Clause 3. — (the Supplementary Benefits Commission.)

Ministry of Social Security Bill – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 13th June 1966.

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Photo of Miss Mervyn Pike Miss Mervyn Pike , Melton 12:00 am, 13th June 1966

I beg to move, in page 3. line 10, at the end to insert: (3) So far as is practicable, the officers and servants of the Commission shall have a duty to seek out those who are, or are likely to be, in need of help, whether by means of cash benefits or by means of either the health and welfare services provided under the National Health Service Acts or the welfare services provided under section 29 of the National Assistance Act 1948. This is the nub of the argument—that we want to bring in the welfare services. We all recognise that the first step of applying for assistance is the most difficult step of all. We have heard recently about the number of people who still have not applied for assistance in spite of all the publicity which has been given. I heard this information on my car radio as I was driving to my constituency, and, if my memory serves me, many of these people still would not apply for help.

This is why we wish to remove the onus of applying for help from the persons who are in need. I know that the right hon. Lady will say that this is the intention and that welfare inspectors will go out and, as I accept, will have more time to spend in persuading people to apply for assistance and in building up confidence in their minds. But it is important to write into the Bill, as we wrote into the Children and Young Persons Act, 1963, an onus of responsibility "so far as is practicable"—these words are important—upon the Commission to go out and find those people who are in need. We cannot stress too much that many people are reluctant to take the first step, and it will be difficult to persuade them to do so.

But, as I said on Second Reading, many of these people are already on retirement pension and, with the added time and facilities we are to have under the more streamlined administration under the Bill, we should be able to build up a register of those who are on retirement pension. Building up the register will be the most difficult task, but once it has been done it will be comparatively simple to keep the register up to date and to ensure that those people are visited regularly and that their needs are known to the Commission.

Many of these people are at present in receipt of care, whether it is care from the health authorities or care from the voluntary welfare authorities. I use the words "comparatively simple" knowing how difficult in fact the problem is, but it would be a comparatively simple operation, by contact with these organisations, to find out through these channels those who are in need.

The psychological effect of putting the onus on the State would do a tremendous amount to make these people feel that this was something which the community as a whole wanted them to have. We are trying to persuade people that they must make use of all these facilities which are theirs as of right. That is why it is important that we should write into the Bill not just that it is our hope or intention, but that it is our responsibility as far as is humanly possible to find these people and to persuade them to use the facilities provided by the State for them.

5.45 p.m.

There is an interesting analogy with the welfare services provided for the war disabled which are described on pages 15 to 20 of the 1964 Annual Report on War Pensions. The extract which I want to read shows the type and range of work which is undertaken and which could be undertaken by the new Commission. It reads: Welfare officers deal with queries about war pensions but their main task is to help pensioners with a great variety of social and personal problems. The welfare officers can solve (or help the pensioner to solve) some of these from his own training and experience and others through the appropriate statutory service or voluntary organisation, sometimes by co-ordinating help from several sources.A pensioner with several children who was to appear in court for non-payment of rent had left home, his wife was in hospital and the house was in an appalling state. Bad management lay at the root of all the trouble. The welfare officer persuaded the pensioner to return to his family and over a period helped him to sort out and manage his affairs so that the debts could be paid off, and the children's bedding could be renewed…".

The family was enabled to stand on its own feet again.

I see that the right hon. Lady is nodding approval. I know that she feels as much as I do that enabling people to stand on their own feet and giving them the self-respect which comes from fending for themselves is very important. That is why it is better for the inspectors to find trouble before it starts. There are two or three other examples in that Report with which I will not now delay the Committee.

It is encouraging that the Government have been persuaded to drop the idea that this problem could be dealt with by a simple income return, which I believe to have been the original idea. We have all now accepted that old people cannot fill in complicated forms and very often cannot understand regulations which we and the younger generation take in our stride. I hope that the right hon. Lady can go that one step further and make it that much easier by putting on her Ministry the onus of responsibility for finding these people, the people in need, those who are lonely, those who are frightened, those who are ill-informed, inadequate or incapacitated for some reason. They need the proper care which can save not only misery for themselves, but money for the community. If we can find them in time, we can help them to meet their problems and also save the resources of the community.

I hope that the right hon. Lady will be able to accept the Amendment. It does not ask her to go further than I know she wants to go, and it will commit future Ministers, from either party, to the onus of responsibility for finding these people rather than having them ask for help.

Photo of Mr Paul Dean Mr Paul Dean , Somerset North

I wish to support the arguments of my hon. Friend the Member for Melton (Miss Pike). I pay tribute to the work which the National Assistance Board does in the detection of need and also the work done by local authorities and the voluntary bodies such as the W.V.S. and all those others who assist the Board to detect need. I hope that the right hon. Lady will feel that the Amendment is exactly in line with what she envisages as being the work of the new Commission. If she feels that it should be the job of the Commission to seek out those in need, I hope that she will see no difficulty about accepting the Amendment.

No one could possibly claim that the present work of detection is adequate, however good it is. We all know of the tragic examples when need is discovered because someone, by chance, finds the milk bottles piling up outside a house or flat. That still occurs in all too many cases. I was struck, as no doubt other hon. Members were, by the Report in The Times on the 6th June in which the Chief Constable of Leeds reported in his annual report that in Leeds in one year no fewer than 101 people had been found dead and 48 ill or injured. Those few figures from one city conclusively prove that there is still much more to be done in the detection of need.

When more than 1 million old people are living alone and when the number is likely to increase now that the phenomenon of the three-generation family is out and the days when grandmother, mother and daughter lived as one family have gone, probably for good, and when the building of one-bedroomed bungalows proves that we feel that if people want to live alone, it is a good thing for them to do so, the need for detection constantly increases.

I am not saying that the new Commission can do this unaided. It will need to work in close co-operation with the health and welfare authorities, the W.V.S. meals-on-wheels service, war pensions officers and a whole variety of other people. But the Commission will be the body with the basic information available. The new Ministry will be in contact with everybody in receipt of benefits—National Insurance benefits, supplementary benefits, war pensions, and so on—and will be in the best position to take on this responsibility. It will be able to do a great deal by having a register of old people in each part of the country. That will make detection easier. That is another good reason for putting this responsibility on the new Commission.

Another which will appeal to the right hon. Lady is something which she stressed again and again on Second Reading. She said that if it could be avoided we did not want to have people applying for benefit, but that we should take the help to them. Putting this statutory responsibility on the Commission is absolutely in line with the spirit of her speech and the Bill itself.

There is another consideration which has worried me in connection with the Clause and the Bill as a whole. The intention is to cut individual inquiries to a minimum. I see no objection to that, but disadvantages may arise from it. For example, the right hon. Lady told us on Second Reading that it was intended in future to review the needs of those getting benefits every year rather than every six months as previously. While I appreciate the advantages of cutting to a minimum the individual inquiries which may be made about resources, this means that those getting benefits will be visited by the officers of the new Commission only every 12 months instead of every six. There are dangers in cutting the regular visits by half, in that needs may not be as effectively detected because of the longer lapses between visits.

My hon. Friend the Member for Melton mentioned the many examples in the last Annual Report on War Pensions. In every such report there is constantly stressed the advantage of regular visits. I need not quote all the examples, for hon. Members will have seen them, but a sentence which is equally valuable in this connection is that which appeared in the 1964 Report and which read: Regular visiting sometimes reveals needs which would not ordinarily come to light. If we have found that valuable for war pensioners, it would be equally valuable for those getting the new supplementary benefits.

For all those reasons it is highly desirable to put this clear duty on the Commission to seek out those who are in need in exactly the same sort of way as present arrangements allow for regular visits to war pensioners.

Photo of Mr Hugh Brown Mr Hugh Brown , Glasgow Provan

The Amendment is rather woolly. I do not know whether it is put forward for propaganda purposes, or to draw attention to some need. However, we have to be more practical. No one has claimed that the new set-up will revolutionise the services which will be available.

On Second Reading, my right hon. Friend said that the new Ministry would be taking measures to ensure that as soon as possible on retirement or on subsequent widowhood every pensioner would be made fully aware of the supplementary pension scheme and either made a claim or gave a definite indication that he did not want to claim. The impression which I have gained is that it will only be among retirement pensioners and those subsequently widowed that this kind of searching out will go on. I would assume that they would also apply to just straightforward cases of widowhood, and, indeed, other cases in which there is need.

