5 APRIL 1963, Page 4

Future Welfare

IT would be churlish to deny that the new Labour policy statement on social security moves in a direction which all political parties must follow. The proposals that the average wage-earner must be assured half-pay on retire- ment and during periods of sickness and redun- dancy as well are at the moment vague, making no mention of actual figures. Yet the immediate question is not so much the stock one of 'can we afford it?' as, in social terms, 'has the time not come when we cannot afford not to adopt some- thing like it?' Many people have been shocked to find how far our social benefits have fallen behind those of several European countries, and it is a fact that the spending power of pensions has

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been declining. If prices continue to rise as they have been doing recently, then the case for an annual review of pension rates will become a strong one.

The main fault of Labour's plan is that it is at its vaguest concerning the immediate future, and it is here too that the financial position is difficult. Increased contributions are going to do little to help those retiring in the next few. years. The amount likely to have to be found by the Exchequer must be stated pretty soon. The p an.5 other shortcoming is that out of an understandatle concern with long-term social justice it has little to say on matters of more immediate im- Portance. .Forsaking Beveridge is to abar don the principle of the flat-rate contribution, and it is a pity that the document still makes no pro- vision for raising the rates . of redunch neY payments above those of sickness benefits. And its admission that, in the nationalised industries at least, provision for redundancy is often generous is a grudging. one. Though Labcur'S


since the war there have been voices t re ; concern with the many people who will never have the benefits of a private scheme is a proper one, onc cannot afford to discourage 5 tich schemes. o :s cge It is as well to remember that further advai on the welfare front must be dependent on state of the country's economy as a whole. the improvement in health services, educafi n , housing and care for the aged, but there has •ver been, any allocation of priorities or any attempt to weigh one aspect of welfare against another.

a What is wanted is an overall plan, and that 0, political party has so far provided.