asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether he is aware that many old age pensioners are unable to take up their rations owing to price increases, and if he will, therefore, consider the possibility of linking old age pensions with the cost of living so that such hardship may be alleviated.
No, Sir. In view of the increased Assistance scales now in force, I cannot accept this statement. In any event, it has always been recognised as impracticable to arrange for pensions to vary automatically with changes in the cost of living.
Is the Financial Secretary really saying that he finds it impossible to believe that at present old age pensioners are finding it difficult to take up their full rations? If that is the case, I can only suggest that he sees them himself. If it is possible to link wages with the cost of living, why is it impossible to link old age pensions in the same way?
The answer to the second part of the hon. Lady's supplementary question is in part, at any rate, based on the fact that these pensions are part of the general National Insurance scheme and, of course, increased pensions would have as their corollary increased contributions. No one wants contribution rates to fluctuate unduly. With regard to the first point, the hon. Lady's Question contained the statement that old age pensioners were unable to take up their rations.
Is the hon. Gentleman aware—I believe he is—that the pension increases have not yet been received and do not come into operation until 29th September? The hardships are becoming intensified, and this request is no idle one. Our postbags are full of complaints—made in a reasonable way—that old age pensioners are not in a position to buy their rationed goods. Will not the hon. Gentleman, between now and 29th September, do something towards alleviating the hardships experienced by these people?
Does the hon. Gentleman realise that many of these old-age pensioners have in the past received considerable help from their sons, daughters and near relatives, and that because of the increased cost of living and increased unemployment that assistance is not now forthcoming; and will he, therefore, regard this matter as one of the very highest priority?