§ 3.56 p.m
§ Order of the Day for the House to be put into Committee read.
§ Moved, That the House do now resolve itself into Committee.—(Lord Bowles.)
§ On Question, Motion agreed to.
§ House in Committee accordingly.
§ [The EARL OF LISTOWEL in the Chair.]
§ Clauses 1 and 2 agreed to.
§ Clause 3:
§ The Supplementary Benefits Commission
§ 3.—(1) There shall be established, in accordance with Schedule 1 to this Act, a Commission, to be known as the Supplementry Benefits Commission, which shall exercise the functions conferred on them by this Act in such manner as shall best promote the welfare of persons affected by the exercise thereof.
§ LORD DRUMALBYN
moved, in subsection (1), to leave out "Supplementary Benefits" and insert "Social Security Supplements". The noble Lord said: On Second Reading I pointed out that 950 up to the present "benefit" has always meant a contributory benefit. Indeed, not all contributory benefits were in fact described as benefits. The amount payable on retirement was called a pension and never a benefit; and, of course, it would be quite incorrect to call a noncontributory old-age pension a benefit. That is a pension which disappears under this Bill.
§ LORD BOWLES
May I interrupt the noble Lord for one moment? Is he going to discuss together the first two Amendments dealing with the change of names'? That might be convenient to the House.
§ LORD DRUMALBYN
I am obliged to the noble Lord. If that is for the convenience of your Lordships, I would suggest that they should be discussed together. The noble Lord, Lord Bowles, during the Second Reading debate on this Bill, said:If the noble Lord"—he was referring to me—or any noble Lord, suggests another word, or name or title, we shall be happy to consider it."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, Vol. 275 (No. 26), c. 475; 27/6/66.]Accordingly, I am asking your Lordships to consider this new title and then the substitution for the word "benefit", wherever it occurs in the context of a non-contributory benefit, of the word "supplement".
The number of times the word "benefit" occurs in its new sense is substantial. I reckon that it occurs 29 times in Part II of the Bill alone, plus once where it is not clear to me, at any rate, whether the word is used in its new or in its accepted sense, or indeed what kind of benefit is referred to. That is one of the inherent dangers of extending the use of the word as proposed in this Bill, the danger of ambiguity. As I made clear on Second Reading, I am not primarily concerned with possible ambiguity in the legal interpretation of this or other measures; what I am concerned with is the much more serious danger of confusion in the minds of the public. I suspect that the Government want to create this confusion in the hope that by blurring the distinction between contributory benefits and non-contributory allowances or supplements they may induce some 951 at least, of the 850,000 persons at present entitled to National Assistance allowances, but not applying for them, to come forward and apply for them. If that is their motive, I am sure that the motive and the objective will commend themselves to your Lordships. But I am not so sure that the means of achieving the objective is, in the long run, in the national interest.
It may seem a small matter whether payments are described as "supplementary benefits" or as "supplements to benefits"; or, indeed, just as plain "supplements". If, however, the effect is to remove from the public mind the real distinction between, on the one hand, benefits paid from the National Insurance Fund, to which a right has been earned by contributions, and, on the other, payments made by the Exchequer, when necessary, to supplement those benefits in cases of need, then I cannot help feeling that the incentive for people to achieve independence by making provision for themselves is gravely impaired. Your Lordships will have noted that I have just used the words "benefits paid from the National Insurance Fund to which a right has been earned by contributions." Of course we are all aware that, actuarially, retirement pensions in payment have not been earned by the joint contributions of contributors and employers, even with the addition of the Exchequer contribution. But the right to them has been earned.
Your Lordships will also have observed that Clause 4 of the Bill states:Every person in Great Britain of or over the age of sixteen whose resources are insufficient to meet his requirements shall be entitled…to a supplementary pension or a supplementary allowance. I do not think that this provision makes any real change. Under the National Assistance Act, the Board is given a duty to assist persons in Great Britain to meet their requirements in accordance with regulations made under the Act, and those affected are given a right of appeal to the Appeal Tribunal against the decisions of the Board. So that they plainly have a right to certain scales of payment. Decisions under this Bill will still have to be made about whether a person is entitled to payments and, if so, to how much, and 952 those affected will still have a right of appeal.
