Orders of the Day — NATIONAL INSURANCE (No. 2) BILL

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 17th June 1969.

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Photo of Mr Tim Fortescue Mr Tim Fortescue , Liverpool, Garston 12:00 am, 17th June 1969

Than £6 12s., which is the "adequate" pension which the right hon. Gentleman quotes in his White Paper. One of his basic objectives is that benefits must normally be sufficient to live on without other means.

Why, then, should the State erect this highly complicated machine to give some people—by definition, those best fitted to save for their old age—more than the "adequate pension" defined in the White Paper? What sort of social justice is this? Why should not the pension be paid on a flat rate, adjusted regularly for cost of living changes, and why should not contributions to such a pension be on a graduated or earnings-related basis? This simple and practicable alternative is dismissed in half a sentence at the beginning of paragraph 110 of the White Paper, with no arguments deployed against it.

It is interesting that in our last debate on this subject, when the hon. Member for Cornwall, North (Mr. Pardoe) deployed exactly this argument, the right hon. Member for Sowerby (Mr. Houghton)—whom we have missed very much in this debate—said that this would not be possible. The theory of graduated contributions for flat-rate benefits was not possible because, he said, it would not be acceptable to the trade union movement. Considering what the Government are doing at the moment to discover things which are not acceptable to the trade union movement and to give them legislative force, perhaps the argument does not carry much weight, at least on this side of the House.

Although the unemployed and the sick are casualties of society and thus can be said to warrant earnings-related benefits, the fit man of 65 is not such a casualty. The fact that he will retire at that age has been known to him all his working life. If his State pension is adequate for him to live on, without other means, as the White Paper says it should be, it is his responsibility and not that of the State to make arrangements over the years to supplement that pension if he so wishes.