53. Air Commodore Harvey
asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Defence how many officers of the three Services have commuted their retired pay since the war ended.
§ The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Defence (Mr. Nigel Birch)
I am informed that there have been about 7,500 commutations of officers' retired pay since the end of the war. This figure includes cases in which an officer has commuted more than once. It would not 974 be possible without lengthy research to determine the precise number of individuals concerned.
Air Commodore Harvey
Will my hon. Friend take these very large figures into account when considering the needs of retired officers and the question of increasing their pensions?
§ Mr. Bowles
Will the hon. Gentleman clear up one mystery to my mind? How can an officer commute his retired pay more than once?
§ 55. Mr. Marlowe
asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Defence the amount of the basic pension paid to a lieut.-colonel of 25 years' service who retired in 1921; what is the basic pension paid to the same officer today; and whether he will also give the same figures in terms of purchasing power according to the cost-of-living figures issued by the Treasury.
§ Mr. Birch
The retired pay for a combatant lieut.-colonel in 1921 would have varied between £450 and £540 a year, according to length of service in the rank. He would now be getting between £440 and £525 a year, on which he would, if qualified, be eligible for increases under the pensions increase schemes. The present cost of living figure is about 160 per cent. of that of 1921, but no accurate figure can be given as there is no continuous index covering the period. On this basis the 1921 equivalents are about £300 and £350.
§ Mr. Marlowe
Does not my hon. Friend regard it as thoroughly discreditable that these officers should be worse off now than they were 20 or 30 years ago? As the Chancellor of the Exchequer has just sat beside him, will he try to get some money out of his right hon. Friend in order to deal with this matter properly?
§ Lieut-Colonel Lipton
In giving further consideration to the matter, will the Parliamentary Secretary bear in mind some very disturbing figures released by the Minister of National Insurance the other day which show that the number of ex-Service pensioners forced to draw National Assistance has increased by thousands during the past 12 months?