§ Mr. Speaker
Before I call the hon. Lady the Member for Hitchin (Mrs. Shirley Williams) to move the Motion, I must inform the House that I have selected the Amendment in the names of the Prime Minister and the other right hon. Gentlemen, to leave out from "House" to the end of the Question and to add instead thereof:welcomes Her Majesty's Government's continuing commitment to protect the living standards of old people, as evidenced by the recent increase in retirement pensions, the provision of pensions for the over-80s, and the improvement in public service and Armed Forces pensions; and notes with approval the increased resources made available by Her Majesty's Government for developing the services for the elderly
§ 3.37 p.m.
§ Mrs. Shirley Williams (Hitchin)
I beg to move,That this House, disturbed by the plight of retirement pensioners this winter, and aware that the recent increase has largely been absorbed in rapidly rising prices, regrets that Her Majesty's Government has taken no further steps to improve the immediate purchasing power of pensioners, which would also assist the national economic position.We believe that the Government now have a rare opportunity to put right a very inadequate increase in pensions and that this will make sense both economically and socially.
On 4th February, 1971, the Secretary of State said in the course of the debate:There is a silent nightmare going on among the elderly, the hard-pressed, many of the sick and disabled, and the very poor in this country."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 4th February, 1971; Vol. 810, c. 1957.]That nightmare has not ended. The Secretary of State saw the problem, but he failed to find anything but that bitter answer. The "biggest rise in pensions ever" is a very sour irony. Again and again the Government make this claim without reference to its real purchasing power; without reference to the inflation in prices, or to the fact that they have 253 presided over the most rapid increase in cost of living in recent years. They must know as well as we do that their reference to "the biggest rise in pensions ever" is merely an attempt to take a great many people for a ride.
I said on 3rd May, 1971, that the increase proposed will not maintain the purchasing power of the pension for long. By October, 1971, the pension was worth exactly 12p more than in November, 1969. Prices are still rising at over 9 per cent. per year. This means that soon after Christmas, and at the latest by some time in February, the pensioners will be getting less in terms of real value than they were in November, 1969, and long before the next review is due pensioners will be getting less even than they received in 1963.
For 21 months of the next two years before the next uprating is due—I was extremely sorry to see the Government confirm their adherence to a biennial review in the recent White Paper on Public Expenditure—pensioners will become steadily poorer month by month than they were when the last up-rating occurred in November, 1969. But the position is considerably worse than this because, as many of my hon. Friends know, the cost of living index for pensioners moves more rapidly forward than the index does for the population as a whole, because the pensioner spends a very much greater share of his meagre income on food, fuel and rents than do the rest of the population.
In all three of these fields the Government have either taken or are shortly about to take action which will increase the prices of those necessities even more. Furthermore, women pensioners between 60 and 65, as my hon. Friends point out in Question after Question, are obliged to pay increased prescription charges which by themselves wipe out the whole of the increase in pension, the small sum of 12p which the Government are still holding on to.
There is another fact which has not often been raised in the House but which I believe to be important. In November, 1966, the then Labour Government introduced what was called the long-term addition, a sum of 45p a week, which was automatically paid to all old-age pensioners on supplementary benefit who had no other resources. The 45p auto- 254 matic long-term addition, which goes to 98 per cent. of pensioners on supplementary benefit, was increased in July, 1968, to 50p. It has not been increased since.
One does not need to be a mathematician to see that the fall in the value of the long-term addition alone has been greater than the increase in pensions. What this means to the pensioner on supplementary benefit is that the 98 per cent. who get a long-term addition are worse off today than they were in 1969—and, by definition, they are the poorest 2 million pensioners.
Furthermore, one of the few growth points which the Government have successfully brought about is a growth in the number of people drawing supplementary benefit. It has increased in just over a year from 1.6 million to 1.96 million. In other words, side by side with a million unemployed, the Government have also reached the target of 2 million pensioners on supplementary benefit. On top of that there are estimated to be anything between 500,000 to 800,000 who do not claim the supplementary benefit to which they are entitled.
So much for the situation on pensions—
§ The Secretary of State for Social Services (Sir Keith Joseph)
The hon. Lady is misusing the figures on such a wholesale scale that I cannot refrain from interrupting to point out at least one confusion. Does she not agree that some of the increase in the number of supplementary pensioners is due to the fact that the level of requirements has been increased and is thus giving help to a larger number of people than before—not because of increased poverty but because this Government, as have previous Governments, have raised the threshold of the definition of poverty?
§ Mrs. Williams
I do not follow the Secretary of State because the increase was 20 per cent. in regard to supplementary benefit and on his own figures the increase in purchasing power has been something like 2 per cent. There has been an increase in those drawing supplementary benefit, and this includes those who are retired pensioners. This the figures cannot be shown to deny.
§ Mr. Dennis Skinner (Bolsover)
Would my hon. Friend accept that the real 255 reason why the number on supplementary benefit has increased at the rate she suggests is that the real value of money has fallen?
§ Mrs. Williams
Indeed, this is the point I am trying to make to the Secretary of State, but we seem to be having an argument about it. The point I want to make is that the Government have a very special opportunity at this time in the existing economic situation to take steps to do something for the old-age pensioners.
The Government in their White Paper on Public Expenditure declaredThere is no question here of other needs competing for resources; only of using productive power which would otherwise be idle.As my right hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Stechford (Mr. Roy Jenkins) has pointed out, the Government so far have produced £1,400 million in tax relief, offset by some £400 million in extra charges.
In the debate on 23rd November the Chancellor claimed… never before have a Government taken so much action to expand demand and stimulate employment.He went on to say:Finally, we have provided the biggest ever increase in pensions"—there we see the Government using that same phrase—an action which is both reflationary and directly meeting needs."—[OFFICAL. REPORT, 23rd November, 1971; Vol. 826, c. 1159.]The Chancellor cannot expect the country to swallow these extraordinary claims. He has concentrated a large part of his tax reliefs on those who neither need them nor are currently spending them. He has concentrated his extra charges on many who cannot afford them. The latest example of this philosophy is the claim that extra relief is to be given to parents sending their children to direct grant schools. This in some extraordinary way is to have priority rather than the hundreds of thousands of people who are in dire poverty.
The Chancellor of the Exchequer has argued that the pensions increase was reflationary, but we have already seen that a true reflationary effect involves an increase in purchasing power. By definition, after February there will be no 256 increase in purchasing power on the part of pensioners; there will be the beginning of a long and steady decrease. A decrease in real purchasing power cannot be described as reflationary. It is deflationary over the period of time in which it takes place. Therefore, the pensioner will make not more but fewer demands on the economy, because of the action the Government have failed to take over the next 21 months.
What fundamentally the Chancellor of the Exchequer has done is to pump money into the economy, most of it in areas which are slow to respond and which do not assist the poorest in the land. He points to increases in hire purchase contracts and new car sales. This is a bit of a joke to the old-age pensioner, who does not have very much to do with these things. It is notable that the demand for basic requirements, for food and fuel and the like, has increased very much less than it has for semi-luxury necessities and luxury products of this kind.
In the Government White Paper, Command 4829, proposals are made for the next two years and, in terms of direct demand on resources, they amount to 3.9 per cent. a year on average in the next two years. The Chancellor's own forecast for an increase in the level of growth is somewhat higher than that. The recent figures of increase in industrial productivity are very considerably higher again. But unless the Government build up public expenditure to a point where it at least matches the rise in industrial productivity we shall get not just unemployment but even more unemployment than the Government's worst dreams at present encompass. Moreover, we shall get a reversal of the move towards greater productivity and industrial efficiency of a most dangerous and damaging kind.
It is clear that the Government must take further action, action which will show up immediately in the effect on purchasing power, if the economy is not to continue its long slide for many months to come. One of the ways in which I hope to be able to demonstrate later that the Government could do something most effectively and quickly to offset unemployment and the low present performance of the economy would be to find a way to increase the purchasing power of elderly people.
§ Sir Harmar Nicholls (Peterborough)
Surely the hon. Lady is aware of the double message which is coming from the Labour benches. She quoted her right hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Stechford (Mr. Roy Jenkins) and then went on to attack, in a rather class hatred sort of way, the reduction in direct taxation. But her right hon. Friend made clear that the one problem facing this country is the lack of investment in industry, and the reduction in direct taxation is likely to help on that front. This is in no way tied up with the hon. Lady's feelings of sympathy with the old-age pensioners, which I share.
§ Mrs. Williams
I do not think there is a disagreement between the Government and the Opposition on reduction of taxes. There is a sharp disagreement about whose taxes should be reduced, and I will come to that point later.
I want to refer to what has been a unanimous chorus in the Press about the inadequacy of measures so far taken. I quote the Financial Times of 24th November, 1971:The unemployment position dictates that the risks should be run on the side of expansion.The Guardian said on the same day:With an enormous balance of payments surplus, with rapidly rising productivity and freed from the discredited notion which saw positive merit in cutting back public expenditure, the Chancellor has missed yet another opportunity to act decisively.Even the Sunday Telegraph, in the person of its financial columnist, Mr. Patrick Hutber, said last Sunday:How about £10 a head for the pensioner and £100 a head (a 'donation', as Sir Alec would say) for the unemployed?The rumours which have been referred to today in Questions about the use of the regulator make hon. Members on this side of the House suspicious that the Chancellor of the Exchequer has let the cat out of the bag somewhere when not under the scrutiny of his right hon. Friend the Prime Minister. We suspect that before long the Government, in desperation, will take yet other action to try to inflate this stubborn economy.
I shall now suggest ways in which we think that might be done in a much more socially just way than by the use of the regulator. I put before the Secretary of State a number of specific pro- 258 posals. He will know that the T.U.C. and the Labour Party have called for immediate increases in pensions. The T.U.C. has called for a £1 increase right away and for a further £1 at the time of the Budget. That seems to be a very proper claim. But I am also well aware that the right hon. Gentleman will say that it is administratively impossible. I remind him that in 1964 he was one of the leading figures in the then Opposition to claim that eight weeks was quite sufficient to raise national assistance rates in 1955 and that two to three months should have been sufficient to do the same in 1964. He criticised my right hon. Friend the then Minister of Pensions for acting so slowly that a Government which came to power in October increased the amount going to pensioners only in December and January.
Let me put before the right hon. Gentleman certain proposals which seem to do exactly what needs to be done to put more money in the pockets of pensioners this winter. They are ways which I believe are administratively possible.
First, will the right hon. Gentleman consider an emergency winter payment in the shape of the one which took place in 1964? I repeat that it took two to three months to make it operative. That would assist pensioners this winter to meet the increasing bills which to them are a growing nightmare. The right hon. Gentleman could do it without having to change the pension scheme, and without the complicated business of going through the contributions of employers and employees. He could do it by an Exchequer contribution of the kind that was made in 1964, and he could do it by stamping pension books. There would be no great administrative difficulty than that.
Secondly, and, I suggest, in addition to the first proposal, will the right hon. Gentleman now consider the immediate doubling of the long-term addition to which I have referred? The present long-term addition which goes to supplementary benefit pensioners is 50p. If it were doubled to £1, the cost would be about £50 million a year. That is not a very large sum. But it would more than restore the value of the long-term addition from where it was last left in 1968. Administratively, it would be relatively simple, and it could be done relatively 259 quickly. It would benefit the poorest pensioners.
Thirdly, will the right hon. Gentleman consider carefully the proposal put forward by my hon. Friend the Member for Oldham, West (Mr. Meacher) for an immediate extension of the scheme for heating allowances and an immediate increase in the allowance figure, which is now 75p a week? As everyone knows, the true cost of heating a house or even a flat is very much more than 75p a week. For a group in the community which suffers more from the cold than most of us and which very often cannot get out, it is crucial to try to increase the limits on heating. [Interruption.] The hon. Member for Worcestershire, South (Sir G. Nabarro), I suspect, is not the best expert on this problem.
§ Sir Gerald Nabarro (Worcestershire, South)
I am a member of the Institute of Fuel who is deeply interested in the price of coal. Old-age pensioners in South Worcestershire are now, as a result of exorbitant wage demands by miners, paying 90p a cwt bag for "coal" which is made up of stones and rubbish.
§ Mrs. Williams
Whatever cause the hon. Gentleman cares to offer, I am sure he agrees with me that 75p goes very little way towards paying the cost of heating a house or flat.
Next, I suggest to the right hon. Gentleman that at present the heating allowances go to only one pensioner in about 30. At present, the allowances go to about 186,000 people, which is a very small proportion of pensioners. Therefore, I suggest to him that the present very restrictive rules operated by the Supplementary Benefits Commission with respect to paying additional heating allowances should be looked at again to see whether a much wider group of pensioners and supplementary benefits pensioners should not be brought within the orbit of this assistance.
§ Mr. John D. Grant (Islington, East)
Is my hon. Friend aware that in the London Borough of Islington the local task force has carried out an exhaustive survey, a copy of which has been sent to the Minister, pointing out that in many cases pensioners have to choose between food and fuel because of the inadequacy 260 of the heating allowance? Is she aware, further, that when I questioned the right hon. Gentleman's Ministerial colleague, he dismissed what I said and replied that the Supplementary Benefits Commission currently feels that the allowance is inadequate?
§ Mrs. Williams
I am obliged to my hon. Friend. I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman will be as familiar with that survey as I am. It also shows that a disturbingly large number of pensioners complain about being constantly cold.
Fourthly, I make the proposal that the right hon. Gentleman should request his right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer in the forthcoming Budget not only to see whether he can make provision for a further increase in pensions but, at least as important, to raise the threshold of tax for elderly people. As we know, present taxation bites into the incomes of elderly people at a very low level. Surely there is a very strong case for raising the tax threshold, if necessary, by a further increase in personal allowances for those over retirement age.
Whatever else the right hon. Gentleman may say about us, I hope that he will not say that we are not attempting to be reasonably constructive.
Fifthly, I suggest that the right hon. Gentleman must look again at the possibility of an annual review. On 10th March, 1971, The Guardian said:With current rates of inflation the adequacy of a biennial review must be in serious doubt.On 17th June, 1971, the Opposition moved an Amendment to the National Insurance Bill calling for an annual review. We said:… it is the only straightforward and simple solution … to the devastating effect inflation is having on elderly retired people."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 17th June, 1971 Vol. 819, c. 781.]With his usual charm, the Under-Secretary had said when we moved the same Amendment in Committee:The hon. Lady would not expect me to give a firm commitment to an annual review today"—indeed, we did not—but I hope that what I have said will reassure her that the matter is open to consideration."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, Standing Committee G. 20th May, 1971; c. 110.]261 That was June. We are now at the end of November. The door to consideration has been open quite long enough. Can we now expect an answer—the only answer that we can get if that consideration has been serious to our demand for an annual review?
In 1969 the then Minister of State at the Ministry of Health and Social Security estimated the cost of an annual review on the basis of two 10-shilling increases rather than a single £1 increase at a biennial review as an additional £140 million. The figure may be slightly higher now. That represents 1p on tax. It reminds me of an old rhyme:Christmas is coming, the geese are getting fat,Please to put a penny in the old man's hat.If you haven't got a penny, a halfpenny will do,If you haven't got a halfpenny, then God bless you.Cannot the Government find one penny on income tax to enable an annual review to be brought in? Is this not a higher priority than another penny off for surtax payers?
I am sure that the Government will say that none of our five proposals is practicable because, although they may meet some administrative difficulties, the pressure on the Department at present is too great. I want to look at that frequently used excuse "the pressure on the Department." One of the growth industries in this country is the Department of Health and Social Security. Members of Parliament know that the offices of that Department, like the offices of the Department of Employment, are becoming more and more overwhelmed with work. There are increasingly long delays in reply, there is increasingly more difficulty about getting home visits, and there is a massive amount of compulsory overtime.
In a situation where a Department, like the right hon. Gentleman's, is groaning, as all who visit social security offices know, because a great deal of additional work is having to be done, why do not the Government abandon their absurd dogma about the size of the Civil Service and give qualified young school leavers who are looking for jobs in the North, in Scotland, in Wales and elsewhere, opportunities of becoming clerical officers in the Department and 262 getting the training that go with those jobs? There is an absurd nonsense about running compulsory overtime side by side with the desperate problem of school-leaving employment. The Government must look at this situation again. We have had an increase of nearly double in the number of school leavers without employment and a decrease of nearly two-thirds in the number of vacancies for them. Yet this is the time when the Government prefer to run their offices inefficiently, hire temporary help, and do nothing to give opportunities to youngsters who badly need them.
Finally, I turn to the point made by the right hon. Gentleman in answer to a Question. When mentioning deputations from pensioners he used the phrase.pensioners … need an assurance about the future.Alas, the future is, if anything, just as grim as the present under this Government. We now have their proposals for pensions in the long term. We have their proposals for a reserve scheme which is so heavily weighted against the people who will be driven to rely upon it—lowpaid workers, women workers, and people changing their jobs—that no one who is not forced into that scheme would possibly adopt or accept it. It has no Exchequer contribution, no tax relief, no guarantee against inflation, and no credit for periods of unemployment or sickness. It is not only a recipe for administrative chaos, but the worst bargain since the Government sold the public its promises in June, 1970.
The basic benefits in the Government's new scheme will be below the supplementary benefit level for years to come, and the reserve scheme addition will be pathetically small and in many cases those who receive it will be left below the supplementary benefit level. This is all to make the Government's backing for occupational pension schemes work—occupational pension schemes for which the Government are accepting an employer's contribution of 2½ per cent. at a time when employers often contribute between 8 and 10 per cent. to staff pension schemes. The Government have done inadequately by present pensioners and they are planning to do inadequately by future pensioners as well.
The Government seem to be in a dreadful mess of their own making. They face 263 high unemployment and seem to have little idea of what else to do about it than blame their advisers. They face rapid inflation at the same time.
The Secretary of State, who is a humane man, knows that we are not simply producing political propaganda about pensioners. Hon. Members on both sides know that the plight of pensioners is serious. The Chancellor is looking for opportunities to increase public expenditure, the country is looking for opportunities to end the desperate level of unemployment, and the pensioners are looking for an opportunity to live on their parlous income. Why not bring these three things together in an act of imagination and increase the income of the old now in one or other, or preferably all, of the ways which we have suggested?
§ 4.6 p.m.
§ The Secretary of State for Social Services (Sir Keith Joseph)
I beg to move, to leave out from "House" to the end of the Question, and to add instead thereof:welcomes Her Majesty's Government's continuing commitment to protect the living standards of old people, as evidenced by the recent increase in retirement pensions, the provision of pensions for the over-80s, and the improvement in public service and Armed Forces' pensions; and notes with approval the increased resources made available by Her Majesty's Government for developing the services for the elderly.I have great personal respect for the hon. Member for Hitchin (Mrs. Shirley Williams), but a number of things which she said today were far below her normal level of clarity and understanding. I shall pick up some of the errors which she made as I go through my argument, but I shall reserve the party political comments which her speech deserves for the end of what I have to say because at the heart of the debate is an intensely serious national issue with which I wish to deal square on.
There are nearly 9 million people over minimum retirement age. Of those, about 71 million are drawing the retirement pension. The House will remember the relatively neat divisison of this large number of people into one-third who are well enough off, despite the specially high tax threshold for the elderly, to be paying direct taxation, one-third who are actually receiving supplementary pensions, and 264 one-third in between who are not well enough off to be paying direct taxation and not with low enough incomes to be on supplementary pensions. But what the House does not always remember is that the standard of living of the poorest pensioners has significantly improved over the last 15 years.
The House ought to absorb some rather remarkable figures. In the decade from 1955, when there was a Conservative Administration, to 1965, after the first Labour up-rating, there were five separate up-ratings of what we would now regard as a reasonably generous standard. Successive up-ratings produced improvements in the buying power of the pension in real terms between 1955 and 1965 of 15, 11, 10, 9 and 12 per cent. The result was that in those 10 years, in consequence of four Conservative up-ratings and one Labour up-rating, the buying power of the pension improved by no less than 81 per cent. I do not think that that is a figure which hon. Members on either side distinctly recognise. That was at a time when the number of the working population, compared with the number of elderly, was already dwindling and Governments had not realised as much as we realise now that pensioners need improved benefits and services. Consequently, during those 10 years, though the cash benefits improved, relatively less extra money was provided to improve services for the elderly than is being provided now.
Let us compare those 10 years of four Conservative and one Labour up-ratings with the aggregate result for pensioners of the last six years in which there were two Labour up-ratings and now the current Conservative up-rating. I am admittedly comparing a six-year period with a 10-year period but, compared with the 81 per cent. improvement in buying power in the 10 years to which I have referred, in the last six years—and I include the Government's recent up-rating—there has been an improvement in buying power of only 6 per cent. That is a sobering comparison.
Both parties must recognise that the proportion of the working population to the elderly has been dwindling sharply. Indeed, the figures are quite striking. Whereas in 1955 there were well over five members of the working population to every pensioner, there are now fewer 265 than four members of the working population to every pensioner. Thus, we now have a more difficult task inasmuch as fewer workers are supporting a larger proportion of pensioners.
I must remind the House that both parties, and particularly this Government, are intensely aware of the need to improve services as well as cash benefits for the elderly. That is why, in addition to the improved pension that was paid from this September, the House ought to take into account the two extra injections of money which the Chancellor of the Exchequer provided last November and this November to improve the services for the elderly.
It is normal for the pension to lose buying power between up-ratings. That has been proved under both parties when in Government. It is, of course, much more depressing for the pensioner when the cost of living rises sharply between up-ratings than when it does not, and what is above all important to the pensioner is that the degree of improvement in real terms which the pension is given at an up-rating provides some protection against any fall in the value of money before the pension is up-rated again.
It is a sobering fact that despite a good up-rating when Labour first came to office in 1965 their next two up-ratings were not particularly handsome. In 1967 they did just what we had have done this time—roughly a 3 per cent. improvement in real terms. In 1969 they provided nothing extra in real terms. In fact, they marginally failed to restore the 1967 buying power.
There is, in effect, a saw-tooth effect on pensions in between up-ratings as the rise in the cost of living—or, as the hon. Member for Bolsover (Mr. Skinner) puts it, the fall in the value of money—reduces the value of the pension that has been awarded. There are only two ways to deal with that. One is to prevent any inflation, and no Government have succeeded in doing that. The second is to restore the buying power every month, or every quarter. What the Government seek to do is to provide a sufficient margin and to restrain inflation enough to protect the pensioner as much as is practicable.
§ Mr. Raphael Tuck (Watford)
I thank the right hon. Gentleman for his courtesy 266 in giving way. I regard the right hon. Gentleman as a man with a social conscience. Will he tell the House what is wrong with making the increase in pensions automatic with the rise in the cost of living; that is, gearing pensions to the cost of living so that they automatically rise with the increase in the cost of living? Is there anything wrong with that? If not, why cannot it be done?
§ Sir K. Joseph
Except for the Labour Government's 1969 up-rating, it has been achieved by post-war Governments, but achieved at roughly two-year intervals. If it had been automatic, pensioners would not have gained the improvement in real terms which I have been describing—or not necessarily, if it had been limited to that.
The up-rating in September of this year restored the buying power of the 1969 pension in full and provided a little extra—a 3 per cent. improvement in buying power in real terms. In addition, the up-rating provided the largest and most varied set of improvements for those receiving benefits that has been introduced to this House since the 1948 National Insurance Act. The position is that 150,000 people who were not receiving a pension are now receiving old persons' pensions as a result of our Act in May, 1970, and that as a result of the recent up-rating supplementary benefits have been increased. An additional extra benefit has been provided for all those over 80. That has helped about one and a quarter million people, and has made the pension for the over 80's worth 8 per cent. more in real terms than they received in 1969.
The hon. Lady asked me to speak to my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer about raising the tax threshold for the elderly. As she knows, that was done by my right hon. Friend in his Budget. This Christmas—and I want to put this soberly and factually—despite the fact that prices are still rising, pensioners as a whole will still be marginally able to buy more than ever before. I am putting it soberly and modestly. Those over 80 will have marginally more still in buying power.
§ Sir K. Joseph
I have a lot to say, and perhaps the hon. Gentleman will allow me to continue.
The last up-rating represented the first occasion on which any Government increased benefits substantially without raising contributions for low-wage earners. That was something to which hon. Gentlemen opposite paid great lip-service, but which they never managed to do. It ought to be remembered, to the credit of this Government, that that is what we managed to do this September, and that it has been benefiting low-wage earners every week since September. The second point is that we are not only improving the cash benefits to pensioners but are pumping in extra money to improve the local authority and health services for their benefit.
The hon. Lady made a speech which was compounded half of suggestions for demand management, which fall to my hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer to consider, and half of suggestions for improving the conditions of pensioners. Her proposals overlap to some extent, and she and the House will understand if I say that nearly all the points she made are for my right hon. Friend.
I ought to remind the House that my right hon. Friend's Budget in April was criticised by some newspapers for being too inflationary, just as some newspapers now are begging him to reflate more, so I do not think that the hon. Lady was quite justified in her selective quotation from this batch of criticisms by some newspapers. My right hon. Friend has stressed that in the middle term there is adequate demand in sight, or coming into the economy, and that the national problem is to increase spending for the short term; that is, over the next year and the year after. Some of the hon. Lady's suggestions would increase spending—some less, some more—continuously in the future, and would not, therefore, necessarily fall into what my right hon. Friend sees as the necessary tactic for the next two years.
The House will be aware, and I shall therefore not rehearse the ingredients, that my right hon. Friend has announced a series of special injections of demand to take effect, as he and the Government hope, over the next year or two. They amount, on top of the general improve- 268 ments in taxation and allowances in his Budget, to no less than £500 million to be spent over the next two years, particularly in the regions.
The hon. Lady was quite right in seeking for ways to suggest which would both cut unemployment—without, I hope she will agree, overloading the economy in the middle term—and also help the pensioners. But we have to recognise that, although a transfer by way of increased contributions or taxes from the working population to the retired population injects some extra buying power by the difference in the propensity to save, it cannot be measured in gross terms as a new addition to buying power.
Some of the hon. Lady's suggestions, and the suggestion of the T.U.C., I believe, which combines increased contributions, in a perfectly honourable proposal, with increased pensions, would not in themselves increase buying power by more than the difference between the propensity to save of different groups. I am not attacking them on these grounds—
§ Mrs. Shirley Williams
May I give one word of explanation? The proposals which I put forward, first for a winter emergency payment and second for a long-term addition, were to be financed from the Exchequer, and would therefore be deficit financing and not deflationary.
§ Sir K. Joseph
The hon. Lady said that there should be a winter emergency payment. She said that in 1964 Miss Herbison, the Minister concerned, made a £4 payment to some of the elderly. But the hon. Lady, I am sure by mistake—at least, I imagine it was by mistake, because she generally does her homework thoroughly—might have given the House the impression that all the retired people received £4 extra. In fact, of course, it was the national assistance beneficiaries only—a very important group, but only about a third of the total.
It is true that Miss Herbison made that payment and that when the new Labour Government came into office there had been 18 months since the previous up-rating compared with two months now. So that background is very different. The hon. Lady did not make it clear whether she was proposing help just to those on supplementary benefit or to the totality of pensioners.
269 The hon. Lady went on to speak about the heating allowance. Here, once again, she fell below her usual high standard. There is no suggestion that 25, 50, or 75p is intended to provide for the heating of a supplementary pensioner. The basic supplementary pension itself is intended to contain money which is used for fuel, and the extra allowance is to top this up in cases where the housing or the health or a combination of both of the individual pensioner justifies it.
The hon. Member for Islington, East (Mr. John D. Grant) intervened to remind the hon. Lady of the recent Task Force inquiry in Islington. I have, of course, read the report with concern. It reveals a number of people—I think 47 among the many visited—who were not receiving what Task Force thought was an entitlement to the extra heating allowance. I am very concerned by this report and am asking Task Force whether it would find it possible to release the names and addresses to me so that I can have special visits made. Certainly it would be a very serious matter if large numbers of people in bad health and bad housing were not, after application, receiving the extra benefit which the Government have made available—
§ Sir K. Joseph
I refused to give way just now to the hon. Member for Manchester, Ardwick (Mr. Kaufman). If he would not think me discourteous, I will give way to his hon. Friend.
§ Mr. Heffer
I have no wish to be discourteous myself. Would the right hon. Gentleman not agree that this problem in Islington can be multiplied throughout the country and that, therefore, it is not enough to consider it in isolation? Would he not agree that there needs to be a general supplementary benefit to all the supplementary pensioners in order to meet the amount necessary for heating? Surely the argument of my hon. Friend underlines this very point.
§ Sir K. Joseph
There are three points which I want to make. First, even if it be true all over the country, an identified case is very valuable so that Ministers can draw conclusions from it, and this is 270 the only example which I have been given in fair numbers of a heating allowance allegedly not reaching the right people.
Second, the House must realise that a universal heating allowance for supplementary pensioners would be a completely open-ended commitment. Paying the rent of supplementary pensioners is paying a charge which can be identified, but paying for heating could be completely open-ended.
Third, if we were to provide an extra indiscriminate heating allowance for supplementary pensioners, we would be treating them far better than the poorer of the pensioners themselves, and that could be very complicated for both sides of the House.
§ Sir K. Joseph
I have been generous to hon. Members opposite; would my hon. Friend like to intervene now?
