HC Deb 27 June 1960 vol 625 cc936-9
2. Mr. Houghton

asked the Minister of Pensions and National Insurance what additional staff and upgradings of posts will be needed for the extra work on the graduated pensions scheme; and what is likely to be the increased annual cost of administration of his Department on this account.

Mr. Boyd-Carpenter

It is estimated that an additional 832 posts will be required by my Department by the end of this financial year. As regards the ultimate annual administrative cost for this work, an estimate of £4 million was given in the Financial Memorandum on the National Insurance Bill. This figure includes the cost of extra staff, office machinery, accommodation, postal and other services and the cost to the Inland Revenue Department of collecting graduated contributions. We have not as yet, and shall not have for some time, sufficient experience to know to what extent this estimate will be subject to modification.

16. Mr. W. Hamilton

asked the Minister of Pensions and National Insurance what will be the total pension at age 65 years of a man, now aged 40 years and earning average earnings, under the proposals of the new graduated scheme becoming operative in April, 1961.

Mr. Boyd-Carpenter

On the illustrative basis as to increases in earnings set out in the Government Actuary's Report on the financial provisions of the National Insurance Bill, 1959, and on the quite unrealistic assumption of no changes in National Insurance benefits over the next 25 years, the total would be £3 11s. single or £5 1s. married.

Mr. Hamilton

Why does the right hon. Gentleman talk about the unrealistic possibility of no increase in the basic pension in view of his attitude in the last two years? Can he say, in view of these deplorable figures and the future which this man will have to face in twenty-five years' time, how this figure squares up to the prophecy made by the right hon. Gentleman who is now the Home Secretary, when he said that the people's standard of living would be doubled in twenty-five years?

Mr. Boyd-Carpenter

I should have thought it was reasonable to say that it was unrealistic to assume no increase in benefits for twenty-five years if one happens to belong to a Government which has raised them three times in nine.

Mr. Ross

Does not the Minister think that this is an unworthy objective when we remember that after all this time of payments of additional sums the married pensioner will be getting 7s. 6d. less than the present pensioner with the average supplement from National Assistance?

Mr. Boyd-Carpenter

The hon. Gentleman knows that he is not comparing like with like and that, as his Question was framed, it was answered on an admittedly unrealistically pessimistic basis.

Mr. Lawson

The Minister is talking about unrealistic calculations. Would he not agree that we passed a Bill a year ago which makes provision for raising contributions but expressly denies any provision whatever for raising benefits? Does this not suggest that the Government are, in fact, thinking in terms of the future when there will be no increase in State benefits, but might possibly be increases in private insurance benefits?

Mr. Boyd-Carpenter

The hon. Gentleman's supplementary question shows a surprising failure to recollect the provisions of the Measure to the discussions on which he himself made a notable contribution.

18. Mrs. Cullen

asked the Minister of Pensions and National Insurance if he will estimate the additional requirements of manpower for the administration of the new insurance scheme; and if he will site the new central administrative office buildings required in Scotland or in one of the other areas where labour is available.

Mr. Boyd-Carpenter

As regards the first part of the Question, I would refer the hon. Member to the reply I have just given to the hon. Member for Sowerby (Mr. Houghton). As regards the second part of the Question, no new central administrative office is required.

Mrs. Cullen

In the event of such a decision, would the Minister agree that the site ought to be in an area of high unemployment?

Mr. Boyd-Carpenter

No new central administrative office is required. The question where it should be, therefore, surely does not arise.

20. Dr. Dickson Mabon

asked the Minister of Pensions and National Insurance whether any new computing equipment has been sought or provided for his Department for the administration of the new insurance scheme; and what will be the cost of such equipment.

Mr. Boyd-Carpenter

Yes, Sir. An EMIDEC 2400 computer system has been ordered for installation at the Central Office in Newcastle, for the graduated pensions scheme work, at a cost, with its ancillary equipment, of about £600,000.

Dr. Mabon

In view of these very substantial overheads, and because no doubt many others will be incurred, is the Minister satisfied that the very substantial rise in overheads is justified by the fact that the numbers of pensioners will remain stationary?

Mr. Boyd-Carpenter

The hon. Member is wrong on the hypothesis on which he ended his supplementary question. On the first part, the answer is that the more economical way of carrying out the complex administrative tasks involved is by investing in the most modern and up-to-date equipment.

21. Dr. Dickson Mabon

asked the Minister of Pensions and National Insurance what will be the cost this year to his Department of additional man-power, and overtime, attributable to the administrative preparations for the introduction of the new scheme of insurance in April, 1961.

Mr. Boyd-Carpenter

Approximately £300,000.

Dr. Mabon

That is the very point I was trying to make in my supplementary question to my first Question, namely, that certain classes of pensioners will not receive any benefit in respect of the very substantial overheads.

Mr. Boyd-Carpenter

As the hon. Member knows, this Measure will make a very considerable advance. I am anxious to keep administrative costs as low as possible, and I think I am doing so.