HC Deb 20 April 1967 vol 745 cc823-946

4.9 p.m.

Miss Mervyn Pike (Melton)

I beg to move, That this House regrets Her Majesty's Government's failure to announce any positive measures to alleviate the growing problems of poverty and deprivation amongst certain sections of the community, in particular the low income families, and recognises that these problems are being intensified by the absence of realistic social priorities and imaginative social policies on the part of Her Majesty's Government.

Mr. Speaker

Order. Will hon. Members who are leaving the Chamber do so quietly?

Miss Pike

We regret the need for this Motion today because we have never had any desire to make political capital out of problems of misery and misfortune. We do not question the Government's intentions. Everyone in the House, unless we are knaves or fools, is here because we care deeply about the welfare and well-being of our fellow men and women. We all recognise that it is very easy to wallow in the warmth of self-righteous benevolence towards those in need, but it is desperately uncomfortable to face up to the harsh economic realities. It is even more difficult to find adequate solutions to their problems.

However, the Government have now been studying this problem for over two years and they must have given some thought to it during their years in opposition. They led us to believe that they were ready with realistic social policies. We gave notice in the House, in a Motion which was unanimously approved, that our patience was running out on this problem. Unfortunately, the right hon. Lady was not able to be present for the child poverty debate, but everybody who spoke, from both sides of the House, gave notice that they believed that the time had come when some positive solutions should be put forward by the Government. Today, we are censuring the Government because of their failure to act, or even to give any clear indication of their proposals, to meet the more desperate cases of hardship and poverty in our midst.

The requirements of a just social policy are twofold and are of equal importance: in the short term, a rescue operation to apply short aid, and, in the long term, a preventative policy to strengthen the forces sustaining social justice, human dignity, and financial security, so that we can stop the recurrence of poverty in future generations. We are censuring the Government for their failure on both these counts.

Mr. John Cronin (Loughborough)

I apologise for disturbing the hon. Lady, but she has made reference to the Opposition's censuring the present Government. She will probably recollect that under the Conservative Government there were increases in child allowances for Income Tax payers who have votes on about four occasions, but nothing whatsoever was done for those who did not pay Income Tax. Why has she just had a change of mind?

Miss Pike

That is just not true. I hope that the hon. Gentleman will stay and listen to what I have to say. Maybe I can convince him.

Mr. W. A. Wilkins (Bristol, South)

Read The Times of 1st, 2nd and 3rd April, 1964.

Miss Pike

I ask the hon. Member for Bristol, South (Mr. Wilkins), too, to listen to the debate and perhaps play a constructive part in it.

If, before the Budget, anybody had told anybody in the House that it would contain no proposals whatever for dealing with those in poverty, he would not have been believed. I accept that we cannot have increases in benefit all across the board. We have been saying this for years. The Chancellor told us on Monday that a general increase in family allowances of 10s. a week would cost £160 million … That is why it is important that we should be able to deal with poverty where it really exists."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 17th April, 1967; Vol. 745, c. 213.] Quite so. We all agree with this. When do the Government intend to act. Their Amendment to our Motion "calls upon" the Government to give full, detailed and speedy consideration to this problem. This must be the very first time that a Government have found it necessary to call upon themselves to take action. What have they been doing over the past two years? What has happened to all the wonderful promises made in 1964? They were promises which must have won many votes.

Has the review that the right hon. Member for Sowerby (Mr. Houghton) worked so hard on been completed? If not, what stage is it at? Or are we to assume from the Amendment that Ministers are still squabbling among themselves and have not the faintest idea what to do? Have they started the review all over again? Or can the Minister tell us that at this morning's Cabinet meeting they at last managed to reach some conclusion in time for her speech this afternoon?

Even The Times is losing patience with the Government. We all recognise that this is a difficult problem. What these families want and have the right to expect is not that the Government or Members of Parliament recognise that their problems are difficult. They have the right to expect some positive action. Are the Government so utterly devoid of ideas? I shall be making some suggestions later in my speech.

I hope that this debate at least will force the Government to take some immediate action. If they do not, they will stand condemned as having sacrificed those inconvenient residual pockets of poverty which demand a quick rescue operation. They will have sacrificed them for the hope of an ultimate party political bonus, the bonus of achieving a grand package design which they can sell to an already disunited and disillusioned party, what The Times calls a compromise of immobility.

I hope, too, that this debate will force the Government to tell us what progress, if any, is being made with this longer-term review. I have no doubt that now that we have forced this debate the right hon. Lady, when she follows me, will first of all go into her, by now, I must say, threadbare Mother Hubbard routine. It is a routine which deceives no one who can really recognise the truth. She will tell us all about the bare cupboard she found and her subsequent generosity—generosity with retirement pensions, supplementary benefits, sickness and unemployment benefits. She can spare us all that. It has already been in HANSARD several times and she has taken ample credit for it.

In any case, the right hon. Lady might admit this afternoon that a large part of the increases in benefit made in the spring of 1965 has already been eaten away by inflation. What we in the House, and in the country, want to hear is the more difficult second half of her speech—the part that is only being forced out of her by this debate.

We demand to know what the Government intend to do to alleviate the most glaring aspects of poverty, poverty which has already been intensified by Socialist policies. By now this failure of Socialist policy is an established fact, and it is a fact which has been sufficiently underlined outside the House by criticism of such social experts as Brian Abel-Smith and Peter Townsend.

Most Members will have read the article in the Observer on 6th November, 1966, in which Abel-Smith wrote: From the figures now available it seems that the Government's social spending is going to fall some way short of that of its Conservative predecessors. This gloomy forecast—it was a gloomy forecast, I admit—was based upon the National Plan. But, since the Chancellor of the Exchequer has finally abandoned the National Plan's 3.8 per cent. growth rate and now that we are aiming at only 3 per cent., I hope that this time he at least believes his own figures.

We want to be told precisely what this lower growth target, even if it is achieved, will mean as regards social provision. Talk of percentages is not any good or any use at all to people in need, people who are trying to buy groceries and pay the rent. To them, the harsh reality is that since March, 1965, the buying power of the £4 pension has been cut by over 6s. For those on supplementary benefit the reality is that the weekly increase of 5s. for the single person and 7s. 6d. for the married couple in the standard weekly supplementary benefit under last year's Act does not even make good the loss in purchasing power which occurred between March, 1965, and December, 1966.

It is hard enough for those with benefits and pensions. What about the plight of the low-wage earners, who get no extra help at all from the State? The truth is—we must face it—that, far from making life easier, the Government have increased the misery of many of the poor, because the Selective Employment Tax has meant that there have been far fewer jobs for the disabled, whose earnings have been cut. The incomes policy has fallen most heavily upon those with the lowest incomes.

On the other side, prices have gone on increasing, especially food prices. I hope that the right hon. Lady reads the papers. I hope that she read in yesterday's Daily Mail the long list of items of food whose prices have been increased. Wages have been frozen. Therefore, the incomes policy has cut deepest into the poorest of our people. There is no doubt that their poverty has increased. Only yesterday there was the announcement of the 2,000 grocery items whose prices have been increased.

There are many other increases right through the whole gamut of these people's housekeeping. There have been many other difficulties and deprivations that they have had. Granted, there has been an easy winter. The right hon. Lady has been lucky. If, last winter, we had had a winter like that of 1963, the suffering of these people would have been intense. Even the Government cannot take credit for a mild winter.

There is no escaping from the fact that a large part of the blame for this must be laid at the door of the Government's policy—high taxation, combined with stupid things like the Selective Employment Tax.

Although money benefits are important—they are desperately important to the people that I have been talking about—they are by no means the whole story. They are often not even the most important part of the story. It is the supporting services—the local authority services; the health and welfare establishments and the social welfare workers—that very often carry the main burden of this problem. These services are now in danger of being cut back, because the cuts in the local council's spending plans, amounting to about £160 million in 1967–68 and £170 million in 1968–69, add up to a cut of £330 million in two years.

Inevitably, these large cuts will have damaging effects upon the development of local health and welfare services—things like hostels for the handicapped, homes for the elderly, meals on wheels, welfare services for mothers and young children. The whole host of services which care for people in their own homes and in their local communities are in danger of being cut back by the Government.

At Question Time recently the Prime Minister sympathised with me because I have not yet had the chance to put forward our social welfare policies from the Government Dispatch Box. I do not need or want the Prime Minister's sympathy, but the right hon. Lady needs it in full measure because she is responsible, but what power does he give her? She is allowed to roar like a lion about the Conservative record. She does it very well. But when it comes to the real problems and decisions, she is very quiet and shelters behind reviews, surveys, committess and commissions. She is no longer a lion, but more like her fellow countryman's "Wee sleekit, cow'rin', tim'rous beastie." … If she and her colleagues still do not know what to do, they are welcome to all our ideas. We shall give them every help to find good policies and put them into practice.

All of us like to delude ourselves that our social services are the best and that we in Britain lead the way. If we are honest, we must face the fact that we do not. Our standards are already lagging dangerously behind and it is time we faced reality. With our present methods of financing we shall never be able to achieve adequate standards in social welfare, standards that would enable us to approach universal excellence of service, that could make social justice a reality.