§ Sir G. Nabarro
I am obliged to my right hon. Friend. I entirely agree with what he said about any indiscriminate allowance for fuel costs. Would he take into account this winter the really large increase in the price of solid fuel, which I instanced to the hon. Member for Hitchin (Mrs. Shirley Williams) as 90p or 18 shillings per hundredweight bag? This is such a big increase that there must be some reflection of the increased costs in the allowance given to elderly people.
§ Sir K. Joseph
It is true that coal has gone up in price and that wage claims have been a very large part of it.
§ Sir K. Joseph
But the price of coal is an ingredient in the retail price index which we have taken into account in measuring our job in restoring the purchasing power of the pensioner, and we have done marginally better than that.
It is constructive when the hon. Member for Hitchin and the T.U.C. propose that higher benefits should be financed by higher contributions. But—this is relevant to the whole question of how frequent up-ratings should be—the House should recognise that increased contributions at a certain stage and at a certain level of frequency could work through into prices and themselves intensify the worries which pensioners have. We cannot measure the exact level of frequency or degree of increase which would bring this about, but we must bear this possibility in mind.
On the hon. Lady's suggestion of an annual review, I will not hide behind any argument about this being administratively impossible. It would be an administrative burden. The social security offices, as the hon. Lady recognised, have been very heavily burdened and have carried out nobly a very large number of extra tasks for the benefit of sections of the population on top of coping with the postal strike and the normal up-rating work—
§ Sir K. Joseph
Certainly—and the extra unemployed. So I am not hiding behind administrative difficulties. But in this country, unlike some comparable countries abroad, we have been in the practice of annually up-rating supplementary benefit over the last years under both Governments. This has produced some protection for those who are poorest—admittedly, with the very unpleasant consequence that, when the pension up-rating comes, the supplementary pensioners feel that they have been done down in some way and blame both Governments in turn for this.
I also reminded the hon. Lady that, if there were to be an annual up-rating, there would have to be annual contribution increases, and they might in turn bedevil the price spiral. But we are certainly deeply pledged as a Government to protect the pur- 272 chasing power of the pension by up-rating at least every two years. We have shown flexibility in carrying out this pledge by advancing the last up-rating by, admittedly, the not enormous interval of six weeks, and that went some way to meeting the worries of the pensioners.
The hon Lady did not mention a fact that the House will wish to bear in mind: namely, that while a large number of people still do not have occupational pensions, and while many of the occupational pensions in payment are relatively small, no fewer than two-thirds of men now retiring take into retirement an occupational pension, and that is some comfort that will improve the situation. [Interruption.] I said that some of them were tiny, but they will help to improve the situation.
I have two general points to make before allowing myself to make some political comments on the Motion and the hon. Lady's speech. First, there is a general point on which I think both sides of the House can agree. Without my being in any way partisan, it would have been of great benefit for the pensioners of this country, and particularly for occupational pensioners, if the trade union movement as a whole had followed the advice of a number of trade union leaders in paying more heed to fringe benefits. I know that a number of trade union leaders have been very anxious to improve fringe benefits. But not in every case have they had the support of their members, and the people who have suffered as a result in their old age are those who have not negotiated fringe benefits.
§ Mr. Skinner
Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that although the figure of those with occupational pensions may be 60 per cent. overall, and it is certainly less in the manual occupations, the lack of take-up generally, though not entirely, occurs in those areas of manufacturing and other industries in which trade union organisation is particularly weak?
§ Sir K. Joseph
That is the hon. Gentleman's view and I must take him seriously. I shall improve my research to see whether I can agree with him. On the face of things, however, I would not have thought that his point was all that valid.
273 The second general factor of which I must remind the House is that the elderly, for whom the hon. Lady has been speaking, need services and cash. The Conservative Government can take pride in the fact that by their priorities extra money last November and this November has been put into improving the services for the elderly.
I now come to some political points that must be made.
§ Mrs. Shirley Williams
Before the right hon. Gentleman reaches that stage, may I ask him to recognise that his answer so far has been extremely disappointing? Does he intend to refer to the suggestion about doubling the long-term addition?
§ Sir K. Joseph
I thought I had answered that part of the hon. Lady's speech when I referred to the heating allowance, but if not, I apologise. I explained that it could lead one into the danger, the quagmire, of improving the conditions of the supplementary pensioners beyond the bulk of the people just above them. This is not something that is to be excluded automatically, and I assure the hon. Lady that I would not wish to exclude her suggestion from all consideration, but I cannot give a categoric affirmative reply to her proposal this afternoon.
I gave some general figures in a strictly objective way at the beginning of my remarks. I will now translate some of the lessons of the record into separate party responsibilities. It is a sober fact that over the 13 years of Conservative Governments from 1951 to 1964 there was an annual improvement in real terms—that is, in buying power—of the pension of very nearly 4 per cent.
It is a sober fact that between 1964 and 1970 there was an improvement in real terms each year—in the buying power of the pension—of 2½ per cent. On the record, therefore—and I admit that it depends a certain amount on the months in which a Government came to power and left office—in general, the gulf between those two figures is such as to show overwhelmingly that the Conservatives can be trusted to protect the pensioners and improve their buying power. [Interruption.]
The fact that in the 10 years to which I have referred the pensioners' real buy- 274 ing power went up by 81 per cent. as a result of four Conservative and one Labour up-ratings is evidence of that. I do not for a moment suggest that this Christmas these historic recollections will be of any comfort to pensioners—
§ Sir K. Joseph
—but I do suggest that they are evidence that should be taken into account when pensioners peer into the future and consider under which party they will be protected and have their standard of living enhanced, and I maintain that our record justifies them in trusting us.
§ Mr. R. C. Mitchell (Southampton, Itchen)
Does it really matter to the pensioner which Government did best or which did worst? The fact remains that unless something is done quickly, a large number of pensioners will be cold and hungry this winter.
§ Sir K. Joseph
That was not exactly the spirit in which the hon. Lady moved the Motion. She suggested that under this Government—and she said that we did not care—pensioners were in a poor plight. She is quite wrong in saying that this Government do not care for the pensioners.
§ Mrs. Shirley Williams
I must protest. I did not say that the Government did not care. I specifically said that hon. Members on both sides of the House cared. I said that the Government did not act.
§ Sir K. Joseph
I must remind the House of the up-rating which completely restored the purchasing power to 1969 and improved and provided a large number of extra benefits for the severely disabled, the chronic sick and the over-eighties. That up-rating has still put in the pensioners' pockets and handbags buying power more than they had in 1969. That will continue to protect them for some months to come. As between all up-ratings, the buying power of the pension will then fall until we up-rate again—and we are pledged to up-rate in 1973, taking into account any implications of our joining Europe.
§ Mr. Kaufman
Does not the right hon. Gentleman accept, as did his hon. Friend yesterday in a Written Answer to my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, 275 Ladywood (Mrs. Doris Fisher), that there is a criterion in addition to increases in purchasing power; namely, the pension as a proportion of average earnings? The answer given yesterday by his hon. Friend shows that under this Government that proportion is lower than at any time in the past seven years.
§ Sir K. Joseph
There is yet another figure that can be taken into account, and I am well equipped to give the House all the figures. I refer to the difference between the purchasing power of the pension and the net disposable income of the wage-earner. Gross earnings are no help to the wage-earner. It is his net disposable income after paying his income tax and National Insurance contributions that matters. Under Labour, taxation of the wage-earner as well as his national insurance contributions—I am referring also to lowest paid wage-earners—rocketed. By that comparison, therefore, the pensioner has not done so badly.
The up-rating was necessary in September because of the rise in prices since 1969. It has totally restored the purchasing power and provided something extra. [Interruption.] We are pledged to protect the pensioner in future. If one looks ahead to next year and compares the degree to which the September, 1971, pension will hold its value with the degree to which in the comparable months after the 1969 up-rating the pension then held its value, I wager that there will not be very much difference between them.
In other words, the Labour Government permitted just the same diminution of the buying power of the pension between up-ratings as they are now rhetorically begging us to cause to stop. [Interruption.] Hon. Gentlemen opposite are right to point out that two wrongs do not make a right. It would have made more sense and her remarks would have been more effective if the hon. Lady had admitted this in her speech.
It was the Labour Party which, when inflation was running at 6 per cent. per year, committed this House in a White Paper to a statutory two-year obligation to up-rate. Hon. Gentlemen opposite are now begging us to change what they in a period of high inflation, proposed statutorily to adopt.
276 The parties are judged by their actions more than by their words. Hon. Gentlemen opposite are very eloquent now. In office they did much less well than we have done and are doing. They were a bitter disappointment to their supporters.
§ 4.40 p.m.
§ Mr. Tom Pendry (Stalybridge and Hyde)
In rising to speak, I am conscious that there are many hon. Members on both sides of the House who wish to contribute. I am sure that my hon. Friends will agree that we have just heard a very disappointing speech from the Secretary of State in reply to an extremely constructive one from my hon. Friend the Member for Hitchin (Mrs. Shirley Williams).
The Minister gives the impression that he cares about the plight of the elderly, but he makes no constructive changes to see that they have their proper share of wealth in the community. He will find that before the end of the day there will be many more members on both sides of the House who will show their concern, their compassion and their general good will towards pensioners. But that is not what the pensioner wants at present. The pensioner wants some tangible action and help. It is what pensioners are looking to the House for. The Minister's speech was very disappointing in that respect.
If hon. Members opposite consider that reflation is due—one gathers from their general tone that they have now swung round to that view—surely a high candidate on the list of reflationary measures must be a boost to the pensions of the 7½ million pensioners in Britain. It is clear that the pension increase which came into effect on 20th September was inadequate then and is totally inadequate now. It did not restore the pension to even its pitifully low level of 1969. The National Institute of Economic Research has pointed out that to restore the basic pension even to the level of 1969 needed an increase of £1.20 for the individual pensioner and £1.90 for a married couple. From November, 1969, when pensions were increased, to September, 1971, the most recent increase, food prices rose by 19.4 per cent., fuel prices by 15 per cent. and fares by 36.1 per cent. It is evident that the pension increase is already below the level of 1969.
277 Some of the fundamental problems facing pensioners cannot be eradicated overnight There are 350,000 old people without the use of a bath, a kitchen or indoor lavatory. Over 1 million are without hot water. These and many other problems are faced by pensioners day in and day out. It is true these dreadful housing problems cannot be removed in the short term, but the pensioner expects something positive now—financially positive. That is not the kind of measure being put forward in the debate. The Government, and the Minister in particular, ought to stop talking around this subject and ought to do something positive. Why not give assistance with pensioners' fuel bills, as my hon. Friend has suggested, whether it be in the way suggested or otherwise. There should be a positive move from the Government benches on this matter, whether they agree with what my hon. Friend said or with what was said by my hon. Friend the Member for Oldham, West (Mr. Meacher) in today's Guardian. The Government should come up with something positive.
I could take hon. Members opposite around pensioners' homes in my constituency in which they would find them in bed at midday, and sometimes in the afternoon. That is not because they are lazy, tired or infirm but because they cannot afford to turn on the heating. This is a national disgrace.
§ Sir K. Joseph
If the hon. Gentleman has individual cases in mind who are, he considers, entitled to help, I hope that he recommends them to go and ask for it and, if necessary, that he writes to me about the individual cases.
§ Mr. Pendry
I am glad that I spurred the Minister to reply. It is not only individual cases. All hon. Members can site scores of cases of this kind.
§ Mr. Pendry
This is not a question of individual cases but a national disgrace which transcends party politics, and something should be done about it.
§ Mr. Arthur Lewis
Does not my hon. Friend agree that it is not a matter of his having to tell the Minister; it is the Minister who should send his officials to see this happening in every constituency? One of my constituents died last week because of the cold. It is the Minister's job to go out and see these things for himself. It is not for us to tell him; he should know it.
§ Mr. Pendry
I am grateful to my hon. Friend. It is not only one constituent who has died. It is estimated that 19,000 die every year because of the effects of cold.
§ Dame Irene Ward (Tynemouth)
I hope that the hon. Gentleman will forgive me, but it is a fact that some of the elderly have to retire to bed because they cannot afford sufficient heating. Would my right hon. Friend consider involving the Citizens Advice Bureaux in this problem, as many people relate all their difficulties to those bureaux, and the bureaux would be able, perhaps, to give a picture rather different from that associated with the Department or even with individual Members of Parliament? That would be helpful in this case.
§ Mr. Pendry
I am sure that the hon. Lady will forgive me when I suggest that she tries to catch your eye, Mr. Speaker, later in the debate.
§ Mr. Pendry
I wish to continue and I intend to be brief.
My constituency is not unique in these particular problems. To bring this to light in the House, I quote a letter written to one of my hon. Friends, the Member for Kingston upon Hull, East (Mr. Prescott), who unfortunately cannot be present today. I make no apologies for reading the letter. It may well be emotive but it is a genuine response of a constituent writing to his Member of Parliament on this matter.Dear Sir,I have been a coal man since I left school. I have never seen so many old people starving in my life, sitting in their coats to keep warm, something must be done to help them. I asked one old couple if they had been to Security. They said it was no good, they had to manage. One old lady showed me two chops she had paid 50 pence for. She said she had to make them last two or three days. 279 My parents are dead, thanks to God. I feel sorry for them and am unable to help them. One old widow had an electric bill and a monthly telly to pay. She said she wishes she was in Heaven with her old Dutch. They tell me you are a nice chap.that is referring to my hon. Friend the Member for Kingston upon Hull, East—Isn't there something you can do for them. The people in the bungalows get help and no one seems to care about these lonely old people. I asked one old lady what she was having for Christmas. She said she might get a bit of fish and stay in bed to keep warm. I said to my wife, 'If we have anything to spare, those poor old people will get it.' I have seen more old people this week hungry and cold than ever before. One old woman had a light bill. She said she had got a telly in and she only paid it a few days ago. It touched me very much and I hope you will do something about it. I know it has hurt me very much. Hunger is a sharp thorn.Yours truly,A coal man with a heart.The Government can do something about this situation. The obligations are heavy upon them, and they must do something about it.
§ Mr. Pendry
My hon. Friend has mentioned the 1964 situation, and it was also referred to by the Secretary of State. I recall Margaret Herbison's Act. Whatever refinements the Minister wishes to place upon what my hon. Friend said, surely the onus is on him. We want him to get off the seat and do something positive for the old people. Whatever short-term measures are taken—if there are to be some—will, clearly, not be enough. The basic question of the pension is the most pressing concern for all pensioners.
Leaving "at a stroke" on one side, the Government have displayed a complete lack of judgment in controlling price levels which affect the elderly more than any other section of the community. At a time when the O.E.C.D. advises countries to subsidise consumer organisations, the Government scrap them. That is the kind of measure which has not helped. With the astronomical price levels, the case for an annul review is made. At the present rate of inflation, wild fluctuations in prices will inevitably increase the burden on the pensioner between the biennial reviews. If inflation 280 were to be brought within tolerable limits, the pension would not have to rise by a large margin. Therefore, if the Government believe that they can control inflation and believe what they were telling the electors before the General Election, they will not have to give any great pension increases at these annual reviews.
§ Mr. Skinner
I cannot guarantee that it will be once, but it is the only intervention I wish to make. On the question of prices, is my hon. Friend aware that, far from controlling inflation, what will take place next April, in a cool, premeditated fashion, is that a proportion of the 8 million pensioners, those living in council houses and in the private sector who come within the control, will be subjected to a 10s. increase? Although it may be argued that rent rebates could follow in some instances, for the first year nearly all these old-age pensioners will not come within the threshold of being granted rebates.
§ Mr. Pendry
I am glad that I gave way to my hon. Friend. Unfortunately, the appropriate Minister is not present to take note of what he said.
The Secretary of State mentioned a particular quotation, but he omitted two important aspects of it. Speaking to the Industrial Society last month he said:The standard of living of our elderly is inferior. Of our retired people, one-third are operating on an income sufficient to pay taxation, one-third are on supplementary benefit and the other third are in the twilight area in between.He said that today, more or less. He also said that Britain was not a good country in which to be old. He went on to say that this country would be shown up shamefully when we entered Europe, where some countries have much better pension schemes than ours.
We are giving the Government the opportunity to rectify that imbalance. If the House accepts the Government's view that the level of inflation that we are currently experiencing is exceptional, the claim for an exceptional short-term measure must follow from that. Clearly, if the Chancellor's forecasts have been proved wrong—even the Chancellor 281 admits that—we should not expect pensioners to pay for the folly of the Chancellor or the Treasury.
The pensioners of Britain, who, possibly most of all groups, believed the right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister's electioneering broadcasts, will turn on the Government unless they take swift action. I conclude on that point because, as a new Member, untarnished by anything that has happened when my party was in power—I agree that pensions did not rise enough under a Labour Government—I believe that the Government stand condemned. In the name of the pensioners, we look to the Government to do something on their behalf.
§ 4.55 p.m.
§ Mr. Patrick Wolrige-Gordon (Aberdeenshire, East)
The House will recognise the sincerity of the hon. Member for Stalybridge and Hyde (Mr. Pendry) and the feeling he has on the subject. It is a feeling shared on both sides of the House. His reaction against the idea of bringing solutions to individual cases reflects the fact that for some reason this seems to be unpopular in certain quarters opposite. I think the wholesale blanket schemes of national help, which is what we go in for at present, are all very well and extremely important, but most of us know that the really hard and difficult cases are those who miss out. These are the individuals who, for some reason or other, are not known about or catered for or do not fit into a large blanket system of State help and support. Unless we deal with them as Members of Parliament on an individual basis and take great care over them, they are liable to be missed altogether. So we should not miss the importance of the individual person in great hardship just in the interests of a wholesale increase in the blanket system of State aid.
I very warmly support the Government's pension policy so far as it has gone, particularly the provision of pensions for the over-eighties, which was so long overdue. I believe also that the attendance allowance for the severely disabled will be, and is proving to be, of great benefit, particularly for the kind of individual cases I mentioned. It is in the nature of this vitally important subject that once one step forward has been taken its value is assumed, it is taken as of right, and all attention there- 282 fore becomes concentrated upon the next step. It is not enough, and has never been enough, to do what is already done, because so much more is needed. It is in this respect that the Government's policy has been attacked by the Opposition.
The Government have committed themselves to a two-year review, but we all know that over the last two years prices and wages have risen very fast—much faster than anything we have been accustomed to for a very long time. Inflation is a common experience to all, and its speed is a living fact. Although the Government have provided one of the biggest increases of recent years, the doubt remains whether that value can be sustained over a lengthy period. The hon. Lady suggested that it has been largely eroded already and will disappear altogether in January or February. I do not go along with her in that. I think there is a discrepancy there and that a distinction should be made between the annual review and the annual pay out. To me, an annual review in a sense is what we are doing today, when we are reviewing the state of the pensions and looking at the position. I think that should go on all the time.
I want to deal at this point more with the longer-term question, which is to what extent we look to increasing the purchasing power of the State pension over the next 20 years, and what criterion we employ for establishing that figure. Are we just going to continue for the next 20 years—I take that period because of the critical increase in the number of pensioners as opposed to the working population in that time—the ratio as at present, when 30 per cent. of the retirement pensioners are receiving supplementary pension?
Much of the determination of the future depends upon the development of the occupational scheme and its proposed Government colleague. We have progressed from a stage where people made provision for their old age out of savings in one way or another and then the basic pension and supplementary benefit put a floor in the market, to a point where, as the White Paper said:The security of a guaranteed basic pension through the State scheme is essential, but it is not enough. Every employee should have the opportunity to qualify for additional pension related to his earnings.283 I am aware that this does not directly affect the present situation and the position of the pensioners this Christmas. But half the reason for the crises with which Parliament is always being called upon to deal in the short term, and always in the short term, is that they occur only because so little attention is paid to the longer term. If, as I believe, the Government are right in their general intention, we should now be considering the details of their proposal and how to achieve it.
I am impressed by the State reserve scheme idea. It is going to be demonstratively self-supporting, fully funded by employers' and employees' contributions and by income from its investments. The Government as such will be completely divorced from the scheme, and that is fine. But for how long? What guarantee can anyone really have that such a tempting source of State funds—an estimated £5,000 million by the end of the century—might not be raided if there are matters of apparently more pressing priority at a later date? It has not been unknown to happen before.
Also, what guarantee is there that any private occupational scheme will eventually be able to hold out against the size and apparent invulnerability of a State scheme? As far as I can see, the major weapon of the private occupational pension schemes is that contributions are exempt from tax. But I do not believe that investments in these schemes can ever be completely safeguarded from risk. Although the Government propose that recognised schemes should be funded to finance benefits as well as pensions, and that priority should be given to these categories if any scheme is wound up, it is difficult to escape the conclusion that some schemes may still yet be wound up to the detriment of their participants. With that in mind, will not the weight of investment be attracted by something absolutely safe? People will never believe that a Government will not back a State scheme if it runs into trouble. First the smaller schemes and then the larger ones may well come to feel that the advantages of a Government scheme for that reason far outweigh any advantages that private enterprise could give, and we may well see a gradual shift to investment only in a Government scheme. As a believer in private enterprise, I do not think that would be desirable.
284 Finally, Madam Deputy Speaker, as you are in the Chair, I conclude by saying that I often wonder whether we are right to accept without question the idea that the widow of a man participating in an occupational scheme should receive half his pension contribution. We have passed into law equal pay for women. Should we not start talking about equal pensions as well? Would that not for a start mean a much more realistic approach, not only to a woman's situation if she is left a widow, which is every bit as onerous financially as the situation of a man if left a widower, but also to the funding of the scheme?
There is also the question of the age limits. Why is it always 65 for men and 60 for women? We all know that women tend to live longer than men, but, since women are increasingly being reckoned to be equal in the State scheme and in civilisation as a whole, is there not something to be said for making their age limit the same as that for men?
§ 5.5 p.m.
§ Mr. Charles Loughlin (Gloucestershire, West)
In recent years there have been persistent cries in the Press, from journalists and others, about a deterioration in the quality of Members of Parliament and of Parliament itself. I have never subscribed to any of those ideas. Indeed, I once drew the attention of a number of journalists to an essay, written by the right hon. Member for Kingston-upon-Thames (Mr. Boyd-Carpenter) in the 1930's, which showed that the arguments being used then against politicians are being used against them at present.
The one thing I do fear is that we in this House will persist in this "yah yah" politics in which every single debate hinges upon the record not only of the last Government but of the Government before that and the Government before that, and of the present Government as well. I am convinced that large sections of the community are sick to death of politicians saying, like little children sitting on a wall, "We did better than you."
What we are dealing with today is a matter of far greater importance to everyone here than a subject on which we can reasonably expect to make comparison. The right hon. Gentleman made some comparisons, and I will not argue that 285 case except to make one brief observation. He made comparison between the Labour Government and this Government and the 13 years of previous Tory rule. I would merely point out to him that had a Labour Government been in office—and I served in his Department—the Department would have provided us with figures to prove conclusively that we had done better than the Conservatives, just as it has provided figures to the right hon. Gentleman to prove the contrary today. It is a question of the use of statistics, of bases, of all sorts of factors. It is, in my view, less than honest of the right hon. Gentleman to treat this situation by using the sort of arguments which, regrettably, I have used myself from a departmental brief.
§ The Under-Secretary of State for Health and Social Security (Mr. Paul Dean)
To be fair, I remind the hon. Gentleman that my right hon. Friend was quoting figures not for any one Government but for the decade from 1955 to 1965, which included both Labour and Conservative Governments, and during that time there was a very substantial increase in pensions. My right hon. Friend then quoted the period following that, in which again there were both Labour and Conservative Governments. He was making the point that no Government had found it as easy to give as big a real increase in pension in the latter period as in the previous period. He suggested that this could be because of a shift to some extent from cash benefits to services. It was not a party political point.
§ Mr. Loughlin
If the right hon. Gentleman was not making a party political point as I heard him, then I should not be in politics. If we are looking at the question of who did what and why, I will quote the right hon. Gentleman one figure. Right hon. Gentlemen opposite have boasted for months now that since they came to power they have reduced taxation by not less than £1,400 million. That reduction has, to a very large degree, gone to people who could have afforded to do without it. It has gone even to people like myself. It has changed my tax threshold—and I want to make it quite clear that I have no income other than my parliamentary salary, but even I derive some benefit from the reductions.
286 Surely this is a question of priorities. This Government would have served a more useful purpose if they had provided additional benefits for the lower income brackets rather than giving supposed incentives in the form of tax reductions. There has been no real incentive. After all has been given away, we have 972,000 unemployed, not taking into account those who do not register. I shall not argue that the Government have not done the right thing, but they have got their priorities wrong. They talk about the pensions of the old folk today. It is worth making a comparison with 1969. The hon. Gentleman can correct me if I am wrong. From this it will be seen that that pension is now worth, due to the erosion of monetary values, about 11p. That is the amount now left to pensioners.
§ Mr. Brian O'Malley (Rotherham)
In fact, the pension is now worth less than 11p. According to the latest figures which I have, it is worth only 7½p compared with its 1969 value, and it is losing ground rapidly day by day.
§ Mr. Loughlin
I do not want to argue with my hon. Friend. The figure I had was 11p.
The pension of which the Government boast makes no allowance for an improvement in standards. There is not a single section of the community, with the exception of Members of Parliament—and we have not had an increase since 1965—that has not experienced an improvement in basic rates or in income, so that that pension increase is now worth less than 11p. Can any of us be proud that in so short a time after an increase our pensioners are better off by only 11p compared with 1969? We know that food prices, on which old people spend a higher proportion of their income than any other section of the community, are going up daily. According to the retail price index, which deals with across-the-board shopping, the old-age pensioner may be paying even more for groceries than the index indicates. Looking at the comparison of prices, one finds that the cheapest food is in supermarkets, and very often old people cannot afford to go to the supermarkets; they cannot get out to do so, and so they go to the dearer, smaller shops in their area. The picture may be worse than I have painted.
287 This winter many old people will be in acute danger of hypothermia, which, if my memory serves me right, is the condition brought about when the temperature of the body is reduced below 95 degrees as a result of low diet and low heating. I should have thought that the Minister might do something about heating allowances, to which he devoted some time.
I have the greatest admiration for the visiting officers and the people in the social security offices. When I listen to people who tell me how nasty they are and read some articles in the paper, I do not accept it. Millions of services go out from these offices year in and year out, but just because someone loses his temper in one of these offices he is castigated. I do not want to say a word that will reflect on the good name of the social security people, but I wonder—it may be an aberration—whether they bring to the attention of people some of the additional benefits which they might get. I know that the circulars are there, and I know about all the benefits that are made, but I would ask the Minister to check his offices—I am not talking about Gloucestershire: I would go to Mr. Macdonald, the manager there, and ask him to do it—to find out whether the powers to grant additional heating allowances are being used to the maximum extent. He may find that they are not.
I appreciate that it would be difficult to get an open-ended heating allowance. Obviously, if that were done, someone might be buying someone else's coal, quite apart from the other technical difficulties. Would it be possible to deal with the situation, since the Minister seemed so sympathetic, by saying "All right, we cannot give additional heating allowances on an open-ended basis, but, seeing that it is a component part of the long-term allowance, we shall increase it by X amount"? It could be, for example, five shillings, old currency. It must be possible to increase the total heating allowance to old people this year: otherwise a considerable number of them will be in serious danger of dying from hypothermia. If we can give colossal sums of money in taxation relief to those who do not really need it—I do not need it and I am sure hon. Gentlemen opposite do not—then we could be 288 a little generous and give some to the old-age pensioner.
I wish the Department would get on to a yearly review. We had the same problem of the one-year-in-advance payment to supplementary beneficiaries. As the right hon. Gentleman said, when the review of the pension is done in the second year the supplementary beneficiaries always claim that they have been done down. I have tried to explain this to them literally hundreds of times. I have even gone to the extent of taking the total increases of supplementary benefits year by year and the total increases of main benefits and proving conclusively that there was 6d. in it. I never discovered where the 6d. came from, or whether it has been eliminated now. If we can think in terms of giving advance payments to supplementary beneficiaries we ought to be able to think in terms of making yearly reviews of pensions.
There are an enormous number of people just over the supplementary benefit figure at one point in time who cease to be on that figure. It is this broad band at the bottom income level of retirement pensioners as distinct from the supplementary beneficiaries whom we should be looking after a little more than we do. I would like to see an annual review. I am not unmindful of the difficulties, administrative or financial. We shall have to face up to dealing with our pensioners across the board in a much more generous manner.
Speaking as an individual and not as an M.P., I do not like to feel that there are so many of our old-age pensioners who are existing literally in pitiless poverty. It is the task of society so to organise its affairs as to ensure that old-age pensioners who have made tremendous contributions to our society are able to enjoy the seven or ten years that they have left of their lives in reasonable comfort.
I have a suggestion to make to the right hon. Gentleman. It is nearly Christmas. I put up what has become a hardy annual. Why not make a gesture to the old-age pensioners and give a once-and-for-all payment to help them over Christmas-time?
§ 5.22 p.m.
