Orders of the Day — Pensions and Benefits (Increase)

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 21st July 1954.

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Photo of Mr John Peyton Mr John Peyton , Yeovil 12:00 am, 21st July 1954

I welcome the forthcoming Report of the Phillips Committee and the quinquennial review. I should not easily be persuaded that the problem was so easy and so light that it could be disposed of by a wave of the hand and by means of a so-called interim solution. That is not possible. I cherish the hope that the two reports will make a valuable contribution to the solution of the problem and will point a way to the Government to enable them to make a really solid contribution towards the welfare of the people whom we all wish to benefit.

I want to make a point about the retirement rule and the earnings condition. As things are at the moment, I appreciate that they are separate matters. Persons have first of all to prove that they have retired, and when they have retired they are not allowed to earn more than 40s. per week. It is unreasonable to ask a person who reaches pensionable age to separate in his mind these two conditions which appear to him to be very closely associated. The retirement condition means that one cannot work more than 12 hours a week, and the earning rule is that one cannot earn more than 40s. a week. It is a most unfortunate situation when it is realised that the majority of the people who are most intimately concerned cannot earn 40s. in 12 hours. When my right hon. Friend examines the Report of the Phillips Committee, I hope he will bear in mind that this appears to the ordinary citizen affected by the problem to be wholly unreasonable. I hope very much that the Government will find it possible to remove what many ordinary people regard as an unwarrantable anomaly.

I wish to make a few comments about the war disabled. Here again, we are entitled to point out that the basic rate of 45s. per week established by the Labour Government in 1946 was not touched again, despite the catastrophic rise in the cost of living which took place. It was left to this Government to do something. I admit that the allowances were established in 1951 before the Labour Government left office, but comparatively few were eligible to receive them. It was left to this Government, in the teeth of a really serious financial crisis, to raise the basic pension by 10s. per week and also give several material increases in the allowances.

There is one point which I wish to make in connection with war disability pensioners. I accept, of course, that the merger of the two Departments has produced very beneficial results, but I believe that we are in some danger of getting war disability benefits too closely associated with National Insurance pensions and other benefits. In my view, these men are in a very exceptional position, and I very much hope that the Government will take a step which will indicate to the British public the plain fact, as it appears to me, that these men who were disabled in the catastrophe of war have a very special claim on the conscience and generosity of the nation.