Orders of the Day — Retired Persons (Cost of Living)

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 27th June 1952.

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Photo of Miss Irene Ward Miss Irene Ward , Tynemouth 12:00 am, 27th June 1952

Not by the Socialists. I always try to be absolutely fair. The withdrawal of the food subsidies has created an additional burden for these people, and although in introducing the Pensions (Increase) Bill my hon. Friend has helped considerably a certain section of the community, there is left a large number of people whose circumstances require representation being made in this House. They must have someone to speak for them, and I wish to put their case today.

Broadly speaking, I am referring to those who, by virtue of their slender resources, are above the National Assistance level, and, because of their slender incomes, are not accessible for Income Tax. As my hon. Friend, who is sympathetic towards their position, has explained, they are a very difficult section of the community to help. They do not draw Government or local authority pensions. They receive no help from the State, except perhaps that which comes to them through the National Health Service. They are at present faced with an increasing cost of living, which is only an addition to what had already started under the Socialist regime, on the three essentials, food, rates and heating.

I am quite certain that there are people, not only in my constituency, but in other parts of the country, who have not sufficient resources to feed themselves adequately or to keep themselves warm. As I said earlier in the week on the debate on the Pensions (Increase) Bill, there are signs of a fall in the cost of living. But there are no signs of a fall in the cost of those three essentials, and what I am asking my hon. Friend is if he could find a method of investigating the cases of these people to see whether their position can be ameliorated.

I do not think it is beyond his powers to look at the problem and see what can be done. I have a number of proposals which I could make. In the hurly-burly and speed of life, and with the problems which have to be faced by both Government and the Opposition, and by the people of this country, we are apt not to find time to look into the problems of this very deserving section of the community.

I would say a word about the retired railwaymen who in the bad old Tory days managed on their savings to purchase their houses. I have quite a community of them in Whitley Bay who have been drawing their superannuation. They and other members of former railway staffs of the old private enterprise companies are now under the nationalised boards.

My hon. Friend says that the Pensions (Increase) Bill does not cover these people and that is only too true. But I think that, speaking on behalf of our great Treasury and in the national interest, my hon. Friend could approach the Boards to ask whether they could consult with the appropriate bodies representing these men to see whether benefits, similar to those we are giving to civil servants, local government officers, teachers and the like, could be given to those who served under private enterprise in the railways or coalmines or banks.