvements in standards. Then, a little inconsistenty, he went on to attack us on the grounds, he said, that we had allowed the standards to fall. The right non. Gentleman cannot have it both ways. If it is his argument that we have allowed standards to fall—I think that his words were that the position of the insured had declined—then he must accept that it is highly material to see what in truth and in fact has happened over these 12 years and what as a matter of ascertain able fact the changes have been.

We start with the recent increase in National Insurance benefits, which has had the effect of raising those benefits in real terms to the highest level which they have ever reached, to levels for the standard rare of benefits of between 50 and 55 per cent. in real terms above those prevailing at the time this Government took office.

The interesting thing is that these increases have not, in any measure whatever, been eroded. The increase in retirement benefits—the short-term benefits came into effect a little earlier—operated from 27th May. Since that date, there has been no fall in their value. It deed, the Index of Retail Prices, so far from having risen, has marginally fallen and, therefore, the value of these benefits, already at the highest level ever, has been fully maintained. This attack is launched against a background of an increase, not much more than six months ago, to the highest level yet reached, a level which has been fully maintained up to today. Therefore, we naturally particularly welcome the debate.

The right hon. Gentleman went on to make certain comparisons, which he alleged were to our disfavour, with the nations of Western Europe. I am sure that he appreciates how fallacious such comparisons are. Several of the countries that he mentioned do not even maintain a National Health Service, which we maintain at a current cost of £1,000 million a year. Therefore, simply to take one section of social security and to make a purely limited comparison without taking into account the whole sweep of our social measures is plainly unfair to this country.

Even within the narrow scope which the right hon. Gentleman selected, that of social scurity benefits, a fact which he does not appear to appreciate is that in these years we have devoted an increasing proportion of our increasing national income to this very purpose. When the right hon. Gentlemen left office, 2·3 per cent. of our national income was spent on retirement pensions. Last year the figure was 3·6 per cent., and this year it is undoubtedly higher. Or, taking National Insurance benefits as a whole, when the Labour Party left office it was 3·5 per cent., and it is now 5·4 per cent.

If the right hon. Gentleman wants a contrast, he can have it. In 1949, the first year that the National Insurance Scheme came into full operation, 2·5 per cent. of the national income was spent on retirement pensions. Over the remaining two years of the right hon. Gentleman's administration it fell to 2·3 per cent. in 1951. It therefore does not lie in their mouths to accuse us of having allowed the position of the insured to deteriorate.

Consider actual expenditure. In 1951, £270 million was spent on retirement pensions. Last year the figure was £821 million, and this year it is almost certainly £100 million more. On all National Insurance benefits the figure rose from £407 million to £1,218 million, a large increase in real terms and a substantial increase in the share of our national income given to this purpose.

As my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Edgbaston (Dame Edith Pitt) said, we are proud of our record in this matter, and delighted to have the chance to deploy it. Our 1959 election manifesto said: We pledge ourselves to ensure that pensioners continue to share in the good things which a steadily expanding economy will bring and on the facts that is exactly what we have done, and done since 1951.

The hon. and learned Member for Kettering (Mr. Mitchison) said that earnings had moved upwards faster than benefits. That is wrong. Since 1951 average male earnings have risen 95 per cent., the married rate of retirement pension by 118 per cent., and the single rate by 125 per cent.

Photo of Mr Gilbert Mitchison Mr Gilbert Mitchison , Kettering

The right hon. Gentleman is right. I ought to have referred, as I intended to do, to National Assistance benefits and not to National Insurance ones.

Photo of Mr John Boyd-Carpenter Mr John Boyd-Carpenter , Kingston upon Thames

The hon. and learned Gentleman therefore accepts that National Insurance benefits have risen by a greater proportion than earnings. He takes another point about National Assistance, but it does not seem to square with his point that we are driving people on to National Assistance.

Two or three hon. Members said that benefits should rise in line with earnings. I can only say that if since 1951 they had risen only in line with earnings, the single rate would be 9s., and the married rate 11s. 8d., less than they are today.

We have fully redeemed our 1959 pledge which I read to the House. Since then average men's earnings have increased by 16·9 per cent. The married rate of retirement pension has increased by 36·3 per cent., and the single rate by 35 per cent. Right hon. Gentlemen opposite can take whatever comparison they like, whether it is with consumer spending, or with the movement in prices. The fact remains that that pledge has not only been fully carried out, but, as the figures make clear, in many cases has been carried out twice over.

Here I must quarrel with several things that the right hon. Gentleman and the hon. and learned Member for Kettering said. They both referred to the fact that in our Amendment we suggested that special regard should be given to those whose need is greatest. The hon. and learned Member called it the relief approach. There I take my stand. I believe, with my right hon. Friends, that within the whole scope of National Insurance it is sound social policy and sound sense to give disproportionately large increases in the general directions in which the plain human need is greatest. That is the policy that we have pursued.

The widowed mother is the example to which I should like to draw the House's attention, because we have as a matter of deliberate social policy improved her benefits quite disproportionately to the general level. I would remind the House that the real level of the retirement pension and the general standard rate of benefit is today 50 per cent. and 55 per cent., in respect of married and single persons respectively, above the 1951 level. But, taking the widowed mother,.the development is even greater.

Let us take the normal example of a widowed mother with three children. In October, 1951, her benefit was 55s. a week in all. For a fair comparison we must allow for the changed value of money, and the equivalent today would be 79s. 9d. a week. The actual rates today, before my right hon. Friend's announcement, was 159s. 6d. a week—an increase, in real terms, of 79s, 9d. a week, or exactly 100 per cent. It is on that foundation, of a deliberate and special regard for the position of the widowed mother, that my right hon. Friend's announcement for further pro gress is to be based.

The hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, North (Mrs. Slater) asked when it will come into effect. As the House knows, the matters to which my right hon. Friend referred will require legislation. We shall endeavour to introduce that legislation, subject to the wishes of the House, as speedily as we can, and my right hon. Friend will bring it into effect as soon as possible after that.