We on this side of the House reject the idea that the only solution lies in a massive increase in Exchequer contribution from steeply rising taxation. We believe in a policy that will discriminate positively in favour of the weak and not penalise the strong, who can provide for themselves and who by their efforts provide the growth from which our social services are paid for. If we try to give extra help equally to everyone the result will be punitive taxation or inadequate benefits. A more selective approach to welfare benefits will mean more help for the poor in the short term, and, with lower taxation, is the policy most likely to produce the economic growth which is the only ultimate solution to the problem of poverty.

I agree with the right hon. Member for Sowerby and the hon. Member for Birmingham, All Saints (Mr. Walden) that at long last we should rid our minds and emotions of some of the old bogies about a means test, which, in any event, has been extended by the Labour Government. Let us stop the stupid claptrap of mouthing an acceptable form of words, whether it is Professor Titmuss and "positive selectivity", the right hon. Member for Sowerby and "a test of requirement", or me calling a spade a shovel because I am a North Country woman. We should argue not a form of words, but about what type of test is most fair, efficient and intelligible. At what level should we pitch the various tests of requirement? How can we obtain a stream-lined flexible system? How can we ensure that those who are entitled to their benefits know about them and get them?

At present, we have a multitude of tests of need for a wide variety of purposes. Professor Titmuss put the number at 1,500 last week. The time has come when, with our expertise, we can simplify the tests and reduce their numbers. There is no longer any excuse in the assertion that social stigma is inherent in the identification of need. We believe that the positive responsibility of the State to seek out need should be written into our social legislation. We did that in our 1963 Children and Young Persons Act, and we pressed the Government to make that positive responsibility a central theme of last year's Ministry of Social Security Act.

As a nation we must emphasise that the duty of the State, the local community and the individual is to care positively for the needs of the weak and unfortunate, to prevent, wherever possible, avoidable misery and deprivation and the worst results of personal misfortune. If that is the mood of our social legislation and the nation, where is the stigma? It is certainly not on the individual where help is needed in genuine misfortune; the stigma is on the nation if it cannot or will not discharge its responsibilties.

I must emphasise my next point because of the dangers of misrepresentation, misunderstanding and distortion. I am convinced that while we should examine their financing, various benefits now provided under State insurance schemes must continue to be paid as of right, with no means test. Those benefits are payable in return for contributions paid directly by employed persons and employers. Extra help which the State can afford over and above that must go where we have identified need.

Who are the casualties of society? Those who have been left behind in poverty and need fall into three main categories of problems. First, and that on which most attention is focused at present, is the problem of poverty among people of working age, such as the long-term unemployed, the widows, the deserted wives, those devoted men and women striving to support dependent relatives, the low-wage earners with families, and those constantly off work through physical or mental ill-health. Secondly, there is the problem of the large group of chronic sick and severely disabled. Thirdly, but by no means worst—I do not put these in order of importance—is the problem of poverty among the elderly.

In the first category, where there is poverty among those of working age, the most tragic cases are often in the low income families with several children. Since the hard winter of 1963, which threw the problem into the sharpest relief, we have had a much clearer picture of the problem of child poverty, thanks largely to the hard work done by many social scientists, particularly the Child Poverty Action Group. We know from them that there are probably about 160,000 families with 500,000 children in them whose incomes are below the supplementary benefit standard, incomes that cannot be brought up to that standard because the fathers are in full-time work or are wage-stopped.

Of those people subject to the wage-stop, 16,000 were receiving unemployment benefit in 1965, according to the Annual Report of the National Assistance Board. We must add to that number those who are sick, but whose sickness benefit is also reduced by the wage-stop below their normal earnings. There were 2,500 cases of that kind at the beginning of January.

The conventional picture of the wage-stopped man is that of a temporarily unemployed but able-bodied worker with an abnormally large family. But the typical victim of the wage-stop may not be an able-bodied, unemployed father, but a sick or disabled man of limited earning capacity with little hope of steady work. In September, 1965, one-third of the wage-stop cases were classified as light labourers, unfit for ordinary unskilled labouring jobs. For all practical purposes "fit for light work" often means unemployable.

The last Annual Report of the National Assistance Board showed that reduced benefits paid in cases where the wage-stop deduction was relatively large averaged about £9 7s. 6d. As a measure of the normal earning capacity of the wage-stopped, that figure is very low and indicates that in many cases earning capacity may have been impaired through disablement. Can the right hon. Lady tell us how many of those affected by the wage-stop are disabled?

The wage-stop falls particularly hard on the disabled because it means keeping a family in poverty even if the wage-earner could find a better job suitable for his disability. The distinction between the disabled and the chronically sick is very fine. For many people, particularly the wage-stopped disabled, the opportunities for work are very limited, and the dangers of encouraging idleness are not as big as we sometimes like to make out. They just cannot find work even when they try their hardest. Many of those employed at low wages have no opportunity for overtime. Many of them work in the public sector, or are local government employees.

In addition to that picture of the typical wage-stopped man, some valuable information about the sort of families living in poverty was recently given in the Annual Report of the Inner London Education Authority School Care Committee Service. In their reports for the school year 1965–66, care committees were asked to report on the number of cases of acute poverty and real family hardship known to them, and on the main causes of poverty as they found them.

The reports of all the committee emphasised that although those families whose problems are caused by fecklessness, extravagance and unwise spending are obvious and sometimes flagrant, their incidence is small compared with the far greater numbers striving honestly to be self-supporting and to give their children a good start in life. They are people who are striving against odds of poor housing or even the simple fact that they are not equipped with the ability or help to cope with complex urban society.

How small the proportion of these people are incompetent or feckless can be gathered from the reports of the Care Committee for Islington. I recommend right hon. and hon. Members to read these reports with great care, because they are illuminating. The Islington report gives a total, 1,567 families suffering from poverty; 650 of them are fatherless, including 23 with fathers in prison; 17 are motherless and there is one family with the mother in prison; 371 of them have more children than their incomes can afford; in 129 of them the main breadwinner is incapacitated; in 110 cases, the parents are unstable; 192 have low wages; and in 144 cases high rents are considered to be the main cause.

This report from Islington is typical of the care committee reports. In general, therefore, the conclusion of the committees was that the vast majority of impoverished families were competent managers but had unavoidable deficiences of income. The experience was that the largest group of those in poverty was fatherless families. Families in which the main breadwinner was incapacitated also featured prominently in the survey. That is the picture of the all too typical poverty families and their struggles. The Government know the problem. They have the reports. They know the figures. What plans have they now got?

Mr. Leslie Spriggs (St. Helens)

What did you do?

Miss Pike

We did not do a lot of talking and promising. If the hon. Gentleman wants to see some action, he will see it when we are in office with my right hon. Friend the Member for Bexley (Mr. Heath) as Prime Minister.

Mr. Wilkins

The hon. Lady has just accused us of not doing anything. Did she read the articles in The Times of 1st, 2nd and 3rd April, 1964, under the nom de plume, "A Conservative"? The heading was, "A party in search of a pattern". This is what it said—

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Sidney Irving)

Order. The hon. Gentleman must wait and see if he can catch my eye before making a contribution to the debate.

Mr. Spriggs

On a point of order. Is it in order to commit an act of political hypocrisy on the Floor of the House, as the hon. Lady is doing?

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Happily, questions of political hypocrisy are not matters for the Chair. The hon. Gentleman must raise the matter in debate if he wishes to make a contribution.

Miss Pike

I also read the Labour Party's 1964 and 1966 election manifestoes, in which it said that it had its policies and plans ready. We are still waiting, two and a half years later, to see what they are. We have not only had the advantage of many articles in the Press, but of many "leaks", I think inspired, about the different plans the Government are supposed to be considering. Maybe these "leaks" were intended to help the Government to gauge public opinion on different solutions proposed. I hope that the right hon. Lady will enlighten us. If nothing else, this debate will surely do something to force the Government to come out with specific ideas.

One "leak"—I do not know whether the right hon. Lady was responsible—was the suggestion that the tax relief given for children of Income Tax payers should be abolished and replaced by a system of increased flat-rate family allowances. I hope that we have heard the last of that suggestion. It has always been an inherent principle of the tax system that it should take account of family circumstances, which means allowing for the well-known fact that families with children require a higher level of income. We have all accepted that. I, as a spinster, accept that I must carry an extra burden because of that principle.

For this reason, just as our social services distribute income from the rich to the poor, so the tax reliefs equalise income between those in the same income bracket who have children and those who do not. Our tax system has, rightly, always taken account of a man's commitments and made allowances for them. To abolish tax relief would be tantamount to increasing taxation at a time when the need is to cut taxation and provide more incentive. This would be a retrograde step.

What of the other needs? On 21st November, 1966, the right hon. Lady talked about the "serious deprivation" of the low-wage earning families. On 30th January, 1967, she assured us that no one was more deeply concerned than the Government about family poverty. Last month, she said that something must be done for the children of low wage earners. I hope that this month she will be able to tell us that something is to be done.

Mr. J. J. Mendelson (Penistone)

The hon. Lady will recall that the right hon. Member for Enfield, West (Mr. Iain Macleod), both in this House and in an article in the Financial Times, has stated that the Conservative Party wants a reduction in taxation and also wants to give more benefits for certain groups of people who need them. There must be, therefore, some important cuts in public expenditure, according to the Opposition. The hon. Lady's speech will be incomplete unless she deals with which social services she wants to cut.

