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asked the Minister of Pensions and National Insurance if he is aware of the misleading nature of certain leaflets issued by his Department, in that they fail to make clear that contributions credited during the weeks of sickness of workers of pensionable age do not count towards pension increments; and if he will give instructions to have these leaflets amended forthwith.
No, Sir. The retirement pension leaflet, which deals with increments and which is sent to all persons approaching pension age, is quite clear on the point raised by the hon. Member. I am sending him a copy.
Is the Minister aware that that Answer is not quite accurate? Will he consult his Parliamentary Secretary to whom a few weeks ago I sent a leaflet received by a worker of pensionable age in which it was not made clear that credits did not count towards pension increments? Such leaflets are in circulation. Will the right hon. Gentleman take action to withdraw them so that they do not mislead pensioners?
No, Sir. The document which the hon. Gentleman sent to my hon. Friend was a form not in connection with retirement pensions and increments but one relating to sickness benefit. The leaflet which is sent to every retirement pensioner uses these words:
The amount by which your pension will be increased will depend on the contributions actually paid (credits, e.g., for weeks of sickness and unemployment, do not count)…
Whether these words appear in any leaflet or not, is it not a fact that many contributors are not aware of this and that there have been many cases where the full entitlement of increments has not been received because of their unawareness of the position? In any event, will the Minister say whether he has any experience at all of any abuse, or potential abuse, in this matter? Would it not be possible to allow at least a Proportion of credits to count for the increments?
The last part of that supplementary raises a very different question. For years it has been the rule that increments must be for actual contributions. On the question of misunderstanding, the leaflet which I quoted to the hon. Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme (Mr. Swingler) is one which is sent to every person as he approaches retirement pension age and is coming up to the paint when he has to decide whether he should go on and earn increments or not. If the hon. Gentleman has any further suggestions for making quite sure that everybody knows his rights in the matter, I shall be glad to consider them.
I think that the right hon. Gentleman misunderstands the matter. A pensioner earning increments over the full five-year period, for the maximum increment, can have ten contributions missing over that period and still get the full rate of increment.