§ Mr. R. A. McCrindle (Billericay)
I shall probably take a rather different line 289 from that taken by other hon. Members. I start by saying that in many ways I regret that this debate is being held. This is not because I think the Government have a poor case to put before Parliament, and certainly not because I think anyone should stand in the way of attempts by hon. Members to uplift the condition of the poorer sections of the community. It is because I have an uneasy doubt in my mind about just how much today's debate springs from a desire to improve the conditions of the people to whom I refer and how much it will be used as a stick with which to beat the Government. As I look back over the past years, Oppositions of both political complexions have tended to do this, and I felt I should start my contribution by deploring the necessity for this to be part of the pattern of operation of Oppositions.
My contribution will be in two parts. I want to make some observations on the long-term and short-term problem of pensioners. While I recognise that most hon. Members here are particularly concerned with the difficulties of existing retirement pensioners, unless we lift our eyes to the future we shall go on feeling that we must have this sort of debate.
There is only one way in which we can escape from having this sort of debate, and that is by ensuring that retirement income for everyone includes, in addition to a basic National Insurance pension, a second pension arranged during the working life of an individual and of a sufficiently high order and sufficiently protected against rising prices so that, pitching forward 10 or 20 years, only a minority of our people will be forced on to supplementary benefit. That is what the debate is about, or, more accurately, should be about.
Both parties have for long now nursed the ambition of introducing just such a scheme. There was the plan introduced by the right hon. Member for Coventry, East (Mr. Crossman), and more recently there have been the proposals in the White Paper "Strategy for Pensions". The "Crossman Plan" was the end product of a long period of thought by hon. Members opposite. It is appropriate to reflect that it having first been announced in a publication call "Signposts for the Sixties" in 1961—it having been announced that a new type of pension arrangement would be a priority when a 290 Labour Government was returned—such are the complexities involved that the scheme had not reached the Statute Book by June, 1970. I hope that I shall be forgiven if I say "All the better for that", because here I come to a critical thought on the "Crossman Plan". Having long set themselves up as the defenders of the pensioners, having with all sincerity looked for a new dimension in pensions, the fact is that the Labour Party's scheme was not properly worked out. Even the experts failed to understand it, people who had earned their living for a long time dealing with occupational pension schemes and civil servants.
One thing was clear from the scheme, it would have led to the creation of an unfunded scheme which could not possibly have kept its promises to future generations of pensioners without massive increases in contributions and charges. In due course it would have damaged at least in some degree the occupational pension schemes which are the envy of a great many workers who are not members of such schemes. I think the right hon. Member admitted this. I should declare an interest here because I am a director of a firm which gives advice on the installation of individual and commercial pension schemes. It is a matter of pride that I tell the House that I hope that, long before I retire, many thousands of people will retire with a better standard of living, thanks to the advice I have given them over the past decade.
It is fair to say, therefore, that, while the Labour Party was moving forward in a search for a new approach, the Cross-man Plan demonstrably was not it. By contrast, we have recently seen the proposals outlined in my right hon. Friend's White Paper. These proposals, although by no means perfect, provide a good opportunity of ending, not immediately but over a period, the intolerable situation whereby the incomes of millions of people become the plaything of party politics.
The hon. Member for Hitchin (Mrs. Shirley Williams), for whom I have great respect, dismissed the proposals in the White Paper rather peremptorily and gave them rather less profound thought than she normally gives to pension matters. Under these proposals, quite apart from the basic National Insurance pension 291 which will be price-protected by regular reviews, there will be for future generations a second pension, either a reserve scheme, to which the hon. Lady referred, or an occupational scheme funded by the contributions of pensioners and employers. "Funded" is the operative word. For far too long pensions have been assumed just to happen, just to be created by a touch on the Treasury tiller, but only a funded scheme can in the long run provide what the country is looking for if it is to eliminate the need for this type of debate.
The second pension will be funded by the contributions of pensioners and employers while the pensioner is at work, and will be paid without question and without any tax subvention. That is most important. There will be a requirement to provide an income for the widow whether the death of the husband takes place before the retirement date or after. There will be a requirement to preserve the pension when a man changes his job, and there will be a built-in protection against inflation and rising prices. In this way we shall have the kernel for the provision for pensioners of the future of a guaranteed rising income paid for by themselves when they are at work.
Not only have we willed the end—an end which I suspect every hon. Member will wish to see fulfilled—but we have thought about the means. This is in contrast to the complicated and unfunded system proposed by the Labour Government—and few hon. Members will deny that the Crossman Plan was complicated—and is an arrangement of considerable simplicity and a large measure of responsibility.
I come back to my thoughts for the future to the immediate question of the level of old-age pensions. Many of our elderly citizens have a meagre existence. In an ideal world the House would unite in being much more generous to them but we do not live in an ideal world, and a responsible Government must balance the needs of pensioners on the one hand with the requirement to tax working people more to pay for them. They have to bear in mind the present rampant pressure to bring down unemployment and to stimulate purchasing.
We are told that, as pension increases are immediately spent, this would be 292 a way to increase demand, but the range of goods normally bought by pensioners is so limited that an increase would probably stimulate little in the economy and, I suspect, stimulate in the wrong places. Pensions and general benefits will have to be increased not to stimulate the economy and to reduce unemployment but on the merits of the case.
Pensions were increased as recently as September. In purchasing power they remain approximately 2.6 per cent. above November, 1969. It must, therefore, be as a conscious act to increase the standard of living of the pensioners that we increase pensions now. The cost of living shows welcome signs that it is least rising less fast than it has been. So even a modest increase would increase the standard of living. Why, then, should the Government not agree to this? To put it no higher, why should the Government not gain political kudos from increasing pensions?
Before I answer that, I will remind the House that during the debate on the Queen's Speech I put forward a three-point reform of pensions which, with the indulgence of the House, I will repeat. I said that I should like to see a reduction in the interval between the announcement of increases in April and the actual payment of them in September. I cannot believe that nothing can be done considerably to reduce the period. Former Ministers as well as present Ministers seem to find that suggestion the cause of some wry amusement, but I do not believe that we cannot reduce the delay.
Secondly, it I should like to see a closer relationship between pensions and the cost of living index. I concede that it may not do the pensioners very much good for pensions to be tied exactly to the index. However, it would give them a feeling of security that biennial pension reviews may take care of the cost of living. The fact that the pension is tied directly to the cost of living would make a great impression on elderly people—
§ Mr. Loughlin
I do not want the hon. Gentleman to misconstrue anything I said. I thought he was referring to me—
§ Mr. McCrindle
I beg the hon. Gentleman's pardon; I was speaking about an intervention made by another hon. Member who has now left the Chamber.
293 Thirdly, I asked for an annual review of the level of pensions and benefits. This is a point which has been made on both sides of the House, and careful attention should be given to it. When I said this on the last occasion, my right hon. Friend said that I was being pessimistic in thinking that inflation would go on at its present rate, thereby justifying an annual review. But if the rate of inflation declines, an annual review could be seen to be increasing the standard of living of retired people and pensioners. I repeat that I should like to see that three point reform brought into operation, and I hope the Minister will accept that as from 1972 there should be a yearly review.
Remembering what I said about the level of benefits, which in purchasing power continues to be marginally above that of November, 1969, we should be unwise to be panicked into action now when there will be, I hope, in the near future an opportunity of so changing the system that, although this type of debate may still have to occur from time to time, it will do so much less frequently.
If that is the only hope we give to pensioners now, it is a forlorn one as we approach the festive season. As we come close to Christmas, could not the Chancellor of the Exchequer afford to dispense a little good cheer? I do not know the technical difficulties, but could not the Government simply say, for example, that instead of one week's income on 21st December, pensioners should receive two weeks' income? That is something which we could do at an administrative stroke without building up inflationary pressure in the long term, and it would bring considerable comfort to the old people. That, combined with the steadying of prices, which most hon. Members concede, and the annual review of which I have spoken, would show that actions speak louder than Motions on the Order Paper.
§ 5.41 p.m.
§ Mr. Ted Fletcher (Darlington)
It is the custom of the House to ask the previous speaker to forgive one for not following what he has said, but on this occasion I will take up what was said by the hon. Member for Billericay (Mr. McCrindle) about a Christmas bonus. I certainly hope the Minister will consider this request.
294 Yesterday the Transport and General Workers' Union Executive Council passed a resolution asking the Minister to grant a bonus of £20 to old-age pensioners a week or two before Christmas. I understand that tomorrow Mr. Jack Jones and other T.U.C. leaders are to see the Prime Minister and I assume that they will put this plea to him. There would be no administrative problem in paying a bonus of £20 if one or two weeks before Christmas pensioners were allowed to draw a double pension. This would mean only that the pension books would have to be renewed one week earlier.
From Questions to the Prime Minister today it appears that there is speculation that the Chancellor of the Exchequer intends to stimulate the economy before Christmas. Two leading newspapers today carried stories about a reduction in the Bank Rate, reduced purchase tax and so on, to stimulate the economy. The best way of stimulating the economy would be to put millions of £s into the hands of old-age pensioners, who would immediately spend the money and not save it or invest it in South Africa or Australia. This would produce a consumer boom to help to alleviate unemployment, which is now climbing over the 1 million mark.
This is a practical suggestion to increase consumer spending, and it is administratively possible. All hon. Members know that there is widespread poverty amongst old-age pensioners. Literally thousands will die of cold and hunger during the winter. This sometimes happens because old-age pensioners are not getting what they are entitled to receive. There is a problem of identifying the people who are in need. The Government have had this experience with the family income supplement. After massive publicity they have found that only a tiny proportion of the people who are entitled to benefit have applied for it.
The same applies to old-age pensioners. Many live alone and have very few friends. Many are too proud to claim the supplementary benefit, to which they feel, quite mistakenly, they are not entitled. The Department of Health and Social Security does a first-class job in trying to identify these people, but this is not always possible. We have to bring many cases to the Department's attention.
295 In regard to the basic needs of these people—namely, food and fuel—a boost over Christmas might help them to get over an otherwise long and hard winter. I make no contribution in this debate to long-term solutions. I am making an immediate plea for something to be done at once this Christmas for old-age pensioners.
The right hon. Gentlemen on the Government Front Bench tell us that they have compassion for old people. There is no competition between the two political parties on this matter. Here is an opportunity for the Government to demonstrate that this is how they feel. They can kill two birds with one stone. They can assist the tens of thousands of old-age pensioners who are living in poverty, and they can do something to stimulate the economy, by putting more purchasing power into the hands of our old people.
I ask the Government to take seriously the campaign which is now being organised by the Transport and General Workers Union. I hope that when the trade union leaders meet the Prime Minister tomorrow they will put this point of view to him. I hope their point of view will be reinforced from the Government Front Bench as a result of this debate, and I hope it will be possible for the Government to show that their compassion for old people is not a compassion of mere words but will take the form of action now.
§ 5.47 p.m.
§ Sir Brandon Rhys Williams (Kensington, South)
The subject of this debate touches the conscience of the House. If, as so often when we are talking of pensions, the benches on both sides are relatively empty, it is not because right hon. and hon. Members do not care. It is because of the difficulty of making specific recommendations which are workable in this field in which the numbers are so vast and any recommendation one may make is bound to be enormously costly.
The hon. Lady the Member for Hitchin (Mrs. Shirley Williams), who moved the Motion which we oppose, was—as always—extremely effective. One cannot accuse her of not being specific. But I listened in vain for any clear commitment on her 296 part to a continuing increase in taxation—which is the only way in which in the long run increases in benefits to pensioners can be paid for.
The House must be candid on this point. I do not believe there is anybody on either side of the House who would not like to see pension increases. But few are prepared to be specific as to the way in which the money is to be found. We must avoid vote-catching and bleeding-heart attitudes until we are prepared to be specific as to the way in which the money is to be raised.
§ Mrs. Shirley Williams
The hon. Member will recognise that the T.U.C. and the Labour Party have both fully recognised that there would have to be increases in contributions to get the larger pension, and we have accepted that from the point of view of the employee.
§ Sir B. Rhys Williams
To be honest on this point, one should say as much about the necessity for an increase in contribution as one does about the necessity for an increase in benefit. I do not say that as a reprimand to the hon. Lady, who is a very honest speaker, but it is something the House must bear in mind.
Although it is easy to make popular speeches about increased benefits for pensioners, it is not easy to make oneself popular by recommending increases in taxation. Nor is it good enough to say that at this juncture there is an evident need for a boost to the economy and that, therefore, we should make use of this particular circumstance to secure an increase in pensions. It would be a lasting commitment and would still have to be paid for after the present immediate circumstances have passed.
It is useful to clear our minds on the precise nature of entitlement to pensions. I hope the House will forgive me if it feels I have made this point before. It is essential to our understanding of the situation to know why we are making particular payments to particular people.
We pay pensions on the basis of entitlement established through need. We pay them on the basis of citizenship; and we pay them on the basis of contributions. I wish to make specific recommendations as to the way in which we should change our approach in each of these fundamental areas.
297 I should first like to deal with the question of need. My particular recommendation is that we should seek urgently to reduce the number of people who are entitled to benefit through need. I do not know whether it is now 3 million pensioners whose incomes are made up by supplementary—benefits but the number is far too large. We allow ourselves to indulge in a degree of hypocrisy when we speak of entitlement through need. Our economy is one in which people secure entitlement to benefit either through earnings or through savings. It runs counter to the philosophy on which our economy is based to say that there is also a system of entitlement for people who have no employment and no savings. We are simply providing a safety net for our consciences by allowing ever growing numbers of people to be relieved through supplementary benefit because their entitlement to benefits earned through citizenship or contributions is not enough.
In our election manifesto we said that we would… encourage all forms of saving and saving at every level of earnings.How can it be worth anybody's while to save if he is simply saving to exclude himself from entitlement to supplementary benefits when he retires? How can it be worth an employer's while to introduce an occupational pension scheme if the contributions he is putting in—and maybe requiring from his employees, too—simply lift the employees out of the range in which they are entitled to benefit from the State?
§ Sir G. Nabarro
Would my hon. Friend care to add that the more they save in their working life the more interest they earn on their investments and the quicker they reach the threshold for income tax purposes, and so they are doubly worse off?
§ Sir B. Rhys Williams
I am not suggesting that we should relieve pensioners from income tax. I believe that we should ensure that they are in a position to pay it. But there is so little clarity in our thinking on the whole cash relationship between the individual and the State that the question certainly needs to be debated further. On the question of citizenship, although the pension which we have given this year to the over-80s is the only one specifically related to 298 citizenship, and not to contributions, the national insurance benefit is, in effect, a citizenship benefit because the contributions of people now coming into retirement are such a ludicrously small part of what is needed if the National Insurance system were really a self-balancing one. We retain pettifogging regulations about the number of contributions made, which are only a cruel farce. The vast number of people who draw national insurance benefit are getting a benefit for which they have not paid but to which they are entitled simply because we recognise the necessity for a basic income for the population in retirement.
Both the national insurance scheme and supplementary benefits are money-transfers. They are not drawn from capital but from the current arisings of the nation's wealth. This transfer between working population and the old is not the only form of money transfer that is going on in our complex society. If, for instance, men at work secure higher wages, then they are securing a form of money transfer to themselves. In too many cases this money transfer takes place at the expense of people living on fixed incomes. What should the Government do in this situation where this complex pattern of money transfer goes on all the time?
My second specific recommendation is that the basic benefit should be enough. I realise that we cannot achieve this ideal overnight; but we should make it our target that the final National Insurance benefit for men and for women should be enough for them to live on even if they have no other income. It should not be necessary to resort to application for supplementary benefit except in particular circumstances which may, indeed, be regarded as special cases.
One can argue against the idea of the national insurance pension being sufficient on grounds of the gigantic gross cost. The Chancellor of the Exchequer speaking a few days ago to the Institute of Actuaries gave a figure of £700 million gross as being the cost of raising the basic pension to eliminate the need for supplementation. But this is a case where gross and net figures are far apart. I suggest that the Housing Finance Bill, which hon. Members opposite were so unwise as to oppose, will make a significant contribution here.
299 One of the greatest difficulties in bringing everybody up to the point of freedom from means tests all over the country is the wide range of rents between country and towns and even within large conurbations. If a major contribution towards providing for rent is now to be made by another means, we shall soon have gone a long way towards freeing large numbers of our pensioners from the necessity to apply for supplementary benefit. There is also the question which was raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Worcestershire, South (Sir G. Nabarro), that through taxation a large part of the money given to the better-off pensioners would be recovered again. I have often made the point that it is easy to give people basic benefits and to apply a partial degree of selectivity through the tax system. This is another example of the way in which the same system could work.
In the relationship between the generations expressed in this complex structure of money transfers, we must always remember our moral commitment. When we ourselves come to retire we shall ask our children to be generous to us. They will be entitled to say "What did you do in your time for your parents, that you are now asking us to make a sacrifice for you?" All of us in this House would have to look shamefaced if we were asked that question, because we and the country at large know that we are not doing enough for our old people.
I hope the Government will think again about their attitude to the adequacy of the basic pension and will declare it as their intention to raise it to the point where it is enough.
Where entitlement is based on contributions, I am very concerned, too, about the problem of people who either voluntarily or involuntarily change their jobs in the course of their careers. At present we have the unsatisfactory situation that the great majority of people who change their jobs have to lose their pension rights in their occupational scheme as a result. This is not only damaging to the ideal of a property-owning democracy and our hope that people at all levels will be able to accumulate savings. It also offends the moral conscience of the public.
I know the argument that if an employer introduces a voluntary scheme one 300 of the terms of which is that a man leaving before retirement is bound to lose his contributions, it constitutes retrospective legislation to say that in respect of the contract that clause must be waived.
The taxpayer has a large stake in occupational pension schemes because of the generous tax concessions which are made available to them every year. Over the passage of years the stake of the taxpayer in a fund grows to be a very substantial part of it. When the pension starts to be paid out again in due course—if it is paid out—the taxpayer recoups his share by charging tax on that pension. But while the fund is building up in preparation for paying the pension, certainly the taxpayer has a stake in it, and that gives the taxpayer an entitlement to insist on certain conditions being observed.
I worked closely with my hon. Friend the Member for Petersfield (Miss Quennell) in preparing a Bill the object of which was to suggest ways in which one could go the whole way towards transferability of pension rights. Due to the opposition of Labour Members, we did not even secure a Second Reading for that Bill. Had we done so, we could have had a fruitful Committee stage. Although the solutions proposed in that Bill may not all have been the best possible, we attempted to introduce ways in which all the snags known to exist in connection with transferability had some sort of answer. If hon. Members had been able to give their minds to these specific problems one by one, we might now be a lot nearer transferability than we are today.
Last Session, under the Ten Minutes Rule, I introduced a Bill which reproduced largely verbatim the Clause of the Crossman Bill which was intended to give effect, at any rate, to preservation. That, too, was blocked by an hon. Member opposite, among others, so I did not get a Second Reading for that either.
When we discussed the Finance Bill this year I introduced a series of Amendments the object of which was to draw attention to ways in which the question of transferability or preservation might be tackled. I thought that I was putting it at the lowest possible when I suggested an Amendment which would have made it at any rate permissible for employers to protect the pension rights of their 301 employees if they wished. That also got nowhere.
I recognise that there is a question over the man who wishes to take back his own contributions to his fund. People who operate pension schemes are hostile to this right. Naturally, it disrupts their long-term financial plans. But I had a painful interview with a constituent who told me that after 25 years he had unexpectedly been made redundant. He had to decide whether to withdraw his contributions from his pension fund because he did not know for how long he would be unemployed, or whether to leave them in to protect his future. His difficulty was that, not knowing how long he was likely to be unemployed, he did not know whether he would be able to continue to educate his children during the time that he was out of work. His question was whether he should consider his children's education or whether he should look after himself. He decided that it was right for him to take out his contributions, although it meant a great sacrifice to him to do so.
I would always advise anyone in that sort of dilemma that the right course is to take out his own contributions and to forfeit his employer's, unless he has a clear undertaking from his employer that the value of his entitlement will be protected from inflation with the passage of time. I do not know of many schemes which give a specific guarantee in that regard.
In introducing their "Strategy for Pensions", my right hon. Friends have dealt with this problem of protection of pension rights on changes of employment as they think best. But what they have done does not measure up to the commitment of the party. In our manifesto we said:… we will ensure that everyone can take their pension rights with them when they change their job".It seems to me that there is only one interpretation of those words, and it is that we intended to find a means of bringing in transferability of pension rights and, what is more, that we intended doing it in the life of this Parliament.
I know that "Strategy for Pensions" is intended to be brought into effect in 1975. I do not think that that is soon enough to deal with this urgent problem. Where there is a will there is a way, and the 302 problem of the protection of pension rights on a change of employment should be tackled now. I should like to see it tackled in the Budget next year. It is through the tax provisions that the first move should be made.
This is not a matter that we can allow to run on over the years when there is so much anxiety about employment, so much unexpected redundancy, and when it is the Government's policy, which I support, to encourage people to change their jobs in order to get into more lively industries and make the most of their careers.
Those are my three specific suggestions. I think, too, that there should be mechanical improvements in the way that we administer pensions. In June or July of this year I went to Brussels with a group of hon. Members and spent a fruitful day at the headquarters of the Prévoyatice Sociale, where officials showed us the machinery that they use and the way in which they tackled pension changes in Belgium. Of course, the numbers involved there are a good deal smaller, but presumably our greater numbers merely require a larger machine. In Brussels they were working up to the third total revaluation of pensions this year. They had had one cost-of-living increase earlier in the year; during the spring or early summer they had introduced a full-scale up-rating; and they told us that in October they expected that it would be necessary to introduce another general increase in pensions because of the cost of living. When I asked how much notice it was necessary for them to have in order to introduce a change in pension rates across the board, they said—as I recall it—that as long as they had the figures which were to be brought into payment by 25th September they would be able to make the first payments at the new rates on 6th October. That makes our months of waiting after changes have been decided look quite obsolete. Although I recognise the dedication, the hard work and overtime of all those involved in the administration of our pension system, often they remind me of the sort of firm which is so busy operating the old system that it has no time to consider improvements.
Another possible improvement which might commend itself to my right hon. Friends is that Belgian pensioners are 303 not expected to queue in post offices to draw their pensions whatever the weather. Their pensions are brought to them in the form of cash and placed in their hands by the postman. Admittedly, it is done only monthly; they do not get their pensions every week, as British pensioners expect. But we could treat our pensioners more humanely in the way that we expect them to draw their entitlements.
As for the two-yearly reconsideration of pensions, I suggest to my right hon. Friend and my hon. Friend that they should stick to their plan. However, I believe that what they should consider every two years is whether it is possible for pensions to be un-rated altogether. In the meantime, I think that they should commit themselves to some kind of automatic increase tied to the cost of living. If the cost of living rises by a certain percentage, the Government should commit themselves, whatever the date, to introduce a corresponding change in pensions. But they should stick to the two-yearly programme for a complete review and reconsideration of the general level of pensions.
Our policy towards our old people must be clear and specific. If it is, the money will be there. The good heart of our working people wants our old people to have a fair deal. In addition, I believe that our administrative methods must be efficient and humane.
§ 6.10 p.m.
§ Mr. Laurie Pavitt (Willesden, East)
The hon. Member for Kensington, South (Sir B. R. Rys Williams) speaks on this subject with a good deal of knowledge, and the House respects his expertise. I should like to follow him on two points which he raised, but he must forgive me if I cannot profess his intimate detailed knowledge on this important subject.
First, I take the fair point made by the hon. Member about not having everything for everybody all the time and that if we are to pay pensions, we must be prepared to accept the responsibility of finding the wherewithal to pay them. The hon. Gentleman suggested that we could not go further into taxation. My hon. Friend the Member for Hitchin (Mrs. Shirley Williams) pointed out in an intervention that we were quite specific 304 in our proposal to increase contributions. The whole debate is really about the redistribution of the country's wealth with more justice to the old. If we are to give more to the old, it has to come from somewhere. Therefore, we must be prepared to accept that responsibility and, if necessary, increase taxation and take resources from other groups of people if it is needed for justice to the elderly.
I remind the House that what I consider one of the most courageous political acts since I have been in this House was in 1964 when Peggy Herbison, who was loved by all on both sides of the House, was Minister. For reasons of social justice it was necessary to raise the old-age pension. That meant finding £300 million which we had not got. The Government were prepared to put 6d. on income tax and petrol, at a time when their majority in this House was only five and knowing that every newspaper was saying that within a few weeks there would be a General Election. The Government were right to take that step, although they knew that there were more votes affected by petrol and tax than old-age pensioners.
The second point on the contribution of the hon. Member for Kensington, South concerns his analysis on entitlement. The point which he missed is the corporate national and community entitlement which we owe to the older generation. Everything that my generation and my children have rests on what those 8 million did in their lifetime. Therefore, it is not a question of measuring what their personal savings or contributions might be or how much the £ s. d. works out. We owe that debt to those who went before us for the standard of living we enjoy today. That is an entitlement which the House should honour.
I disagree with the hon. Member for Billericay (Mr. McCrindle) who, in his opening remarks, deplored the fact that politicians and politics must come into this matter. When this House is not concerned about the care and pensions of the elderly, it will be a sorrier institution. There must be a certain amount of cut and thrust from time to time with both sides of the House seeking to put their views. I often find that we get bogged down in figures. The debate can become arid when we throw out at each 305 side at Question Time, "You did this, we did that. We did that and you did the other." I should like in my contribution to this debate to put some bodies on the figures.
Many hon. Members will have seen the excellent work done by a voluntary body called Age Concern on Pensioner Incomes. My contribution concerns not only the Government's pension scheme but the whole of the fringe benefits and the way that we are able to deal with our geriatric cases in hospitals, and the elderly in the community, which in the end boil down to individual cases.
Hon. Gentlemen opposite have talked about giving a Christmas present to the old-age pensioners. I hope that my speech will be a birthday present to one of my constituents, Maggie Nelson. She gained a bit of national publicity during the Labour Party conference at Brighton when she demonstrated outside the hall what she thought the Labour Party should be saying about old-age pensions. Because she is a bonny fighter, she was in Brighton the following week at the Tory Party conference, again making the same case. She had her eightieth birthday last week. Any contributions which I make I regard as my effort to support what Maggie Nelson has been doing for the 80 years of her life.
I should like to quote from a pensioner in Slough, who says:I have always paid insurance stamps and so I get £8.75 a week. I think that the rent here is too much for old people—it is £6.70 a fortnight and the week you pay that it is really bad.… Then there is the big things like coal and electricity—so I pay my electricity on a week that is not a rent week and get by on bad weeks by eating up what I have put in my cupboard on a good week.This is not an individual case. One can multiply it thousands of times. In our travels, we have all met constituents like this lady.
I should like to quote another example of a couple with supplementary pensions where the husband was blind. Last week I had the privilege of spending five hours with blind unemployed people and others in the campaign that they were running on unemployment of blind persons. This couple say:We always have money worries. You cannot have luxuries or anything like that.… I do not buy meat because it is too expensive.… When we got behind with 306 the rates when my husband went into hospital I sold my rings and everything. Then I had another bill for the rates—and the bailiffs came round put on to me by the rate people.… And the electricity and gas bills worry me terribly … no, I could not tell you what I spend on food.This is 1971. We should not, in a civilised society, be able to make such quotations in the House of Commons, yet we can. The debate is taking place today because hon. Members on both sides are feeling a little ashamed at how little they have been able to do. Both parties stand equally on this matter in that we have never yet done quite enough.
Mention has been made of hypothermia. I recall the body of a woman being brought into the Central Middlesex Hospital, not having been found until she had been dead for three days, and yet, when she was brought in, she had a temperature of 70 degrees. This should not happen in a civilised society.
We hear about the fringe side of this matter, which has its importance, but basically it boils down to how much money a person has to obtain the necessities of life. Mention has been made of that excellent organisation, the Women's Royal Voluntary Services, which takes round meals on wheels. At the last count, there were about 4,200 elderly men and women in my constituency living alone in single rooms. Their lifeline is the meals-on-wheels service, home help and other things which we are able to provide for them.
I went round with the meals-on-wheels service to an elderly gentleman who is immaculate. He has his hair brushed neatly; he always keeps himself neat and tidy. One can see oneself in his brightly polished old shoes. Yet he wears his overcoat at lunchtime and does not light a fire until 5 o'clock in the afternoon. On the stroke of five he lights his fire. This is not just one case. My hon. Friends from other parts of the country can duplicate it.
Recently there was a fight in my constituency between the local authority and the Government agencies because the local authority felt that when elderly people were living in council premises they should be charged the full economic rent which should be made up by supplementary benefit. After several months of acute anxiety we were able to resolve 307 this problem. I am grateful to the Under-Secretary that eventually the Supplementary Benefits Commission was prepared to pay.
We have had a ridiculous situation. We take old people from slums and areas of bad housing and put them into modern areas where councils have erected the kind of premises which I believe are far better than geriatric wards of hospitals, where old people can live in their own surroundings with a certain amount of public support. Because these premises are modern they have central heating. The old people could not afford the central heating charge. Because they could not afford it, they each turned their own central heating off. Therefore, they had all been to the local flea market, or whatever it is called, and bought second-hand oil heaters. It is cheaper to buy paraffin than to switch on the central heating.