Miss Pike

The hon. Gentleman knows that we have outlined our policy. He knows the basis of it. Perhaps I went too fast at the beginning of my speech. Perhaps I am too eager and too anxious about this matter. Perhaps he was not listening. I will tell him, briefly, that, with an increased growth rate and by giving the money where it is really needed, we can do a tremendous amount of good.

Let us be fair. It is quite unrealistic to suppose that there is any one simple way of helping these families. None of us can, with sincerity, pretend that this is a simple problem with a simple solution. These families are themselves in the main striving desperately to overcome their difficulty. The Government have done very little to make more information about the problems of family poverty available to the public. They have set up an inquiry into family circumstances and for some months they have used this as an excuse for doing nothing. The full facts are not available to people outside the Government. We have a picture of the problem, but cannot do the sums. The Government must come forward with the information to enable us all to make a fair judgment.

Public interest in the problem is high and it may be that the Government find it more convenient to keep the public uninformed on the details. I hope that today the right hon. Lady will be as full and frank as possible so that we can have the facts and figures upon which we can base our arguments and assessments.

On Monday night, the Chancellor of the Exchequer said that to add another 10s. a week general increase to the family allowance would cost £160 million net. There just is not that sort of money available at this time. What is required, therefore, is surely an imaginative combination of supporting services and allowances scaled according to requirements. This would enable the maximum available resources to be channelled to meet identified need. By concentrating help at the point of the identified need of the family or the individual, rather than solely on universal services and allowances, we could forge a powerful and flexible instrument of financial and community effort.

We seek to do this at a time when our resources are limited, but there are a number of ways in which we could provide more cash help on a selective basis. We could provide extra help on a needs basis, possibly, as suggested in many quarters, through an enlargement of the scope of the education maintenance allowances. At present, these allowances, which are payable by local authorities, are confined to children who remain at school beyond the age of 15. This idea has frequently been floated among people doing social work.

The scope of the education allowances could be extended to, say, the beginning of the secondary school stage, the parental means test eased and the scale of the allowances improved. I would, of course, expect the cost to be met from the Exchequer and not by local authorities. These allowances will, in any case, need to be recast before the raising of the school-leaving age in 1970. Workers in the field will have to look at this in the near future.

Journalists have put forward many interesting and constructive proposals. One of the suggestions was that in the Financial Times this morning, for an increase in family allowances where the family is not getting a tax allowance in respect of children. Another suggestion has been that there should be more money for older children, who are more expensive to look after. That is the principle which underlies the tax allowance for children.

It has also been suggested, particularly in a very interesting article in the Observer recently, that we should consider subsidising the family rather than the house. At present, some people who really need help and who live in council houses do not get enough help while others who are in need do not get it. I think that I have put that the wrong way round, but hon. Members know what I mean and will not bother. [Laughter.] Perhaps I had better clarify it. I said that this was a complicated problem and so it is. What I meant to say was that at present some people in real need who live in council houses do not get help while others who do not need help get it.

We all know from cases in our own constituency how these things arise and that many low wage-earning families live in privately rented property where they can get no help with their rent. We have all frequently come across cases where, try as we will, we have not been able to get some people the extra help which they ought to have, help often going unnecessarily to those who have security and high incomes.

What of the chronically ill or the disabled, because as well as the low-income family, and the deprivation and the hardship caused to so many children, there is a great deal of hardship and deprivation among the chronically ill or disabled? There are two things which we ought to do. First, there should be a special benefit available through the State insurance scheme for those who are chronically ill or disabled. This would be available to the wife who became chronically ill, if she was so ill or incapacitated that she had to have help in her house. It could also be paid to the person who was born crippled.

Such a scheme would be of great benefit to many people, especially those in the disablement income group whom so many of us meet in our constituency cases. Secondly, we have to put our existing cash provision for chronic disability on a fair and sensible basis by uniting the National Insurance and Industrial Injuries Schemes. The right hon. Lady looks surprised.

The Minister of Social Security (Miss Margaret Herbison)

indicated dissent.

Miss Pike

I am glad that the right hon. Lady is not looking surprised; she is looking pleased.

A person who becomes chronically ill with multiple sclerosis gets a lower rate of benefit than someone who becomes ill or disabled because of an industrial disease or accident. Similarly, the widow whose husband dies from multiple sclerosis gets a lower pension than the widow whose husband dies from industrial disease or accident. That is neither fair nor sensible. These proposals would be of considerable help to the disabled and they would considerably help the many suffering from the wage stop. I have already asked the Minister to say how many of the wage-stopped are disabled, because that is something which we must know if we are to tackle this problem.

For the over-80s, there should be some pension as a right. The Opposition have pressed for that and we shall continue to press the Government on that issue. These people were too old to come into the National Insurance Scheme in 1948. They will always regard National Assistance as charity, whatever we call it. They are the people who suffered most from inflation. Their working lives were spent when it was desperately hard to save and 'they of all people deserve our help. I believe that in their hearts hon. Members on both sides of the House recognise that.

We must end the rigid age barrier at 50 which causes so many difficulties to widows and which creates so many anomalies. We put this suggestion in our manifesto and it should be implemented as a matter of urgency and justice. The other unfairness to widows on which we have constantly pressed the Governrnent—and on which we shall continue to press them—is that which prevents some widows who have been out of employment for many years from getting any insurance widow's pension. There are too many small anomalies in this respect which cause distress and hardship.

Although cash is tremendously important, and none of us can possibly minimise the importance of a decent regular income and financial security, care has an increasingly important part to play in dealing with these problems. Combined with reasonable cash allowances, we must vigorously implement the provisions of the Children and Young Persons Act, 1963, which aimed at preventing the breakdown of family life. We must have social policies which are preventive as well as rescue operations as well as providing first-aid for pockets of poverty as and when we find them.

The supporting community services are particularly important in any endeavour to help those who are chronically ill or disabled and to deal with poverty among the elderly. We should reinforce the present welfare services so that they are fully used by those who need them most and they are readily available throughout the whole year. I am here thinking of such things as welfare foods, school meals, meals on wheels, home helps and the like. At present, there are too many gaps in our supporting services.

Of course, we all recognise that this would mean a great demand on both professional and voluntary social workers, but if we as a nation are short of money—and, unfortunately, under the present Goverment we are short of ready money—[Interruption.] Hon. Members cannot have been listening to the Budget debates. I do not blame them for not listening to the speeches of their hon. Friends, but we have to face the fact that there is never enough money for these purposes, and in our hearts we all know it. I am sure that the right hon. Lady will say that we are now suffering from financial stringency and that as a nation we are finding things difficult, but if we are short of money surely we are not short of a genuine desire to make great efforts to root out the causes of deprivation and hardship.

We all know that in this country there is a largely unused power house of good will, particularly among younger people, a power house which must be transformed into practical community action. We would create a community task force, a force largely of young people, a force which would have highly skilled professional leadership and which could reinforce and supplement local effort wherever that was most needed. We plan to utilise far more part-time professional help and the best integration of the invaluable work done by the voluntary organisations. We would also ensure that the efforts of our present force of social workers are effectively utilised by combining the Ministeries of Health and Social Security, because by doing that we could avoid much overlapping and much wasted effort.

I have spoken of some of the problems of poverty. Some I have not mentioned. There are far too many even to sketch them in very briefly as I have tried to do. Others we have not yet identified. One of the great shortcomings of this decade is that, in spite of all our enlightened progress, we are still taken totally unawares by the emergence of new social problems. One of the lessons which we should have learned by now is the duty to anticipate and evaluate the emergence of new patterns of need, of new breeding grounds of misfortune and misery.

No longer should this task be left solely to the academics or to voluntary pressure groups sustained by funds, which are often raised at bazaars and jumble sales. This is something in which the Government should be taking a lead and coordinating and guiding and initiating new lines of inquiry and research. We will continue to press for a strong research unit based on the Ministry of Social Security and linking and stimulating and reinforcing the work already being done in the universities and in the industrial world and by voluntary organisations, both here and in other countries.

I have criticised the right hon. Lady for her failure to press forward her policies. I do not really blame her. [Laughter.] I know that she is a hard fighter—I know her well enough—but, in spite of her natural inclinations—and I have never doubted her good intentions—although she has had the help of newspaper articles and had her arm strengthened in every possible way, and although the Government may now be listening to the newspapers and the polls, the right hon. Lady's trouble has been that she has never carried the guns, has never had the authority in the Government to push her policies forward.

The Ministry of Social Security should be one of the great Departments of State. The Minister should be given the job of co-ordinating and directing the strategy for the whole area of welfare. The direction of this struggle for social justice should not be one of the minor responsibilities of the Government's odd-job man, the Minister without Portfolio. The Social Security portfolio should be one of the most commanding and important. The Minister should have a really powerful voice in the Cabinet, so that she can press forward these important problems and considerations, so that we can get at them, not in the short term, but in the long-term revision of policy that we want to see.

Social security is not just a rescue operation, whatever the hon. Gentleman the Member for Penistone (Mr. Mendelson) may think.

