HC Deb 13 June 1972 vol 838 cc1235-7
4. Mr. Dixon

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services whether, in calculating the amount of a war disablement pension excluded for purposes of supplementary benefit payments, he will increase the figure from £2 per week to a level which takes into account the rise in the cost of living since 1966.

The Under-Secretary of State for Health and Social Security (Mr. Paul Dean)

We have undertaken to review the disregard levels at an appropriate time and we shall take into account the rise in the cost of living since 1966.

Mr. Dixon

Does my hon. Friend agree that, if such a review were made now, it would decide that the figure should be increased from £2 to about £2.75? Can he give some idea when a review is likely to take place?

Mr. Dean

My right hon. Friend thought it right during the first two years to concentrate the available resources on improving the level of benefit, particularly in respect of the very severely disabled and also war widows. He has given an undertaking that the rates will be reviewed. We accept that their value has been eroded.

Mr. Skinner

Why not review them a little higher? Last Friday the Govern- ment revealed that the Prime Minister's pension would amount to £7,500. What is the difference? Why make fish of one and fowl of the other?

Mr. Dean

The hon. Gentleman knows that we now have an annual review of national insurance pensions for the first time ever and that the improvement in the benefit in two years has been well over £1,000 million a year.

5. Mr. Loveridge

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services what representations he has received, urging him to consider increasing the amount of capital disregarded for the purposes of assessing income for supplementary benefits from £325 to £500.

Mr. Dean

A few suggestions have been made that the £325 figure should be raised, but I am not aware of any suggestion of a figure of £500.

Mr. Loveridge

I am grateful to hear that the Government are considering raising the figure, although I think that £500 of capital should be the minimum disregarded figure—it is not a great deal and surely the Government wish to encourage people to save. The £500 figure would make a difference of 40p per week of income in respect of some one on supplementary benefit. It was as long ago as 1960 that it was last adjusted—

Mr. Speaker

Order. This is Question time.

Mr. Dean

Yes, Sir, these rates will be reviewed, but I must point out on the aspect of thrift that an owner-occupied house is completely disregarded and that under the present arrangements people with no other disregarded resources may have up to £800 of capital disregarded.

Mr. Arthur Lewis

Following the supplementary question put by my hon. Friend the Member for Bolsover (Mr. Skinner), may I ask why poorer people are subject to restrictions when more highly paid persons who are awarded higher pensions than the rest have no such restrictions? Surely all people, whether the Prime Minister or anybody else, should be treated in the same way.

Mr. Dean

I do not think the hon. Gentleman is comparing like with like. He is comparing occupational pensions, for which there is one rule, irrespective of the person and the level of income, with the National Insurance Scheme, which is another matter.

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