The Amendment talks in terms of cash needs and needs of the welfare services. I think that this is the crux of the dilemma of which we must all of us be aware. To search out people to give them a cash benefit is a relatively simple thing; I do not think there is any difficulty about that because, as I understand from the Minister, any applicant for any pension would be chased up or followed up to ensure that he would know what he can apply for, and if he is not applying for it there must be good reasons for that. It is when we get to the welfare side that we seem to run into difficulties.

Does the Amendment suggest, for example, that if somebody comes into the local office and indicates a change in family circumstances—that a child has gone to an approved school, for example, or that one or another of a hundred and one things which can happen to children has happened—there should automatically be some kind of welfare officer in the department to take follow-up action for these essential services? Or if there is a claim for guardian allowance, is there automatic follow-up to see whether the guardian needs some kind of professional advice? This does not seem to me to have been made clear by those who are supporting the Amendment.

6.0 p.m.

I must admit that I am not trying to press the Minister into something which she is not willing to concede at this stage.

There is certainly a real problem here, if we create the impression that we are to be able to obtain within the new department the solutions of the many social problems which will be within the knowledge of the officers of the department. As I say, I should like to have the Minister's thinking on this, because it obviously involves serious staffing problems in the Department.

What grade of persons will do this highly skilled searching out and initial interview? This is the kind of thing which those who are supporting the Amendment have not thought out. This Department cannot at the moment even get the officers it needs to do the tasks it is called upon at the moment to do. So while I am anxious to extend the field of the new Department, at least we should not raise false hopes at this stage till we have seen how the Department works with its handling of the cash side of the service, before, so to speak, splitting it into these groups, for that evolution of the social services which must come about in the near future.

Photo of Bernard Braine Bernard Braine , Essex South East

The hon. Member for Glasgow, Provan (Mr. Hugh D. Brown) doubted the practicality of the Amendment. I should like to assure him that in putting it down we were guided not by theory or by a desire for innovation, but by a growing body of experience which shows that improvement in income is only a part—an important part, but only a part—of the requirements of many of our elderly, long-term sick and handicapped citizens.

If the hon. Member is in touch with his constituents, as I am sure he is, he will know that the numbers of the elderly will rise sharply in the next two decades. He will know too that the problem we face is not primarily financial, but physical and moral. The problem will not be solved by adding a few shillings to the pension. Is is essentially how to provide a satisfactory, worth-while, dignified environment for literally millions of our fellow citizens who feel isolated in our modern industrial society.

This, of course, raises questions as to what sort of society we should be seeking to build, what kind of support the community is prepared to give to the increasing number of people who survive well beyond the limits of working life. Supplementing the incomes of many of the elderly is important, but it will not by itself provide them with the specialised housing which they need, the extra care which they require in their own homes, the hospital treatment they are unable to get; nor will it, as the Minister herself testified only a short time ago, enable them to overcome loneliness, or to master a crippling disability.

While it is true that 94 per cent. of our old people are living in private households—only 6 per cent. are living in the care of hospitals and institutions—this does not mean—we know does not mean—that they are all living a comfortable independent existence. Far from it.

I referred earlier this afternoon to the valuable survey "The Aged in the Welfare State", conducted by Peter Townsmd and Dorothy Wedderburn. I think that the Committee would like to be reminded of what the survey revealed. About 250,000, or 4 per cent., of those aged 65 or over, depend on local authority home help services; but 330,000 feel the need for help with house work, and nearly another 270,000 say they do not feel the need but have difficulty with housework. Fewer than 70,000 have at least one meal a week delivered by the mobile meals service and nearly another 350,000 would like to have this service. Over 400,000 have regular chiropody treatment through a free or subsidised voluntary or local authority service, but another 670,000 feel the need for someone to attend to their feet regularly.

The survey revealed that over 200,000 have severe difficulties in hearing, but have never had an aural examination, or have not had one in the last five years. Over 300,000 have severe difficulty in seeing, but have never had an examination of the eyes, or have not had such to examination in the last five years. Only 30,000 to 40,000 are in sheltered housing with some community or warden services, but it seems likely from the survey that at least 300,000 or about 5 per cent. require houses of this kind.

Townsend and Wedderburn confirmed what a good many hon. Members on both sides of the Committee already knew, that many of those receiving certain services, particularly hearing aids, home help and meals services, are not getting all the help they really require from these services. They need help more frequently, and the services need to be greatly extended in scope and variety. They also confirmed that the existing services are poorly co-ordinated. This is one of the discoveries we made when I was at the Ministry of Health, when we launched the local authority health and welfare long-term plan. When the local authorities' long-term plans were submitted and examined we saw for the first time just how wide was the disparity in the provisions they were making.

Permit me to say, in passing, that it is more than likely that even if we secured effective co-ordination of our health and welfare services we should probably be faced with absolute shortages of staff. buildings and equipment, due to the fact that under every Government we have simply not been devoting a sufficiently large proportion of our national resources to them. I readily concede that. I think, however, that if the present Government—and this is the answer to the hon. Gentleman the Member for Provan—had taken our advice and created a larger Ministry embracing the health and welfare services as well as social security it would have been possible at least to have tackled the whole problem comprehensively, to have measured the need, and to have decided upon proper priorities.

I concede that our Amendment is second best. But it seeks to put upon officers of the Commission a more positive duty than is envisaged in the wording of the Clause. I should like to give a practical example of how it might help in regard to a problem which the Bill simply does not face. Last month, Dr. Benians, the consultant geriatrician of the Southend group of hospitals, which serves my constituency, was reported as saying that he had only two-fifths of the hospital beds he needed for the elderly, and the number of aged persons needing hospital care would increase faster than the increase planned in beds.

Dr. Benians spoke movingly about the loneliness of old folk who drifted into South-East Essex, mainly from London, who lived alone and had no one to help them. He said: The position of these people is desperate indeed. When they get ill we can't help them, and the fact that we can't help them is a major disgrace. He went on to say that one of the biggest problems facing those trying to help the elderly was not knowing where the elderly were. A large number of them they know nothing about at all. The Ministry of Pensions knew where they were, but he understood that they would not say. They should. We have the right to know these things.

Dr. Benians is quite correct. I have served in the Ministry of Pensions and National Insurance, and I know that one reason for the Ministry not being able to provide the information is that, under the Official Secrets Act, it cannot divulge particulars of that kind. I think that the Minister will confirm too that another difficulty is that, even if it were decided to provide the information, the local offices of the Ministry keep their records alphabetically and not by district. Even the Records Branch at Newcastle keeps its files under the National Insurance numbers.

Under the Bill, the Commission would have no power to provide local authorities with the information which Dr. Benians suggests is so necessary. I am not saying that the information should be provided in this way. Here may I make a suggestion. I understand that, under their new pay award, family doctors will get extra payment for treating the elderly. It will be the task of local executive councils to compile area lists showing the general practitioners' patients aged 65 and over and to keep those lists up to date on an annual basis. The process has already been started by the executive councils, and it involves noting each patient's date of birth on his or her medical register card. It seems to me that that provides a nucleus of the register which my hon. Friend said is so essential and for which every social welfare worker is calling. May I ask whether the Minister has discussed this with her colleague, the Minister of Health?

Our Amendment would put a duty on the Commission to find a solution to the problem. It is clear that the duty ought to be put upon someone and that the Minister ought to make a decision about it.

One question which is relevant to what the hon. Member for Provan was saying is: what will the Commission's officers do in situations where it is plain that there is not just a need for supplementary pension or allowance? I agree the officers of the National Assistance Board act with speed and humanity, and we all pay tribute to them for the work which they have done in the past and no doubt will continue to do in the future. But what will happen when they see that there is a need for some help, where there are no relatives nearby to give assistance, where there are no meals-on-wheels and no friendly visiting?

It is quite true that in the National Assistance Act, the Board is instructed to exercise its functions in such manner as shall best promote the welfare of persons affected by the exercise thereof. No doubt that requirement is continued. However, National Assistance Board officers tell me that in obvious cases of need they already get in touch with the local authority, and act at once, as the right hon. Lady said earlier. But they also tell me that this is often unsatisfactory, for two reasons. First, there is sometimes great difficulty in deciding at what point other help is needed. After all, that is a job for a trained social worker.

6.15 p.m.

Secondly, even if help is thought to be needed, no local authority has the statutory duty to provide it until there is a complete breakdown, until the health of the breadwinner or the mother of the family has given way, until there is delinquency or dire need for hospital treatment or Part III accommodation. The appropriate local authority will then move in; but not until then.

Surely the whole object of our health and welfare services should be to prevent that sort of situation arising. It would seem to me that a clear responsibility should he put upon the Commission or some other suitable co-ordinating agency.