At Question Time, in questioning my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister, the right hon. Member for Easington (Mr. Shinwell) referred to the position of the unemployed. I do not know whether he is in his place now, but I should like him to know that I fully share the feelings that all hon. Members feel about the evil and frustration of unemployment. But it is at least a fact—and this was the point that he was on at Question Time today—that the unemployed man and his wife now face that tragedy at least with a 50per cent, better unemployment benefit, in real terms, than in the days when the right hon. Gentleman was responsible.

We have heard a little this afternoon about the latest Labour Party scheme—what one newspaper called Crossman Mark IV. As several of my hon. Friends have pointed out, this is the one with no figures in it. I thought that the right hon. Member for Belper was a little more ingenuous than usual when he sought to explain that absence. The right hon. Gentleman and the House must face tie fact that the benefits proposed in the scheme sound generous—perhaps even lavish—and attractive. But how can any elector or citizen form a fair judgment of the desirability or otherwise of the plan unless he has the figures telling him what he will have to pay as a contributor, what he will have to pay as a taxpayer, and what his employer will have to pay? The right hon. Gentleman and several other hon. Members—including the hon. Member for Orpington (Mr. Lubbock), in particular—were rather lighthearted about piling additional burdens on employers.

It is not good enough to say, as the right hon. Gentleman said, that the bur den that they contemplate would be less than that in certain Western European countries, because that is to fall into precisely the same error of isolation as the right hon. Gentleman fell into a few minutes ago. Unless one takes the whole picture, the taxation paid by our employers and those in Europe, the local rates paid now in respect of industry in full—

Photo of Mr John Boyd-Carpenter Mr John Boyd-Carpenter , Kingston upon Thames

—and the rents, if hon. Members wish, and the level of wages. Unless we take the whole picture, it does not make sense to say that in an intensely competitive world it is quite easy to pile additional burdens on the employers—burdens which must be translated immediately into increased costs.

It is even more irresponsible to do so when one does not give the figures. The hon. Member for Coventry, East (Mr. Crossman) gave a new and ingenious explanation—it was different from that of the right hon. Member for Belper, and, as one would expect, much more shrewd—of the absence of the figures. The hon. Gentleman said, "I do not know what the National Assistance rate will be when the time comes to apply it." That is an arguable view. But of course this is not the explanation which the hon. Gentleman himself gave at his Press conference when he introduced the scheme. To quote The Times of 2nd April: Here Mr. Crossman gave the game away at the Transport House Press Conference yesterday when he said that last time the Labour Party had provided a model—with their National Superannuation plan—it had been 'shot to pieces' and they were not going to let that happen again.

Photo of Mr Richard Crossman Mr Richard Crossman , Coventry East

I am sure that the Minister would like to add—he is a fair man—that I wrote to The Times the next day—they published the letter—pointing out that this was a completely unfair quotation which did not quote what I said at all.

Hon. Members:

Withdraw.

Photo of Mr John Boyd-Carpenter Mr John Boyd-Carpenter , Kingston upon Thames

Of course, if the hon. Gentleman says that he did not use those words, I accept that—

Photo of Mr Richard Crossman Mr Richard Crossman , Coventry East

I not only say it now, it was published in The Times the next day, and the right hon. Gentleman knew that perfectly well.

Hon. Members:

Withdraw.

Photo of Mr John Boyd-Carpenter Mr John Boyd-Carpenter , Kingston upon Thames

Of course—[HON. MEMBERS: "Cheat."]—I accept what the hon. Gentleman says and he, I am sure, equally will accept what I say now—that I have not seen that letter and knew nothing of it—[HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."]—but the fact remains—

Photo of Mr Richard Crossman Mr Richard Crossman , Coventry East

What are the gentlemen in the officials' box for but to brief the Minister adequately?

Hon. Members:

Withdraw.

Photo of Mr John Boyd-Carpenter Mr John Boyd-Carpenter , Kingston upon Thames

I am not the sort of person—as the hon. Gentleman knows—[Hon. Members: "Apologise."]—to blame officials or anybody else. I quoted in good faith from a copy of The Times newspaper which I had. All I can do is to tell the hon. Gentleman that, of course, I accept his statement, and equally I ask him to accept from me—because it is the truth—that I was totally unaware of the letter.

What is important is that plainly there would be heavy contributions under this scheme—[Interruption.]—What I must ask the House to accept is the danger of imposing upon our industry at this moment heavy additional burdens. I must again stress that to ask people to accept this scheme, the cost of which we are not told, the cost of which for one reason or another is withheld, is not a proper method of asking the people of this country to deal with a serious issue. I comment that it was not the method which the hon. Member himself used in the earlier editions of his plan—[Hon. Members: "Apologise."]

I come to the income guarantee, or receive-as-you-need proposal, of which a great deal has been said in this House this evening. The proposal, as I understand it, is that an income should be guaranteed at a particular figure worked out by means of the Income Tax return, the idea being to give help where it is most needed without the alleged stigma of National Assistance. That attempts to get the best of both worlds and I shall suggest to the House a number of reasons why it fails to do so.

First, when one allows for the present high allowance of Income Tax we should remember that a considerable number of old people are not paying Income Tax. There are some millions, I believe, who do not at present make Income Tax returns at all. To operate this scheme it would be necessary to make several million people who do not at present pay Income Tax fill in an Income Tax return, including a number of old widows who have never filled in an Income Tax return in their lives.

There are more serious difficulties than that. Those who now do make an Income Tax return do so once a year. I ask the House to consider whether it is a good method of deciding how to help people by uncovenanted additions to their pensions if they are to be based on a return made at the beginning of the year. There is no provision whatever in such a scheme for all the changes which can come to people, particularly old people, in the course of a year—illness, death of a breadwinner and so on.

More important, it relates to only one side of the problem. It relates to income; it does not relate to need. [Interruption.] I ask the House to consider this example. There can be two people with the same taxable income [Interruption.]—

Photo of Mr Henry Price Mr Henry Price , Lewisham West

On a point of order. Owing to the unruly hubbub on the benches opposite, it is impossible to hear what is being said.

Photo of Sir Harry Hylton-Foster Sir Harry Hylton-Foster , Cities of London and Westminster

That point of order, so far as I heard it, coincides with my view that it would be a good idea if the House made a little less noise.