As I said on Second Reading, I believe that people are, in general, deterred from applying for supplements far less by the difference between contributory benefits and non-contributory payments than by the need to submit themselves to a test of means; and we are all agreed that the test of means must continue. I need not go over again all the arguments which I put forward on Second Reading—arguments which were not replied to on that occasion. This is, obviously, the appropriate occasion on which they should be examined, and no doubt the noble Lord has had an opportunity to consider those arguments. I think all I need to do now is to move my Amendment, that the name of the Commission shall be the "Social Security Supplements Commission" and that the payments shall be called "supplements".
I have looked at all the provisions in the Bill in which the word "benefits" is used in its new sense, and it seems to me that the word "supplements" would in every case do better. It may be said that the name of the Commission proposed in the Bill is better, because it uses only three words while my Amendment uses four. On the other hand, if my Amendment is accepted, the name by which the Commission would normally be known to distinguish it from other Commissions will obviously be the "Supplements Commission", which is only two words. So there is an advantage there, at any rate. Also, of course, the full name identifies the Commission more closely with the parent Ministry, which seems to be an advantage.
But the real "guts" of this Amendments, if I may put it in that way, is the question of whether it is right to merge in people's minds the idea of contributory and non-contributory benefits. For my part, I think it is wise to keep them separate, although I fully agree that it is right to spare people as much embarrassment as possible when they go to receive their payments. For that reason I think that the administrative action, which the Government are proposing to take in providing a single payments book, is wise. It is sensible and humane. But it is a very different matter to leave people in doubt as to whether they have earned, 953 and to what extent they have earned, the total benefit denoted in these books and the extent to which, because of their special needs, it comes from the Exchequer. I beg to move.
Page 2, line 44, leave out ("Supplementary Benefits") and insert ("Social Security Supplements").—(Lord Drumalbyn.)
§ 3.7 p.m.
§ LORD BOWLES
I am glad that the noble Lord has taken these Amendments together. When Amendments deal with a change in nomenclature, whether it is in the name of the Commission or in the name of the benefit, it is probably a good thing to deal with them together. As the noble Lord said, the first Amendment would change the name of the proposed Supplementary Benefits Commission to the "Social Security Supplements Commission". It is true that the noble Lord opposite has taken up the invitation which I extended to him, and to any other noble Lord who preferred a different name for the Commission, to put forward a suggestion so that it could be considered. As always, he stated his case very clearly and with great conviction, and his experience as a Minister in this Department no doubt gives him a great advantage.
We have considered the suggestion, hut I am afraid that we have to say that we do not like it. I think I can reveal that a name something like this was, in fact, considered during the preparation of the Bill, when we thought of calling the Commission the "Social Security Commission". We rejected this idea for two good reasons. I remember that at the end of the war we had long debates in the House of Commons on whether we should call the Ministry the "Ministry of National Insurance", the "Ministry of National Security", and so on. The noble Lord, Lord Ilford, will remember that we took part in at least one Division on that question in the House of Commons. There has always been a problem when we have been trying to get the very best names.
First, the words "social security", as we use them in this Bill, are intended to embrace both contributory and non-contributory benefits, and to embrace benefits related to means as well as benefits related to other criteria like the claim- 954 ant's contribution record and the number of children in the family. Having used the words "social security" for this purpose as what I might call a generic title covering the whole field, it seemed to us wrong to associate it closely with one particular scheme of the many which are administered within the overall framework of social security.
The second reason was that to give the Commission the same title as the Ministry, by calling it the "Social Security Commission", would create a real danger of confusion as to where its interests ended and those of the other advisory or adjudicating bodies, which already exist, began. Your Lordships will know that there are a number of bodies of this kind already in existence; for instance, the National Insurance Advisory Committee, the Industrial Injuries Advisory Council and. on the adjudicating side, the National Insurance Commissioners. These bodies and authorities are given titles related to their function, not related to the Government Department concerned. That is why we cannot accept "Social Security" in the title of this Commission; nor can we accept that it would do simply to refer to "supplements" as the benefit which the Commission is responsible for administering. The noble Lord's other Amendment is concerned entirely with this point, and perhaps we may deal with it when I come to that part of my speech.
The Government's view is that it is right and sensible to let the Commission take its name from the title of the benefits it is concerned with. It may be thought that the Government could have found something more imaginative or exciting for the Commission's title. The difficulty is, as I am sure noble Lords appreciate, that what may appear imaginative or exciting to some will seem cheap and tawdry to others. The noble Lord, Lord Ilford, gave us a telling quotation on this during his interesting speech on Second Reading. I looked it up, and what he said was this:'It is not names that give confidence in things but things that give confidence in names' ".—[OFFCIAL REPORT, Vol. 275 (No. 26), col. 497; 27/6/66.]We admit to what might well be thought a pedestrian title for the benefits and the Commission, but it describes accurately enough the main job with which the Commission is going to be concerned.