This is a ridiculous situation. I am not blaming the Department. I share the esteem of my hon. Friend the Member for Gloucestershire, West (Mr. Loughlin) for the Department. In my area, nobody is better or more welcome than the visitors from the Department of Health and Social Security who, unlike the old days when the officials were like the policeman, who called to see whether one had something to sell before being able to get benefit, now call to make sure that people are getting their entitlement. Despite that, the red tape at times is such that even they cannot get through and we are getting the kind of situation which I have just mentioned.
The point has been made about upgrading being carried out annually. However we like to explain it—and my hon. Friend the Member for Gloucestershire, West (Mr. Loughlin) did so regularly when he was on the Government Front Bench, and it is now done by the Minister—it is logical and rational. In pure arithmetical terms it is all very obvious, but it is not obvious to the person who, when he gets the extra amount, finds that he is in fact back to square one because of the difference of the one-year and two-year sessions between supplementary and ordinary grading.
I quote again from "Age Concern on Pensioner Incomes":A two-yearly review can only restore the purchasing power of the pension retrospec- 308 tively, and is never back-dated. One wonders how many trade unions or staff associations would tolerate cost of living settlements 21 months out of date and taking six months to implement.I was interested to hear the remarks of the hon. Member for Kensington, South about computerisation and his visit to Brussels, because I recall that when my then right hon. Friend Peggy Herbison was Minister she was almost heartbroken on finding that it took six months to get the increases through to those who were to receive them. I remember her assurance in 1965 that never again would any Minister of Pensions be in the situation of having to face a long delay in implementing his proposals, and yet in 1971 we find that the delay is still too great, in spite of things having been speeded up.
Because we are talking about pension schemes, nothing has been said about concessionary fares which make life worth living for elderly people who want to visit their grandchildren. Proposals have been put forward in recent years to provide concessionary fares, but local and transport authorities have hedged the scheme around with so many provisos about the time of travel, those who are able to benefit and the boundaries to be observed that not a great deal has been done. At one time the London Boroughs Association suggested that the scheme should apply only to those over 70. What happened to those over 65 was too bad.
In terms of the quality of life of elderly people and enabling them to get out and about, from the point of view of health, which is more my subject than pensions, it would be worth all the money that we could spend to prevent an elderly person from retiring into his shell.
I wish to refer to prescription charges for women pensioners. This is something which the Secretary of State might perhaps consider when he is wearing his other hat. His problem is that he has to wear two hats and find a way of dealing simultaneously with health and social security. Surely a woman pensioner should not have to wait five years before she is entitled to free medicine.
The Minister is aware of the cost of geriatric wards, and also of the tragedy of them. As the Minister responsible for the health of the nation, he has declared his policy of trying to get people away from hospitals and into domiciliary care. 309 If he can provide adequate pensions as well as the other services which an elderly persons needs when living alone, not only will he be able to achieve that, but he will prolong the lives of a number of people.
We all know what the problem is. An elderly person has his roots in his possessions. He often lives in the past, on his memories. The moment he is uprooted and put into a geriatric ward, because he can no longer cope with his problems, and because his independence has gone, he turns his face to the wall and dies within a few days. It is that kind of human problem with which the House has been trying to deal today, not with statistics, facts and percentages relating to this or that. What we have been debating today is just how much we, as a community, can care for the elderly.
§ 6.25 p.m.
§ Mr. Robert Boscawen (Wells)
I agree with the hon. Member for Willesden, West (Mr. Pavitt) when he says that we can never be satisfied with what we do for the elderly. We on this side of the House care very much for the old people. Thus we know how much interest the hon. hon. Gentleman has taken in them and in what he calls putting the clothes on the figures.
I was sorry that the debate started with the hon. Lady the Member for Hitchin (Mrs. Shirley Williams), whom we all admire when she speaks on these matters, saying that our record was a "sour irony". I suggest that if that is so it must follow that the attempts of all Governments to bring about a tolerable and growing standard of living for retirement pensioners during the last 20 years must also have been a sour irony because, taking the best years of improvement in pension levels by both parties, there has not been very much difference in them. I agree with the sentiments of the hon. Member for Gloucestershire, West (Mr. Loughlin) that we have to get away from the idea that "anything you did we did better, or anything you can do we can do better".
What matters most to the one-third of retirement pensioners at the lowest level, and the one-third at not quite the lowest level, is that the record, whichever Government are in power, is a good one. 310 We have to concentrate on improving the benefits for the lower level two-thirds of retirement pensioners. I think that all parties have come a long way from the Beveridge idea of the flat-rate equal benefit for everybody, but in practice both parties have come to give what is really an annual increase to the lowest one-third—an increase in supplementary benefit one year and a smaller pension increase the following year. Surely it is not beyond the wit of my right hon. Friend and his Department to call it an annual increase and work out a scheme which ensures that the supplementary increase is not deducted from the pension increase the following year.
I understand that the difficulty about doing that is that it puts some of the other two-thirds retirement pensioners who are not on supplementary benefit at a disadvantage. But surely in this age of the computer it would be possible to identify those who, in the year of the pension increase, would be getting less than supplementary benefit pensioners without having their supplementary benefit increase of the year before deducted from the increased pension. That is a matter which Ministers of both parties have not taken seriously enough. They have not realised how much that act is misunderstood and disliked by the lowest and poorest pensioners who suffer this deduction every other year.
I was sorry that the hon. Lady the Member for Hitchin made such a scathing attack on our record, for another reason. We have made a considerable change, of course, over the practice adopted by previous Governments with regard to public service and Armed Forces pensions. In the last 20 years it seems to have been taken for granted that the older the service pensioner, the less well off he should be. This has applied particularly to the widows of the earlier retired people. The view seems to have been that the older the service pensioner, the further behind he should be left in the struggle to maintain a tolerable standard of living. The bitter truth is that until two months ago these old people had not the slightest hope of ever enjoying as of right a standard of living during retirement at a level which they had earned and to which they had contributed. Some of us have taken this matter very seriously for a long while before we entered the House and since. 311 We know some very hard cases, particularly of Armed Forces widows who have suffered silently for a long time.
Restoring the purchasing power of public service and Armed Forces pensions awarded before 1st April, 1969, to the level of 1st April, 1969, and giving an undertaking that that base line will be reviewed biennially has gone well beyond the commitment of our party before the election, and of any other party. It is a substantial improvement. Since the 1969 base figure, on top of that there is, of course, an 18 per cent. cost of living increase. This action of the Government has been welcomed by the Armed Forces and the public services. We need to draw attention to what we have done for these well-deserving cases.
Of course, there remains many omissions and unfair anomalies in this respect, and there always will be. There are still some misogamists, I feel, particularly in the Treasury and to some extent in my right hon. Friend's Department. They do not seem to like widows very much, particularly Armed Forces widows, and still give them only one-third of their deceased husband's pension. I should like to see this raised to one-half as early as possible.
We have not yet heard whether the Government have decided on the difficult question of giving pensions to Service widows who married after the retirement of their husbands. Some of us went to see the Minister about this as early as 9th March—nine months ago. We have not yet heard anything and I hope that there will be something said about this soon, because it is a case which seriously needs looking into as soon as possible. Some war widows are still far from receiving the special consideration which they should be receiving. Those are some of the anomalies, and we cannot rest satisfied until they are put right.
The date for the reduction from 60 to 55 of the age at which the increases in Service pensions became payable has not yet been decided or announced by the Government. I hope that they will not put it off too long, in view of inflation and the difficult circumstances which many of those people are facing through unemployment.
312 As well as what has been done for public service and Armed Services pensioners, the Government have a remarkable record in regard to the war pensioners. There was a considerable improvement this September which all hon. Members should welcome.
One part of my right hon. Friend's Department which should be mentioned—I came at the sharp end of it only a few weeks ago—is the War Pensioners Welfare Service. I was surprised to be called upon by one of the welfare workers in the ordinary course of her duties. She wished to inquire about the pension which I was receiving, the position that I was living in and my general condition of life.
I very much welcomed her and had a long talk. I found that the War Pensioners Welfare Service officers have, in the past year or so, called on every 100 per cent. disability pensioner from the First World War in the country at his home to see how he was getting on. That is something greatly to the credit of the Department. These officers are at present carrying out the same exercise for the 100 per cent. disability pensioners of the Second World War: that is how I came in. I think that this sort of work, which is done by a few dedicated people, is something which this House should be proud of and should recognise. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."]
As I said, the Government have much to be proud of in their record, but they have still a long way to go to put right some of the smaller things. That is what I should like them to concentrate on in the next year or two of their existence—looking after some of the anomalies particularly with regard to the widows, some Service widows and widows who married after their husbands' retirement and so on. We must look after some of these smaller cases if we are to say that we really care for the people whom we are put here to represent.
§ 6.36 p.m.
§ Mr. Hugh D. Brown (Glasgow Provan)
It is a pleasure to follow the hon. Member for Wells (Mr. Boscawen). I do not want to pursue his general theme of recognising the excellent work of the welfare officers for war pensioners. What strikes me is the contradiction in the 313 character of hon. Members opposite. I do not say this in a personal sense, but although they are so reactionary in general political terms, when they consider their experiencies and contacts with ordinary own Government, in the excellent way in which many have done today. The Government are having a rough time. I admit that there have been one or two individual compliments, but these have been paid usually to the Department and certainly not to the policy of the Government.
I support the Motion. One of the areas of conflict here is reflected again in the contradictions of hon. Members opposite. We are supposed to be the party who think that the man in Whitehall knows best. Hon. Members opposite take a general anti-Civil Service approach—
§ Mr. Brown
The hon. Member is one of the best examples of those who make these usual cheap comments about bureaucracy.
Nevertheless, it is true, in general party terms, that the country is encouraged by some irresponsible local newspapers—rather like some irresponsible Members—to believe that the party opposite always wants to get away from the concept that the man in Whitehall knows best. We have lost one or two elections on this distinction. But they are then stuck wih it.
There is a general recognition that if ever a Department needed an increase in staff, it is the Department which we are discussing tonight. In many ways some of the ideas put forward, some of which would not cost too much, face genuine administrative difficulties usually connected not with the quality but with the quantity of saff. The present Government are no better and no worse than previous Governments when it comes to increasing the numbers of staff which are needed and the improvement in the working conditions of the employees. This is another aspect to take into account when we are making positive suggestions on the way in which the Government can help pensioners.
I will not argue the general economic case because that was done cogently by my hon. Friend the Member for Hitchin 314 (Mrs. Shirley Williams). Arguments about the ability to influence the management of the economy can be left to more appropriate debates, though there is a point of substance in the Government's case against the idea of a Christmas bonus.
I am always reluctant to argue for anything that seems to be particularly popular and attractive. The circumstances in 1964 were to a considerable extent different from those of today. We were then one-and-a-half years away from the previous increase. Today we are told by the experts that despite the high rate of unemployment, our balance of payments position is strong and the economy is in a favourable condition. It should, therefore, be easier now to justify making an increase on an annual basis. I admit that I do not like arguing this way as a general principle, and I would rather look at the overall possibility of giving increases to those in the greatest need.
We sometimes suffer from an exaggeration of the case. I fear that I may be misunderstood, even by some of my hon. Friends, when I argue this way, and I say this as a result of visiting old people's clubs and being in contact with the elderly. Many old people feel, no doubt understandably, that they have acquired virtues and talents which they never had when they were younger. In my experience they usually get worse as they get older, but as I have a mother-in-law living with me I had better not pursue the point. Suffice to say that we all become more difficult as we age, if that is possible in some cases.
There is a natural tendency on the part of those concerned with old people—in pension offices, voluntary bodies and even hon. Members, who must rely occasionally on getting votes—to play to this type of psychological thinking without examining the matter and without being sure that we know where the areas of greatest need lie.
It is easy to say that every pensioner requires an immediate increase, but that is not necessarily so. It is clear, for example, that while 75 per cent. to 80 per cent. of the retired need an increase, some war pensioners and public service pensioners are also in receipt of retirement pensions, as the hon. Member for Wells pointed out. A lot of loose talk is 315 indulged in about giving a blanket increase to all retirement pensioners, and this talk can be misleading.
It may sound as though I am adducing a Tory argument, but there is need for selectivity here and I want to ensure that those in the greatest need get the greatest help and get it soon. I am therefore prepared simply to ask the Government why they cannot do something soon—I am a very reasonable guy who likes arguing for something when there is a prospect of getting it—for retirement pensioners who are in receipt of supplementary benefit.
For some reason, when we talk about supplementary benefit we always feel the need to talk about every form of benefit. The Government must recognise that there is fear and alarm among the one-third of pensioners who are the worst off. While we can make a general case for having an annual review of all pensions. I would settle—I would not be satisfied with this alone, but it would do for now—for an assurance from the Government that there will be an increase in the rates of supplementary benefit long before next September or October. I make this request for a number of reasons. I do not wish to be controversial, but one of my reasons relates to the lack of support for the Government's policy of taking us into the European Economic Community, a subject to which I shall return.
So as not to delay the House I will make a few quick suggestions that should appeal to the Minister because they would not cost much to implement. My hon. Friend the Member for Willesden, West (Mr. Pavitt) referred to the excellent services provided in his constituency by the W.V.S. and it is in this connection that I have a practical proposition.
I am not lodging a complaint but asking for consideration to be given to my suggestion. We should investigate why local authorities either will not or are unable to use the school meals service, on a costed basis, for the provision of food for old people in selected or appropriate areas. I am not criticising the Government over this because I have been a member of a local authority. Here we have excellent facilities with kitchens and staff. I hope that the Minister will live 316 up to his reputation of having rather more imagination than some of his predecessors and will consider this suggestion.
An approach has been made in Glasgow to a couple of hospital boards urging that any surplus capacity they have in the hospital catering service should be used for supplying meals in selected areas to old people. I am not asking for a subsidy of any form and have no doubt that the financial angle could be worked out. I am sure that only the existence of a great deal of red tape is discouraging many bodies from thinking along these lines.
Prescription charges have not been mentioned, and this indicates the tremendous need for an improved visitation service. Changes in supplementary benefit were made by Governments of both parties with the idea of reducing the number of visits that had to be made, and we thought that that had merit. But with the vast increase in the number of means-tested benefits—I am not necessarily objecting to them; there has been a proliferation of them, particularly in terms of prescription charges—more should be done to improve the visitation services.
The Minister must have been indundated with complaints from hon. Members about the somewhat misleading nature of the leaflet in relation to the earnings limit. This is a complicated matter into which I will not go now. The Minister will appreciate what I mean. A visit can do far more than any hon. Member can do by letter, and I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will look into this matter.
My hon. Friend the Member for Willesden, West referred to concessionary fares. Under a Labour authority in Glasgow we have been negotiating with the Scottish Omnibus Group. It will please the hon. Member for Worcestershire, South (Sir G. Nabarro) to hear that although we have a Labour authority and a nationalised industry, we cannot get any progress out of either.
It seems that as the result of an anomaly we can have concessionary fares in Glasgow on corporation transport, but because the Scottish Omnibus Group operates in some fringe areas, other citizens of the same city are being denied 317 this concession. Many activists in politics do not understand why it is taking so long to settle this matter. Although the Minister may say that it is not his responsibility, it is well known that if one has a word with a colleague who has some direct responsibility, it is amazing how wheels can begin to turn. I hope that the Minister will bear that in mind.
An announcement has been made by the Secretary of State for Employment about the setting up, on an experimental basis, of an attempt to use young unemployed people in community work. I have a constituency interest here, but since I have no local newspaper no one will read about my speech. I am not trying to overdo the constituency angle, but this matter needs a little more than £500,000 or only one experiment in the whole of Scotland. I do not see this as just a bit of amelioration for the younger unemployed but as having the possibilities of quite an imaginative scheme. There is even something to be said for younger people who have left school, perhaps in a better economic climate, wanting to do some social work. There seems to be the seed of a worth-while idea, albeit introduced at present for other reasons.
Finally, on a more controversial note—and I do not say this because I am a pro-Marketeer; I do not want to stir up more trouble, because we have enough—the Government have completely underestimated the feeling of old people about change of any kind. From surveys I have carried out, there is no doubt that support for the idea of entry into the Common Market was greatest among the young people and least among the old, for very understandable reasons. I was not trying to argue the Government's case. In fairness, all I said was that the facts were there in black and white, the same as any other Government have said, and that the Government had said that if there were additional rises in the cost of living due to entry into the Common Market they would meet them.
I have no evidence to suggest that the Government will not meet those rises. But that is not enough when we are aware that most people on supplementary benefit know from experience that they will be worse off next year than they are this year. Rightly or wrongly, they will attribute that to the Government's policies. If for no other reason than com- 318 manding greater political support, it would be wise for the Government, if they will not accept the demands for big increases, at least to give some assurance that those with the greatest need can look forward to an increase in their benefits sooner than they would normally expect.
§ 6.53 p.m.
§ Sir Gerald Nabarro (Worcestershire, South)
Whereas the hon. Member for Glasgow, Provan (Mr. Hugh D. Brown) pronounced himself a pro-Marketeer, I pronounce myself an anti-Marketeer, and dedicated to that cause. Though it does not have any major impact on the debate today, I re-echo at once a phrase of the hon. Gentleman in the early part of his speech, when he said that elderly people viewed with fear and alarm their present economic circumstances and the inadequacy of their State pensions. I will deal with that in greater detail shortly. But at the outset I should like to try to put it into perspective in my own way.
It would be a poor Member of the House who did not have a major regard for the needs of those of retirement age in his constituency when the statistics reveal today that 20 per cent. of all our constituents are of retirement age. There are now about 8 million men and women in Britain of retirement age, out of about 40 million electors, which is about 20 per cent., and the figure has risen sharply in recent years.
The figures touched on by my right hon. Friend are instructive and ought to form a kernel of the debate. I quote them in full as a summary of the relationship between the number of workers and the number of retirement pensioners during the last 20 years, measured at five-yearly intervals. There are four significant ratios. In 1955 there were 5.3 workers to each pensioner; in 1960 there were 4.4; in 1965 there were 4.0; and in 1970 there were 3.4—all of which demonstrates that statistically the number of those on retirement pension has risen by more than half in the last 15 years.
The burden on the decreasing working population is, therefore, commensurately larger every year that passes, and, having regard to lower mortality rates for men and women year by year or, expressed very crudely, because the doctors keep us alive longer, this ratio is bound to worsen from an economic and financial standpoint during the years ahead.
319 I am not unduly censorious of my right hon. Friends in this matter of continuous inflation during the last 16 to 18 months since the Tories regained power. Inflation is continuous, and has been since the end of the last war. No politician in any Western country has yet devised a formula for reconciling policies of full employment with policies of stable prices. They appear to be inimical, the one to the other, and it is certainly being proven today that higher levels of unemployment do not connote fixed prices.
But it is perfectly certain that the section of the community which suffers more than any other section in the kind of conditions we have endured during the last couple of years is those on retirement pensions; first, in respect of the very large increase in food prices, and second, what has been very largely dwelt upon in the debate today, the substantial increase in coal prices.
I do not believe in Christmas boxes for old-age pensioners; it is patronising and clumsy. I should far prefer to try to create a system of a civilised character. If anyone asks me what I mean by civilisation, I reply at once: the good treatment by the community of the elderly citizens and those of tender and of school age; the old and the young, in other words.
Food prices have risen by about 12 per cent. during the last 17 months. The last figure given by the Minister on 16th November was 11.6 per cent. I shall not dwell on the causes of this, because that is somewhat outside the scope of my speech, other than to say that my reckoning is that a retirement pensioner spends about 55 per cent. of his or her income on food.
The other factor which has been largely dwelt on today and which I want the Minister to do something about before this winter is far advanced—he was kind enough to allow me to intervene during his speech, as was the hon. Lady the Member for Hitchin (Mrs. Shirley Williams)—is the price of coal. In the South of England coal is costing about 90p per hundredweight bag. That is for an average grade of house coal. We all know that two-thirds of the price of coal is miners' wages. Whereas I do not begrudge miners additional wages as they do a dirty and hazardous job, 320 and I have always proclaimed myself a supporter of the highest possible wages in the mines consistent with a rising curve of output, I want my right hon. Friend to understand that house coal prices have risen in the last two years by even more than food prices. If he really meant what he said this afternoon about making special provisions for coal for retirement pensioners who are, either due to health reasons or due to housing and substandard accommodational reasons, in need of special fuel supplies, he should review the supplemental allowances for solid fuel at an early date and at least ensure in the forthcoming winter that those supplemental allowances are adequate for coal at its present price, which is very, very high.
I will talk about the price of coal and related economic factors, and so on, on another occasion. I did not wish to be pompous when I replied to the hon. Member for Hitchin saying that my interest in the matter is that I am a member of a highly technological body called the Institute of Fuel. Only one other hon. Member is a member of that body, the hon. Member for Bristol, Central (Mr. Palmer). From that springs an abiding interest in the production, distribution and cost of all kinds of basic and refined fuels.
The second point I put to my right hon. Friend arose at Question Time today. I assure him that the Question was put down 14 days ago, long before I knew there would be a debate on pensions today. It was entirely fortuitous that the Question fell to be answered at 3.15 p.m., only 15 minutes before the debate. I will read it to the House, because it is the quintessence of a part of my views on this problem.Having regard to discontent among pensioners, continuous inflation especially affecting food and fuel, and levels of unemployment, whether he will raise to £15 per week the maximum under the earnings rule which a pensioner may earn, and £30 per week for man and wife, before retirement pensions are mulcted; and what other plans he has from 1st January, 1972, for bringing up to date the earnings rule."Bringing up to date" are the operative words. It is perfectly true that the amount was raised to £9.50 only a couple of months ago, but the announcement was made many months ago. The fact is that wages and prices, which are the two considerations that bear on the level of the 321 earnings rule, have both risen a very great deal since the decision for £9.50 was originally made. I repeat to my right hon. Friend that I consider that a realistic rate today is about £15 per week. I want to go back further with my right hon. Friend, who entered the House in 1953.
§ Mr. Arthur Lewis
On a point of order. I heard the hon. Member for Worcestershire, South (Sir G. Nabarro) saying that he was wrong. Surely that cannot be in order.
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker (Sir Robert Grant-Ferris)
Fortunately, I do not have to judge the rightness or wrongness of any hon. Member so long as he is in order. The hon. Gentleman was in order.
§ Sir G. Nabarro
I correct myself. My right hon. Friend entered the House in 1956. He will remember a very important Committee established in the middle of the 1950s called the Phillips Committee. It was established by a Conservative Government to study the problems that we are examining today, the problems of the elderly, against the economic and financial background of those times, which was not so far removed from the kind of economic and financial problems we have today. A minority report to the Phillips Report, made by Professor Alexander Cairncross—later Sir Alexander Cairn-cross, principal economic adviser to the Tory Government in the early 1960s—recommended total abolition of the earnings rule, and the proposition rested on that simple concept. It said that if men and women could be encouraged to remain in full-time gainful occupation—women from the age of 60 to 65 and men from the age of 65 to 70—this would create more new wealth than the loss to the National Insurance Fund entailed by allowing them during that span of five years to draw their full pensions as well as their full earnings from full-time employment. That is still my view today.
I do not want to coerce elderly people to continue at work. I merely want to stress—and this is a personal view, widely 322 supported outside the House—that if a man retires prematurely he suffers premature senility and goes to a premature grave. The longer he works, so long as he is fit and able to work, then the longer he will live. I think that that view is utterly true today and that, with the mounting volume of retirement pensioners, part of my right hon. Friend's policy—only part of it, but an important part—ought to be to encourage men and women to remain at work as long as they are able. In that important connection, abolition of the earnings rule would be an encouragement for them to do so.
§ Mr. Joseph Ashton (Bassetlaw)
Does not the hon. Gentleman agree that the biggest problem now is jobs for school leavers? If we encourage pensioners to continue work to a great extent like this, will it not make the position of school leavers more difficult? Would it not be better to give tax relief on pensions themselves, rather than on earnings after 65?
§ Sir G. Nabarro
The hon. Gentleman leads me forward to my next point but one. Surely there cannot be any competition between the relatively sedentary jobs that one would wish to encourage men and women in their 60s to remain in and the sort of jobs one would provide for the school leavers. I do not think they are comparable. If the hon. Gentleman had said that we would swell the ranks of the unemployed in their 40s or 50s by encouraging men and women in their 60s to remain at work, I would have attached more validity to what he said. Of course it would have a bearing on the labour market, but in tackling the problem of the elderly I appeal to my right hon. Friend again on this matter of the earnings rule first to legislate in the next few months for raising the figure to £15 a week for both men and for women—because it needs legislation. If he says that he has not the time, I will happily get up early and bring in a Ten Minutes Rule Bill, which, with his benevolent support, could quickly be steered through to the Statute Book, for I do not believe that there is any significant opposition in this House to the proposition I am advancing.
§ Mr. Arthur Lewis
I was going to help the hon. Gentleman, as I always do, by suggesting that perhaps the Government would like to drop their Bill, which they 323 slipped in on a Friday, to help the poor racehorse owners and the betting and gambling fraternity. I do not think that any hon. Member is much worried when one poor racehorse owner goes under. The time could be used for helping old-age pensioners. I am sure the hon. Gentleman would support me there.
§ Sir G. Nabarro
I will offer the hon. Gentleman the important place as first sponsor of my Ten Minutes Rule Bill for the abolition, or at least the substantial extension, of the earnings rule, so long as I can have Government support.
§ Mr. George Lawson (Motherwell)
if I recall the Phillips Committee's Report aright, its principal reason for the retiral of men at the age at which they retired was that those engaged in heavy work, taken by and large, found that they could not go much beyond the age of 65. That conclusion was that if the system was continued—if full pension, for example, was to be paid at 65—those who had worked heavily all their lives were pretty well worked out by then and would be treated differently from those who had worked comparatively lightly during most of their lives and would be benefiting because they could, therefore, continue substantially longer, getting both pension and earnings. Is there not a substantial difference there?
§ Sir G. Nabarro
That was one element in the Phillips Report. I do not want to get too deeply enmeshed in this aspect but the fact remains that a great body of opinion says that if this is really a National Insurance scheme and all of us pay into it all our working lives we—men at 65 and women at 60—are entitled to draw our pensions out of an insurance scheme irrespective of what we earn after pensionable age.
§ Dame Irene Ward
I have listened with great interest to all the discussion of the Phillips Report, which I remember very well. It is fascinating to recollect that, despite the tremendous pressure that quite a number of hon. Members applied, a debate never took place on it. I think that it is a great pity that my hon. Friend, having raised it all now, did not ensure that we got a debate, because the report contained a lot of useful things.
§ Sir G. Nabarro
For the sake of the record, I should point out that I was not Leader of the House in 1955. I used to sit in the corner seat of the second bench below the Gangway. I was deeply interested in the matter. I have always been a Cairncross supporter in this context. I am now advocating it because I believe that the difficulties of retirement pensioners are even greater now than they were in 1955.
I pass to the next point which has emerged in the debate and was touched on, very accurately, by the hon. Member for Bassetlaw (Mr. Ashton)—the question of taxation. The Conservative Party has done a lot about the threshold for the elderly for income tax, which is called the "age relief". This was raised last April for the double pensioner to £834. That figure is today wholly inadequate having regard to the situation for retirement pensioners with both their occupational pensions and their State pensions.
As a double State pension is £9.70 per week, or aproximately £500 per annum, and an average occupational pension is of the order of £350 per annum, it follows that the average retirement pensioner is already above the threshold which was brought in by the Government at the last Budget. Again, inflation, taxation and economic conditions generally have overtaken the figures set up by the Government only last April, in the same way as they have overtaken the earnings rule provision of £9.50 per week.
I want to make a further recommendation to my right hon. Friend. We cannot expect anything before March next but would he represent to the Chancellor of the Exchequer what I believe is the correct and realistic figure applicable to present monetary values? It is £1,200 per annum for a married couple as the threshold for age relief for income tax purposes, advanced from £834 per annum. The concomitant of that is even more important for taxation. Several hon. Members have talked about taxation and income tax for the elderly. The point is that the older a citizen becomes, the more costly his life becomes, the more expensive it is to keep him properly clothed, properly fed, properly heated in his home, and so on. Mortality at the age of 80 or 82 or 85 is not unusual. Although the average mortality rate is a shade 325 below 70, those who survive to their 70s largely get through to their 80s.
I regard it as wholly unjust that the rate of income tax relief for elderly people should be the same at 65 as it is at 75 and as it is at 85. I would like, therefore, a new system—a "graduated age relief threshold" I would call it—which would be £1,200 per annum at 65 for a married couple. At 66 there would be a diminution of 10 per cent., so that they would pay only 90 per cent. of their tax assessment; at 67 there would be a diminution of 20 per cent. and they would, therefore, pay only 80 per cent. of their income tax assessment—so right through, dropping 10 per cent. from their assessment every year until they were 75, when the assessment would be extinguished altogether, subject to an income limit of £2,000 a year for such extinction.
That graduated kind of threshold arrangement would be easy to operate. There could be no administrative grounds against it to condemn it. If a tax expert said to me that it is much too complicated to operate. I would reply that it is far less complicated than the assessment of surtax payers. I cannot work out my own surtax. I would not attempt to do so.
§ Sir G. Nabarro
The hon. Gentleman does not work out his surtax either. He sends it to an accountant in Derby. I send mine to an accountant in Birmingham, who saves me hundreds of pounds a year by his expertise and his knowledge of rules of which I have no knowledge. A graduated threshold for income tax age relief purposes would be infinitely less complex than the present basis of surtax assessment.