Photo of Mr John Boyd-Carpenter Mr John Boyd-Carpenter , Kingston upon Thames

The point I was putting to the House is the difficulty of judging the needs of a person on income alone, which is the only thing which the Income Tax return will give. One can take the case of two people, one a retired pensioner with a plentiful stock of clothes living with younger relatives in a comfortable home. The other is the old lady living by herself with her stock of clothes exhausted and paying a high rent. Under a scheme turning on the Income Tax return, it is not possible, as I understand it, to distinguish between the two, because only income, not needs, is taken into account. That is a very serious defect in a scheme based upon Income Tax.

The right hon. Member for Huyton (Mr. H. Wilson) referred earlier to the 10s. widow. [Interruption.]

Photo of Sir Harry Hylton-Foster Sir Harry Hylton-Foster , Cities of London and Westminster

Order. It is not in accordance with our practice to persist in noisy conversation. I hope that the House will desist from it.

Photo of Mr John Boyd-Carpenter Mr John Boyd-Carpenter , Kingston upon Thames

The right hon. Member for Huyton, who is not now in his place, suggested that the pension of the 10s. widow should be increased. I am not sure that the right hon. Gentleman knows who the 10s. widow is. She is a lady who has a benefit under the old Insurance Acts but who does not qualify under the new scheme because she is neither over 50 nor the mother of young children. The House must recollect that in I946 the Labour Party passed an Act which put provision for widowhood on a selective basis. All that the 10s. widow is is a lady who under the present Act would not qualify for pension at all. Therefore, to do what the right hon. Member for Huyton apparently suggested is to increase the disparity which exists between the 10s. widow and what I may call the no-shilling willow, the widow who under the present scheme does not receive benefit at all.

I cannot see the justification, nor could the Labour Party itself a few years ago, of providing for this lady when ladies under the present scheme receive in similar domestic circumstances no pension provision. Right hon. Members opposite adopted this line themselves. When they made their improvements in 1951 they did not touch the 10s. widow, though the real value of her pension had by then fallen to 7s. 4d. Mr. Marquand, a former Member for Middlesbrough, speaking for the Opposition only a few years ago, told the House that these ladies had not a real grievance, though they thought they had.

The hon. Member for Bedwellty (Mr. Finch) dealt with certain aspects of the industrial injuries scheme, as I have heard him do many times before. Obviously my right hon. Friend will take note of what he said. The hon. Gentleman's argument that the war pensions scheme makes more generous provision is one that it is not particularly easy to accept. All Governments, including that of right hon. Members opposite as well as our own, have taken the view over the years that the war pensioner, the person disabled in service of his country, is entitled to priority in our social service system. That is a principle to which some of us on this side of the House attach very great importance indeed.

We are proud of our record as a party in social security. The facts speak for themselves, that we have improved the condition of those who depend on social benefits to a greater extent than they have ever been improved before. Today the real value of these benefits stands higher than it ever did before. The right hon. Member for Belper concluded his speech by throwing out a challenge to my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister. I took a note of it. He suggested that we should contest the issue on pensions on ideologies and policies. I note that he did not interpose into that challenge the challenge of performance. On the question of performance—

Photo of Mr Herbert Bowden Mr Herbert Bowden , Leicester South West

rose in his place and claimed to move, That the Question be now put.

Question, That the Question be now put, put and agreed to.

Question put accordingly, That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question: —

The House divided: Ayes 226, Noes 298.

