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National Assistance Allowances (Disregards)

Volume 531: debated on Monday 26 July 1954

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asked the Minister of Pensions and National Insurance if he will introduce legislation to increase the minimum scales of National Assistance allowances and disregards.

No, Sir. I would refer the hon. Member to Section 6 of the National Assistance Act.

Will the Minister reconsider that answer in the light of the closely reasoned, factual article that appeared in the "Manchester Guardian" last Friday? Does the Minister agree that the standard of these scales was fixed against one of the darkest backgrounds of British history? In view of rising productivity, does he not think that those who suffer through no fault of their own should have their standards improved?

Section 6 of the National Assistance Act, 1948, places fairly and squarely on the Board the duty from time to time of preparing and submitting to the Minister draft regulations covering the scale of assistance. The Board, on a number of occasions, has shown itself prepared to act under Section 6 without any prompting from me. Therefore, I think we should follow the course laid down by Parliament in 1948.

May I ask my right hon. Friend whether the disregards are the subject of examination by the Phillips Committee, bearing in mind that they are concerned with financial provision for the aged?

I am not aware that the Phillips Committee is considering disregards for National Assistance purposes.

Will my right hon. Friend kindly ask the Phillips Committee to consider them? Is he aware that in my opinion it is most important that this aspect of provision for the aged, which involves thrift and saving, should be considered by the Phillips Committee?

All I said was that I was not aware that the Phillips Committee was considering the matter. I cannot say, however, that it is not considering this matter. It certainly is not for me to dictate to that Committee what it should or should not consider within its terms of reference.

Is the Minister aware that the scales of National Assistance for two people are 5s. higher than for a contributory pensioner? The time is long overdue when he should have a look at that.