Orders of the Day — Fourth Schedule. — (Rates of Benefit Under National Insurance Act, 1946.)

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 20th November 1957.

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Photo of Mr Thomas Brown Mr Thomas Brown , Ince 12:00 am, 20th November 1957

—but if the Home Secretary was correct in his prophecy, which I have no reason to doubt, that we would double the standard of living within the next twenty-five years, is this the Government's first attempt towards it? Is this evidence that they are sincere in their professed desire to double the standard of life?

When the old folk to whom the Bill applies realise fully, as they will do hi the course of the next few months, what the Government have done for them, their protests and their indignation will become intensified. Therefore, I say that the Government could have done better than they have done with the funds which they have available.

If the whole of the benefits were coming from the Exchequer, one could perhaps take a different view, but it is the workers, through their contributions, who will be paying for some of the benefits. The Government, therefore, had better not claim credit for the increased benefits. It is the workers who will be entitled to the credit for them. I know that some of the workers feel that the Government have been unfair to them, let alone to the old-age pensioner. They are dissatisfied with the Government's approach in increasing the contribution, which appears to be on an incorrect basis.

In a scheme of this magnitude, dealing with so many people and so many aspects of life, we have to carry the insured worker with us. Already in my constituency and in parts of the country which I have visited in the last few weeks, I have sensed a growing feeling that what the Government are trying to do is to improve the lot of the old-age pensioner at the expense of the industrial worker and that the Government themselves are not bearing their responsibility.

One could go into the question of the increased cost of living and all the rest, but we have been prevented from doing so by the open confession made by the hon. Lady on 25th February when she said that the Government never pretended that old-age pensioners could live on £2 a week. Can they live on £2 10s.? Is it possible for any Member of this House—and I include myself—to live on £2 10s. a week? I know one attempted to do it and declared with a great blare of trumpets she had succeeded in living upon the pension paid to an old-age pensioner. I could do it for one week, but what about the other fifty-one? The old-age pensioners have to live on their pensions for fifty-two weeks in the year.

I shall detain the House only a moment longer. I wish only to refer to the vigorous protest which has been made in the last few days by engineers, metal workers, pipe fitters and transport workers who are reported to have sent from a joint meeting held a few days ago a protest to the Prime Minister about the inadequate increase in the old-age pension and the miserly removal of the tobacco allowance, together with a demand for the full a week increase which the old-age pensioners are asking for.

There we see the industrial workers being aroused, and when they are aroused, as we all know, especially those of us who come from the mining industry, the Government will not be able to answer them back.

We as Britishers are anxious in these days of economic crisis to do the best we can to pull the country through the crisis, but we cannot pull it through unless we take the workers with us. At the present the Government are not attempting to take the workers with them. As the days go by the protest of the people of this country will grow greater, and too great for the Government to stand up to. I am only sorry that the Government, during these three days we have debated the Bill, have not done better for the old-age pensioners than they have.