Division No. 5.]AYES[10.0 p.m.
Abse, LeoGriffiths, Rt. Hon. James (Llanelly)Mayhew, Christopher
Albu, AustenGriffiths, W. (Exchange)Mellish, R. J.
Allaun, Frank (Satford, E.)Grimond, Rt. Hon. J.Mendelson, J. J.
Allen, Scholefield (Crewe)Gunter, RayMillan, Bruce
Awbery, Stan (Bristol, Central)Hamilton, William (West Fife)Milne, Edward
Bacon, Miss AliceHannan, WilliamMitchison, G. R.
Baird, JohnHarper, JosephMonslow, Walter
Barnett, GuyHayman, F. H.Moody, A. S.
Baxter, William (Stirlingshire, W.)Healey, DenisMorris, Charles (Openshaw)
Beaney, AlanHenderson,Rt.Hn.Arthur(RwlyRegis)Morris, John
Bellenger, Rt. Hon. F. J.Herbison, Miss MargaretMoyle, Arthur
Benn, Anthony WedgwoodHewitson, Capt. M.Mulley, Frederick
Benson, Sir GeorgeHilton, A. V.Neal, Harold
Blackburn, F.Holman, PercyNoel-Baker, Francis (Swindon)
Blyton, WilliamHolt, ArthurNoel-Baker,Rt.Hn.Philip(Derby,S.)
Boardman, H.Houghton, DouglasOliver, G. H.
Bowden, Rt. Hn. H. W. (Leics,S.W.)Howell, Charles A. (Perry Barr)O'Malley, B. K.
Bowen, Roderic (Cardigan)Howell, Denis (Small Heath)Oram, A. E.
Bowles, FrankHowie, W. (Luton)Oswald, Thomas
Boyden, JamesHoy, James H.Owen, Will
Braddock, Mrs. E. M.Hughes, Cledwyn (Anglesey)Padley, W. E.
Bradley, TomHughes, Emrys (S. Ayrshire)Paget, R. T.
Bray, Dr. JeremyHughes, Hector (Aberdeen, N.)Pannell, Charles (Leeds, W.)
Brown, Rt. Hon. George (Belper)Hunter, A. E.Pargiter, G. A.
Butler, Herbert (Hackney, C.)Hynd, H. (Accrington)Parker, John
Butler, Mrs. Joyce (Wood Green)Irvine, A. J. (Edge Hill)Parkin, B. T.
Callaghan, JamesIrving, Sydney (Dartford)Paton, John
Carmichael, NeilJanner, Sir BarnettPavitt, Laurence
Chapman, DonaldJay, Rt. Hon. DouglasPearson, Arthur (Pontypridd)
Cliffe, MichaelJeger, GeorgePeart, Frederick
Collick, PercyJenkins, Roy (Stechford)Pentland, Norman
Corbet, Mrs. FredaJohnson, Carol (Lewisham, S.)Popplewell, Ernest
Craddock, George (Bradford, S.)Jones,Rt.Hn. A. Creech(Wakefield)Prentice, R. E.
Cronin, JohnJones, Dan (Burnley)Probert, Arthur
Crosland, AnthonyJones, J. Idwal (Wrexham)Proctor, W. T.
Crossman, R. H. S.Jones, T. W. (Merioneth)Pursey, Cmdr. Harry
Cullen, Mrs. AliceKelley, RichardRandall, Harry
Dalyell, TamKenyon, CliffordRankin, John
Darling, GeorgeKey, Rt. Hon. C. W.Rees, Merlyn (Leeds, S.)
Davies, G. Elfed (Rhondda, E.)King, Dr. HoraceReid, William
Davies, Harold (Leek)Lawson, GeorgeReynolds, G. W.
Davies, Ifor (Gower)Ledger, RonRhodes, H.
Deer, GeorgeLee, Frederick (Newton)Roberts, Albert (Normanton)
Delargy, HughLee, Miss Jennie (Cannock)Roberts, Goronwy (Caernarvon)
Dempsey, JamesLever, L. M. (Ardwick)Robinson, Kenneth (St. Pancras, N.)
Diamond, JohnLewis, Arthur (West Ham, N.)Rodgers, W. T. (Stockton)
Dodds, NormanLipton, MarcusShinwell, Rt. Hon. E.
Doig, PeterLoughlin, CharlesSilkin, John
Donnelly, DesmondLubbock, EricSilverman, Julius (Aston)
Driberg, TomMabon, Dr. J. DicksonSilverman, Sydney (Nelson)
Duffy, A. E. P. (Colne Valley)McBride, N.Skeffington, Arthur
Edelman, MauriceMacColl, JamesSlater, Mrs. Harriet (Stoke, N.)
Edwards, Rt. Hon. Ness (Caerphilly)MacDermot, NiallSlater, Joseph (Sedgefield)
Edwards, Robert (Bilston)McInnes, JamesSmall, William
Edwards, Walter (Stepney)McKay, John (Wallsend)Smith, Ellis (Stoke, S.)
Evans, AlbertMcLeavy, FrankSnow, Julian
Fernyhough, E.MacMillan, Malcolm (Western Isles)Sorensen, R. W.
Finch, HaroldMacPherson, Malcolm (Stirling)Spriggs, Leslie
Fitch, AlanMahon, SimonSteele, Thomas
Fletcher, EricMallalieu, E. L. (Brigg)Stewart, Michael (Fulham)
Forman, J. C.Mallalieu,J.P.W.(Huddersfield, E.)Stonehouse, John
Galpern, Sir MyerManuel, ArchieStones, William
George,LadyMeganLloyd(Crmrthn)Mapp, CharlesStrauss, Rt. Hn. G. R. (Vauxhall)
Ginsburg, DavidMarsh, RichardStross,Dr.Barnett(Stoke-on-Trent,C.)
Grey, CharlesMason, RoySwain, Thomas
Griffiths, David (Rother Valley)Swingler, Stephen
Symonds, J. B.Warbey, WilliamWilson, Rt. Hon. Harold (Huyton)
Taverne, D.Watkins, TudorWinterbottom, R. E.
Taylor, Bernard (Mansfield)Weitzman, DavidWoodburn, Rt. Hon. A.
Thomas, George (Cardiff, W.)Wells, William (Walsall, N.)Woof, Robert
Thomas, Iorwerth (Rhondda, W.)White, Mrs. EireneWyatt, Woodrow
Thompson, Dr. Alan (Dunfermline)Whitlock, WilliamYates, Victor (Ladywood)
Thomson, G. M. (Dundee, E.)Wigg, GeorgeZilliacus, K.
Thornton, ErnestWilkins, W. A.
Thorpe, JeremyWilley, FrederickTELLERS FOR THE AYES:
Tomney, FrankWilliams, D. J. (Neath)Mr. G. H. R. Rogers and
Wainwright, EdwinWilliams, W. T. (Warrington)Mr. Redhead.
NOES
Agnew, Sir PeterDuncan, Sir JamesJones, Arthur (Northants, S.)
Aitken, Sir WilliamDuthie, Sir William (Banff)Jones, Rt. Hn. Aubrey (Hall Green)
Allan, Robert (Paddington, S.)Eden, Sir JohnKerans, Cdr. J. S.
Allason, JamesElliot, Capt. Walter (Carshalton)Kerby, Capt. Henry
Amery, Rt. Hon. JulianElliott,R.W.(Newc'tle-upon-Tyne,N.)Kerr, Sir Hamilton
Atkins, HumphreyEmery, PeterKershaw, Anthony
Awdry, Daniel (Chippenham)Emmet, Hon. Mrs. EvelynKimball, Marcus
Balniel, LordErrington, Sir EricKirk, Peter
Barber, Rt. Hon. AnthonyErroll, Rt. Hon. F. J.Kitson, Timothy
Barlow, Sir JohnFarey-Jones, F. W.Lagden, Godfrey
Barter, JohnFarr, JohnLambton, Viscount
Batsford, BrianFell, AnthonyLeather, Sir Edwin
Beamish, Col. Sir TuftonFisher, NigelLeavey, J. A.
Bell, RonaldFletcher-Cooke, CharlesLegge-Bourke, Sir Harry
Bennett, F. M. (Torquay)Forrest, GeorgeLewis, Kenneth (Rutland)
Bennett, Dr. Reginald (Gos & Fhm)Fraser, Ian (Plymouth, Sutton)Lilley, F. J. P.
