HC Deb 01 February 1965 vol 705 cc706-8
17. Mr. Ian Gilmour

asked the Minister of Pensions and National Insurance what progress she has made in her review of alternative methods of paying National Insurance pensions.

Miss Herbison

I have nothing to add to the reply which I gave to my hon. Friend the Member for Poplar (Mr. Mikardo) on 14th December.

Mr. Gilmour

Is the right hon. Lady's review really necessary? Will she tell the House whether the delay in paying the pension increase is due to administrative difficulties, as she said on 16th November, or whether it is due to economic difficulties, as the First Secretary of State said at her party conference a few weeks ago?

Miss Herbison

If the hon. Member had been in this Chamber at about midnight one night when we were in Committee on the Bill, he would have found the answer to the question he is putting now.

Lord Balniel

Does the right hon. Lady recollect that the major part of her speech was devoted to telling us that the reasons why there was such a long delay in the introduction of the pension increase were administrative reasons, and that subsequently the Secretary of State for Economic Affairs said the reasons were economic reasons? Surely she could be a little more forthcoming, and, indeed, open, and tell the House whether the reasons are administrative or economic?

Miss Herbison

We have nothing at all to hide on this. On Second Reading of the Bill I gave the administrative reason—and those administrative reasons still stand—why the pension increases could not be paid until the end of March. I then tried to work out some other means of paying to the old people the amount of money. It was only then that economic reasons came out—[Laughter.] Yes, there were the contributions, there were all sorts of things, to be taken into account. If hon. Members had studied what was said in Committee on the Bill they would have known that. The noble Lord knows very well that the speech which was made by my right hon. Friend at our conference at Brighton was made after the Committee on the Bill, and the whole country knew the economic reasons which were given.

Sir D. Renton

Is the right hon. Lady aware that she has all our sympathy because the Secretary of State for Economic Affairs made her look rather foolish at the time?

Miss Herbison

I must say to the right hon. and learned Gentleman that I do not require the sympathy, since I had already myself made it absolutely clear, and before my right hon. Friend made his speech I knew exactly what was in it and agreed with it.

18. Dame Irene Ward

asked the Minister of Pensions and National Insurance whether she will programme in detail, with dates, the administrative action she has to take with regard to the increased retirement pensions due on 29th March; and if she will give a similar programme with the appropriate dates for the last increases under the previous administration.

Miss Herbison

Giving effect to increases in some six million retirement pensions is, as I indicated in my speech on the Second Reading of the National Insurance &c. Bill, a major operation involving a great number of detailed administrative measures throughout my Department and in others. These have to be linked with other extensive administrative action, much of it concurrent, to increase other National Insurance and industrial injury benefits, war pensions and contributions. I am afraid that in these circumstances it would not be possible to comply with the hon. Lady's request. I understand that the programme operated in 1963 by the previous administration when the number of pensioners was much smaller was broadly similar.

Dame Irene Ward

While accepting that that last sentence in a measure answers my Question, may I ask whether it is really a fact that the right hon. Lady cannot give in detail when the directions went out to call in the books, to issue the new books—the actual programme, of which the period of time runs into months? Or is this yet another attempt to explain away the ridiculous and untrue speech made by the First Secretary of State? Is it not a fact that all this could be cleared up if the right hon. Lady would give the programme in detail?

Miss Herbison

If the hon. Lady will read my speech on Second Reading of the Bill she will find much of the information for which she is asking. The hon. Lady ought also to know that in Committee I was then dealing with retrospective payments and double payments, where the question of contributions and all kinds of things had to be taken into account, including the worsening situation. Because of the mess left by her own Government it was found that it was impossible to pay sooner.

Back to
Forward to