HC Deb 02 December 1968 vol 774 cc1005-8
3. Mr. Bidwell

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services what estimate he has made of the increase required in the present basic state retirement pension of £7 6s. in order to bring it up to its value in real terms at Christmas 1965.

The Minister of State, Department of Health and Social Security (Mr. Stephen Swingler)

The present pension of £7 6s. is in fact worth more in real terms than the rate in payment for a married couple at Christmas 1965.

4 Mr. Bidwell

asked the Secretary of Sate for Social Services what proposals he has to restore the value of the basic state retirement pension for husband and dependent wife to the value in real terms at the time of the increases made in 1965.

Mr. Swingler

A further increase in National Insurance benefits, as my hon. Friend knows, is not envisaged before the autumn of next year.

Mr. Bidwell

In welcoming that reply with great interest, may I ask my right hon. Friend whether he would not agree that we have a duty to keep parity of value all the time? Would he not agree that the matter of a proper index weighting system for an old people's expenditure pattern is long overdue? Can my right hon. Friend say whether we are likely to get this in the near future?

Mr. Swingler

I agree thoroughly with the first proposition put forward by my hon. Friend. With regard to the second proposition, it is a matter which has been investigated many times and I am always prepared to go into it further. The Government have certainly undertaken to maintain the real values.

Lord Balniel

Is it not disturbing that, since March, 1965, prices have gone up by 15 per cent. and contributions by 20 per cent., but the pension has gone up by only 12½ per cent.? What steps are the Government taking to remedy this situation?

Mr. Swingler

Nevertheless it is a fact that the real value is higher than it was at Christmas, 1965, as stated in my Answer, and the noble Lord will take into account that supplementary benefits have recently been increased.

9. Mr. Ridsdale

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services what was the percentage increase in real terms of the purchasing power of the retirement pension between October 1960 and October 1964, and between October 1964 and October 1968.

Mr. Swingler

About 19 per cent. and 14 per cent., respectively, for the standard rate of retirement pension.

Mr. Ridsdale

Does not this show that during the time of Conservative rule pensioners were looked after much better than during the time of the Labour Government's rule? Would the Minister also say how much of the first increase in pension under the Labour Government led to this?

Mr. Swingler

It all depends on the period one picks. If we had picked the first four years of Conservative rule from 1951 the answer would have been 10½ per cent. compared with 14 per cent. during the first four years of Labour rule after 1964. I am giving the increase in real value. The Government have increased the real value in very difficult times.

Lord Balniel

In view of the fact that it is already expected that the cost of living next year will rise by over 7 per cent., does the Prime Minister's statement last January, that there will be no increase in the pension till next autumn, still hold good?

Mr. Swingler

While I do not accept what the hon. Member has said about the increase in the cost of living, I would point out that we have said many times that any increase would be taken into account in any review, and that is the nature of the undertaking about the review in the autumn of next year.

48. Mr. William Hamilton

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services what is the value of the basic retirement pension in real terms, as compared to its value in October, 1964; and what proposals he has to increase pensions within the next six months.

Mr. Swingler

The basic retirement pension is worth, in real terms, 14 per cent. more than the pension in payment in October, 1964. My right hon. Friend has no proposals for any increase within the next six months.

Mr. Hamilton

Is my hon. Friend aware that the Government have little to apologise for in their record in this matter in the last four years? Nevertheless, since the Prime Minister himself said that the lower-paid and lower income groups would be protected from the effects of devaluation and consequent measures, will my hon. Friend give an undertaking that there will be a substantial increase in the old-age pension very soon?

Mr. Swingler

In answer to a previous Question I said that an increase was not envisaged before the autumn of next year. I can assure my hon. Friend—especially in the light of what he said at the beginning of his supplementary question, which I very much appreciate—that all the factors that he has mentioned will be taken fully into account.

Sir A. V. Harvey

Is the hon. Gentleman really aware of the hardships which old people face in the coming months? If he cannot give an increase during the next six months, will he give an assurance that old people will get an increase before the next General Election?

Mr. Swingler

The hon. Member will be aware that two substantial increases have been given, which have raised the pension 14 per cent. in real value above the value of October, 1964. He may also be aware that the Government have recently approved an increase in supplementary benefits. I do not pretend that the situation is entirely satisfactory but I hope that the hon. Member will take this into account and remember that the Government will take into consideration all factors in making their next review.