Berkeley, HumphryGammans, LadyLinstead, Sir Hugh
Biffen, JohnGardner, EdwardLitchfield, Capt. John
Biggs-Davison, JohnGibson-Watt, DavidLloyd,Rt.Hn.Geoffrey(Sut'nC'dfield)
Bingham, R. M.Gilmour, Ian (Norfolk, Central)Lloyd, Rt. Hon. Selwyn (Wirral)
Birch, Rt. Hon. NigelGilmour, Sir John (East Fife)Longdon, Gilbert
Bishop, F. P.Glyn, Dr. Alan (Clapham)Loveys, Walter H.
Black, Sir CyrilGlyn, Sir Richard (Dorset, N.)Lucas, Sir Jocelyn
Bossom, Hon. CliveGodber, Rt. Hon. J. B.Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh
Bourne-Arton, A.Goodhew, VictorMcAdden, Sir Stephen
Boyd-Carpenter, Rt. Hon. JohnGough, FrederickMacArthur, Ian
Boyle, Rt. Hon. Sir EdwardGower, RaymondMcLaren, Martin
Braine, BernardGrant-Ferris, R.McLaughlin, Mrs. Patricia
Bromley-Davenport,Lt.-Col.Sir WalterGreen, AlanMaclay, Rt. Hon. John
Brooke, Rt. Hon. HenryGresham Cooke, R.Maclean,SirFitzroy(Bute&N.Ayrs)
Brown, Alan (Tottenham)Grosvenor, Lord RobertMacleod, Rt. Hn. Iain (Enfield, W.)
Browne, Percy (Torrington)Gurden, HaroldMacLeod, Sir J (Ross & Cromarty)
Bryan, PaulHall, John (Wycombe)McMaster, Stanley R.
Buck, AntonyHamilton, Michael (Wellingborough)Macmillan, Maurice (Halifax)
Bullard, DenysHarris, Reader (Heston)Maddan, Martin
Bullus, Wing Commander EricHarrison, Brian (Maldon)Maginnis, John E.
Burden, F. A.Harvey, John (Walthamstow, E.)Maitland, Sir John
Butcher, Sir HerbertHarvie Anderson, MissMarkham, Major Sir Frank
Campbell, Gordon (Moray & Nairn)Hay, JohnMarlowe, Anthony
Carr, Compton (Barons Court)Heald, Rt. Hon. Sir LionelMarples, nt. Hon. Ernest
Carr, Rt. Hon. Robert (Mitcham)Henderson, John (Cathcart)Marten, Neil
Cary, Sir RobertHicks Beach, Maj. W.Matthews, Gordon (Meriden)
Channon, H. P. G.Hiley, JosephMaudling, Rt. Hon. Reginald
Chataway, ChristopherHill, Mrs. Eveline (Wythenshawe)Mawby, Ray
Clark, Henry (Antrim, N.)Hill, J. E. B. (S. Norfolk)Maxwell-Hyslop, R. J.
Clark, William (Nottingham, S.)Hirst, GeoffreyMaydon, Lt.-Cmdr. S. L. C.
Cleaver, LeonardHobson, Rt. Hon. Sir JohnMills, Stratton
Cole, NormanHooking, Philip N.Miscampbell, Norman
Cooks, RobertHogg, QuintinMontgomery, Fergus
Cooper, A. E.Holland, PhilipMore, Jasper (Ludlow)
Cooper-Key, Sir NeillHollingworth, JohnMorgan, William
Cordeaux, Lt.-Col. J. K.Hopkins, AlanMorrison, John
Corfield, F. V.Hornby, R. P.Mott-Radclyffe, Sir Charles
Costain, A. P.Hornsby-Smith, Rt. Hon. Dame P.Nabarro, Sir Gerald
Coulson, MichaelHoward, Hon. G. R. (St. Ives)Neave, Airey
Craddock, Sir Beresford (Spelthorne)Howard, John (Southampton, Test)Noble, Rt. Hon. Michael
Crawley, AldanHughes Hallett, Vice-Admiral JohnNugent, Rt. Hon. Sir Richard
Critchley, JulianHughes-Young, MichaelOakshott, Sir Hendrie
Crowder, F. P.Hulbert, Sir NormanOrr, Capt. L. P. S.
Cunningham, Sir KnoxHurd, Sir AnthonyOrr-Ewling, Sir Ian (Hendon, North)
Curran, CharlesHutchison, Michael ClarkOsborn, John (Hallam)
Dalkeith, Earl ofIremonger, T. L.Osborne, Sir Cyril (Louth)
Dance, JamesIrvine, Bryant Godman (Rye)Page, Graham (Crosby)
d'Avigdor-Goldsmid, Sir HenryJackson, JohnPannell, Norman (Kirkdale)
Digby, Simon WingfieldJames, DavidPartridge, E.
Donaldson, Cmdr. C. E. M.Jenkins, Robert (Dulwich)Pearson, Frank (Clitheroe)
Doughty, CharlesJennings, J. C.Peel, John
Douglas-Home, Rt. Hon. Sir AlecJohnson, Dr. Donald (Carlisle)Percival, Ian
Drayson, G. B.Johnson, Eric (Blackley)Peyton, John
du Cann, EdwardJohnson Smith, Geoffrey
Pickthorn, Sir KennethSmith, Dudley (Br'ntf'd & Chiswick)Turner, Colin
Pilkingon, Sir RichardSmithers, Petervan Straubenzee, W. R.
Pitman, Sir JamesSmyth, Rt. Hon. Brig. Sir JohnVane, W. M. F.
Pitt, Dame EdithSoames, Rt. Hon. ChristopherVaughan-Morgan, Rt. Hon. Sir John
Pott, PercivallSpearman, sir AlexanderVickers, Miss Joan
Pounder, RaftonSpeir, RupertVosper, Rt. Hon. Dennis
Powell, Rt. Hon. J. EnochStainton, KeithWalder, David
Price, David (Eastleigh)Stanley, Hon. RichardWalker, Peter
Price, H. A. (Lewisham, W.)Stevens, GeoffreyWalker-Smith, Rt. Hon. Sir Derek
Prior-Palmer, Brig. Sir OthoSteward, Harold (Stockport, S.)Wall, Patrick
Proudfoot, WilfredStodart, J. A.Ward, Dame Irene
Pym FrancisStoddart-Scott, Col. Sir MalcolmWatkinson, Rt. Hon. Harold
Rawlinson, Sir PeterStorey, Sir SamuelWebster, David
Redmayne, Rt. Hon. MartinStudholme, Sir HenryWells, John (Maidstone)
Rees-Davies, W. R. (Isle of Thanet)Summers, Sir SpencerWhitelaw, William
Renton, Rt. Hon. DavidTalbot, John E.Williams, Dudley (Exeter)
Ridley, Hon. NicholasTapsell, PeterWilliams, Paul (Sunderland, S.)
Ridsdale, JulianTaylor, Sir Charles (Eastbourne)Wills, Sir Gerald (Bridgwater)
Rippon, Rt. Hon. GeoffreyTaylor, Frank (M'ch'st'r, Moss Side)Wilson, Geoffrey (Truro)
Roberts, Sir Peter (Heeley)Taylor, Sir William (Bradford, N.)Wise, A. R.
Robinson, Rt. Hn. Sir R. (B'pool, S.)Teeling, Sir WilliamWolrige-Gordon, Patrick
Robson Brown, Sir WilliamTemple, John M.Wood, Rt. Hon. Richard
Rodgers, John (Sevenoaks)Thatcher, Mrs. MargaretWoodhouse, C. M.
Ropner, col. Sir LeonardThomas, Sir Leslie (Canterbury)Woodnutt, Mark
Russell, RonaldThomas, Peter (Conway)Woollam, John
Scott-Hopkins, JamesThompson, Sir Kenneth (Walton)Worsley, Marcus
Seymour, LeslieThorneycroft, Rt. Hon. PeterYates, William (The Wrekin)
Sharples, RichardThornton-Kemsley, Sir Colin
Shaw, M.Tiley, Arthur (Bradford, W.)TELLERS FOR THE NOES:
Shepherd, WilliamTilney, John (Wavertree)Mr. Chichester-Clark and Mr. Finlay.
Skeet, T. H. H.Touche, Rt. Hon. Sir Gordon

