5. How many people who worked in Northern Ireland and paid national insurance contributions while aged 14 or 15 between 1947 and 1957, which did not count towards their qualifying years for a full basic state pension, fall two years or less short of the years needed to qualify for such a pension. (162093)
As the hon. Lady will be aware, state pensions in Northern Ireland are the responsibility of Ministers in the Northern Ireland Executive. Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs is responsible for national insurance matters. However, I am advised by HMRC that the information that she has requested could be obtained only at disproportionate cost.
I thank the Minister for his answer, but some of the people who worked during that period, before the school leaving age changed in Northern Ireland, would be resident in other parts of the UK as well as in Northern Ireland. Therefore, will he undertake at least to raise the matter again with HMRC, in order that it can reconsider its response?
The issue for HMRC is that the records that the hon. Lady is talking about—those of people who left school at 14 and 15 in the 1940s and 1950s—are on pieces of cardboard in a cupboard somewhere. That information could only be gathered at disproportionate cost.
Does not this question demonstrate the fact that the concept of national insurance has always been a bit of a con in that it is not, and never has been, an insurance scheme? Essentially, those who are in work at any time are paying, out of their taxed income, for the pensions of pensioners of that time, on the understanding that when they reach pensionable age those in work will pay their pensions. Ever since it was introduced, the phrase, “national insurance”, has been misleading.