HC Deb 28 March 1960 vol 620 cc924-30
9. Mr. Awbery

asked the Minister of Pensions and National Insurance if he will give the amount paid in pension to single and married persons in 1945, together with the dates and amount of each subsequent increase.

Mr. Boyd-Carpenter

As the Answer consists; of a number of figures, I will, with permission, circulate it in the OFFICIAL REPORT.

Widows', Orphans' and Old Age Contributory Pensions Act, 1936 Date Single Rate Increase Married Rate Increase
s. d. s. d. s. d. s. d.
1945* 10 0 20 0
National Insurance Act, 1946 30th September,1946 26 0 16 0 42 0 22 0
3rd September, 1951 30 0 4 0 50 0 8 0
1st October, 1951
29th September, 1952 32 6 2 6 54 0 4 0
25th April, 1955 40 0 7 6 65 0 11 0
27th January, 1958 50 0 10 0 80 0 15 0
The rates shown for 1945 relate to the contributory old age pensions then in payment under the Widows', Orphans' and Old Age Contributory Pensions Act, 1936, and were restricted to the classes of people eligible under that Act.
† The increase in 1951 was effective from 3rd September for existing pensioners over age 70 (men) or 65 (women) and from 1st October for others then of pension age. Subsequent awards to pensioners who had not reached pension age by 1st October, 1951, were at the old rate of 26s. (42s. married) to be increased to 30s. (50s. married) from the pensioner's 70th birthday (65th birthday for women).
10. Mr. Reynolds

asked the Minister of Pensions and National Insurance by how much the present single retirement pension of 50s. would require to be increased or decreased to give it the same increase in purchasing power over the 1946 pension of 26s. as there has been in the purchasing power of the average wage in 1946 over the average wage in 1960.

Mr. Boyd-Carpenter

For men an increase of 8s. 4d. would be needed, and for women 5s. 11d.

Mr. Reynolds

Does not the Minister agree that in equity and in order to allow those people who are living on pensions and other forms of National Insurance benefits the same increase in their standard of living as employed people have had—when we could all say that we have never had it so good—the Government should increase their expenditure in this direction? Is the Minister further aware

Mr. Awbery

Can the Minister tell us whether the first increase in pensions given in 1945 or 1946 increased the pension for the single man from 10s. to 26s. and for the married couple from 20s. to 42s.?

Mr. Boyd-Carpenter

When the hon. Members studies the table he will find happy corroboration of his figures.

Following is the information:

that hon. Members on this side of the House, and probably the majority of hon. Members opposite, will be prepared to support him in such public expenditure against any attacks he might receive from the hon. Member for Kidderminster (Mr. Nabarro) and his friends?

Mr. Boyd-Carpenter

The hon. Member will be aware that the figures given in reply to the Question as he framed it refer only to relativities in regard to a certain category of earnings and that in real and absolute terms there has been an appreciable improvement.

Mr. Nabarro

Is it not implicit in this Question that the hon. Member suggests that the retirement pension should be linked to wages, in some way or other?

An Hon. Member: Like votes to speeches. [Laughter.]

Mr. Speaker

This is such fun, but so delaying.

Mr. Nabarro

May I continue, Mr. Speaker? Would not my right hon. Friend concede at once that such a proposition is wholly untenable and was strenuously resisted by the party opposite when it was in power between 1945 and 1951?

Mr. Boyd-Carpenter

Whatever may be implicit in the hon. Member's Question, I thought my duty was to answer that part which was explicit, and that I endeavoured to do.

13. Mr. Lawson

asked the Minister of Pensions and National Insurance whether the difference of 6s. 2d. in the value of the 50s. retirement pension over that of the 26s. pension in 1946 is expressed in terms of 1960 prices or of 1946 prices.

14. Dr. Dickson Mabon

asked the Minister of Pensions and National Insurance by how much the single retirement pension of 50s. would require to be increased to give it a real value of 6s. 2d., in terms of 1946 prices, over the value of the 26s. pension in 1946.

16. Mr. Willis

asked the Minister of Pensions and National Insurance what would be the cost of raising the single basic pension from its present 50s. to a level where it would have a current purchasing power equal, in terms of 1946 prices, to 6s. 2d. above the 26s. pension in 1946.

11. Miss Herbison

asked the Minister of Pensions and National Insurance if he is aware that the single retirement pension in 1960 represents a purchasing power at 1946 prices of only 3s. 8d. more than the purchasing power of the 26s. pension in 1946; and if, in view of this, he will take steps to raise the existing retirement pension so as to enable present pensioners to enjoy a rise in their living standards comparable with the rise in living standards enjoyed by other sections of the British people.

