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National Insurance

Volume 437: debated on Tuesday 20 May 1947

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Pensioners' Earnings

80.

asked the Minister of National Insurance, in view of the fact that an old age pensioner, casually employed at 20S. per week and receiving 46s. a week in total, by working longer hours and earning 30s. still receives the same weekly sum, if he will make regulations before the new scheme under the National Insurance Act comes into force to provide inducements for pensioners under the existing scheme to make their maximum contribution to the national effort without delay.

I would refer my hon. Friend to the reply which I gave to the hon. Member for Sutton (Mrs. Middleton) on 29th April. The provisions referred to are contained in the National Insurance Act and I have no power to vary them.

Is it not a fact that in his answer the Minister has referred to those pensions which would apply after 1948 whereas the Question I put down is very different? Will he reconsider this matter, since I cannot believe that he is suggesting that this House has not the power to meet the situation?

The pensions now paid to existing old age pensioners come under the provisions of the National Insurance Act. The provisions of that Act must, therefore, apply to existing pensions.

Old Age Pensioners (Complaints)

81.

asked the Minister of National Insurance if he will explain the practice of his Department in dealing with letters from old age pensioners complaining that they cannot obtain new pension books; and if he will give instructions that, when further delay is unavoidable, the pensioner shall be informed of its probable duration.

Local area officers of the assistance boards are now acting as my agents in dealing personally with those making a first claim for old age pension and also with pensioners who experience difficulty over renewal of their order books or who claim entitlement to an increase of their previous rate. It is not generally practicable to indicate in advance the time required for settlement of any indi- vidual case, but where it seems that there will be exceptional delay or that a new claim cannot be settled by pension date my Department endeavours to let the claimant know. Now that the difficulties which have created undue delays during recent months are being overcome, I am considering what further improvements in the supply of information can be made.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that many of these old age pensioners have been writing to his Department for over six months, and can they not be sent something more informative than a formal acknowledgement in reply?

My experience has proved to me that any arrangemet by which my Department receives letters from pensioners and writes to them in reply is the wrong way to deal with old people. I am seeking to build up an administration in which if any difficulty arises a pensioner may be seen and interviewed by an officer, which I am certain is the best way to deal with this question.

Is the Minister aware that in cases where claimants have been unable to get satisfaction after two, three or four months, and then approach their Members of Parliament, they are told they should not do so?

That is the first I have heard of this. Members of Parliament have access to the Ministers and to Departments, and we do our best to clear up these matters.

Since we are all agreed that it is not really desirable that we should have to approach the Minister in these cases, may I ask the right hon. Gentleman whether he could suggest some form of local procedure whereby these real grievances could be more speedily remedied?

As I have announced to the House, pending the building up of our own organisation, I have made an arrangement whereby officers of the assistance boards receive old age pensioners or visit them in their own homes to clear up difficulties

Sickness Benefit

82.

asked the Minister of National Insurance where a contributor to national insurance ceases work on account of certified ill-health, whether his regulations entitle him to draw sickness benefit under current legislation or will provide for his sickness benefit or retirement pension under the new Act if he settles in Southern Ireland.

A person insured under the Acts in force in the United Kingdom is not debarred from receiving sickness benefit during temporary residence in Eire. Further, if, within a certain time, he becomes insurably employed under the corresponding Eire scheme he can, under existing reciprocal arrangements, count his contribution record in the United Kingdom, for the purpose of qualifying for sickness benefit under the Eire scheme. The question of making reciprocal arrangements with the Government of Eire in relation to the benefits which are to be provided under the National Insurance Act is at present under consideration. There is no contributory old age pension scheme in Eire, but persons who have been insured under the United Kingdom Acts can continue to pay contributions on a voluntary basis if they become resident in Eire and any pension arising there from may he paid in that country.

If the person concerned has spent the whole of his working life in this country and then, on retirement, goes back to live in his own country, which is Eire, can he take his pension with him?

He can take with him the pension for which he has qualified at the time he left this country.