HC Deb 15 April 1957 vol 568 cc1527-9
8. Mr. Pentland

asked the Minister of Pensions and National Insurance if he will arrange for further studies to be made of the conditions of old-age pensioners similar to that prepared by the Medical Officer of Health for the Sunderland Rural District Council, a copy of which has been sent to him.

7. Mr. Blyton

asked the Minister of Pensions and National Insurance if he has yet received the memorandum of the Medical Officer of Health for the Sunderland Rural District Council relating to the drab existence of old-age pensioners and what reply he has made.

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

The position of pensioners is, as I told the House on 25th February, certainly watched both by my Department and by the National Assistance Board and, as soon as the memorandum referred to appeared, the author was asked to supply us with copies of it. This he kindly did, and I have recently received a further copy from the hon. Member for Chester-le-Street (Mr. Pentland). The memorandum has been carefully studied by my Department and the Board, but, in view of the considerable body of information based on systematically organised surveys which we already have on this subject, I do not think it is necessary to adopt the suggestion of the hon. Member for Chester-le-Street.

Mr. Pentland

Is the Minister aware that people in the north-east of England are appalled at what this survey has revealed about the old-age pensioners' plight, and does he not agree that, in order that the Government may get a true picture of how old-age pensioners are existing in this country, he should at least encourage local authorities to follow the pattern set by Sunderland Rural District Council?

Mr. Boyd-Carpenter

The hon. Gentleman will have heard me say in my Answer that we have a great body of information collected under carefully organised surveys. I mean no disrespect to this survey— it is a most interesting piece of work— but I will point out, for example, that some of the incomes stated in it are clearly below the Assistance Board level.

Mr. Shinwell

Will the Minister not agree, having read this extraordinary document, that it discloses that a very large number of old-age pensioners in the County of Durham, and presumably elsewhere, are suffering malnutrition and are quite unable to make both ends meet? Will he look into these disclosures rather more earnestly and try to do something about them?

Mr. Boyd-Carpenter

I have read this most carefully, but, as I said in answer to the hon. Member for Chester-le-Street (Mr. Pentland), in point of fact, seven I think, of the twenty-one incomes stated are actually below the Assistance Board level. As a result, the local office of the Assistance Board sought the names and addresses of these people so that it could give help in the normal way; unfortunately, it has not yet been possible to obtain them.

18. Dr. King

asked the Minister of Pensions and National Insurance how many hon. Members have forwarded to him petitions from the old-age pensioners urging that pensions be increased; and what is the approximate number of signatories to such petitions to the nearest convenient date.

19. Mr. Owen

asked the Minister of Pensions and National Insurance how many petitions he has received during recent weeks pleading the case of the old-age pensioners; how many signatures were appended; and whether he will make a statement indicating what action the Government propose to take on these petitions.

Mr. Boyd-Carpenter

Up to last Friday, 138 hon. Members had either forwarded petitions from their constituents or had written to me about petitions they had received. It is not possible to say even approximately how many persons signed the petitions which were sent on to me. With regard to the last part of the Question of the hon. Member for Morpeth (Mr. Owen), I have nothing to add to my reply to the hon. Lady the Member for Coventry, South (Miss Burton) and other hon. Members on 25th February.

Dr. King

Is the Minister aware that there are more to come and that the petitioners are to be considered as additional to the 100,000 petitioners who petitioned the House through my hon. Friend the Member for Ince (Mr. T. Brown)? Will the Minister hear in mind that the Government are giving to some Surtax payers relief greater than the amount that the old-age pensioner has to live on, and that if he will bring in with the Finance Bill a Pensions Increase Bill he can have the support of pretty well the whole House?

Mr. Boyd-Carpenter

As the hon. Member knows, we thrashed out this matter very fully on the Floor of the House a few weeks ago, and I will not be led, even by the hon. Member's blandishments, to intervene in discussions on the Budget, which have already taken some days and may take a little longer.

20. Mr. Allaun

asked the Minister of Pensions and National Insurance what is the proportion of the old-age pension to national average weekly earnings today;

Average Weekly earnings* Retirement Pension Single rate pension as percentage of all earnings Married rate pension as percentage of men's earnings
All workers Men only Single Rate Married Rate
s. d s. d s. d s. d Per cent. Per cent
October, 1946 101 0 120 9 26 0 42 0 25.7 34.8
October, 1956† 200 8 237 11 40 0 65 0 19.9 27.3
*Average weekly earnings of manual wage earners employed in manufacturing industries generally and in a number of the principal non-manufacturing industries, as published in the Ministry of Labour Gazette.
† Latest date for which figures are available.