HC Deb 29 June 1964 vol 697 cc917-9
10. Mr. W. Hamilton

asked the Minister of Pensions and National Insurance what is the value of the present family allowance as measured in 1951 terms; and whether he will now increase the allowances.

36. Mr. Frank Allaun

asked the Minister of Pensions and National Insurance if, in view of the deprivations of children of many low-paid workers with large families, he will now increase family allowances.

Mrs. Thatcher

The figures asked for by the hon. Member for Fife, West (Mr. W. Hamilton) are, in terms of 1951 prices, 5s. 2d. for the second child and 6s. 6d. for the third and subsequent children. My right hon. Friend has no proposals for increasing family allowances.

Mr. Hamilton

Does the hon. Lady not agree that that is a shocking reply in view of the Government's declared intention that all sections of the community shall share in the increasing affluence about which she so often talks? How do the Government explain that big families, where there is increasing evidence of malnutrition, are not to share in this affluence, nor does the White Paper about which the hon. Lady has talked make any provision for any increase in family allowances between now and 1967–68? How is she prepared to defend this shocking treatment of big families?

Mrs. Thatcher

The hon. Member asks about large families, and I will give him figures for four- and five-children families. In 1951, family allowances for a family with four children were 15s. The present equivalent of that would be 22s. 5d. In fact, the amount paid is 28s. For five children the allowance in October, 1951, was 20s. The present equivalent would be 29s. 11d., and the present rate is 38s. We have also to remember that average male weekly earnings have increased very considerably, from £8 6s. in October, 1951, to £16 14s. 11d. in October, 1963.

Mr. Allaun

Is it not a fact that the 8s. for one child recommended by Beveridge in 1944 would be worth 28s. today? Does not the Parliamentary Secretary remember that last month, in reply to my hon. Friend the Member for Blackburn (Mrs. Castle), she said that there were 100,000 children of parents who, because of the wages stop, were getting less than the National Assistance Board level of income, and that these children, plus an even larger number of children of parents who are working but on very low wages, are getting insufficient and inadequate food to eat? Is that a correct state of affairs in the affluent society? Surely, in the name of humanity, there should be an increase?

Mrs. Thatcher

I understand that Beveridge recommended 8s. a week, but his proposals were ignored by the Labour Party, who introduced 5s. a week. I also understand that in spite of what the hon. Member said about malnutrition, children are generally heavier and taller than they were 12 years ago. I understand from the Report of the Chief Medical Officer to the Ministry of Education that the percentage of children in England and Wales found to be in an unsatisfactory physical condition on medical examination at school was 2.9 per cent. in 1951 and was down to 0.54 per cent. in 1963.

Miss Herbison

Since average wages of £16 a week mean nothing at all to the man who is earning about £9 a week, and since average size and weight mean nothing at all to under-nourished children, will the Minister at least have another look at this matter, and will she give serious consideration, in particular, to the problem of children of low-wage earners in this country and what might be done through family allowances to help them?

Mrs. Thatcher

I think that the hon. Lady knows that the amount spent by the Government in looking after the nutritional needs of children, by way of cheap milk, free school milk, cheap school meals and free school meals to those living on small incomes, is very considerable. This year the cost of school meals to the Exchequer will be £62½ million and the cost of free school milk will be nearly £13 million.

Forward to