HC Deb 28 April 1999 vol 330 c332
4. Dr. Doug Naysmith (Bristol, North-West)

What measures she is taking to assist pensioners in Northern Ireland. [81284]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Northern Ireland (Mr. John McFall)

In line with the long-standing policy of parity between Great Britain and Northern Ireland in social security matters, pensioners in Northern Ireland benefit fully from the Government's strategy to provide effective help for today's pensioners, including the introduction of the minimum income guarantee and winter fuel payments. They will also share in the Chancellor's £1 billion pensioner package.

Dr. Naysmith

I thank my hon. Friend for that reply. Is it possible to estimate the number of pensioner households in Northern Ireland that will benefit from the Chancellor's recent Budget package?

Mr. McFall

I thank my hon. Friend for that question. There are 250,000 pensioners in Northern Ireland, and each and every one of them will benefit from the Chancellor's package. With the changes in income tax, 200,000 out of 250,000 pensioners in Northern Ireland will not pay income tax. That is good news for the country, and good news for the pensioners in Northern Ireland.

Mr. Clifford Forsythe (South Antrim)

Does the Minister know that one in four pensioners in Northern Ireland are on income support? Although there is parity of benefits in Northern Ireland, unfortunately the price of food and fuel for everyone, including pensioners, is much dearer. In addition, there is no concessionary travel in Northern Ireland. Will the Minister please take notice of the report of the Transport Sub-Committee, which was published today? It suggests a national concessionary fare across the whole of the United Kingdom perhaps helped by local authorities.

Mr. McFall

I thank the hon. Gentleman for that question. I take his point about the number of pensioners in Northern Ireland on income support. The Government introduced the minimum income guarantee. The minimum income is £75 a week for single pensioners and £116 a week for couples.

The Department of the Environment, in conjunction with a number of district councils, is examining pilot schemes for free concessionary travel.

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