asked the Minister of National Insurance if he will explain the practice of his Department in dealing with letters from old age pensioners complaining that they cannot obtain new pension books; and if he will give instructions that, when further delay is unavoidable, the pensioner shall be informed of its probable duration.
Local area officers of the assistance boards are now acting as my agents in dealing personally with those making a first claim for old age pension and also with pensioners who experience difficulty over renewal of their order books or who claim entitlement to an increase of their previous rate. It is not generally practicable to indicate in advance the time required for settlement of any indi- vidual case, but where it seems that there will be exceptional delay or that a new claim cannot be settled by pension date my Department endeavours to let the claimant know. Now that the difficulties which have created undue delays during recent months are being overcome, I am considering what further improvements in the supply of information can be made.
Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that many of these old age pensioners have been writing to his Department for over six months, and can they not be sent something more informative than a formal acknowledgement in reply?
My experience has proved to me that any arrangemet by which my Department receives letters from pensioners and writes to them in reply is the wrong way to deal with old people. I am seeking to build up an administration in which if any difficulty arises a pensioner may be seen and interviewed by an officer, which I am certain is the best way to deal with this question.
Is the Minister aware that in cases where claimants have been unable to get satisfaction after two, three or four months, and then approach their Members of Parliament, they are told they should not do so?
That is the first I have heard of this. Members of Parliament have access to the Ministers and to Departments, and we do our best to clear up these matters.
Since we are all agreed that it is not really desirable that we should have to approach the Minister in these cases, may I ask the right hon. Gentleman whether he could suggest some form of local procedure whereby these real grievances could be more speedily remedied?
As I have announced to the House, pending the building up of our own organisation, I have made an arrangement whereby officers of the assistance boards receive old age pensioners or visit them in their own homes to clear up difficulties