Mr. Mendelson


Miss Pike

I am sure that the hon. Gentleman will make every effort to catch your eye, Sir, and that he will make a very eloquent speech. It cannot be very convincing, because the facts are not on his side.

Mr. Mendelson

On a point of order. Is it not an established convention of the House, that if a Front Bencher refers directly to a back bencher on the other side, he or she, gives him the opportunity to reply?

Mr. Deputy Speaker

It is still within the province of the Member to decide whether to give way, whether speaking from the Front Bench or the back bench.

Mr. Mendelson

Would the hon. Lady give way?

Miss Pike


Mr. Mendelson

Why not?

Miss Pike

I do not wish—

Mr. Mendelson


Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. The hon. Gentleman must not persist. Miss Pike.

Miss Pike

I do not want to do anything to take from the hon. Gentleman chances of catching your eye later, and making the eloquent speech that he has been making from a sitting position for the last five minutes.

This is not just a rescue operation, it is social policy, and this is what the debate is about. It must seek to strengthen and enrich the quality of our national life. The principles on which we base our policies reflect our personal judgments, convictions and ideals. They are the principles of our political faith, and our social policies are central to our political ideals. That is why our social security should be hard-hitting and clean-fighting. We violate ourselves and our ideals if we refuse to admit that we could ever make a wrong judgment, ever lose an opportunity, or ever fail to recognise change. This is far too important a subject for this sort of hypocrisy on either side.

This is a matter on which politicians must speak out, clearly and fearlessly. There is no place here for shadow-boxing, fudging the issues, and keeping all the options open. This is where Parliament must be seen to give a lead. It is because of the Government's failure to speak clearly and courageously, and to give a lead, that we have tabled this Motion.

4.54 p.m.

The Minister of Social Security (Miss Margaret Herbison)

I beg to move, to leave out from "House" to the end of the Question and to add instead thereof: 'recognising that the elimination of poverty among low income families deserves that special recognition denied to it for so long by Conservative administrations, calls upon Her Majesty's Government to give full, detailed and speedy consideration to the best method of dealing with this human problem'. The hon. Lady the Member for Melton (Miss Pike) finished her speech by saying there should be no shadow-boxing. I come from a boxing family and I can assure her that there will be no shadow, boxing from this side of the House. The hon. Lady's speech, in which she had to touch on so many areas of poverty, is the greatest indictment of her own side of the House. It is very evident from her speech and from that made by the Leader of the Opposition last year that two years in Opposition have been most salutary for the party opposite. I hope that it will have many more years in Opposition so that it may learn the facts of life about the ordinary people.

These two years have certainly taken the blinkers from its eyes. It was scarcely out of office before it discovered all these areas of poverty. They were not known before. As the hon. Lady thought, we came in at a time when we have had to deal with financial and economic chaos and mess, not of our own making—[Interruption.] Of course, the Opposition do not like it, but it bears restating, because it is in the light of this situation that we have to judge what can be done.

We are examining these matters in the light of the chaos left. I can only describe the hon. Lady's speech and the speeches made by some of her right hon. Friends in the last few months as brazen effrontery. Their Motion deserves the same kind of criticism—criticism which they levelled at us for being laggard in dealing with poverty to which they turned a blind eye.

The hon. Lady spoke of the review. I will not do what she thought I would do and outline all that has already come from that review. We never said that we would wait until the review finished before we moved, and we have moved in many ways, to the benefit of millions of people, as each part of the review was completed.

The hon. Lady has given some of her ideas of security, and I will give some of mine. I believe that, of the elements that make up family security, the three most important are, first, that the father should have a regular job and a proper return for his labour. [Interruption.] I will not burke anything in this speech, because we have nothing to hide. The second thing is that the family should have a home with amenities that can provide a full and decent way of living. The third element is that when the father is out of work, either from sickness or unemployment, or when the family is fatherless, there should be social security benefits of such a nature that the standard of living of the family does not fall drastically. For me these are the most important elements in social security.

The latest figures for the total number of unemployed show that in March there were 567,000, or 2.4 per cent. of the insured workers, unemployed. No one on this side of the House is happy about that figure, because we know from our personal experience what unemployment means for any family. The Government are pursuing policies which will ultimately ensure that we return to full employment. I was a bit nauseated when the hon. Lady said to me that her patience and the patience of her friends was running out. I shall remind the hon. Lady and her hon. Friends of their record and compare it with ours.

When I said that I considered that the most important element in security for a family was employment, the hon. Member for Chigwell (Mr. Biggs-Davison) taunted us about the unemployment which we have had under the Labour Government. I have given the figures. In March, 1963, when after twelve years of power the Tories were trying to get out of a mess of their own making, there were 702,100 unemployed or 3.1 per cent. In March, 1963, there were over 23 per cent. more of our insured workers unemployed than there are today. In my country of Scotland, there were 43 per cent. more unemployed in March, 1963, than there are today. In the northern region of England, there were 56 per cent. more unemployed in March, 1963, than there are today.

I give those two regions because they were always the worst hit when economic difficulties faced this country, and they are the regions in which the greatest number of wage stop cases is to be found.

The hon. Lady spoke about the wage stop cases. This is not something which the Opposition have recently discovered, because my hon. Friends and I time and again raised the question of the wage stop. But, as I have explained, the people who suffer from the wage stop will be helped only if we have proper family endowment, whether the father is in or out of work.

It is true that in March, 1963, the Tory Government raised insurance benefits. The hon. Lady made great play of the loss in value of the increases which we gave shortly after we became the Government. I think that she will be interested to hear the figures which I propose to give. Even when one raises the benefits which applied from 7th March, 1963, to their equivalent at present prices, they had a lower purchasing power than the benefits which are being paid today. I will give exact figures later to show—

Mr. Paul Dean (Somerset, North)

Would the hon. Lady allow me to intervene?

Miss Herbison

I am sorry; I have so much to do. I expect that the hon. Gentleman will be speaking in the debate.

Here was an instance of too little too late, and this happened so often.

The most callous treatment was meted out to the unemployed and their children through that long winter which the hon. Lady called the hard winter of 1963. Throughout that winter they had to exist on miserably inadequate benefits. I will give some examples. During that winter, a man and his wife and two children received £5 19s. 6d. in unemployment benefit. At today's prices, that would be worth £6 16s. 10d. Today, the same family has £8 7s., quite apart from earnings-related supplement. A man and his wife and six children received £7 17s. 6d. in March, 1963, under the new benefits. At today's prices, that is worth £9 0s. 4d. Under our benefits, that family today has at least £11 5s.

Where was the concern of the Conservatives when these families were living on those miserably low amounts? There was total silence. Not a single word was said about child poverty. But our concern was shown when we gave the biggest flat rate increase ever to the unemployed and all the other beneficiaries and later when we introduced earnings-related benefits. These benefits, allied with redundancy payments, have been a real boon to the families of the unemployed who, without them, would have suffered the same grinding poverty which families suffered during that awful winter of 1963.

I come to the second element which I consider important, housing. One of the heaviest burdens on low wage earners is rent. Here again, the Opposition have a sorry record. Their Rent Act of 1957 introduced creeping decontrol for all lower-rented property as it became vacant. The lower paid worker found that he had a diminishing pool of lower-priced accommodation available to him. Did not the Tories know that this would happen as a result of the 1957 Act; or were they just indifferent about the results on those families about whom they have shown concern today?

There were a great many complaints of exploitation, harassment and actual homelessness caused by decontrol, and because of this the Tory Government appointed the Milner Holland Committee. The Report of that Committee was the strongest indictment of Tory housing policy which could have been made. Here again, the Labour Government have shown no complacency. One may criticise the Rent Act, 1965, and it is sometimes criticised on this side of the House, but it restored control over substantially the same field as was covered before 1957. Today, more houses are being built by local authorities. The people about whom we are concerned in this debate are the very people who cannot afford to buy a house of their own.

If we take the financing of local authority housing, the system of flat rate basic housing subsidies provided under the Housing Act, 1961, of the Tories has proved completely inadequate. For some local authorities, it brought public housing almost to a standstill. That has meant very great hardship to these very families. The flat rate subsidy of £24 available to most local authorities under that Act was too low.

The Labour Government have moved to make improvements. Under a Bill at present before Parliament, on a house costing £3,000, and assuming a borrowing rate of 6½ per cent., the subsidy will be £67 per annum for 60 years. This will help local authorities which are keen to provide houses for the people about whom we are concerned.

The Government have made it perfectly clear that they expect local authorities to review their rent policies in order to ensure that the greatest help is given to those who need it most by means of rent rebate schemes. The Government have made that clear. Here, we advise selectivity to help the old and the low wage earner with children at the same time as the almost treble financial aid which we give to local authorities.

Rates also can be a very heavy burden on the low wage earner, on the widow and on fatherless families—on all of the people whom we are discussing today. Under Conservative Governments, average domestic rate payments went up in 12 out of their 13 years of office. The only time that it went down was in 1956, when commerce and industry began to be assessed on current value. The annual increase in those 13 years ranged from 1 to 15 per cent. The average domestic rate payment almost doubled during those 13 years from £16 10s. to £32. That hit every family in the land, and it hit particularly hard the low-wage earners.

