asked the Minister of Pensions and National Insurance whether she will hold discussions with the chairman of the National Assistance Board, with a view to taking steps to change the present arrangements whereby the pensions paid by the Board to blind people are reduced or extinguished by the earnnings of their husband or wife.
No, Sir. These pensioners are non-contributory, and under the provisions of the Old Age Pensions Act the means of a person who is married are to be taken as half the combined means of the couple.
Is the hon. Gentleman aware that a blind person living with a relative gets the whole of the benefit, whereas if he is married the entire benefit can be removed because of the earnings of his wife? Is not this an anomaly which should be looked at?
This is not an anomaly. These matters in regard to blind persons have been looked at time and time again, and at the moment I am afraid the Government have no proposals to alter the blind persons scheme.
Knowing as he does the frustration and annoyance which this causes in the case of blind people, will the hon. Gentleman persuade his right hon. Friend to talk to Lord Runcorn on this subject with a view to making a particular concession in respect of the blind?
As the right hon. Gentleman is aware, we are always willing to—and we often do—have consultations with Lord Runcorn, but the right hon. Gentleman knows also the implications and the complications involved in this, and, as I said, at the present time we have no proposals to alter the scheme.