HC Deb 04 June 1956 vol 553 cc684-6
7. Mr. Fernyhough

asked the Minister of Pensions and National Insurance if he is aware of the widespread concern amongst old-age pensioners over the increase in the price of tobacco and the pending increases in the price of bread, milk and coal; and if he will increase pensions and other National Insurance benefits and thus protect the poorest section of the community from the consequences of the ever-increasing cost of living.

9. Mr. Lewis

asked the Minister of Pensions and National Insurance if he is aware that the £1 depreciated in purchasing value by 1s. 6d. during the last year; and whether he will increase oldage pensions, war disabled pensions and other pensions by 1s. 6d. in the £to compensate for this loss.

11. Mr. Dodds

asked the Minister of Pensions and National Insurance what consideration has been given to relieving the distress among the old-age pensioners consequent upon the further increase in the cost of living; and what action it is proposed to take to deal with this problem.

The Minister of Pensions and National Insurance (Mr. John Boyd-Carpenter)

I have no proposals to bring forward at present affecting the rates of retirement pensions and contributions under the National Insurance Scheme. Movements of prices require to be taken into account generally and not only in connection with one or two particular changes. So far as war pensions are concerned, I would refer the hon. Member for West Ham, North (Mr. Lewis) to my reply to his Question on 14th May on this subject. The House will be aware of the improvements being made in respect of war widows with children.

Mr. Fernyhough

Does the right hon. Gentleman not agree that that answer shows a callous indifference to the needs of old-age pensioners? Is he not aware that since the last increase took place the rise in the cost of living has devalued the 65s. for a married couple by 5s., and that there are further increases pending? Since it takes four months from the time a Bill is presented in the House until the pension becomes operative, what does the Minister think the old folk will do in the coming winter?

Mr. Boyd-Carpenter

As regards the expression "callous" and something or other used by the hon. Gentleman

Mr. Fernyhough


Mr. Boyd-Carpenter

I am obliged—"callous indifference". It is, of course, a fact that the real value of the pension is considerably better than it was during a considerable part of the term of office of hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite.

Mr. Lewis

Surely that is playing at it? Everyone of every political party knows that old-age pensioners are having a very raw deal at the moment. In view of the fact that both sides of the House would give every assistance to the Minister, will he not at least ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer to grant him the necessary funds so that we can expedite the introduction of some improvement? We are not seeking to place the blame. Will the Minister please do something for old-age pensioners particularly, and the war disabled?

Mr. Boyd-Carpenter

The hon. Member really must bear in mind the current real value of the pension as against that in previous periods. as well as the recommendation of the Phillips Committee that the main rates of benefit under the National Insurance Scheme should not be the subject of frequent alterations.

Mr. Dodds

Will the right hon. Gentleman answer that part of my Question which reads: What consideration has been given to relieving the distress among the old-age pensioners consequent upon the further increase in the cost of living? Can the Minister deny that when they got an increase previously it was to keep up with rising prices? Is he not aware that so far this year prices have gone up faster than for several years past? Will he not do something at least for the over one million who are on National Assistance by increasing the supplementary grants.

Mr. Boyd-Carpenter

So far as National Assistance is concerned, that is a separate matter on which the hon. Member may care to put down a separate Question on the Order Paper. As regards the main Question, if he will study my original Answer he will see that I went out of my way to make clear that we must look at price movements as a whole. For example, in the recent fluctuation of food prices, we have had potatoes and green vegetables going up and eggs and butter going down.