HC Deb 14 November 1972 vol 846 cc200-1
10. Mr. Skinner

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services if he will increase retirement pensions to £10 for a single person and £16 for a married couple.

Sir K. Joseph

No, Sir. An increase of this order would cost £2,000 million a year if other benefits were revised proportionately. It would impose a heavy burden on contributors and taxpayers and would inevitably be reflected by increases in prices.

Mr. Skinner

The Minister knows that part of that would be clawed back as a result of not having to pay out social security supplementary benefits. If the old-age pensioners are doing as well as the Government claim, why are they demonstrating next Wednesday? Will the Minister go further and explain this to them? Will he meet a deputation from them next Wednesday and explain why the Prime Minister can have more spent on one meal at the Guildhall twice in one week than these people have to live on in a full week?

Sir K. Joseph

I think the figure I gave is net—after the saving of supplementary benefit. I do not think Ministers are claiming that pensioners are all well off by any manner of means. What we are claiming is that the increase last month was significantly more than was necessary to restore buying power. Certainly I am willing to meet the pensioners. I met a deputation of them only two weeks ago. My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister accepted hospitality at the Mansion House or Guildhall and did not himself give it.

Sir B. Rhys Williams

Will my right hon. Friend confirm that the effect of the Social Security Bill which he has brought before the House will be at least, with the passage of time, to achieve the figures the hon. Member is asking for? But is it not also true that pensioners with no other income and facing high rents are well on the way to these figures already as a result of the Housing Finance Act?

Sir K. Joseph

Yes, I think my hon. Friend is quite right in pointing out that with the Supplementary Benefits Commission's payments of rent on the one hand and the rent allowance introduced by the Housing Finance Act for those not on supplementary benefit on the other hand, this is by no means the only help given to pensioners.

Mr. O'Malley

Does not the right hon. Gentleman think that pensioners should be given a degree of priority in the circumstances of 1972? Secondly, does not the Housing Finance Act condemn millions of pensioners to dependence on means-tested supplementary benefits way into the twenty-first century? Thirdly, as the Government have felt able to give priority to substantial tax handouts to the better-off, will the right hon. Gentleman reconsider the definitive "No" he has given in reply to the Question asked by my hon. Friend the Member for Bolsover (Mr. Skinner)?

Sir K. Joseph

I am sure that the hon. Member for Bolsover put much the same question with much the same pressure to his own Front Bench when Labour was in Government. The humbug from the hon. Member for Rotherham (Mr. O'Malley) is pernicious, bearing in mind the thoroughly mean uprating granted by the Labour Government in 1967 and 1969.