HC Deb 17 July 1962 vol 663 cc231-5

The following Question stood upon the Order Paper:

52. Sir A. V. HARVEY

TO ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether he has yet decided to increase the pensions of retired members of the public services, the Armed Forces and the overseas services.

The Chief Secretary to the Treasury and Paymaster-General (Mr. Boyd-Carpenter)

With permission, I should now like to answer Question 52.

The Government propose to introduce early next Session a Pensions (Increase) Bill to give help to public service pensioners. Comparable benefits will be provided for Regular pensioners of the Armed Forces, including their widows, by Prerogative Instruments.

The pensions of many of the public service pensioners are paid from local government sources, and, therefore, the Government intend to enter into consultation with representatives of the local authorities on the local government aspects of the proposed Bill.

The House is also aware that my right hon. Friend the Secretary for Technical Co-operation has appointed a working party to examine the problem of overseas pensioners whose pensions are not being adequately supplemented by the former employing Governments. The Government hope to receive the report of the working party during the Recess, and there will be opportunity to include provision in the forthcoming Bill.

Sir A. V. Harvey

First, may I congratulate my right hon. Friend on his well-deserved appointment? Will he accept the thanks of those concerned for this hopeful gesture? At the same time, will he bear in mind that the widows referred to are in a desperate plight today, and that if they have to wait nine or ten months it could be very serious? Will he consult the Leader of the House, to see whether the legislation concerned can be given the highest priority for next Session? Finally, will he pass on the thanks of a number of us to the former Chancellor of the Exchequer and the former Minister of Defence for the part they have played in bringing this about?

Mr. Boyd-Carpenter

I shall have great pleasure in passing on to my right hon. Friends the generous things that my hon. Friend has said about them.

As I said in my original Answer, we propose to introduce the Bill early next Session. My right hon. Friend the Leader of the House has heard what my hon. Friend has said about it. We are anxious to introduce the Bill as soon as is practicable.

Mr. Houghton

I thank the right hon. Gentleman for that announcement, but what do the Government propose to do? That is the vital question. Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the pensions in the public sector that were granted ten years ago are now between 33 per cent. and 48 per cant. below those currently granted for comparable grades of service; that the pensions granted as recently as 1958 axe between 16 per cent. and 25 per cent. below the current level of pensions; and that even those granted in 1959 are between 7 per cent. and 17 per cent. below the current level? What do the Government propose to do to alleviate the position? The House is entitled to know something about what the Government have in mind before bestowing fulsome praise upon previous Ministers.

Mr. Boyd-Carpenter

I do not think that I can reasonably be called upon to anticipate the details of the Bill—the more so because, as I said in my original Answer, a part of the cost of such Measures falls upon local authorities, as the horn. Member knows. There has been legitimate complaint, in respect of earlier Bills, that consultation has not taken place before the Government have announced their decisions. We are proposing to use some of the period between now and the next Session for those consultations.

Dame Irene Ward

I should like to associate myself with the thanks expressed by my hon. Friend the Member for Macclesfield (Sir A. V. Harvey) to the ex-Chancellor and those associated with him. Can my right hon. Friend give us an assurance that when this long-delayed Bill comes forward its long-delayed provisions in respect of these pensioners will be generous?

Secondly, when my right hon. Friend is having consultations with local authorities, will he let the gas and electricity industries, the railway super-annuitants and the Transport Commission know what is happening? The people concerned also deserve well of the country. Let us have a really generous Bill on this occasion, so that we shall not feel as ashamed as we have hitherto about the Government's treatment of some of these people.

Mr. Boyd-Carpenter

Workers in the nationalised industries have not been covered by the Pensions (Increase) Measures relating to public servants, but my right hon. Friends who are concerned, and the industries they supervise, will know of the Government's decision and will have it in mind. As for the size and scale of the Bill, I must ask my hon. Friend to await its presentation. It is certainly intended that, overall, it should be not less generous than the Measure introduced in 1959.

Mr. Wade

Will the increases apply to all war widows? As the right hon. Gentleman is aware, some have received no benefit from the increases given in recent years. Secondly, will unestablished civil servants be affected by the increases? Thirdly, is the right hon. Gentleman aware that there are great discrepancies between pensioners of all kinds who retired a number of years ago and those who retired more recently? Will he accept the principle of a periodic review, to bring these matters to light, instead of having to wait for months and months of pressure and protest before doing anything?

Mr. Boyd-Carpenter

It is just because public servants who retire at different dates have different rates of pension that a Measure of the kind that I have indicated it is our intention to introduce is inevitably a little complicated. As for war widows, I think that in some measure the hon. Member misunderstood my statement. My statement relates to the professional or occupational pensions of retired Regular members of the Armed Forces and their widows. In the strict sense, war widows are dealt with quite separately under the Royal Warrant by my right hon. Friend the Minister of Pensions and National Insurance.

Mr. Wall

Can my right hon. Friend assure me that Colonial Service pensioners, overseas Civil Service pensioners and Sudanese pensioners will be treated as generously as public service pensioners who draw their pensions directly from this country?

Mr. Boyd-Carpenter

As I have mentioned, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Technical Co-operation some weeks ago set up a working party to work out the incredibly complex details of this measure. It is certainly our intention to deal fairly with these people.

Mr. Strachey

May we have an assurance from the Minister, at any rate with regard to overseas pensions, that this working party is not merely to look at the complications of the matter? May we have an assurance that the pensioners will be generously treated and that the treatment accorded to them will be in line with the increases made at home?

Mr. Boyd-Carpenter

It is quite impossible to tell the right hon. Gentleman in advance of the report of the working party exactly what conclusion will be arrived at. I repeat the assurance which I gave a moment or two ago, that we intend to deal fairly by these people.

Mr. Paget

May we take it that the Bill will be based on the proposals put forward by the right hon. Gentleman's right hon. Friend the Minister without Portfolio, and in particular, regarding Service pensions, that the principle of the same pension for the same service, wherever it was rendered, will be applicable?

Mr. Boyd-Carpenter

The proposal of the hon. and learned Gentleman goes a very long way. Without studying the proposals of my right hon. Friend the Minister without Portfolio, I cannot assent to such proposals, even from so inspired a source.

Mr. Gaitskell

Will the Minister confirm that his statement covers the Sudan Government pensioners as well?

Mr. Boyd-Carpenter

They are covered by the working party to which I referred.

Several Hon. Members


Mr. Speaker

Order. I know that this is a matter of very wide interest, but we must get on.