HC Deb 04 March 1947 vol 434 cc215-7
5. Mr. Erroll

asked the Minister of National Insurance approximately how many old age pensioners have not yet received their new pension books, to which they became entitled in October, 1946.

The Minister of National Insurance (Mr. James Griffiths)

Since 21st January, pension order books at increased rates from October have been issued to some 23,000 existing pensioners. This issue has cleared substantially all cases where the pensioners' circumstances were known to my Department by October. Since October, in addition to current notifications of retirement, many pensioners have given belated notice of retirement, at or before October, the overall total up to the end of January being about 100,000. Special measures have, as I have already indicated, been taken to deal with these cases. So far as I am at present able to to estimate, the number of these cases now outstanding, including both current and belated notification of retirement, is about 20,000 for the period up to the end of January. I should add that I have now almost completed new arrangements which will considerably expedite the procedure for dealing with new claims for pensions, and shall be able to announce details of these arrangements next week.

Mr. Erroll

Does the Minister realise that we are still getting a number of complaints from our constituents regarding difficulties, and will he see that these arrears are cleared up as rapidly as possible?

Mr. Griffiths

I appreciate that hon. Members have been anxious, and I have been anxious too, but it is because of that that I have been looking into it, to see what new arrangements can be made pending the creation of our new organisation. I think arrangements can be made during this period, and I will make an announcement next week.

6. Brigadier Peto

asked the Minister of National Insurance whether he is aware that hardship is being caused to thousands of old age pensioners through the failure of his Department to replace pension books which became out of date in December; and, in particular, what steps he is taking with regard to the case of Miss Moran of Braunton, Devon, which was recently brought to his notice.

Mr. J. Griffiths

No, Sir. The individual case referred to had quite exceptional features. As I have already advised the hon. and gallant Member by letter, the delay in Miss Moran's case was mainly due to two changes of address in recent weeks, but a pension order book has been sent to her in Eire, where she is now living.

Brigadier Peto

Is the Minister aware that in a circular issued by his Department in November, admission was made that there are many thousands of such cases where pension books are lying unclaimed in post offices? Will he not express, through the Press or through the B.B.C., clear instructions as to what pensioners should do by way of writing to post offices at which they were registered.

Mr. Griffiths

I have taken every step, but I will look into it again to see if any further steps can be taken to make a better arrangement.

Major Legge-Bourke

Will the Minister bear in mind that when the public assistance committees apply to Blackpool on behalf of these people they get no reply or acknowledgment to their letters?

Mr. Griffiths

I shall be dealing with that next week.

Mr. Usborne

When pensioners apply for new pension books, would it not be possible to give some indication of how long it will take to deal with their applications, because some people think they have been forgotten?

Mr. Griffiths

I have stated that pensioners would help if they made application four months beforehand.

Sir Waldron Smithers

Is not this breakdown inevitable under State control, and is the Minister aware that it would not have happened if the organisation of the friendly and approved societies had been allowed to continue?

Mr. Griffiths

This would not have happened but for my anxiety, and the anxiety of the House, to bring these new pensions into operation before we had created the organisation to deal with it.

Brigadier Peto

Could the right hon. Gentleman say what arrangement is made by his Department by which the supplementary old age pension and the old age pension can be drawn when people are not in possession of their pension books?

Mr. Griffiths

Perhaps the hon. and gallant Gentleman will put that question on the Paper.