ITHE DYING ORDER GROUND for serious concern was given by some remarks which Mr Robert Taylor, the Labour M.P. for Morpeth, recently made in the House of Commons. Mr Taylor suggested that the Ministry of Health is afraid of revealing how much it costs local Public Assistance Committees to keep old age pensioners alive.
Several members are complaining that though they have repeatedly asked the Government for this information, they have been unable to obtain it. Yet, they allege, the local authorities have the information ready, and all the Government have to do is to ask for it.
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I do not know how far these complaints are justifiable, but it is surely a disgraceful thing that old age pensioners should be on poor relief at all. We know from a reply given by Mr Elliot that on January 1 Wolverhampton had 786 of them on relief and Nottingham 2,616. This is exactly 3,402 too many as far as these two cities are concerned, and when the whole of the United Kingdom is taken into account the figure must be a terrifying one. him."
* * * Yet even if we assume it to be as much as 400,000, which is probably the figure, the cost of providing an extra 5s. to 10s. a week should surely be transferred from ratepayer to the taxpayer's pocket. It would ultimately make no difference to national finances, for the two pockets are really identical, nor are the technical difficulties overwhelmingly large.
An inquiry into means could be made when the pensioner reaches the qualifying age, and the income brought up to 15s. or £1 a week, which the pensioner should then receive from the State as a right.
One cannot help feeling that the hon. members are quite right, and that the Government fear that any attempt to amend the existing law would necessarily bring with it a revelation showing how inadequately the present economic order supports its aged.
Though the family is for the Catholic the ideal channel through which the aged should be cared for, a system of State pensions on the British model need not be intrinsically objectionable to him. There is no reason that I know in Catholic morals why resources should not be pooled and the burden spread as equitably as possible over the whole community. It must not be overlooked that in contemporary England everybody does, in point of fact, take some share in shouldering this burden. About half the cost of old age pensions is borne by the actual contributors.
The taxpayer contributes the balance, but then everybody to-day is a taxpayer.
The trouble is not that no collective effort is made to fulfil this obvious duty, but that, thanks to the misuse of resources, there is no means of making that effort adequate.
It would cost something over £50 millions a year to bring all old age pensions up to a pound a week. We are too poor to pay this. But we have £100 millions, according to the Economist, to spend on advertising. Surely a society which permits this can scarcely claim to be informed by Christian principles.