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Mr. Ted Rowlands (Merthyr Tydfil and Rhymney) : Is not the Minister clawing back some of that increase through the transitional allowances?

Mr. Newton : No. The increases in pensioner premiums paid at the beginning of October did not affect transitional protection. Hon. Members on both sides of the House would acknowledge that. One key element in our approach which is reflected in the Gracious Speech is to seek to bring about and encourage still further the growth of personal and occupational pensions which has been such an important ingredient in the improvement of living standards for so many pensioners in recent years. Although the hon. Member for Oldham, West (Mr. Meacher) may not like this, he knows that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of

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State for Employment in his previous position introduced measures to promote the growth of personal pensions in April 1988. Those have proved to be an outstanding success.

Since April 1988, about 3.5 million people have taken out personal pensions. That reflects the creation of about 13,000 money-purchase schemes and 3,000 salary-related schemes to enhance and encourage the growth of that additional pension provision which is so important to so many people.

The hon. Member for Oldham, West will be aware that the Gracious Speech refers to a range of new proposals which we expect to include in the new Social Security Bill. Those are intended to improve benefit security for many people in occupational and personal pension schemes, and not least to improve consumer protection and the range of consumer advice and help available either through an ombudsman, the occupational pensions advisory service or through a new tracing service which contributes to the security and self-confidence of people investing in those schemes. That will be a significant further contribution, as set out in the Gracious Speech, to the important development of higher standards of living for pensioners, based on the full protection of the state pension and help to less well-off pensioners in the way that I have described, and through the growing benefit of the advantage of investing in one's own pension scheme with the security and flexibility that that provides.

The second major thrust of the debate has been the interests and needs of the long-term sick and disabled, a matter on which many right hon. and hon. Members have spoken with some vigour. Again it is important that hon. Members should understand what has happened over the past 10 years. In that period, expenditure increased by about £4 billion in real terms. From time to time, the hon. Member for Oldham, West and others have made some play of the fact that a significant part of that increase is the result of improved take-up--of increased numbers of disabled people getting the benefits that we want them to get.

I make no apologies for that. One of my aims, as Minister for Social Security, Minister for the Disabled and now as Secretary of State for Social Security has been to do everything that I can to ensure that disabled people, among others, benefit from the structure that we create to bring them help. I regard that as a real improvement in our help to disabled people. Hon. Members should bear in mind the fact that mobility allowance, which was claimed by fewer than 100,000 people when the Government came to office, is now claimed by nearly 600,000 people. Whatever the academic niceties of the argument, for nearly half a million people that is a substantial real increase in benefit.

Mr. Alfred Morris rose--

Mr. Newton : I do not have time to give way now.

Much the same is true of attendance allowance. Numbers have roughly trebled in the same period, bringing up to £40, at next April's rates, to about half a million people who would not have been getting it about 10 years ago.

Mr. Morris rose--

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Mr. Newton : I cannot allow the right hon. Gentleman to intervene now, given the short time left for my speech. I hope that he will understand. I will read carefully what he said.

There may be those who thought it remiss of me at the outset not to welcome the hon. Member for Oldham, West to his new position, or rather, his return to his old position. I hasten to assure the House that it was not through any desire to be discourteous to the hon. Gentleman but only because I was saving my welcome, perhaps rather oddly, for the end of my speech.

It is singularly appropriate that the hon. Gentleman should be back in his position, because he and the right hon. Member for Salford, East (Mr. Orme) are the living embodiment of what happens to Labour promises to pensioners. Hon. Members will recall that earlier this afternoon the right hon. Member for Salford, East was unwise enough to ask me about the Christmas bonus. My answer was that at least we are paying it, whereas the Government in which he was Minister for Social Security failed to pay it two years running.

This evening, the hon. Member for Oldham, West regaled the House with promises of what he would do. I invite those who might be tempted to read an article in The Times of 11 March 1976, which states :

"Minister shouted down at pensions rally. Old-age pensioners shouted down Mr. Meacher, Under-Secretary of State at the Department of Health and Social Security yesterday as he tried to explain his Government's record on pensions. More than 2,000 pensioners from all over the country gathered in central hall, Westminster, to hear a number of speakers and to lobby MPs. The meeting was organised by the British Pensioners and Trade Unions Action Committee."

This Government have kept and will continue to keep their promises. We have fully protected the national insurance pension. We have advanced the living standards of pensioners generally. Not least, we have steered additional help to those who are least well off and who most need the help of the rest of the community. Just as the pensioners shouted down the hon. Member for Oldham, West 13 years ago, so the House will vote him down tonight.

Mr. Alfred Morris rose--

Mr. Speaker : Order. The right hon. Gentleman has already spoken once.

Question put, That the amendment be made :--

The House divided : Ayes 229, Noes 339.

Division 1] [10 pm


Abbott, Ms Diane

Adams, Allen (Paisley N)

Allen, Graham

Alton, David

Anderson, Donald

Archer, Rt Hon Peter

Armstrong, Hilary

Ashdown, Rt Hon Paddy

Ashley, Rt Hon Jack

Ashton, Joe

Banks, Tony (Newham NW)

Barnes, Harry (Derbyshire NE)

Barnes, Mrs Rosie (Greenwich)

Barron, Kevin

Battle, John

Beckett, Margaret

Beith, A. J.

