§ 6. Mr. Hale
asked the Minister of National Insurance whether he is aware of the growing hardship amongst old age pensioners due to the increase in the price of food; and whether he is prepared to make immediate representation as to the need for an early increase in the basic rate of retirement pension.
§ 4. Mr. George Craddock
asked the Minister of National Insurance if he will take steps to increase pensions paid to old age pensioners to offset the increases in food prices which have taken place in recent months.
§ 7. Mr. Fenner Brockway
asked the Minister of National Insurance if he will increase old age pensions, widows' pensions, and unemployment and sickness benefits in proportion to the increased cost of living since the last increases were given.
§ Mr. Hale
Is the Minister aware that that reply did not give any satisfaction? Will he bear in mind that in present circumstances, with the prevailing prices of bacon, butter and meat, many of these vital items are passing wholly out of the old age pensioners' lives? Now that we are assured officially that there is no 837 National Assistance available in respect of the increased price of food, will he look at this matter very seriously, because it is of great importance?
§ Mr. Peake
The hon. Member must be aware of the difficulty of continually changing the rates of pension under a contributory scheme where the rates of pension are related to the rates of contribution. In fact, the 1952 Act restored the purchasing power of benefits to what the pensions had originally, in July, 1948, and there has been very little change since the new rate of pensions came into operation in the summer and autumn of last year.
§ Mr. Brockway
Is the Minister aware that whatever may be the fall or rise in the cost of living generally, to these people there is no doubt about the rise in the cost of living, because it affects food and the first essentials? Does he not know of the dire need among these people and will he reconsider the request which we have made in these Questions?
§ Mr. Peake
In fact, the large majority, something like three-quarters, have other resources. While it is true that certain items in the cost-of-living index have increased in the last few months, the assistance scales were most generously increased last year and it is also true that people receiving help from the Assistance Board are much better off today than at any time since the end of the war.
§ Mr. Hale
Is the Minister aware that the present cost-of-living index is inapplicable to old age pensioners? They do not spend money on clothes, because they cannot afford them and cannot replace them. Is he aware that their principal item is food, that the price of food has gone up and has been deliberately forced up by the actions of Her Majesty's Government?