Question put, That the proposed words be there added: —

The House divided: Ayes 298, Noes 223.

Division No. 6.]AYES[10.14 p.m.
Agnew, Sir PeterClark, William (Nottingham, S.)Gilmour, Sir John (East Fife)
Aitken, Sir WilliamCleaver, LeonardGlyn, Dr. Alan (Clapham)
Allan, Robert (Paddington, S.)Cole, NormanGlyn, Sir Richard (Dorset, N.)
Allason, JamesCooke, RobertGodber, Rt. Hon. J. B.
Amery, Rt. Hon. JulianCooper, A. E.Goodhew, Victor
Atkins, HumphreyCooper-Key, Sir NeillGough, Frederick
Awdry, Daniel (Chippenham)Cordeaux, Lt.-Col. J. K.Gower, Raymond
Balniel, LordCorfield, F. V.Grant-Ferris, R.
Barber, Rt. Hon. AnthonyCostain, A. P.Green, Alan
Barlow, Sir JohnCoulson, MichaelGresham Cooke, R.
Barter, JohnCraddock, Sir Beresford (Spelthorne)Grosvenor, Lord Robert
Batsford, BrianCrawley, AldanGurden, Harold
Beamish, Col. Sir TuftonCritchley, JulianHall, John (Wycombe)
Bell, RonaldCrowder, F. P.Hamilton, Michael (Wellingborough)
Bennett, F. M. (Torquay)Cunningham, Sir KnoxHarris, Reader (Heston)
Bennett, Dr. Reginald (Gos & Fhm)Curran, CharlesHarrison, Brian (Maldon)
Berkeley, HumphryDalkeith, Earl ofHarvey, John (Walthamstow, E.)
Biffen, JohnDance, JamesHarvie Anderson, Miss
Biggs-Davison, Johnd'Avigdor-Goldsmid, Sir HenryHay, John
Bingham, R. M.Digby, Simon WingfieldHeald Rt. Hon. Sir Lionel
Birch, Rt. Hon. NigelDonaldson, Cmdr. C. E. M.Henderson, John (Cathcart)
Bishop, F. P.Doughty, CharlesHicks Beach, Maj. W.
Black, Sir CyrilDouglas-Home, Rt. Hon. Sir AlecHiley, Joseph
Bossom, Hon. CliveDrayson, G. B.Hill, Mrs. Eveline (Wythenshawe)
Bourne-Arton, A.du Cann, EdwardHill, J. E. B. (S. Norfolk)
Boyd-Carpenter, Rt. Hon. JohnDuncan, Sir JamesHirst, Geoffrey
Boyle, Rt. Hon. Sir EdwardDuthie, Sir William (Banff)Hobson, Rt. Hon. Sir John
Braine, BernardEden, Sir JohnHocking, Philip N.
Bromley-Davenport, Lt.-Col. SirWalterElliot, Capt. Walter (Carshalton)Hogg, Quintin
Brooke, Rt. Hon. HenryElliott,R.W.(Newc'tle-upon-Tyne,N.)Holland, Philip
Brown, Alan (Tottenham)Emery, PeterHollingworth, John
Browne, Percy (Torrington)Emmet, Hon. Mrs. EvelynHopkins, Alan
Bryan, PaulErrington, Sir EricHornby, R. P.
Buck, AntonyErroll, Rt. Hon. F. J,Hornsby-Smith, Rt. Hon. Dame P.
Bullard, DenysFarey-Jones, F. W.Howard, Hon. G. R. (St. Ives)
Bullus, Wing Commander EricFarr, JohnHoward, John (Southampton, Test)
Burden, F. A.Fell, AnthonyHughes Hallett, Vice-Admiral John
Butcher, Sir HerbertFisher, NigelHughes-Young, Michael
Campbell, Gordon (Moray & Nairn)Fletcher-Cooke, CharlesHulbert, Sir Norman
Carr, Compton (Barons Court)Forrest, GeorgeHurd, Sir Anthony
Carr, Rt. Hon. Robert (Mitcham)Fraser, Ian (Plymouth, Sutton)Hutchison, Michael Clark
Cary, Sir RobertGammans, LadyIremonger, T. L.
Channon, H. P. G.Gardner, EdwardIrvine, Bryant Godman (Rye)
Chataway, ChristopherGibson-Watt, DavidJackson, John
Clark, Henry (Antrim, N.)Gilmour, Ian (Norfolk, Central)James, David
Jenkins, Robert (Dulwich)Morrison, JohnStainton, Keith
Jennings, J. C.Mott-Radclyffe, Sir CharlesStanley, Hon. Richard
Johnson, Dr. Donald (Carlisle)Nabarro, Sir GeraldStevens Geoffrey
Johnson, Eric (Blackley)Neave, AireySteward, Harold (Stockport, S.)
Johnson Smith, GeoffreyNoble, Rt. Hon. MichaelStodart, J. A,
Jones, Arthur (Northants, S.)Nugent, Rt. Hon. Sir RichardStoddart-Scott, Col. Sir Malcolm
Jones, Rt. Hn. Aubrey (Hall Green)Oakshott, Sir HendrieStorey, Sir Samuel
Kerans, Cdr. J. S.Orr, Capt. L. P. S.Studholme, Sir Henry
Kerby, Capt. HenryOrr-Ewing, Sir Ian (Hendon, north)Summers, Sir Spencer
Kerr, Sir HamiltonOsborn, John (Hallam)Talbot, John E.
Kershaw, AnthonyOsborne, Sir Cyril (Louth)Tapsell, Peter
Kimball, MarcusPage, Graham (Crosby)Taylor, Sir Charles (Eastbourne)
Kirk, PeterParmell, Norman (Kirkdale)Taylor, Frank (M'ch'st'r, Moss Side)
