HC Deb 06 May 1957 vol 569 cc613-5
13. Mr. Ridsdale

asked the Minister of Pensions and National Insurance whether, with a view to helping pensioners, particularly in places where there is seasonal employment, he will arrange to allow pensioners' earnings to be averaged so as at least to enable them to benefit from the total annual amount of the earnings disregard.

Mr. Boyd-Carpenter

No, Sir. The question of averaging pensioners' earnings over a period for the purpose of the earnings disregard was fully considered by the National Insurance Advisory Committee last year in their Report on Earnings Limits, a copy of which has recently been sent to my hon. Friend.

Mr. Ridsdale

Could not my right hon. Friend adopt a more flexible attitude towards this question, particularly in respect of seasonal workers, especially in parts of the country where the summer is the only time when they can earn a supplement to their earnings? Surely the Minister will agree that the proposal would be parallel with the help given by the Chancellor of the Exchequer to the elderly in the Budget and would be a practical way to help those who want to help themselves.

Mr. Boyd-Carpenter

The trouble is that while it might advantage some, such as those whom my hon. Friend has in mind, an adjustment such as he suggests would make the position substantially worse for quite a number of retirement pensioners who earn, particularly those who earn fairly high amounts in fairly short bursts. It would also involve all earnings, not merely those over 50s. a week, being declared, and, for the reasons which the Advisory Committee set out so clearly, on the whole it would be to the disadvantage of pensioners.

Viscount Hinchingbrooke

My right hon. Friend would not be prepared to state, would he, that the National Insurance Advisory Committee was the genesis of all policy? Will he take this matter into consideration with his colleagues in the Government at an early date?

Mr. Boyd-Carpenter

I would not state that the Committee was the genesis of all policy, but I would say that it has a certain quota of wisdom.

Mr. Grimond

While acknowledging the difficulties of which the Minister has spoken, is it not possible to make some distinction between cases in which it would be disadvantageous and cases which it would benefit, because there are examples of people being deterred from undertaking employment—employment which would be valuable from the national point of view—because they would lose more than they would gain?

Mr. Boyd-Carpenter

I think the hon. Member may find that the difficulty, which is a real one, may in any event be met in part by the proposals for de-retirement which the House passed a few days ago.

Mr. Lagden

Will my right hon. Friend agree to look at the matter again, having regard to the old people who work so hard at Christmas time, when there is a real need for them to work? They would appreciate him looking at it again. I feel that in his wisdom he can find the answer quite easily.

Mr. Boyd-Carpenter

I will look at any proposal my hon. Friend puts to me, but I think it is just the type of people to whom he refers, who work shortly and intensively at Christmas, who would be worse off under this proposal than under the present law.