My next proposition will, I hope again, also gain support from many quarters in the House. I have a constant stream of letters from pensioners all over the world proclaiming their dissatisfaction with the present Secretary of State and all his predecessors—the present Secretary of State especially, because he is a Conservative and should know better—because these men and women, retired and receiving the pension to which they were entitled on retirement date, if they go to live abroad get no subsequent increases in basic pension. There is a 326 whole host of technical arguments why a pensioner living abroad—for example, in Australia or Canada or New Zealand—should not receive the increases. They are based on the original 1948 legislation. I say that all of them are out of date and all of them are misconceived.
If a man has worked in this country all his life and at the age of 65 has, for example, no young relatives living here and decides to emigrate and live with his daughter-in-law in Australia, where the living costs are at least as high as here and rise by at least as much every year, it is my view that he should receive all the pension increases applicable to pensioners resident in the United Kingdom. To deny these few thousand men and women all over the world their pension increases seems to me to be grossly unreasonable. It would be an act of benevolence and magnanimity, having my full support, if my right hon. Friend, before his next pensions legislation, would reconsider this position with a view to granting to all pensioners resident overseas any periodical increases in the basic pension.
I want to put it on record that I am proud of my right hon. Friend's record on pensions. A dedicated Minister he is, and I would defend him on every platform everywhere in the country. He has never heard a critical word from me. The Chancellor of the Exchequer has listened to many critical words from me, but my right hon. Friend has listened to none.
The Conservative Party's record is a little better than that of the Labour Party. The Conservative record rests on this simple statistic—which is irrefutable—that between 1951 and 1964, years of Tory rule the real value of the pension rose by 4 per cent. per annum. Between 1964 and 1970 the real value of the pension under the Labour Government rose by 2½ per cent. per annum—2½ per cent. in those six years, compared with consistent growth in real terms of 4 per cent. in the preceding 13 years. This demonstrates that the Tory Party has done 60 per cent. better than the Labour Party—if it wants a game of tit for tat on pensions. I personally do not like that game, but if any loud-mouthed Labour soap-box orator starts talking about the record of the Tory Party, there it is on the record, showing how well we Tories have done in comparison with the Labour Party between 1964 and 1970.
327 This is one of the rare occasions when I warmly congratulate one of Her Majesty's Ministers on his record of conspicuous achievement in social welfare.
§ 7.23 p.m.
§ Mr. Gwynoro Jones (Carmarthen)
Apart from the concluding remarks of the hon. Member for Worcestershire, South (Sir G. Nabarro) I found myself in broad agreement with many of the points he made, especially on the Christmas bonus, which I agree is a patronising attitude to adopt towards the pensioner. I must admit, however, that if the Secretary of State is not prepared to consider an increase in the basic rate in the coming months, the Christmas bonus would be better than nothing at all.
As for the claim of the hon. Gentleman that his party did better than ours on pensions, I thought that line of argument tended to be outside the realms of the approach to today's debate. I would draw his attention to a number of aspects. I was under the impression that the Secretary of State, when quoting a 4 per cent. per annum increase, was including one Labour increase with four Conservative increases and that in referring to two 5 per cent. increases he was using Labour's pension increase in addition to the last Conservative one.
§ Sir K. Joseph
The 4 per cent. related to the period from 1951 to 1964 and the 21 per cent. to the period from the end of 1964 to 1970. The four Conservative and one Labour increases were to account for the 81 per cent. increase in real purchasing power.
§ Mr. Jones
I accept that, but I do not think it is what the right hon. Gentleman said in his opening remarks. Be that as it may, starting from a low-based figure of pensions in 1949 and 1950 and using the percentage increases up to 1964, comparing them with another percentage increase gets neither the pensioner nor the politician anywhere. I thought that the realm of this debate was above that; that it was conceded that both parties had not done enough, that both stood condemned and that both had failed to tackle this basic problem of the redistributive element of the national cake with regard to the old-age pensioners.
328 Many hon. Members in this debate have talked of the new pension scheme and the Secretary of State compared it with the previous scheme proposed by the former Labour Government. I have no intention of pursuing these interesting, important and, for the pensioners, crucial matters of the end of this century. We are today talking about 8 million pensioners who are directly concerned at their plight. Who are these people? It is important not merely to bandy around percentages and figures, but to remember two basic facts about the pensioner. First, he or she contributed directly to the wealth of this country. These are the people who built up our strength during this century and who have brought us to where we are today. They are the people who experienced the difficult and hard days of the depression in the 1930s. It is they who had to live in that time of great poverty and hardship, and it is incumbent on us now not to let them down in the days of their retirement. It is important to bear this in mind.
The situation is bleak when we consider the plight of the pensioner today, although he may be better off than he was years ago. The fact remains that we have one and a half million pensioners living alone and a commensurate number who are socially isolated from the rest of the community. About 350,000 pensioners are without the basic household amenities of bath, kitchen and indoor toilet. Indeed, the Centre of Environmental Studies, in considering the plight of the pensioner, says that 100,000 pensioners die every year through hardship caused by bad housing conditions and particularly through being unable to meet the cost of heating their homes. Therefore, it is important that the Government increase at once the heating allowance.
Again, at the recent Society of Health conference Dr. Arnold Bender said that if the over-65s received adequate nourishment there would be an increase of £150 million in the potential market for high protein food. These pensioners are desperately under-nourished and the available figures show that a quarter of them are deficient in vitamin C and vitamin B1, while a further three-fifths are deficient in vitamin B2. In talking about the need for an increase in pensions, therefore, we are saying that the result of the present 329 situation is malnutrition, personal and social hardship, and, in many cases, death. This debate should not be regarded as an academic exercise. I shudder to think that we might vote on this issue at 10 o'clock tonight and then come along next year for another debate on the same subject.
We recognise that the Government cannot do anything immediately, but they can do it within a few months. I trust that we agree with the Under-Secretary who, when in opposition, said at a meeting in March, 1970:The first charge on the state pension scheme should be to protect pensioners from rising prices. Pensioners suffer first and most when incomes are eaten away by the rising cost of living.Those are very true words. I submit to the Government and to the Secretary of State that this situation continues today, despite the last increase in September, and despite the fact that that increase is being bandied about as a generous one. It was in fact far less in real value.
The Secretary of State, when asked last July what was the purchasing power of the pension as compared with November, 1969, replied that its purchasing power had reduced by 70p. The £1 increase since last September is an increase of only 30p. In other words, the real increase is being eaten away and will disappear in early 1972. We must assess the situation in the light of that fact, and particularly so when the next increase will not be until 1973.
The Chancellor keeps getting up and down and we seem to have a Budget every other week—instant politics coming back with a vengeance. Apparently we are on the threshold of another injection into the economy. We have been saying that the pensioners deserve an increase and if there is some money available from the central Exchequer which the Government are ready to inject into the economy, let some of it be given to the pensioners. There has been a good deal of argument about whether giving them a rise will reduce unemployment and bring momentum to the economic boom. One fact which remain is that the £1,300 million in tax cuts to those who did not always need them do not seem to have brought about the economic boom, so that is no criterion by 330 which to judge the distribution of the national cake.
I ask the Minister to say why it would not be in the interests of the economy, in attempting to introduce greater purchasing power, to give an increase to the old-age pensioner. If it is not the best method, perhaps he will tell us why. It should not be simply discarded and it should be remembered that the boom we want could take place in areas where pensioners do not spend money but in which, given the increase, they probably would.
I was distressed to hear the hon. Member for Worcestershire, South (Sir G. Nabarro) say that there is no formula for curing inflation. I wish that the people had known this in June, 1970. I thought that there was a real, purposeful alternative, given by a yachtsman who happens to be the Prime Minister. Yet the cost of living has been increasing at the rate of 11 per cent. to 12 per cent. and a two-year review in that context is wholly unsatisfactory. The real value of the pension increase will have disappeared by the beginning of the year and pensioners will be faced with a period of 18 or 20 months before another increase. During this period there is no assurance from the Government that they will be able to control rises in the cost of living. An Employment and Productivity Gazette article showed, it the tables published in the Gazette are studied, there is a gap between the general index of retail prices and the index drawn up two years ago for the one-and two-pensioner households. The gap is widening to the disadvantage of the pensioner. The things that he is buying cost more. Increases in that sector are moving faster than in other sectors—gas, coal, food prices up by more than 12 per cent. in a year.
Hon. Members have criticised the delay between the announcement of a pension increase and its implementation. The hon. Member for Kensington, South (Sir B. Rhys Williams) told us about his visit to Brussels and I hope that the Department will study his remarks very carefully. The Government are keen to enter the Common Market and I hope that when Ministers have studied what he has said they will act at the earliest opportunity. If Belgium can implement pension increases in six weeks, I am sure that it is not beyond us to do the same.
331 We are being persuaded to be noncontroversial—I am not sure why—but I want to say this about the last increase. One of the first acts of the Government in October, 1970, was to announce an income tax reduction, to take effect from April, 1971. It was not until March, 1971, that they announced the proposal for pensions to take effect in September, 1971. I am sure that it would have been possible to have announced both measures in October, 1970, to take effect in April, 1971.
Turning to the length of time between reviews. It would be in the best interests of the House, the pensioners and the country for an annual review to be implemented. There have been requests to take this subject out of politics. An annual review linked to the cost of living would do this. The pensioners would know where they were. Before this is done, however, the basic rate must be raised. If that were done and an annual review implemented, we would not have to come here attempting to persuade the Government to give pensioners an increase. They cannot wait and suffer more hardship. The Minister should tell us about his proposals.
§ 7.40 p.m.
§ Dr. Tom Stuttaford (Norwich, South)
We are talking about 8 million people who are not getting a fair deal. Looking around the Chamber, can one wonder why some people do not want to televise the House of Commons debates? No doubt the 8 million pensioners would be shocked by the poor attendance.
Since we gather that it will be impossible this year to increase pensions, I must plead the Conservative principle of looking to those who are most in need. I therefore make no apology for speaking on a subject on which I have spoken many times before, the heating allowance. It is our moral duty to find an answer to the problem of keeping our old and infirm warm enough. Half an answer to the problem is not good enough. It is not a question of a person being alive or half alive. A person is either alive or not alive. It does not matter whether a person suffering from hypothermia has severe or mild hypothermia; he is suffering from hypothermia, and the heating allowance must be enough to keep him warm.
332 We have ben told that we cannot afford to increase the Beating allowance across the board, so we must see which people are most likely to suffer. I have at my side my hon. Friend the Member for The Wrekin (Dr. Trafford), who wrote one of the first medical papers on hypothermia. Hon. Members have said that the death rate from hypothermia may be 90,000, and they may well be right. Although we know of only 2,000 or 3,000 people who have definitely died from hypothermia, the number is probably more than 10 times as many, since the diagnosis is so often missed. We must discover the minority groups who are in grave danger of dying of cold this winter and see how we can help them by giving them an increased fuel allowance. I take the point of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State that it is not intended to pay the full fuel bill; but the allowance does not pay for the additional fuel which is needed.
Let us look first at the over-80s. Few people who are over 80 are sufficiently physically and mentally active to look after their own heating needs. They must have additional help.
The next group who need help are the infirm. A vicious circle operates here. A person who is infirm cannot take exercise. A person who cannot take exercise cannot buy the food for their needs. If he does not buy the food he needs he becomes apathetic. A person who becomes apathetic does not take trouble over heating. A person who becomes cold will in turn become more apathetic and will eat less. One way to break this vicious circle is to increase the derisory sum of 25p, 50p or 70p to an amount which will enable these people to stop worrying about their fuel bills and to enjoy a warm winter. Once they are warm their apathy will disappear, and they will take an interest in food and start to live the life which they should be living. By our present definitions one-third of the over-70s and all the over-80s are infirm. That is one minority group we must look to first, the extremely elderly and the infirm, and we must do what we can to help them.
The next group to whom help should be given are the blind, who have an entirely meaningless allowance of 30s. This does not even pay for the food eaten by the guide dog which a blind person may have. It is insufficient to give the blind 333 an allowance which will not even feed the dog, let alone help them in their blindness. How this has been allowed to go on year after year without a great outcry is beyond my imagination.
I hope the Minister will tell us tonight that our old-age pensioners who are becoming frail will be kept warm this winter and that the allowance for the blind will be increased to enable them to have a little extra money for themselves. We have heard many stories about hon. Members visiting the old in their houses and finding them sitting in their overcoats in front of a single bar electric fire, wearing mittens, or having to go to bed to keep warm. Those people will have been visited from time to time by a doctor and by a welfare officer; but what is needed is a constant supply of visitors. For this purpose we might use voluntary labour. The use of voluntary labour may be regarded as an excuse to save the Exchequer the money which it should be spending, but visiting the old would be a wonderful use of voluntary labour. This is done in my own city most effectively. But teams of people all over the country are needed to visit elderly people and to report to the appropriate welfare body on what is going on in a particular household.
If we can achieve these things, the debate will not have been a waste of time; it will not have been electioneering or just a matter of words. Those who need an extra heating allowance need it not just for Christmas, when the spirit of good will prevails and they may be invited out to wonderful parties, after which they are sent home to die in their cold little houses in January and February. The help is needed in January, February, March and the beginning of April. Secondly, the derisory allowance for the blind should be altered to a reasonable amount. Thirdly, we need more voluntary workers to undertake the visitation of elderly people to see what is needed and to report to the appropriate welfare authority on what they find.
§ 7.47 p.m.
§ Mr. James Sillars (South Ayrshire)
It is always a delight for a member of the Labour Party to listen to the hon. Member for Norwich, South (Dr. Stuttaford). I hope those words of praise will not prove to be the kiss of death for him in the Tory Party.
334 Many contributions from the Conservative benches have been non-political. There has almost been an appeal to us to be non-partisan on the Motion and the Amendment. During the General Election the Conservatives were not so nonpolitical on the issue of pensions and caring about individuals. If my speech is political, I make no apology, because basically we are concerned about the allocation of resources and the determination of priorities, which call for political judgment. The White Paper on pensions is a political White Paper. The hon. Member for Billericay (Mr. McCrindle) gave the game away by quickly retreating from the Amendment into the future.
My hon. Friend the Member for Stalybridge and Hyde (Mr. Pendry) was disappointed by the speech of the Secretary of State for Social Services. I was not disappointed by it. It came as no surprise to me that, after shuffling words and figures around very skilfully, he virtually said that there would be no change whatsoever in pensions. I had the privilege of sitting on a Committee with the Secretary of State during the last Session when the Government pinched money off the workers by abolishing the three waiting days. I found him then just as skilful with words, facts and figures, just as steely-hearted at the end of the day and oblivious to all appeals made on behalf of individual groups. Many of my hon. Friends insist that the Secretary of State is a man of great humanitarianism. I am sorry he is not here, but he has yet to prove to me that he is one of the great humanitarians in the Tory Party. I do not find traces of humanitarianism in any branch of the Government.
I want to deal with the Motion and the Amendment. The words of the Amendment are devoid of real meaning to the pensioners who are tuned in to the debate. The increase in pensions has been fairly adequately dealt with in earlier contributions from this side of the House. The increase has been rapidly overtaken by price increases. Those of us who have contact with old people quickly see physical and mental deterioration taking place from the time of retirement simply because of the lack of cash as inflation overtakes their financial resources.
The Amendment mentions the provision of pensions for the over-80s. At the cost of being a little pedantic, I will make 335 it clear that this does not mean pensions for all who are over 80, but only for those who are over 80 and have previously had no State retirement pension as of right. I welcomed the Bill when it was introduced, but it is not relevant to plead that it answers the main charge in the Opposition's argument that there has been a basic neglect of State pensioners. The pension for the over-80s is a diminishing commitment because the over-80s will die off within the next two or three years. Never has a cloak of humanitarianism been purchased so cheaply.
Public pensions are mentioned in the Amendment, but the provision for them makes no significant impact on the poverty of the masses of pensioners, and is not strictly relevant to the charge made by the Opposition.
The Amendment goes on to mention the increased resources made available by the Government for developing services for the elderly. While we welcome this, some of the resources allocated to the elderly would not be needed if the basic pension were adequate. Much of the pressure on geriatric resources would not arise if we provided old people with a decent standard of living in their own homes. A large allocation of resources to geriatrics is needed when people have to go to geriatric hospitals prematurely because of inadequate home circumstances.
The Government appear to pin their hopes on the increase which was given on 20th September—a fairly derisory increase. The Secretary of State said that the Government are pledged to review the whole matter in two years' time. But there are a number of old-age pensioners sitting at home tonight with an inadequate pension who will be dead long before 1973 when the review takes place. What are they to do in the period between now and then? No comfort is to be derived by them from the argument that the Government are pledged to review the matter in 1973 and to make up for any price increases which have taken place in the meantime.
The cruel, hard fact is that thousands, indeed millions, of old-age pensioners will this winter face the terrible choice between fuel and food. They are likely to make a value judgment in spending 336 their money which supplies them adequately with neither fuel nor food, and they are likely to fall between the two stools. Nothing has been said by the Government—and I doubt whether we shall hear anything later this evening—to tell the old people that circumstances will change before the end of the winter.
My hon. Friend the Member for Willesden, West (Mr. Pavitt) said that we have a moral commitment to the present generation of pensioners. He said that all our economic affluence is owed to their efforts. I agree with those sentiments and I would go further. One generation that deserves more from this society than any is the present generation of pensioners who bore the brunt of the Second World War, either in the front line or on the home front. It was that generation which prevented the light of democracy going out all over the world. If we breathe free air today as free men, it is due to the efforts of those people and those people alone.
In one way or another, we all take part in the Remembrance Day functions. When I looked at the ceremony this year, I could not help wondering about the feelings of old-age pensioners watching on television all the activities associated with that event. They must have looked with irony and bitterness when our country, quite rightly, paid its respects to the efforts of their dead comrades. But the country and the Government today have totally ignored the needs of the living heroes of that period. I think it was George Bernard Shaw who said that on Armistice Day British society salves its conscience with a 6d. poppy. I hope that before many years pass we shall salve our conscience, not with a 6d. poppy, but by paying the debt we owe to that generation in pounds and pence.
Let us remember what happened during the General Election campaign of June, 1970. I recall a party political broadcast on television in which one of the anchor men was Christopher Chataway, now Minister of Posts and Telecommunications. I vividly recall a programme about poverty and caring about people as individuals and human beings in which he assured us that the Tory Party cared—that Ted Heath, as he put it, cared and that he, Chris, cared. Many old-age pensioners in my constituency are wondering 337 when those right hon. Gentlemen will put their money where they said they would in the General Election campaign of 1970. Many of the pensioners wonder how many four-minute miles the Minister of Posts and Telecommunications would have managed to run on a diet such as that on which they have to exist in present-day circumstances.
§ Sir B. Rhys Williams
I am following the hon. Gentleman's argument with interest. He has referred to the over-80s and ex-Service pensions. Is he proud of his own party's record on either of those groups?
§ Mr. Sillars
I should make it clear that I do not endorse everything the Labour Government did during their period of office, but what we are arguing this afternoon is within the remit of the present Conservative Government and we are asking them to bring about certain changes. It is an interesting thought that all hon. Members on this side of the House—whether left wing, right wing or in the centre—must, because they are members of the Labour Party, totally support every aspect of what was done by the Labour Government. But we are now in 1971 and we are discussing a Motion, and an Amendment to it, directed at the present Government's policy. That is what I am discussing.
We have had arguments this afternoon for an immediate increase in pension. I feel the Government should go for at least £2 a week, which is the minimum any pensioner needs at present. But if the Government are worried about demand management and the inflationary effects of pension increases, how about giving some help in kind which would be a positive contribution to the standard of living of old people? I recall, when I worked with the Scottish T.U.C., arguing with Labour Government Ministers for free television licences for old people. The standard reply always was that the ultimate objective of the Government was to provide an adequate pension within which the old people were free to choose whether or not to have a television or whether to have a pint of milk. I looked back to the time when the Conservative Government were in power on the previous occasion. I discovered that the same basic Civil Service answer was given to pleas for help at that earlier 338 period of time. In other words, one Government are as bad as another, and no doubt the hon. Member for Kensington, South (Sir B. Rhys Williams) will be pleased to hear me say so.
I see no reason why a television licence cannot be granted free to old people since this would provide them with some measure of relief. Nor do I see why the Government cannot accept the concessionary bus fare scheme which, although it is supposed to be operating between local authorities and bus companies, is not working throughout the country as it should. Therefore, intervention by the central Government is required to provide the concessionary fares which are required today. I do not think the Government have made an adequate case against the provision of cheap fuel to every old-age pensioner.
My final point is that the Government should commit themselves as soon as possible to providing subsidised milk for old people. If they are to steal it from the grandchildren, at least in justice they should give it to the old people and help to subsidise certain basic foods in an old person's budget. All these arguments are valid in the present situation.
I conclude my remarks in a feeling of despair. In the past 12 months I have watched the much-maligned trade union movement, and particularly the Transport and General Workers Union, conduct a campaign for better provision for old people. We have seen 6,000 or 7,000 old-age pensioners demonstrating in the streets of Edinburgh and other towns.
§ Mr. John Golding (Newcastle-under-Lyme)
Has my hon. Friend noticed the lead given by the Post Office Engineering Union? When its members were told by the Minister of Posts and Telecommunications that no concessions could be made to the elderly, they said that they would install telephones for the elderly for nothing, so enabling the price to be reduced.
§ Mr. Sillars
The members of my hon. Friend's trade union should be congratulated for their activities on behalf of old people. The T.U.C. has for 12 months been campaigning for an increase in old-age pensions. At the end of this activity we have come to this House with the Motion today, and we shall have to return 339 to our old-age pensioner constituents and say that the Secretary of State has said No" to the increase for which we have asked.
§ 8.7 p.m.
§ Mr. Peter Fry (Wellingborough)
The hon. Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Sillars) introduced a somewhat bitter note into what on the whole has been a thoughtful and compassionate debate. It is all very well to glory in what the trade union movement says it wants to do about old-age pensions but it must be remembered that many trade unionists have been primarily responsible for the appalling rate of inflation which has made even worse the bad lot of many old-age pensioners in the last few years. I believe that his strictures on my right hon. Friend are not shared in large measure on the Labour benches nor in the country at large. I am afraid that the hon. Gentleman's judgment in this matter rather vitiates some of his other comments.
The hon. Gentleman suggested a £2 a week increase in the old-age pension. By a quick process of mathematics, this would amount to some £800 million extra a year which has to be raised. The only way the bulk of this can be raised is from the work force and the employers. If because of this extra burden employers had to put more men off and thereby increased unemployment, I can imagine the squeals which we should hear from the Labour benches. Therefore, although on this side of the House we are very sympathetic to an increase in pensions, we must realise that the consequences would involve a large increase in taxation to pay for it.
My mind goes back two years when I first entered this House. I made my maiden speech on pensions. The comments which have gone to and fro today are probably similar to those which backbenchers on this side of the House made when we were in opposition. It is increasingly clear that Governments of whatever political complexion are always in difficulty when dealing with this particular problem. Fine words from either side butter no parsnips. This is why I regret the adverse comments by the hon. Lady the Member for Hitchin (Mrs. Shirley Williams) about my right hon. Friend's proposals for the future. I 340 believe at long last the Government should look to a long-term solution on how adequately to cater for the old. I believe they are on the right lines and that in the long run we shall be well on the way to taking pensions out of politics.
People expect changes as the years go by, and what the old-age pensioners expect from society itself increases, and quite right, too. This in turn increases the burden on the Government of the day. Not only is the working population reduced but the number of hours worked by the working population is also at the same time reduced. Although the Government are on the right lines for the future, this does not help the present situation.
I was interested to hear my right hon. Friend talk about the services which are being provided for the elderly. A report last week pointed to the tremendous percentage of our old people who spend their days in hospitals and homes. The figure is about 80 per cent., of patients apart from mental health cases. This is a reason for commending my right hon. Friend's recent statement about spending an enormous amount of public money on improving services in those homes and hospitals. I think that that shows that my right hon. Friend is a humane man and that his policies are on the right lines.
However, there is another section of the elderly which increasingly requires help. I refer to those who live in their own homes. Many of them are so badly off that they cannot even afford to pay their share of improvement grants. A lady in my constituency wrote to me saying,I understand that my house could be improved. I applied to the local council. When I was told that I had to add my part, I did not have the money in the bank to pay my share.I believe that local authorities can do a great deal to help in this sort of case.
There are many elderly occupiers all over the country living in houses which could be improved. It may be that some of the houses have been improved. As the years go by, however, the ability of an aged man and his wife to cope with a complete home of their own declines, especially if it is an older house. Local authorities should do more to encourage such people to sell their houses to the local authority by offering them old persons' flats or bungalows which have the 341 correct degree of heat applied throughout, and make them a fair offer for their own houses. They cannot be paid the full market value because one has to take account of the cost of providing the council dwellings. Nevertheless, much could be done. It would do much for the health of elderly couples, and it would also give them some money in the bank which they would have received in payment for their houses. Although some local authorities are pursuing these schemes, far too few are doing it, far too few publicise them and, even now, far too few old persons' dwellings and flats are being built.
Having said that about services, we must realise that, whatever we suggest, we know that we cannot help completely all three of the categories of old-age pensioners to which my right hon. Friend referred. Those who are on supplementary benefit can be assisted by means of increased heat allowances. They will be assisted before other pensioners because supplementary benefit rates are to be increased next year in the middle of the two-year review programme for pensioners.
Those who are taxpayers could also be helped. I believe that my hon. Friend the Member for Worcestershire, South (Sir G. Nabarro) made some very constructive suggestions, and I hope that my right hon. Friend will pass them on to his right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer. There is a growing awareness among the elderly who work that they are being doubly penalised, once for being old and not being able to enjoy as large incomes as they did before, and again for what they believe to be a most unjust taxation on their earnings.
Either the amounts paid by way of pension contributions should be tax free, or the pension itself should be tax free when it becomes payable. I know that this would cost about £175 million a year, but the answer in this case is surely to raise the tax threshold for the elderly, as my hon. Friend the Member for Worcestershire, South suggested.
For the third category, those in between, there is no answer other than some kind of cash payment. The hon. Member for South Ayrshire spoke about cheaper bus fares and free or cheaper television licences. Already, cheaper cinema seats are available to old-age pensioners. But 342 not all elderly people want to take advantage of special cut rates. Many of them have a pride which does not permit them to do so. For this reason, although I encourage these moves, something else must be done before long to give these people hard cash.
I do not attack my right hon. Friend about the administration of his office. He has done more for the elderly than most of his predecessors. It is not only the over-80s, who did not have pensions before, who have benefited. There is now an extra increment for people who have reached 80. We hope to see this policy pursued farther in the future. More has been done for public service pensioners. The level of services for the elderly has been improved. Nevertheless, at the end of the day I repeat my plea. I believe that our old-age pensioners want to see the colour of the Government's money. One hopes that before long they can have the increase that they so thoroughly deserve.
§ 8.16 p.m.
§ Mr. Arthur Probert (Aberdare)
I listened with great interest to what my hon. Friend the Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Sillars) said just now. I assure him that, although he was not in this House when we were in government, many of his colleagues, myself among them, protested vehemently at the fact that the Government which we supported were not doing sufficient for the elderly. In that sense, perhaps, we are not engaged in a strictly party debate.
I must touch briefly on the remarks of the hon. Member for Worcestershire, South (Sir G. Nabarro). I am sure that all hon. Members will agree with me when I say that the hon. Gentleman is a most exasperating person. One minute we agree with him wholeheartedly. The next minute we oppose bitterly what he says. This is an occasion on which I find myself in wholehearted agreement with him. He referred to heating costs and how we should deal with them, he referred to the earnings rule, and, finally, he referred to the taxation threshold. Perhaps it is only on that last point that I find myself disagreeing slightly, since I am a little at odds with what he said about a graduated taxation threshold.
My hon. Friend the Member for Carmarthen (Mr. Gwynoro Jones), whose 343 concluding remarks I did not hear, referred to the contribution of the present generation of old-age pensioners to the society in which we live. I make a further remark about this because I do not think that it is appreciated fully by present-day society that, although the present old-age pension has increased tenfold, if not more, from what it was in the 1920s and 1930s, the demands made upon that pension in a more sophisticated society are far greater than they were in my youth.
That brings me on to the fringe benefits, and the possibility of free television licences. Here is an essential commodity which did not exist in the 1920s and 1930s. Television is a great solace to elderly pensioners. Unfortunately, many of them have had to give up their sets because of the increased licence fee.
My hon. Friend the Member for Hitchin (Mrs. Shirley Williams) raised a number of points which she thought the Government should consider. However, the Secretary of State defended his Government's record and compared it with the records of previous Governments. I repeat what I said before. I was not satisfied when we were in office with what my Government did. Certainly I am not satisfied with what the present Government are doing. Whatever else may be said, the basic State pension and the supplementary benefit are wholly inadequate when compared with what any civilised community could expect them to provide.