Kitson, TimothyPartridge, E.Taylor,Sir William (Bradford, N.)
Lagden, GodfreyPearson, Frank (Clitheroe)Teeling, Sir William
Lambton, ViscountPeel, JohnTemple, John M.
Leather, Sir EdwinPercival, IanThatcher, Mrs. Margaret
Leavey, J. A.Peyton, JohnThomas, Sir Leslie (Canterbury)
Legge-Bourke, Sir HarryPickthorn, Sir KennethThomas, Peter (Conway)
Lewis, Kenneth (Rutland)Pilkington, Sir RichardThompson, Sir Kenneth (Walton)
Lilley, F. J. P.Pitman, Sir JamesThorneycroft, Rt. Hon. Peter
Linstead, Sir HughPitt, Dame EdithThornton-Kemsley, Sir Colin
Litchfield, Capt. JohnPott, PercivallTiley, Arthur (Bradford, W.)
Lloyd,Rt.Hn.Geoffrey(Sut'nC'dfield)Pounder, RaftonTilney, John (Wavertree)
Lloyd, Rt. Hon. Selwyn (Wirral)Powell, Rt. Hon. J. EnochTouche, Rt. Hon. Sir Gordon
Longden, GilbertPrice, David (Eastleigh)Turner, Colin
Loveys, Walter H.Price, H. A. (Lewisham, W.)van Straubenzee, W. R.
Lucas, Sir JocelynPrior-Palmer, Brig. Sir OthoVane, W. M. F.
Lucas-Tooth, Sir HughProudfoot, WilfredVaughan-Morgan, Rt. Hon. Sir John
McAdden, Sir StephenPym, FrancisVickers, Miss Joan
MacArthur, IanRawlinson, Sir PeterVosper, Rt. Hon. Dennis
McLaren, MartinRedmayne, Rt. Hon. MartinWalder, David
McLaughlin, Mrs. PatriciaRees-Davies, W. R. (Isle of Thanet)Walker, Peter
Maclay, Rt. Hon. JohnRenton, Rt. Hon. DavidWalker-Smith, Rt. Hon. Sir Derek
Maclean,SirFitzroy(Bute&N.Ayrs)Ridley, Hon. NicholasWall, Patrick
Macleod, Rt. Hn. Iain (Enfield, W.)Ridsdale, JulianWard, Dame Irene
MacLeod, Sir John(Ross & Cromarty)Rippon, Rt. Hon. GeoffreyWatkinson, Rt. Hon. Harold
McMaster, Stanley R.Roberts, Sir Peter (Heeley)Webster, David
Macmillan, Maurice (Halifax)Robinson, Rt. Hn. Sir R. (B'pool,S.)Wells, John (Maidstone)
Maddan, MartinRobson Brown, Sir WilliamWhitelaw, William
Maginnis, John E.Rodgers, John (Sevenoaks)Williams, Dudley (Exeter)
Maitland, Sir JohnRopner, Col. Sir LeonardWilliams, Paul (Sunderland, S.)
Markham, Major Sir FrankRussell, RonaldWills, Sir Gerald (Bridgwater)
Marlowe, AnthonyScott-Hopkins, JamesWilson, Geoffrey (Truro)
Marples, Rt. Hon. ErnestSeymour, LeslieWise, A. R.
Marten, NeilSharples, RichardWolrige-Gordon, Patrick
Matthews, Gordon (Meriden)Shaw, M.Wood, Rt. Hon. Richard
Maudling, Rt. Hon. ReginaldShepherd, WilliamWoodhouse, C. M.
Mawby, RaySkeet, T. H. H.Woodnutt, Mark
Maxwell-Hyslop, R. J.Smith, Dudley (Br'ntf'd & Chiswick)Woollam, John
Maydon, Lt.-Cmdr. S. L. C.Smithers, PeterWorsley, Marcus
Mills, StrattonSmyth, Rt. Hon. Brig. Sir JohnYates, William (The Wrekin)
Miscampbell, NormanSoames, Rt. Hon. Christopher
Montgomery, FergusSpearman, Sir AlexanderTELLERS FOR THE AYES:
More, Jasper (Ludlow)Speir, RupertMr. Chichester-Clark and
Morgan, WilliamMr. Finlay.
NOES
Abse, LeoButler, Mrs. Joyce (Wood Green)Duffy, A. E. P. (Colne Valley)
Albu, AustenCallaghan, JamesEdelman, Maurice
Allaun, Frank (Salford, E.)Carmichael, NeilEdwards, Rt. Hon. Ness (Caerphilly)
Allen, Scholefie1d (Crewe)Chapman, DonaldEdwards, Robert (Bilston)
Awbery, Stan (Bristol, Central)Cliffe, MichaelEdwards, Walter (Stepney)
Bacon, Miss AliceCollick, PercyEvans, Albert
Baird, JohnCorbot, Mrs. FredaFernyhough, E.
Barnett, GuyCraddock, George (Bradford, S.)Finch, Harold
Baxter, William (Stirlingshire, W.)Cronin, JohnFitch, Alan
Beaney, AlanCrosland, AnthonyFletcher, Eric
Bellenger, Rt. Hon. F. J.Crossman, R. H. S.Forman, J. C.
Benn, Anthony WedgwoodCullen, Mrs. AliceGalpern, Sir Myer
Benson, Sir GeorgeDalyell, TamGeorge,Lady MeganLloyd(Crmrthn)
Blackburn, F.Darling, GeorgeGinsburg, David
Blyton, WilliamDavies, G. Elfed (Rhondda, E.)Grey, Charles
Boardman, H.Davies, Harold (Leek)Griffiths, David (Rother Valley)
Bowden, Rt.Hn. H. W.(Leics,.S.W.)Davies, Ifor (Gower)Griffiths, Rt. Hon. James (Llanelly)
Bowen, Roderic (Cardigan)Deer, GeorgeGriffiths, W. (Exchange)
