HC Deb 06 February 1973 vol 850 cc214-5
15. Mr. Skinner

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services what plans he now has to increase the level of disregards as they affect means-tested benefits.

24. Mr. Harper

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services if he will give consideration to increasing the £1 disregard for pensions, paid by former employers, to retirement pensioners in receipt of supplementary benefits.

Mr. Dean

I would refer the hon. Members to my reply to my hon. Friend the Member for Conway (Mr. Wyn Roberts) on 14th November last.—[Vol. 846, c. 55–6.]

Mr. Skinner

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that there have been some developments since that time, one of which is that the £ is worth less? The miners and the National Coal Board are at present discussing reasonable increases in miners' retirement pensions, and does the hon. Gentleman appreciate that if nothing is done about the £1 disregard this will mean that half the miners will have the money in their pocket and will then lose it in respect of the clawback of supplementary benefit?

Mr. Dean

This is one aspect which has to be considered along with the annual review, because it demands additional resources. I agree that there have been changes, and one of them is that the Labour Party is not supporting the Counter-Inflation Bill.

Mr. Harper

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that if we take the £ as being worth 100p in 1966, we find that it is worth a little less than 70p and that a little arithmetic shows that it would have to be increased to £1.43 to restore its value today? Will lie act promptly to raise the level of disregards, especially for people receiving small pensions, such as the miners, who are given 50p with one hand but have it clawed back by the Government with the other hand?

Mr. Dean

I accept the point, and it is for this reason that there is a disregard of up to £2 for those with resources on pensions and the like; but to increase these disregards means using resources which would otherwise be made available for those who have no resources to disregard.

Mr. Kinsey

Will my hon. Friend acknowledge that, although there is great concern about means-tested benefits, there is equal concern about abuses among those who are drawing benefits? When will the report on this subject be available?

Mr. Dean

I cannot say exactly but it will be fairly soon.