HC Deb 10 February 1987 vol 110 c154
12. Mr. Nellist

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services when he intends to introduce regulations to uprate the level of £35 a week of occupational pension above which unemployment benefit starts to be abated, as defined in section 5(1) of the Social Security (No. 2) Act 1980; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Major

We have no present plans to change the existing threshold. Future changes will be considered in the light of other competing demands for social security funds.

Mr. Nellist

Is the Minister aware that it is now six years since that level was set and that since then some hundreds of thousands of workers, men of 60 and over, including not least those Talbot car workers in Coventry who have asked me to raise the matter, have paid national insurance, yet now, on the point of retirement, because they have an occupational pension, are denied unemployment benefit? Why does not the Minister, if he will not abolish that regulation, at least uprate the figure by inflation to the £47 it ought to be today instead of £35? Why is it that if a millionaire has £100,000 of investment income unemployment benefit is not affected, but if a worker has £35.10p occupational pension that affects his unemployment benefit?

Mr. Major

The principle of the offset is one that previous Labour Governments twice tried to introduce, although unsuccessfully. The offset seeks to reflect the fact that occupational pensions form a retirement income, and a retirement income is not wholly consistent with people being non-retired and available for work.

Mr. Stern

Will my hon. Friend be very cautious about proceeding along the road indicated by the hon. Member for Coventry, South-East (Mr. Nellist)? Does he agree that, as this country moves closer towards the four-pension household as being the norm, the aim should be to reduce dependence on benefits rather than increase it?

Mr. Major

I agree with my hon. Friend. I am always cautious about following advice from the hon. Member for Coventry, South-East (Mr. Nellist).