I beg to move, in page 21, line '29, to leave out Sub-section (3).
The purpose of omitting this Subsection is that we may insert it in some different form in Clause 45, which is the definition Clause. This Sub-section deals with persons who would be entitled to an old age pension under the Old Age Pensions Act by virtue of this Section, and we want to substitute for it a rather wider Sub-section dealing with persons who are entitled under this Bill.
Mr. R. DAVIES
Do I understand that the right hon. Gentleman, in moving to omit this Sub-section, intends to insert the words on page 1908 of the Order Paper?
§ Mr. HARRIS
Before we agree to the omission of this Sub-section, I would like a little more, explanation. Right through the Bill there are references to old age pensioners over 70 who have rights under the Old Age Pensions Acts, 1908 to 1924. 2101 During the Committee stage I made various endeavours to get a clear definition of their position. The impression conveyed to me in looking through the Bill, and it is the impression of a great number of others, is that the basis of our old age pension scheme is in future to be contributory, and if one reads this Clause it seems to be quite clear as to their right being dependent upon contributions under this Bill. That may be a good thing or a bad thing, but it is a departure from the principle accepted by Parliament and the nation of the rights of old people to get an old age pension from the State without contributions. That principle has been accepted, not only in our own country, but throughout the British Empire. For many years before that principle was accepted here people in Australia and in New Zealand, on reaching a certain age, were entitled to old age pensions. Under this Bill brought in to deal with widows and orphans we have a departure from that principle, and I think I am right in saying that if we pass this Sub-section we are establishing it that no longer will old people be entitled to old age pensions under the original scheme as passed in 1908. I think that is a very grave departure, and if it is to be made it should be made clear to the people, who ought to know exactly what their position is.
Or am I to understand that there are going to be two classes of old age pensioners, one class who are contributors, receiving full benefits, without qualification, and on the other hand, another class, not contributors, who are going to get qualified old age pensions? If that distinction is to be made there will be a feeling of injustice and a sense of grievance, and before we agree to a withdrawal of this Sub-section the Minister ought to make the position quite clear. If the foundation of the old age pension scheme is to be on a contributory basis the sooner that is stated the better for everybody concerned.
I think it would be desirable to have a clear statement from the Minister on this point. There has been some confusion, though I think it was cleared up to some extent on Committee stage. The object of the Bill appears to be to transfer the old age pension from the non-contributory to the contributory basis, so that, not only is this Bill contributory, but people who 2102 otherwise would have looked forward to a non-contributory old age pension are about to be asked to pay for it. Could that be cleared up, and could the Minister tell us how much it is expected to save the Exchequer by this alteration in the scheme of 1908?
I will answer the hon. and gallant Member, though the point does not arise here at all. What we are dealing with is a Sub-section referring to the meaning of certain passages in the Hill which say that certain people are entitled to benefits by virtue of their relationship to other people who are entitled to old age pension by virtue of this Bill. A person may be entitled to a pension by virtue of this Bill and also by virtue of the Old Age Pensions Acts, and what we want to show is that the person who is entitled to both is, for the purpose of this Bill, deemed to be entitled to it under this Bill. Take, for example, the paragraph to be found at the bottom of page 20 of the Bill. It says:(c) If being a woman who has attained the age of 70 she is the wife or widow of a man, who is or has been entitled to an old age pension under the Old Age Pensions Acts, 1908 to 1924, by virtue of paragraph (a) or paragraph (b) of this Sub-section.The question may arise, Is a man entitled to an old age pension under the Act or this Bill. It was to make those points clear that this Sub-section was originally put in, and it is because those points arise on some other Clauses than the one now before the House that I am going to put this Sub-section in another place in the Bill.
Mr. T. THOMSON
Will an individual have an option of choice as to which Act it will be that he gets his pension from, or will he be compelled to take it under this Bill, that is, on the contributory basis, and not to take it on a non-contributory basis?
I am afraid the hon. Gentleman still has not got the point. Suppose a woman is entitled to a pension by reason of the fact that her husband is entitled to a pension under the Old Age Pension Act by virtue of this Bill. The question arises whether that man is or is not entitled to this pension by virtue of this Bill. He may be entitled to it by virtue of the Old Age Pension Act, and this Clause says that 2103 if he is entitled to it anywhere under this Bill then the woman in entitled to her pension and will receive it accordingly.
§ Amendment agreed to.