HL Deb 12 November 1968 vol 297 cc418-20

2.39 p.m.


My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question which stands in my name on the Order I Paper.

[The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government whether it is their intention, when considering legislation "to increase the pensions of retired members of the public services and their dependants" (as foreshadowed in the gracious Speech) also to increase the pensions of retired members of the Regular Forces and their dependants; and war pensions and allowances.]


My Lords, the Question deals with two classes of Armed Forces pensioners. So far as Service pensions for retired members of the Armed Forces and their dependants are concerned, your Lordships will recall that increases in Armed Forces pensions are made under the Royal Prerogative, whereas increases in public service pensions require legislation. We intend that, as in previous years, increases in pensions for the Armed Forces should follow whatever pattern is laid down for the rest of the public service in the legislation foreshadowed in the gracious Speech.

As to war pensions and allowances, increases are made separately under War Pensions Instruments and, as my noble friend Lord Bowles told the noble Lord on May 21, 1968, my right honourable friend the Prime Minister indicated that a further general uprating could not be undertaken before at least the autumn of 1969. I would remind the noble Lord that substantial increases were made a year ago, and I would add that the real value of benefits has increased 12–13 per cent. since the present Government took office in October, 1964.


My Lords, while acknowledging with thanks what has been done, may I ask the noble Lord whether he is aware that the basic war pension is already at this date 6s. 10d. below what it might be expected to be if account had been taken of the cost-of-living rise; and that if the allowances which go to a great many of the men who are most severely disabled are also taken into account, then the deficiency is more like 12s. or 13s., or even 22s.? That being so, will he assure us that the Chancellor will make provision in his Budget so that during the forthcoming year these deficiencies may be made up?


My Lords, the noble Lord is of course quite correct in that the time for consideration is at Budget time next year. I have said that a general uprating could not be undertaken before at least the autumn of 1969, in the next Budget year. I will bear in mind what the noble Lord has said and will convey it to my right honourable friend the Secretary of State.


My Lords, is the noble Lord aware that widows' pensions and pensions of those officers who retired under the 1919 code are now very far behind, considering the great rise in the cost of living in the last two years? Can the Government give any assurance that they will give sympathetic attention to trying to get these pensions regulated more fairly in relation to the cost of living?


My Lords, I think the noble Lord has made a very valid point. Again, I will convey that to my right honourable friend the Secretary of State.


My Lords, may I ask the noble Lord this question? Are we to understand, both from his original reply and from my noble friend's supplementary, that even after a 13 per cent. rise in the basic cost of pensions those who receive them are still less well off, thanks to the drop in the value of money over the last two years?


No, my Lords; I did not say that. In point of fact, the pensioners who receive this benefit have still had an absolute increase.


My Lords, may I ask the Government to have regard to one case which I have found to be of great difficulty? A regular sailor who retired before 1914 came back and served in 1914 after having been maimed in civilian life. He also served during the recent war. Now on a quite exiguous pension, if anything goes wrong he is absolutely helpless because his injury prevents him from working. When approached the authorities say, "Ah, but his injury is not attributable to the war". Will Her Majesty's Government remember that you cannot approbate and reprobate the same document, and if you accept a maimed man you ought to accept the implications.


My Lords, if the noble Lord will write to me, I will study the case.


My Lords, the noble Lord said that there had been an absolute rise in war pensions. That is true. But there has not been a relative rise. That is the point.


My Lords, is my noble friend aware that this is all special pleading? In the past we have always taken the pensions of those maimed and killed in war together with the other social benefits on the Statute Book, such as old age pensions and injuries benefit?