HC Deb 11 May 1964 vol 695 cc13-4
13. Mrs. Butler

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if, in view of the increased price, he will take steps to enable old-age pensioners to receive one pint of milk per day at a reduced rate.

Mr. Soames

No, Sir. The Government considers that the right way to help pensioners is by cash payments, rather than by benefits in kind, and the pension and assistance improvements made last May took these payments to a higher real value than ever before.

Mrs. Butler

Since milk is such an easy and effective means of alleviating malnutrition from which many elderly people suffer, may I ask the right hon. Gentleman why he will not do this? Is he aware that where charitable organisations have issued milk free at Christmas it has been received with quite pathetic gratitude by many old people? Why should they not have it every day all the year round at 2½d. a pint as long as the present pension remains inadequate?

Mr. Soames

The hon. Lady talks about the present pension being inadequate. I should not like to trespass on the field of my right hon. Friend the Minister of Pensions and National Insurance, but I believe that the rises given over the last decade or so in retirement pensions have more than taken account of any rise in the cost of living. As to the inadequacy of the food, I notice that a recent publication by an independent research worker said that there was a general rise in the diet of pensioners between 1950 and 1960.

Mrs. Slater

Is the right hon. Gentleman telling us that there is no need to help these old-age pensioners because they are extremely well-off and their diet is adequate? Does not that show the right hon. Gentleman's complete misunderstanding of how far 57s. 6d. a week will go, and is it not another example of one Ministry refusing to face the situation when the price of a commodity such as milk goes up?

Mr. Soames

Far from saying that nothing needs to be done, I am saying that this Government have done a lot over the years and prefer to do it by cash payment rather than by benefits in kind.