HC Deb 23 March 1976 vol 908 cc187-8
10. Sir George Young

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services if she will announce the date of the next social security uprating.

15. Mr. Canavan

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services whether she will now make a statement about the next review of the retirement pension.

Mrs. Castle

An announcement will be made at the appropriate time after the decision on the uprating is taken.

Sir G. Young

Why cannot the right hon. Lady implement her next uprating on October 1st or April 1st, so that it coincides with the date on which the local authorities review their rent and rates, thereby minimising the administrative problems involved in revising means-tested benefits?

Mrs. Castle

It would be totally impractical to implement any uprating for the current year on April 1st. I am sure the hon. Gentleman realises that. We certainly do not intend to hold up the next uprating until April 1977.

Mr. Canavan

Will my right hon. Friend give consideration to the view that old-age pensioners should be entitled to the full £6 per week increase awarded to many other workers since last August? Will she take into account the fact that the pension increase may be eroded in value between the date of its announcement and the date of its implementation?

Mrs. Castle

I am well aware that there is an erosion in the value of the pension between upratings. This always happens. I am glad to be able to tell my hon. Friend that the value of the pension since it was uprated in November 1975 has fallen by only 3.7 per cent. up to February this year. This compares with a fall of 6.8 per cent. three months after the uprating last April. Therefore, we are succeeding not only in protecting the pension against inflation but, I am glad to say, bringing the inflation rate down.

Mr. McCrindle

Have we yet reached the stage at which computerisation will help us to reduce the period between the announcement of the uprating and its actual implementation? Is the right hon. Lady aware that in such European countries as Belgium the pensioners have to wait a much shorter time before being paid what they were promised?

Mrs. Castle

Ever since I took on this office I have been carefully examining whether it is possible to speed up the implementation of an announcement. I have visited our local offices and discussed this. I have also studied what happens on the Continent. The fact is that in other countries, which are often quoted in the House as a comparison with us, there are very different methods of payment. They are not centralised like ours. There are usually monthly payments by cheque, or something of that kind. Their systems are quite different from ours.

I am satisfied, after detailed discussion with my staff, that if they are to have a tolerable work load there must be an adequate period between announcement and implementation, to allow all the multifarious adjustments to be made in supplementary benefits, for example, which we have always uprated in line with the basic benefits.