Bell, Stuart

Benn, Rt Hon Tony

Bennett, A. F. (D'nt'n & R'dish)

Bermingham, Gerald

Bidwell, Sydney

Blair, Tony

Blunkett, David

Boateng, Paul

Boyes, Roland

Bray, Dr Jeremy

Brown, Gordon (D'mline E)

Brown, Nicholas (Newcastle E)

Brown, Ron (Edinburgh Leith)

Buchan, Norman

Buckley, George J.

Caborn, Richard

Callaghan, Jim

Campbell, Menzies (Fife NE)

Campbell, Ron (Blyth Valley)

Campbell-Savours, D. N.

Carlile, Alex (Mont'g)

Column 530

Cartwright, John

Clark, Dr David (S Shields)

Clarke, Tom (Monklands W)

Clay, Bob

Clelland, David

Clwyd, Mrs Ann

Cohen, Harry

Coleman, Donald

Cook, Frank (Stockton N)

Cook, Robin (Livingston)

Corbett, Robin

Corbyn, Jeremy

Cousins, Jim

Cox, Tom

Crowther, Stan

Cryer, Bob

Cummings, John

Cunliffe, Lawrence

Cunningham, Dr John

Dalyell, Tam

Darling, Alistair

Davies, Ron (Caerphilly)

Davis, Terry (B'ham Hodge H'l)

Dewar, Donald

Dixon, Don

Dobson, Frank

Doran, Frank

Douglas, Dick

Duffy, A. E. P.

Dunnachie, Jimmy

Dunwoody, Hon Mrs Gwyneth

Eadie, Alexander

Evans, John (St Helens N)

Ewing, Harry (Falkirk E)

Ewing, Mrs Margaret (Moray)

Fatchett, Derek

Faulds, Andrew

Fearn, Ronald

Field, Frank (Birkenhead)

Fields, Terry (L'pool B G'n)

Fisher, Mark

Flannery, Martin

Flynn, Paul

Foster, Derek

Foulkes, George

Fraser, John

Fyfe, Maria

Galloway, George

Garrett, John (Norwich South)

Garrett, Ted (Wallsend)

George, Bruce

Gilbert, Rt Hon Dr John

Godman, Dr Norman A.

Gordon, Mildred

Gould, Bryan

Grant, Bernie (Tottenham)

Griffiths, Nigel (Edinburgh S)

Griffiths, Win (Bridgend)

Grocott, Bruce

Hardy, Peter

Harman, Ms Harriet

Hattersley, Rt Hon Roy

Haynes, Frank

Healey, Rt Hon Denis

Heffer, Eric S.

Henderson, Doug

Hinchliffe, David

Hoey, Ms Kate (Vauxhall)

Hogg, N. (C'nauld & Kilsyth)

Home Robertson, John

Hood, Jimmy

Howarth, George (Knowsley N)

Howell, Rt Hon D. (S'heath)

Howells, Geraint

Howells, Dr. Kim (Pontypridd)

Hoyle, Doug

Hughes, John (Coventry NE)

Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen N)

Hughes, Roy (Newport E)

Hughes, Simon (Southwark)

Janner, Greville

Jones, Barry (Alyn & Deeside)

Jones, Ieuan (Ynys Mo n)

Jones, Martyn (Clwyd S W)

Kennedy, Charles

Kinnock, Rt Hon Neil

Kirkwood, Archy

Lamond, James

Leighton, Ron

Lestor, Joan (Eccles)

Lewis, Terry

Litherland, Robert

Livingstone, Ken

Livsey, Richard

Lloyd, Tony (Stretford)

Lofthouse, Geoffrey

McAvoy, Thomas

McCartney, Ian

Macdonald, Calum A.

McFall, John

McKay, Allen (Barnsley West)

McKelvey, William

McLeish, Henry

Maclennan, Robert

McNamara, Kevin

McWilliam, John

Madden, Max

Mahon, Mrs Alice

Marek, Dr John

Marshall, David (Shettleston)

Marshall, Jim (Leicester S)

Martlew, Eric

Maxton, John

Meacher, Michael

Meale, Alan

Michael, Alun

Michie, Bill (Sheffield Heeley)

Michie, Mrs Ray (Arg'l & Bute)

Mitchell, Austin (G't Grimsby)

Molyneaux, Rt Hon James

Moonie, Dr Lewis

Morgan, Rhodri

Morley, Elliot

Morris, Rt Hon A. (W'shawe)

Morris, Rt Hon J. (Aberavon)

Mowlam, Marjorie

Mullin, Chris

Murphy, Paul

Oakes, Rt Hon Gordon

O'Brien, William

O'Neill, Martin

Orme, Rt Hon Stanley

Paisley, Rev Ian

Parry, Robert

Patchett, Terry

Pendry, Tom

Pike, Peter L.

Powell, Ray (Ogmore)

Prescott, John

Primarolo, Dawn

Quin, Ms Joyce

Radice, Giles

Randall, Stuart

Redmond, Martin

Rees, Rt Hon Merlyn

Reid, Dr John

Richardson, Jo

Robinson, Geoffrey

Robinson, Peter (Belfast E)

Rogers, Allan

Ross, Ernie (Dundee W)

Ross, William (Londonderry E)

Rowlands, Ted

Ruddock, Joan

Sedgemore, Brian

Sheerman, Barry

Sheldon, Rt Hon Robert

Short, Clare

Skinner, Dennis

Smith, Andrew (Oxford E)

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