HC Deb 04 December 1973 vol 865 cc1074-5
14. Mr. Skinner

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services if he will agree to meet representatives of the retirement pensioners' organisations.

Mr. Dean

My right hon. Friend recently met representatives of the National Federation of Old-Age Pensions Associations and he and other Ministers regularly meet representatives of pensioners' organisations in many parts of the country.

Mr. Skinner

Is the Minister aware that just down the road at Central Hall there is a rally of all those pensioners' organisations at which several thousand pensioners are present and that there are scores of Labour Members of Parliament to support them in their plea for £10 and £16 pensions? Is he further aware that in the last four years the real value of the pension has gone up by only 15p—enough to buy a loaf of bread—whereas the Prime Minister has had an increase during the last year of £6 a week as a result of tax reliefs given in the Budget?

Mr. Dean

The hon. Gentleman really must know that the real improvement in the pension during the last three-and-a-half years under the present Government has been at the rate of over 3 per cent. per annum. It was a good deal less under his Government. One of the worries which pensioners have at the moment is whether they will have enough coal and electricity to keep themselves warm and to cook a hot dinner. Perhaps the hon. Gentleman can help us on that.

Mrs. Kellett-Bowman

Will my hon. Friend take note of the fact that the pensioners in my constituency bitterly resent being used a a political football? They have had a special meeting and have turned down flat the invitation extended to them to accept a paid journey to the rally.

Mr. Dean

I am grateful, but not at all surprised, to hear how sensible and realistic the pensioners in my hon. Friend's constituency are.

Mrs. Renée Short

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that since his Government came to office food prices alone have risen by 45 per cent.? He said recently in answer to a question that pensioners were spending more on meat, butter, eggs and so on. Does he know how much they are, in fact, eating? Has he carried out any research into how much meat pensioners eat today?

Mr. Dean

Yes. I am glad to be able to assure the hon. Lady, from the food survey figures which we now have for the third quarter, that pensioners are buying more of the basic foodstuffs than they were a year earlier, and—

Mrs. Short

What are they eating?

Mr. Dean

—that their diet is adequate and above the minimum standards laid down for reasonable nutrition.