HC Deb 27 June 1960 vol 625 cc946-8
12. Mr. G. Thomas

asked the Minister of Pensions and National Insurance what new proposals he has for relieving the hardship of retired pensioners who have to live on their basic pension; and whether he will make a statement.

15. Mr. Dempsey

asked the Minister of Pensions and National Insurance if, in view of the recent increases in food prices, he will substantially increase retirement pensions this year.

Mr. Boyd-Carpenter

So far as the rates of retirement pension are concerned, I have nothing to add to what I said in the debate on 20th May. In reply to the hon. Member for Cardiff, West (Mr. G. Thomas), I would add that it is not necessary for any retirement pensioner to live on the standard rate of retirement pension, and that the real value of the scale rates of National Assistance was increased last September.

In reply to the hon. Member for Coat-bridge and Airdrie (Mr. Dempsey), I would invite his attention to the fact that Whereas food prices rose 3 per cent. between 1957 and 1959 the expenditure of people whose main source of income was pension or assistance increased by 10 per cent with a real improvement in their diet.

Mr. Thomas

Is the Minister aware that that disappointing reply fails to meet the problem of which we are all aware? Is he aware that retirement pensioners have to go to the National Assistance Board if they are not to live on their basic pensions or on their families, and that the old-age pensioners feel that they are entitled, as a measure of the country's gratitude to them, at least to an adequate basic pension which will not require them to have to answer all the questions which the National Assistance Board puts to them?

Mr. Boyd-Carpenter

The House has discussed this subject many times and has accepted the view that the National Assistance Board has administered these benefits with tact and discretion and in a way that is unlikely to upset anybody's understandable sensitivities. As regards the hon. Gentleman's question, it is framed on the wholly false hypothesis that there are pensioners who have to live on their basic pensions.

Mr. Dempsey

Will the Minister stop blinding the House with statistics and examine the Ministry of Food Gazette prices during the month of May, when he will find that they have all gone up? Will he try to realise that once winter arrives, when the old people will stay indoors rather than go out, they have to meet higher coal prices and electricity and gas charges? Should not something be done this year without fail to try to bring about a substantial increase in these retirement pensions?

Mr. Boyd-Carpenter

As the hon. Gentleman refers particularly to food prices, he will be glad to have noticed that the food element in the Interim Index of Retail Prices in the first four months of this year was lower than in the first four months of last year.

Hon. Members


13. Mr. G. Thomas

asked the Minister of Pensions and National Insurance what would be the cost, after the readjustment of National Assistance expenditure, of increasing the basic rate of retirement pensions to £4 per week to men and women alike.

Mr. Boyd-Carpenter

About £420 million a year immediately if confined to retirement pensions, or £615 million a year if other benefits were so raised. Both these figures are on the basis that no increase was made in the rates of National Assistance.

Mr. Thomas

Is it on the basis that the Minister has deducted what the Government or the Treasury would save as a result of the pensioners being taken off National Assistance?

Mr. Boyd-Carpenter

I did not put in the figure for Assistance because, if we had added that, which the hon. Member did not do, it would have increased still further the massive figures I have already given in reply to the hon. Gentleman.

23. Mr. Forman

asked the Minister of Pensions and National Insurance how many discretionary payments were made by the National Assistance Board to retirement pensioners during the first three months of 1960.

Mr. Boyd-Carpenter

This information is not available; but the sample inquiry which is carried out at the end of each year showed that, at the end of 1959, discretionary additions for continuing special needs were being allowed in the assessment of 614,000 supplements to retirement pension.

Mr. Jeger

How far do those discretionary payments extend? If, for example, we see rather expensive motor cars going around with "NAB 1", "NAB 2" or "NAB 3" on them, are we to assume that the occupants are in receipt of National Assistance Board discretionary payments?

Mr. Boyd-Carpenter

The hon. Member's supplementary question seems to be based on three hypothetical questions.

Mr. Nabarro

And on hypothetical vehicles.