HC Deb 19 June 1973 vol 858 cc351-3
7. Mr. Dixon

asked the Secretary of of State for Social Services what have been the annual percentage increases or decreases in retirement pensions for a married couple, adjusted in the retail price index, in the autumn of each of the last eight years; and what have been the average annual increases on the same basis, between October 1964 and June 1970, and between June 1970 and October 1972.

Mr. Dean

The average annual increases, adjusted for changes in the general index of retail prices, in the value of the retirement pension for a married couple for the periods October 1964 to June 1970 and June 1970 to October 1972 were respectively 2.4 per cent. and 5 per cent. I shall, with permission, circulate in the OFFICIAL REPORT a table showing the annual increase or decrease for each of the eight years.

Mr. Dixon

Can my hon. Friend give me any reason why any old-age pensioner should ever again vote for a Labour Government?

Mr. Dean

I agree entirely with my hon. Friend. The figures speak clearly for themselves and there is little doubt that the pensioners are more interested in effective action by this Government than in extravagant promises from the Labour Party.

Mr. Arthur Lewis

Everyone in the country, including the Minister, knows that old-age pensioners spend the overwhelming bulk of their income on food—if they can afford it. As food has doubled and trebled in price, and is continuing to rise, will the Minister say exactly what is happening and give the figures in the reply which he is to publish, showing how much food has increased since the Government have been in office?

Mr. Dean

I take the hon. Member's point. Food is one of the most important items in the budget of any pensioner. I can assure him, however, that the increase in food prices, or in other prices, is fully taken into account when the level of the pension increases is determined. Since the Government came to office pensions have increased by 35 per cent. and prices have gone up by just over 26 per cent. In other words, there is a substantial margin of real improvement.

Sir B. Rhys Williams

Not all National Insurance pensioners living in private rented accommodation are applying for the sometimes very generous benefits that are available to them under the Housing Finance Act. Will my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary consider some administrative measure which will encourage these pensioners to apply for their benefits?

Mr. Dean

All this came out clearly in the earlier Question on miners' pensions. We shall do all we can to build up close links between our Department and the housing departments of the local authorities.

Mr. Loughlin

We all appreciate that statistics are most interesting, but will the Minister do the House a favour? Will he go along to a shopping centre at the weekend and take specific note of old-age pensioners scratching around to get sufficient food to last them over the weekend, knowing full well that they will not have sufficient to eat by the end of the following week?

Mr. Dean

Of course we are all concerned to do more for pensioners than we have been able to do in the past. Comments of the kind uttered by the hon. Member, however, come very ill from him, because he had responsibility for these matters long before this Government introduced an annual increase in pensions.

Mr. John Silkin

Does not the Under-Secretary agree that the retirement pension today represents a larger proportion of average national earnings than it did in 1967 and that it is likely that by October this year it will have reached an all-time low?

Mr. Dean

The proportion has not altered significantly over recent years, but the proportion of pensioners in the population has continued to increase. We should take much more notice of what the right hon. Gentleman said were we to have more support from him for our counter-inflation policies.

Following is the information:

Year (October) Percentage change in real value of retirement pension for a married couple*
1964 to 1965 +13.8
1965 to 1966 -3.7
1966 to 1967 +10.2
1967 to 1968 -5.3
1968 to 1969† +5.3
1969†to1970 -6.6
1970 to 1971 +9.5
1971 to 1972 +4.2
*Retirement pensions were uprated in March 1965, October 1967, November 1969, September 1971 and October 1972.
† The month used in this is November 1969.