HC Deb 23 April 1996 vol 276 cc187-8
7. Mr. Simon Coombs

To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security what proportion of pensioners had incomes in the top half of the national income distribution in (a) 1979 and (b) the last year for which figures are available. [24675]

Mr. Heald

In 1979, 25 per cent. of pensioners were in the top half of the income distribution, after housing costs. By 1992–93, that had increased to 35 per cent.

Mr. Coombs

Can my hon. Friend confirm that now more than 20 million people receive income from an occupational pension scheme and 66 per cent. of recently retired pensioners receive money from such a scheme, compared with 55 per cent. in 1979? Can my hon. Friend confirm that the Pensions Act 1995 provides a still more secure framework for the regulation of occupational pension schemes?

Mr. Heald

I can confirm those things. It is worth noting that others have searched the world for a system that would be better, but still have not found one.

Mr. Denham

While it is true that the wealthiest pensioners today are significantly wealthier than their predecessors—I do not begrudge them their good fortune—the poorest pensioners are not wealthier than their predecessors. Does the Minister have no positive response to Age Concern's "Your Rights Week"? More than 600,000 pensioners do not receive even the income support to which they are entitled. They are going without an average of £14 per week. Why, under this Conservative Government, is it left to charities such as Age Concern to tell Britain's poorest pensioners how they can get the help to which they are entitled?

Mr. Heald

The bottom 20 per cent. of pensioners have seen their incomes rise in real terms by 20 per cent. under the Conservatives and their savings have not been robbed by inflation as they were under Labour.