HL Deb 13 February 1980 vol 405 cc165-7

3.1 p.m.

Viscount St. DAVIDS

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

The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government whether pensioners who have their pensions paid directly to a bank and not collected weekly at a Post Office can be issued with a card stating that they are old age pensioners and are thus entitled to receive other benefits obtainable on production of pension books.


My Lords, the noble Viscount has in mind, I think, those retirement pensioners who are paid periodically by payable orders instead of weekly by order book. There are at present no provisions for paying pensions direct to banks. I am glad to be able to inform the noble Viscount that arrangements already exist to issue to those pensioners, on request, a card confirming their entitlement to a pension. A pensioner who is not paid by order book and wishes to receive a card should apply to the Department of Health and Social Security's Central Pensions Branch at Newcastle-upon-Tyne.

Viscount St. DAVIDS

My Lords, I thank the noble Lord for that helpful reply, for which I am sure I am entitled to address him as my friend. Will my noble friend further take into account the fact that publicity needs to be given to this, as this method of identification is extremely valuable? It enables these pensioners to collect not only free or cheap bus fares, cheap rail fares, but free entrance to a number of exhibitions and also cheap entrance to a number of private and commercially operated entertainments.


My Lords, that is very true. If it would interest the House I shall give an indication of the other things that are available, but they are in different areas and one has to make inquiries locally as to what is available. You can, for instance, obtain concessionary rates on hairdressing; dry cleaning; rail fares; bus fares; holidays (often for specified weeks); theatre and cinema tickets; entry to exhibitions and ancient monuments; bingo halls; adult education; membership of sports and social clubs, and some local authority services.


My Lords, may I ask the noble Lord the Minister whether he will take steps to see that when a person qualifies for a retirement pension that person will be told that a card establishing that he or she is a pensioner will be available? I speak with some feeling on this matter because in the part of the country where I live, if one wants to obtain concessionary fares and one has not a pension book, one has to produce in one part of the city a birth certificate. On the rail, if you have not got such a certificate, you have to produce your passport, and there is a different system in different places. Lots of people entitled to these facilities, simply because they are having their pension paid into a bank, do not get them because they cannot establish that they are pensioners.


My Lords, when people first get their pension payment they get a leaflet which is NI.105, and on that leaflet is quite clearly shown that if you require it the Central Pensions Branch will provide, on request, a card confirming that you are entitled to a retirement pension. That is the sort of card that one in fact gets.

I know there are differences in different areas, but the social security office will undoubtedly help on those occasions.


My Lords, can the noble Lord say what are the objections to payment of the retirement pensions direct into a bank account? If these objections could be overcome, say by quarterly payments, would it not result in a considerable saving in manpower?


My Lords, that is actually being looked at seriously at this moment. I understand that there are certain administrative difficulties about it, but I believe that they may well be overcome.


My Lords, would the noble Lord say when the practice of issuing that leaflet was commenced? I became a pensioner last July but I never received a leaflet, and it was two months before I got a pension book.


My Lords, I am sorry but I cannot answer that question.

Viscount AMORY

My Lords, may I ask my noble friend whether he will appreciate what a joy the senior citizens' rail card is to me, but that when I present it I find it a little embarrassing occasionally to be given a child's ticket? It is an unnecessary reminder of the period of my life on which I have entered. I think my noble friend may well tell me that it is outside his immediate responsibility.


Yes, my Lords, but I can well understand how the noble Viscount, who always looks so young, gets a child's ticket.