Earlier tonight the right hon. Lady the Member for Lanarkshire, North (Miss Herbison), who I am sorry to see has left us—I am sure that one of her Parliamentary Secretaries will pass on to her what I say—suggested that what she has done is completely in line with everything else in the Bill.
In these three Amendments I want to point out that everything else is not in line. We are dealing with the industrial injuries "any other case" widow—a widow who, financially, has been on precisely the same footing since the first Industrial Injuries Act was passed nearly 20 years ago. Consequently, this class of widow is almost on all-fours with the 10s. widow. In war pensions there is a similar category of widow who still receives only 20s. a week. If it is right that the 10s. widow should today have her pension raised to 30s. then it is equally right that the industrial injuries "any other case" widow should have her pension raised from 20s. to 30s. a week. That is the object of the three Amendments.
Recently I put down a Parliamentary Question about war widows. These are the widows aged under 40 without children who have been on a pension of 20s. a week since 1946. I was very surprised to receive the Answer that their case had been considered by the Government and turned down. They had not been forgotten. They had definitely been turned down.
The Minister told us today that the reason for increasing the pension of the 10s. widow was the increase in the cost of living since those days. Apparently it is right to increase her pension to 30s. and yet to give nothing to the 20s. widow. This is a tragic injustice. The result of the Bill is that the industrial injuries widow and the war pension widow in this category will receive less than the 10s. widow. When the National Insurance (Industrial Injuries) Act was introduced in 1946, the two rates were, for the young widow without children, 20s.; for the widow with children or the widow over the age of 50, 30s. The ratio was two to three. We have gone a long way since those days. At least the age limit at which the widow gets her pension has been reduced to 40. That was done in 1956. Nevertheless, we still have these widows under 40 who are on a pension of only 20s. a week.
The Minister will probably say, as was said in answer to me, that they are all right because they only have to wait until they are 40, when they will get the higher rate of pension, but it is not much comfort to a widow of 30 to be told that she will have to wait 10 years before she gets this increase. One might as well say to the 10s. widow, aged 50, "You have to wait only 10 years before you get your retirement pension".
If the pension of the 10s. widow is to be increased to 30s., the case is made for industrial and war pension widows to receive not less than the increase to be given to the 10s. widow, and I hope that both sides of the Committee will join me in believing that.
I listened with interest to the hon. and gallant Member for Wells (Lieut.-Commander Maydon) and to the hon. Member for Hemel Hempstead (Mr. Allason). Before I indicate what we hope the Committee will do about the Amendment, perhaps I might point out that its intention is to increase the 20s. widow to 30s. Superficially, it seems that that should be done, and that it is fair enough, but it goes deeper. Industrial injuries widows' benefits payable to young able-bodied widows without children who do not qualify for the higher rate of benefit, which under the Bill is to be increased from 75s. to 90s., make up this category.
Hon. Gentlemen opposite know very well why these widows have deliberately been omitted. The initiative for this came from the other side of the Committee before we became the Government, and that is why I am sick to the teeth of the hypocrisy which has been shown by hon. Gentlemen opposite during our discussions. The hon. and gallant Gentleman, and the hon. Lady the Member for Finchley (Mrs. Thatcher), are the two best informed Members in this Committee on this problem. They know why, at this juncture, in this piece of ambulance work which we owe to the under-privileged and those at the bottom of the heap, as one hon. Member called them, these widows have not been included.
These widows were deliberately omitted from the Bill because the whole problem of the proper amount of death benefit payable to them, and to other adult dependents of deceased workers, is part of a fundamental review at present being undertaken by the Industrial Injuries Advisory Council. I want my right hon. and hon. Friends, and especially the new Members who may not take as much interest in this subject and know as much about it as the hon. and gallant Gentleman and the hon. Lady do, to note that the problem is now being discussed by that Council.
During our discussions on the uprating Bill in 1963 the Government agreed that the question of the lower rates of industrial death benefits should be referred to the Industrial Injuries Advisory Council so that the basic philosophy underlying these provisions could be looked at afresh in the light of the development of the whole gamut of social welfare and social security since 1948. Both sides of the Committee agree about that.
But if we agreed to the Amendment we would merely make more difficult the problem of developing a completely fresh approach to the question of social security and welfare.
It being Ten o'clock, The CHAIRMAN left the Chair to report Progress and ask leave to sit again.