§ 4. Mr. Hooley
asked the Secretary of State for Social Services what is the approximate saving in public expenditure by delaying for two weeks beyond the normal date the payment of the annual increase in pensions.
§ 6. Mr. Stallard
asked the Secretary of State for Social Services what representations he has received from the National Federation of Old Age Pensions Associations about the contents of the Social Security (No. 2) Bill.
§ The Under-Secretary of State for Health and Social Security (Mrs. Lynda Chalker)
If the rates of benefits proposed for the week commencing 24 November were to be paid two weeks earlier, the additional expenditure in 1980–81 would be about £125 million, of which about £65 million would be on retirement and supplementary pensions.
As to representations from the National Federation of Old Age Pensions Associations, it wrote to my right hon. Friend about the date of this year's uprating, but not about the contents of the Social Security (No. 2) Bill.
§ Mr. Hooley
Is the Minister aware that this is a peculiarly squalid manoeuvre, even by the standards of this Government? Is it now the Government's intention to calculate year by year a 54-week year for pensioners, so that eventually their uprating arises in the year after next?
§ Mrs. Chalker
The answer to the second part of the hon. Gentleman's question is " No ". Under the Social Security Act 1980 the uprating cannot be later than the week commencing 23 November 1981. Therefore, the situation envisaged by the hon. Gentleman is avoided.
§ Mr. Garel-Jones
Will my hon. Friend confirm that, despite the fact that the increase is to be delayed, it is the greatest increase ever given to old-age pensioners by any Government?
§ Mrs. Chalker
Yes, in cash terms, it it the greatest increase. I should point out that the increases are still a substantial and welcome help to pensioners.
§ Mr. Frank Allaun
Will the Minister confirm her colleague's admission a few minutes ago that this is a deliberate intention to reduce public expenditure? Is she aware that this saving is exactly one-twentieth of the increase in arms spending this year—in a single year?
§ Mrs. Chalker
I should point out that an unintentional effect of the provisions of the Social Security Act 1975 has been that the date for increasing benefits has been creeping forward. Any responsible Government would have had to tackle that matter. That is the cause of one week's delay. The second week's delay is to reduce public expenditure.
§ Mr. William Hamilton
Does the hon. Lady recollect that in Committee she admitted that this robbing of old-age pensioners was designed to cut public expenditure? Will she now say that she is thoroughly ashamed of what she is doing?
As I said to the hon. Member for Salford, East (Mr. Allaun), one week's delay in the uprating is to prevent the creeping forward, which any responsible Government would have had to deal with. I have said that the second week's delay in the uprating is, indeed, to hold back public expenditure.