This begs a question which the Bill does not answer. Modern social thinking accepts that a hard and fast line cannot be drawn between financial and other forms of support for the elderly, the sick and the handicapped. I hope that the Minister will address herself to that particular question in a moment. I think that I know what her attitude is, because she gave a clue to it in what she said a short time ago.

Whatever her answer I would hope that the committee set up under the chairmanship of Mr. Frederic Seebohm to go into the organisation and responsibilities of local authority personal and social services will fasten on this crucial point and will not hesitate to make recommendations.

I want now to say a word about the disabled, to whom we shall be directing Put attention in more detail later. The right hon. Lady gave the impression earlier to the Committee that she had the necessary power to give all the information to Parliament, and there was no need for a research unit because all the information could be extracted from the Minister by parliamentary means.

The Disablement Income Group says in its memorandum, which no doubt the right hon. Lady has seen: Questions have been asked in the House concerning the number and economic situation of the chronic sick and disabled. The answers have been, as we knew they would be, entirely negative. Literally no statistics of the kind we need are available.

The trouble is that no one knows at the moment how many disabled citizens there are. As hon. Members know, there are two registers, each dealing with only a part of the total number involved. Registration is voluntary, and the advantages of registration are not all that apparent. The number of severely physically disabled persons registered with local authorities last year was 176,000. I am told that that is only a fraction of the number which should register. Similarly, it is thought that the 659,000 people on the Ministry of Labour's Disabled Persons' Employment Register represent only a proportion of the total number of physically handicapped persons capable either of open employment or employment under sheltered conditions.

Is it intended that the officers of the Commission should find out something about the physically handicapped and why they do not register? If not, why not? I could hazard some guesses as to the reasons, as could many hon. Members on both sides of the Committee. There is a shortage of places in the Ministry's excellent rehabilitation units. There is a shortage of places in sheltered workshops. Moreover, disabled persons seeking work often encounter acute difficulties of accessibility, transport and accommodation. They get no tax relief to enable them to overcome disabilities. In many cases, the struggle is too much for them, and it is easier to accept National Assistance.

I could continue at great length establishing the case for a unified and comprehensive Ministry, because this is the only way in which we can recognise and satisfy the needs which are beginning to surface and which many of us suspect have existed for a long time. I have no doubt that, at the end of the day, the right hon. Lady and her colleagues will agree that this is the right administrative answer, assuming that they stay in office long enough. What we are proposing now would ensure more effective social security than the makeshift arrangements envisaged in the Bill.

If we are to be denied the right administrative structure for the time being, we are entitled to ask that the Commission should be given power to pave the way to a more flexible and realistic appreciation of the real and changing needs of the elderly, the widowed, the chronic sick and the physically handicapped.

Photo of Miss Joan Vickers Miss Joan Vickers , Plymouth, Devonport

I support the Amendment because I have had quite a lot of experience of dealing with people who are in need. What worries me is that when people come to my office all that I can do is put them in touch with the Assistance Board as it has been in the past and try to put the case before the Board. For this reason I support the Amendment, because I think we should try to strengthen our knowledge of where these people are instead of having them come to Members' offices in the way they do now.

The National Assistance Board in my area has been exceptionally helpful and kind, but when I write to say that there has been a change in someone's circumstances I am often told that it does not know that but now that it has the information it will be pleased to do such-and-such a thing. I wonder whether, if there are to be fewer visits in future, as I understand there may be, it will be possible to write to families periodically asking whether there has been a change of circumstances, because such changes are not always notified.

During the war we were very successful, especially in blitzed cities, in having a central information centre to which people would go and report where they were living. I wonder whether, in order to be able to search out these people in the way we are suggesting, it will be possible for the Ministry to ask the local authorities to put up a notice inviting people to give information or help about those who are in need. Perhaps neighbours could provide this information, and in this way the officers of the Commission or other voluntary organisations could find out who was in need.

Not long ago I had a party at my house for social workers in the area. I was astonished to find that a number of people whom I did not think it was necessary to introduce did not know one another even though they had been in contact on the telephone for many years. I think that these officers should contact other branches and organisations to get this knowledge about those who need help.

I believe that the right hon. Lady really wants her officers to be social workers, and I should like, therefore, to refer to the Younghusband Report which, in paragraph 22 on page 7, says: The purpose of social work is to help individuals or families with various problems, and to overcome or lessen these so that they may achieve a better personal, family, or social adjustment. The function of social workers is to assess the extent of these problems. to give appropriate help, and to offer a supporting relationship"— this is very important— when this is required to give people confidence to overcome difficulties. I should like the right hon. Lady to tell us how many of these officers she has in her Ministry, what type of case load she thinks they will have in future, and, if they are already overworked, how she envisages them carrying out their duties in future if we are to have them as social workers, understanding the people with whom they are dealing. I was a little worried when I saw that there were to be fewer visits in future. I think that these visits are all-important. Sometimes the visiting officer is the only person an individual sees for months, and one thing that should not be cut is the number of visits.

I should like to refer again to the Younghusband Report with regard to the duties of the National Assistance Board because, when talking about visits, it says that these are beneficial, and adds in paragraph 1011: These provide a striking illustration of the inter-relationship between this statutory service and the health and welfare services. The connection between those services is a great asset, and in paragraph 1012 the Report says: These elderly people, many of whom are also blind or otherwise handicapped, are visited periodically by the Board's officers. It would be a great pity if these visits were cut down in any way.

One other question which has not been referred to so far is that of the Board being allowed to pay the rent of people who are in receipt of assistance. All too often I find that rent is given for this purpose, but that, regrettably, it is not paid, and the Younghusband Report says in paragraph 1014: Families with rent arrears receiving rent allowances from the Board are another case in point. The practice, advocated by the Housing Management Sub-Committee of the Central Housing Advisory Committee, of local authority housing officers notifying default to the Board at an early stage can often prevent ultimate eviction… I hope that the right hon. Lady will stress this point to her officers in the future, because I have several times suggested in this House that when there are arrears it might be better to pay the rent direct to the housing authority concerned. It is a terrible temptation when someone is given £3 or more for rent, and there is a family to bring up, to spend the money rather than pay it as rent, with the result that he or she faces the possibility of eviction.

This applies particularly to local authority houses, but it would be advantageous if the landlord of a private house could be protected before the outstanding rent reached such a figure that it could never be repaid. I think that if someone misses paying rent for a fortnight inquiries should be made by the housing manager or the private individual to the Board, because once the rent has been missed for two weeks it is difficult to catch up. There is generally a reason for not paying the rent. It may be because of sickness, or because whoever pays the rent is not a very good payer, and if inquiries were made at an early stage, I think that it would prevent a number of evictions.

We have talked a lot about elderly people, but quite a lot of the money goes to women who have been deserted by their husbands, and to unmarried mothers. I hope that they will be specially helped in the future, because these are the people whom we ought to seek out before their children are taken into care by a local authority. These are the people who need support. I hope that the officers concerned will keep in touch with the courts because, generally, the courts know when a wife has been deserted, because she goes there to claim maintenance. If a woman has been divorced the courts have knowledge of it, and it would be of great help if these officers kept in touch with the courts to find out where these people are living. Later on I shall have a suggestion to make about what we can do to help deserted wives.

I support the Amendment, and I hope that the right hon. Lady will accept it. If it were left to me, I would go even further and take out the words "so far as is practicable", and say: The officers and servants of the Commission shall have a duty to seek out those who are, or are likely to be, in need", and so on, because they should have that duty if they are to be proper social workers and make the new Ministry work as we want it to. It is very difficult for a woman who has been deserted to have to spend hours in an office trying to get help. The officers should have a duty to go out and help those in need.

If the right hon. Lady is not prepared to accept the Amendment, I hope that she will consider a compromise which will give her officers some greater status so that they can bring their knowledge and interest to the notice of the individuals concerned.

6.30 p.m.

Photo of Mr Alick Buchanan-Smith Mr Alick Buchanan-Smith , North Angus and Mearns

In discussing this Amendment, we are coming close to the heart of the purpose of the social services. Important as is the whole need for more research into all the areas and types of poverty and hardship, we come to the real problem only when we consider the question of seeking out and dealing with individual cases. It is, after all, in dealing with the ordinary person in difficulty or hardship that the social services are in their proper sphere.

That is why I feel that the formation of this much wider Ministry will enable it to deal much more effectively with cases of poverty and hardship. There is a great danger here that what it will deal with—perhaps more effectively—is only those cases of hardship and poverty with which it is already in contact. The real need is to discover more cases with which, at the moment, the social services are not in contact.

