HC Deb 09 July 1962 vol 662 cc968-70
40. Sir B. Janner

asked the Minister of Pensions and National Insurance what was the cost of living index when the present rates of retirement pensions and National Assistance were granted; what is the index now; and what the difference represents in money value.

Mr. Boyd-Carpenter

The Index of Retail Prices for April, 1961, when the present rates of retirement pensions and national assistance were first granted, was 113.3 and the index far May, 1962, was 120.1. This represents a difference in money value of 3s. 5d. in the standard pension and 3s. 3d. in the scale rate for a single householder.

Sir B. Janner

Is the Minister aware that it is literally impossible for the people receiving these pensions to manage to make ends meet or to live at all adequately? Is he prepared to do something to meet the situation?

Mr. Boyd-Carpenter

The hon. Gentleman is simply not facing the facts, first, that when we are dealing with 5½ million retirement pensioners, some well off, some not well off, but a complete cross-section of our community, one cannot effectively make generalisations of that kind, and, secondly, that today the real value o4 the retirement pension is higher than it was at any time before the present scales were introduced.

Mrs. Slater

We are getting tired of this kind of answer. Does not the Minister realise that a 3s. rise in the cost of living is much more serious to people on old-age pensions or widows' benefits than it is to any of us in the House? Does not he agree that the method of giving National Assistance increases while not at the same time raising the basic pension is just not good enough today?

Mr. Boyd-Carpenter

As I am sure the hon. Lady knows, the National Assistance Act provided that National Assistance scales might be moved more quickly and more easily by way of Resolution rather than by legislation for the very reason that it would have to be done more frequently. That was contemplated because National Assistance provides the effective method of dealing with hardship, when action has to be taken speedily. The hon. Lady is ignoring the whole history of the matter in suggesting that it is National Insurance benefits which should always be moved whenever the Index of Retail Prices moves.

Mr. Nabarro

Is it not a fact that, on every occasion since 1951 when the retirement pension has been raised, the amount of increase in the basic pension has been larger than the increase in the cost of living for the comparable period, all of which has, by aggregation, given a real value of the pension immeasurably higher than at any time since it was inaugurated?

Mr. Boyd-Carpenter

It is the fact, as my hon. Friend has said, that the real value of the pension today is higher than at any time under any Government before the present scales were introduced.

Mr. Ross

Will the Minister bear in mind that, even though he did announce today that there would be a change, it would probably be four months before it took effect, and, remembering how the cost of living has risen in the past four months, can he say exactly what will be the likely level in another four months?

Mr. Boyd-Carpenter

The first part of the hon. Gentleman's question is wholly hypothetical. As to the second part, I think that questions about the Index of Retail Prices are for my right hon. Friend the Minister of Labour, not for me.