Councillor accuses MP of withholding information
Accusations against Mrs. Margaret Thatcher, Finchley's MP, were made by Cr. Alan Cohen, leader of the Liberal party, at Finchley General Purposes committee meeting. He accused her of withholding information so that it could be included in the Conservative election manisfesto “to be dangled like a carrot before a donkey.”
This arose from a letter from Mrs. Thatcher in reply to the council's request that she as Joint Parliamentary Secretary to Ministry of Pensions, should press for a basic pension linked with average earnings, at a rate high enough to make it unnecessary for old people to apply for National Assistance.
“We cannot accept” , said Mrs. Thatcher in her letter, “that the fair or indeed feasible method of doing this would be to increase retirement pensions (without presumably any increase in national assistance scales) in the way in which the resolution suggests.”
Mrs. Thatcher pointed out that although pensions were not automatically linked to any earnings index, the present pension is a higher part of men's average earnings than when the Government took office in 1951.
If the pension had been linked with average earnings it would now be less than £3 instead of the actual rate of £3 7s. 6d.
Help for poorest
She said that the Government's system was that pension increases should be broadly matched by improvements in the National Assistance Scales to ensure the poorest, as well as those better off, received a real net increase in income as their share of rising national prosperity.
“The Government could not justify a proposal which would mean raising literally hundreds of millions of pounds a year from contributors and taxpayers (who will often be bringing up families or have other commitments) in order to provide a larger net increase in income to the better off and a much smaller increase (and in some cases nothing) for the really poor.”
Producing a cutting from a Sunday newspaper which said the Government were preparing major changes in the social security services, so that future increases in benefits would go to the most needy and National Assistance payments would be ended, Cr. Cohen said that as Mrs. Thatcher was bound to know of these proposals she might have informed the council of them. He considered her letter “a disreputable reply” .
Cr. Cohen said that the article stated the reforms would probably be included in the Tory election manifesto as they would not be ready for this session.
“This is a disgusting attitude” , he said. “Mrs. Thatcher should have told the council that the Government were thinking along these lines.”
Cr. L. Sattin, suggested that Mrs. Thatcher should be given the opportunity of confirming or denying the newspaper report. This was seconded by Cr. F. Gibson and agreed to by the committee.