HC Deb 10 July 1962 vol 662 cc1143-5
Q2. Mr. J. Hynd

asked the Prime Minister what proposals he has received from the Attercliffe Divisional Labour Party and from the Sheffield City Council concerning an immediate increase in the basic retirement pension; and what reply he has sent.

Mr. R. A. Butler

I have been asked to reply.

My right hon. Friend has received no communication on this subject from the Sheffield City Council. A resolution sent to him by the Management Committee of the Attercliffe Division Labour Party was acknowledged on his behalf and the Committee was informed that the terms of its resolution had been noted.

Mr. Hynd

Are not the Government aware of the fact that this has now become an urgent question? Are they aware that a stun of £2 17s. 6d. a week, which has now been the basic pension since April, 1961, has no relationship to present-day needs? Do they believe that any old person can live on such a sum with the additional amount needed for rent when we are told that the average wage in the country is £14 or £15 a week? Does the right hon. Gentleman realise that urgent action is necessary in regard to the basic pension and that revision of National Assistance rates is a token of the fact that an adjustment is needed? Will the right hon. Gentleman give an assurance to the old people that something will be done about this?

Mr. Butler

Since the Government took office in 1951 there have been four increases. The present pension rates have a higher value in real terms than any previous rate notwithstanding the increases in retail prices since April last year, when the current addition to the rates came into force. The terms asked for by the Attercliffe Labour Party would add an extra £950 million to the bill if applied to other insurance benefits as well as to the basic pension.

Mr. Ross

Is the Home Secretary aware that, as a result of a fall in the value of money since the last announcement relating to National Insurance payments was made, those receiving the pensions have been robbed of £1 million a week? Is it not time that the Government thought of making that up to these people?

Mr. Butler

A statement about the Assistance rates has already been made by the Minister concerned. The whole question of retirement pensions is constantly under review.

Mr. Nabarro

In his reply to the Attercliffe Labour Party, will my right hon. Friend put the £950 million per annum representing the additional cost for what it demands for increased old-age pensions into more homely and understandable terms by saying that it would involve nearly doubling the whole of Purchase Tax, or raising the standard rate of Income Tax by the equivalent of 4s. in the £?

Mr. Butler

I think the most effective way would be to put my hon. Friend the Member for Kidderminster (Mr. Nabarro) into correspondence with the Attercliffe Labour Party.

Mrs. Slater

Does not the Home Secretary know that every local authority is much concerned with this problem? Every local authority is having to step up its funds for welfare work because, in spite of what the Government say, the basic pension is not sufficient adequately to meet the needs of old people. Will the Government look at the matter from that angle as well as the angle of justice for old people?

Mr. Butler

We are all very anxious about this position. I am grateful to the hon. Lady for bringing the matter to our attention. This matter is constantly under review.

Mr. Gaitskell

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the cost of living has risen by 6 per cent. since the last increase in pensions took place and to make up for this an increase of at least 6s. a week is necessary for a married couple? Why should the pay pause be applied now only to the poorest people in the country?

Mr. Butler

There is no question of applying the pay pause to the poorest people in the country. There has already been an announcement about an increase in National Assistance rates. I repeat what I said. Present pension rates have a higher value in real terms than in any previous year notwithstanding the increase of 6 per cent. in retail prices since April last year when the current rates came into operation.