asked the Secretary of State for Social Services if he will now take steps to ensure that increases in pensions announced at Budget time are not delayed until November before being paid.
The present arrangements have been found by successive Governments to provide the most efficient and economic uprating operation and require about seven months from the initial decision of new rates. The timetable is largely conditioned by the 20 or 26-week cycle for the renewal of benefit order books, and it ensures that the higher rates come into payment before the onset of winter each year. There would be no particular gain to beneficiaries if annual upratings were simply moved to another part of the year nor if the announcement were delayed to close the time gap, since the upratings are linked to the movement of prices between uprating dates.
asked the Secretary of State for Social Services if he will give details of the practical obstacles which would prevent a system of the automatic adjusting of pensions in line with the cost of living at quarterly intervals.
To increase benefits in line with the movement of prices at quarterly intervals, rather than annually, would increase the costs of uprating by more than a third each year, even if the operation were administratively feasible. With annual upratings already costing upwards of £2 billion each year this is the major obstacle. The main administrative obstacle is the time needed to adjust over 3 million claims to supplementary benefit, where account needs to be taken of the effect of increases or adjustments in other benefits or in housing costs or family circumstances. For other benefits the most efficient and economical way of uprating the millions of order books issued each year is to do so as they fall due for renewal at 20 or 26-week intervals. To do otherwise means a very substantial increase in staff costs and in costs of additional order books and girocheques, coupled with increased risks of error or operational breakdown.
asked the Secretary of State for Social Services (1) what would be (a) the gross cost and (b) the net cost of paying an additional weekly pension of (i) £5 and (ii) £10 to those retirement pensioners whose additional, graduated or occupational pension, if any, is less than this amount; and how many people would be lifted off supplementary benefit in either case;(2) what would be
(a) the gross cost and (b) the net cost of increasing the basic retirement pension by 1 per cent., 2 per cent., 5 per cent., 10 per cent., 15 per cent. and 20 per cent., assuming that the scale rates for supplementary pension were (i) increased in line with such an award and (ii) not increased; and, in the latter case, how many people would be lifted off supplementary benefit in each instance.
The information requested is being prepared and will be published in the Official Report when available.