This was the point made by the hon. Member for Glasgow, Provan (Mr. Hugh D. Brown). Although he seemed to question this Amendment, many of his arguments supported it. This is precisely what the Amendment is intended to do—not only to deal more effectively with the cases which exist, but to try to find other spheres and other individual cases which need help. Not only must our fight against poverty and hardship be waged on a wider front, which is probably what the Bill will enable, but we must also go more deeply into and be better able to detect individual cases as they arise.

This is not such a difficult problem in practical terms as the hon. Member for Provan made out. After all, the Ministry of Pensions and the officers of the new Ministry could do a great deal more work and make more progress through the efforts of those already engaged in this work. Mention has been made this afternoon of the work which could be done by those engaged in the health services. This is particularly true locally—through general practitioners, district nurses and local health visitors. This is one of the reasons why many of us on this side regret that the Ministry of Health is not being co-ordinated into the new Ministry of Social Security.

Mention has been made of how much more use can be made of other voluntary organisations in this respect—the W.V.S. and the Red Cross are examples—and also of the courts and probation officers. Officers of the new Ministry could do much more in seeking out and finding those in need through the efforts of those involved in work with young people. One of the particular areas of poverty and hardship mentioned in the Second Reading debate and again this afternoon is that of the low wage-earner, particularly with a large family.

I know that one of the real problems of these people is that very often they are in no form of direct contact with the statutory welfare services as they are at present. That is why I believe that those who work in the Ministry of Pensions and in the new Ministry could achieve a great deal more if more work was done and more contact made with those already working on these problems. Perhaps the Minister could tell us what work is done by her officers through schools. Teachers in schools are in a unique position to know what is happening in the whole life and background of their pupils.

The other sphere which is important and very neglected is that of youth organisations. I say this with feeling because I have been involved in youth work over the past 12 years. I and those with whom I have been concerned know that we can go to the National Assistance Board and the Ministry of Pensions to put them in touch with a particular case, but how rarely the contact happens the other way round—regular contact and liaison between officers of the Ministry and youth organisations, who are in contact at ground level with the places where poverty and hardship occur.

I say this in no sense of criticism of the officers of the Ministry—I have the utmost admiration for their work, particularly for that of the officers of the National Assistance Board—but simply in many cases because they do not tend to do so. This is a positive field where much more liaison and good work could be done. If the Amendment is accepted, I do not necessarily envisage that the officers of the Ministry, in seeking out cases of poverty and hardship, will make immediate contact with individual cases. However, by their being in regular contact with those already in the field—youth leaders, school teachers or others —our welfare services could become much more effective.

Until we do this, we will not make full use of all the sources of effort in this wide and varied work. Only when we do this will we get to the root of the problem. That is why I believe that the Amendment is particularly important.

Photo of Miss Irene Ward Miss Irene Ward , Tynemouth

Whatever the fate of the Amendment, we have had an interesting and informative discussion. I am sure that all those concerned with the work of the right hon. Lady's Ministry will be grateful for the various informed points which have been put forward. I hope that the Amendment will be accepted, but whether it is or not we have opened up in our discussions tremendously wide opportunities for advance into the areas of making life happier, more just and more efficient for those who come within the orbit of the right hon. Lady's Ministry.

I apologise for having had to depart from the Committee before I heard the right hon. Lady's reply to a previous debate in which I intervened. I had another engagement and I therefore did not hear the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Melton (Miss Pike) on this Amendment, so she may have made this point unknown to me.

We have spent a long time discussing the problem of contacting people who might be helped if the whole of the services available was brought to their notice. The right hon. Lady has said quite clearly on many occasions recently that her Ministry has arrived at a figure of between 250,000 and 270,000 people who ought to be drawing National Assistance or, as it will be under this Bill, supplementary benefit. Therefore, that figure is available.

I should be very interested to hear whether the right hon. Lady can tell the Committee who has been responsible for finding out these cases and how this figure has been reached. I am certain that the information which she has given to the House is correct, but I want to know, if these figures were already available, whether it is now possible, as is suggested in the Amendment, for these people to be linked up in a co-ordinated and proper sense. It would be fascinating to the Committee to hear who made these inquiries, how they are being scheduled, what action, if any, has been taken. and what is the breadth and width of the problem of this very large group of people.

Most hon. Members who have supported the Amendment have spoken from experience, and I will do the same. I have regular consultations in my constituency with the sort of people the Amendment is designed to help and, over the years, I have gained experience not only of the Problems that they face but of the problems which are faced by those who try to persuade them to go to the National Assistance Board, as it has been known. I have always found that by speaking to these people over a period of time and after explaining the rights which they have I am able finally to ask, "If I ask the National Assistance Board to choose a delightful and charming officer to visit you at your home, will you allow me to put your name forward?" That technique has never failed. I am referring in the main to the elderly who are in what is known as the small fixed income groups. I am glad to report that the Board has indeed always chosen a charming, delightful and acceptable officer to interview the individuals concerned. I believe that in at least 90 per cent. of these cases it has been found that the people were due for assistance from the Board.

If one wishes to get at the heart of this matter one must realise that the people who need persuading to go to the Board are those who are not aware of, or who cannot understand, our modern approach to life and Parliament's view of the help and assistance which they should receive. Many of them, through no fault of their own, have found it difficult to meet the ever rising costs of life and to understand the latest developments in our modern social services.

It is often difficult to explain to people who have never been in touch with the developing national social services the idea that those who are more fortunate than they are would like to see something done for the less fortunate who have served their country well. The latter point should be emphasised, because there are masses of people who are entitled to draw on the State's social services and who have served their country well over the years. These people are particularly entitled to receive help, but we must realise that many of them take a different view. In the past they have had to accept all sorts of things which I and my generation regarded as a normal process of life. The new ways must be explained to them and, while we all appreciate the latest proposals of the Minister, it will not be easy to persuade those with problems who prefer not to accept anything from the State to accept the help to which they are entitled.

I suspect that although a large number of people have allowed themselves to be questioned in the Minister's inquiries and have given the details of the sort of lives they lead, there remains a large number of people who are as close as clams and who will never disclose some of the extremely difficult circumstances under which they live. I would, therefore, be grateful if the right hon. Lady would explain how her inquiries were conducted and how those investigated were chosen; whether the names were obtained from local authorities, voluntary organisations or through the courts. And since a number of people must have been involved in carrying out these wide investigations, this corps of people might form the nucleus of the sort of body proposed in the Amendment.

6.45 p.m.

I have found over the years that there is not very much time available in the House of Commons to discuss the sort of things in which I am particularly interested. I will, therefore, take this opportunity to comment on a letter which I received today. Although extremely interesting, I will not delay the Committee by reading it all. When the Government of which I was a member introduced the rather limited scheme of chiropody services for the old, it was introduced as a sort of experiment, and I suggest that the time has come when that service should be investigated.

This letter pays tribute to one local authority for the way it has operated its chiropody service, and I, too, pay tribute to that authority. I do not know whether that authority deserves the praise given it by the writer, but I have no doubt that it does. Although my constituent praises this authority, some of the weaknesses of the chiropody service generally are mentioned. I am equally sure that those criticisms are well-founded. We must remember that the service was begun as an experiment, and when one introduces an experiment there are bound to be failures as well as successes. After making some quite strong criticisms about the general tenor of the chiropody scheme, my constituent states: …yet in Darlington, due to the farsightedness of the Medical Office of Health and his Committee in placing chiropody for the aged into the surgeries of private practitioners, the situation is entirely the reverse".

That is, it is the reverse of the criticisms levelled by my constituent against the services being placed in clinics. The letter adds: The Darlington service for the aged is the envy of the country".

I do not know about that, but the remark—and it must mean that Darlington's service is to be envied—shows that a great deal could be done to develop the chiropody service. If Darlington has hit on a scheme which is acceptable and efficient and meets the requirements of the aged for chiropody, can it not be emulated elswehere?

If the Amendment were accepted we would be able to conduct a survey of local authorities and find those which have first-class chiropody services. If, as is stated in that letter, Darlington has come out so well in this service, it might be possible to see that the benefits of that service are extended to the chiropody services in operation throughout the country.

