§ Mr. Soames
To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security when he intends to reply to the hon. Member for Crawley's question for priority answer on 18 January, concerning Her Majesty's Government's policies for caring for pensioners.
§ Mr. Soames
To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security if he will make a statement on the past achievements and present objectives of Her Majesty's Government's policies for caring for pensioners.
§ Mrs. Gillian Shephard
[holding answer 18 January 1990]: The Government have always attached the highest priority to the interests and needs of elderly people, and will continue to do so. We believe that our record demonstrates the depth of our commitment in caring for pensioners. We would particularly point to the improving economic circumstances of pensioners brought about by the wide range of successful Government policies aimed at creating a stable economic environment.
This success led to an increase in average pensioners' total net income of 23 per cent. in real terms between 1979 and 1986. The increases during the same period of the value of income from savings of 64 per cent. and occupational pensions of 56 per cent. are particularly encouraging. This demonstrates the vital importance to elderly people of the economic policies which the Government have pursued, and will continue to pursue. We think it is fair to say that the elderly are not a homogeneous group with wholly common interests and circumstances and our policies recognise this. For example, we are conscious that not all pensioners have benefited from sources of incomes other than their state pension. In recognition of that the package of measures introduced last October directed an extra £200 million towards 2.6 million individuals in greatest need—the less well-off, elderly and disabled pensioners on income 381W support and housing benefit. However, many people wish to continue in work beyond pension age and the abolition of the retirement pension earnings rule, also last October, allows them the freedom to choose to do so and receive their pension.
In addition, many pensioners may benefit from the changes to personal taxation to be made from this coming April.
These are, we believe, all good examples of the sound policies which have enabled pensioners to share in the increased wealth of the nation.
Finally, the depth of our commitment may be measured by the levels of spending on the provision of benefits and services for the elderly; spending on social security benefit rose by 24 per cent. in real terms between 1979 and 1989–90; spending on health services for the elderly rose by 29 per cent. between 1978 and 1987 and spending on social services for the elderly rose by 21 per cent. between the same dates. This Government are committed to continuing to look after the interests of elderly people.