HC Deb 21 November 1966 vol 736 cc929-31
34. Mr. William Hamilton

asked the Minister of Social Security what steps she intends to take to alleviate child poverty.

Miss Herbison

I have nothing to add at present to the reply I gave to my hon. Friend, the Member for Oldham, East (Mr. Mapp), on 7th November.—[Vol. 735, c. 213.]

Mr. Hamilton

Is my right hon. Friend aware that the patience of many of us is running out on this matter? Does she recognise that our party is deeply committed to redistributing the national wealth and that this problem can be tackled by readjusting Income Tax child allowances and thus redistributing wealth to the people with large families on low incomes? Will she give an assurance that this will be done in a very short time?

Miss Herbison

I can understand my hon. Friend's feelings. I am very deeply committed on this matter. I can assure my hon. Friend, however, that the most urgent consideration is being given to this. We have received some preliminary information from the survey carried out last June and we shall at the earliest possible moment bring forward legislation to alleviate poverty amongst children.

Mr. Maurice Macmillan

Will not the right hon. Lady admit that, had she a research unit in her Ministry, this would be one of the many problems, as would the problem raised by Question No. 33, which that unit could have investigated more fully, and will she take steps, accepting that we on this side are just as anxious as anyone else to deal with the problem of large families—

Mr. William Hamilton

Since when?

Mr. Macmillan

—to see that her inquiries are completed as soon as possible?

Miss Herbison

A research unit would not have helped. I have always believed that far too little research has been done in this country into these social problems. If more had been done in the past, we should not have had to start to do it as we did for the old last year and as we have done for the young this year. But the survey we have carried out, with the other information we have been able to glean, will be sufficient for us to come to decisions on how best to help these families.

Dr. David Owen

Is my right hon. Friend aware that the growing number of children falling below minimum standards of nutrition and the widening poverty gap are causing great alarm, and that the rumoured impending cuts in the social services will be bitterly resented on this side of the House?

Miss Herbison

I am well aware of the feeling about these children, and, as I have said in the House time and again, I also am deeply concerned about them. I am determined that something should be done to alleviate their situation, whether their fathers are in work or out of work.

Mr. Hogg

Although there will be agreement on both sides of the House that the problem of child poverty is extremely serious, will the right hon. Lady bear in mind that it is not necessarily the best way to alleviate it to do so at the expense of those Income Tax payers who happen to be parents as distinct from those who do not?

Miss Herbison

All these matters are being taken into account. There is no doubt that children of the low-wage earner are suffering serious deprivation at the present time and we have got to do something about it.

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