It is in this way that ideas are born and how information about what can be done for certain sections of the community reaches the various Ministries. These Ministries rarely tell hon. Members whether the germs of ideas which have come out of our many debates on this subject have resulted in experiments or schemes being conducted by the Government. It is always the case that Ministers manage to produce the result in their own terms, and this has applied for many years, to Ministers of both Conservative and Socialist Governments. Now that we are considering over a wide sphere what progress can be made, remembering that those who handle these problems have a great deal of information such as has been given in discussing the Amendment, we would like to hear from the Minister, even if she cannot accept the Amendment—and I have a feeling that she will say, in her usual charming way, that she cannot accept it—that she will initiate discussions with her counterparts in the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Housing and Local Government to see what can be done. Much can be done from the local government point of view, but all three Ministries could use the knowledge and information which has been given to them so that we may go forward to be of greater help to the people of this country who have served the country in the past and who should, in return, be served better than they are at present.

Photo of Mr Charles Doughty Mr Charles Doughty , East Surrey

I rise to support the Amendment. First, may I say how excellent I and other hon. Members have found those who were employed by the National Assistance Board and who will now go into the Commission referred to in the Bill. Where cases were drawn to their attention—very often by a Member of Parliament—they accepted promptly, courteously, efficiently and fairly.

There are many bodies, some of which have been enumerated in detail during the debate, who have had brought to their attention or knew of cases that should receive the attention and assistance of the National Assistance Board. There are also many people who are aware of the benefits that they can obtain but who, for reasons sometimes of pride—false pride, if I may say so—and sometimes of fear of being asked too many questions, which they are not in fact asked, decline or refuse to get in touch with the Board or its officials.

It is necessary, therefore, that the onus should be put on the new Commission to seek out these people and to see whether its assistance is required. If one looks at the Bill—I shall not discuss the merits or demerits of future Clauses to be considered, if for no other reason than that I should be out of order—one sees in Clause 6: The requirements to be taken into account for the purposes of this Act include any requirement for—(a) appliances or services in respect of which charges are for the time being authorised by or under the National Health Service Act 1951 or the National Health Service Act 1952; and the rather extraordinary Clause 7: Where it appears to the Commission reasonable in all the circumstances they may determine that benefit shall be paid to a person by way of a single payment to meet an exceptional need. That is certainly a very wide Clause.

Will the possible beneficiaries who may be able to take advantage of these Clauses be aware, unless it is pointed out by somebody employed by the Commission who is in a position to to assist them, of what are the initial benefits given by the Bill? It cannot be left to future beneficiaries to make application and if necessary to refer the members of the Commission to the Clauses which we shall discuss later in the course of the debates in this Committee.

Therefore, there are at least two sound reasons why this Amendment should be accepted so that the Commission will have a duty to seek out, through means which it must easily have at its disposal, those with whom it should discuss their troubles and problems and give those people the benefit and assistance to which they are entitled. I ask the Minister to accept the Amendment.

Photo of Mr John Pardoe Mr John Pardoe , North Cornwall

I am in broad sympathy with the objects of the Amendment, but I think that it is a little too vague. First, I cannot see how the officers and servants of the Commission will carry out the duty which the Amendment seeks to impose upon them. We are told that their first duty is personal calls. There is also the duty of research. A third duty which has not been mentioned is that of publicity, which is very important. In fact the Minister has undertaken that officers in her Department will have a duty to co-ordinate research over its length and breadth. If that is indeed a commitment from the right hon. Lady there is no reason why we should press the Amendment.

I do not think that the officers of the Commission could carry out the duty of personal calls in the way in which it has been set out. I hope that there will also be within the Department officers with a duty to publicise the services which the whole Department offers. When I speak of publicity I do not mean only those little notices which can be lost on the vast notice boards in every post office. The services should be publicised in a proper professional and commercial manner.

The duty which the Amendment seeks to impose on the officers and servants of the Commission cannot be carried out in the case of the health and welfare proposals, unless these services are also brought under one Department. Proposals have been put forward for coordinating all the various functions, even those of the Ministry of Health, in one Department. There is a case for far greater co-ordination of house-to-house visiting, local welfare services, child welfare services, the medical services and many of the voluntary organisations which have been mentioned already.

As the Minister has said, this would produce a vast and unwieldy Ministry. I accept this, but this co-ordination could be broken down on regional lines, and we could set up regional welfare bodies which would take over a large number of the services which are now administered, for instance, by the right hon. Lady's Department. I do not want to take away any function from her Department, but I am regionalistic at heart and I like the idea of spreading this coordination to the regions. Then we should overcome the problem of an unwieldy Ministry.

There is a need to seek out not only poverty but also social inadequacy. I do not believe that this can be done—particularly the seeking out of social inadequacy which requires personal calls—by imposing a duty on the officers and servants of the Commission. I hope that they will conceive it to be their duty, as indeed it is the duty of all good citizens. I should hate to think that any Minister would be held accountable because the Department had not discovered one case, or perhaps several cases, of social inadequacy which it could be said it should have discovered.

The cases of social inadequacy have to be sought out through dependants, neighbours, relatives, and people who live in the same village or in the same street. These are the people on whom we shall have to depend. I wonder whether, it this Amendment is carried, we shall then receive greater co-operation from them than we do now. Whenever one imposes a duty on a Government Department to do something, that automatically seems to remove it from the duty of everybody else. People tend to say, "It is their job—let them get on with it." I should not like that to happen here.

7.0 p.m.

One voluntary organisation which is superbly well-equipped to deal with the problem of seeking out cases of social inadequacy is the political organisation. I do not want to try to teach my grandmother to suck eggs, but as a new Member of Parliament I would like to point out that all Members should persuade their organisations that it is their duty to seek out cases of poverty and hardship and bring them to their notice. This can achieve remarkable results. We are only too ready to impose upon our organisations the duty to seek out postal voters or removals, and I have discovered that by imposing the aforesaid social duty upon them they can bring to light many such cases. I admit that one ends up knowing that the better one does one's job the less one gets paid, and the more it costs.

As I have said, I do not wish to try to teach my grandmother—or my grandfather—to suck eggs, but I recommend that this duty should be carried out, just as much as those duties which the Amendment seeks to impose. It is our duty to discover these cases, and our organisations have superb machinery to hand to carry out this job. We ought to use it.

Photo of Miss Peggy Herbison Miss Peggy Herbison , Lanarkshire North

We have had a most interesting debate. It has been very wide-ranging, but it is none the worse for that. I want first to take up one or two specific points, and to deal with some fears which have been expressed by certain hon. Members because of the suggestion that visits to some people may take place less often in future. First, the hon. Member for Tynemouth (Dame Irene Ward) asked me where I got the figure of 250,000 or 270,000 people in real need. I do not blame her for not knowing; there is always so much happening in this House and in our political life. But these figures arise from a survey announced in the House, the result of which has just been published. The hon. Lady will be able to obtain a copy from the Vote Office. There she will find the answers to all her questions.

The hon. Member for Somerset, North (Mr. Dean) was worried about the extension of the interval between visits from six months to twelve months. One of the important reasons for this is that we want our old people—and widows—to feel that they have a guaranteed income, and that it will not be cut. They will have this for at least a year. That is why, in these cases, the review will be carried out once a year.

At the same time, we have said that old people who do not wish to have an officer calling upon them at their homes may make application in writing and confirm their wish by going to the office. This is to overcome the feeling of some old people—especially of those living in villages—that there is a stigma attached to a visit by an officer. They feel that other people will realise that the officer has come to give them financial help.

We have had to weigh one consideration against the other. I can assure the hon. Member, however, that in the case of a person who, through ill health or any other reason, needs to be visited more often than once a year, those visits will certainly take place. They will possibly take place more often than twice a year. Further, we shall continue to nominate someone—perhaps a neighbour or relative of such a person—to get in touch with the Ministry immediately if he thinks that there is some need that is not being met. For the vast majority of old people, therefore, there will be a visit once a year, if it is required, and for those in real need the visits can be much more frequent.

Photo of Mr Paul Dean Mr Paul Dean , Somerset North

I am much obliged to the right hon. Lady for that informataion. Do I understand from what she has said that if, when the visit has taken place, the officer has ascertained that the old person is sick or is living alone, he will make a specific note of the fact and will in some way ensure that the person receives a visit sooner than twelve months hence?

Photo of Miss Peggy Herbison Miss Peggy Herbison , Lanarkshire North

That is exactly what I have been trying to say.

Many hon. Members referred to the question of welfare facilities for disabled ex-Service men, and suggested that we might adopt the same practice under the Ministry of Social Security for the person who receives non-contributory benefits. Again, welfare officers visit the homes of disabled persons usually only once every second year. But in the case of severely disabled ex-Service men we are fortunate in having so many voluntary organisations which provide help. We have the war pensions committees, whose members provide a very good visiting service both for disabled ex-Service men and the elderly war widows. Here we propose that there should be a visit not less often than once a year, as now happens in the case of severely disabled ex-Service men who are visited by welfare officers.

