HC Deb 28 November 1950 vol 481 cc918-21
3. Mr. Heathcoat Amory

asked the Minister of National Insurance if she will take steps to amend the retirement pensions provisions of the National Insurance Act, 1946, in order to assist elderly people who want to continue half or full-time paid work.

Dr. Summerskill

The provisions in question were designed to encourage continuance in work beyond minimum pension age: if, however, the hon. Member has a particular proposal in mind, perhaps he will let me know.

Mr. Amory

Would not the right hon. Lady agree that, without interfering in any way with the rights of people to draw their pensions at the present ages, we must try to think of new ways of encouraging, and providing incentives for, those who wish to continue in work beyond those ages?

4. Mr. Black

asked the Minister of National Insurance whether she will raise the amount an old age pensioner is permitted to earn before such earnings affect the pension received, in view of the fall in the value of money since the regulations were made.

Dr. Summerskill

I would refer the hon. Member to the reply given to my hon. Friend the Member for Nottingham, East (Mr. Harrison), on 2nd May, a copy of which I am sending him.

Mr. Black

Bearing in mind that the weekly allowance of 26s. fixed in 1946 is now, owing to the fall in the value of the pound, worth only 20s. 8d., does not the Minister think that some concession is due to the old age pensioners?

5. Mr. Chetwynd

asked the Minister of National Insurance the number of men and women in receipt of retirement, contributory and non-contributory old age pensions at the latest convenient date and the number in receipt of supplementary assistance, together with comparable figures for a convenient date prior to the latest increase in the scales of the National Assistance Board.

Dr. Summerskill

At 30th September, 1950, of the 4,620,000 men and women in receipt of retirement, contributory and non-contributory old age pensions it is estimated that nearly 900,000 were in receipt of assistance grants. The comparable figures at 31st March, 1950, were 4,600,000 and 800,000 respectively.

Mr. Shurmer

Would not my right hon. Friend agree that if she allowed some of these old age pensioners to put in a little more time and earn a little more money, it would ease the situation for the Assistance Board? This is a sore point at present with many of the old age pensioners, in view of the full employment at the present time.

Mr. Speaker

A question which suggests its own answer is not really in order.

6. Mr. Rankin

asked the Minister of National Insurance if she will grant a bonus, at Christmas, of five shillings or other reasonable sum, to old age pensioners in receipt of National Assistance to enable them to share more equitably in the increased foodstuffs made available then.

Dr. Summerskill

I have no power to do this. National Assistance grants are governed by statutory regulations which provide for regular weekly payments.

Mr. Rankin

Will my right hon. Friend advise us what power the Assistance Board would have to deal with a matter of this nature? Has the Assistance Board no power at all to grant extra supplementation?

Dr. Summerskill

Not under the regulations, Sir.

7. Mr. Arthur Lewis

asked the Minister of National Insurance what increase in the weekly National Insurance contribution would be necessary to grant an additional week's old age pension to all old age pensioners, and to those in receipt of National Assistance allowance, respectively, in the week preceding Christmas.

Dr. Summerskill

National Assistance is not payable out of National Insurance contributions. As regards retirement and old age pensioners, an increase of about one penny in the weekly rates of contributions and an Exchequer contribution of nearly £2 million would be necessary to meet the cost of an additional weekly payment at Christmas.

9. Mr. J. N. Browne

asked the Minister of National Insurance whether, in view of the rising cost of living, she will widen the discretionary powers of the officers of the National Assistance Board in the granting of special fuel and clothing allowances to old age pensioners.

Dr. Summerskill

I am informed by the Board that they have no reason to think that the discretionary powers conferred by the current regulations, which are intended to deal with the special circumstances of individual cases, are not wide enough for that purpose.

Mr. Browne

As the Minister considers that the present powers are wide enough and as the country really does not believe this at all, would the Minister consider making an obligatory payment in the six winter months of 2s. 6d. per week for old age pensioners who need fuel and are living alone? Will she also consider making the allowance for clothing a common need instead of an exceptional need, because clothing really is a common need and these old people are not getting what they require?

Dr. Summerskill

In the interests of the Exchequer, we should allow officials to exercise their discretion. I am sure that the hon. Gentleman does not want any old age pensioner, irrespective of his means, to be given an allowance for coal. There are old age pensioners in Park Lane, and they probably have plenty of coal. What I have asked the hon. Gentleman to agree is that the right approach is to allow the officials to exercise their discretion.

11. Mr. Drayson

asked the Minister of National Insurance if she has considered the copy sent to her of the resolution passed by the Lancaster and District Area Council of the Old Age Pensioners' Association in connection with the sum of £100 million that was transferred to the National Insurance Fund in July, 1948; and if she will make a statement.

Dr. Summerskill

I would refer the hon. Member to the very full reply which I gave to the hon. Member for Louth (Mr. Osborne) on 7th November.

14. Mrs. Mann

asked the Minister of National Insurance how many old age pensioners are drawing contributory pensions in Coatbridge and Airdrie; how many are receiving supplementary allowances to these pensions; and what is the average supplementary allowance on the single pension of 26s.

Dr. Summerskill

At the end of September last in the area administered from the board's office at Coatbridge, 1,797 regular weekly grants of National Assistance were being made in supplementation of retirement pensions. I regret that the other information asked for is not available.