HC Deb 15 March 1993 vol 221 cc1-3
1. Mr. Dunn:

To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security what were the number and percentage of individuals over official retirement age in receipt of one or more occupational or private pensions as at (a) 1 January 1978 and (b) 1 January 1993; and if he will make a statement.

The Secretary of State for Social Security (Mr. Peter Lilley)

The number of people receiving occupational pensions increased from approximately 3 million in 1979 to 4.5 million in 1989. That represents an increase, from a third to nearly one half of that age group in 10 years.

Mr. Dunn

Will the Secretary of State please confirm that pensioners' average income from occupational pensions has nearly doubled since 1979? Is not that strong evidence of the Conservative party's determination to continue to improve the living standards of those who are retired?

Mr. Lilley

My hon. Friend makes a powerful point. We have increased the number of people receiving occupational pensions and the size of the occupational pensions that they receive. Overall, during the past decade or so in which we have been in power, we have increased the living standards of pensioners on average every year by more than they increased in the entire five years under the previous Labour Government.

Mrs. Golding

The Minister is, as ever, concerned to speak about the haves, not the have nots. How many times does he need to be asked before he much gives needed help to the pensioners who are refused additional benefits because they receive only tiny occupational pensions? When will he speak about helping them? Would it not have been better to have used the £2,600 that it cost to install a satellite television in benefit offices in Nottingham to show golden oldie films to claimants, to help those pensioners who are in such desperate need?

Mr. Lilley

My reference to the improvement in living standards of pensioners covered all categories of pensioners, not only those in receipt of an occupational pension, welcome though it is that now; among those reaching retirement, two thirds have occupational pensions. However, in addition, we have increased provision for the least well-off pensioners as I was able to confirm in the uprating statement last autumn. I confirmed that an £½billion was to be channelled to pensioners through the pensioners' premium on income support, which was additional to the increase to compensate for inflation.

The hon. Lady may not want appropriate facilities in our benefit offices, but I believe that they should be good and appropriate to the needs of claimants.

Mr. Jenkin

Does my right hon. Friend agree that the worst possible pensions policy, which seems to be advoated or toyed with by the Labour party's social justice commission, would be to means-test the state pension while at the same time do nothing to encourage—or perhaps even discouraging—the alternative methods of private pensions provision?

Mr. Lilley

My hon. Friend is correct. There is an extraordinary new twist to the Labour party's policy. In the past, it undermined pensions by allowing inflation to be rampant and now it appears that it is to consider means-testing pensions while, at the same time, discouraging private provision. One wonders whether it wants to help pensioners or to harm them.