HC Deb 03 February 1965 vol 705 cc1049-51
1. Lord Balniel

asked the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster what are the terms of reference of the review being undertaken by Her Majesty's Government of the structure of social security in the country; and when he will announce the membership of the review body.

5. Mr. Geoffrey Lloyd

asked the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster when he expects to give details of his proposed review of social security.

The Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster (Mr. Douglas Houghton)

As I told the hon. and gallant Member for Wells (Lieut.-Commander Maydon) in answer to a Question on 1st February, the review is being carried out by the responsible Ministers in consultation with me. There will be no formal terms of reference.

Lord Balniel

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that we on these benches regard this review as being totally and utterly inadequate? We feel that what is needed is a wide-ranging, impartial review to which outside bodies can give evidence and which will publish its findings, and not a hole-in-the-corner review undertaken by prejudiced Ministers.

Mr. Houghton

The review that we are undertaking is much more adequate than the one that was undertaken by right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite.

Mr. Lloyd

Since the main principles upon which the scheme at present operates were laid down following a substantial review by Lord Beveridge, is not something of similar prestige and importance needed today if we are not to depart substantially from the principles, having regard to their tremendous importance to so many people and so many organisations?

Mr. Houghton

This review is well within the province and competence of Her Majesty's Government. When right hon. and hon. Members opposite introduced a substantial change in the con- truction of the National Insurance Scheme in 1959, there was not, so far as I am aware, any formal review. They issued a White Paper, and then the pro-proposals were brought before the House, and I see no reason why we should not repeat that procedure.

Sir C. Osborne

When the Minister has this review conducted, will he bear in mind the very serious warning of the Governor of the Bank of England on Monday, when he said that the only salvation for the country economically was a severe cut in Government and local government expenditure? Will he also take that point of view into account?

Mr. Houghton

We shall bear in mind all the warnings that we are given.

2. Mr. William Hamilton

asked the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster what additional use he intends to make of computers to expedite the review of the problems of social security.

Mr. Houghton

Where computers can help in processing material required for the review they will be used. As my hon. Friend knows, further uses for computers in the administration of social security are already being investigated.

Mr. Hamilton

Could my right hon. Friend say why the Ministry saw fit and proper to introduce a computer to expedite the working of the swindle called the graduated scheme, and yet it does not see fit to introduce computers for the national scheme that was formulated under the terms of the Beveridge proposals? Can my right hon. Friend give an undertaking that in future pensions increases and other social service benefits increases will be expedited by means of the use of computers?

Mr. Houghton

The first part of my hon. Friend's supplementary question should surely be directed to right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite. They were in charge of affairs at that time.

As to the latter part of the supplementary question, we shall certainly employ all the mechanical and electronic means at our disposal to expedite all processes in connection with National Insurance.

Mr. Peter Emery

Can the right hon. Gentleman tell the House what is the make—whether British or American—of the computers that he will be using? Does he realise that the British computer industry can now produce computers that will do anything that the American computers do? Will he ensure that in future the Government, in their purchasing of computers, will give the lead to the rest of industry in using only British computers?

Mr. Houghton

I was asked whether computers were going to be used. I was not asked to place the order here and now.

Mr. Speaker

Lord Balniel, Question No. 3.

Mr. Emery

Cannot the right hon. Gentleman—

Mr. Speaker

No. I have called the next Question.