The hon. Member for Plymouth, Devonport (Dame Joan Vickers) felt that it would be wrong if blind people were visited less frequently by the Commission. I can assure her that if a blind person is living alone and is not regularly visited by the welfare officer for the blind—because, apart from our assistance officers, there are those welfare officers—an officer of the Commission will visit that person at least once every three months.

The hon. Lady also referred to the difficulties that people now get into when they use for other purposes the National Assistance money that they have been given to pay the rent. I have had instances in my constituency. This can cause very great hardship. Under Clause 17(3) the Commission will have power to determine that the benefits shall be paid to a third party. That third party may be the private owner of a house or a local authority. The subsection provides that this shall be done Where it appears to the Commission that it is necessary for protecting the interests of a claimant or of his dependants… I turn to the Amendment as drafted.

Photo of Bernard Braine Bernard Braine , Essex South East

Would the right hon. Lady answer the question I put to her? Would not a nucleus for a register of old people be found in the lists now being prepared by executive councils? Has she consulted, or does she propose to consult, the Minister of Health? This is a crucial point.

Photo of Miss Peggy Herbison Miss Peggy Herbison , Lanarkshire North

I intend to deal with that point when I deal with the consultations which I have naturally been having with the Health Ministers, because both my right hon. Friends the Minister of Health and the Secretary of State for Scotland are concerned.

My hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Provan (Mr. Hugh D. Brown) said that the Amendment is woolly. The hon. Member for Cornwall, North (Mr. Pardoe) said that the Amendment was wide-ranging and that, if the Commission and its officers were to perform their other tasks effectively, this statutory duty should not be imposed upon them.

I will deal first with the Amendment as it appears on the Notice Paper and tell the Committee what its effect would he. It was quite clear that the hon. Member for Melton (Miss Pike) did not intend the Amendment to be as wide-ranging as its wording would imply, but it was evident that some of her hon. Friends wanted the Amendment to be very wide indeed. Having heard the hon. Lady's speech, I had thought that I would deal with what she thought was necessary, but having heard the other speeches I must deal with the Amendment as it is on the Notice Paper.

The Amendment as it is on the Notice Paper would make the officers of the Commission responsible for identifying the financial, health and welfare needs of the whole population. The Amendment would cover people of all ages, regardless of whether they came within the scope of the Bill and, indeed, regardless of whether they had any cause to have dealings with the Commission or with the Ministry of Social Security.

The Amendment, if accepted, would mean also that the Commission would be required to operate a universal welfare detection service, with certain limited. exceptions, one of which would be housing. Some hon. Members wanted even housing to be included. However, the Amendment as drafted would exclude housing but would include all the other social services for everybody in the community.

Photo of Miss Peggy Herbison Miss Peggy Herbison , Lanarkshire North

The hon. Gentleman came in very late, almost at the end of this debate. He has a habit of doing that. This has been a very long debate. I want to answer it in as much detail as I can.

Photo of Miss Peggy Herbison Miss Peggy Herbison , Lanarkshire North

I shall not give way to the hon. Gentleman.

Photo of Mr Kenneth Lewis Mr Kenneth Lewis , Rutland and Stamford

On a point of order. I must point out to the right hon. Lady that I had a Committee upstairs or I would not have arrived late.

Photo of Mr Sydney Irving Mr Sydney Irving , Dartford

That is not a point of order.

Photo of Miss Peggy Herbison Miss Peggy Herbison , Lanarkshire North

I am not complaining about the hon. Gentleman having a Committee upstairs, but I want to deal with the many valuable contributions which have been made.

I must make it clear, as most hon. Members have suspected, that the Government are not able to accept the Amendment. This does not mean that we do not feel that there is an important piece of detection work to be done. The hon. Lady the Member for Melton stressed the importance of ensuring that all needs, not only financial but also welfare needs, should be brought to light. The Government agree with this point. We are determined to do everything possible to reduce the risk of such needs being overlooked, because if welfare and health needs are overlooked very great hardship can ensue to those concerned. I am in complete agreement with the hon. Lady that the lack of such services as home helps and meals on wheels—things the hon. Lady mentioned on Second Reading—can often cause almost as great hardship as lack of money.

7.15 p.m.

I hope that I have made it clear that there is not any lack of sympathy with the case which has been advanced or with the desire that we should do everything possible to ensure that there is proper detection. There are, however, a number of valid reasons why we cannot accept the Amendment. It is so widely drawn that it would be completely unworkable, even taking into account the words stressed by the hon. Lady the Member for Melton— So far as is practicable".

If the intention is, as I think the hon. Lady's intention was, though it was not the intention of some hon. Members, to limit the detection service to the work which it is already intended that the Ministry of Social Security should cover, the Amendment would add nothing to the Bill. As it stands, however, the Amendment would bring about a universal detection service. It would apply to all those over pension age, to all those under pension age, to all those in work and to all those out of work. This is what hon. Members opposite desire. The Committee must realise that, if this is the detection service that hon. Members want, it would require an enormous corps of visiting staff. A wide range of professional skills would be necessary. There have been quotations from the Younghusband Report to illustrate the type of work which would be necessary.

We must be realistic. The Committee knows that people of that calibre in those great numbers are not available at present. With the staff that are available, much of the work would be negative, if we accept the Amendment at its face value. I do not think that we can afford to do that at this stage. Further, much of the work would inevitably overlap that of the local authorities.

I was very interested in the excellent contribution made by the hon. Member for North Angus and Mearns (Mr. Buchanan-Smith). He spoke mostly about the voluntary services. There is the work done by local authorities through health visitors and district nurses, to give only two examples. There is also the invaluable work carried out by voluntary organisations. In an area of scarce trained manpower, it would be silly to have such an overlap. To attempt to establish a welfare detection service as diffuse as the Amendment asks us to do would be tantamount to refusing to consider priorities. Any responsible government must consider priorities. I hope that the Committee will agree that the right course is to begin to tackle the problem where the need is clearest. That is what we propose to do under the Bill. People, as they get older, by the very nature of things become more frail. They need more help. Because of that, we believe that it is amongst the old that we must make a real start. I believe the hon. Member for Essex, South-East (Mr. Braine), when he spoke, realised that it is amongst the old that we must make a start. As I said, I think that the hon. Lady and I are not really divided on this matter.

There, then, is our priority as a Government in the light of the circumstances that I have been discussing—that we must make a real start with the old. If this is what the hon. Lady really feels, it seems to me that we do not need any amendment to the Bill. The Bill already provides in Clause 3(1) that the Commission shall exercise the functions conferred on them by this Act in such manner as shall best promote the welfare of persons affected by the exercise thereof.

Welfare does not mean just financial aid. it means that when the National Assistance Board officer calls, not only on the old—although I think at this stage we must be particularly concerned with the old—but on anybody else who benefits under this Bill, the officer tries to assess welfare needs as well as financial needs. The officers of the new Ministry will have this job to do. Therefore, we have provided the power in the Statute to carry on a detection service for both financial and welfare needs. I am sure from what I have said on Second Reading and on other occasions that the Committee will realise that the Government have every intention that these powers shall he fully exercised.

With regard to those receiving supplementary pensions or allowances, the Commission will have power to do what the Amendment asks. When a person makes a claim for a supplementary pension, and later when the award is reviewed by the Ministry's officers, they will be concerned I stress this again because it has been mentioned so often on the benches opposite—not only with the financial needs of the people whom they visit but with the welfare needs. Welfare needs cover many of those things that have been discussed. Having ascertained the welfare needs, it will be the duty of the officers to get in touch with the local authority if the local authority provides the service, or with the voluntary organisations if it is known that a voluntary organisation provides the service.

Of course, this will not be simply a one-way traffic. We find even at present—and I hope it will be increased—that when the local authority officers—perhaps the district nurse or the health and welfare officers—visit people, they often find that not only is there a welfare need but also a financial need and they get in touch with the National Assistance Board. In the future they will get in touch with the Commission. Therefore, we shall have this two-way traffic. This procedure obtains at present, but for the reasons that I have given I hope it will be extended.

However, we are going even further, and I have made this clear before. It is the Government's declared intention that the Commission shall seek out particu- larly those amongst the old and the widows who may be entitled to financial help. Personal contact will be needed. A pensioner, on getting his pension book. will be informed of what help he can get in non-contributory benefits. If no letter is received by the Commission or the Ministry stating that the man or woman concerned does not want any help, personal contact will be made. That is not done at present. It is our intention that there shall be this further extension, and this will apply not only to the person who retires but also to the woman who becomes widowed.

