HC Deb 14 November 1955 vol 546 cc9-12
7. Mr. Lewis

asked the Minister of Pensions and National Insurance if he is aware that since the last review in pension rates the cost of living has risen, particularly with regard to food prices, rents and rates; that rents, rates and cost of living are again rising making it difficult for all in receipt of pensions to purchase the basic necessities of life; and whether he will take steps to increase all pensions with an immediate increase to old-age pensioners to assist them to overcome the difficulties of the forthcoming winter in addition to off-setting the rise in the cost of living that has taken place since the last review of their pension rates.

8. Mr. G. Thomas

asked the Minister of Pensions and National Insurance what estimate he has made of the increased costs occurring in an old-age pensioner's weekly budget during the past five months; and what steps he proposes to take to relieve hardship due to the continued increase in the cost of living.

24. Mr. Dodds

asked the Minister of Pensions and National Insurance, in view of the need for urgency in making a decision in respect of the case put to him on 8th November by a deputation from the National Federation of Old-Age Pensions Associations for an increase in the pension rates, if he will make a statement.

Mr. Peake

Retail prices, as measured by the Interim Index, have risen by about 2 per cent. since last April. Otherwise I have nothing to add to the Answer I gave in reply to similar Questions on 7th November.

Mr. Lewis

Is the Minister aware that the costs of food, rent and rates have now reached the highest level at any period in peace or war; that the purchasing power of the £ is now less than at any previous time in the history of this country; that rent, rates and food are continually going up, and that the Budget will put them up even more? Surely he will do something to help the old-age pensioners to overcome the rigours of winter, and not let them suffer for so long.

Mr. Peake

This question dealt with the rates of National Insurance pensions based upon the contributory system of National Insurance. I would remind the hon. Gentleman that the increases made in insurance pensions as recently as last April have given these pensions a higher value than they ever had before these new rates came into operation. So far as the relief of distress and hardship is concerned, that is another matter, because that is the function of the National Assistance Board.

Mr. Dodds

Does the Minister say that he has turned down the application made to him last week by the National Federation of Old-Age Pensioners' Associations, and is he not aware, whatever the case he is prepared to make out now, that if something is not done quickly for the poorer old-age pensioners they will have a dreadful winter, and that this will be a national scandal? Can he hold out some hope for them before it is too late?

Mr. Peake

I have just pointed out that any pensioner who has no other resources but a National Insurance pension and who finds his resources inadequate can and should make application to the National Assistance Board.

Mrs. Braddock

Does the Minister really think that 15s. 8d. a week is sufficient for an old-age pensioner? Does he realise that the figures given the other day show that £1 is now worth only 7s. 10d., and, therefore, the £2 which the old-age pensioner is getting has a purchasing power of only 15s. 8d.? Does he think that is sufficient?

Mr. Peake

I would point out to the hon. Lady that the National Insurance pension carries a higher value today than it did at any time during the whole six years that the Socialist Government sat on these benches.

Mr. Isaacs

Is the Minister aware that, although the figure is higher than it may have been before, it is still lamentably low compared with what it has to purchase, and that even if old-age people go to the National Assistance Board and get the maximum which the Board can give them, it is still not enough to keep them decently and in comfort?

23. Mr. Paton

asked the Minister of Pensions and National Insurance what recent proposals he has received from the National Assistance Board for the alleviation of distress amongst its beneficiaries arising from the high cost of living.

Mr. Peake

I would refer the hon. Member to the reply given to the hon. Member for Southampton, Test (Mr. J. Howard) on 31st October. The Board can be relied on to submit proposals whenever it thinks the situation warrants it, and I cannot accept the implication in the latter part of the Question.

Mr. Paton

Is the Minister aware that there is nothing whatever in the statute constituting the Board, nor in the practice of his predecessors in this office which he now holds which would prevent him, if he so desires, making representations to the Board on this matter?

Mr. Peake

The hon. Gentleman should read Section 6 of the 1948 Act, where he will see that the initiative in this matter rests entirely with the National Assistance Board.

Mr. Marquand

Is it not a fact that the National Assistance Board has no really reliable information at all about the cost of living of old people? Did the Phillips Committee not report that there has been no adequate system of analysis of income and expenditure of elderly households in Great Britain? Has the right hon. Gentleman taken note of that, and is he going to do something about it?

Mr. Peake

Of course, I accept that that is in the Phillips Report if the right hon. Gentleman tells me so, but he must remember that the Phillips Committee made its report at the end of November last year. I have since then referred one of my hon. Friends to the Report of the National Assistance Board for 1954, which came out in July this year, and which contains a most interesting analysis of the way in which old persons on assistance are living at the present time.

Dame Irene Ward

In view of the fact that my right hon. Friend, quite rightly, has persistently referred to the Phillips Committee Report, would it not be a good idea, as he is a member of the Cabinet, if he were to suggest to the Leader of the House that we should have a debate on the Phillips Committee Report without further delay? It is ridiculous that we should not debate this very important Report.

Mr. Peake

Surely my hon. Friend knows that it is not for me to arrange the business of the House.

Dame Irene Ward

My right hon. Friend is in the Cabinet.

Mr. Peake

I am sure the hon. Lady can press her points at the appropriate time.

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