HC Deb 14 November 1960 vol 630 cc17-9
23. Mr. Hector Hughes

asked the Minister of Pensions and National Insurance if he is aware that pensioners are suffering hardship owing to the high cost of living and the present economic conditions in Great Britain; and if he will take immediate steps to increase retiring pensions, widows' pensions, and other pensions in order to rectify and mitigate those hardships and to adapt the incomes of pensioners to the present cost of living.

Mr. Boyd-Carpenter

The hon. and learned Member is no doubt aware both that the present level of the benefits of the National Insurance scheme is higher than at any time before January, 1958, and that there is at present a Bill before this House for the purpose of raising them still further.

Mr. Hughes

Does the Minister realise that he has not answered my Question in regard to cost of living, and that the increases are not comparable to the increasing cost of living? Does he not realise that this is a classic example of meanness in omitting the 10s. widow altogether, deferring the increases until the spring and causing pensioners to undergo the hardships of the winter?

Mr. Boyd-Carpenter

If the hon. and learned Member will look at his Question, he will see that it asks me if I will "take immediate steps to increase" these various pensions. There will be a Bill before the House tomorrow for that purpose.

34. Mr. Frank Allaun

asked the Minister of Pensions and National Insurance what is the main factor he bears in mind when fixing the level of retirement and other pensions.

Mr. Boyd-Carpenter

The factors which have to be borne in mind in proposing legislation for the improvement of National Insurance benefits include changes in the cost of living, the standards enjoyed by other sections of the population, what level of contributions would be reasonable and the state and prospects of the national economy. Some of these considerations are very clearly set out in paragraphs 203–215 of the Report of the Phillips Committee (Cmd. 9333) to which I would refer the hon. Member.

Mr. Allaun

I thank the Minister for that Answer. In fairness to pensioners and to the Government's pledges, should not the main factor be the increase in national incomes? If the pension were based, say, on one-third of the average male wage, would it not mean a pension, not of £2 17s. 6d., as it will be, but of £4 14s.?

Mr. Boyd-Carpenter

When the hon. Gentleman has had time to study my Answer, which I appreciate was a long one, he will see that I included among the factors to be considered the standards enjoyed by other sections of the population. The automatic linking of benefits to any particular criterion has formidable difficulties which have so far deterred any Government from attempting to operate it.

Mr. Houghton

Which of these factors influenced the right hon. Gentleman most in making the proposals in the Bill? Does he deny that the new level of benefits is not related to the adjustment of contributions which he has so skilfully undertaken?

Mr. Boyd-Carpenter

We shall no doubt have an opportunity in the next few weeks to discuss the relationship between contributions and benefits. As for the various factors determining the amounts, I should prefer not to add to my main Answer, which was a considered one.

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