It is true that the rate burden continued to increase under the Labour Government, but Labour showed none of the complacency which the Tories showed during those 13 years. In the first two years of this Government, we have introduced several changes in rating and local government finance. These changes are now making themselves felt, especially to the advantage of domestic ratepayers, and particularly those with small incomes.

On average, domestic rate payments in 1967–68 will show only a very marginal increase, perhaps as little as 1 per cent. Again that is of great help to those families with whom we are concerned today. In other words, the alarming curve of increases over a long number of years is now being flattened out.

Apart from the general improvement, the low income ratepayer is getting rate rebates which on average work out at about half his rate payments. The Allen Committee Report demonstrated clearly to the Tory Government that domestic rates were a highly regressive form of local taxation, and the then Government's contribution was their miserable Rating (Interim Relief) Act in 1964. The total amount of all reliefs granted to individuals under that Act has in no year been as much as £100,000 in the whole of England and Wales. They were selective all right. They were selective in that Act almost to the point of farce.

Under Labour's Rating Act, over a millon low income ratepayers have been given rebates amounting on average to £15 a year. That, on average, has represented half their rates. This year, it may be more because of the extra publicity which we have given to it. Under the Tories, less than £100,000 a year, sparsely spread, was paid, as against £16 million under Labour. In the main, that money goes to the people about whom we are concerned today.

We have been selective. We have been much more bold that the Tories were. We have helped those on small fixed incomes, we have helped the low wage earner and we have helped some of the not so low wage earners. Poverty does not exist only on low wages. A man may have quite a good wage but, because of the size of his family, there can be deprivation in the home. Under our Rating Act, a man with six children earning £19 a week, which is very near the average male earnings can get full rebate, so that over a wide field our Rating Act has helped.

The hon. Lady spoke about the position of widows, and the children of widows must also be very much our concern. A widow left to bring up a family faces real difficulties and problems, some of them financial and some not. Again, we can justly claim to have eased her financial difficulties with the increase in widows benefit, the abolition of the earnings rule, the increase from 13 to 26 weeks during which she receives temporary widows allowance and the earnings related addition to it which many widows now receive. All of these actions by a Labour Government have made life at least a little better for the children of widows.

There is the other aspect of the problem, that of the deserted wife and the unmarried mother. Where mothers are not in full-time work, the deserted wife and her children and the unmarried mother and her children, all have benefited. The hon. Lady mentioned only the increase of November last year, but the increase which was given in March, 1965, was the biggest ever, and they did not lose anything from their widows pensions or any other pensions at that time. All of them benefited by the biggest increase ever in National Assistance and, secondly, by a further increase last November. Many of them have also received the extra 9s. long-term addition over and above these basic increases. No one could deny that the children in such families are less deprived today than they were when we came to office.

What about the elderly? We have been attacking poverty on many fronts. When we came to office, there was poverty not only amongst children but amongst old people. The provisions of the Ministry of Social Security Act and the administrative changes seem to have made our old people realise that a supplementary pension was their by right and that no indignity was attached to it. Over 400,000 more old people, some of them non-pensioners about whom the hon. Lady was talking, almost all of who had never applied before, now have supplementary pensions. That is a source of great satisfaction to me, as I am sure it must be to everyone in the House.

I expected to hear a great deal more about selectivity from the hon. Lady. I am not surprised that one or two of my hon. Friends tried to intervene and pin her down. We have not yet discovered where this great deal of selectivity is to be. The hon. Lady has told us that they do not intend to cut down on the benefits which come as a matter of right from contributions. She has made it clear also that they will cut taxation.

Take, for example, the family allowances selectivity. She has said that they will cut Income Tax, and I will deal with that later, but where is she going to get the extra money? Where will the selectivity come?

Miss Pike

If the right hon. Lady reads her own election address, she will recollect that she said that she would give increased benefits out of the increased growth rate and would not have to increase taxes. If we get a Conservative Government, that is what will happen.

Miss Herbison

Heaven help the poor children and the people about whom we are concerned today if they have to wait until a Tory Government get the necessary increase in productivity to pay for it. I am dealing with the hon. Lady's policy. I am dealing with what she said was her policy when I tried to pin her down on this question of selectivity. This of the greatest importance.

Miss Pike

I know that the right hon. Lady has a lot to say, but I would like to get this clear. She promised that she could do all this without increasing taxation because a Labour Government would get a better growth rate. I am saying that we got a good growth rate. She has not achieved it. I can do it, she can not.

Miss Herbison

A Labour Government stick to what they say, and I want to make that quite clear. We had hoped the hon. Lady would tell us, if there was going to be selectivity, if there was going to be a continuance of the benefits which come from contributions, as we had previously, where the money would come from. This is really what I want her to tell us.

We are not at all doctrinaire in these matters. Where there are sound reasons for selectivity, we adopt that course. Whatever we do through the Supplementary Benefits Commission is selective. The Government have made it clear they wish local authorities to adopt rent rebate schemes; and, as I shall show, whatever scheme is adopted for family endowment, it will be selective.

I hope that when the right hon. Member for Altrincham and Sale (Mr. Barber) winds up the debate tonight he will tell us specifically how his party will help these people by selectivity.

Mr. Anthony Barber (Altrincham and Sale)


Miss Herbison

I shall not give way. I shall leave it until the right hon. Gentleman winds up the debate. I have already given way twice, and I did say that I hoped he would deal with this when he wound up the debate.

I come now to the real specific policy. I have been dealing with what we have done, but there are various methods by which we can try to solve the problem of child poverty. We have examined them all, and I shall deal with them in turn. First, there could be an option to choose between family allowances and child tax allowances, but this would be extremely difficult to operate, and the choice for many parents would be almost impossible to make. As far as this Government is concerned, that is ruled out.

Another method of helping is by a general increase in family allowances, but would this be the best way of using scarce resources when so much needs to be done over the whole field of social services, not only cash payments as the hon. Lady said, but in health, in housing, and in education? We all know that much needs to be done here, and we as a Government have decided that this method would not be the best way of helping. An increase of 10s. would cost about £160 million net. A 5s. increase would raise only a small proportion of the families up to or above the supplementary benefit level, and the cost would be about £80 million net.

There is a third method, and I think that this is the one which perhaps the hon. Lady and her party favour. It is to pay supplementary family allowances only to the poorest families. This would involve a means test, administered by the Supplementary Benefits Commission. It would enable the help to be concentrated on families below the supplementary benefits level, but, like almost every other scheme that we have examined, this one, too, has real disadvantages, and I hope that one of these disadvantages will be clearly seen by the Opposition.

During the debate on the Budget speech we heard a number of hon. Gentlemen opposite talking about the need for incentives. They will be interested to learn that one of the disadvantages of a supplementary family allowance could be the disappearance of earnings incentive by those concerned. There would be little incentive to earn more if it merely resulted in reduced benefits. From what we heard hon. Gentlemen opposite say time and again during the debate on the Budget statement, I would say that they are concerned only about incentives for the Surtax payer. If they are, what they are really saying is that the moral fibre of the Surtax payer is weaker than that of the low wage earner.

Sir Keith Joseph (Leeds, North-East)

As I understand it, the households in which these 500,000 children live have about 200,000 wage earners. These 200,000 wage earners are mainly either public employees on a flat rate, or are employed in private enterprise without the chance to earn overtime or piecework rates. Most of them are not in a position to increase their earnings, as are so many of our fellow citizens, because they are on flat weekly rates. Therefore, if they are assumed to be willing to stay in work, and one must assume that, the point about incentives is less important to them than it is to most of our fellow citizens in all levels of income.

Miss Herbison

That just is not the case. There is great variety in these groups. I do not think that the right hon. Gentleman was present when I said that a man with a family of six could earn almost average wages, and there could still be deprivation. We are concerned about all these people, so this question of earnings incentives is very important indeed.

There is another disadvantage which I think might appeal to the Opposition. The operating of a means test for large numbers of people in full-time work could give rise not only to administrative difficulties, but to great expense. It would mean the employment of more civil servants, and then we would be criticised for employing far too many of them.

A further point about this method is that all those entitled to the supplementary benefit might not apply for it. This is a great danger indeed. The honest, decent working man takes pride in the fact that he works, and that he provides for his family. He might well regard a straightforward means test as a blow to his dignity and self-respect.

The annual cost of such a scheme would depend on its nature, but it could possibly be kept under £20 million.

Finally, there is a scheme by which family allowances could be increased, and tax allowances for children reduced, not abolished. This would help the lower paid, and at the same time avoid giving unnecessary help to the better off. It would be selective. The hon. Lady showed the same misunderstanding of this type of scheme as the right hon. Member for Enfield, West (Mr. Iain Macleod) in his speech last week, when he said: Nor would I think … to solve this problem by taking away the tax allowances for children from those to whom they are paid. I hope that we have heard the last of that proposal. It is entirely wrong to make one particular group pay for the subsidies to another".—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 12th April, 1967; Vol. 744, c. 1217, 1218.] Much of the Press has fallen into the same error, although the leader in The Times today was excellent and showed that whoever wrote it has grasped this fourth method of help. I can assure the hon. Lady that the Government have never discussed the kind of scheme she and much of the Press fear. The reduction in Income Tax child allowances could be so calculated that the net family income of the standard rate taxpayer with children was virtually the same. So we would not take from him to give to other people. He would be left with a family income virtually the same. Thus, the net cost of the scheme would have to be met from general taxation. Families below the standard rate would gain and those with the lowest income would gain most.