I do not wish to sound facetious, but I am a great lover of oranges. I cannot resist an orange. My wife, being a dutiful wife, makes sure that when I get home at weekends from this hive of industry there is a plentiful supply in the house. Last weekend she told me a little touching story. She met an elderly lady friend of ours. She is a widow in her seventies. While my wife was buying oranges for me at a cost of about 8d. each, she became aware of our elderly friend debating seriously whether she could buy one orange. She told my wife that she loved an orange for tea. But she had this cruel dilemma whether to have one orange at 8d. in the old currency or she did not say that this was the choice—an extra shovelful of coal for the fire. This is a dilemma in which many elderly people 344 find themselves. It is not a question whether we get the choice of a new car or a new colour television. This decent, elderly lady had to choose whether she should have an orange, which she liked so much—I can well understand that—or an extra shovelful of coal for the fire. In many ways that story highlights the cruel choice which faces many elderly people.
We have all been united about the cost of heating. It is not just the cost of coal, which is a basic fundamental commodity, but the cost of electricity and gas. The weekend before last I paid £25.50 for a ton of anthracite, which is essential for my central heating plant. Coal has rocketed in price in recent years. I do not share the view of the hon. Member for Worcestershire, South that coal is costing too much these days. I do not want to debate coal now, but the fact is that it has always been too cheap. This has been the issue. I could recite some interesting stories of the experiences of many of my old friends in the coal-mining areas as young men in the 'twenties and 'thirties.
The Minister quite rightly stated—theoretically he is correct—that within the basic pension there is an allowance for coal. But he must be impressed, if not by us, by many of his hon. Friends who have said that the 75p now granted as the extra allowance is farcical for meeting the extra costs of heating, which is so essential to pensioners.
Like my hon. Friend the Member for South Ayrshire, whom I respect—he is a worthy successor of a great Welshman, Emrys Hughes, who came from my constituency—the Minister is a humane man. I have experience of this in many spheres. He knows that I have paid tribute to him on previous occasions in other spheres, but not on pensions. I ask him to look at this matter again. I believe that heating costs, wherever possible, must be taken away from the basic pension. I accept that there are serious dangers in this, but I prefer to face those dangers and separate heating costs. The bills for heating should go direct to the Department to be scrutinised and paid by it. Past records of the heating costs of a particular household would help in judging whether there was any abuse. But there would be very little abuse. I think that it is better to treat the matter 345 in this way, because heating costs are going up as the weeks, and certainly the months, go by.
In the mining community which I represent there is the anomaly of concessionary coal. One may find a pensioner in one house receiving concessionary coal because the householder, a miner, or his widow—the miner may have died from industrial injury—is receiving so many loads of coal at a cheap price. Next door a widow may be paying £16, £17 or £18 for a load of coal. That is the paradoxical situation which can be found. I do not want to debate this matter now. Often, when a male pensioner dies from natural causes, even if he was a pneumoconiosis case, the concessionary coal is scrubbed completely and his widow faces these terrible heating costs. This is a matter of grave importance.
Finally, I turn to community social centres. The Minister may ask: what has this to do with the subject we are debating today? In my constituency there is an excellent community social centre in which meals—teas and lunches—are provided at very low cost. It is provided for the whole town, but we cannot expect pensioners from the peripheries to come into the town because of excessive bus costs, and so forth. I appeal to the Minister to look at this matter seriously. It is not only providing a supplement to the meals on wheels service, which is an excellent service; it is enticing the pensioner to visit the community social centre to have access to cheap meals and to meet his or her friends.
The basic pension must be increased substantially. If we have to pay for it through taxation or contributions, I am sure that our present-day society will be prepared to meet it if it is put squarely. This is important. I believe that an annual review is also absolutely essential and, furthermore, that the pension should be geared to the cost of living.
§ 8.26 p.m.
§ Mr. Ralph Howell (Norfolk, North)
I am grateful for the opportunity of speaking in the debate. I have only one point to make. Right hon. and hon. Members on both sides of the House have spoken about the need to alleviate the conditions of the pensioner. We are all 346 agreed that our pensioners need better justice.
Tremendous resentment is felt by pensioners about the tax system, which they regard as grossly unfair. I should like to draw my right hon. Friend's attention to the inconsistency and injustice of taxing pensions while at the same time exempting other short-term benefits. My right hon. Friend is aware that I have been delving into this matter for some time.
In July I asked two Questions on two consecutive days. I asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer how much it would cost to exempt National Insurance retirement pensions from taxation. The answer was £175 million a year.
On the following day I asked what the yield would be if unemployment, sickness and supplementary benefits were taxable. The answer, strangely enough, was £175 million. This is an extraordinary coincidence.
The Government could help pensioners—particularly those who have been trying to help themselves by saving for their old age—by exempting retirement pensions from taxation. They would not inflate the economy at all if they taxed the short-term benefits instead. The injustice has been brought to my attention in letters from all over the country. Pensioners are taxed on incomes as low as £12 a week, while in some cases people are receiving benefits from the State, including tax refunds, of up to £30 a week. The injustice of that is appalling.
I urge the Government to do one of two things—either tax short-term benefits or exempt retirement pensions from taxation. I believe it would be a reasonable thing to do, and by so doing the Government would be fulfilling two of their election pledges; they would be encouraging saving and helping those in greatest need.
§ 8.29 p.m.
§ Mr. Ronald King Murray (Edinburgh, Leith)
I agree with the powerful attack made by my hon. Friend the Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Sillars) on the Government's attitude to the Motion. It seemed to me that my hon. Friend had a sound argument in saying that the Government had taken six lines in their Amendment to say "No" to a Motion which clearly points to the immediate plight of retirement pensioners this winter. 347 It will not do for the Government, in any form of humanity, to come forward and tell the House what they have done in general terms. The Motion clearly highlights the plight of retirement pensioners this winter, and that is the issue on which the Government stand condemned in this debate.
I listened with interest to the Secretary of State when he spoke this afternoon, but it seemed to me that one of the weaknesses in his argument lay in the way in which he dealt with the powerful plea made from this side of the House for help in kind. We are very much aware that the processes for providing financial help to old-age pensioners are difficult and complicated. That is why the emphasis on providing help in kind is of great importance. It could be given now, and the working out of the financial implications of doing so could be left until later.
The Secretary of State turned down the request to undertake an open-ended obligation, but it is only fair to tell him that his job is an open-ended obligation. I am sure that he would be the first to accept this.
§ Mr. Murray
It is, therefore, a problem which he could leave to the Chancellor of the Exchequer. He could leave it to his right hon. Friend to close the ends which he himself, as a humanitarian, must open.
In a clear article in The Guardian today, my hon. Friend the Member for Oldham, West (Mr. Meacher) pointed out that on a reasonable estimate the amount of money involved in providing the kind of assistance to which I have referred would be about £50 million a year. That figure has been worked out with care by my hon. Friend. I therefore challenge the Government to deny that the commitment is something of that order. After all, in this age of inflation are any commitments closed-ended? Are they not always open-ended, because nobody can tell where inflation will take us? So much for that argument advanced by the right hon. Gentleman. I do not think that it bears close examination.
I come back to the fact that a positive suggestion has been made from this side of the House. It has been strongly sup- 348 ported by the hon. Member for Norwich, South (Dr. Stuttaford), with almost all of whose speech I agreed. It differed from many of the speeches made by his hon. Friends on the back benches opposite in that he went to the point of the Motion. He saw the point of it, even if others did not.
I do not think there is very much to be gained from academic argument such as those advanced by the hon. Members for Kensington, South (Sir B. Rhys Williams) and Billericay (Mr. McCrindle), who painted a glowing prospect of what longterm pension policies could provide. We are concerned with the plight of pensioners now, and we could do something to help them now. We could do it not by providing money, which is difficult and complicated and takes time, but by providing help in kind.
My hon. Friend the Member for Aberdare (Mr. Probert) put forward a suggestion about television licences for old-age pensioners. It is true that heating is vital and is often a matter of life and death, but one cannot deny the moral support which television gives to old people. It is no good the Government saying, as the Minister might do tonight, that it is difficult to provide free television licences for the elderly, because free licences are provided for the blind. If it is done for the blind, who cannot see television, surely it can be done for the old who can, and ought, to see it.
I do not know whether an answer of any credibility can be given to that kind of point. The licence fee represents a comparatively small sum. Nobody can say that the granting of free television licences to all old-age pensioners would lead to any kind of inflation. If we cannot provide heating for old-age pensioners, can we at least provide them with free television licences? The Secretary of State will no doubt say that that is somebody else's business. It is, but I hope that the Government will not try to shuffle out of this kind of responsibility by passing the buck from one Minister to another.
The hon. Member for Worcestershire, South (Sir G. Nabarro) said that at the end of the day the problem which faced society was that of determining the long-term principle upon which pensioners should be based. He produced some 349 interesting statistics showing the ratio of workers to the pensioner population and pointed out that this ratio was steadily declining. I should like to use that argument to point in complete condemnation of the Government's record. They refer to the record in their Amendment. That record is one of consistently increasing unemployment. The very productive workers upon whom the old-age pensioners depend for their pensions are steadily decreasing in numbers.
The Government's policy also stands condemned on the broader front in which they themselves have sought to take refuge. In that very sphere, if the employment prospects of the people were increased and the number of productive workers raised, the taxation yield would be increased and the wherewithal to increase the old-age pension would come. Therefore, on the broader perspective to which the Government have referred, they stand condemned by their own words and actions.
There are two alternatives which we can undertake to meet pensions. One is to adopt what has been virtually adopted by the present and previous Governments—that is, the prospect of a minimum income policy. We have a kind of tacit minimum income policy inasmuch as there is a network and right at the bottom of the subsistence level always come the old-age pensioners, those who are on supplementary benefit.
I do not want to gloss over the complications which arise with a minimum income policy, but we already have a tacit minimum income policy and the cutting edge of that policy is the old-age pensioners, the worst-off of whom are those on supplementary benefits. If that is the policy which the Government adopt, they are bound to adopt a humanitarian standard of assistance and not a mechanical or financial standard. On that humanitarian standard, I repeat the request which we are putting to the Government to give the old-age pensioners help in kind this winter—to help them now.
An alternative system for helping the pensioner, of financing pensions in the long term, the one which we should adopt, is one in which we would say that the wealth of the country, balancing productive workers against dependent persons, must be distributed so that the dependent receive a fair share of the total wealth 350 produced. That is a long-term policy, but in this situation it is no good using the arguments which some hon. Members opposite have applied to that kind of situation. We must help the pensioner now. I put that plea to the Secretary of State with all the force I can command.
§ 8.38 p.m.
§ Mr. Nicholas Winterton (Macclesfield)
This is an important debate. We all know the problems of old-age pensioners, because they often present their case at our advice bureaux and "surgeries". Perhaps some of us know of their situation because of the positions we hold in local government. I serve on a social services committee and see at first hand many of the problems which face old-age pensioners.
This debate has gone a long way towards restoring my confidence and respect in our debates. Perhaps, during my first six weeks as a Member, I have not seen the best performances from either side of the House. Too often party politics seem to dog the issue and very often befog the main crunch of the problem which the House is debating.
Tonight we are debating the plight—I use that word purposely—of the old people. I see this very often when people tell me, "We cannot afford to run our central heating" or "We cannot afford to run our electric cooker, and we have to do our cooking on an open fire". In this day and age, is that something which we should expect in a civilised society? We have a responsibility—"moral commitment" is the phrase which has been used—to our senior citizens.
I need not praise these folks for what they did when they were in work. They fought for this country and I am proud of their efforts. After all, the position and standard of life that I enjoy is due largely to their endeavours. They are now in a serious position and we must help them. What action can we take to help them? Many of the contributions to this debate have been positive and constructive. Many of the speeches from both sides have given me pleasure. When our senior citizens read what we have said today they will know that people in positions of authority are concerned about their problems and their standard of life.
351 In Questions to my right hon. Friend, I have urged that another pension increase should be given during the next 12 months. The pensioners cannot wait until 1973. Successive Governments, Labour and Conservative, have done their best for the old people, but I regret that it has not been good enough. The present Government have done more than their normal best by way of State assistance, including increased pensions, help for the over-80s, improved widows' pensions and better social services. Now the old people need positive help, and quickly. I would not go along with everything said by hon. Gentlemen opposite about an immediate increase but I hope that my right hon. Friend will provide an increase in the first half of next year.
I suggest that the earned and unearned income of people over the age of retirement should be totally exempted from income tax up to £1,500. This might seem to discriminate, but I would hope that a general pensions increase would accompany such a change. People who during their working lives have heavy commitments find when they retire that they must accept a much lower standard of living because their income suddenly reduces while their overheads in living do not reduce to the same degree.
The exempting of incomes in that way would bring instant relief to many old people and at the same time encourage savings among workers, which would be good for the economy. It would reduce the mounting pressure on the social and hospital services because people would be able to afford the correct heating—this aspect has rightly featured in the debate—and a proper diet. This would prevent them having to fall back on the State, as is now often the case.
There can be no doubt that the aged are often forgotten. They feel like pawns in a party political battle, and this is regrettable. I hope that the Government will do something positive to alleviate their plight because the circumstances of society have changed. In the past, families took full responsibility for their old people. Although their income in the form of pension has been meagre, it has often been supplemented by their kith and kin. Today, however, family respon- 352 sibility is on the wane, unfortunately, and these people have to stand on their own but very often they can hardly do so. Therefore, the Government have to realise that there is an increased commitment for the old people. Although we have made a substantial increase in the old-age pension this year, the increase in purchasing power that this has meant has already been eroded by the inflation which unfortunately dogs the country today.
I plead also, as have a number of hon. Members opposite, for free television licences for all old people. This concession would be readily acceptable to the British people and would be a positive sign that we care for the elderly and realise that much of their time is spent alone and that television is often their only form of entertainment.
Let us have an increase in the old-age pension. I am convinced that the British people would be prepared to do without any further decreases in personal taxation if my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer were able to increase the old-age pension. My right hon. Friend has achieved a great deal and I am proud of what he has done in his tenure as Secretary of State. But our old people need our help. I hope that he will help them.
§ 8.46 p.m.
§ Mr. George Wallace (Norwich, North)
I shall be brief and make only one or two points. Before doing so, I ought to declare a personal interest. Last Christmas Eve, amongst my Christmas cards I received from the right hon. Gentleman's Department a buff envelope, the contents of which advised me that if I completed the forms, provided I was not in work, I could receive a certain pension. The initial shock was the fact that I had reached the age to deserve one. But a greater shock, on thinking it over, was the question of how I and my wife could live on the pension and the supplementary pension, relating it to our very modest way of life at present.
In a constituency with so many old-age pensioners, naturally I encounter a number of their problems. We talk about a yearly review or a two-yearly review, but the blunt fact is that after the review has taken place, another 12 months elapse before the increased payment is made.
353 The fact that supplementary allowance increases are normally made before the basic old-age pension increase causes much confusion and anxiety on the part of old people. First, they receive their supplementary pension increase; then, usually months later, they have their basic pension increased, but not by as much as they thought. This causes a tremendous amount of anxiety and worry.
We have to reduce worry in old age and reduce form-filling as much as possible. This is one example of where we can, by some administrative effort, achieve an avoidance of anxiety by enabling the pensioner to know exactly what he is getting and by paying the supplementary increase at the same time as the basic pension increase.
I received a letter from an old-age pensioner which referred to the £4 Christmas box promised many years ago, which was stopped, and I was asked the reason why. This was somewhat obvious. There is a case for additional payment in the winter to meet fuel expenses.
The pensioner also spoke about loneliness and the problem of the price of bread, which is to rise shortly, and the price of tea, sugar and milk. The problem of loneliness is serious. The hon. Member for Norwich, South (Dr. Stuttaford) said that in our city the visiting services were pretty good. But in Norwich there are occasionally tragic cases of people being discovered dead, not having been seen for two or three days, after being ill and unable to obtain succour.
One way in which regular visiting can be carried out is by using the meals-on-wheels service to a greater extent. My son, with the 18-plus movement, lends an occasional hand at weekends or in times of stress to the meals-on-wheels service. He has found it a great delight to go around and meet the old people as well as giving them their meals. With an expansion of the meals-on-wheels service, using volunteers as well as local authorities and by selling it in a big way to the old people as something worthwhile, there would be regular contact with the pensioner and this would combat loneliness and many other difficult situations.
On the subject of loneliness, cheap travel is an essential factor. There is too much of a patchwork on this through- 354 out the various parts of the country. There should be central pressure and determination on the part of any Government—I am not speaking of any particular party—and direction from the centre, whether it is a local authority-owned transport undertaking or a public or private one. There should be a recognised standard of free or cheap travel for old people.
This is an important debate. Many hon. Members have tried not to be partisan; some have not. But, beyond that aspect, we have to recognise that many old people are suffering. In many cases, because of their pride they will not apply for all the benefits to which they are entitled. In our respective capacities as constituency Members, together with our helpers and workers in the constituencies, we have to ensure that people know about the services they can obtain and know that the old system of poor law has now gone.
There is a tremendous amount to do in publicity effort, in meals-on-wheels services, in free or cheap travel, and in the provision of social centres. I am lucky enough to represent a city which has quite a number of old people's clubs, but a great deal more can be done. I hope that, in reply to the debate, we shall get some positive answers to the points which have been raised.
Although attendance at the debate has sometimes been rather short, I believe that it has done the House a great deal of credit.
§ 8.53 p.m.
§ Dr. Anthony Trafford (The Wrekin)
I support those who have emphasised, although we would all like to see pensions at a higher cash level, the necessity for the development of services within the community. Although cash is extremely useful for many of the requirements of pensioners, it must be remembered, as has been emphasised, that loneliness in old age is a serious drawback, that the confusion which often occurs in old age may lead to inadequate use even of the cash which the old people have, that there is often an inadequate knowledge of what help they can obtain and also an inadequate appreciation of the fact that they may need special help.
The degree of family support which is necessary for the support of the elderly 355 has often been limited, I regret to say. I believe that this erosion of the normally accepted family support often occurs as a result of the other economic consequences of the way in which society lives today. I do not wish at this stage of the debate to develop that point, but I emphasise it by saying that it is to the necessity of community services—to those services in kind which the elderly need—more even than to cash, probably, that many hon. Members have addressed themselves. One hon. Member referred to problems of nutrition of the elderly, for example. This is of multifactual origin and is not always simply lack of cash to buy food. It is far more complicated than that. Dealing with this fact among the other things I have mentioned would help the alleviation of the situation.
Much has been said about the heating allowance. Many figures in this situation do not perhaps have a sufficient airing. I do not have the facilities to answer such a question, but I can put it rhetorically. I am sure that if the Department provided central heating and paid the cost for all those who needed it—and they were listed particularly by my hon. Friend the Member for Norwich, South (Dr. Stuttaford)—the cost to the State as a whole would undoubtedly be less than that of taking all these people into hospital at enormous cost and with all the drawbacks that we have heard about in the institutionalising of people.
My second point concerns the rather more distant future. So long as we continue with the present type of contribution and benefit-related system on a pay-as-you-go basis, I regret to think that we shall have this type of debate time and again as the years go by. In the White Paper there are many things to welcome as a move in the right direction, including the proposals in relation to this system, but they go insufficiently far.
My third point is for the not too distant future, I hope—although my hopes in this matter have declined over the years as I have listened to my right hon. Friends make replies on the subject. I firmly believe that a great deal of the argument about benefits, pensions, means testing and the rest could well disappear to a large extent if we changed the whole basis of the financing of our social services towards some form of what is 356 generally called "negative income tax". I believe that this one type of payment as opposed to the many would in the long run be of greater advantage than any other change brought about by what has been referred to as "tinkering about" with the present system.
I conclude by emphasising that a concentration of thought on the needs of people in old age is not mainly even cash related but is related to the whole problem of family support, of the alleviation of loneliness and of the provision of services which old people need and which they will understand how to use.
§ 8.58 p.m.
Mr. Frank McElhane (Glasgow, Gorbals)
In the relatively short time available to me, I give my support for an immediate increase in the old-age pension. The right hon. Gentleman made a thoughtful speech but really dealt with the next 12 months. I have completed a survey in my constituency. I thought I knew my area, having been brought up in the Gorbals, but on my door-to-door survey I discovered appalling misery in which people are living, even with the increase of £1, trying to exist on £6 a week but spending exactly half on fuel, be it coal, gas or electricity.
These people use bread and margarine, and have the odd boiled egg. A visit to the butcher's shop is a rarity for them. This has created the situation that because of lack of nutrition, the health of pensioners degenerates, giving rise to the exceptionally high numbers of people waiting to enter geriatric hospitals. The Government must ask themselves how many geriatric units they are prepared to build. Not only are such units costly to build, but they are difficult to staff because by the time elderly people reach a geriatric unit they are incontinent and this gives rise to difficulty in nursing them.
How much care is being devoted to the nutrition of elderly people? I understand that a report will come out shortly on elderly people living at home, and I hope that the Minister will tell us something about that report.
I turn now to the matter of home helps. In the City of Glasgow there is an urgent need for home helps. The problem is that where a pensioner has a son or daughter living within the city boundaries—and, goodness knows, many of the sons and 357 daughters have difficulty enough in looking after themselves these days—he or she is denied a home help. Would the Minister think again about this? A home help, even if available for only two hours a day, is an absolute necessity.
I wish I had time to touch on the survey of the disabled and chronically sick which I carried out. I am angry at the Minister's refusal to publicise, either on television or in the Press, the benefits available to disabled people, under the Chronically Sick and Disabled Persons Act, which the Labour Government brought into being during their last months of office. It is one of the most excellent pieces of social legislation ever devised. But the Act is not working because all too often the disabled person does not know what his entitlement is. I would like the Minister to publicise the benefits to be obtained under this Act.
I support my hon. Friends concerning television licences for disabled pensioners. I carried out a study of the benefits obtained by elderly and disabled people in European countries and found that, once again, we were at the bottom of the league. In Sweden, for example, disabled pensioners can have dish-washing machines, tape recorders and other accessories necessary to them. For a person living alone, a television set is a vital necessity. It keeps him in touch with the outside world. It would be a fine gesture by the Government if they would issue free television licences to disabled people and it would save embarrassment to the Post Office engineers who, I see, are conducting a vigorous campaign to ensure that people have licences.
I reiterate the absolutely vital need for help for these people now—not at Easter, not in the Budget and not in six months' time. The choice for a disabled or elderly person living alone is either to eat and freeze to death or to keep warm and suffer a degree of starvation.
§ 9.5 p.m.
§ Mr. Brian O'Malley (Rotherham)
The Secretary of State, after his exposition, has hardly been overwhelmed by support from his back benches. That is not surprising, bearing in mind the negative nature of his speech and statement. It was not only interesting but significant 358 that hon. Member after hon. Member on the Government back benches preferred to speak about the position of pensions and pension structures 20 years on rather than discuss the problem which we have raised in our Motion. We have had discussions about pensions well into the future and a philosophical tour of the pensions industry and pensions generally.
I can understand hon. Members opposite, who complain and criticise the system and who, clearly, wanted some help for pensioners, feeling embarrassed by the speech of the Secretary of State. The right hon. Gentleman has made the Government's policy absolutely clear, and it can be summed up by saying "No more money for retirement pensioners this winter." That is Tory policy in November, 1971. Those on supplementary benefit must wait for help until the autumn of next year, while those who are not receiving supplementary benefit—which includes on one recent estimate about 875,000 who are entitled to it but do not claim it, and about 2 million retirement pensioners who are above supplementary benefit, but only just—will have to wait not until 1972 but until 1973. This is at a time when the value of the pension is being eroded week by week as a result of roaring inflation such as we have not seen for years.
The hon. Member for Billericay (Mr. McCrindle) expressed the hope that we could develop a pension structure which would avoid party political debate. On the basis of the Government's recent White Paper "Strategy for Pensions", Command 4755, there is precious little hope of that. Page 1 of that document says:There must be no promises that depend on our children doing more for us than we were willing to do now for our parents.Within that sentence is an explanation of just about all that is wrong with this Government's attitude towards the present generation of pensioners and of what is wrong with their White Paper proposals. That sentence illustrates that their proposals for the future will perpetuate poverty among large numbers of the aged into the 21st century. It also accepts the plight of the present generation of retirement pensioners with a frightening complacency, at a time when to help them would be a boon to the economy.
It is clear from the right hon. Gentleman's speech that the Government lack 359 the political will to implement what is not only morally right but economically desirable. The Secretary of State made a disappointing speech, and it is not only hon. Members on this side of the House who are disappointed. He said how well pensioners had done between 1955 and 1965 and he included the substantial increase of 13 per cent. in real terms which the Labour Government made in 1965. He juggled the percentages around and then decided that a comparison between the level of pensions and the national average wage did not suit his purpose. So he switched to a comparison of pensions with disposable income, not mentioning the increased walfare charges which hurt the lower-paid people.
My hon. Friends the Members for Stalybridge and Hyde (Mr. Pendry) and Gloucestershire, West (Mr. Loughlin) echoed the mood of both sides of the House when they said it was a pity that the Secretary of State was juggling with figures. There are more important things to discuss when pensioners are experiencing enormous difficulties because of inflation and rapidly rising prices.
It appears from the Secretary of State's speech and from the Amendment that the Government are satisfied with the up-rating made several weeks ago and feel that they are entitled to sit back and do nothing more for pensioners. The Secretary of State and the Government may be satisfied, but the pensioners are not. The September, 1971, issue of Pensioners Voice, the newspaper of the National Federation of Old Age Pensioners Associations, said this about the increase:Never before has the single pension been increased by so much, but never before has the cost of living risen so steeply to wipe out the increases. No wonder pensioners are angry, no wonder they protest.As I pointed out to the Under-Secretary of State during Question Time a fortnight ago, it is not without significance that within weeks of the up-rating which so delights the Government Front Bench, the old-age pensioners associations were holding protest meetings throughout the country. The pensioners do not share the satisfaction of the Government in what they describe as the largest pension rises ever given of £1 and £1.60. On the very day those increases were introduced, in terms of real purchasing power based on the last 360 increase in 1969, they were 3 per cent. overall and 7 per cent. for pensioners over 80. This was at a time of a massive balance of payments surplus and a steep recession in consumer demand. At a time when the Government could afford to increase substantially the income of pensioners, they introduced a real increase of 3 per cent., whereas in 1965, at a time of financial crisis, the Labour Government increased pensions by 13 per cent.
Hon. Members on this side of the House and informed financial and economic commentators in the national newspapers are saying that the Government should be doing more for pensioners—
§ Sir B. Rhys Williams
The hon. Gentleman says that because there is an immediate shortage of purchasing power, pensions should be increased. He is, naturally, not also making the point that they should be cut again when the immediate crisis has passed. How does he suggest they should be paid for in the long run?
§ Mr. O'Malley
Only the hon. Member for Kensington, South (Sir B. Rhys Williams) could raise a proposition of that kind. I shall have something to say later about financing which may or may not satisfy the hon. Gentleman, depending on his view of the importance of the contributory principle, of which we have heard a great deal from him in previous pensions debates.
The evening papers seem to have received a substantial leak. Presumably in Rome there has been pressure not only on our Chancellor of the Exchequer but on the Finance Ministers of other countries which face a similar recession in domestic consumer demand that for the benefit of world trade, troughs in consumer demand should be taken up. According to the newspapers, tax cuts are on the way. Cmnd. 4829 on public expenditure talks of continuing examination by the Government of unemployment and general economic requirements. We are discussing how much we can help the pensioners at a time when the Chancellor of the Exchequer has room for substantial tax cuts and when he is able substantially to help a section of the community which needs help more than any other section.
361 Throughout his whole period of office, the Chancellor of the Exchequer has over-estimated the growth of consumer demand. He did so in July, 1970, October, 1971, February, 1971, and April, 1971. I can understand any Chancellor of the Exchequer getting it wrong once, but when he gets it wrong five times it is no wonder that there is little confidence in the House or in the business community that he will get it right this time.
Certainly in the business community there is little confidence that the most recent measures announced will solve the problem. Of course, the latest measures involving £185 million of public expenditure spread over two years will bring few jobs before next summer. It is also the case that the taxation and credit measures which so far have been taken by the Chancellor of the Exchequer have done, and will do, little to help the poorer sections of the community to increase their purchasing power.
The Government may say that there has been a rise in consumer spending since April, but the rise has been almost entirely in motor cars and consumer durables, not in the area in which pensioners are able to spend their money.
The result of all this miscalculation by the Chancellor of the Exchequer—and the Secretary of State for Employment has admitted that the situation is the result of the Chancellor's miscalculations—is that we have seen a rise of 50 per cent. in the number of wholly unemployed since June, 1970, with the present trend of unemployment figures being sharply up and the number of unfilled vacancies sharply down. Investment is lagging and business confidence is low because of the uncertainty in foreign trade owing to doubts about exchange rates, but also because of the low level of domestic consumer demand.
Therefore, in discussing pensions and the plight of the pensioner this evening the situation is as follows. Arising from miscalculations by the Chancellor, men and women are now out of work, and one of the reasons is that their parents have inadequate purchasing power to buy goods which could be manufactured by people if they were in work.
§ Mr. Timothy Raison (Aylesbury)
I have quite a lot of sympathy with the 362 argument about providing more purchasing power for the pensioner, but would the hon. Gentleman say that the things pensioners would be likely to spend it on, which would be food and fuel and one or two other things, are likely to provide employment? I have a horrible feeling that this is not the case.