12. Mr. Hamilton

asked the Minister of Pensions and National Insurance if he will raise the 50s. single retirement pension so as to give it a real value, in terms of 1946 prices, of 6s. 2d. more than the value of the 26s. pension in 1946.

Mr. Boyd-Carpenter

Using the retail prices index and the former cost of living index, the value of the present 50s. pension exceeds that of the 26s. pension in 1946 by 6s. 2d. in terms of 1960 prices and 3s. 8d. at 1946 values.

An increase of 4s. 3d. would be needed to brings the 50s. pension to the value of 32s. 2d. in 1946. This would cost about £80 million a year immediately, assuming a corresponding increase in other benefits.

On the general question of the level of National Insurance benefits, I would refer the hon. Members to what I said during the debate on 16th March, to which I have nothing to add.

Mr. Lawson

Is the Minister aware that it is what he said during the debate which has provoked these Questions, and that it now emerges—differently from what he and his hon. Friends said —that in 1946 terms the pension is now worth only 3s. 8d. more? Is he satisfied that after fifteen years this is the best the nation can afford for the old-age pensioners?

Mr. Boyd-Carpenter

There is nothing inconsistent between what was said from this side of the House in the debate and the figures I have given. The figures that have generally been used in our previous controversies—as no one knows better than the hon. Member for Motherwell (Mr. Lawson)—are the figures at current prices, which are the prices at which the retirement pensioner has to buy what he needs.

Mr. Lawson

When the right hon. Gentleman and his hon. Friend the Joint Parliamentary Secretary talk about the real value of the pension as compared with 1946, are they talking about current prices?

Mr. Boyd-Carpenter

Certainly. We are speaking in terms of what the pension will buy, which, though it may not interest the hon. Member, interests the pensioner.

Dr. Mabon

In view of the Minister's speech, surely he will either raise the pension by 2s. 6d. to justify his own argument in the debate some time ago, or write to the Conservative Central Office telling it to end propaganda which makes claims like this.

Mr. Boyd-Carpenter

I doubt whether my argument, or the Central Office propaganda, requires reinforcement.

Mr. Willis

Does the right hon. Gentleman not think that these very small amounts are really a positive disgrace in view of the tremendous increase in productivity since 1946, and does he not really consider that he ought to do more for the old-age pensioners than give them an extra packet of cigarettes a week?

Mr. Boyd-Carpenter

This Government have nothing to fear from hon. Gentlemen opposite on any account of what has been done for the pensioners.

Mr. Mendelson

Would not the right hon. Gentleman agree, on the basis of the assessment which he has given today of how much it costs, he at any rate is responsible for his Department and for the well-being of the pensioners and that he ought to be pressing his colleagues now to increase the pension, particularly at this time of the year when these things are decided?

Mr. Boyd-Carpenter

I dealt with this matter at considerable length as recently as 16th March. Surely hon. Gentlemen will not expect me to add to that at this date.

Hon. Members: Why not?

15. Mr. Ross

asked the Minister of Pensions and National Insurance if he will state, in 1946 prices, the value of the single retirement pension in October, 1952, 1955, and 1959.

Mr. Boyd-Carpenter

23s. 7d., 26s. 5d. and 29s. 10d., respectively.

Mr. Ross

Will the right hon. Gentleman have a word with the Chancellor of the Exchequer at this rather timely point and urge on him that whatever he has got to spare ought to go to the old-age pensioners rather than to anybody else at this time of the year?

Hon. Members: Answer.

17. Mr. Millan

asked the Minister of Pensions and National Insurance if he will calculate the improvement in real purchasing power of the single retirement pension in 1960 over that of October, 1946, in terms of a prices index specially calculated to take account of the pattern of retirement pensioners' expenditure.

Mr. Boyd-Carpenter

No, Sir. No basis exists for making such a calculation in respect of retirement pensioners generally.

Mr. Millan

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the old-age pensioners have no confidence at all in the Government's Cost of Living Index? Is he also aware that they very much resent all the arguments which are produced by the Government with reference to that index, and that what they really want is an immediate increase in the pension?

Mr. Boyd-Carpenter

The hon. Member's Question, of course, relates to the index and not to the pension. On the first part of his supplementary question, I am bound to say that I and, I think, the majority of our fellow countrymen think otherwise.

Mr. Houghion

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the retirement pensioners do not understand these figures? They do not believe them? All they know is they have not enough to live on. What is he going to do about that?

Mr. Boyd-Carpenter

I would remind the hon. Gentleman that, if he is right, on that hypothesis his hon. Friend's Question asking for more of these figures would not exactly help.