Mr Thomas Steele: I think it must be appreciated that the local offices were working under great strain at this time, and the clerk, unfortunately, worded the message to Mr. Hardy in this way. Mr. Hardy was visited by one of our inspectors in January and in February and he appreciated why the delay occurred.
Mr Thomas Steele: Any alteration in the present regulations, which were approved by this House as recently as 16th June last and came into force on 7th July, is a matter in the first instance for the National Assistance Board. The Board inform me that they have recently reviewed the position in the light of representations made to them by deputations including representatives of old age pensions associations,...
Mr Thomas Steele: I understand that this was one of the matters which was discussed when the deputation met the chairman of the Assistance Board.
Mr Thomas Steele: I am afraid that is another question.
Mr Thomas Steele: Yes, Sir; we are amending the regulations to enable the retirement pension such a woman may receive when her husband retires or reaches the age of 70, or on his earlier death, to be increased by one shilling a week for every 12 months which have elapsed between her sixtieth birthday and the date when the pension becomes payable.
Mr Thomas Steele: Oh, yes, we want to do this quickly.
Mr Thomas Steele: I should like to have notice of that question.
Mr Thomas Steele: My right hon. Friend is considering this point, and hopes to make arrangements to enable arrears of contributions to be paid within a reasonable time after a man is discharged from prison.
Mr Thomas Steele: The loss of revenue is estimated to be about £1,500,000 a year at the present time, falling to about £500,000 in 10 years' time.
Mr Thomas Steele: No, it applies only, as far as Class I people are concerned to insured persons' contributions, not to those of the employers; and it takes into account the whole contribution of Class II and Class III widows, but not payments by the Assistance Board.
Mr Thomas Steele: Not necessarily.
Mr Thomas Steele: The position is, of course, that if a widow has an income of less than £104 per annum she may opt out, and is not required to pay the contributions.
Mr Thomas Steele: My right hon. Friend is proposing to set up about 230 committees under the National Insurance Act—186 in England, 26 in Scotland and 18 in Wales. Membership will vary from area to area. It will generally be about 20, and will include persons appointed after consultation with organisations of employers and workers, local authorities, friendly societies and other bodies with special local...
Mr Thomas Steele: I think my hon. Friend is confusing the committees to be set up under the National Insurance Act and the committees under the National Assistance Act. So far as the National Assistance Act is concerned, those committees are being reconstituted at the present time. As to the committees under the National Insurance Act, I am sure my hon. Friend will appreciate that we have had a tremendous ...
Mr Thomas Steele: So far as the National Insurance committees are concerned, we felt that it was necessary to have dual membership between them and the committees under the National Assistance Act, so that those committees would be acquainted with the work of the social services as a whole.
Mr Thomas Steele: The Board, in common with other departments with local staffs, provide their officers with a code of executive directions, which is extended or varied from time to time as circumstances require. It is not possible to state a particular number. As regards the second part of the Question, I would refer my hon. Friend to the reply given to the hon. Member for Clitheroe (Mr. Randall) on 16th...
Mr Thomas Steele: In general, hon. Members and the organisations concerned have paid tribute to the work of the Assistance Board officers.
Mr Thomas Steele: Therefore, what my hon. Friend says is rather contrary to the evidence we have at the present time. Instructions from the National Assistance Board to the officers can only be instructions on the manner and method of carrying out any regulations passed by this House. If my hon. Friend has any evidence of the facts of which he speaks, I think he ought to give it to me.
Mr Thomas Steele: The instructions are contained in a code of procedure which enables the officers of the Assistance Board to carry out the regulations laid down by this House. If my hon. Friend the Member for Ince (Mr. T. Brown) has any evidence in his possession that Assistance Board officers are not complying with the wishes of this House, I think he ought to give it to us so that it may be investigated.
Mr Thomas Steele: I understand that the hon. and gallant Member has in mind persons who were in arrears under the old scheme. For a limited period the sickness and maternity benefits of such people will differ according to the group in which they are placed for the purposes of the new scheme. This is an unavoidable result of the arrangements which had to be made to bring the new scheme into force, and I regret...