§ 25. Mr. Jeger
asked the Minister of Pensions and National Insurance how many contributors to the graduated retirement pension scheme have retired before paying the amount which would entitle them to al increased pension; and whether he will seek powers to refund their contributions to those who can never qualify for benefit.
§ Mr. Jeger
Is the right hon. Gentleman not aware that there must be, a large number of people who have paid in amounts of about £3—I have several constituents who fall into that category—knowing very well that they will never be able to draw anything? In view of the fact that this scheme was inaugurated in order that people should benefit from the increased payments that they make, is it not a gross swindle that money should be taken from them when they can draw no increased old-age pension from it?
§ Miss Herbison
Surely the right hon. Gentleman is aware that what he said about the flat-rate pension has obtained for a long time, long before the swindle of a graduated pension scheme was introduced? Is he not aware that it is not only those who have retired who are finding this difficulty, but that there is the person such as a school cleaner who once or twice a year has to pay into this graduated scheme and will never have any hope of getting any benefit from it?
§ Mr. Wood
I do not think the hon. Lady is right about that. I think the kind of person she mentioned would have hope of getting something from it. In fact, as I explained to her some time ago, those who have paid half the cost of a unit get a whole unit. If the hon. Gentleman's suggestion were adopted and we refunded these "useless" contributions we should have to alter the system so that a whole unit would not be earned unless a whole contribution had been paid.
§ Mr. Jeger
Does the Minister realise that, apparently, he is ignorant of the way the scheme works? Everyone who is asked to pay and forced to pay into the fund does so on the assumption that he is paying for something additional to the flat-rate pension. The calculations are made by the employer who makes the 24 deductions to keep the fund entirely separate, and it must, therefore, be kept separate in the right hon. Gentleman's own Department. Why is he perpetrating and continuing this swindle on the poorest people who will never be able to draw upon it?
§ Mr. Wood
I suspect, from this last supplementary question, that I probably know as much about it as the hon. Gentleman does. It is only necessary to explain to him, I think, that the graduated contributions, in fact, go towards paying for all National Insurance benefits, not only retirement pensions.