HC Deb 24 May 1954 vol 528 cc9-10
16. Mr. Hector Hughes

asked the Minister of Pensions and National Insurance what inquiries he has made during the last 12 months as to the incidence of the present high cost of living on persons in receipt of old-age pensions and National Assistance; and what steps he is taking to increase old-age pensions and National Assistance payments accordingly.

Mr. Peake

The Interim Index of Retail Prices does not reflect any appreciable rise in the cost of living in the past 12 months. In reply to the second part of the Question, I would refer the hon. Member to the statement made by my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer in the course of the debate on the Finance Bill on 3rd May and to my reply to the hon. Member for Chester-le-Street (Mr. Bartley) on the same day.

Mr. Hector Hughes

Is that answer intended to mean that the old-age pensioners are not suffering any deprivation? Does the right hon. Gentleman not realise that old-age pensioners are suffering deprivation and that such inquiries should be made in order to ameliorate their condition?

Mr. Peake

I am quite aware that it is the general wish in all quarters of the House that, as soon as circumstances permit, we should do something more for the old-age pensioners.

Mr. W. Griffiths

Is the Minister aware that with National Assistance scales at the present level it is becoming increasingly difficult for those in receipt of National Assistance to meet special needs, such as shoe repairs and replacement of clothing? Is he aware that National Assistance officers are sending applicants for these special needs to voluntary organisations once again? Will he assure the House that that kind of thing will not continue?

Mr. Peake

I am not aware of the practice referred to in the hon. Member's last sentence. The National Assistance scales now give a more generous standard of living than at any time during the six years after the end of the war.

17. Mr. Gower

asked the Minister of Pensions and National Insurance the approximate number of old-age pensioners who are in employment; what proportion of old-age pensioners they represent; and if he will take steps to increase the amount which each old-age pensioner may earn without affecting his or her benefit.

Mr. Peake

I regret that the information is not available as only comparatively few retirement pensioners need to declare their earnings from employment. As regards the last part of the Question, I would refer my hon. Friend to the reply given to him on 16th November last.

Mr. Gower

Does my right hon. Friend not agree that in many cases the present regulations discourage the younger old-age pensioners who are in good health and who are anxious to help themselves? In view of the fact that certain other assistance which my right hon. Friend contemplates must be delayed until certain investigations are made, would it not be proper and helpful in the meantime to give this measure of assistance, which would cost the Treasury nothing at all?

Mr. Peake

My hon. Friend must know that retirement as a basis of claim for pension was a new feature of the system adopted in 1946. It would be premature to suggest altering that system until we have had the report of the Committee presided over by Sir Thomas Phillips.