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Area Officers (Instructions)

Volume 467: debated on Tuesday 19 July 1949

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asked the Minister of National Insurance if he will inform the House of the number of instructions sent out to area officers by the National Assistance Board; and if he will have copies of the same placed in the Library of this House for right hon. and hon. Members to see.

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 December last.

Is the Parliamentary Secretary not aware that some of the area officers, and particularly in his own country of Scotland, are now telling old people who come before them that they have had secret instructions from the National Assistance Board not to carry out the regulations; and is he further aware that when this House passes regulations it is the duty of the Department to carry them out, whether they are good, bad or indifferent?

In general, hon. Members and the organisations concerned have paid tribute to the work of the Assistance Board officers.

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.

If, as the Minister said, I think a week or two ago, the decision of this House as to the scales of assistance is to be implemented, can the Parliamentary Secretary say why we should not be told the manner in which they are being implemented by means of instructions? That is all we are asking for.

As the answer will probably be very long, could it not be circulated in the OFFICIAL REPORT?

Could the Parliamentary Secretary say whether the instructions which vary from time to time do so at the behest of the Treasury?

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.

Is the Parliamentary Secretary not aware that this is a very important matter; that a paper published in his own country made a very bitter complaint about the attitude of area officers and the special instructions which they were carrying out; and will he see to it that his Department gets acquainted with what is being done in England, Scotland and Wales by the area officers?