§ LORD ILFORD
May I interrupt the noble Lord for one moment in order to say that the words I used on Second Reading were not my words but the words of St. Chrysostan?
§ LORD BOWLES
I am sorry I quoted the noble Lord without his permission or knowledge, but I am grateful to him for his correction. The real test is whether the Commission will do a good job, and on this I am confident that it will be as wise and humane as the National Assistance Board has been.
Now I come to the second Amendment, which seeks to change the word "benefit" into "supplement". The effect of this Amendment, which would require consequential Amendments throughout the Bill, as the noble Lord said—I think he said that 29 alterations would be necessary in Part II of the Bill alone—would be to replace the term "benefit" by the term" "supplement" as the main title of the payments awarded under the Bill. The noble Lord, Lord Drumalbyn, gave a pretty clear indication of his thinking on this matter during his speech in the Second Reading debate. He quoted to us the definition of "benefit" from the latest edition of the Oxford Concise English Dictionary as:'an allowance, pension, attendance to which a person is entitled under National Insurance' ".He went on to say that we are now using the word "benefit" to cover both contributory and non-contributory benefit. So we are, and for good reason.
The noble Lord said that people could not be expected to live on the National Insurance retirement pension by itself: they need to have it supplemented. The fact is that nearly three quarters of a million retirement pensioners who need to have their pensions supplemented are not getting the supplement. What are we going to do about it? The Government's view is that these old people must be shown clearly that if they qualify they have a statutory entitlement to a benefit which we have called a supplementary pension. As I said during the Second Reading debate, that is the mainspring behind this Bill. Would the noble Lord prefer, instead, that we took refuge in nice distinctions and said to our old 956 people that it would—and I quote his words—have adverse long-term effects on the national outlook" (col. 476)if we gave them a statutory right to a benefit giving them a little more comfort in their old age? May I quote from the other Oxford Dictionary? The Shorter Oxford Dictionary, in Volume I, defines "benefit" as:A thing well done, a good deed".The Government's view is that it is time for a good deed, and this Bill is intended to achieve it.
I should also like to take up the wider issue raised by the noble Lord when he said that this was a transitional problem and should be dealt with by transitional provisions. May I refer him to what my right honourable friend the Minister said on this very point when she spoke on the Second Reading of this Bill in another place? She said:It seems to the Government that the proper long-term way of tackling the problem of poverty in old age is a new scheme of national superannuation which will be earnings-related and which will give on maturity to everybody a higher standard of living upon retirement than the present scheme can possibly give. It is the Government's intention to bring in such a scheme within the lifetime of this Parliament, but this does not dispose of the immediate problem of the old people who are with us to-day—[OFFICIAL REPORT (Commons), Vol. 729 (No. 27), col. 336; 24/5/66.]In view of this, I do not think that the availability of these benefits for the old people of to-day is likely to affect the attitude of younger people to the payment of insurance contributions.
I am not quite sure how strongly the noble Lord and his Party feel on the question of this Amendment. He spoke fairly strongly this afternoon, as he did on Second Reading. I do not want to spoil the atmosphere of this debate, but if he really felt very strongly he would, of course, have challenged the principle of it during the Second Reading of the Bill. He did not do so, and I therefore do not think he can be quite so serious on this particular matter as he sounds from time to time.
Let me now return to the alternative word "supplement" suggested by the noble Lord. If his object is to get away from a word which has strong associations with the National Insurance scheme, I do not think his suggestion is at all 957 apt. There are many payments described as "supplementary" in the existing insurance scheme. We have very recently introduced an Act to provide earnings-related supplements to unemployment and sickness benefits and widows' allowances; and the noble Lord will remember the various schemes of supplementation in the field of Industrial Injuries insurance. Does this not demonstrate the difficulty of trying to make distinctions of this kind? The Government's expressed aim is, as the White Paper says, that there shouldno longer he the sharp distinction which now exists in the administration of contributory and means-tested benefit".That is the whole difference between us, and that is why we are so keen on this Bill. In any case, if the noble Lord wishes to maintain the sharp distinction, the word "supplement" will hardly serve his purpose.
