HC Deb 12 February 1917 vol 90 cc251-4
20. Mr. WING

asked the Secretary to the Treasury if he is aware that pension officers assess the savings of old age pensioners in the Post Office Savings Bank at 5 per cent, when they actually receive 2½ per cent.; why this rate is imposed upon the poor; and why the actual amount is not charged?


For old age pension purposes, the income from capital must be assessed on a 5 per cent. basis under Section 2 (1) (a) of the Old Age Pensions Act, 1911. This statutory basis of assessment, which is equally binding on pension officers, pension committees, and the pensioners themselves, was adopted after a full discussion in this House on the 19th of May, 1911.


Is it just that these old people should be penalised by the calculation being made at twice the amount they receive?


We have no option but to carry out the directions of the Act of Parliament.

21 and 54. Mr. WING

asked the Secretary to the Treasury (1) if 90 per cent, of the applicants for the extra old age pension have been awarded the 2s. 6d. prom- ised; and, if so, will he take steps to remedy the hardship to the remaining 10 per cent, by granting the 2s. 6d. to those ruled out by the limit of income, namely, 13s., which is only equal in purchasing power to 6s. 6d. compared with pre-war times; and (2) asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he has received a copy of the resolution from the Houghton-le-Spring (Durham) pension sub-committee to the effect that a flat rate of 2s. 6d. should be given to all en itled to a 5s. pension, and sweep away all cheeseparing generosity; that this would be simpler, fairer, and without needless irritation as all are subject to the special hardship imposed by high prices; and that the parsimonious regulations attached to the proposed grant of 2s. 6d. is inquisitorial, utterly insulting to the poor, and un-English; and whether he will take steps to remedy this by recommending that the 2s. 6d. be given to all old-age pensioners not benefited by other concessions?


My right hon. Friend has received a copy of the resolution referred to. I am informed that up to 31st December, 1916 (the latest date for which statistics are available) a large number of the pensioners in receipt of pensions of 5s. a week had not applied for additional allowances, and that the proportion of such applicants who had received the maximum grant of 2s. 6d. a week was very much less than 90 per cent. To grant the full 2s. 6d. a week to the remaining applicants or to all pensioners not benefited by other concessions would therefore entail a substantial increase of expenditure. The Treasury scheme for the award of additional allowances to old age pensioners suffering special hardship owing to the War was drawn up by the late Government after very careful consideration, and I see no reason to make a change.

22. Mr. WING

asked the Secretary to the Treasury if paragraph 11 in Cd. 8320 is to read as allowing employers, workmen's clubs, trade unions, friendly societies, or others to assist old age pensioners to the extent of 5s. per week in money or kind without it being reckoned against the pensioner, or reducing the present pension, nor will he be called upon to report such to the pension officer unless it exceeds 5s. per week, if such is granted to meet the increased cost of living; and whether he is aware that a full statement on this question would assist philanthropic people and societies, who are afraid that help rendered will count against the pension and their assistance become of no effect, their contributions being used to reduce the pension and be but an additional grant to the Treasury?


As is stated in the second section of Cd. 8320, action is not being taken for the withdrawal or reduction of an existing old age pension in consequence of the receipt by the pensioner of temporary assistance from relief funds or other voluntary sources where the amount of the allowance (or the increase of an existing allowance) does not exceed 5s. per week and is given for the purpose of enabling the pensioner to meet the increased cost of living. A pensioner must, however, disclose his means from every source for the information of the pension officer and the local Pension Committee, and he is liable to a penalty if he does not do so. The various administrative concessions have already been fully set out in the Parliamentary Paper referred to above.


Will instructions be given to pension officers that any sums given by any persons or organisations up to 5s. shall not be counted against pensioners, having regard to present prices?


I doubt very much whether I have power to do that.


Will the hon. Gentleman say whether there is any appeal in those cases?


I must ask for notice of that.


asked the Secretary to the Treasury whether, in view of paragraph 22 of the Treasury scheme of 5th October, 1916, for the award of additional allowances to old-age pensioners suffering special hardship owing to the war, it is open to an old-age pensioner who is in receipt of an additional allowance of less than 2s. 6d. a week to apply for an increase of the allowance if he can show that since a decision was given on his original, application there has been a rise in the cost of living and a consequent decrease in the purchasing power of his allowance?


The scheme in question provides that the amount of the additional allowance shall in no case exceed such sum, within a maximum of 2s. 6d. a week, as will raise the money value of the means (including the pension money) to £1 a week in the case of married couples, or in other cases to 13s. a week. In cases where a pensioner's means have already been raised to the appropriate limit it is not open to him to apply for an increase of his allowance on account of a rise in the cost of living.


asked the President of the Local Government Board how many old age pensioners have, become paupers since the commencement of the War?


The Local Government Board have no statistics showing exactly what my hon. Friend desires; but the periodical returns of the numbers of paupers over seventy years of age show a steady decrease since the beginning of the War.


asked the President of the Local Government Board the numbers of old age pensioners, male and female separately, at 1st January, 1917, and their rates of State pension?


I have been requested to answer this question. The number was 961,732–350,813 men and 610,919 women. Separate figures of the different rates payable to men and women are not available, but the total figures of the pensions payable at the different rates were as follows:—

At 5s. 905,542
At 4s. 19,410
At 3s. 20,842
At 2s. 10,382
At 1s. 5,556