HC Deb 17 June 1953 vol 516 cc973-5
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 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. Birch

Yes, Sir, but my hon. and gallant Friend will realise that people do not necessarily commute only for reasons of poverty. They often do so because they want to start a business.

Mr. Bowles

Will the hon. Gentleman clear up one mystery to my mind? How can an officer commute his retired pay more than once?

Mr. Birch

He may commute £100 a year of it at one time and another £100 a year subsequently.

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?

Mr. Birch

A great many of us are worse off than we were 20 or 30 years ago.

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?