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National Assistance (Blind Persons)

Volume 644: debated on Monday 10 July 1961

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asked the Minister of Pensions and National Insurance by what percentage the National Assistance scale rate for a husband and wife, one of whom is a blind person, has increased over the period from 5th July, 1948; by what percentage the ordinary scale rate for husband and wife has increased over the same period; and what is the difference in shillings and pence necessary to establish the same rate of increase.

The figures are, respectively, 105 per cent., 125 per cent. and 11s. 3d.

Does not the Minister think that a difference of 11s. 3d., which the blind person is suffering, is a very great difference for such people? Is it not mean that the Government cannot at least bring the standard of the blind person up to that of the ordinary person? Will not the Minister think about this again and spend the 11s. 3d. to ensure that blind persons get at least as great an improvement as has been given to ordinary sighted persons?

The 11s. 3d. relates to the differential, but the hon. Gentleman knows perfectly well that the standards of both have been very substantially increased. The category mentioned in his Question is receiving on the assistance scales now in real terms about 24s. 6d. more than in 1951, and in any event, as I explained to his hon. Friend the Member for Eton and Slough (Mr. Brockway) last week, these differentials have in some degree lost their significance in view of the much wider use by the Board of its discretionary powers.

Nevertheless, does not the Minister agree that if the blind person were to receive now as much proportionately as he received in 1948 he would require 11s. 3d. more than he is getting now? Is not that the case?

What is the case is that he is receiving 24s. 6d. more than he received in 1951. The hon. Gentleman's figure relates only to the differential, which comparison is vitiated by the fact that both rates have risen.