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Government Departments (Public Information)

Volume 886: debated on Thursday 20 February 1975

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Q4.

asked the Prime Minister if he will make it the practice of his administration that all Government Departments promptly update the information they issue to the public for their guidance.

It is already the Government's practice to do so, but if my hon. Friend has any particular case in mind where this has not been done, I shall look into it.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that pensioners who retired after 22nd July last year still receive information in their pension books to the effect that the earnings rule operates from a figure of £9·50, whereas the Labour Government increased the earnings rule provision to £13? Does he accept that this false information may affect the decisions of pensioners on the question whether to work? Will he look into the representations which I have made to the Department, so far without satisfaction, and agree that all citizens are entitled to information about their rights, not least when those rights have been improved by the Labour Government?

I am happy to feel that, through sheer luck, I managed to identify in advance the one of a thousand questions which my hon. Friend has asked on this subject. I am glad to be able to help her on this matter. As my hon. Friend the Minister of State, Department of Health and Social Security, explained to her on 30th January, on this occasion a printing dispute delayed printing of the revised notes. The changes in the earnings limits last July were publicised in post offices at that time and those pensioners who were directly affected were advised individually of the new rules. As to the future, I can assure my hon. Friend that pension books issued from the beginning of May onwards will contain the revised earnings rule limits effective from April 1975. I hope that in future pension books issued from the date of the upratings onwards will carry up-to-date information about earnings rule limits.

Will the right hon. Gentleman accept that if he finds himself opposed to the terms which were accepted by the Conservative Government—[HON. MEMBERS: "Wrong Question!"] I am sure that the Prime Minister realises that we are on Question No. 4, although many of his hon. Friends do not. Remembering that when the right hon. Gentleman was Prime Minister in an earlier Government, none of the principles about joining the Common Market was ever in doubt in his mind—whether it be on the Commonwealth, or sovereignty, or EFTA—does he regard the information put out at that time as still relevant, or does he think that the Government Departments should update it?

I was in no doubt at all that the right hon. Gentleman was up to date and knew which Question I was answering. It is nice to see his party entering this century for a brief moment.

When we were in government and made application we said clearly, on Commonwealth matters—for example, on New Zealand, Commonwealth sugar and other matters—exactly what terms we would require in order to join. The previous Government did not get those terms. We condemned them on those specific issues then, and we are renegotiating.

Will the Prime Minister keep himself up to date and inform his right hon. Friend the Member for Coventry, South-West (Mrs. Wise) that since the Labour Party decided to uprate the earnings rule the House decided, from 1st April, to uprate it by a further £7 a week.

I should point out to the hon. Gentleman that my hon. Friend the Member for Coventry, South-West (Mrs. Wise) is not yet a Privy Councillor.

I was aware of the vote referred to by the hon. Gentleman. Indeed, I heard about it when I was in Washington. I was fascinated by the fact that a party which pledged itself to cut Government expenditure not only wants to restore the whole of the defence cuts but irresponsibly voted in that way in the House.