HC Deb 09 July 1979 vol 970 cc26-7
57. Mr. Adley

asked the Paymaster General what effect he expects tighter cash limits to have on the work of his Department.

The Paymaster General (Mr. Angus Maude)

The work of my Office consists of paying pensions and handling Government banking work, and the volume of this work depends on the demand. Provided that there is no unforeseen increase in this volume, my Office expects to be able to operate within the recently revised cash limit without appreciably affecting the efficiency of its service.

Mr. Adley

I welcome my right hon. Friend to his role and thank him for that answer. Is he aware that there is unlikely to be a reduction in his Department's work load from my constituency because of the large number of pensioners who live there? Further, is he aware that many of those pensioner constituents, especially those who receive their pensions through the post, have in the past few months been suffering increasing delays? Can my right hon. Friend tell the House why there has been this increasing delay over the past few months, and whether it would be possible for him, without increasing public expenditure, to post the pensions a little earlier so that people could get them on time?

Mr. Maude

I am aware that there have been regrettable delays in paying pensions. There was a certain backlog in work due to industrial action, and more recently there has been delay owing to hold-ups in the postal service. My Office has done all it can to minimise these delays by posting payments earlier and has offered to help in individual cases where it can. I am glad to say that I understand that the situation is now improving.

Mr. Robert Hughes

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that there is serious delay in the issue of new pension books, and that one constituent of mine, for example, has been waiting 15 weeks, with no pension? Will he look into this matter?

Mr. Maude

Yes, Sir; if the hon. Gentleman will give me details of that, I shall certainly look into it.

Mr. Hannam

Will my right hon. Friend confirm that it was the last Government who altered the postal arrangements for payments to pensioners from first-class to second-class post, thereby adding considerably to the delay?

Mr. Maude

Yes, Sir, that is true. The last Government, when looking for economies in public expenditure, decided that my Office should send out its pension books by second-class rather than first-class post, and there was in fact a considerable saving in public money as a result.

Mr. Skinne

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that there is another group of people, who in some cases have worked for as long as 30 years in the Palace of Westminster—some of them behind the staff bars, the cafeteria, the Tea Room and so on—and they have no pension at all? They took certain limited industrial action—

Mr. Speaker

Order. The Minister can answer questions only in respect of those for whom he is responsible, and I think that he is not responsible there.