§ 41. Mr. S. O. Davies
asked the Minister of National Insurance if he has now considered the results of the inquiry 1680 conducted by the National Federation of Old Age Pensioners into the average cost of living among pensioners, particulars of which inquiry have been supplied him; and, as the facts reveal the existence of serious hardship among pensioners, what steps he is taking immediately to improve their lot by a substantial increase in their pension rates.
§ Mr. Steele
I am aware of these inquiries, but old people who find their pensions insufficient for their needs can apply to the National Assistance Board for supplementation in accordance with rules approved by this House as recently as July last. As regards any general increase in pension rates, I would refer my hon. Friend to the letter which my right hon. Friend recently sent to the hon. Member for East Ham, North (Mr. Daines), of which he was sent a copy.
§ Mr. Davies
Can my hon. Friend inform me of the nature of the instructions which have been issued to assistance boards in cases of serious hardship; and if the instructions mean that old age pensioners might have a substantial increase in income, will he be good enough to publicise that and draw the attention of old age pensioners to the fact?
§ Mr. Steele
My hon. Friend referred specifically in his Question to pension rates, which I think was covered very adequately in the letter to the hon. Member for East Ham, North. So far as discretion is concerned, each local officer of the assistance board is allowed a certain discretion, which we know he does use in particular instances.
§ Mr. Shurmer
Is my hon. Friend aware that the assistance board officers are not carrying out the instructions? Is he further aware that I have a letter stating that a man receiving 34s. a week should be prepared to provide himself with boots? Old age pensioners cannot provide themselves with boots on these rates and assistance ought to be given.
§ Major Guy Lloyd
Is the Parliamentary Secretary aware that by a large majority the members of this Federation consider the Government have betrayed them? [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] They do, and I have had letters to that effect. Is he further aware that the best service he can render is to reduce the cost of living rather than to increase the pensions?
§ Mr. Tom Brown
Will not the Parliamentary Secretary consider, with the Chairman of the National Assistance Board, a cost of living bonus for the old people, in view of the hardship they are experiencing due to the increased cost of living?
§ Mr. Steele
The specific Question put to me is in connection with the pension rates under the National Insurance Scheme. As far as the scales for National Assistance are concerned, I would draw attention to the fact that this matter was discussed in July last and was warmly approved by the House.