HC Deb 03 December 1956 vol 561 cc854-6
9. Mr. Fernyhough

asked the Minister of Pensions and National Insurance if he is aware that the families in receipt of National Assistance have had their National Assistance reduced to the extent that they have benefited from the recent increase in family allowances; and if he will introduce new regulations to prevent this happening.

The Minister of Pensions and National Insurance (Mr. John Boyd-Carpenter)

It has always been the case that increases of income of this sort are taken into account by the National Assistance Board in assessing need.

Mr. Fernyhough

Is not the right hon. Gentleman aware that, when the Bill increasing family allowances was introduced, one of the reasons advanced was that it would compensate for the increase in the price of bread and milk and that the money was given in the form of family allowances because large families tended to suffer poverty? Is he aware that people on National Assistance are in poverty? Is he not ashamed of this policy of giving with one hand and taking away with the other?

Mr. Boyd-Carpenter

As far as persons on National Assistance are concerned, that is a matter of their receiving the appropriate scales recommended by the National Assistance Board. As for the general policy, of which the hon. Member suggests I should be ashamed, I think these words can help him: It has, however, throughout been made clear that…payments under the Family Allowances Act would be in substitution for or would be taken into account in determining the amount of the additions made for children under other schemes."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 10th October, 1946; Vol. 427, c. 87.] Those words were spoken at the beginning of the scheme by my predecessor, the right hon. Member for Llanelly (Mr. J. Griffiths).

Mr. Marquand

Did not the Chancellor of the Exchequer himself inform the House when he introduced the new family allowances that they were designed to help the parents of very large families? Are those families not the ones which most need help throughout the country?

Mr. Boyd-Carpenter

The right hon. Gentleman is confusing two things. My right hon. Friend was referring to those with large families who were above the National Assistance scales, of whom, as he knows, there are a great many. As for those within the National Assistance limits, it has always been the policy—there is nothing new about it—that this and other sources of income are taken into account by the National Assistance Board in carrying out its statutory duty in assessing need.

29. Mr. Swingler

asked the Minister of Pensions and National Insurance what steps he is taking to revise the National Assistance scales in the light of recent and prospective increases in the cost of living.

Mr. Boyd-Carpenter

The National Assistance Act, 1948, puts the initial responsibility for this matter on the National Assistance Board. I am sure that the Board can be relied upon to submit proposals to me whenever it thinks the situation so requires. The hon. Member will be aware, however, that the most recently published figure in the Retail Prices Index shows no increase over the figure for last April.

Mr. Swingler

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that no intelligent person is now prepared to accept that the Index of Retail Prices really measures the cost of living for these people who are on National Assistance, and will he therefore ask the National Assistance Board to submit its comments on the effect of recent increases in the cost of living, such as the price of bread, on those on National Assistance? Further, is it not a fact that there are bound to be more increases in the cost of living, and would it not be totally unfair to put the high cost of the Government's foreign policy on the people living on National Assistance?

Mr. Boyd-Carpenter

That supplementary question raises a number of issues. In the first place, I am not sure whether the hon. Gentleman was in the House when, in reply to an earlier Question, I invited the attention of the House to the fact that the food elements in the Index of Retail Prices, which, as he himself says, are the important ones in this context, have shown a decline since April. So far as the rest of his question is concerned, as I said in my main answer, the National Assistance Board can be relied upon to do the duty imposed upon it by this House.