§ Mr. O'Malley
Of course it will have an effect on the distributive trade and the service industries. My hon. Friend the Member for Hitchin (Mrs. Shirley Williams) pointed out that at a time when we have unemployment at such a high level and a fall in the value of money, this measure will have a deflationary rather than a reflationary effect. Surely hon. Members on both sides agree that there is a case for further reflationary measures. That is certainly the view of the hon. Member for Worcestershire, South (Sir G. Nabarro), who has spoken in the debate this afternoon.
The hon. Gentleman is reported as having made a speech at the weekend in which he suggested that what is needed is an injection of £1,000 million of demand into the economy, or, he prophesied, there would be 1½ million unemployed by the spring. There was a time when I thought I knew something about economics and forecasting. [An HON. MEMBER: "Nobody does any more.] I know that nobody does now, of course. Forecasting of that kind is not something on which I would attempt to compete with the hon. Member for Worcestershire, South. But his speech indicates that there is a wide band of opinion on both sides of the House, and among informed economic commentators in the Press, that it would be a good thing for the Chancellor to inject further purchasing power into the economy.
Therefore, the Government are in a uniquely favourable position to do something for pensioners. We know that the position of pensioners under the present national insurance structure—which we all want to see removed and replaced by something better—and under the present supplementary benefits system is unsatisfactory, even without their having to suffer from record inflation. We have been told by the Secretary of State this afternoon that 30 per cent. of retirement pensioners are living at standards little above the standard supplementary benefit. Many who have read the document 363 quoted by my hon. Friend the Member for Willesden, West (Mr. Pavitt) will realise that life for the retirement pensioner on supplementary benefit is a life of worrying about the next bill; there is little or nothing left for pleasure. In winter there is often a choice between food and heating. They are able to spend no more on food than many individuals spend on cigarettes during the week.
If the situation is unsatisfactory at a time of relatively slow upward movement in the price index, how much worse is it for pensioners at a time of soaring prices? Contrary to what was said this afternoon by the Secretary of State, who seemed to be optimistic about the next few months, it is interesting to look at what has happened to the retail food index in recent years. Between the beginning and end of 1966 the percentage increase in the index was 2.4. In 1967 it was 4.1 per cent.; in 1968 3 per cent.; in 1969 4.1 per cent.; and then up to December, 1970, it was 6.8 per cent. In early 1971 the increase was 9.1 per cent., and by October, 1971, the increase already this year is 7.5 per cent. This is most depressing for the pensioner.
I have made some inquiries and obtained some information which has been collected by the Department of Employment from about 1,000 retailers in 200 areas in the United Kingdom. I find that between June, 1970, and September, 1971, the price of milk went up 22 per cent. Before the price increases came last weekend, New Zealand butter had gone up 59 per cent. Bread had gone up 17 per cent., and we know that it is going up again on 6th December. Margarine had gone up 17 per cent. Cheese had gone up 32 per cent. A 20-oz. tin of Heinz baked beans had gone up 18 per cent. I do not go shopping, but I have a list from what I think hon. Members will agree is a reputable source.
Figures of this kind show how difficult it is for pensioners to live. Here we are in November, 1971, when the value of the pension is now 7½p. more than it was in 1969, and, as my hon. Friend the Member for Hitchin said, by January it will be worth less than the pension which was being paid in 1969. In addition, even today the retirement pension for a married couple is a lower percentage of national average earnings than it was 364 in 1967. All the indications on any reasonable forward projection that one can make is that by July, 1973, the relationship between pensions and national average earnings will have fallen at least to the 1957 level, which was worse than at any time since 1948.
The general economic interest demands that there should be further reflation and an increase in consumer purchasing power. In circumstances where pensioners are affected by almost unprecedented inflation, we on this side have made a number of proposals in the course of this debate.
First, we say that what should be done immediately is to make a special winter payment which would produce a near equivalent increase in consumption expenditure. We suggest that the winter payment should be made to all pensioners and not only to those on supplementary benefit. In view of the pleasure with which this proposal has been received by hon. Members on both sides, subject to the reservation that many hon. Members feel that pensioners should have a decent pension system which made it unnecessary, it is to be hoped that the Government will look at it again. The Secretary of State had nothing to say about it, and I think that he turned it down, but will he look at it again to see whether something along these lines can be done?
Secondly, a number of suggestions have been made about the supplementary benefit structure. The Secretary of State said of almost every proposition that my hon. Friend put forward that it would cause difficulties. Difficulties are meant to be overcome. On such matters as heating allowances and the long-term addition, if the right hon. Gentleman put those difficulties to the Supplementary Benefits Commission, he would find it humane enough to solve his problems for him. Let the right hon. Gentleman put the problems to the Commission, and let him take up the point made by my hon. Friend, which he did not answer, that the staffing ratios of officers in the Department of Health and Social Security should be made more realistic. Here we could make a little impact on the total unemployment figures of clerical workers and school leavers, especially in areas hit by the highest unemployment.
My hon. Friends asked for an increase in the long-term addition. It is long 365 overdue. Both the right hon. Gentleman and the Under-Secretary know this. There is a substantial case for increasing the disregards. In 1948 the disregard for many types of income was 10s. 6d. That was when the flat-rate pension was £1 6s. The disregard of £1 which is in operation now was brought into operation in 1966, when the flat-rate pension was £4. In cost-of-living terms that disregard should now be over £2 and, in pension terms, moving from 1966, it should be £1.50.
I understand that representatives of the National Federation of Pension Funds went to the Department with propositions asking whether half of any increase in occupational pensions could be disregarded. I was reminded of the situation in which the National Union of Mineworkers pensioners found themselves, during the period of the Labour Government, when the occupational pension went up from £1 to £1.50 and it was promptly affected by the size of the disregard. I am not particularly selling the proposition put forward by the National Association of Pension Funds because, if it were allowed to apply to large occupational pensions, there could be objections. However, the Government must look at disregards again.
From almost every hon. Member who has spoken concerning the heating allowance this afternoon there has been one message to the Government: that the system of heating allowances is entirely inadequate. The first evidence of this is the numbers involved. With more than 8 million people over pensionable age, in November 1970 only 166,000 retirement pensioners—2 per cent. of the elderly—were receiving a heating allowance and 145,000 of them were receiving a heating allowance of not more than 20p. It is true, as my hon. Friend the Member for Hitchin said, that average heating costs in winter must be about £2 a week. Many hon. Members have pointed out the inadequacies of the situation. I understand that the right hon. Gentleman is to survey and inquire into the situation which has arisen in Islington. I suspect that that kind of situation, judging by the small numbers receiving this benefit, is probably being repeated throughout the whole country.
My hon. Friend the Member for Stalybridge and Hyde quoted a letter 366 from a coal man which was a damning indictment of this country that old people should be in such a plight in 1971. My hon. Friend the Member for Willesden, West mentioned an elderly gentleman who could not afford to light a fire until 5 o'clock in the afternoon. The hon. Member for Worcestershire, South pointed out that pensioners found that coal was very expensive for them. The hon. Member for Norwich, South (Dr. Stuttaford), who is a member of the medical profession, wanted better heating, particularly for the elderly infirm. Therefore, we must press the Government to look at the possibility of an automatic heating allowance through the supplementary benefit system. If they cannot do that—there is a strong case which would bear detailed examination—certainly the Secretary of State cannot be happy with the small number of people who are receiving these benefits and the smallness of them.
The "A" code states:Where the long-term addition is included in the assessment therefore, it will not be necessary to make inquiries about special expenses unless it is clear that they are likely to exceed 10s.".Perhaps that part of the regulations should be scrapped.
Another proposition which we have put to the Government is that they should, at the earliest opportunity, dynamise the graduated sixpenny pensions. It is a disgrace that, for example, a man can earn a sixpenny addition to his pension in 1963 and that, if he retires in 1993, he will not get even the equivalent of that sixpence; he will get the sixpence or 2½p. It is no wonder that the graduated pension scheme introduced by the right hon. Member for Kingston-upon-Thames (Mr. Boyd-Carpenter) has been described as the Mark I of the Tory graduated swindle. Of course, their new proposals are the Mark II of that proposal.
Some hon. Members have asked that the tax threshold be raised. I agree with the hon. Member for Worcestershire, South that there is a case for a progressive raising of the earnings rule at a time of particularly rapid inflation.
The proposition that there should be an annual review was supported by the hon. Members for Macclesfield (Mr. Winterton), Kensington, South and Billericay. If it is important as a matter 367 of principle at other times, it is now more important than ever, because unless the whole up-rating process is brought forward, the next increase will come in six months after value-added tax is introduced, nine months after the start of the adjustment to E.E.C. food prices—if we go in—and 15 months after the end of the C.B.I.'s period of retraint.
The mood of the country is one of wanting to help pensioners. The trade unions and the T.U.C. are pressing for such help to be given. It could be argued that giving the extra help would not increase overall demand because of the increase in contributions, but it is open to the Government to increase the Exchequer supplement. It has not always been 18 per cent., but has been up to one-third at times, and if it were now increased to one-third it could mean an extra £375 million for pensioners without any increase in contributions.
The terms of the Government's Amendment are self-congratulatory. This is no time for self-congratulation. The Government are prepared to do nothing immediately to help old-age pensioners, and by both their short-term and long-term proposals they would leave large numbers of pensioners in poverty or near-poverty. The Government could act to help pensioners this winter. They refuse to do so, and for that reason we shall vote against them tonight.
§ 9.37 p.m.
§ The Under-Secretary of State for Health and Social Security (Mr. Paul Dean)
No debate on pensions would run true to form were the Government not to be told what more they ought to do and in what direction they should do it. In that respect this debate has run true to form.
Equally, we can fairly claim that in 18 months a great deal has been done, and that our intentions for the future can be judged on that. We have made a good start, and we intend to better it.
Another point which has come through very clearly in this debate, and which was put in his usual effective way by my hon. Friend the Member for Kensington, South (Sir B. Rhys Williams), is that we must pay at least as much attention to how we are to pay for improvements in 368 pensions or any services as to what those improvements should be.
Another theme which has run strikingly through our debate today is the conversion of both sides of the House to the concept of selectivity. There has been remarkably little talk about blanket increases in benefits across the board. There has been a great deal of talk about identifying areas where the need is greatest, and considering how best that need can be met. That is an interesting development in our debates and I think, in itself, reflects considerable credit on the policy which my right hon. Friend has been pursuing during the last 18 months.
Another aspect which has characterised the debate is the emphasis which there has been on the care side for the elderly, instead of only on the cash side, if we are to have the comprehensive range of services which we all want to see for the elderly. Great emphasis has been laid on the need to ensure that the care services, be they in old people's homes, in hospitals, or in clubs, and services in the home, such as helps, are given as much attention as the cash benefits.
I would first say something about the record because, in view of the criticisms which have been made of them, the Government are entitled to remind the House of what has been achieved. The first Bill of this Parliament was one to introduce pensions for the over-80s, and 150,000 of them are now benefiting from it. They are benefiting not only from the new pension but also from the various other benefits which flow from the possession of a pension order book. The up-rating of pensions and other benefits which came into operation in September was the largest ever in money terms and higher in purchasing power than the previous increase in November, 1969–3 per cent. on the basic pension and no less than 8 per cent. for the pensioners who are over 80, over 1 million of them. The extra cost of this is well over £500 million, but none of it is being met by the lower paid; all of it is being put on those who are able to bear the cost of the increase.
Then there are the new proposals, which a number of my hon. Friends have welcomed, the significance of which, for the basic scheme and the future security 369 of pensioners, is that they are putting the scheme on a firm financial footing, providing the bouyant revenue which is necessary if we are to meet the growing cost of pensions. They are also relieving the lower paid of the burden which they at present bear, while at the same time putting a ceiling on the contributions, which will ensure that the higher paid and employers do not have too big an increase.
There is also the attendance allowance, which begins on 6th December. Over 16,000 people over pension age will benefit from this new allowance of £4.80, tax free, with no means test.
Then there are the improvements for war pensioners. I am grateful to my hon. Friend the Member for Wells (Mr. Boscawen) for the tributes which he paid to the War Pensioners Welfare Service. This is not only the largest increase in cash terms for war pensioners and widows, but a special emphasis on the older of them and on those who are most disabled. There is a welcome increase for widows—a new age allowance for widows at 65 in the war pensions scheme instead of 70. Also, certain widows have been brought within the pension arrangements who did not have them before.
The Government have also ensured that the war pension preferences are maintained. War pensioners who are eligible to the new age addition within the national insurance scheme and the new chronic allowance introduced in September will be eligible to these on top of the war pensions and the war pension allowances which they are getting. As a result, to give the House one example, a 100 per cent. disability war pensioner over the age of 80 has an increase of no less than £4.50 per week.
Then there is the increase in public service and Armed Forces pensions operating with effect from the beginning of September, and the provision there to reduce in due course the qualifying age for the paying of these increases from the present age of 60 to the age of 55. Then there is the Superannuation Bill, at present going through the House, to revise the public service pensions schemes and the machinery for changing them.
Finally, on the cash side, there are the tax reductions which my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer 370 has introduced, particularly the raising of the age exemption limits to take into account the pension increases. I hope that my hon. Friend the Member for Norfolk, North (Mr. Ralph Howell) feels that this is at least a step in a direction in which I know he is particularly interested.
That brief summary of what has been achieved in this short time entitles us to say to the House that we will build on the good start which has been made.
§ Mr. Dean
I hope the hon. Gentleman will forgive me if I do not give way. I have a lot to say and not much time in which to say it.
Many hon. Members referred understandably to the heating allowances. It was right for them to show concern about this aspect of our arrangements. Heating and other costs are accounted for in the scale rates and also in the long-term additions which are available to retirement pensioners and others who have been on supplementary benefit for a long period. The scale rates were increased in September of this year.
In addition, there are extra allowances for those in need of additional help with their heating. These were improved by the Government last winter, and the improvements are now in operation for those who are eligible. The criteria are poor health, bad accommodation or no option but to use expensive fuel.
A number of hon. Members have expressed anxiety about whether those who might be entitled to these extra allowances are getting them or whether they know sufficiently that they are available to them. We are extremely anxious that those who are eligible for them should get them. Equally, I entirely accept the point made by the hon. Member for Gloucestershire, West (Mr. Loughlin), with his experience of the Department, that it would be a mistake to make these allowances open-ended and to give them indiscriminately to all. It was, he thought, right to keep them on the present basis, available to those with special need for additional heating allowances.
The Supplementary Benefits Commission does not wait for old people to ask. 371 Its officers when visiting supplementary pensioners and other claimants alert people to the existence of these special allowances and try to ensure that those eligible for them get them.
In view of the anxiety expressed today, I hope that any hon. Member who feels that people who may be entitled are not getting this special additional help will either let us know direct or get in touch with one of our local offices. We can then ensure that visits are paid, and, if there are people not getting these allowances who should get them, we can be in touch with them. I hope that the House will respond to this request.
Another point made about the allowances was the fact that they are not available during the winter period when, clearly, the heating needs of people are very much greater. The experience of the National Assistance Board in this respect is quite conclusive. From 1938 to 1944 the scale rates were higher in winter than in summer, and until 1966 special heating allowances were paid in the winter only.
They were abolished by the Board under its discretionary powers because of the widespread dissatisfaction with them. Fuel bills are normally not paid in the winter months, and it was felt, as a result of the experience of the Board, that paying a high rate of allowance during the winter was not a satisfactory way of dealing with the problem.
The hon. Member for Hitchin (Mrs. Shirley Williams) mentioned the possibility of a winter emergency payment. I do not think she made it clear to the House that when a winter emergency payment was made in 1964 it was available only to those on national assistance, a comparatively narrow group of people. That occasion is not comparable with the present because there had not been an up-rating for 18 months, whereas there was an up-rating in September this year.
§ Mrs. Shirley Williams
When the hon. Gentleman reads HANSARD, he will see that I indicated that this was limited to national assistance pensioners at that time. If the Government intend to do nothing, it may be simpler for them simply to say so.
§ Mr. Dean
My point is that at that time benefits had not been up-rated for 372 18 months, and therefore the situation is in no way comparable to the situation then.
The hon. Member for Glasgow, Provan (Mr. Hugh D. Brown) proclaimed himself as a prophet of selectivity. He said that he was all for concentrating help on those most in need. He made one or two specific suggestions, one with regard to meals on wheels for people who live in their own homes and who value this service. He asked whether the school meals service and hospitals could help more in the provision of meals. In many cases they help at present, but the difficulty is not so much the preparation or the making of the meal but of sufficient people to take the meals and distribute them to those concerned.
My hon. Friend the Member for Worcestershire, South (Sir G. Nabarro) asked about the earnings rule. It was increased by no less than £2 in September this year, a very substantial increase. In addition to that, the earning wife under the age of 60 can now earn substantially more than was the case before September. She now has the more favourable earnings rule operating, which means that she can earn up to £9.50 without her husband having any deduction in pension, whereas before September the sum was only £3.20. So the combination of these two things is a very substantial improvement in the amount of money which can be earned by everyone over the age of retirement.
My hon. Friend also criticised the fact that pensioners who live abroad get the rate of pension to which they are entitled when they go abroad but do not receive subsequent increases. The main reason for that, as perhaps my hon. Friend will appreciate, is that the cost of the increased pension is borne by contributors and taxpayers in Britain. At the same time, we are very anxious that the reciprocal arrangements to ensure that full pensions are paid both to our nationals who go abroad and to other nationals coming to Britain should be extended. I hope that my hon. Friend will feel that this is the best and most satisfactory way of dealing with the situation.
I turn to the other side of the story, which I mentioned earlier, namely the care services which are designed to deal not only with pensioners but also with the 373 all-important care services which our old people need so much.
§ Mr. O'Malley
Before the hon. Gentleman leaves the subject of pensions, as all that we have heard from him so far is a potted history of the administration, is it not time that he answered the points made from this side of the House and said whether the Government will do anything?
§ Mr. Dean
I am sorry that the hon. Gentleman is getting so heated about this. I am, as I am entitled so to do, reminding the House of what has been done, and I am also dealing as quickly as I can, in the short time available, with the questions that he and others have put to me.
My hon. Friend the Member for The Wrekin (Dr. Trafford) mentioned the importance of family support, and the hon. and learned Member for Edinburgh, Leith (Mr. Ronald King Murray) talked about the need for help in kind. All of us who have visited old people's homes know how important is this side of things—the regular and balanced meals and the comfort and companionship available in those homes, including the day centres which people who still live in their own homes can visit.
The House should remember that during the last 18 months my right hon. Friend has been able to announce two very substantial increases in the resources made available to improve the facilities for the elderly in old people's homes and the like. This will mean a substantial speed-up in the replacement of workhouses and old houses which are no longer suitable, a substantial improvement in hospital services for the elderly and, equally, through bringing into operation Sections 13 and 45 of the Health Service and Public Health Act, 1968, more comprehensive services in the community for elderly people. That is another side of the developments about which we are entitled to remind the House.
Then there is the rent rebate scheme. This is another practical measure which the Government are introducing to ensure
§ that elderly people who are in need receive more effective help through housing finance arrangements than they can obtain at present.
§ Mr. Dean
The hon. Gentleman knows that this is the case, and he does not like it. Equally, when the Opposition say that they are backing the campaign for a £2 improvement in pension at an extra cost of £1,300 million a year, we are entitled to ask them where the money is coming from. It would mean 14p extra on the stamp of the £20 a week wage-earner, 69p a week extra on the average wage-earner and an extra £1 a week on the £42-a-week man. Had the last Government been a little more responsive in resisting the wage claims which are responsible for much of the price rises which have been causing difficulties to pensioners, the House would be much more inclined to listen to their criticisms.
