HC Deb 21 November 1950 vol 481 cc171-3
8. General Sir George Jeffreys

asked the Minister of National Insurance whether she is aware of the plight of old age pensioners, particularly of those who are too old to do any work, on account of the increase in the cost of living; and what steps she proposes to take with a view to assisting such old age pensioners to overcome their difficulties.

Dr. Summerskill

I would refer the hon. and gallant Member to the reply given to the hon. Member for Huntingdon (Mr. Renton) on this subject on 17th October last, a copy of which I am sending him.

Sir G. Jeffreys

Does the right hon. Lady realise that the plight of these old age pensioners is on a very different scale from that of practically everyone else suffering from the effects of the cost of living? Is it not possible to make some arrangement whereby old age pensioners might get necessaries at lower prices?

Dr. Summerskill

I nave said before that the officials of the National Assistance Board would welcome the application of any old age pensioner who feels he is suffering from hardship, and I am sure that any investigation made will be done in a kindly and courteous fashion.

9. Mr. Geoffrey Wilson

asked the Minister of National Insurance whether she is satisfied that the scale rates of the National Assistance Board are sufficient to meet the high cost of light and heat in rural areas that have to rely on oil and coal; and whether an additional allowance can be made in such areas in the case of old age pensioners living alone.

Dr. Summerskill

I have no reason to believe that persons in rural areas find living more expensive than persons in towns; but where individual circumstances necessitate exceptional expenditure on light and heat, the Board's officers can take this into account in awarding assistance.

Mr. Wilson

Does that mean that the Minister will give discretion to her assistance officers to give an extra winter allowance, as they did before the war? Is the Minister aware that in rural areas a merchant is not prepared to deliver coal or oil in very small quantities, and at the present time an old age pensioner living alone is frequently spending the whole of the week's allowance on a single delivery of coal, and there is nothing left for food?

Dr. Summerskill

The officers of the Board are enabled to give an extra allowance in cases where it is considered necessary to old age pensioners living in either the town or country.

10. Mr. Maclay

asked the Minister of National Insurance what steps are taken to bring to the attention of old age pensioners those additional benefits for which they may be eligible on application to the Assistance Board or elsewhere.

Dr. Summerskill

I would refer the hon. Member to pages 18 and 19 of the National Assistance Board's Report for 1949 which contains a description of the steps taken to this end.

Mr. Maclay

But does the Minister realise, in spite of the pamphlets which have been published, that particularly in country districts and scattered areas there are many old people who simply do not know for what they are entitled to make application?

Dr. Summerskill

I recognise that, and that is why I have given instructions that a reference to national assistance shall be included in the retirement pension order books of the pensioners.

Mr. McGovern

Is it not time that the Government made up their minds to give a substantial increase in the allowance to old age pensioners, as they are suffering the biggest hardship of all the population?

12. Mr. Arthur Lewis

asked the Minister of National Insurance if she will arrange for all old age pensioners to receive a double pension in the week preceding Christmas.

Dr. Summerskill

I would refer my hon. Friend to my reply to his similar Question on 18th July.

Mr. Lewis

Could the Minister say how much it would cost to implement the suggestion contained in the Question, and how much increased contribution per week it would cost to make this an annual event?

Dr. Summerskill

The answer to the first part of the question is £5,250,000, and as to the second part, I must have notice of that question.