This scheme would make use of the existing incomes test of the tax system, without introducing a new means test of any kind. It would also avoid the need for individual application for the increased help. I consider that of considerable importance. The net cost, for example, of a 10s. increase in family allowances, offset by a £45 reduction in tax reliefs for children for whom family allowances were paid, and assuming a 10s. reduction in National Insurance and other benefits for children, would be about £32 million in a normal year.

Like all other schemes, it has some disadvantages. It disturbs the tax arrangements of a large number of families to benefit a smaller number. There may be resentment on the part of a husband who has to pay extra Income Tax, even though his wife will be receiving extra family allowances.

I have tried to deal fully with the different methods by which the financial aspect of this problem can be solved. If one discards the non-selective general increase, one is left with either a means tested benefit administered by the Supplementary Benefits Commission or a solution operated through the Income Tax system. Having weighed the advantages and disadvantages of each, I have no doubt which of these two I prefer. Today, the Government will have the opportunity in this debate of getting a consensus of opinion from both sides of the House.

The hon. Lady said that we should have made our announcement in the Budget, but why should one make announcements in the Budget on proposals for increased benefits or anything else? The assurance which I give the House today is that we shall announce this summer our proposals for dealing with child poverty. That definite assurance I can give.

These children are the responsibility of us all. So are the chronic sick and all the others who may be deprived. In two and a half years, the Government have a record of improvements of which we may be proud, but we are deeply conscious of how much remains to be done. No nation, affluent and supposedly Christian as ours is has any right to hold up its head proudly while there are among us children or others who are deprived.

The hon. Lady spoke of her faith. My faith has always been that every child born should have as its very birthright the opportunity to develop to its full capacity, enjoying the benefits of a good home, education and culture. Where poverty exists, these things are not possible and the child is denied his birthright. I and hon. Members of this side have every confidence that the birthright of these children will be cherished.

Mr. Barber

Before the right hon. Lady sits down—

Hon. Members

She has sat down.

Mr. Barber

—I wonder whether—

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Sydney Irving)

Order. I think that the right hon. Lady has sat down.

5.37 p.m.

Mr. Marcus Worsley (Chelsea)

The Minister began with a notable omission. She did not read out the Amendment. This was significant. It would be strange if the right hon. Lady, a Member of the Government, could have read out the extraordinary words of that Amendment, the advice given by leading Members of the Government to the Government, after two and a half years of office to take "full, detailed and speedy consideration".

I do not know whether there is a precedent, after a considerable period of office, for a schizophrenic Amendment of this kind, for a Government condemning themselves, out of their own mouths, for their own inadequacy on an important social problem. Perhaps that is why the right hon. Lady did not read out the words. Perhaps she would have found them sticking in her throat.

She devoted a great deal of her speech to a lengthy and exceedingly partial comparison of the two parties records. She spent a great deal of time on the unemployment figures of March, 1963, when she and the country know that this was a winter of extreme cold, when the number of construction workers out of work was enormous. The figures were totally ex- ceptional and do not prove a thing, and the right hon. Lady knows it. It is an insult, when we are considering these socially important matters, to trot out these ridiculous statistics for the puruses of party politics.

We have not come here this afternoon to look back and compare these records. We have come to look forward. This is what we intend to do. Our record on social matters during our period of administration will stand up to examination. The 13 years of Conservative rule was a period of greater social progress than at any other time in our history.

As a result of rising incomes and the success of Tory economic policies during those years—and the increasing social benefits made possible by the success of those policies—the general standard of living was enormously improved. As a result of that general improvement, it became clear that there were areas in which there were still elements of hardship. We therefore needed a change from an emphasis on the blanket provision of benefits to a concentration of that provision on the areas where need existed. That is why, at the end of that period of 13 years, the Conservative Party stated an important proposition in its 1964 Manifesto.

Mr. Roy Roebuck (Harrow, East)

The Conservative Party put forward a proposal to give old age pensioners a donation.

Mr. Worsley

It was nothing of the sort. We suggested a graduated pension for old people. The hon. Gentleman would have been wiser not to have raised that point, because had the Conservatives been returned to power in 1964 those older pensioners would have been enjoying increased benefits for two years or more, benefits that they have been denied by the Labour Government.

Our 1964 manifesto proposed a change in the srtucture of Government to deal with a new situation. We proposed the establishment of an overall Ministry which would concern itself with the whole range of personal care. Some of my hon. Friends had been suggesting that type of move for some time previously. I recall calling such an organisation a "Ministry of people." The point was that all personal care and cash should be under the control of one senior Minister, and that would have happened had we been returned to power.

Having raised the general standard of living, one needs a very much more sophisticated and subtle form of Government organisation to pick out, analyse and identify the areas of need. One of the results of this rising standard of living has been that social changes in the community have happened at a greater speed. There is, therefore, more need for the problems to be identified quickly. That is why we would have added to this overall Ministry a social intelligence unit.

As my hon. Friend the Member for Melton (Miss Pike) pointed out, we had been relying far too much on the admirable, but necessarily limited, resources of private individuals in conducting this sort of social research. The Government, which alone have the resources behind them, should have at their disposal a social intelligence unit perpetually searching for new areas of need. Such a unit would be related not only to the present Minister of Social Security—as we argued in the debate on the Measure which set up her Department—but would be concerned with the whole of our social life and its quality. This would have been done for some years had the Conservatives been returned to power in 1964.

Instead, we had the right hon. Member for Sowerby (Mr. Houghton) who, we were told, was in general charge of social affairs. We were also told that he was in charge of a general review, but we have seen little of that. He was like a kettle about to come to the boil. We were always about to hear from him the details of a great revolution in Government social policy. Then suddenly, six months ago, the kettle was taken off the stove. The right hon. Gentleman, with his lips unopened, left the Government and was replaced by the right hon. Gentleman the present Minister without Portfolio. I do not know what he thinks of his appointment; whether he feels that the supervision of the Government's social policies should be a part-time job for a Cabinet Minister. We believe that it should be a full-time job and that there should be in the Cabinet a senior Minister in charge of the whole of this range of Government activity in a co-ordinated Ministry. Only by such a policy can a Government have the sort of social priorities and policies which the present Government so conspicuously lack.

The right hon. Lady the Minister naturally mentioned the economic crisis which, she said, had prevented certain things from happening. I remind her that this was primarily a crisis of confidence in her Government. The reason for the prolonged crisis has, above all, been the inability of the Government to cope with a crisis of their own making. Granted all that, the sort of rearrangement of Government which I have been advocating would have cost nothing and would have been done by now. There is, therefore, no reason why proposals for a realistic social policy should not now be laid.

We listened with interest to the right hon. Lady make in the latter part of her remarks what was a Ministerial rather than a party political speech. She is right in thinking that the more one looks at this detailed problem of family poverty the more difficult it becomes to get the right answer without destroying enterprise. She clearly came down on the side of what she described as her fourth alternative and, although less drastic as a form of taxation disincentive than her first proposal—namely, the abolition of child allowances—it would still be a disincentive.

This country has suffered enormously from the able, young person with children going abroad because he can keep more of his earnings in another country. I would be against any move which would result in the young, energetic creator of wealth keeping even less of his income than he does today. This is as much a social problem as anything else mentioned today because unless we keep the creators of wealth in Britain and encourage them to do better we will not have the wealth to make the overall improvements we need.

We should rule out any solution to this problem which would mean an increase in direct taxation on the very area in the community on which it is biting the most sharply—the young family man; the energetic creator of wealth—and I would, therefore, be very hesitant to support the right hon. Lady in this Measure.

5.50 p.m.

Mr. E. Shinwell (Easington)

I understand that there is a meeting of the Parliamentary Labour Party proceeding at the present time, which no doubt accounts for the absence of my hon. Friends. Of course, there might be a suspicion that they anticipated my addressing the House and decided to stay away.

This is a unique occasion. It is the first time in my experience, not only of this House but of political and public life that the Conservative Party has ever publicly directed attention to the problem of poverty. Nevertheless, I welcome the concentration of hon. Members opposite on what is, perhaps, the most vital social problem of our time. I might also say that addressing, as I do now, a very small assembly reminds me that more than 60 years ago, speaking to very small audiences at park gates and at street corners, I made impassioned appeals for the abolition of poverty. Sixty-odd years later, we are still trying to find a solution.

It may be a consolation to the two principal protagonists in this debate to know that this problem of poverty is by no means original. In one form or another, in a more acute degree at one time than on another occasion the problem has been with us for hundreds of years. We had it in feudal times—the Dark Ages, the Middle Ages and in the period of the Georges—I refer, of course, to the Monarchy without in any way being personal. At all times people have been concerned about the problem.

I did not agree with all that the hon. Lady the Member for Melton (Miss Pike) said. I understand her motives, and the motives of the Opposition. But in the Motion before us there is nothing positive at all. No actual proposals are submitted for the consideration of the House—there is just an indictment of the Government. It is a political manœuvre, we understand it, and the hon. Lady made a very good job of it.

