HC Deb 20 December 1965 vol 722 cc1674-5
36 and 37. Mr. Ridsdale

asked the Minister of Pensions and National Insurance (1) if she will give a Christmas bonus to those who are retired and over 65 years of age and who are not in receipt of a National Insurance pension;

(2) what would be the cost of providing a Christmas bonus for old people on the same basis as was provided last year.

Miss Herbison

A repetition of the special payments made to people over retirement age last year pending the introduction of higher rates of National Assistance would cost £5¾ million. It was never intended that these payments should be a regular feature of the National Assistance scheme, either for pensioners or for non-pensioners.

Mr. Ridsdale

As both the Prime Minister and the Chancellor of the Exchequer have refused to answer this Question, will the right hon. Lady say how it was that the Government were able to afford the payment last year but that, after a year of Labour rule, we are not able to put forward this small increase to a deserving section of the community?

Miss Herbison

The answer is simple. This time last year, because of administrative difficulties, the old people had to wait until March for their increase payments. In view of that delay, and to ensure that they would not be without fuel and other things that they needed, the £4 payment was made. But I am sure that the hon. Gentleman will be very pleased to know that the present pension in real value is 6s. 7d. above the level it was when the last increase was made by his own Government.

Mr. Tinn

Does my right hon. Friend recall that the special payment was made necessary last year because of years of neglect and that the action she took was on her own initiative without prompting from hon. Members on the other side of the House?

Mr. Frederic Harris

Does not the right hon. Lady remember that when in Opposition she constantly pressed for Christmas bonuses? Now that she is in a position to grant them, why does not she do more about it?

Miss Herbison

When it comes to this time of the year and old people are still waiting for an increase it is right to press for such a payment. But I again stress that the actual value of the pension today, even although it has lost some since the increased was made, is 6s. 7d. more than it was when the last increase was made by the former Government.

Mr. Lipton

Is it not better that the Government should pursue their present policy of increasing the weekly rates as quickly as possible rather than to give the occasional dollops or hand-outs made necessary by the neglect of the previous Administration?

Miss Herbison

I agree with what my hon. Friend has said. As I have pointed out, if we consider the present value of the £ we find that the pensioners are now receiving an extra payment of £17 2s. 4d. and not the £4 that we paid before last Christmas.