§ 32. Sir H. Williams
asked the Financial Secretary to the Treasury why his Department, by Statutory Instrument No. 352, restored, as from 9th March, 1953, the exemption of the Birmingham Municipal Bank from certain disabilities imposed upon it by the National Assistance Act, 1948; if he can furnish an estimate of the illegal payments made by the National Assistance Board between 13th May, 1948, and 9th March, 1953, through the fact that the National Assistance Board ignored the provisions of the National Assistance Act; and if he will introduce an indemnity Bill to relieve the National Assistance Board from the consequence of its illegal acts.
§ The Financial Secretary to the Treasury (Mr. John Boyd-Carpenter)
By regulations made under the Determination of Needs Act, 1941, the Birmingham Municipal Bank was prescribed as a savings bank for the purposes of that Act and the Assistance Board was therefore enabled to disregard savings in that bank, within the Statutory maximum of £375, in dealing with applications for unemployment assistance and supplementary pensions. When it repealed the 1941 Act by the National Assistance Act, 1948, the then Government did not realise that these regulations consequently lapsed. The National Assistance Board continued to disregard such savings in connection with national assistance though the number and amount of 1950 the payments involved cannot be ascertained. It is not thought that there is any need to take steps to indemnify the National Assistance Board. The present regulations regularise the position from 9th March, 1953.
§ Sir H. Williams
But the National Assistance Board did an illegal act through the neglect of the late Government to introduce the necessary Statutory Instrument, and does my hon. Friend not think that there is a risk of an action for making illegal payments?
§ Mr. Boyd-Carpenter
It is quite impossible to estimate precisely what payments were made which in strictness ought not, in the absence of these Regulations, to have been made. In any event such payments must have been very small and are certainly within the general purpose of the National Assistance Act.