HL Deb 07 March 1918 vol 29 cc356-7

MY Lords, I rise to ask His Majesty's Government whether it is a fact, as alleged by the Press to have been stated by Sir Thomas Oliver, speaking at the National Old-Age Pension Conference at Newcastle, that whilst the Government urged the working-classes to put all they could into War Bonds, they then punished them by making them ineligible for old-age pensions by reason of income from savings; and, if so, whether His Majesty's Government would take immediate steps to remove such a legitimate cause of discontent.


My Lords, the Treasury has no official information as to the terms used by Sir Thomas Oliver in the speech referred to, but I may remind the noble Lord that under the Old-Age Pensions Act, 1908, which is the principal Act relating to old-age pensions, it is provided in the Schedule thereof as follows—

Means of Pensioner. Rate of pension per week
Where the yearly means of the pensioner as calculated under this Act— s. d.
Do not exceed £21 5 0
Exceed £21, but do not exceed £23 12s. 6d. 4 0
Exceed £23 12s. 6d. but do not exceed £26 5s. 3 0
Exceed £26 5s but do not exceed £28 17s. 6d. 2 0
Exceed £28 17s. 6d. but do not exceed £31 10s. 1 0
Exceed £31 10s. No pension.
It does therefore follow that if a person whose age approaches seventy has at his disposal sufficient money to invest what will produce a sum in Government securities of over £31 10s. per annum he would be ineligible for an old-age pension when reaching the age of seventy. If, however, he invested this money elsewhere he would probably secure an equal return on his capital and would be accordingly equally ineligible for a pension.

The Government in the House of Commons has repeatedly stated that in the present abnormal conditions they cannot undertake to promote legislation for the abrogation of the cardinal principles underlying the existing Old-Age Pensions Acts. It is no doubt true that where a limit of means is laid down by Statute beyond which a person is not eligible for a receipt of an old-age pension it can be argued that thrift is discouraged. Until, however, it is decided that for the receipt of an old-age pension private means should not be taken into account, the difficulty which the noble Earl suggests will always be present. For instance, if the eligibility for old-age pension were to be restricted to persons with means not exceeding £50 or £100 per annum, the same objection can be raised that the law was discouraging persons saying money so as to secure a competence for their old age.


My Lords, I do not think the answer given is a very satisfactory one. It appears to me to be of very great importance that the largest number of persons possible should be encouraged to invest money for the prosecution of the war. It is of importance not only for prosecuting the war but in order that Government Loans should be based upon most solid foundations, and if any attempt is made to discourage the placing of small sums of money by masses of the people in the hands of the Government, for the prosecution of the war I think great national harm will be done. I therefore hope that His Majesty's Government will find some means by which working people who put money into War Loans will not suffer by so doing.

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