HC Deb 24 May 1965 vol 713 cc6-8
2. Mr. Ridsdale

asked the Minister of Pensions and National Insurance what the cost will be of implementing the proposal to provide an income guarantee for those already retired and widowed.

7. Mr. Dean

asked the Minister of Pensions and National Insurance when a minimum income guarantee will be introduced.

10 and 11. Mr. William Hamilton

asked the Minister of Pensions and National Insurance (1) whether she intends in the income guarantee scheme to impose a lower age limit; and what age she plans to insert;

(2) to what extent the income guarantee scheme will cover all those old people who do not now enjoy a retirement pension.

31. Lord Balniel

asked the Minister of Pensions and National Insurance whether she will now make a statement on the level of income at which the minimum guaranteed income scheme will apply.

Miss Herbison

As I have explained to the House, the Government are engaged in preparing a scheme, of income guarantee. At this stage, however, it is not possible to add to what has already been said about the scheme or to estimate either its cost or how many people will benefit from it.

Mr. Ridsdale

It is not evident that the Labour Party made this proposal at the election without costing it? Could not a start be made at least by helping non-contributory pensioners to have a minimum income guaranteed? What would be the cost of this?

Miss Herbison

The hon. Member certainly is not correct. The Labour Party costed it very carefully. The hon. Member will be aware of the great play made by his party at the election about how they had costed what they would do and how wildly inaccurate the Government have found that costing to be.

Mr. Dean

Is the right hon. Lady aware that that is a very unsatisfactory Answer? Does she recall that the Prime Minister gave a definite pledge at the election that this proposal would be introduced without delay and that many people, including those to whom my hon. Friend has referred, took him at his word? When will the right hon. Lady have mercy on the Prime Minister and see that his pledges are redeemed?

Miss Herbison

I assure the hon. Member that the pledges that were made at the election by my party will be redeemed. [HON. MEMBERS: "When?"] We have already made a good beginning by the National Insurance Act, which gave the highest increases ever to the old people. Many of the non-pensioners are on National Assistance and they also benefited from the highest-ever increase in National Assistance.

Mr. Hamilton

Does my right hon. Friend recognise that the whole country is looking forward to this humanitarian piece of legislation by the Labour Government? Can she give an assurance that all those old people who for 13 years were denied pensions by the party opposite will be covered by the income guarantee and that in no circumstance she will accept the principle of the donation, which the Leader of the Opposition talked about, by which people over an unspecified age are given a kind of donation on a means test basis?

Miss Herbison

Certainly, I can give that guarantee. It was because of our concern for many of those old people who had no pensions that we decided on a form of income guarantee so that all old people, whether pensioners or non-pensioners, would be covered by this guarantee. It will certainly not be a donation for the very, very old.

Lord Balniel

Whilst we understand that the scheme advanced by the party opposite at the election has proved to be defective and has to be re-examined, surely at this late stage the right hon. Lady is able to give the elementary basic information about the level at which the guaranteed minimum income scheme will operate. Surely, she can give that elementary information.

Miss Herbison

On the contrary, we have not found our scheme at all defective. This is a completely new concept in social security. We had to start from scratch with our own scheme, having had no help from the 13 years' thought that the former Government had supposedly given to the needs of these old people. In due course, we will be able to give the income level and the number of people covered by it.

Mr. Ridsdale

In view of the unsatisfactory nature of the Minister's reply, I beg to give notice that I shall raise the matter on the Adjournment.

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