§ 38. Mrs. Castle
asked the Minister of Pensions and National Insurance what reply he has sent to the telegram sent to him by Mr. Melling, Secretary of the National Federation of Old Age Pensioners' Associations, calling for an immediate increase in old-age pensions to meet the increased cost of coal.
§ Mrs. Castle
Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that a courteous acknowledgment without any effective action is just no answer at all? Does he not think that the time has come to increase the basic old-age pension? Does not the fact that he has recently increased the National Assistance scales owing to the rise in the cost of living mean by implication that the basic pension ought to be increased for the same reason, or is he busy turning the Welfare State into the Means Test State?
§ Mr. Boyd-Carpenter
All Governments have from time to time raised the National Assistance scales at a time when they have not been moving the level of retirement pensions. On the particular point specified in the hon. Lady's Question, on coal prices, a change in retirement pensions would be a singularly inflexible weapon for this purpose when one remembers, first of all, that many retirement pensioners are not in need and, secondly, that coal prices vary throughout the country.
§ Mr. Houghton
Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that it is not only coal that has gone up in price? The cost of living has increased by 6 per cent. since the last increases in National Insurance were made. If I send the right hon. Gentleman a telegram asking him what he is going to do about this, is a courteous acknowledgment all that I will get?