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Pensions (Life Expectancy)

Volume 979: debated on Tuesday 26 February 1980

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asked the Secretary of State for Social Services what is the average length of life after receiving the State retirement pension of (a) women and (b) men.

On the basis of the current mortality rates in Great Britain, the expectation of life of a woman at her pension age of 60 is 20 years, and that of a man at his pension age of 65, 12 years.

Does the Minister realise that these vulnerable people in the community, who work all their lives, 'ire now suffering dreadfully due to the policies of his Government? Services are being cut in many ways. The meals on wheels service, home helps and so on, are now difficult to obtain. Has the Minister any plans on the subject of increases in prices, fuel bills, and so on? Has he any plans to review the matter, and to ensure that those people are helped in a proper manner?

No. Sir, I do not accept that statement. The rates of pensions and other main benefits were increased more than the cost of living last November. I accept that pensioners are suffering from inflation. We should all do our best to pursue counter-inflation policies, particularly, in relation to the current level of wage demands.

Is it not sheer hypocrisy for the hon. Member for Sheffield, Hillsborough (Mr. Flannery) to talk about destroying the value of the pension, when in five years, the Labour Government cut by half the value of pensioners' savings? Will my right hon. Friend now pay special attention to giving additional help to very elderly pensioners?

With regard to any adjustment of rates, we must await the Budget Statement. I agree with my hon. Friend in the earlier part of his question. That is why I underlined the importance of counter-inflationary policies in my answer to the first supplementary question.

Is the Minister aware that, because of a miscalculation, pensioners received an increase rather less than the increase in average earnings? They have been done out of a week's pension by the Government. What will the Minister do about that? There is a legal responsibility on the Government to do something. Is it not time that the Secretary of State started obeying the law?

There is no legal liability to make a good a shortfall of that sort. However, if Labour Members are to argue that it should have been done, they had better count the cost, and decide where they would make the cuts in Government spending elsewhere.

Is my right hon. Friend satisfied that the added-on element for a pensioner who remains in work is still fair and equitable?

That matter is tied up with the whole question of the earnings rule, and it is the objective of the Government to phase out that rule as soon as practicable.

Will the right hon. Gentleman agree that the quality of life is as important as the length of life for the elderly? Will he consider giving greater priority to the care of the growing number of frail, elderly people in our community?

The community should give the greatest possible priority to frail, elderly people. That is why I am glad that in the last 10 years or so the provision of personal social services by local authorities to the very elderly and disabled people has more than doubled.