§ 1. Mr. David Atkinson
asked the Secretary of State for Social Services if he will now introduce legislation to bring the over-80s pension in line with the level of the contributory state retirement pension.
§ The Secretary of State for Social Services (Mr. Norman Fowler)
The over-80s pensions are noncontributory and are not means-tested. Such noncontributory benefits have traditionally been set at 60 per cent. of the rate of equivalent contributory benefits. We have no present plans to change this.
§ Mr. Atkinson
Will my right hon. Friend confirm that there remain 40,000 non-contributory retirement pensioners? In view of the recent modest estimate of £25 million a year to brng them into line with other state beneficiaries, does my right hon. Friend not feel morally bound to do so as soon as possible?
§ Mr. Fowler
I certainly confirm the figure. In fairness to contributors, it has always been the practice to set noncontributory rates of benefit below the level of contributory benefit. However, I am happy to consider the whole question in the context of the inquiry into retirement.
§ Mr. Tim Smith
Before my right hon. Friend agrees to this or any other change, will he examine the report on the social security system, due to be published later this week, by the Institute of Fiscal Studies? Will he consider 862 whether we can combine the tax and social security systems to produce a scheme that will alleviate the poverty associated with the unemployment trap? Would not such a scheme be simpler and be aimed more at real need?
§ Mr. Fowler
I have not yet seen the report, but I understand that it is to be published this week. Obviously I shall look at it, but at this stage I cannot hold out any hope. It will be for those giving evidence to the retirement inquiry to make precisely that point.