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Retirement Pensions

Volume 649: debated on Monday 20 November 1961

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asked the Minister of Pensions and National Insurance if he will ensure that when persons are notified that they may claim a retirement pension in three months' time they shall also be notified that where the qualifying number of insurance stamps has not been obtained they have certain opportunities to make up the number of missing stamps and thus avoid reduction in pension.

No, Sir. We do better than that. We inform insured persons whose contributions are deficient in any year of the exact amount of the deficiency soon after the end of that year, and warn them that this deficiency may affect their right to benefit. As the hon. Member I am sure knows, there are time limits for the payment of contributions in arrear, and it would be dangerous to foster the illusion that payment of arrears can safely be left to the time when pension is claimed.

Would not the inclusion of such a note assist people who may not have clearly understood the consequences to know what their rights are? Is the Minister aware that the Conference of the National Old Age Pensioners' Federation, which made the request, was not asking for a record of arrears so much as a simple reminder of the rights to which old people were entitled?

If the hon. Member studies my main Answer, he will see that a notice of deficiency is sent in respect of and very soon after each year in which the deficiency arises. That, particularly when one remembers the time limits, provides a far better precaution against trouble than leaving it until the time when the pension is claimed. But if a pensioner at that time wants to make inquiries, my office is at his disposal and is anxious and willing to advise him.


asked the Minister of Pensions and National Insurance by how much the £2 17s. 6d. retirement pension falls below one third of the present average wage in industry; and if he will consider raising it by this amount.

I assume that for the purposes of this comparison the hon. Member has in mind the figures which my right hon. Friend the Minister of Labour publishes in respect of the average earnings of manual workers in industry. On the basis of the latest of these figures, the difference for men is 42s. 11d. in respect of the single rate of pension, and 7s. 11d. in respect of the married. In respect of women, the single rate of pension is 6s. 8d. more than one-third of their average earnings. I have no proposals for legislation in this matter.

Is not that a striking admission? Does not the Minister feel that it is a catastrophe for most workers when their previous earnings drop to less than one-fifth? Is he aware that the drop outlined in the Question is sharper than in almost any country in Europe, East or West?

The hon. Member confines the Question to the single rate of pension, whereas in the case of a very large number of married couples that is completely irrelevant. In the second place, the hon. Member is ignoring a fact, which I have often mentioned in this context, which is that no citizen is required to live on the basic rate of retirement pension alone.

Is the latter part of the main Answer the answer to a question which I put to the right hon. Gentleman on Second Reading of the Family Allowances and National Insurance Bill? I then asked, in view of the fact that the pay pause is now visibly collapsing, what proposals the Government had to make to bring pensioners somewhere into line with the rising incomes, in view of the fact that the general rise in wages in the next few months appears inevitable. Do I understand from the reply that the Government have no proposal to save pensioners from being left in the lurch?

That question, being founded on a wholly false hypothesis, leads the hon. Member nowhere.