asked the Minister of Pensions and National Insurance whether he will reintroduce tobacco coupons for retirement pensioners in order to offset the hardship that will arise from the additional cost of cigarettes and pipe tobacco following the Budget.
Is the Minister aware that most of us would prefer to see a substantial rise in pensions rather than anything like the reissuing of tobacco coupons? Has he nothing to say about the effect of the Budget on the pension of those who have to eke out their pension to the last penny and for whom a rise of 5d. an ounce in the price of tobacco and 1d. a pint in the price of beer can be a very great hardship?
Why is it always the Government's policy towards old-age pensioners to give with one hand and take away with the other? Does not he realise that the recent additional burdens imposed by the Budget have greater effect on old-age pensioners who like to drink and smoke than on any other section of the community? Does he at least accept that?
To go back a little, between 1946 and 1951—[HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."]—I know that the hon. Gentleman does not like to be reminded of it—the value of the pension steadily declined. The last increase in 1963 was 17 per cent., to take account of an increase in the retail prices index of 8 per cent. Since then, the index has risen by 1½ per cent., and the Budget will add less than 1 per cent. Thus the pension has still a far greater value than before the last increase. I believe that the single rate is worth more than £1 more than when we took office.
Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that, even before the Budget increases on tobacco, the majority of old-age pensioners and other pensioners were spending up to the limit and then were going short? Is he not aware that these increases will impose an additional burden on them? Will not he reconsider his decision and take these additional burdens into account?