HC Deb 05 February 1951 vol 483 cc1314-7
2. Mr. Walter Fletcher

asked the Minister of National Insurance if in view of the increasing cost of living to old age pensioners, she will consider stopping deductions from their pension when they continue to work, and their total earnings exceed one pound per week.

Dr. Summerskill

I would refer the hon. Member to the reply given to the hon. Member for Newport (Mr. Peter Freeman) on Thursday last.

Mr. Fletcher

Having read that reply this morning, may I ask the right hon. Lady if she intends to take any action, as she foreshadowed might be possible in that reply, in view of the great urgency of this matter?

Dr. Summerskill

I have nothing to add to that reply.

Mr. Paget

Has my right hon. Friend considered a proposal I put to her predecessor, that people should be allowed to earn up to half time in the undermanned industries? It was then being considered.

Dr. Summerskill

Yes, Sir. I have already told my hon. and learned Friend that we have considered such proposals, but he must recognise that there are repercussions in these cases, which must be taken into account, and that we have no intention of allowing pensions to become subsidies for wages.

4. Mr. H. Hynd

asked the Minister of National Insurance how many old age pensions are now being paid in Accrington, Rishton, Oswaldtwistle, Clayton-le-Moors and Church; and what were the corresponding numbers in February, 1945.

Dr. Summerskill

Statistics of these payments are not kept on a basis which would enable them to be broken down by localities to give the information desired.

5. Mr. Russell

asked the Minister of National Insurance if she will assess the casual earnings of old age pensioners on a monthly instead of weekly basis.

Dr. Summerskill

No, Sir. I see no reason to modify the decision, reached after careful consideration in 1946, that the fairest, and indeed the only practicable, way of arriving at any necessary deduction on account of earnings is on a weekly basis.

Mr. Russell

Is it not rather hard on a pensioner who wants to supplement his pension by an odd job on one day of the week? Would it not be fairer if these earnings were accounted on a monthly instead of a weekly basis?

Dr. Summerskill

No, Sir. The hon. Gentleman does not seem to have given this matter very full consideration. Has he considered the position of the pensioner who, at the end of the month, has a deduction in his pension made on account of earnings received at the beginning of the month—earnings which have already been spent?

6. Mr. Sutcliffe

asked the Minister of National Insurance if she will arrange to make available in the near future statistics indicating the number of men between 65 and 70 years of age who have ceased to work full time, but who would be willing to work full time if they were entitled to draw their full pension, unconditionally, as they can at the age of 70.

Dr. Summerskill

This information is not available and I do not see how it could be obtained.

Mr. Sutcliffe

Will not the Minister agree that she must be able to obtain a fairly accurate estimate of this number, which is increasing rapidly?

Dr. Summerskill

Surely the hon. Gentleman must realise that the only way I could obtain this information would be by putting a hypothetical question to every man of 65 years of age.

14. Mr. Sutcliffe

asked the Minister of National Insurance if she will consider in the present national emergency removing the present conditions with regard to the receipt of old age pensions, which discourages men between 65 and 70 years of age from working full time.

21. Mr. George Thomas

asked the Minister of National Insurance whether she will review the present insurance scheme in order to make it possible for the services of people over 65 years of age to be available for the community without injuring the rights of the people concerned to draw their full pension.

Dr. Summerskill

I would refer the hon. Members to the reply given to the hon. Member for Heywood and Royton (Mr. Sutcliffe) last Thursday by my right hon. Friend the Minister of Labour and National Service.

Mr. Sutcliffe

Can the Minister give us an assurance that she is working in close conjunction with the Minister of Labour in considering this urgent matter?

Dr. Summerskill

Yes, Sir, I shall probably have conversations with him, but I would draw the hon. Member's attention to the fact that the present structure of the scheme is so designed as to meet exactly the hon. Member's wishes.

Mr. Thomas

In view of the fact that it is foolish to rob ourselves of the experienced ability of many of these elderly people, would my right hon. Friend give urgent consideration to the request in my question?

Dr. Summerskill

I hope my hon. Friend heard the answer I gave to the hon. Member for Heywood and Royton (Mr. Sutcliffe), which also applies to my hon. Friend's Question.

15. Mr. Fisher

asked the Minister of National Insurance what the cost would be to the Exchequer of raising from £1 per week to £2 per week the earnings of old age pensioners before deduction is made from their pensions; and what the cost would be of a corresponding rise in the permitted hours of work per week.

Dr. Summerskill

I regret that this information is not available. There is no means of knowing how many people of pensionable age now in regular work would retire and claim their pensions if the changes suggested by the hon. Member were made.

Mr. Fisher

Would the right hon. Lady bear in mind, in offsetting this amount, whatever it may be, the benefits to the nation and the increased productivity which might follow from the underlying idea, and the benefits to active old age pensioners who are anxious to work if they are not discouraged?