§ 10. Mr. Gourlay
asked the Minister of Pensions and National Insurance by how much the retirement pension of a married pensioner would require to be increased to raise its present purchasing value to that which obtained on the date when the present rates of pensions were announced.
§ Mr. Gourlay
Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that pensioners consider that they have been very shabbily treated by the present Government? Will he, therefore, review the present position of pensioners, especially at this time of year when many of them are unable to purchase sufficient coal to keep themselves warm? Will he consider announcing an early increase in pensions, although a General Election is not very far off?
§ Mr. Gourlay
Notwithstanding that, is it not a fact that pensioners in Scotland in particular are still very dissatisfied with the present rate of pension, which is not sufficient to ensure that they can keep themselves warm at this time of year?
§ Mr. Wood
The hon. Gentleman is not comparing two like things. The pension has not only increased in monetary terms, but has risen by more than half in real value since 1951. I point out also that the 26s. pension he is talking about had already decreased in value by 1951 to 23s. 3d. In fact, this Government are spending a very much larger proportion of the national income for this purpose than was being spent in 1951.
The Minister uses the argument that more of the national income is being spent for this purpose. Does he take into account that there are very many more old-age pensioners? Further, will he look at the problem from the point of view of the old-age pensioner for a change, recognising that what they suffer from is the constant increase in the cost of bare essentials which they, as old-age pensioners, must have? For instance, the price of bread will go up next week, and this will be an important increase for them. Finally, will the Minister tell us clearly and definitely what is the Government's policy: is it to extend National Assistance rather than the basic pension, as he seemed to imply in an earlier answer to one of his hon. Friends?
§ Mr. Wood
I shall do my best to give as informative answers as possible to any hon. Member who puts Questions down. I am glad that the hon. Lady has drawn my attention to the increase 758 in the number of retirement pensioners. The difference in the cost of pensions between 1951 and 1962 is striking—£270 million in 1951 and £820 million today.