A clear and precise description of the new benefit would be something like this: a non-contributory payment related to the claimant's means, rent and family responsibilities. But we cannot do business on names like that. The Government have decided that under the general title of "benefit" persons of pensionable age should be able to qualify for supplementary pension and others for supplementary allowances. We accept that there is no glamour attaching to these names, and I have dealt with that point already. But they serve as a fair and useful description of what we are making available to our old people, the chronic sick and fatherless families. The Government cannot agree that the noble Lord has suggested any improvement, and I must therefore ask the Committee to reject his Amendments.
§ LORD DRUMALBYN
I am grateful to the noble Lord for having dealt so fully with my suggestion. Of course, it is true that if we changed the term "benefit" to "supplement" we should also have to change the title of the Commission. It was not because the title suggested for the Commission was pedestrian that I wanted to change it; it was because I wanted to change the word "benefit", which would inevitably have involved a change in the title of the Commission.
§ LORD DRUMALBYN
The noble Lord has quoted from what his right honourable friend the Minister has said in another place regarding the intention to introduce earnings-related benefit. I do not know if he can tell us whether this is going to be this year, next year or several years hence, but the essential point to hear in mind here is that some people will be contributing more than others towards their benefit—and here I am using the term "benefit" in its present sense. Those who contribute the basic amount will get the basic benefit, the basic pension. It will follow, I think, that those who receive supplements to the basic pension, having contributed only the basic amount, will be receiving more benefit in return for their contributions, if the word "benefit" is used to cover both aspects, both contributory and noncontributory, than others will receive. This is the problem, and one wonders whether it is wise not to make a distinction between these two.
I should have liked to hear some other expressions of opinion on this. It is true, of course, that words have significance only in proportion to their meaning and to their evocative meaning. It seems to me that the blurring of the non-contributory payments and the contributory pensions under the one term "benefit" is liable to evoke in people's minds the idea that it does not much matter what they contribute, they will eventually get whatever benefit the State decides they should get in their individual cases. I do not feel that this is desirable. This is the difference between us, the real issue. It is not just a question of words. It is the significance this is going to have in the minds of people and the influence it will have, as I said on Second Reading, on the efforts they themselves make in order to achieve independence for themselves, independence of these supplements that are being provided in this Bill. They will get what they have earned, whether by basic payment or by graduated payment or earnings-related payment; and then, if the other provisions they have made for themselves, apart from their State contribution, is not enough and they are still in need, they will get payments to meet that need.
I am not convinced by what the noble Lord has said. I do not want to press this matter at this stage. I am prepared 959 to withdraw the Amendment. Perhaps my noble friends may like to consider this matter between now and Report stage. It seems to me that there is a real point here. I recognise the difficulties. I do not suggest that the word I have suggested, "supplement", is important; but it is a contributory benefit, and that is why I seek to have the word "supplement". I think the noble Lord's offer should still remain open. I accept what he said: that there are difficulties in using the word "supplements"; but we should continue to look for a word that will enable us to distinguish between the contributory and the non-contributory benefits.
§ LORD BOWLES
My offer is still open. We have another week until the Report stage. If any noble Lord has a brighter idea than that of the noble Lord, Lord Drumalbyn, then the Government will consider it. The essence of this matter is that we do want to blur the distinction between contributory and non-contributory and means-tested benefits. That is the distinction the Government have in mind. As I said on Second Reading, this existing fundamental distinction was the mainspring of the Bill. If a compromise can be found, so much the better.
In answer to the point about when we expect to introduce the earnings-related pension, it is the earnest desire of the Government to do so at the earliest possible moment. As the noble Lord has been a Minister—indeed, the Minister of this Department—he knows the difficulties; he realises that it takes a lot of examination. It is one of the things that we have set our hearts on doing. I do not know whether the noble Lord would now like to withdraw his Amendment. Perhaps he will read my speech and then decide not to put it down again.
