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Pensions And National Insurance

Volume 530: debated on Monday 12 July 1954

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Disabled War Pensioners

39.

asked the Minister of Pensions and National Insurance the number of pensions reduced and of pensions terminated of those who are, and who were receiving Service pensions from the time the Ministry of National Insurance took over from the Ministry of Pensions to the nearest convenient date.

I assume that the hon. Member has in mind basic pensions in respect of disablement due to service in the Armed Forces. As the reply contains a table of figures, I will, if I may, circulate it in the OFFICIAL REPORT.

While thanking the Minister for that, may I call his attention to the fact that there is a great deal of apprehension now being expressed by those in receipt of pensions that the standard is not quite what it was? Would he carefully watch the matter?

I can assure the hon. Gentleman that there is no need for any apprehension, because the table of figures will show that fewer pensions have been reduced or terminated in the nine months since the merger was completed than in the nine months previously.

Following are the figures:

Reductions*Terminations
December, 1952 to August, 1953 (M.O.P.)21,33014,340 (including 11,750 on account of death).
September, 1953 to May, 1954 (M.P.N.I.)18,40012,470 (including 11,010 on account of death).

*Because of improvement in the pensioner's condition.

Widows' Benefits (Disregarded Earnings)

40.

asked the Minister of Pensions and National Insurance whether he will introduce legislation to raise the amount that can be earned by widows and widowed mothers without forfeiting any part of their pensions.

The provisions governing widows' benefits are at present being reviewed at my request by the National Insurance Advisory Committee.

Would the Minister say when we are likely to get an answer? Does he realise that many of these people are suffering from the rises in the cost of living, which are continuing under his Administration; and does he think it fair further to penalise them by preventing them from earning a little more to offset these increases?

I think we should all be wise to await the report of this eminent body before we come to any conclusion on this matter.

Paired Limb Pension (Concession)

43.

asked the Minister of Pensions and National Insurance whether he will take steps to make the paired limb pension concession, announced on 15th February last, available in all cases where a war pensioner suffers the total or almost total loss of the use of the remaining limb, resulting in 100 per cent. disability.

While thanking the right hon. Gentleman very much for that reply, which will give great pleasure to B.L.E.S.M.A., may I ask him whether he will make it quite clear that, in these cases, where loss of the use of the paired limb results from a generalised condition, such as rheumatoid arthritis or coronary thrombosis, the concession will automatically be given?

Unmarried Pensioners

45.

asked the Minister of Pensions and National Insurance if he is aware that men and women old-age pensioners are living together, unmarried, because their pensions would be cut by as much as 19s. a week if they married; and if he will take steps to introduce legislation at an early date to remove this penalty which acts as a deterrent to old people remarrying.

This position only arises where the woman is a widow drawing a pension on her late husband's insurance. It is inherent in the scheme of widows' benefits that they cease on remarriage, and I do not think that the kind of case mentioned by the hon. Member affords any adequate grounds for abandoning this principle.

Is the Minister aware that this policy of encouraging old people of opposite sexes to live together, unmarried, is wrong, and that I know of cases where this state of affairs exists in order that a greater income may be enjoyed? Does he not agree that there should be no reduction for couples who elect to get married in such cases?

There is no reduction of any sort where each of the couple is entitled to a pension in his or her own right by virtue of his or her own contributions, but I do not think it is possible to modify the rule that a widow's pension ceases on remarriage, because, in that case we should get very attractive widows compiling for themselves a very substantial income out of the fund.