Of my right hon. Friend I say, without wishing to be particularly effusive or extravagant in my language, that she is certainly the best Minister associated with National Insurance—and I say this with great respect to many of her predecessors—of whom I have ever had experience. She has done a remarkable job in the interests, not only of those whose impoverished conditions require alleviation but of the Government. I sometimes wonder whether she has not done a great deal to protect the Government; to cover up many of the omissions and commissions that we have experienced in the last two years or so.

In spite of those excellent Front Bench speeches, no attention has been directed to what has been the fundamental cause of poverty, at any rate since the advent of the Industrial Revolution about 150 years ago. The cause is the imbalance in society. I recall discussions in my more youthful days when we argued whether poverty was due to under-consumption or might be attributable to over-production—[An HON. MEMBER: "Or over-population."] I recall, of course, the Malthusian doctrine of over-population.

We never came to any definite conclusion, but, speaking for the party with which I was associated, we always indicted the capitalist system. We even went so far as to declare that if we could only, in the language of Clause IV—I was almost about to call it the late-lamented Clause IV—nationalise the means of production, distribution and exchange all would be lovely in the garden. So we nationalised, not the whole of it, but in part. I had something to do with that. I was the villain of the piece in the nationalisation of the mines, electricity supply, and so on. But that, in itself, was no solution.

When the Government are indicted for the existing situation which has undoubtedly led to a great deal of unpopularity in the country, it is to their credit that in endeavouring to restore the balance of the economy, to relate production and consumption, to use wisely our resources of finance, manpower and equipment, they are endeavouring to reduce the gap between the very rich and the very poor, and to iron out the disparities that exist in society.

In doing that, the Government are tackling the problem in the only manner in which it should be tackled. It is the right approach, but it takes time to get a solution—and it is not certain that a solution will be brought about. The solution depends not only on national circumstances but on the international situation. We are very largely in the hands of countries elsewhere—we are very largely in the hands of the financiers, too, but I shall not go into that.

I shall not trouble the House by talking about what might be described as the minutiae of the problem. I want to direct my attention to what I consider to be the fundamental issue. The need is not only to provide jobs for the able bodied but to ensure at the same time that they are in receipt of earnings that will enable them—without fringe benefits, without social security, without all the adventitious aids that are provided from time to time—to look after their wives and families in a decent fashion. That is the essential prerequisite of an adequate approach to a solution of this problem.

We have in the country a very large number of working people, salaried people, whose emoluments are much superior to anything that has happened in the past under any Government. Conditions have improved. Salaries are higher and conditions are better; that is admitted. I do not believe this has anything to do with governmental policy. It is inevitable as a result of economic changes which have occurred and partly the result of the march of technology, of technical concepts which have been accepted everywhere, and of general economic advance.

It is perfectly true that some people are very well off—I am glad to know that that is so—but unfortunately, there are at least 7 million or 8 million of the working-class in a variety of trades, industries and services whose wages are on the lowest possible subsistence scale. That is admitted and it is most unfortunate. I receives letters—every hon. Member is in a similar position—not only from constituents but from outside. They are pathetic in their statements about the conditions which prevail in their homes.

There are men in the mining industry, with which I have been associated, in spite of nationalisation—it is no indictment of nationalisation but of the system which has grown up and is accepted—who as day-wage men get a maximum of £12 a week. There are men who work on the surface—many of them—getting no more than £10 a week. There are reductions as a result of what are called "offtakes" for insurance and the like which make the take-home pay less. To seek to remedy that by providing family allowances or fringe benefits is no solution.

Perhaps someone on the Front Bench will correct me if I am wrong, but I am told that family allowances are much less popular with the public nowadays than when they were first provided. I have no authority for saying this and cannot vouch for the accuracy of the statements made to me that many in receipt of family allowances spend the money unwisely. Very often those not able to spend money normally every day of the week, when they get a few shillings on some day of the week may spend it unwisely. One can understand that, and I do not blame them for it; even so that is no solution to the problem.

I want to direct attention to something which should be done. I am not sure whether the Government will do it, but my right hon. Friend the Minister without Portfolio has considerable experience and I know he will take note of what I say and convey it to the Government, at least I hope he will. When I was a member of the Attlee Cabinet as Minister of Fuel and Power, having a little spare time on my hands, in association with some economists and others I prepared a policy called a national wage policy. It was a Cabinet paper. I cannot produce the Cabinet paper because that would be a violation of the Official Secrets Act and I could be sent to the Tower. I am not quite sure whether my hon. Friends, or even my enemies, would wish to see me incarcerated there. The paper is in the Cabinet archives.

It provided for the creation of a national economic council representing industry, with employers, trade unions and independent bodies and various organisations on it. It provided for a consideration as a result of analysis and research by competent people engaged in those tasks of what was a minimum decent standard of living related to changes in the cost of living and to the families of working-class people. A minimum wage was to be provided and to be enforceable by law. It was objected to by the trade unions on the ground that it would interfere with collective bargaining, but it provided that although the national minimum wage was to be enforceable by law, there would be differentials for overtime, dirty work and so on to be dealt with by negotiation between trade unions and employers.

Recently Mr. Frank Cousins suggested that there should be a minimum wage of £15 a week. He objects to it being enforceable by law, but if there is to be a minim am wage, once it has been decided that it is regarded as a decent standard of living, unless it can be enforced by law it will be of little value because it will be subject to all the vagaries of industrial employment. I could never understand the objection by the trade unions.

In 1908 a Bill was introduced under a Liberal Administration. It was called the Trade Boards Bill. The purpose was to provide some kind of security for those in what were described as the "sweated trades", the clothing trade and various others which were employing a great deal of female labour and where wages were on the lowest scale. So low were those wages that the Liberal Government decided to introduce that Bill and it was left to the late Sir Winston Churchill, as President of the Board of Trade, to be responsible for its administration.

It so happened that I was appointed, as the representative of the Scottish workers in a particular industry, to one of the trade boards. I had to come to London every month for two or three years. The Government paid me the enormous sum of £1 a day every time I came up. That was much more than I was receiving in wages. We provided certain wage and labour conditions which were enforceable by law. The trade unions objected at the time on the ground that this would interfere with collective bargaining and would also prevent trade union organisation, but it had the opposite effect. It provided an inspiration for a great upsurge of trade union organisation in those industries. I do not want to argue this further. I submit the point to my right hon. Friends and I hope that some notice will be taken of it. This proposition should be examined because sooner or later, if we are to tackle this problem of a decent wage for what is called the lower paid worker, something of this kind must be accepted.

I welcome the debate today because it is useful that the Conservative Party should now have directed its attention to this subject. I understand the political motive and the political manoeuvre, but never mind about that. It is a good thing, no matter what kind of Government we have, even for the very best Government to have a corrective now and then. There is far too much authority vested in Government nowadays. In the debate today we have had a statement from the other side and a very useful, positive, constructive statement by my right hon. Friend which we welcome. It is not a debate in the sense that we sit down and examine the fundamental nature of the problem. A Select Committee of the House might examine the problem, assisted by research people, analysts, and other experts, and work out a solution. If that happened, would a government accept the solution?

There has been much talk recently of Parliamentary reform. I know of only one positive method of achieving Parliamentary reform. It is not by shorter speeches. It is not by the methods which the House discussed yesterday. It is that Members of Parliament should have some influence in determining the policy of whatever Government happen to be in power. Otherwise what is the use? We are just ciphers. We are just lobby fodder. One of these days we shall have to direct our attention to this much needed revolution.

I listened with great interest to my right hon. Friend's speech. I am satisfied that my right hon. Friend will do her best to push these new ideas along, to advance the claims of the lower paid workers, and seek to mitigate the harsh details of poverty that exist, to a much greater degree than even we in the House understand, amongst, for example, people on low fixed incomes and old-age pensioners, who refuse to apply for supplementary allowances and who need more warmth in wintertime, more clothing, better food, food of higher quality.

If anybody in the Government can attack this problem and make an assault on this Bastille of poverty, it is my right hon. Friend. We shall encourage her. We shall expect that, following her promise, some time this summer on behalf of the Government she will say, "Some months ago I promised to help to relieve poverty. Now we are prepared, not merely to talk about it, but to implement the promise we made".

6.13 p.m.

Mr. John Astor (Newbury)

I recognise the very important part which the right hon. Member for Easington (Mr. Shinwell) has played in the constant fight against poverty over the last 60 years at least, if not since the dark ages to which he referred. He must have derived great joy during the 13 years of Conservative Government when the country's prosperity increased and became more widespread.

I have a suspicion that the right hon. Gentleman was right in saying that the Minister is to some extent protecting the Government, because I am sure that there are many reforms which she would have liked to introduce if the Government's economic policies had made it possible. I also recognise that in a wide ranging debate like this the Minister was bound to concentrate her remarks on broader issues affecting the greater number of people concerned with the problem of poverty and deprivation.

However, I was disappointed that, in her fairly lengthy speech, she did not refer to the special problems of the chronically sick and the severely disabled. I hope that she will not think that I am in any way guilty of effrontery if I briefly describe some of their problems, because I know that the right hon. Lady is in sympathy with much of what has been said from both sides of the House on behalf of this group. These people are at present amongst the most seriously deprived and they deserve very high priority in whatever reforms can be introduced.