§ Mrs. Williams
If the Government would give from the richer taxpayers, we would give the contributions needed.
§ Question put, That the Amendment be made:—
§ The House divided: Ayes 295, Noes 266.379
|Division No. 22.]||AYES||[10.0 p.m.|
|Adley, Robert||Astor, John||Balniel, Lord|
|Alison, Michael (Barkston Ash)||Atkins, Humphrey||Batsford, Brian|
|Allason, James (Hemel Hempstead)||Awdry, Daniel||Beamish, Col, Sir Tufton|
|Amery, Rt. Hn. Julian||Baker, Kenneth (St. Marylebone)||Bell, Ronald|
|Archer, Jeffrey (Louth)||Baker, W. H. K. (Banff)||Bennett Sir Frederic (Torquay)|
|Bennett, Dr. Reginald (Gosport)||Green, Alan||Maxwell-Hyslop, R. J.|
|Benyon, W.||Griffiths, Eldon (Burry St. Edmunds)||Meyer, Sir Anthony|
|Berry, Hn. Anthony||Grylls, Michael||Mills, Peter (Torrington)|
|Biffen, John||Gummer, J. Selwyn||Mills, Stratton (Belfast, N.)|
|Biggs-Davison, John||Gurden, Harold||Mitchell, Lt.-Col. C. (Aberdeenshire, W)|
|Boardman, Tom (Leicester, S. W.)||Hall, Miss Joan (Keighley)||Mitchell, David (Basingstoke|
|Body, Richard||Hall, John (Wycombe)||Moate, Roger|
|Boscawen, Robert||Hall-Davis, A. G. F.||Molyneaux, James|
|Bossom, Sir Clive||Hamilton, Michael (Salisbury)||Money, Ernle|
|Bowden, Andrew||Hannam, John (Exeter)||Monks, Mrs. Connie|
|Boyd-Carpenter, Rt. Hn. John||Harrison, Brian (Maldon)||Monro, Hector|
|Braine, Bernard||Harrison, Col. Sir Harwood (Eye)||Montgomery, Fergus|
|Bray, Ronald||Haselhurst, Alan||More, Jasper|
|Brewis, John||Hastings, Stephen||Morrison, Charles|
|Brinton, Sir Tatton||Havers, Michael||Mudd, David|
|Brocklebank-Fowler, Christopher||Hawkins, Paul||Murton, Oscar|
|Brown, Sir Edward (Bath)||Hay, John||Nabarro, Sir Gerald|
|Bruce-Gardyne, J.||Hayhoe, Barney||Nicholls, Sir Harmar|
|Bryan, Paul||Health, Rt. Hn. Edward||Noble, Rt. Hn. Michael|
|Buchanan-Smith, Alick (Angus, N&M)||Haseitine, Michael||Normanton, Tom|
|Buck, Antony||Hicks, Robert||Nott, John|
|Bullus, Sir Eric||Higgins, Terence L.||Onslow, Cranley|
|Burden, F. A.||Hiley, Joseph||Oppenheim, Mrs. Sally|
|Butler, Adam (Bosworth)||Hill, James (Southampton, Test)||Orr, Capt. L. P. S.|
|Campbell, Rt. Hn. G. (Moray&Nairn)||Holland, Phillip||Osborn, John|
|Carlisle, Mark||Holt, Miss Mary||Page, Graham (Crosby)|
|Carr, Rt. Hn. Robert||Hordern, Peter||Page, John (Harrow, W.)|
|Channon, Paul||Hornby, Richard|
|Chapman, Sydney||Hornsby-Smith, Rt. Hn. Dame Patricia||Parkinson, Cecil|
|Chataway, Rt. Hn. Christopher||Howe, Hn. Sir Geoffrey (Reigate)||Percival, Ian|
|Chichester-Clark, R.||Howell, David (Guildford)||Pike, Miss Mervyn|
|Churchill, W. S.||Howell, Ralph (Norfolk, N.)||Pink, R. Bonner|
|Clark, William (Surrey, E.)||Hunt, John||Pounder, Rafton|
|Clarke, Kenneth (Rushcliffe)||Powell, Rt. Hn. J. Enoch|
|Clegg, Walter||Hutchison, Michael Clark||Price, David (Eastleigh)|
|Cockeram, Eric||Iremonger, T. L.||Prior, Rt. Hn. J. M. L.|
|Cooke, Robert||Irvine, Bryant Godman (Rye)||Proudfoot, Wilfred|
|Coombs, Derek||James, David||Pym, Rt. Hn. Francis|
|Cooper, A. E.||Jenkin, Patrick (Woodford)||Quennell, Miss J. M.|
|Cordle, John||Jessel, Toby||Raison, Timothy|
|Corfield, Rt. Hn. Frederick||Johnson Smith, G. (E. Grinstead)||Ramsden, Rt. Hn. James|
|Cormack, Patrick||Jones, Arthur (Northants, S.)||Rawlinson, Rt. Hn. Sir Peter|
|Costain, A. P.||Jopling, Michael||Redmond, Robert|
|Crouch, David||Joseph, Rt. Hn. Sir Keith||Reed, Laurance (Bolton, E.)|
|Crowder, F. P.||Kaberry, Sir Donald||Rees, Peter (Dover)|
|Dalkeith, Earl of||Kellett-Bowman, Mrs. Elaine||Rees-Davies, W. R.|
|Davies, Rt. Hn. John (Knutsford)||Kershaw, Anthony||Renton, Rt. Hn. Sir David|
|d'Avigdor-Goldsmid, Sir Henry||Kilfedder, James||Rhys Williams, Sir Brandon|
|d'Avigdor-Goldsmid, Maj.-Gen. James||Kimball, Marcus||Ridley, Hn. Nicholas|
|Dean, Paul||King, Evelyn (Dorset, S.)||Ridsdale, Julian|
|Deedes, Rt. Hn. W. F.||King, Tom (Bridgwater)||Rippon, Rt. Hn. Geoffrey|
|Dixon, Piers||Kinsey, J. R.||Roberts, Michael (Cardiff, N.)|
|Drayson, G. B.||Kirk, Peter||Robert, Wyn (Conway)|
|du Cann, Rt. Hn. Edward||Kitson, Timothy||Rost, Peter|
|Dykes, Hugh||Knight, Mrs. Jill||Russell, Sir Ronald|
|Eden, Sir John||Knox, David||Scott, Nicholas|
|Edwards, Nicholas (Pembroke)||Lambton, Antony||Sharples, Richard|
|Elliot, Capt. Walter (Carshalton)||Lane, David||Shaw, Michael (Sc'b'gh & Whitby)|
|Elliott, R. W. (N'c'tle-upon-Tyne, N.)||Langford-Holt, Sir John||Shelton, William (Clapham)|
|Farr, John||Legge-Bourke, Sir Harry||Simeons, Charles|
|Fell, John||Le Marchant, Spencer||Sinclair, Sir George|
|Fenner, Mrs. Peggy||Lewis, Kenneth (Rutland)||Skeet, T. H. H.|
|Fidler, Michael||Lloyd, Rt. Hn. Geoffrey (Sut'nC'dfield)||Smith, Dudley (W'wick & L'mington)|
|Finsberg, Geoffrey (Hampstead)||Longden, Gilbert||Soref, Harold|
|Fisher, Nigel (Surbiton)||Loveridge, John||Speed, Keith|
|Fletcher-Cooke, Charles||Luce, R. N.||Spence, Iain|
|Fookes, Miss Janet||McAdden, Sir Stephen||Sproat, Iain|
|Fortescue, Tim||MacArthur, Ian||Stainton, Keith|
|Foster, Sir John||McCrindle, R. A.||Stanbrook, Ivor|
|Fowler, Norman||McLaren, Martin||Stewart-Smith, Geoffrey (Belper)|
|Fox, Marcus||Maclean, Sir Fitzroy||Stodart, Anthony (Edinburgh, W.)|
|Fry, Peter||McMaster, Stanley||Stoddart-Scott, Col. Sir M.|
|Galbraith, Hn. T. G.||Macmillan, Maurice (Farnham)||Stokes, John|
|Gardner, Edward||McNair-Wilson, Michael||Stuttaford, Dr. Tom|
|Gibson-Watt, David||McNair-Wilson, Patrick (New Forest)||Sutcliffe, John|
|Gilmour, Ian (Norfolk, C.)||Maddan, Martin||Tapsell, Peter|
|Gilmour, Sir John (Fife, E.)||Madel, David||Taylor, Sir Charles (Eastbourne)|
|Glyn, Dr. Alan||Maginnis, John E.||Taylor, Edward M. (G'gow, Cathcart)|
|Goodhart, Philip||Marples, Rt. Hn. Ernest||Taylor, Frank (Moss Side)|
|Goodhew, Victor||Marten, Neil||Taylor, Robert (Croydon, N. W.)|
|Gorst, John||Mather, Carol||Tebbit, Norman|
|Gower, Raymond||Maude, Augus||Temple, John M.|
|Grant, Anthony (Harrow, C.)||Maudling, Rt. Hn. Reginald||Thatcher, Rt. Hn. Mrs. Margaret|
|Gray, Hamish||Mawby, Ray||Thomas, John Stradling (Monmouth)|
|Thomas, Rt. Hn. Peter (Hendon, S.)||Walker, Rt. Hn. Peter (Worcester)||Wolrige-Gordon, Patrick|
|Thompson, Richard (Croydon, S.)||Walker-Smith, Rt. Hn. Sir Derek||Woodhouse, Hn. Christopher|
|Tilney, John||Wall, Patrick||Woodnutt, Mark|
|Trafford, Dr. Anthony||Ward, Dame Irene||Worsley, Marcus|
|Trew, Peter||Warren, Kenneth||Wylie, Rt. Hn. N. R.|
|Tugendhat, Christopher||Wells, John (Maidstone)||Younger, Hn. George|
|Turton, Rt. Hn. Sir Robin||White, Roger (Gravesend)|
|van Straubenzee, W. R.||Whitelaw, Rt. Hn. William||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|Vaughan, Dr. Gerard||Wiggin, Jerry||Mr. Reginald Eyre and|
|Waddington, David||Wilkinson, John||Mr. Bernard Weather, I.|
|Walder, David (Clitheroe)||Winterton, Nicholas|
|Abse, Leo||Dunnett, Jack||Kerr, Russell|
|Albu, Austen||Eadie, Alex||Lambie, David|
|Allaun, Frank (Salford, E.)||Edelman, Maurice||Lamond, James|
|Allen, Scholefield||Edwards, Robert (Bilston)||Latham, Arthur|
|Archer, Peter (Rowley Regis)||Edwards, William (Merioneth)||Lawson, George|
|Armstrong, Ernest||Ellis, Tom||Leadbitter, Ted|
|Ashley, Jack||English, Michael||Lee, Rt. Hn. Frederick|
|Ashton, Joe||Evans, Fred||Leonard, Dick|
|Atkinson, Norman||Ewing, Harry||Lestor, Miss Joan|
|Bagier, Gordon A. T.||Faulds, Andrew||Lever, Rt. Hn. Harold|
|Barnes, Michael||Fisher, Mrs. Doris (B'ham, Ladywood)||Lewis, Arthur (W. Ham, N.)|
|Barnett, Guy (Greenwich)||Fitch, Alan (Wigan)||Lewis, Ron (Carlisle)|
|Barnett, Joel (Heywood and Royton)||Fitt, Gerard (Belfast, W.)||Lipton, Marcus|
|Baxter, William||Fletcher, Raymond (Ilkeston)||Lomas, Kenneth|
|Beaney, Alan||Fletcher, Ted (Darlington)||Loughlin, Charles|
|Bennett, James (Glasgow, Bridgeton)||Foley, Maurice||Lyon, Alexander W. (York)|
|Bidwell, Sydney||Foot, Michael||McBride, Neil|
|Bishop, E. S.|
|Blenkinsop, Arthur||Ford, Ben||McCann, John|
|Boardman, H. (Leigh)||Forrester, John||McCartney, Hugh|
|Booth, Albert||Fraser, John (Norwood)||McElhone, Frank|
|Bottomley, Rt. Hn. Arthur||Freeson, Reginald||McGuire, Michael|
|Bradley, Tom||Galpern, Sir Myer||Mackenzie, Gregor|
|Broughton, Sir Alfred||Garrett, W. E.||Mackie, John|
|Brown, Bob (N'c'tle-upon-Tyne, W.)||Gilbert, Dr. John||Mackintosh, John P.|
|Brown, Hugh D. (G'gow, Provan)||Ginsburg, David (Dewsbury)||McManus, Frank|
|Brown, Ronald (Shoreditch & F'bury)||Gourlay, Harry||McMillan, Tom (Glasgow, C.)|
|Buchan, Norman||Grant, George (Morpeth)||McNamara, J. Kevin|
|Buchanan, Richard (G'gow, Sp'burn)||Grant, John D. (Islington, E.)||Mahon, Simon (Bootle)|
|Butler, Mrs. Joyce (Wood Green)||Griffiths, Eddie (Brightside)||Mallalieu, J. P. W. (Huddersfield, E.)|
|Callaghan, Rt. Hn. James||Griffiths, Will (Exchange)||Marks, Kenneth|
|Campbell, I. (Dunbartonshire, W.)||Grimond, Rt. Hn. J.||Marsden, F.|
|Cant, R. B.||Hamilton, James (Bothwell)||Marshall, Dr. Edmund|
|Carmichael, Neil||Hamilton, William (Fife, W.)||Meacher, Michael|
|Carter, Ray (Birmingham, Northfield)||Hamling, William||Mellish, Rt. Hn. Robert|
|Carter-Jones, Lewis (Eccles)||Hannan, William (G'gow, Maryhill)||Mendelson, John|
|Castle, Rt. Hn. Barbara||Hardy, Peter||Mikardo, Ian|
|Clark, David (Colne Valley)||Harper, Joseph||Miller, Dr. M. S.|
|Cocks, Michael (Bristol, S.)||Milne, Edward|
|Cohen, Stanley||Harrison, Walter (Wakefield)||Mitchell, R. C. (S'hampton, Itchen)|
|Concannon, J. D.||Hart, Rt. Hn. Judith||Morgan, Elystan (Cardiganshire)|
|Conlan, Bernard||Hattersley, Roy||Morris, Alfred (Wythenshawe)|
|Corbet, Mrs. Freda||Healey, Rt. Hn. Denis||Morris, Charles R. (Openshaw)|
|Cox, Thomas (Wandsworth, C.)||Heffer, Eric S.||Morris, Rt. Hn. John (Aberavon)|
|Crawshaw, Richard||Hilton, W. S.||Moyle, Roland|
|Cronin, John||Hooson, Emlyn||Mulley, Rt. Hn. Frederick|
|Crosland, Rt. Hn. Anthony||Horam, John||Murray, Ronald King|
|Crossman, Rt. Hn. Richard||Houghton, Rt. Hn. Douglas||Oakes, Gordon|
|Cunningham, G. (Islington, S. W.)||Howell, Denis (Small Heath)||Ogden, Eric|
|Cunningham, Dr. J. A. (Whitehaven)||Hughes, Rt. Hn. Cledwyn (Anglesey)||O'Halloran, Michael|
|Dalyell, Tam||Hughes, Mark (Durham)||O'Malley, Brian|
|Davidson, Arthur||Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen, N.)||Oram, Bert|
|Davies, Denzil (Lanelly)||Hughes, Roy (Newport)||Orbach, Maurice|
|Davies, G. Elfed (Rhondda, E.)||Hunter, Adam||Orme, Stanley|
|Davies, S. O. (Merthyr Tydvil)||Irvine, Rt. Hn. Sir Arthur (Edge Hill)||Oswald, Thomas|
|Davis, Clinton (Hackney, C.)||Janner, Greville||Owen, Dr. David (Plymouth, Sutton)|
|Davis, Terry (Bromsgrove)||Jay, Rt. Hn. Douglas||Paget, R. T.|
|Deakins, Eric||Jenkins, Hugh (Putney)||Palmer, Arthur|
|de Freitas, Rt. Hn. Sir Geoffrey||Jenkins, Rt. Hn. Roy (Stechford)||Pannell, Rt. Hn. Charles|
|Delargy, Hugh||John, Brynmor||Pardoe, John|
|Dell, Rt. Hn. Edmund||Johnson, Carol (Lewisham, S.)||Parker, John (Dagenham)|
|Dempsey, James||Johnson, James (K'ston-on-Hull, W.)||Parry, Robert (Liverpool, Exchange)|
|Devlin, Miss Bernadette||Johnson, Walter (Derby, S.)||Pavitt, Laurie|
|Doig, Peter||Johnston, Russell (Inverness)||Peart, Rt. Hn. Fred|
|Dormand, J. D.||Jones, Dan (Burnley)||Pentland, Norman|
|Douglas, Dick (Stirlingshire, E.)||Jones, Rt. Hn. Sir Elwyn (W. Ham, S.)||Perry, Ernest G.|
|Douglas-Mann, Bruce||Jones, Gwynoro (Carmarthen)||Prentice, Rt. Hn. Reg.|
|Driberg, Tom||Jones, T. Alec (Rhondda, W.)||Prescott, John|
|Duffy, A. E. P.||Kaufman, Gerald||Price, J. T. (Westhoughton)|
|Dunn, James A.||Kelley, Richard||Price, William (Rugby)|
|Probert, Arthur||Silverman, Julius||Varley, Eric G.|
|Rankin, John||Skinner, Dennis||Wainwright, Edwin|
|Reed, D. (Sedgefield)||Small, William||Walden, Brian (B'm'ham, All Saints)|
|Rees, Merlyn (Leeds, S.)||Smith, John (Lanarkshire, N.)||Walker, Harold (Doncaster)|
|Rhodes, Geoffrey||Spearing, Nigel||Wallace, George|
|Richard, Ivor||Spriggs, Leslie||Watkins, David|
|Roberts, Albert (Normanton)||Stallard, A. W.||Weitzman, David|
|Roberts, Rt. Hn. Goronwy (Caernarvon)||Steel, David||Wellbeloved, James|
|Robertson, John (Paisley)||Stoddart, David (Swindon)||Wells, William (Walsall, N.)|
|Roderick, Caerwyn E. (Br'c'n & R'dnor)||Stonehouse, Rt. Hn. John||White, James (Glasgow, Pollok)|
|Rodgers, William (Stockton-on-Tees)||Strang, Gavin||Whitehead, Phillip|
|Roper, John||Strauss, Rt. Hn. G. R.||Williams, Alan (Swansea, W.)|
|Rose, Paul B.||Summerskill, Hn. Dr. Shirley||Williams, Mrs. Shirley (Hitchin)|
|Ross, Rt. Hn. William (Kilmarnock)||Swain, Thomas||Williams, W. T. (Warrington)|
|Sandelson, Neville||Taverne, Dick||Wilson, Alexander (Hamilton)|
|Shore, Rt. Hn. Peter (Stepney)||Thomas, Jeffrey (Atertillery)||Wilson, William (Coventry, S.)|
|Short, Rt. Hn. Edward (N'c'tle-u-Tyne)||Tinn, James||Woof, Robert|
|Short, Mrs. Renée (W'hampton, N. E.)||Tomney, Frank|
|Silkin, Rt. Hn. John (Deptford)||Torney, Tom||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|Silkin, Hn. S. C. (Dulwich)||Tuck, Raphael||Mr. John Golding and|
|Sillars, James||Urwin, T. W.||Mr. Tom Pendry|
§ Main Question, as amended, put:—380
§ The House divided: Ayes 295, Noes 266.383
|Division No. 23.]||AYES||[10.12 p.m.|
|Adley, Robert||Cordle, John||Harrison, Brian (Maldon)|
|Alison, Michael (Barkston Ash)||Corfield, Rt. Hn. Frederick||Harrison, Col. Sir Harwood (Eye)|
|Allason, James (Hemel Hempstead)||Cormack, Patrick||Haselhurst, Alan|
|Amery, Rt. Hn. Julian||Costain, A. P.||Hastings, Stephen|
|Archer, Jeffrey (Louth)||Crouch, David||Havers, Michael|
|Astor, John||Crowder, F. P.||Hawkins, Paul|
|Atkins, Humphrey||Dalkeith, Earl of||Hay, John|
|Awdry, Daniel||Davias, Rt. Hn. John (Knutsford)||Hayhoe, Barney|
|Baker, Kenneth (St. Marylebone)||d'Avigdor-Goldsmid, Sir Henry||Heath, Rt. Hn. Edward|
|Baker, W. H. K. (Banff)||d'Avigdor-Goldsmid, Maj.-Gen. James||Heseltine, Micheal|
|Balniel, Lord||Dean, Paul||Hicks, Robert|
|Batsford, Brian||Deedes, Rt. Hn. W. F.||Higgins, Terence L.|
|Beamish, Col. Sir Tufton||Dixon, Piers||Hiley, Joseph|
|Bell, Ronald||Drayson, G. B.||Hill, James (Southampton. Test)|
|Bennett, Sir Frederic (Torquay)||du Cann, Rt. Hn. Edward||Holt, Miss Mary|
|Bennett, Dr. Reginald (Gosport)||Dykes, Hugh||Hordern, Peter|
|Benyon, W.||Eden, Sir John||Hornby Richard|
|Berry, Hn. Anthony||Edwards, Nicholas (Pembroke)||Hornsby-Smith, Rt. Hn. Dame Patricia|
|Biffen, John||Elliot, Capt. Walter (Carshalton)||Howe, Hn. Sir Geoffrey (Reigate)|
|Biggs-Davison, John||Elliott, R. W. (N'c'tle-upon-Tyne, N.)||Howell, David (Guildford)|
|Blaker, Peter||Farr, John||Howell, Ralph (Norfolk, N.)|
|Boardman, Tom (Leicester, S. W.)||Fell, Anthony||Hunt, John|
|Body, Richard||Fenner, Mrs. Peggy||Hutchison, Michael Clark|
|Boscawen, Robert||Fidler, Michael||Iremonger, T. L.|
|Bossom, Sir Clive||Finsberg, Geoffrey (Hampstead)||Irvine, Bryant Godman (Rye)|
|Bowden, Andrew||Fisher, Nigel (Surbiton)||James, David|
|Boyd-Carpenter, Rt. Hn. John||Fletcher-Cooke, Charles||Jenkin, Patrick (Woodford)|
|Braine, Bernard||Fookes, Miss Janet||Jessel, Toby|
|Bray, Ronald||Fortescue, Tim||Johnson Smith, G. (E. Grinstead)|
|Brewis, John||Foster, Sir John||Jones, Arthur (Northants, S.)|
|Brinton, Sir Tatton||Fowler, Norman||Jopling, Michael|
|Brocklebank-Fowler, Christopher||Fox, Marcus||Joseph, Rt. Hn. Sir Keith|
|Brown, Sir Edward (Bath)||Fry, Peter||Kaberry, Sir Donald|
|Bruce-Gardyne, J.||Galbraith, Hn. T. G.||Kellett-Bowman, Mrs. Elaine|
|Bryan, Paul||Gardner, Edward||Kershaw, Anthony|
|Buchanan-Smith, Alick (Angus, N&M)||Gibson-Watt, David||Kilfedder, James|
|Buck, Antony||Gilmour, Ian (Norfolk, C.)||Kimball, Marcus|
|Bullus, Sir Eric||Gilmour, Sir John (Fife, E.)||King, Evelyn (Dorset, S.)|
|Burden, F. A.||Glyn, Dr. Alan||King, Tom (Bridgwater)|
|Butler, Adam (Bosworth)||Goodhart, Philip||Kinsey, J. R.|
|Campbell, Rt. Hn. G. (Moray&Nairn)||Goodhew, Victor||Kirk, Peter|
|Carlisle, Mark||Gorst, John||Kitson, Timothy|
|Carr, Rt. Hn. Robert||Gower, Raymond||Knight, Mrs. Jill|
|Channon, Paul||Grant, Anthony (Harrow, C.)||Knox, David|
|Chapman, Sydney||Gray, Hamish||Lambton, Antony|
|Chataway, Rt. Hn. Christopher||Green, Alan||Lane, David|
|Chichester-Clark, R.||Griffiths, Eldon (Bury St. Edmunds)||Langford-Holt, Sir John|
|Churchill, W. S.||Grylls, Michael||Legge-Bourke, Sir Harry|
|Clark, William (Surrey, E.)||Gummer, J. Selwyn||Le Marchant, Spencer|
|Clarke, Kenneth (Rushcliffe)||Gurden, Harold||Lewis, Kenneth (Rutland)|
|Clegg, Walter||Hall, Miss Joan (Keighley)||Lloyd, Rt. Hn. Geoffrey (Sut'nC'dfield)|
|Cockeram, Eric||Hall, John (Wycombe)||Longden, Gilbert|
|Cooke, Robert||Hall-Davis, A. G. F.||Loveridge, John|
|Coombs, Derek||Hamilton, Michael (Salisbury)||Luce, R. N.|
|Cooder, A. E.||Hannam, John (Exeter)||McAdden, Sir Stephen|
|MacArthur, Ian||Parkinson, Cecil||Stuttaford, Dr. Tom|
|McCrindle, R. A.||Percival, Ian||Sutcliffe, John|
|McLaren, Martin||Pike, Miss Mervyn||Tapsell, Peter|
|Maclean, Sir Fitzroy||Pink, R. Bonner||Taylor, Sir Charles (Eastbourne)|
|McMaster, Stanley||Pounder, Rafton||Taylor, Edward M. (G'gow, Cathcart)|
|Macmillan, Maurice (Farnham)||Powell, Rt. Hn. J. Enoch||Taylor, Frank (Moss Side)|
|McNair-Wilson, Michael||Price, David (Eastleigh)||Taylor, Robert (Croydon, N. W.)|
|McNair-Wilson, Patrick (New Forest)||Prior, Rt. Hn. J. M. L.||Tebbit, Norman|
|Maddan, Martin||Proudfoot, Wilfred||Temple, John M.|
|Madel, David||Pym, Rt. Hn. Francis||Thatcher, Rt. Hn. Mrs. Margaret|
|Maginnis, John E.||Quennell, Miss J. M.||Thomas, John Stradling (Monmouth)|
|Marples, Rt. Hn. Ernest||Raison, Timothy||Thomas, Rt. Hn. Peter (Hendon, S.)|
|Marten, Neil||Ramsden, Rt. Hn. James||Thompson, Sir Richard (Croydon, S.)|
|Mather, Carol||Rawlinson, Rt. Hn. Sir Peter||Tilney, John|
|Maude, Angus||Redmond, Robert||Trafford, Dr. Anthony|
|Maudling, Rt. Hn. Reginald||Reed, Laurance (Bolton, E.)|
|Mawby, Ray||Rees, Peter (Dover)||Trew, Peter|
|Maxwell-Hyslop, R. J.||Rees-Davies, W. R.||Tugendhat, Christopher|
|Meyer, Sir Anthony||Renton, Rt. Hn. Sir David||Turton, Rt. Hn. Sir Robin|
|Mills, Peter (Torrington)||Rhys Williams, Sir Brandon||van Straubenzee, W. R.|
|Mills, Stratton (Belfast, N.)||Ridley, Hn. Nicholas||Vaughan, Dr. Gerard|
|Mitchell, Lt.-Col. C. (Aberdeenshire, W)||Ridsdale, Julian||Waddington, David|
|Mitchell, David (Basingstoke)||Rippon, Rt. Hn. Geoffrey||Walder, David (Clitheroe)|
|Moate, Roger||Roberts, Michael (Cardiff, N.)||Walker, Rt. Hn. Peter (Worcester)|
|Molyneaux, James||Roberts, Wyn (Conway)||Walker-Smith, Rt. Hn. Sir Derek|
|Money, Ernle||Rost, Peter||Wall, Patrick|
|Monks, Mrs. Connie||Russell, Sir Ronald||Ward, Dame Irene|
|Monro, Hector||Scott, Nicholas||Warren, Kenneth|
|Montgomery, Fergus||Sharples, Richard||Wells, John (Maidstone)|
|More, Jasper||Shaw, Michael (Sc'b'gh & Whitby)||White, Roger (Gravesend)|
|Morgan, Geraint (Denbigh)||Shelton, William (Clapham)||Whitelaw, Rt. Hn. William|
|Morrison, Charles||Simeons, Charles||Wiggin, Jerry|
|Mudd, David||Sinclair, Sir George||Wilkinson, John|
|Murton, Oscar||Skeet, T. H. H.||Winterton, Nicholas|
|Nabarro, Sir Gerald||Smith, Dudley (W'wick & L'mington)||Wolrige-Gordon, Patrick|
|Nicholls, Sir Harmar||Soref, Harold||Woodhouse, Hn. Christopher|
|Noble, Rt. Hn. Michael||Speed, Keith||Woodnutt, Mark|
|Normanton, Tom||Spence, John||Worsley, Marcus|
|Nott, John||Sproat, Iain||Wylie, Rt. Hn. N. R.|
|Onslow, Cranley||Stainton, Keith||Younger, Hn. George|
|Oppenheim, Mrs. Sally||Stanbrook, Ivor|
|Orr, Capt. L. P. S.||Stewart-Smith, Geoffrey (Belper)||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|Osborn, John||Stodart, Anthony (Edinburgh, W.)||Mr. Reginald Eyre and|
|Page, Graham (Crosby)||Stoddart-Scott, Col. Sir M.||Mr. Bernard Weatherill.|
|Page, John (Harrow, W.)||Stokes, John|
|Abse, Leo||Castle, Rt. Hn. Barbara||Edelman, Maurice|
|Albu, Austen||Clark, David (Colne Valley)||Edwards, Robert (Bilston)|
|Allaun, Frank (Salford, E.)||Cocks, Michael (Bristol, S.)||Edwards, William (Merioneth)|
|Allen, Scholefield||Cohen, Stanley||Ellis, Tom|
|Archer, Peter (Rowley Regis)||Concannon, J. O.||English, Michael|
|Armstrong, Ernest||Conlan, Bernard||Evans, Fred|
|Ashley, Jack||Corbet, Mrs. Freda||Ewing, Henry|
|Ashton, Joe||Cox, Thomas (Wandsworth, C.)||Faulds, Andrew|
|Atkinson, Norman||Crawshaw, Richard||Fisher, Mrs. Doris (Bham, Lady wood)|
|Bagier, Gordon A. T.||Cronin, John||Fitch, Alan (Wigan)|
|Barnes, Michael||Crosland, Rt. Hn. Anthony||Fitt, Gerard (Belfast, W.)|
|Barnett, Guy (Greenwich)||Crossman, Rt. Hn. Richard||Fletcher, Raymond (Ilkeston)|
|Barnett, Joel (Heywood and Royton)||Cunningham, G. (Islington, S. W.)||Fletcher, Ted (Darlington)|
|Baxter, William||Cunningham, Dr. J. A. (Whitehaven)||Foley, Maurice|
|Beaney, Alan||Dalyell, Tam||Ford, Ben|
|Bennett, James (Glasgow, Bridgeton)||Davidson, Arthur||Forrester, John|
|Bidwell, Sydney||Davies, Denzil (Llanelly)||Fraser, John (Norwood)|
|Bishop, E. S.||Davies, G. Elfed (Rhondda. E.)||Freeson, Reginald|
|Blenkinsop, Arthur||Davies, S. O. (Merthyr Tydvil)||Galpern, Sir Myer|
|Boardman, H. (Leigh)||Davis, Clinton (Hackney, C.)||Garrett, W. E.|
|Booth, Albert||Davis, Terry (Bromsgrove)||Gilbert, Dr. John|
|Bottomley, Rt. Kn. Arthur||Deakins, Eric||Ginsburg, David (Dewsbury)|
|Bradley, Tom||de Freitas, Rt. Hn. Sir Geoffrey||Gourlay, Harry|
|Broughton, Sir Alfred||Delargy, H. J.||Grant, George (Morpeth)|
|Brown, Bob (N'c'tle-upon-Tyne, W.)||Doll, Rt. Hn. Edmund||Grant, John D. (Islington, E.)|
|Brown, Hugh D. (G'gow, Provan)||Dempsey, James||Griffiths, Eddie (Brightside)|
|Brown, Ronald (Shoreditch & F'bury)||Devlin, Miss Bernadette||Griffiths, Will (Exchange)|
|Buchan, Norman||Doig, Peter||Grimond, Rt. Hn. J.|
|Buchanan, Richard (G'gow, Sp'burn)||Dormand, J. D.||Hamilton, James (Bothwell)|
|Butler, Mrs. Joyce (Wood Green)||Douglas, Dick (Stirlingshire, E.)||Hamilton, William (Fife, W.)|
|Callaghan, Rt. Hn. James||Douglas-Mann, Bruce||Hamling, William|
|Campbell, I. (Dunbartonshire, W.)||Driberg, Tom||Hannan, William (G'gow, Maryhill)|
|Cant, R. B.||Duffy, A. E. P.||Hardy, Peter|
|Carmichael, Neil||Dunn, James A.||Harper, Joseph|
|Carter, Ray (Birmingh'm, Northfield)||Dunnett, Jack||Harrison, Walter (Wakefield)|
|Carter-Jones, Lewis (Eccles)||Eadie, Alex||Hart, Rt. Hn. Judith|
|Hattersley, Roy||McMillan, Tom (Glasgow, C.)||Rodgers, William (Stockton-on-Tees)|
|Healey, Rt. Hn. Denis||McNamara, J. Kevin||Roper, John|
|Heffer, Eric S.||Mahon, Simon (Bootle)||Rose, Paul B.|
|Hilton, W. S.||Mallalieu, J. P. W. (Huddersfield, E.)||Ross, Rt. Hn. William (Kilmarnock)|
|Hooson, Emlyn||Marks, Kenneth||Sandelson, Neville|
|Horam, John||Marsden, F.||Shore, Rt. Hn. Peter (Stepney)|
|Houghton, Rt. Hn. Douglas||Marshall, Dr. Edmund||Short, Rt. Hn. Edward (N'c'tle-u-Tyne)|
|Howell, Denis (Small Heath)||Meacher, Michael||Short, Mrs. Renée (W'hampton, N. E.)|
|Hughes, Rt. Hn. Cledwyn (Anglesey)||Mellish, Rt. Hn. Robert||Silkin, Rt. Hn. John (Deptford)|
|Hughes, Mark (Durham)||Mendelson, John||Silkin, Hn. S. C. (Dulwich)|
|Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen, N.)||Mikardo, Ian||Sillars, James|
|Hughes, Roy (Newport)||Miller, Dr. M. S.||Silverman, Julius|
|Hunter, Adam||Milne, Edward||Skinner, Dennis|
|Irvine, Rt. Hn. Sir Arthur (Edge Hill)||Mitchell, R. C. (S'hampton, Itchen)||Small, William|
|Janner, Greville||Morgan, Elystan (Cardiganshire)||Smith, John (Lanarkshire, N.)|
|Jay, Rt. Hn. Douglas||Morris, Alfred (Wythenshawe)||Spearing, Nigel|
|Jenkins, Hugh (Putney)||Morris, Charles R. (Openshaw)||Spriggs, Leslie|
|Jenkins, Rt. Hn. Roy (Stechford)||Morris, Rt. Hn. John (Aberavon)||Stallard, A. W.|
|John, Brynmor||Moyle, Roland||Steel, David|
|Johnson, Carol (Lewisham, S.)||Mulley, Rt. Hn. Frederick||Stoddart, David (Swindon)|
|Johnson, James (K'ston-on-Hull, w.)||Murray, Ronald King||Stonehouse, Rt. Hn. John|
|Johnson, Walter (Derby, S.)||Oakes, Gordon||Strang, Gavin|
|Johnston, Russell (Inverness)||Ogden, Eric||Strauss, Rt. Hn. G. R.|
|Jones, Dan (Burnley)||O'Halloran, Michael||Summerskill, Hn. Dr. Shirley|
|Jones, Rt. Hn. Sir Elwyn (W. Ham, S.)||O'Malley, Brian||Swain, Thomas|
|Jones, Gwynoro (Carmarthen)||Oram, Bert||Taverne, Dick|
|Jones, T. Alec (Rhondda, W.)||Orbach, Maurice||Thomas, Jeffrey (Abertillery)|
|Kaufman, Gerald||Orme, Stanley||Tinn, James|
|Kelley, Richard||Oswald, Thomas||Tomney, Frank|
|Kerr, Russell||Owen, Dr. David (Plymouth, Sutton)|
|Lambie, David||Paget, R. T.||Torney, Tom|
|Lamond, James||Palmer, Arthur||Tuck, Raphael|
|Latham, Arthur||Pannell, Rt. Hn. Charles||Urwin, T. W.|
|Lawson, George||Pardoe, John||Varley, Eric G.|
|Leadbitter, Ted||Parker, John (Dagenham)||Wainwright, Edwin|
|Lee, Rt. Hn. Frederick||Parry, Robert (Liverpool. Exchange)||Walden, Brian (B'm'ham, All Saints)|
|Leonard, Dick||Pavitt, Laurie||Walker, Harold (Doncaster)|
|Lestor, Miss Joan||Peart, Rt. Hn. Fred||Wallace, George|
|Lever, Rt. Hn. Harold||Pentland, Norman||Watkins, David|
|Lewis, Arthur (W. Ham, N.)||Perry, Ernest G.||Weitzman, David|
|Lewis, Ron (Carlisle)||Prentice, Rt. Kn. Reg.||Wellbeloved, James|
|Lipton, Marcus||Prescott, John||Wells, William (Walsall, N.)|
|Lomas, Kenneth||Price, J. T. (Westhoughton)||White, James (Glasgow, Pollok)|
|Loughlin, Charles||Price, William (Rugby)||Whitehead, Phillip|
|Lyon, Alexander W. (York)||Probert, Arthur||Williams, Alan (Swansea, W.)|
|McBride, Neil||Rankin, John||Williams, Mrs. Shirley (Hitchin)|
|McCann, John||Reed, D. (Sedgefield)||Williams, W. T. (Warrington)|
|McCartney, Hugh||Rees, Merlyn (Leeds, S.)||Wilson, Alexander (Hamilton)|
|McElhone, Frank||Rhodes, Geoffrey||Wilson, William (Coventry, S.)|
|McGuire, Michael||Richard, Ivor||Woof, Robert|
|Mackenzie, Gregor||Roberts, Albert (Normanton)|
|Mackie, John||Roberts, Rt. Hn. Goronwy (Caernarvon)||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|Mackintosh, John P.||Robertson, John (Paisley)||Mr. John Golding and|
|McManus, Frank||Roderick, Caerwyn E. (Br'c'n & R'dnor)||Mr. Tom Pendry.|
That this House welcomes Her Majesty's Government's continuing commitment to protect the living standards of old people as evidenced by the recent increase in retirement
pensions, the provision of pensions for the over-80s, and the improvement in public service and Armed Forces pensions; and notes with approval the increased resources made available by Her Majesty's Government for developing the services for the elderly.