HC Deb 21 November 1955 vol 546 cc1035-7
28. Mr. Houghton

asked the Minister of Pensions and National Insurance whether he will conduct a sample survey of the domestic expenditure, living conditions, and general well-being of retirement pensioners and report his findings to this House.

39. Mr. Isaacs

asked the Minister of Pensions and National Insurance if, in order to provide this House with factual and up-to-date information regarding the adequacy of the present rate of payment to meet the needs of aged pensioners, he will direct his local offices to undertake visits to an agreed percentage of aged pensioners in their respective localities to collect details of expenditure upon essential needs.

55. Mr. Lewis

asked the Minister of Pensions and National Insurance if he will move to appoint an independent committee of inquiry for the purpose of ascertaining by what amount old-age pensions should be increased to compensate them for the loss in purchasing power of their pension resultant upon the increases in price of food, rent, rates, and increased taxation.

Mr. Peake

I appreciate the motive behind these suggestions, but I do not think that such inquiries would assist us, having regard to the considerations set out in my Report last year on the statutory review of the rates and the amounts of benefit.

Mr. Houghton

May I ask how the right hon. Gentleman can know how old-age pensioners live unless he takes steps to find out? If he will not listen to the old-age pensioners' associations, how does he know what privation the old-age pensioners are suffering? When will he bring before the House some enlightened evidence obtained by himself and his Department upon which the House can judge the adequacy of the present level of pension?

Mr. Peake

One must recall that more than three out of four retirement pensioners have other resources, but so far as my information is concerned we have, for example, the Report of the National Food Survey as to their nutrition. If the hon. Gentleman will read the Report of the National Assistance Board published in July last, he will see that the Board, which had the opportunity to make domiciliary visits, produced a most interesting section on how old people are getting along at present.

Mr. Isaacs

As the Minister continually criticises the cases brought from this side of the House, will not he agree that it would be much more satisfactory to the House if an official investigation were made, because my information about cases that have come before me from the borough which I have the privilege to represent in this House shows that very considerable suffering and hardship exists among these people, and I believe that these facts cannot be put before the Board, otherwise it would certainly pay attention to them?

Mr. Peake

The Assistance Board is continually making inquiries and paying visits to the homes of aged pensioners, especially those who live alone; but if the right hon. Gentleman, or any other hon. Member, has an individual case where he thinks that the allowances granted by the Board are inadequate, he can bring it direct to me or to the Chairman of the Assistance Board.

Mr. Marquand

Was not the Question of my hon. Friend the Member for Sowerby (Mr. Houghton) addressed to the general question of the cost and standard of living for a certain group of the community? Is not it true that the Phillips Committee said that it would have made such a survey had it had time? In view of that, will not the right hon. Gentleman seriously consider making a survey of this kind?

Mr. Peake

I pointed out, I think, a week ago that a survey undertaken by the National Assistance Board into the condition of 120,000 retirement pensioners of over' 80 years of age, living by themselves, was undertaken subsequent to the Report of the Phillips' Committee.

Mr. Marquand

Yes, but is not that survey merely a survey—very good, I agree—of welfare, which says nothing whatever about the cost of living and the type of commodities which these people have to buy?

Mr. Peake

It says a very great deal about how these people are getting along at present.

Mr. Hubbard

Is not the right hon. Gentleman aware that the number of old-age pensioners undergoing treatment in our hospitals and mental institutions is far higher than ever before, because of their suffering through inadequate pensions? Will the Minister inquire of his right hon. Friends the Minister of Health and the Secretary of State for Scotland, when he will find that hospitals are having great difficulty in supplying beds for remedial cases because of the number of old people receiving treatment for ailments brought about through lack of proper food?

Mr. Peake

I am rather surprised at those allegations, but I will have inquiry made into them.

Mr. Lewis

Will the Minister look at my Question No. 55, where he will see that I am more concerned with the position arising upon the iniquitous Budget which will reveal a rise in rent, rates, cost of living and food? If he will not have an inquiry about what has happened in the past, will he have an inquiry now to see to what extent old-age pensions may be increased, if only to offset the rise in the cost of living which is inevitable as a result of the Budget that the Chancellor has just introduced?

Mr. Peake

Despite what the hon. Gentleman says, we know that the present 40s. pension is worth 9s. more in purchasing power than was the 26s. pension in the dying days of the last Socialist Government.

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