HC Deb 19 November 1946 vol 430 cc655-8
1. Mr. A. Edward Davies

asked the Minister of National Insurance if he is aware that many old age pensioners have not yet received their new pensions; what is the cause of the delay; and what steps are being taken to overcome the arrears.

3. Mr. David Renton

asked the Minister of National Insurance whether he is aware of the delay in distributing the new books for obtaining the increased old age pensions; and whether he will state the date by which distribution of the new books will be completed.

4. Mr. Wyatt

asked the Minister of National Insurance if he is aware that there is considerable delay in dealing with claims for increased old age pensions addressed to his Department at Blackpool; and what steps he is taking to expedite the settlement of these claims.

8. Mr. George Jeger

asked the Minister of National Insurance whether he is aware that many old age pensioners in the Winchester-Southampton district have not yet received their new pension books; and if he will make a statement explaining the delay and the action being taken to remedy it.

10. Mr. Chetwynd

asked the Minister of National Insurance what action he is taking to complete the issue of new pension books and to give financial help to pensioners who have not received their new books.

15. Mr. George Wallace

asked the Minister of National Insurance if he is aware that there are a large number of old age pensioners still awaiting receipt of their new pension books, giving them the new increased old age pension; and whether steps are being taken to expedite dispatch of these books.

The Minister of National Insurance (Mr. James Griffiths)

The issue of order books at increased rates to over three million pensioners was substantially completed by the first week in October, on the basis of the information then available in my Department. This work involved the review in three central offices over a period of less than two months of the position of nearly four million pensioners. The subsequent complaints relate to a small percentage of cases over all, and fall into two broad categories. First, there are pensioners who hold books for pensions at lower rates than those to which they now think they are entitled because, for instance, they have retired, or their circumstances have otherwise changed at a recent date.

Second, there are those who have not received the books to which they are entitled owing, for instance, to loss in post, misdirection, or recent change of address—a very important factor.

Pensioners in the first category are virtually claiming new pensions. These claims require investigation, which may take some time, and the pensioners are being so informed. In order to speed up the handling of both classes of case, however, I have recently made arrangements with the Assistance Board which should enable a large majority of the difficulties to be dealt with by personal contact between the old people and the local offices of the board acting as my agents. Accordingly, any old age pensioner who is in difficulty in the matter would be well advised to communicate with the local representative of the Assistance Board.

Both the officers of my Department and the Board, in cooperation with the Post Office, are working long hours of extra duty, and additional staff have been put on to the work of clearance to the maximum extent. Substantial progress has already been made, and I have every confidence that the arrangements now made will lead to a speedy clearance of outstanding cases.

Mr. A. Edward Davies

Will the Minister consider the issue of a short explanatory statement that could be sent to applicants who are in great distress, instead of the ordinary postcard with which they have to be content for a few weeks, and which they cannot really understand?

Mr. Griffiths

I will certainly consider that.

Mr. Renton

Would the right hon. Gentleman answer the second part of Question 3, and say when this work will be completed?

Mr. Griffiths

We hope, very quickly; but the hon. Gentleman will realise that, of course, some of these cases raise questions of retirement, and they also raise questions of earnings, which fall to be considered and decided by the local tribunal, and, finally, by the umpire. But the large mass of cases will be completed in the very near future.

Mr. Thomas Brown

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that when pensioners write to his office at Blackpool, or to his own office, they cannot get a reply for six or eight weeks, and that it is very important that they should have acknowledgment of their letters, so that their minds may be set at rest by their being assured that their cases are being attended to?

Mr. Griffiths

I have to answer a Question on that matter in a moment.

Mr. Chetwynd

Can the right hon. Gentleman say whether the Assistance Board are empowered to make up the difference between the old and new rates of pension before the new books are issued?

Mr. Griffiths

No, Sir. The Assistance Board, at my request, have promised to collaborate, because we find that personal contact saves a good deal of time and clears up cases more quickly; but the Assistance Board are not entitled to make awards of the higher pension.

Sir Waldron Smithers

Does not the right hon. Gentleman's statement prove that administration breaks down under State control?

Mr. McAdam

is the right hon. Gentleman aware of the fact that, despite repeated applications, there are 46 wives of insured pensioners in the Broughton postal district of the City of Salford who have not yet received their pensions?

Mr. Griffiths

I am not aware of that, but I will have immediate inquiries made.