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I speak with considerable diffidence because I am no expert on social security, but I am fortified in supporting my hon. Friend the Member for Holborn and St. Pancras, South (Mrs. Lena Jeger) by my knowledge that people far more expert than I am have condemned the wage-stop principle. In a very brief term of service on a tribunal dealing with appeals I realised at first hand exactly how the principle worked and was astounded and horrified. I was so startled that I challenged the officer as to whether he was operating the provision correctly and was assured that it was the law.
I regard the Clause as disfiguring an otherwise excellent piece of legislation. I suggest that the concept of normal earnings in these cases begs the whole question. These are precisely the people who have no normal earnings in the recognised sense. Therefore, to apply to them an arbitrary limit of income is both unjust and illogical. I recall the case of a metallurgical worker who was unable to follow his profession through sickness and obliged to apply for National Assistance.
The National Assistance Board ruled not that his normal profession was that of a skilled metallurgical worker but that in his present condition he could be only a light labourer and, therefore, that his normal earnings should be regarded as at the level of what was locally supposed to be the wages of a light labourer. I thought that this was an iniquitous arrangement, and still think so. In this context, the whole idea of normal earnings seems inappropriate and unfair.
I am very sorry that the wage-stop principle has been incorporated in the Bill, and I hope very much that some technical means will be found of removing it from our social security system at the earliest possible date.