Members of the Cabinet were conscious that in late 1954 they were entering the last Session of the existing Parliament. Having completed the great bulk of their election programme, they now sought to satisfy the most powerful of the external pressure groups, the old age pensioners. Osbert Peake, the Minister of Pensions and National Insurance, told Parliament on 1 December when he presented the National Insurance Bill that pensions would rise by about half as much again as they had been set by the Labour Government in 1946. For a single man the weekly payment, which had been 26 shillings, would now rise to 40 shillings; for a couple it would rise from 42 shillings to 65. This was, if anything, somewhat ahead of the cost of living, which had risen in the period by 44 per cent. But insurance payments were also to go up by one shilling each for employer and employee.1 The Minister had in fact agreed these changes with the Chancellor in mid-November. At that time he reckoned that the Bill could be passed by mid-February.2 But the Cabinet, while accepting the proposals, insisted that the legislation should be carried before Christmas, although asserting that: ‘There is no evidence of any widespread hardship among old age pensioners.3
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