HC Deb 28 April 1952 vol 499 cc997-9
13. Dr. Broughton

asked the Minister of National Insurance if he will allow the proposed increase in old age pensions to become effective from 1st May, 1952.

10. Mrs. Barbara Castle

asked the Minister of National Insurance whether he will ensure that the proposed increase in retirement pensions is made retroactive to cover increases in the cost of living since last September.

Mr. Peake

No, Sir. I think it would be impracticable to provide for the retrospective payment of increased benefits under an insurance scheme.

Dr. Broughton

Can the right hon. Gentleman explain how, in view of the rapidly rising cost of living, old age pensioners are to be expected to live adequately between now and September?

Mr. Peake

As the hon. Member knows, a large number of retirement pensioners are in receipt of National Assistance which supplements their pensions at the present time, and they will obtain extra provision under the arrangements which have been announced.

Mr. William Keenan

Is the Minister aware of the delay which obviously must occur before he puts into operation the intended increase in pensions, which will be done round about October? Could not the right hon. Gentleman have anticipated that, since we have known for months that the pensions are to be increased? Could he not have brought them into operation earlier?

Mr. Peake

Exactly the same problem arose last year when the Socialist Administration were in office. This year we have to carry out even a bigger administrative operation and we are trying to do it in accordance with a very similar time-table to that which operated last year.

Mr. A. C. Manuel

Would the right hon. Gentleman consult the Minister of Health and discover how he is making retrospective payments to the doctors and follow that example in the case of old age pensioners?

Mr. Peake

I cannot answer for that scheme, but under the Insurance Acts I think there were some 9 million order books to be taken in and to be re-issued between now and 1st October.

Dr. Edith Summerskill

I fully appreciate the Minister's difficulties, but has the right hon. Gentleman appreciated that the Minister of Food has foreshadowed very heavy increases in the price of food and that that is why my hon. Friends are apprehensive in the matter? Does he appreciate that it would be grossly unjust to these pensioners to be subject to these heavy increases of prices before the Minister has been able to increase their pensions?

Mr. Peake

Between 1946, when the original pension scales came into operation, and 1951, when the right hon. Lady introduced her Bill, there was a very much larger increase in the cost of living than there has been in recent months.