§ LORD DRUMALBYN
I am prepared to withdraw my Amendment; but, before leaving it, I should like to stress again that at the present time a person has a right to National Assistance payments, a right which he can vindicate by appeal to the Appeals Tribunal. There is no basic difference introduced by this Bill. What the Government are trying to do—and I do not complain about this because there is a real problem at present of bringing these 700,000 to 850,000 people within the orbit of the supple- 960 ments—is to use a little bit of propaganda, to extend the meaning of the word "benefit" in order to attract these people to make applications. It is, as it were, a propaganda extension of the word. They may be right. All I am saying is that there are, in my view, dangers in doing so. I shall not press the matter. I beg leave to withdraw my Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ LORD DRUMALBYN
moved, in subsection (1), to leave out all words after "persons" and to insert: "in whose interest those functions are conferred." The noble Lord said: This is a different Amendment. Its purpose is to make clearer that the function of the Commission is to deal not merely with persons who are at present affected by the exercise thereof, but also with persons who ought to be affected by the exercise of those powers, if the Commission sought them out and found them. I start by conceding that the phrase I am seeking to amend is the same phrase as is used in the National Assistance Act. I have no doubt that the noble Lord will say that it has not given rise to any difficulty; but he will be the first to claim that this Bill seeks to go further than the National Assistance Act, and it is not inappropriate that the phrase which lays down the way in which the Commission should exercise its functions should go further than the similar phrase which says how the National Assistance Board should exercise their functions.
I do not think many people would claim that the drafting of the National Assistance Act is perfect; indeed, this Bill seeks to improve the drafting in many respects.
§ LORD BOWLES
I am sorry to interrupt the noble Lord. I was wondering whether he might like also to say something about the Amendment to be moved next by his noble friend Lord Windlesham. They seem to be similar.
§ LORD DRUMALBYN
I should like to treat these Amendments separately. The noble Lord, Lord Sorensen, in his excellent winding-up speech on the Second Reading debate said, talking about this definition:It gives the Commission power to seek out not only financial but also welfare needs;"—[OFFICIAL REPORT, Vol. 275 (No. 26) cot 530; 27/6/66.]961 With great respect, the language used does not seem to do so. The phrase in the Bill specifically limits the persons who are to be the objects of the Commission's attention to those actually affected by the exercise of the Commission's functions and not by their powers; those cases, in other words, in which the functions are, in fact, exercised. My Amendment extends the limit to cover not only those who are affected but the others who are not, in fact, affected but who have a right under the Bill to be affected by the exercise of their functions; in other words, to all "in whose interests those functions are conferred." These words may not be the best that can be devised, but at least they underline the duty of the Board not to limit its attention to those who apply for help but to seek out those who are entitled to receive help. I beg to move.
Page 3, line 2, leave out from ("persons") to end of line 3 and insert the said new words.—(Lord Drumalbyn.)
§ LORD BOWLES
I was not quite clear what the Amendment was about. The noble Lord started off by saying that he was moving a different Amendment, and this gave me some reassurance. It is difficult to understand. I had rather thought that the Amendment in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Windlesham, would have been discussed at the same time. But the noble Lords do not seem to want to do that. The present Amendment, as drafted, seems not to add anything to the existing definition of the welfare responsibilities of the Commission. It seems reasonable to assume that the intention may be to raise again, in conjunction with the next Amendment, the question of a welfare detection service run by the Commission. If an entirely different line is taken, I should be glad if the noble Lord would write to me and let me consider it. I am afraid that I have been unable to understand the purpose of his Amendment.
§ LORD DRUMALBYN
I am sorry that I did not make myself clear. I hope that the noble Lord will be able to make some sense of what I said when he reads Hansard. I am grateful to him for his undertaking to consider the point, and I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.962
§ 3.30 p.m.
LORD WINDLESHAM moved to add to subsection (1):
It shall be the duty of the Commission, so far as practicable,
§ The noble Lord said: This Amendment is, as the noble Lord, Lord Bowles, said just now, one which is concerned with the duty to seek out need: the detection service. We aim to add these words so that an obligation is placed on the officers of the Commission to seek out need. The case for the Amendment is rooted in the figure we have now of 700,000 pensioner households who are entitled to National Assistance but are not receiving it. The figure was published in the Report last month entitled Financial and Other Circumstances of Retirement Pensioners and referred to by the noble Lord, Lord Sorensen, when he wound up the debate on June 27.
§ In almost every report on social need carried out by various organisations one comes across a note saying that in the course of making the survey the interviewers came across cases of unidentified hardship which they brought to the attention of the welfare authorities, voluntary organisations or the National Assistance Board. The Leeds City Police reported that in 1965 alone they had found 101 people dead in their homes from natural causes and 48 ill or injured. Most of these were identified just as a result of milk bottles being left outside the door, curtains drawn, by neighbours ringing up for the police or the police going into the home to find out whether something was wrong. Commenting on the Leeds report The Times estimated that there might be as many as 5,000 people who had been found dead in their homes and who had been neglected and living alone.
