HC Deb 22 January 1947 vol 432 cc286-8

Considered in Committee under Standing Order No. 69.

[Mr. HOPKIN MORRIS in the Chair]

Motion made, and Question proposed, That, for the purposes of any Act of the present Session to authorise further increases under, and otherwise amend, the Pensions (Increase) Act, 1944, and to continue that Act in force as amended and to authorise increases in pensions to which that Act does not apply, it is expedient to authorise the payment out of moneys provided by Parliament of any increase in the sums payable out of such moneys under the Pensions (Increase) Acts, 1920 and 1924 which is attributable to provisions of the said Act of the present Session, operating from such date as may be specified therein—

  1. (a)increasing the limits of means specified in the Pensions (Increase) Act, 1920, from one hundred and fifty pounds a year to two hundred pounds a year in the case of an unmarried person (as defined in that Act), and from two hundred pounds a year to two hundred and seventy-five pounds a year in the case of a arried person (as so defined);
  2. (b) providing that where a pension is greater than such as can be increased under the said Act of 1920 but less than the amount to which a smaller pension could 287 be increased thereunder, it may be increased to that amount."—(King's Recommendation signified.)—[-Mr. Glenvil Hall.]

7.2 p.m.

The Financial Secretary to the Treasury (Mr. Glenvil Hall)

I think perhaps the Committee is entitled—in fact, I am sure it is—to hear why this Motion is on the Order Paper. Its object is to prepare the way for the introduction of certain Amendments to the Pensions (Increase) Bill with which we shall be dealing in Committee tomorrow. Those Amendments deal with the income limits laid down in the Pensions (Increase) Acts of 1920 and 1924. Those two Acts are similar to the Pensions (Increase) Act, 1944, and the amending Bill which is now before the House. The Acts of 1920 and 1924 sought to assist pensioners who had suffered under the rise in the cost of living during the 1914–18 war; the 1944 Act and the present amending Bill seek to do the same thing for pensioners who have suffered in a similar way from the rise in the cost of living, as a result of the war recently concluded.

In both sets of Measures the method employed has been to give a percentage increase to those in the lower ranges of pensions in order to assist them to meet hardship due to the rise in the cost of living. In both cases upper income limits were set. Unfortunately, in the Acts of 1920 and 1924 the income limits were extremely low, as we should judge them now. The limits were £200 for a married pensioner, and £150 for a single pensioner without dependants. This Motion, as the Committee will see, seeks to raise those limits from £150 to £200 for a single, and from £200 to £275 for a married pensioner. The reason for this change is that, unless we do this, pensioners who qualify under those two Acts for a pension, and also qualify for an old age pension, may not be able to get the full benefit of the recent increase in the old age pension which Parliament gave. We think it would be unfair to give with one hand and take away with the other.

As the Committee will know, the old age pension rate is going up for single pensioners from 10s. to 26s. a week, and for married pensioners from 20s. to 42s. a week. The gross yearly amount is £41 12s. in one case and £57 4s. in the other. What we have done in this Motion, to which we hope the Committee will agree, is to increase the income limits under the Acts of 1920 and 1924, by £50 in the case of a single pensioner and by £75 in the case of a married pensioner. The Committee will thus see that these increases namely, in the case of the single man, £41 12s., and in the case of a married man, £57 4s., are covered by the proposed higher income limits. We do not contemplate that these changes will cost any very great sum. The number of pensioners who come under these two Acts must now be extremely small, and be limited almost entirely to police pensioners who, as the Committee knows, would have retired early at, I think, the age of 55. Although there cannot be very many of them still alive, we do feel that they should be covered. With that explanation, I hope the Committee will agree to the Motion without further debate.

Sir Ronald Ross (Londonderry)

I think the general opinion of the Committee is that this increase of the upper limit is a very good thing. It does not give pensioners a very luxurious standard of living, but at the same time it does, as I understand it, prevent these old men, who were servants of the State, being deprived of the benefits which other pensioners would get from the increase of the old age pension which the House has decided. A body with which I am always most concerned in these matters is the Royal Irish Constabulary, whose members were very loyal servants of the State, who very often had a bad time in carrying out their duties. It is so easy to forget the past services of a force which no longer exists. I would like to ask one question on the position of the members of the Royal Irish Constabulary in Eire. Of course, they will not get the advantages of an increased old age pension, and presumably they get no compensating advantage, except in the case of those who happen to have some private means. Those who have private means will be able to benefit by the upper limit, which would otherwise have deprived them of part of the pensions increase. The main benefit, of course, will be for those who are citizens of the United Kingdom who qualify for the old age pension. Certainly, on their behalf I welcome this Motion.

Resolution to be reported Tomorrow.