We hope that there will be a follow-up. It may be discovered that no help is required by a woman on attaining 60 or by a man at 65. But sometimes welfare, health and financial needs arise and there will be a follow-up to ensure that those who did not want help in the first instance are really looked after when they subsequently need it.

I have dealt as quickly as possible with all the points that have been raised. To sum up, the new Ministry will indeed be seeking out financial and welfare needs across a much wider sector of the community than the Board is at present able to do. This will be a real improvement on the present position. But I must tell the Committee that this cannot be the end of the road. There is still, and there will continue to be, much to be done, and this brings me to the point raised by the hon. Member for Essex, South-East.

The Minister of Health, the Secretary of State for Scotland and I have been studying this problem very closely to see what more can be done to ensure that health and welfare services are given to those people who need them. It has been suggested that because all the relevant Ministries are not in one corridor to facilitate the Ministers of Health, Social Security and Housing in getting together, nothing at all is done. I take the hon. Lady's point, but I can assure her that the Minister of Health, myself and other Ministers—the hon. Lady mentioned the Home Office—have been giving considerable thought to this matter. As hon. Members will recall, reference has been made to the Seebohm Committee. I can assure the Committee that the Ministers concerned are giving thought to the matter, and this Bill will lead to an extension of the detection service.

However, the Government are not satisfied that that is the end, and we are giving further consideration to what more can be done. This Amendment, however, is not the way to do it, and I therefore ask the Committee to reject it.

7.30 p.m.

Photo of Miss Mervyn Pike Miss Mervyn Pike , Melton

We are grateful to the Minister for her full explanation. Of course, we accept that her intentions are in line with all the speeches that have been made this afternoon to establish this detection service. Although there is very little between us in the goal which she and I want to achieve, there is a great difference in the means by which we want to do it. The hon. Lady says that a lot is being done and that ways are being found. We on this side of the Committee want to put the onus and the responsibility on to some specific Minister to make certain that coordination is established with all the local welfare organisations.

We know that at present there are a tremendous number of people working upon this; there is a tremendous amount of overlapping and we also know that there is a great deal of ignorance as a result of this. We believe that if we write into the Bill the onus of responsibility, wherever practicable—and those words are very powerful and important, because it means that we do not ask the Minister to do the impossible—to seek out these people, it will force coordination at local level by these various organisations. This is one of the most valuable things which we wrote into the Children and Young Persons Act. I keep coming back to this because I was responsible for bringing that Bill to the House.

The Bill can go even further than the forced co-ordination at local authority level. We accept the Minister's intentions and we know that she wants to do these things, but we are realists and know that unless there is an onus of responsibility put upon a Minister things move forward too slowly. If we are to bring in the Minister of Health and other Ministers, this is the way to make certain that we have this wider scope and co-ordination.

I accept that it will mean that if we do our job properly, however we do it, whether by intention or onus of responsibility, many more skilled social workers would be needed. By writing this onus of responsibility into the Bill, we will be forced to use these people properly. People are getting married earlier, and there will be many young married social workers who could give part-time help. We can bring them in in this local co-ordination. The people I am frightened about are those about whom the Minister was talking, the borderline cases who, at one moment in their lives, are just all right, and then, because of exceptional circumstances, inflation, the movement of forces in society, they are at risk. They may be young or old people and it is absolutely essential that we use all our forces at local level to make certain that these people are detected. We believe that wherever practicable there should be this onus of responsibility and it is for these reasons that we shall divide on this Amendment.

Photo of Miss Peggy Herbison Miss Peggy Herbison , Lanarkshire North

I am very surprised indeed at the decision of the hon. Lady to divide. I could understand her back benchers wishing to divide, but it is completely against what I understood her to mean when she nodded assent to what I said. It is clear from Clause 3(1) of the Bill that all the power that is needed is there. If the hon. Lady wants to divide the Committee, we will be quite happy.

Photo of Miss Mervyn Pike Miss Mervyn Pike , Melton

I nodded because I was believing that the Minister's intentions were there, but I know that the Minister will not always be there and I want to make absolutely certain that the onus of responsibility is in the Bill.

Photo of Mr Kenneth Lewis Mr Kenneth Lewis , Rutland and Stamford

I arrived late in this debate and heard two speeches. I had been detained in a Committee upstairs. When I asked the right hon. Lady if she would give way, I was quite prepared for her to say that she did not intend to do so. Instead, she made two comments which were in the form of debate about my attempt to get her to give way. First of all, she said that I had not been in the debate, which was perfectly true. Then I had to explain the reason for that on a point of order. Then she said that I made a habit of coming into debates and speaking.

I must tell the right hon. Lady, and she knows it perfectly well, that I sat through the Second Reading of the Bill. Even supposing I as a Member of the House of Commons, came in here—

Photo of Mr Sydney Irving Mr Sydney Irving , Dartford

Order. I hope that the hon. Gentleman will bring himself to the Amendment.

Photo of Mr Kenneth Lewis Mr Kenneth Lewis , Rutland and Stamford

I am dealing with what happened to me on this Amendment. The right hon. Lady—

Photo of Mr Sydney Irving Mr Sydney Irving , Dartford

Order. What is under discussion is the Amendment

on the Notice Paper, not what happened to the hon. Gentleman.

Photo of Mr Kenneth Lewis Mr Kenneth Lewis , Rutland and Stamford

I am very anxious that it should be made clear from the back benches that we may have to put up with a "we are the masters now" attitude, but we are not prepared to put up with "we are the mistress now" from the right hon Lady. That is all I wanted to say.

Question put, That those words be there inserted:—

The Committee divided: Ayes 121, Noes, 202.