§ LORD WINDLESHAM
Yes, in the whole country. Yesterday I noticed that in the Census taken in 1961 it was estimated that there were a million pensioners living alone, so there really is a strong 963 case, I submit, for an Amendment on these lines.
Noble Lords opposite will notice that this Amendment is much narrower than the Amendment moved in another place, to which the answer was given that the Commission would be required to provide a universal detection service, that it would have to go into every home in the country. That is not so under this Amendment, which is much narrower in the terms in which it appears on the Order Paper. I think the crucial question which the Commission will have to consider, and which the Government must face this afternoon, is, who makes the first move? At the moment it is the old and needy people who have to come forward and identify themselves. It is true that they are very often persuaded to do so by the officers of the Board, by welfare workers, by friends, relatives and so on. But at the moment the onus is on them to come forward.
This Amendment aims to remove that responsibility from persons in need and transfer it to the officers of the Commission. I believe there is a precedent in the case of Service pensions. We may take it, I am sure, that it is the desire of noble Lords opposite that cases of need should be detected. I think that psychologically there is no doubt that this Amendment would have an impact on old people and needy people and on welfare workers and on the officers of the Commission. It would no longer be just a matter of existing practice, to go out and try to detect cases of need, or what the Commission hope to do, or what the Commission intend to do—nobody would argue that this is not their intention—but it would be a clear statutory responsibility to ensure that those entitled to supplementary benefits actually receive them. That is the case for this Amendment, and I beg to move.
Page 3, line 3, at end insert the said new words.—(Lord Windlesham.)
§ LORD ILFORD
I think it right that I should say that this work of investigating cases, and of bringing to light cases where National Assistance is required, is done to-day very actively by the National Assistance Board. In so 964 far as the staff is available for doing this work, a great deal has been done by the officers of the Board. One of the methods which I used when I was the Chairman was to circularise as widely as I could those persons who come into contact with the population: doctors, district nurses, welfare officers of the local authority, anybody whose daily task brings them into contact with the population. We had a special drive which I think was very effective in bringing National Assistance to many persons who otherwise would have gone without it.
May I say a word about the survey which the Minister has carried out? It is quite true, as has been said several times this afternoon, that the survey discloses that about 700,000 old people who appear to be entitled to National Assistance are not receiving it. One must go a little further than that and, if possible, look behind the scenes to see some thing of what are their circumstances and the reasons why they refrain from applying for National Assistance to which apparently they are entitled The Minister made an estimate of the number of persons about whose background something was known. Many of these 700,000 persons have disregarded resources which makes National Assistance unncessary for them. Many of them are entitled to only a relatively small sum—two shillings, five shillings: something of that sort.
When a person applies for assistance and is told his assessment is only two shillings (as must necessarily happen within a scheme which is intended to supplement a person's income up to some prescribed figure, there will always be persons whose income is a few shillings below it) he goes away disappointed. When allowance is made for the resources which the 700,000 old people possess under the circumstances in which they are living—perhaps with children—the number in need of National Assistance is substantially reduced. The Minister's survey points out that it is reduced to something like 200,000 people. There are grounds for thinking that the number may be smaller than that. Of course, if 200,000 persons entitled to assistance are not receiving, it, and really need it, something must be done to put the system in better shape. But I think it may be said, in view of the very large number of persons 965 involved in this matter, that the National Assistance Board has not been entirely unsuccessful in bringing to light cases of persons who are reluctant to apply for National Assistance. I do not think that the efforts of the Board have been entirely fruitless.
I hope that the Committee will agree to accept this Amendment. I think it a good thing that there should be a statutory obligation on the Commission to bring to light cases of persons in need of assistance who are not receiving it. There are many reasons why I think it would be a good thing that there should be an explicit statutory power to do this. I do not think that I need dwell on those reasons; quite a number of reasons will occur to noble Lords why it is desirable that this obligation should be expressed in specific terms as my noble friend's Amendment proposes. In these circumstances, I hope that your Lordships will be prepared to accept the Amendment.
§ THE MINISTER WITHOUT PORTFOLIO (LORD CHAMPION)
I think that this may be a convenient moment to move that the House be now resumed for the purpose of hearing a Statement. I beg to move.
§ Moved accordingly, and, on Question, Motion agreed to.
§ House resumed.