§ 9. Mr. W. Hamilton
asked the Minister of Pensions and National Insurance whether in view of the fact that budgetary provision has already been made, he will now announce an immediate increase in retirement pensions.
§ 25. Mr. L. M. Lever
asked the Minister of Pensions and National Insurance if, in view of the fact that budgetary provision has already been made, he will now take steps to increase the basic pension in order to assist retirement pensioners to meet travelling expenses.
§ 35. Mr. Frank Allaun
asked the Minister of Pensions and National Insurance whether it is Her Majesty's Government's intention to introduce an increase in the retirement pension before the General Election, in view of the fact that budgetary provision has already been made; and when it will start to operate.
§ Mr. Hamilton
Is the Minister aware that, in view of that Answer, there must have been calculated deceit of the electorate in the Devizes bye-election by the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster when he said:We have budgeted for further pension increases"?Does not the right hon. Gentleman recall that, when his hon. Friend was answering Questions last week, she referred to the White Paper on Public Expenditure, in paragraph 11 of which these words are used: 916The figures given for 1967–68 do not represent decisions by the Government to spend particular sums in that year".In view of that, will the right hon. Gentleman make it clear that there will be an increase in the lifetime of the present Government, which means during the next month?
§ Mr. Wood
I do not think that my noble Friend can be charged with calculated deceit. The hon. Member could as easily be charged with calculated indifference to the contents of the White Paper, paragraph 21 of which points out clearly that this is an exercise based on constant prices. Consequently, the Government have not committed themselves to figures of exact expenditure. They have merely outlined the kind of level at which benefits, if prices remain constant, would be in 1967–68.
§ Mr. Bence
The White Paper, Cmnd. 2235, gives a figure of assistance and benefits plus £60 million. That is the figure which, we presume, is budgeted for in 1967–68. Is this a budgeted figure for an increase in pensions, or is it an estimation of further inflation, from which we seem to be suffering under the present Government?
§ Mr. Wood
As I pointed out to the hon. Member for Fife, West (Mr. W. Hamilton), this is an exercise based upon constant prices, so that it has nothing to do with inflation. This is a measure of the extra amount which the Government foresee being spent on benefits of various kinds in 1967–68 if prices between then and now remain constant.
§ Mr. Lever
The point of Question No. 25 is the question of travelling expenses for retirement pensioners. Is the Minister aware of the serious hardship to many old-age or retirement pensioners who wish to travel and who have to pay the present high cost of fares? If the Minister will not increase the basic pension, will the Government introduce a system of concessionary fares to retirement pensioners?
§ Mr. Wood
The latter part of that question is not a matter for me. My duty is to watch over the level of retirement pensions. The position is that the cost of living has increased by 3 per cent. since the last pension increase, and, 917 therefore, the present rate of pension is still well above, in real value, any other previous rates.
§ Mr. Allaun
Since the pledge has been given that a Labour Government will introduce its basic pension increase at the earliest moment after its election, does not the Minister think that this should force the Government to make an announcement very shortly?
§ 21. Mr. Dalyell
asked the Minister of Pensions and National Insurance what estimate he has made of the number of retirement pensioners whose total income is such as would entitle them to a supplementary grant from the National Assistance Board, but who have not applied for assistance from public funds.
§ Mr. Dalyell
Does not his reply to my right hon. Friend commend to the Minister a minimum income guarantee to overcome this problem?
§ Mr. Wood
The Questions put by the right hon. Member for Llanelly and the hon. Member for East Ham, North, related to some kind of inquiry, but there was no suggestion of a minimum income guarantee. The suggestion was that I should undertake some kind of inquiry to see whether there were people who could be entitled to National Assistance who were not applying for it.