HC Deb 14 November 1960 vol 630 cc22-4
33. Dr. King

asked the Minister of Pensions and National Insurance, how many old people are too old to have qualified for the basic National Insurance pension.

Mr. Boyd-Carpenter

I estimate that between half and three quarters of a million people now living were, on the grounds that they would have already reached pensionable age in July, 1948, not brought into National Insurance as a result of the provisions of the National Insurance Act. 1946.

Dr. King

Is the Minister aware that this group of veteran citizens, which is diminishing in number year by year, enjoys fewer of the benefits of the Welfare State than any other group? Many of them have tiny superannuities. Many of them have no independent means. Will not he consider bringing them as of right into the categories entitled to the basic pension—at least, to begin with, the oldest of them?

Mr. Boyd-Carpenter

I have great sympathy with this class of person and I have been into this question more than once—of my own initiative and at the suggestion of hon. Members. However, I am bound to say that I can see no answer to the argument which originally determined the shaping of the 1946 Act, namely, that people who had already reached the age at which the contingency to be insured against had arisen could not properly be brought into an insurance scheme. That was so at the time of the original decision fourteen years ago, and it is an unanswerable difficulty. As the hon. Gentleman knows, subject to a test of means, such people are elegible for National Assistance, and the National Assistance Board deals particularly carefully and sympathetically with these older people.

Dame Irene Ward

We are all very grateful for my right hon. Friend's expression of sympathy, but will he bear in mind that it would be appreciated if he will discuss with the Chancellor of the Exchequer what can be done to help these people living on small fixed incomes, to whom we made promises and pledges at the General Election? When will these conversations, which it is always stated will "probably be followed by action", take place.

Mr. Boyd-Carpenter

As is apparent from the form of my hon. Friend's supplementary question, she is well aware that those are not matters within my Departmental responsibility.