HC Deb 24 May 1965 vol 713 cc20-1
27. Mr. Bence

asked the Minister of Pensions and National Insurance if she will take steps to assist pensioners in meeting the increasing rate demands.

Miss Herbison

National Insurance benefits were substantially increased at the end of March, but my hon. Friend will be aware that those pensioners who find it difficult to manage on their own resources can, and I hope will, apply for a supplement to the National Assistance Board. The assistance scale rates were also increased in March, and the Board allows for a pensioner's current rates in assessing the amount payable.

Mr. Bence

Is my right hon. Friend aware that the likely rate demand for the ensuing year will be greater than it was for last year, as a result of 13 years of failure to examine the problem of the heavy rate burden on old people and pensioners of all classes? Will she try to repair the results of the lack of effort shown by the last Administration to relieve retirement pensioners of the heavy rate burden that they are now bearing?

Miss Herbison

Yes. My Ministry is concerned about the matter. Rates can be met fully by the National Assistance Board. If old people are in receipt of a supplement, any increase in the rates will be met by the Board. My right hon. Friend the Minister of Housing and Local Government is now working very hard to try to rectify what has happened over the last 13 years, and will continue to do so.

Mr. Frederic Harris

Will the right hon. Lady note that this Question highlights the fact that since October last costs have risen for goods and services—and this includes rates—from £1 to £1 0s. 10d. for every pensioner? That is a very considerable increase to be met.

Miss Herbison

Hon. Members on this side of the House are very concerned at any increase in the cost of living, since it affects pensioners and others living on small fixed incomes more than anyone else. I wish that the same concern had been shown in 1955, when there was the same increase in the cost of living two months after an increase in pensions.

Mr. Lubbock

Is the right hon. Lady aware that in some parts of Greater London rates have increased by as much as 47 per cent., which is twice the percentage increase that has been given to old people? Will she make inquiries and discover in what proportion of cases the whole increase in retirement pension has been swallowed up by the increase in rates?

Miss Herbison

If the old people are on National Assistance the increases are met in full, and I would hope that other old people who are eligible for National Assistance would apply for it. As for rises in the cost of living, at least this Government are trying to take steps to steady the cost of living, and are asking the whole country to co-operate.

Lord Balniel

The right hon. Lady refers to the efforts of the Minister of Housing and Local Government. Did she hear the speech of her right hon. Friend in which he said that rents and rates will be taken into account in the minimum guaranteed income scheme? Does this mean that the scheme will be based on a test of needs, like that of the Assistance Board, or a test of means, taking into account the income returns of individuals?

Miss Herbison

If the hon. Member wishes to have a reply on that subject perhaps he will put down a Question or await the guaranteed income proposals.