§ 7. Captain Pilkington
asked the Minister of Pensions and National Insurance how the purchasing power provided for 1026 by the old-age pension today compares with that in 1947 and 1951.
§ Mr. Peake
Retirement pensions were introduced in 1946 at a standard rate of 26s., which remained unchanged until the autumn of 1951, when it was increased to 30s. for most but not all retirement pensioners. On the basis of the Interim Index of Retail Prices and the previous cost-of-living index, the present 40s. rate of retirement pension is equal to 26s. 7d. in 1947 and to 32s. 9d. in 1951.
§ Captain Pilkington
While everybody wants to do what they can to help the old-age pensioners a little further, does not my right hon. Friend think it would be a good thing if this improvement were mentioned a little more frequently, especially by hon. Members opposite?
§ 8. Captain Pilkington
asked the Minister of Pensions and National Insurance how the standard of living provided for by the National Assistance Board today compares with 1951.
§ Captain Pilkington
While I congratulate my right hon. Friend on this improvement, does he think a further improvement could be effected as soon as the Budget has strengthened the country's economy?
§ Mr. Warbey
Will the Minister agree that last December, when introducing the new scales, he told the House that they were 56¼ per cent. over those of 194S and the cost of food and fuel, the main items, had risen in the same period by 56 per cent.? As the cost of living has since increased by a further 5 per cent., will he now admit that people receiving National Assistance are not only worse off than they were last December but worse off than they were in 1948?
§ 20. Sir H. Linstead
asked the Minister of Pensions and National Insurance if he will state the rise in the cost of living since the current retirement pension rate of 40s. was approved; and how this rate compares with the rate which it replaced.
§ Mr. Paton
If this weightage is given in assessing the scale, why is it that the Minister in this House inevitably refers to the Interim Index of Retail Prices when defending these figures? Is he aware that the average expenditure of persons living alone is, on fuel and on food, something like three-fifths of their total income, and that therefore it is of no relevance whatever to quote the index in relation to these figures?
§ Mr. Hale
Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that in this House he has been constantly urged to issue an index of old-age pensioners relating to their needs; that he has on a number of occasions refused to disclose the methods used by the National Assistance Board for computing the basis and what basis is computed; that the index of consumer prices is wholly out of accord with the Interim Index of Retail Prices, and therefore every figure he has given today relating to old-age pensioners and National Assistance is, in essence, deceptive and misleading?
§ Dame Irene Ward
Can my right hon. Friend explain how it is that when the cost-of-living index rises, owing to a rise in the cost of seasonal foods, the index does not also drop when the costs of those foods drop?
§ 33. Mr. Hamilton
asked the Minister of Pensions and National Insurance the estimated loss in purchasing power of the old-age retirement pension since the date of the last pension increase.
§ Mr. Hamilton
Is the Minister aware that this further underlines the complaint of my hon. Friend the Member for Oldham, West (Mr. Hale) that he is basing this additional cost of living on the Interim Index of Retail Prices? Is he aware that in that period food prices have gone up 5.7 points in that same index and fuel prices more than that; that the cheaper clothing will be dearer as the result of the Budget, and that all these things affect old-age pensioners 1029 more than the average citizen? Will not the Minister consult his right hon. and learned Friend the Minister of Labour and National Service to see whether he can formulate some special cost-of-living index to show the real loss in purchasing power of old-age pensions.