§ 33. Mr. T. Brown
asked the Minister of National Insurance if he has seen the official survey into the economic and social conditions of old people, which reveals serious conditions; and if he will now bring forward legislation to increase the basic pension rates for the non-contributory and contributory pensioners.
§ Mr. Peake
I assume the hon. Member is referring to a recent article in the British Journal of Nutrition regarding an inquiry made between January, 1950, and March, 1951, into the diets of some 300 elderly people in Sheffield. The inquiry did not disclose any general malnutrition. In any case both retirement pensions and National Assistance scales have since been substantially increased, and I do not think it has much bearing on the adequacy of the provision now being made for old people.
§ Mr. Brown
Is the Minister aware that his assumptions arise on an entirely incorrect basis? The Question does not refer to the survey taken in Sheffield, nor a survey of 1951. It refers to the survey which is being taken in certain parts of this country as revealed in the "Daily Express" a few weeks ago. Is the right hon. Gentleman's Department—he himself may not know of it—aware of the survey and the revelations that the survey has given to the people?
§ Mr. Keenan
Is the Minister not aware that a non-contributory pensioner actually gets 5s. a week pension less than 478 the scale of the National Assistance Board, and does not that disclose to him that if the National Assistance scale is 59s. for a couple, other pensioners are getting well below what they ought to get?"
§ 34. Miss Burton
asked the Minister of National Insurance whether he has considered the letter from the national general secretary of the Old-Age Pensioners' Association concerning the take-up of rationed foods; and what reply has been sent.
§ Mr. Peake
As neither I nor my right hon. Friend the Minister of Food has recently received a letter from the Association, I assume the hon. Member is referring to a recent article in the "Old Age Pensioner." The article set out a weekly budget, the total of which, excluding insurances, was approximately the same as the amount provided by the current national assistance scales. The figures given, even if one were to accept them as typical, do not therefore support the assertion made in the article that pensioners could not afford to buy enough food.
§ Miss Burton
On a point of order. Before I ask a supplementary, may I ask for your guidance, Mr. Speaker, on this matter. It seems most extraordinary, because I asked you for help on the matter of this question. It was sent to the Ministry of Food and was transferred to the Ministry of National Insurance. I received a letter from the Minister of Food stating that this had been sent to the Minister of National Insurance, but the Minister now says he has not received it. I did not send him an article, and it seems most extraordinary as to whether or not the Old Age Pensioners' Association have sent this letter.
§ Mr. Peake
Further to that point of order. The Question asks whether I considered a letter from the general secretary of the Old Age Pensioners' Association. 479 I said in my answer I had received no such letter, but that I assumed the hon. Lady was referring to an open letter which was published in the "Old Age Pensioner."
§ Miss Burton
Will the Minister tell the House if in his opinion and that of the Government, the old age pensioners are able to buy food and light—[Interruption.] The hon. Member for Croydon, East (Sir H. Williams) has not seen the letter at all. Might I ask the Minister whether he can inform the House that he and the Government believe that the old age pensioners are in a position to buy the food, light and heat that they need.
§ Mr. Peake
From my previous answers, I think it is perfectly clear that the supplementation given by the Assistance Board is adequate for the needs of the people whose interests they serve. As to the letter and article to which the hon. Lady refers, the article was definitely misleading. It gives the false and deliberate impression that supplementation by the Assistance Board was not available to pensioners without any other resources.
§ Mrs. Braddock
Is the Minister aware that the replies he has given will be noted by the old age pensioner who will take it that the statements he has made make it clear that the old age pensioners are deliberately lying about their income to obtain more.
§ Sir H. Williams
Is it in order for hon. Members, having received an answer to a direct question, to put entirely different questions outside the scope of the original one?
§ 35. Mr. Chetwynd
asked the Minister of National Insurance what action he is taking to ensure that old age pensioners have adequate financial resources to celebrate the Coronation.
§ Mr. Chetwynd
As the present rate of pension is scarcely adequate to meet the necessities of life, how does the right hon. Gentleman expect the old age pensioners to be able to play a full part in all the different activities of the Coronation unless some extra grant is made to them, either by way of assistance or pension?
§ Mr. T. Brown
Is not the Minister aware that it would not require any grant from the Exchequer? It can be done from the surplus funds accumulated in the National Insurance Fund. Can he not deal with the matter from that fund?
§ 37. Rev. LI. Williams
asked the Minister of National Insurance what percentage of the total population in areas of the Nantyglo and Blaina, Abertillery, Abercorn Urban District Councils is composed of old age pensioners; and what is the percentage of old age pensioners in relation to the whole country.