§ 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. 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?
§ 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. 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?