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Old-Age Pensions

Volume 530: debated on Monday 19 July 1954

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asked the Minister of Pensions and National Insurance to give an estimate of the amount by which old-age pensions could be increased, on the assumption that on 1st July, 1954, a further £335 million per annum were allocated by the Treasury for the purpose of increasing old-age pensions.

As a matter of arithmetic, retirement pensions could, for the time being, be increased by about 30s. a week. If the increase were permanent the prospective annual deficit of the fund would be more than doubled.

Is the Minister aware that the Chancellor of the Exchequer informed me last week that £335 million has been the value of the reliefs in Income Tax and Surtax which he has made to the rich since he has been in power? Does not the right hon. Gentleman think it would have been better not to have reduced those taxes so much, and to have given old-age pensioners if not another 30s at least 15s. more a week?

As the hon. Gentleman is no doubt also aware, more than two-thirds of these Income Tax concessions went to people of comparatively small incomes. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] Yes, that is so, to people with less than £1,000 a year. Moreover, a suggestion of the kind which the hon. Member has made would completely destroy the insurance basis of the scheme.


asked the Minister of Pensions and National Insurance whether he will recommend the appointment of a Royal Commission to inquire into the extent whereby the present old-age pension is sufficient to maintain a pensioner under present-day conditions of higher fares, rents, food and cost of living, generally.

I rather anticipated that reply. Is it because the right hon. Gentleman and everyone else in the country knows that the old-age pensioners are suffering so much that there is really no need for any inquiry; and, particularly in view of the facts as given in this morning's leading article in the "Daily Herald," will the right hon. Gentleman see whether the Chancellor can give back some of this money to the old-age pensioners instead of relieving the rich?

The reason why I am not anxious to appoint a Royal Commission to inquire into these points is that it would waste a lot of time and could only show that the National Insurance pension is not now, and never has been at any time, sufficient for a person to exist on, unless that person had some other resources as well.

Is it not common knowledge that many of the problems of old age and of the National Insurance Fund are being now carefully investigated both by the Phillips Committee and in the quinquennial review? And, further, is it not common knowledge that the Government intend to do all they can to perform an act of justice to the pensioners for the second time in the lifetime of this Parliament?