HC Deb 31 March 1952 vol 498 cc1166-7
28. Mr. William Hamilton

asked the Minister of Food if he is aware that the proposal to withdraw completely the subsidy from tea will cause the greatest hardship to old age pensioners; and if he will therefore consider the granting of some concession to the old people.

Major Lloyd George

I would refer the hon. Member to the prospective changes in National Assistance and pensions announced by my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer in opening his Budget. These measures will be specifically designed to help old age pensioners.

Mr. Hamilton

Does not the Minister realise that some of the price increases have already taken place, and that the old age pensioners are finding it increasingly difficult to maintain a standard of living at all commensurate with what they are entitled to; and would he give a guarantee that at any rate the tea subsidy will not be taken off before some kind of assistance is given to the old age pensioner?

Major Lloyd George

I can only repeat what I said before. Everything possible will be done to see that these are synchronised. At least we can say that some attempt is being made to compensate for the disadvantages.

Mr. Douglas Jay

In view of the obvious importance of tea to the old age pensioner, can the Minister explain why the Government selected tea for the complete withdrawal of the subsidy? [HON. MEMBERS: "Answer.") Had the Government no grounds for doing this at all; and if they had grounds, can the Minister explain what they were?

Major Lloyd George

We had plenty of grounds, and at the proper time I am prepared to explain them. As I pointed out before, the commodities upon which the Government decide depend, as in the right hon. Gentleman's time, on the circumstances, and I advise the right hon. Gentleman to wait and see what the position is like.

Mrs. Barbara Castle

Can the right hon. Gentleman assure the House that when the increase in old age pensions takes place, it will be retrospective, on the same basis as the doctors' increase?