HC Deb 18 June 1985 vol 81 cc163-4
14. Mr. Andrew Bowden

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services how the income support system outlined in his Green Paper will affect pensioners who are entitled to claim supplementary pension at the present time but do not do so.

Mr. Newton

Precise estimates cannot be made, but I would expect the simpler income support structure to make it easier for prospective claimants to judge their entitlement.

Mr. Bowden

Is my hon. Friend saying that when this new scheme conies into operation, if it does, there is a very good chance that the 1 million pensioners who today could be claiming a supplementary pension but are not doing so will get their full rights?

Mr. Newton

The evidence suggests that take-up of supplementary pension among potential supplementary pensioners has improved, on the latest, somewhat out-of-date, figures that we have, following the changes that we made in 1980. In my view, this move to an even more clearly regulated system of entitlement should assist further to that end.

Mr. Meacher

Will the hon. Gentleman confirm that of the 7 million people who will have their housing benefit cut, 4 million are pensioners? Will he also confirm that, of the 1.8 million households that will lose housing benefit altogether under the Green Paper proposals, the great majority are pensioner owner-occupiers, especially widows, with a small occupational pension and a total income of only £60 or £70 a week?

Mr. Newton

Since, as the hon. Gentleman knows, the effects of the housing benefit proposals depend on the income support rates, and as the income support rates have not yet been set, he should refrain from making these wild generalisations.

Mr. Kenneth Carlisle

Is my hon. Friend aware that one aspect of the Green Paper which pensioners particularly welcome is the provision that pensions will now be uprated in April, rather than having to wait until November, as has happened until now?

Mr. Newton

Yes, indeed. That is a gain, not only for pensioners, who, of course, will have two upratings in a period of 16 months, but in the clarity of the system for all beneficiaries.