HC Deb 14 November 1988 vol 140 cc738-9
10. Mr. David Atkinson

To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security what is his current estimate of the number of people over 80 years who do not receive the full state retirement pension.

Mr. Peter Lloyd

About 66,000 people aged 80 and over do not receive full basic state pension—out of nearly 1.9 million in total. Those who do not receive full basic pension did not satisfy the contribution conditions.

Mr. Atkinson

Has my hon. Friend any estimates how much it would cost to provide those over-80s with a full basic pension? In view of their dwindling numbers, will he urge our right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer to include that initiative in his forthcoming package of special help for poorer pensioners and to replace the 25p increase, which every 80-year-old must now regard as an insult on reaching that birthday?

Mr. Lloyd

I am afraid that I do not have the figure that my hon. Friend asked for, but, as he knows, those who do not receive the full pension and do not have sufficient income from other sources will have the difference more than made up through income support. We have no plans to discontinue the 25p age allowance, but I note my hon. Friend's enthusiasm for better targeting.

Mrs. Beckett

Does the Minister, whom I welcome to the Government Front Bench, recall reports to the effect that about 1 million pensioners who do not get a full state pension do not claim the income support to which they should be entitled? Does he not realise that that generation in particular is most reluctant to claim benefits which the Government persist in stigmatising as charity? If they are really making the oldest and poorest a priority, when will the Minister announce a massive take-up campaign for benefit along the same lines as the privatisation sales campaign?

Mr. Lloyd

The hon. Lady might be harking back in practice to the statements made by my right hon. Friend the Chancellor and my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State about a pension for pensioners on low income who have not benefited from occupational pension schemes or SERPS. The hon. Lady's objective is one that we share.

Mr. Hanley

Does my hon. Friend agree that those over 80 are increasing in absolute terms and as a proportion of the total population? Will he have urgent discussions with his colleagues at the Department of the Environment so as to allow local authorities greater leeway over spending for that age group in areas with a particularly high proportion of such people?

Mr. Lloyd

I shall draw my hon. Friend's comments to the attention of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Environment.