Bowles, FrankDelargy, HughGrimond, Rt. Hon. J.
Boyden, JamesDempsey, JamesGunter, Ray
Braddock, Mrs. E. M.Diamond, JohnHamilton, William (West Fife)
Bradley, TomDodds, NormanHannan, William
Bray, Dr. JeremyDoig, PeterHarper, Joseph
Brown, Rt. Hon. George (Belper)Donnelly, DesmondHayman, F. H.
Butter, Herbert (Hackney, C.)Driberg, TomHealey, Denis
Henderson,Rt.Hn.Arthur(RwlyRegis)Mapp, CharlesSilverman, Sydney (Nelson)
Herbison, Miss MargaretMarsh, RichardSkeffington, Arthur
Hewitson, Capt. M.Mason, RoySlater, Mrs. Harriet (Stoke, N.)
Hilton, A. V.Mayhew, ChristopherSlater, Joseph (Sedgefield)
Holman, PercyMellish, R. J.Small, William
Holt, ArthurMendelson, J. J.Smith, Ellis (Stoke, S.)
Houghton, DouglasMillan, BruceSnow, Julian
Howell, Charles A. (Perry Barr)Milne, EdwardSorenson, R. W.
Howell, Denis (Small Heath)Mitchison, G. R.Spriggs, Leslie
Howie, W. (Luton)Monslow, WalterSteele, Thomas
Hoy, James H.Moody, A. S.Stewart, Michael (Fulham)
Hughes, Cledwyn (Anglesey)Morris, Charles (Openshaw)Stonehouse, John
Hughes, Hector (Aberdeen, N.)Morris, JohnStones, William
Hunter, A. E.Moyle, ArthurStrauss, Rt. Hn. G. R. (Vauxhall)
Hynd, H. (Accrington)Mulley, FrederickStress,Dr.Barnett(Stoke-on-Trent,C.)
Irvine, A. J. (Edge Hill)Neal, HaroldSwain, Thomas
Irving, Sydney (Dartford)Noel-Baker, Francis (Swindon)Swingler, Stephen
Janner, Sir BurnettNoel-Baker,Rt.Hn.Philip(Derby, S.)Symonds, J. B.
Jay, Rt. Hon. DouglasOliver, G. H.Taverne, D.
Jeger, GeorgeO'Malley, B. K.Taylor, Bernard (Mansfield)
Jenkins, Roy (Stechford)Oram, A. E.Thomas, George (Cardiff, W.)
Johnson, Carol (Lewisham, S.)Oswald, ThomasThomas, Iorwerth (Rhondda, W.)
Jones, Rt. Hn. A. Creech (Wakefield)Owen, WillThompson, Dr. Alan (Dunfermline)
Jones, Dan (Burnley)Padley, W. E.Thomson, G. M. (Dundee, E.)
Jones, J. Idwal (Wrexham)Paget, H. T.Thornton, Ernest
Jones, T. W. (Merioneth)Pannell, Charles (Leeds, W.)Thorpe, Jeremy
Kelley, RichardPargiter, G. A.Tomney, Frank
Kenyon, CliffordParker, JohnWainwright, Edwin
King, Dr. HoraceParkin, B. T.Warbey, William
Lawson, GeorgePavitt, LaurenceWatkins, Tudor
Ledger, RonPearson, Arthur (Pontypridd)Weitzman, David
Lee, Frederick (Newton)Peart, FrederickWells, William (Walsall, N.)
Lee, Miss Jennie (Cannock)Pentland, NormanWhite, Mrs. Eirene
Lever, L. M. (Ardwick)Popplewell, ErnestWhitlock, William
Lewis, Arthur (West Ham, N.)Prentice, R. E.Wigg, George
Lipton, MarcusProbert, ArthurWilkins, W. A.
Loughlin, CharlesProctor, W. T.Willey, Frederick
Lubbock, EricPursey, Cmdr. HarryWilliams, D. J. (Neath)
Mabon, Dr. J. DicksonRandall, HarryWilliams, W. T. (Warrington)
McBride, N.Rankin, JohnWilson, Rt. Hon. Harold (Huyton)
MacColl, JamesRess, Merlyn (Leeds, S.)Winterbottom, R. E.
MacDermot, NiallReid, WilliamWoodburn, Rt. Hon. A.
McInnes, JamesReynolds, G. W.Woof, Robert
McKay, John (Wallsend)Rhodes, H.Wyatt, Woodrow
McLeavy, FrankRoberts, Albert (Normanton)Yates, Victor (Ladywood)
MacMillan, Malcolm (Western Isles)Roberts, Goronwy (Caernarvon)Zilliacus, K.
MacPherson, Malcolm (Stirling)Robinson, Kenneth (St. Pancras, N.)
Mahon, SimonRodgers, W. T. (Stockton)TELLERS FOR THE NOES:
Mallalieu, E. L. (Brigg)Shinwell, Rt. Hon. E.Mr. G. H. R. Rogers and Mr. Redhead.
Mallalieu, J.P.W. (Huddersfield, E.)Silkin, John
Manuel, ArchieSilverman, Julius (Aston)

Main Question, as amended, put and agreed to.

Resolved,That this House notes with satisfaction the many improvements made by Her Majesty's Government which have given national insurance and other benefits a greater value than ever before; welcomes the Government's examination of the possibility of further developments in relating benefits to earnings; and is confident that the Government will continue to improve benefits, and in doing so, will have regard particularly to those groups whose need is greatest'