HC Deb 16 July 1962 vol 663 cc3-5
1. Mr. P. Browne

asked the Minister of Pensions and National Insurance if he will give the value of the basic retirement pension in real terms at 31st May, 1962, as compared to the same dates in 1960 and 1961.

The Joint Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Pensions and National Insurance (Mrs. Thatcher)

The standard rate of retirement pension at 31st May, 1962, was 57s. 6d.; the equivalent value in real terms at that date of the standard rate payable at 31st May, 1960, was 54s. 5d., and the corresponding figure for 31st May, 1961, was 60s. 9d.

Mr. Browne

I find myself in some difficulty today in framing my supplementary question. Without wishing to comment on the temporary nature of Ministerial appointments, may I ask my hon. Friend if she will be sure to leave a note for the future Minister of Pensions and National Insurance drawing his or her attention to the debate we had last Friday dealing with the plight of pensioners generally? Can my hon. Friend say, if the last Minister of Pensions and National Insurance was right in saying that the National Assistance rate was a holding operation, there is justification for doing the same for pensioners? Can she give me some idea what the present pension would stand at if it had been tied to the cost of living during the past two years?

Mrs. Thatcher

I will tell my right hon. Friend, the Minister when I have one, what my hon. Friend has said in the first part of his supplementary question. Had the retirement pension kept pace with the rising cost of living, the 26s. single person rate introduced in October, 1946, would be 47s. 11d. and the married couple rate of 42s. would be 77s. 4d.

2. Mr. W. Hamilton

asked the Minister of Pensions and National Insurance what was the percentage increase in the basic retirement pension in each of the two periods June, 1945 to June, 1951, and June, 1951 to June, 1962; and to what extent the purchasing power of the pension was diminished in each period by rising prices.

Mrs. Thatcher

There was no basic retirement pension in June, 1945. Such a pension was not introduced until October, 1946, under the National Insurance Act of that year. Between that date and June 1951, retail prices rose by about 25 per cent. There was no increase in rates of benefit. The purchasing power of the pension was consequently reduced by 20 per cent. Between June, 1951, and June, 1962, the percentage increase in the rate of the basic retirement pension was 120. As the increase in retail prices over that period was 48 per cent., the purchasing power of the pension increased by 49 per cent.

Mr. Hamilton

Is the hon. Lady aware that when the Labour Government came into power the pension, whatever it might have been called, was 10s.? It subsequently went up by very nearly 200 per cent. under the Labour Government. Is the hon. Lady further aware that, whatever might be the records of the respective Governments, the pension has been considerably eroded under both Governments and that therefore, there is an urgent case for reviewing the situation, particularly now, in view of the impending retirement of the Prime Minister himself?

Mrs. Thatcher

I am aware that there was a 10s. old-age pension, which was on quite a different basis in 1945. I am also aware that the Coalition Government, in which all parties participated, agreed that the pension should be increased to 20s. for a single person and 35s. for a married couple. It was subsequently increased by the Labour Government to 26s. and 42s. and was not further increased until the erosion had amounted to 22.4 per cent

Mr. Hamilton

Does the hon. Lady recollect that one of her right hon. Friends at that time accused the Labour Government, when they put the pension up to 26s., of acting too hastily?

Mrs. Thatcher

I do not remember because I was not here. I wish I had been.

6. Sir Richard Pilkington

asked the Minister of Pensions and National Insurance what is his estimate of the number of people who were over 65 years of age when the present contributory pensions scheme was introduced in 1948 and so did not qualify for a pension; and how many there are today.

Mrs. Thatcher

We have no means of knowing how many people over age 65 in July, 1948, were prevented from qualifying for retirement pensions solely by that fact, since many of them would at some time have had an earlier opportunity of becoming insured as voluntary contributors under the Contributory Old Age Pensions scheme. We estimate that there are about 330,000 men and women living today who were over age 65 in July, 1948, and who axe not eligible for National Insurance retirement pensions.

Sir Richard Pilkington

While paying tribute to the excellent record of my hon. Friend's ex-chief, may I ask her to convey to her new chief the desirability of helping this small but very important part of the nation?

Mrs. Thatcher

I will gladly join my hon. Friend in paying tribute to an outstanding Minister who was superlative even by the best of standards. I should have thought that Members of all parties would have paid tribute to the outstanding Parliamentary skill of my right hon. Friend. I will, of course, convey the second part of my hon. Friend's supplementary question to my next chief, but I would point out that there is very little point in saying, on the one hand, that to get the pension as of right one should contribute to it and, on the other hand, "Never mind whether you contributed or not, you will get it in any case." That seems quite contradictory.

Mr. Fernyhough

Can the hon. Lady tell us how many of the 330,000 are receiving National Assistance because they are not gettting a pension?

Mrs. Thatcher

No, I cannot tell the hon. Member that. If he will put down a Question I will do my best to get the information, but many of these people have private resources or occupational pensions.