HC Deb 11 June 1956 vol 554 cc1-4
1. Mr. Dodds

asked the Minister of Pensions and National Insurance the number of old-age pensioners receiving National Assistance grants at the latest convenient date; the average payment per person; and how this compares in both instances with the position six months previously.

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

At 27th March, 1956, 898.610 regular weekly National Assistance grants-some of them covering the needs of more than one pensioner-were being paid in supplementation of retirement pensions, and 155,542 in supplementation of noncontributory old-age pensions. The average payments were 14s. 7d. and 24s. 5d., respectively. The comparable figures for 27th September, 1955, were 883,994 and 155,009, and the comparable payments 11s. 3d. and 22s. 2d., respectively.

Mr. Dodds

I thank the Minister for this information, but can he say how many of those on National Assistance are in the Tonbridge division?

Mr. Boyd-Carpenter

I am afraid it is not possible for me to give figures for any particular area.

6. Dr. King

asked the Minister of Pensions and National Insurance if he will increase the annual addition to the retirement pension which is given to those who work on for several years after the normal retiring age.

Mr. Boyd-Carpenter

I have no proposals to this effect in mind.

Dr. King

Is the Minister aware that if a man whose State retirement pension is his only pension goes on working until he is 70, all the extra pension he has earned is deducted from what he ought to get from the National Assistance Board, so that there is really no encouragement to men to stay on after 65? Will he not give that matter consideration?

Mr. Boyd-Carpenter

The hon. Gentleman appreciates that one of the effects of earning increments is, in many cases, to take the man out of the need to supplement his pension by National Assistance. As regards the inducement which the hon. Gentleman has in mind, I have no doubt he has read paragraphs 200 to 202 of the Phillips Report, which indicate that it does not have very much effect.

Mr. Steele

Would the Minister have a word with his right hon. Friend the Minister of Health on this matter, because, unfortunately, while these men do stay on at work as the Government wish them to do, when they have to purchase glasses or teeth or anything of that kind, the fact that they have earned this little extra means that they get no assistance at all?

Mr. Boyd-Carpenter

I really cannot follow the hon. Gentleman's argument, which, as I understand it, deals generally with the question of charges, as being an argument particularly applicable to this rather narrow point raised by the Question. On that, I am sure the hon. Gentleman is aware of the recommendations of the Phillips Report.

8. Mr. Lewis

asked the Minister of Pensions and National Insurance how much he estimates it would cost to increase old-age pensions by 1s. 6d. per week.

Mr. Boyd-Carpenter

The annual cost respectively to the National Insurance Fund and the Exchequer of increasing all retirement pensions and non-contributory old-age pensions by 1s. 6d. a week would be about £19 million at present, rising to £30 million in 25 years' time. There would be a consequential saving on National Assistance of about £44 million a year initially.

Mr. Lewis

In view of the fact that old-age pensioners have had their income depreciated by this amount because of the rise in the cost of living, and, further, in view of the fact that both sides of the House and everyone in the country would support the Minister if he were to increase these pensions by this amount, will he try to bring a suitable Measure before the House for the improvement suggested in the Question?

Mr. Boyd-Carpenter

Having regard to the hon. Gentleman's suggestion of 1s. 6d., of course I am bound to remind him—as I reminded him the other day—that the real value of the pensions in issue today is 3s. 1d. better than it was in October, 1951.

Mr. Lewis

But they are still 1s. 6d. worse off than they were 12 months ago.

Mr. Boyd-Carpenter

It is always perfectly possible to trace fluctuations from month to month, but the substance of the matter is that the real benefit of the pension is now considerably higher than the level at which the hon. Gentleman's right hon. Friends thought right to leave it in October, 1951.