Division No. 17.]AYES[7.34 p.m.
Alison, Michael (Barkston Ash)Giles, Rear-Adm. MorganMunro-Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh
Astor, JohnGilmour, Sir John (Fife, E.)Nabarro, Sir Gerald
Baker, W. H. K.Glyn, Sir RichardNoble, Rt. Hon. Michael
Batstord, BrianGoodhart, PhilipNott, John
Bell, RonaldGower, RaymondOnslow, Cranley
Berry, Hn. AnthonyGrant, AnthonyOsborn, John (Hallam)
Biffen, JohnGrant-Ferris, R.Pike, Miss Mervyn
Biggs-Davison, JohnGrieve, PercyPink, R. Bonner
Black, Sir CyrilGriffiths, Eldon (Bury St. Edmunds)Pym, Francis
Blaker, PeterGurden, HaroldQuennell, Miss J. M.
Body, RichardHarris, Frederic (Croydon, N.W.)Rees-Davies, W. R.
Bossom, Sir CliveHarris, Reader (Heston)Renton, Rt. Hn. Sir David
Boyd-Carpenter, Rt. Hn. JohnHarvey, Sir Arthur VereRippon, Rt. Hn. Geoffrey
Boyle, Rt. Hn. Sir EdwardHeald, Rt. Hn. Sir LionelRoots, William
Braine, BernardHiggins, Terence L.Rossi, Hugh (Hornsey)
Buchanan-Smith,Alick(Angus,N&M)Hill, J. E. B.Russell, Sir Ronald
Buck, Antony (Colchester)Holland, PhilipSt. John-Stevas, Norman
Bullus, Sir EricHornby, RichardScott, Nicholas
Burden, F. A.Howell, David (Guildford)Sharpies, Richard
Campbell, GordonHunt, JohnShaw, Michael (Sc'b'gh & Whitby)
Chichester-Clark, R.Hutchison, Michael ClarkTaylor, Sir Charles (Eastbourne)
Cooke, RobertJenkin, Patrick (Woodford)Taylor, Edward M. (G'gow,Cathcart)
Cordle, JohnJennings, J. C. (Burton)Taylor, Frank (Moss Side)
Cortield, F. V.Johnson Smith, G. (E. Grinstead)Thatcher, Mrs. Margaret
Costain, A. P.Jopling, Michaelvan Straubenzee, W. R.
Crosthwaite-Eyre, Sir OliverKimball, MarcusVickers, Dame Joan
Crouch, DavidKing, Evelyn (Dorset, S.)Walker, Peter (Worcester)
Crowder, F. P.Knight, Mrs. JillWall, Patrick
Cunningham, Sir KnoxLegge-Bourke, Sir HarryWard, Dams Irene
Currie, G. B. H.Lewis, Kenneth (Rutland)Weatherill, Bernard
Dance, JamesLoveys, W. H.Wells, John (Maidstone)
Dean, Faul (Somerset, N.)McAdden, Sir StephenWhitelaw, William
Deedes, Rt. Hn. W. F. (Ashford)Maclean, Sir FitzroyWills, Sir Gerald (Bridgwater)
Digby, Simon WingfieldMacmillan, Maurice (Farnham)Wilson, Geoffrey (Truro)
Doughty, CharlesMarten, NeilWoffige-Gordon, Patrick
du Cann, Rt. Hn. EdwardMaxwell-Hyslop, R. J.Worsley, Marcus
Eden, Sir JohnMaydon, Lt.-Cmdr. S. L. C.Wylie, N. R.
Elliot, Capt. Walter (Carshalton)Mills, Peter (Torrington)
Elliott, R.W.(N'c'tle-upon-Tyne,N.)Mills, Stratton (Belfast, N.)TELLERS FOR THE AYES:
Errington, Sir EricMitchell, David (Basingstoke)Mr. Jasper More and
Eyre, ReginaldMonro, HectorMr. George Younger.
Fletcher-Cooke, CharlesMorgan, W. G. (Denbigh)
Allaun, Frank (Salford, E.)Bishop, E. S.Concannon, J. D.
Alldritt, WalterBlackburn, F.Corbet, Mrs. Freda
Anderson, DonaldBooth, AlbertCousins, Rt. Hn. Frank
Archer, PeterBoston, TerenceCraddock, George (Bradford, S.)
Armstrong, ErnestBraddock, Mrs. E. M.Grossman, Rt. Hn. Richard
Ashley, JackBrown, Hugh D. (G'gow, Proven)Cullen, Mrs. Alice
Atkinson, Norman (Tottenham)Brown,Bob(N'c'tle-upon-Tyne,W.)Davidson,James(Aberdeenshire,W.)
Bacon, Rt. Hn. AliceBuchanan, Richard (G'gow, Sp'burn)Davies, Dr. Ernest (Stretford)
Barnes, MichaelButler, Herbert (Hackney, C.)Davies, C. Elfed (Rhondda, E.)
Barnett, JoelButler, Mrs. Joyce (Wood Green)Davies, Ednyfed Hudson (Conway)
Baxter, WilliamCant, R. B.Davies, Harold (Leek)
Beaney, AlanChapman, DonaldDavies, Ifor (Gower)
Benn, Rt. Hn. Anthony WedgwoodCoe, DenisDavies, Robert (Cambridge)
Bidwell, SydneyColeman, DonaldDavies, S. 0. (Merthyr)
Detargy, HughJohnson, Carol (Lewisham, S.)Price, Christopher (Perry Barr)
Dell, EdmundJohnson, James (K'ston-on-Hull, W.)Price, J. T. (Westhoughton)
Dempsey, JamesJones, Dan (Burnley)Price, William (Rugby)
Dewar, DonaldJones,Rt.Hn.Sir Elwyn(W.Ham,S.)Randall, Harry
Dickens, JamesJudd, FrankRankin, John
Dobson, RayKerr, Mrs. Anne (R'ter & Chatham)Redhead, Edward
Doig, PeterKerr, Dr. David (W'worth, Central)Reynolds, G. W.
Dunwoody, Mrs. Gwyneth (Exeter)Kerr, Russell (Feltham)Roberts, Goronwy (Caernarvon)
Dunwoody, Dr. John (Filth & C'b'e)Lawson, GeorgeRoberts, Gwilym (Bedfordshire, S.)
Edwards, William (Merioneth)Lee, Rt. Hn. Frederick (Newton)Robertson, John (Paisley)
Ellis, JohnLee, John (Reading)Robinson, W. 0. J. (Walth'stow, E.)
English, MichaelLestor, Miss JoanRoebuck, Roy
Ennals, DavidLever, L. M. (Ardwick)Rogers, George
Ensor, DavidLewis, Arthur (W. Ham, N.)Ross, Rt. Hn. William
Faulds, AndrewLuard, EvanRowland, Christopher (Meriden)
Fernyhough, E.Lubbock, EricRowlands, E. (Cardiff, N.)
Fletcher, Sir Eric (Islington, E.)Lyon, Alexander W. (York)Ryan, John
Fletcher, Ted (Darlington)Mahon, Dr. J. DicksonSheldon, Robert
Floud, BernardMacColl, JamesShinwell, Rt. Hn, E.
Forrester, JohnMacDermot, NiallShore, Peter (Stepney)
Fowler, GerryMacdonald, A. H.Short,Rt.Hn.Edward(N'c'tle-u-Tyne)
Fraser, John (Norwood)McKay, Mrs. MargaretSilverman, Julius (Aston)
Freeson, ReginaldMackintosh, John P.Slater, Joseph
Gardner, A. J.McMillan, Tom (Glasgow, C.)Small, William
Garrow, AlexMcNamara, J. KevinSpriggs, Leslie
Ginsburg, DavidMacPherson, MalcolmSteel, David (Roxburgh)
Gordon Walker, Rt. Hn. P. C.Mallalieu, E. L. (Brigg)Steele, Thomas (Dunbartonshire, W.)
Gourlay, HarryMapp, CharlesStonehouse, John
Gray, Dr. HughMarquand, DavidSymonds, J. B.
Gregory, ArnoldMendelson, J. J.Tuck, Raphael
Grey, CharlesMikardo, IanVarley, Eric G.
Griffiths, David (Rother Valley)Milian, BruceWalker, Harold (Doncaster)
Griffiths, Rt. Hn. James (Llanelly)Miller, Dr. M. S.Wallace, George
Grimond, Rt. Hn. J.Moonman, EricWatkins, David (Consett)
Gunter, Rt. Hn. R. J.Morgan, Elysian (Cardiganshire)Weitzman, David
Hale, Leslie (Oldham, W.)Morris, Alfred (Wythenshawe)Wellbeloved, James
Hamilton, James (Bothwell)Morris, Charles R. (Openshaw)Wells, William (Walsall, N.)
Hamilton, William (Fife, W.)Mulley, Rt. Hon. FrederickWhitaker, Ben
Harper, JosephMurray, AlbertWhitlock, William
Hattersley, RoyNewens, StanWilley, Rt. Hn. Frederick
Hazell, BertNorwood ChristopherWilliams, Alan Lee (Hornchurch)
Henig, StanleyOgden, EricWilliams, Clifford (Abertillery)
Herbison, Rt. Hn. MargaretOrme, StanleyWilson, Rt. Hn. Harold (Huyton)
Hilton, W. S.Oswald, ThomasWilson, William (Coventry, S.)
Hooley, FrankOwen, Dr. David (Plymouth, Sitn)Winnick, David
Houghton, Rt. Hn. DouglasOwen, Will (Morpeth)Winterbottom, R. E.
Howarth, Robert (Bolton, E.)Paget, R. T,Woodburn, Rt. Hn. A.
Howie, W.Palmer, ArthurWoof, Robert
Hoy, JamesPardoe, J.Wyatt, Woodrow
Hughes, Fit. Hn. Cledwyn (Anglesey)Park, TrevorZilliacus, K.
Hughes, Hector (Aberdeen, N.)Parkyn, Brian (Bedford)
Hughes, Roy (Newport)Peart, Rt. Hn. FredTELLERS FOR THE NOES:
Jackson, Peter M. (High Peak)Pentland, NormanMr. Alan Fitch and
Janner, Sir BarnettPerry, George H. (Nottingham, S.)Mr. Neil McBride.
Jeger,Mrs.Lena(H'b'n&St.P'cras,S.)Prentice, Rt. Hn. R. E.

Question proposed, That the Clause stand part of the Bill.

Photo of Miss Joan Vickers Miss Joan Vickers , Plymouth, Devonport

I wish to thank the Minister for providing in the Bill that there shall be at least two women members on the Commission. However, I object to the fact that this has to be done. I look forward to the time when women are selected for their work and not because they are women. We do not come to the House of Commons as women Members of Parliament; we come as Members of Parliament. But I hope that this will not be a precedent and that women will not be allowed to serve on commissions or committees unless provision for it is written into the Measure. I thank the right hon. Lady for doing this. I appreciate that it has to be done.

Photo of Miss Peggy Herbison Miss Peggy Herbison , Lanarkshire North

I agree completely with what the hon. Lady the Member for Plymouth, Devonport (Dame Joan Vickers) has said. I came to the House of Commons not as a woman Member of Parliament, but as a Member of Parliament. I hope that the day will come when women will be allowed to serve in these capacities for their own qualities and abilities. If we had not put this provision in the Bill other hon. Members would have insisted that we did put it in. Therefore, the safest thing to do was to put it in.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause ordered to stand part of the Bill.