HC Deb 13 July 1971 vol 821 cc194-6
8. Mr. George Cunningham

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services what retirement pension is payable to a person with an average of 29 contributions per year ; by how much this falls short of 29/50th of the full pension ; and what were the equivalent figures in July, 1949.

Mr. Dean

£2.50, which is 40p less than 29/50ths of the standard rate. In July, 1949, the figures were 65p and 10½p.

Mr. Cunningham

Does the Under-Secretary think that it is fair that people receiving an already-reduced pension rate should in many cases receive less than they are entitled to on a strictly proportional basis? Does he accept that the differential, as it has of necessity risen since 1949 with the rise in pensions, now needs looking at in this respect with a view to providing an exactly proportional increase, acknowledging that that might mean in some cases a slight reduction?

Mr. Dean

I understand the hon. Gentleman's point, but, on the other hand, there are already 12 rates of benefit and, were we to have a precise proportion, it would involve about 40 different rates, which would mean a very substantial administrative cost.

34. Mr. Harold Walker

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services what increases would now be needed to restore the purchasing power of the standard retirement pensions to the level at which they stood in November, 1969, immediately after the last increase.

Sir K. Joseph

As measured by the General Index of retail prices between November, 1969 and May, 1971, the single retirement pension rate would need to be increased by 74p to restore the November 1969 rate of purchasing power. The corresponding amount for a married couple is £1.20.

Mr. Walker

Is not it obvious from that reply that the Government have achieved a cut in pensions at a stroke? Is it not clear that the pledged £1 pension increase for the autumn has already been pre-empted? How will pensioners fare in the subsequent two years if the right hon. Gentleman does not take immediate interim steps to prevent their standard of living being further slashed by the Government?

Sir K. Joseph

We are confident that there will be small but useful real increases and additional increases for the very old and the chronic sick.

Mrs. Shirley Williams

Does the right hon. Gentleman recognise that what was first decreed to be the largest increase in pensions ever has now become a small but useful increase? Will he consider introducing an annual review in the present state of inflation, which is having such a terrible effect on pensioners?

Sir K. Joseph

We do not for a moment expect that the present rate of inflation will continue. The Opposition proposed to put into statutory form an obligation to have a two-year review of pensions.

Dame Irene Ward

Will my right hon. Friend accept my statement : thank God that he is in office and not the Opposition?

Mrs. Renée Short

In view of the undertaking in the White Paper on entry into the Common Market to protect the pensioners and others against the undoubted increase in the cost of living if we do go in, can the right hon. Gentleman say how much thought has been given to estimating what that will cost in due course?

Sir K. Joseph

No, Sir. The White Paper says that there would normally be a review due in 1973, and that we shall, of course, take any possible increase due to the Common Market into account.