HC Deb 16 November 1971 vol 826 cc207-8
Q2. Mr. Carter

asked the Prime Minister how many letters he has received from retired persons on the subject of Her Majesty's Government's decision to await the normal review of pensions.

The Prime Minister

I have nothing to add to the answer I gave on 9th November to Questions from the hon. Members for Southall (Mr. Bidwell) and Bothwell (Mr. James Hamilton)—[Vol. 825, c. 825]

Mr. Carter

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that no group attracts wider support and more sympathy within our community than that of old-age pensioners? Is he further aware that as the last increase will be wiped out by Christmas, an interim award would receive unanimous approval by the general public? Does he appreciate that without such an award the living standards of old-age pensioners will continue to fall?

The Prime Minister

It is absolutely right that those who retire should receive special consideration from the community. What the Government did by this increase in pensions was to make up the loss incurred under the previous Administration—there was a considerable loss between the increase in the pension under the last Administration and the General Election—and to make up the further loss since the General Election and, in addition, to give a real increase to the old-age pension.

Mr. Ridsdale

Will my right hon. Friend consider the possibility of an annual review, particularly in view of the very real fears of pensioners about joining the E.E.C. and about price rises?

The Prime Minister

As to joining the E.E.C., my hon. Friend knows that it is planned to join on 1st January, 1973. The adjustment of food prices under the common agricultural policy will be due in the spring of 1973. That is the time when there is also due to be a review of retirement pensions, and action can then be taken upon it.

Mr. Leadbitter

Will the right hon. Gentleman bear in mind, when he refers to making up the loss arising from the actions of the last Administration, that in each of the five years previous to 1970 the increase in prices was less than half the increase in prices under his Administration in the past 12 months of 11.3 per cent.? Will he not accept responsibility, indicate more sympathy to old-age pensioners and assure them that he recognises the need for a review and an interim award?

The Prime Minister

Sympathy has been expressed in the very practical way of increasing the pension by more than the loss and by giving a greater real benefit to the pensioners. That is practical action.