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Volume 885: debated on Tuesday 28 January 1975

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asked the Secretary of State for Social Services if she will bring in a Bill to tie the disregards, for income from both earnings and savings, in retirement and other pensions, to the retail price index.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware how galling it is to my constituents and others when those who earn find that they are penalised as inflation proceeds, because what they can earn is reduced, whereas those who do not earn have their pensions increased in line with or in excess of the increase in the cost of living? Will the right hon. Gentleman reconsider this matter and protect those who earn rather than those who live on the State?

I agree that under the Tories it must have been galling for the sort of people the hon. Member described, since his Government did nothing about it. However, his constituents will be far happier with the situation now, because since Labour came to power the disregards of both capital and earnings have been and are being increased substantially under the Bill now before the House.

We all welcome what is being done about disregards, but will the right hon. Gentleman consider the situation in relation to the average level of weekly earnings? The old figure represented 10 per cent. of average weekly earnings when it was introduced in November 1966, whereas the new figure is only 8 per cent. of the level in October 1974. Will the right hon. Gentleman make sure that supplementary beneficiaries are not disadvantaged too badly because the Government have allowed the average level of weekly earnings to soar at uncontrolled rates?

People are not disadvantaged now in the way that they were under the Conservative Government, judging that Government by their record—

It is not rubbish; it is a question of the facts, and the hon. Member should consider the facts before she comments. Increases in capital disregards represent a substantial improvement on what had been given before, and the simplification and the changes in the earnings disregards certainly give price protection. There are other priorities, too, however. At a time when the Conservative Party is complaining hypocritically about levels of public expenditure it should take that into account before asking questions of the kind it has been raising with me today.