HC Deb 28 February 1966 vol 725 cc900-1

The following Question stood upon the Order Paper:

62. Mr. SIMON MAHON: TO ask the Minister of Pensions and National Insurance if she will report progress on her negotiations with the Irish Republic for a reciprocal agreement on social security.

The Minister of Pensions and National Insurance (Miss Margaret Herbison)

With permission, Mr. Speaker, I will now answer Question No. 62.

I am glad to be able to inform the House that the British Ambassador in Dublin and the Minister for Social Welfare of the Irish Republic have this afternoon signed a reciprocal agreement on social security between the Governments of the two countries.

This is the first agreement covering British retirement pensions and the contributory old age pensions of the Republic. It will come into force on 4th April, 1966. Under the agreement, people in the Republic who have British retirement pensions or widow's benefit will have them paid at the rates current in this country. There are also provisions for the linking of insurance under the two schemes.

It has further been agreed that in assessing means for the purpose of the Republic's non-contributory pensions, British war pensioners will have the same amount of their pensions disregarded as do Service pensioners of the Republic.

Mr. Mahon

May I thank my right hon. Friend for this very important statement? It will be welcomed by all those who have the interests at heart of the countries concerned, and by none more than those who are in need of financial help at the moment. I am grateful to her.

Can my right hon. Friend please tell me how many people will be concerned? May I thank her, too, for the compliment in making this statement on my own birthday?

Miss Herbison

At present, there are about 11,800 retirement pensioners drawing the British pension in the Irish Republic and there are about 1,400 drawing widows' benefits. That gives a total of 13,200. About 11,000 will benefit because the others are already getting the current rate.

Sir K. Joseph

While welcoming the spread of all reciprocal arrangements for social security, may I ask the right hon. Lady when she will tell us what obligations this country has entered into as a result? In other words, how many citizens of the Republic resident in this country will receive more under her arrangements than they received before?

Miss Herbison

None. The residents of the Republic who are in this country get pension at the rate at which it is paid in the Republic, but it means that we have entered into commitments to pay the full pension to over 11,000 who are not getting the full pension at present. This will cost us about £800,000 a year.

Sir K. Joseph

May I ask the right hon. Lady to tell us, therefore, what is the reciprocal element? If the additional cost falls entirely on the United Kingdom taxpayers, what is the reciprocity?

Miss Herbison

Till there is a reciprocal arrangement—and this reciprocal arrangement at present covers retirement and widows' pensions; I have been dealing with widows' pensions—we cannot pay our full pension in another country.