asked the Minister of Social Security if she is aware that the decision not to disregard war disability pensions and allowances for purposes of claiming rate rebate has the effect of penalising those who are most severely disabled; whether she will make such adjustments to allowances as are necessary in order to maintain the principle that compensation given to the war disabled remains inviolable.
Because the scheme gives rates relief to those on low incomes it does not follow that it penalises others whose incomes are higher. The answer to the second part of Question No. 2 and to Question No. 5 is, "No, Sir".
Does not the right hon. Lady agree that war disability pensions are not income but compensation for specific injuries sustained in the service of one's country, and that this principle has been overthrown by the Rating Act? Is she telling the House that she does not intend to do anything to maintain a principle which has hitherto been accepted by all Governments?
Neither the Government nor I agree that a principle has been overthrown by the Rating Act. My right hon. Friend the Minister of Housing and Local Government made it quite clear that the rate rebate scheme is a tax concession and not a form of social security benefit which is capable of adjustment to individual circumstances.
Will the right hon. Lady have another look at this matter? It is not something to be taken up just by one side of the House. Members on both sides are concerned about this. Will she consider the question again, bearing in mind that, although this is a concession, our present procedure means that to some extent people in receipt of war disability pensions are excluded to some extent from this concession, and that many of us are concerned about it?
Those whose incomes fall within the concessions laid down in the Rating Act receive the concession, whether or not they are war disability pensioners. The important thing that the ex-Service world wants to know is that the situation that has obtained up to the present, under which income from war disability pensions is completely free of Income Tax, will continue.
Is the right hon. Lady aware that the effect of the Rating Act is to dissipate the trust which has existed between limbless ex-Service men and Governments ever since 1918? Is she also aware of the fact that there is a Motion on the Order Paper in my name and in the names of hon. Members of all parties asking for an early discussion of this matter with her Department on the Floor of the House?
I am not aware that what the hon. Gentleman is saying is correct. I stress that what the ex-Service world wants to be assured of—and it has had this assurance from the Government—is that the situation that now obtains in respect of their income from war disability pensions and Income Tax shall continue.
At present there are very great preferences for the war disabled and we, as a Government, are determined to continue with those preferences. The award of a war disablement pension itself—and this is the real answer to the question—is in no way affected by the pensioner's financial resources. Whatever his earnings or income, it makes no difference to the pension paid to him. That will continue to be the position.
Is not the Minister seized of the fact that the preferences to which she has just referred operate in exactly the opposite direction in relation to rate rebates, for the simple reason that the more disabled a man is the higher are his allowances and the greater the likelihood of his being disadvantaged by the scheme? Will not she look into this question again?
By Government action this year the more seriously disabled war pensioners are already receiving, on top of their war pensions and other allowances, an extra £3 a week, which is much more than any rate rebate would give to the seriously disabled.