HC Deb 12 July 1965 vol 716 cc14-5
8. Mr. Boston

asked the Minister of Pensions and National Insurance what progress is being made in introducing automated equipment to assist in the payment of benefits.

Miss Herbison

As stated in the Report of the Ministry for 1964, which was presented to Parliament last week, it is proposed to install next year a computer and associated equipment for calculating and paying the sickness, injury and unemployment benefits of claiments in the London area. A study of the use of computers for keeping records and maintaining payment of National Insurance pension has reached an advanced stage. A similar study of family allowance work is proceeding.

Mr. Boston

Will my right hon. Friend accept that the progress which is being made is very welcome? Does she agree that if we had had this equipment some years ago the payment of increases in pensions could have been implemented very much more quickly? Can she say to what extent the new equipment, when it comes into service, will help with any future increases which are made?

Miss Herbison

I think it is perfectly clear that if we had this equipment for the payment of pensions, pensions could be paid much more quickly after the date of announcement. We are pushing on as quickly as possible with it. When it is introduced we expect it will cut a considerable number of weeks off the delay that has been experienced for so long.

Mrs. Thatcher

Has the right hon. Lady ordered an additional computer or not? If not, will she confirm that the only computers that the Department has are the one installed in 1959 and the other installed in 1961?

Miss Herbison

I have made it very clear in this House and outside that there was one installed in 1959 for the graded pensions scheme, which is so disliked throughout the country. On the question of a computer for the pensioners, the hon. Lady will have some idea of the kind of work that has to be done before one orders one. We are very near that position at the present time.

Mr. William Hamilton

Can my right hon. Friend say why the graduated scandal and swindle is computerised and the other section is not? Is it not the case that the main difficulty is the stamped card? Will she see what progress is being made to get rid of that?

Miss Herbison

I do not think that I should be the one to be asked why the computer was installed for the graduated pensions scheme. I think the whole country realises why that was installed. With regard to the stamped card, it is true that in our general review all these matters are being thoroughly examined.

Mr. Lubbock

What advice has the right hon. Lady had from the Minister of Technology concerning the increased application of computers in her Department?

Miss Herbison

The Ministry of Technology, with all those Ministries which are concerned with computers, keeps very closely in contact and is a great help.