The right hon. Lady and her colleague the Minister of Health have both recognised that there are great benefits to be gained if permanent invalids are able to live at home rather than permanently in a hospital. This is now fairly widely recognised throughout the country. Hon. Members who have seriously disabled constituents who have been able to return home to live with their families will be well aware that this is greatly to the benefit of both the invalid and his family; both sides derive great joy and comfort from having the family united.

Apart from the human aspect, there is the practical advantage that, if a permanent invalid who need not on medical grounds be occupying a hospital bed returns home, that bed, which incidentally may cost anything up to £80 a week, is released for another patient who might be able to derive greater benefit from the facilities which are available in the hospital. There is, therefore, a practical advantage as well as a human one.

Unfortunately, at present many permanent invalids are prevented from returning home, not for medical reasons, but purely because they and their families are unable to afford the additional cost of maintaining them at home. Naturally, invalids involve increased expenditure. There may be higher electricity bills to pay because the invalid needs extra heat. The invalid may need electricity to drive mechanical breathing apparatus. He may need special foods. Above all, he may need constant attendance so that his daily needs can be looked after, and this is the most expensive item.

In 1963, an Oxford Regional Hospital Board survey showed that at least one in three of the chronic sick between 16 and 60 could leave hospital and return home if financial help were available.

The recent issue of the journal of the National Fund for Research into Crippling Diseases estimated that there are over 3,000 chronic sick patients between the ages of 16 and 60 who are permanently confined, not so much in hospital as in geriatric wards. A very disturbing aspect of the problem at present is that young mentally alert people should be permanently confined in geriatric wards if, without great expenditure, we could help them to return home.

I wonder whether, as a modest start, the Minister will consider rationalising the various scales of benefit which are applicable, and which at present appear to depend on the circumstances in which the disability arises rather than on the degree of disability or the degree of consequent need. These figures are well known to the right hon. Lady. A married man with a wife and two children, who is disabled as a result of an industrial disease or injury, may receive £20s. 12s. per week. If he should be entitled only to sickness benefit, although he may be equally disabled by multiple sclerosis or rheumatoid arthritis, he may receive only £8 15s. per week. There are various scales between these two limits.

Last, but by no means least, there is the case of the disabled housewife who at present receives no benefit at all. Unfortunately, the right hon. Lady was not able to include any benefit for the disabled housewife in her Ministry of Social Security Bill last year. These cases need examining.

As the Director of the National Fund for Research into Crippling Diseases said recently: It seemed to the Working Party quite absurd that the provision depended on how and when the disability occurred and not on the degree of disability. I therefore hope that the right hon. Lady will devote some thought to this aspect of the problem. Although that would be some help to a great number of people I doubt whether it would go far enough, because a system of constant attendance allowance will be necessary to help the severely handicapped. The right hon. Lady has said that that is part of the policy the Government would like to introduce. Many of those people cannot be left alone even for a few minutes. Their lives depend on mechanical breathing apparatus, and somebody must stand by or be directly available in case anything goes wrong.

The right hon. Lady has been good enough to answer a number of Questions on that and similar points from time to time. I got the impression, I hope not falsely optimistically, that she thought that it might be possible to bring forward that aspect of the general review before publishing the whole of it. I hope that that will be possible, for the matter is very urgent, and concerns great hardship.

A certain number of seriously disabled people have ben able to overcome their difficulties and return to live with their families. That often imposes great financial strain on the family, because of the additional costs which I have described, and that can be psychologically very bad for the invalid because they may feel that they are depriving the rest of the family of some of the luxuries, and even necessities, to which they should be entitled.

I am associated with an organisation called Invalids-at-Home, which tries to help disabled people to return from hospital and live at home, and to enable those already living at home to carry on doing so in spite of the rising costs of living. I see some of the letters from those invalids, and it is apparent that even the thought of the electricity bill arriving gives them overwhelming anxiety and worry. One letter said that the invalid hoped that she would die before her parents were no longer able to look after her and she might have to return to hospital.

It is a very pressing and human problem. But I do not think that it is unmanageable. I have seen many instances of the courageous way in which disabled people return home to lead constructive and creative lives. I am sure that the right hon. Lady will agree that of the groups in our community which see an opportunity to help themselves creatively and constructively, when the means is given them, this is one of the most deserving. The members of it have a physical deprivation which is a great handicap, but they have mental altertness and ability to live a creative life, if only we can give them the opportunity. I hope that she will treat the group with urgency.

6.23 p.m.

Mr. John Cronin (Loughborough)

The hon. Member for Newbury (Mr. Astor) has done the House a good service by referring to the difficulties of the chronic sick. With such professional authority as I have, I endorse everything he says. He has my full agreement, but I cannot give the same praise to the Opposition's Motion. When I think of their record, this unprecedented Motion pleading for the poor seems possibly not to have been made with total sincerity. It might well be a largely political move, as my right hon. Friend the Member for Easington (Mr. Shinwell) suggested. If my hon. Friends look into the eyes of some hon. Gentlemen opposite they will see the authentic glint of crocodile tears.

But this is a matter which we must consider beyond the question of party advantage. The problem is very serious and requires more attention from the House than simply the making of party points. My right hon. Friend the Minister of Social Security made an excellent speech, but I was a little disappointed that she made no positive proposals to help deal with the problem of child poverty. I appreciate that it needs careful study, and that it is necessary to have the House's views. But we had a debate on it in December and the views of the House were then thoroughly aired.

I am also disappointed that the survey which the Government have made into the question of child poverty has not yet been published. I think that it took place last autumn, and some sort of report was promised for the spring. We still have not had it. There may be excellent reasons, but I hope that the Government understands that many of us on this side of the House would like to see the report so that we can get the facts of the situation.

We must first try to understand the nature of the problem. It is principally a problem of large families, a problem of children. It seems to me that the principal sufferers of poverty fall into three well-defined categories. First, they are the children of fathers with large families who are in full time employment with no bonus rates or piece rates, and low wages. Examples might be some of the day wage men and surface workers in my constituency. But it applies to many trades and forms of work. A large proportion of those families have a total income substantially less than they would receive if their income were entirely derived from social security payments. Therefore, their income is less than is considered tolerable by both sides of the House as far as social security is concerned. That is the first group; their position is made rather worse by the wage freeze.

The second group are those in a similar category who are unemployed and subjected to the wage-stop. A large proportion are sick and disabled and as a result of the unfortunate effect of the wage-stop, for which there are some good reasons, they also are living at a standard below the recognised subsistence standards accepted in this country by the Ministry of Social Security.

The third category consists of households without fathers, where a woman must bring up her family—sometimes a large family—without a father, as a result of divorce, desertion or widowhood.

We must estimate how many children are involved. My recollection is that the Minister and also my right hon. Friend the Member for Sowerby (Mr. Houghton) have said that the first category to which I referred—those with low wages on flat rates and with large families—involved about 500,000 children. That is the Government's own admission. It has been estimated that the second category—the unemployed subject to the wage-stop—involves about 100,000 children, and that the third category—the households without a father—involved between 200,000 and 300,000 children.

We are, therefore, talking about poverty affecting nearly one million children. It is a grave problem. Let us consider what it means. It is easy to talk abstractly about poverty, but it means that nearly 1 million children are going about hungry—

Mrs. Lena Jeger (Holborn and St. Pancras, South)

Or that their mothers are going without.

Mr. Cronin

As my hon. Friend says, it may also mean that mothers are going without to give them food.

Nearly 1 million children are not being educated properly, because they cannot have a good education if they go to school without food inside them. It means that nearly 1 million children are in danger of ill-health. My right hon. Friend the Minister without Portfolio looks at me with some surprise, but in my professional practice I see children in wretched ill-health every day, simply because they belong to the lower income groups.

Another factor is that these children undergo physical discomfort, often feeling cold in the winter. The House will recognise also that many of these children suffer the deepest sense of humiliation. It is absolute misery going to school ill-clothed and everyone knowing that one comes from a poor family. This is something about which the House must take effective action.

One thing that is absolutely certain is that these children cannot help themselves. Their families cannot help them. There is no hope for them except help from a compassionate Government. There is no hope except from a really Socialist Government.

Mr. David Steel (Roxburgh, Selkirk and Peebles)

I appreciate the point that the hon. Member is making. Would he agree that any help that is given must be non-discriminatory so that the discrimination which already exists between the poorer children and those who are better off will not be emphasised by means of, for example, different coloured meal tickets, which are issued by some authorities?

Mr. Cronin

I entirely agree and I shall develop that theme later in my speech.

Obviously these children have no voting power. Their parents represent only a small part of the electorate and, therefore, are of no significant help to either political party. Their fathers have little bargaining power, because they belong mostly to unions with limited opportunities for bargaining. They are not a popular cause. There is, therefore, no help for these hundreds of thousands of unfortunate children except from the compassion of the Government, which, I hope, will be spurred by hon. Members on both sides.

I would like to consider the remedies for this social malady. The first is that there should be some form of selective assistance, as was suggested by the hon. Lady the Member for Melton (Miss Pike). That involves a means test. We on this side feel a disagreeable emotional reaction at the words "means test", and that emotion is justified. Excluding all emotion, however, a means test or selective system would obviously cause a loss of incentive to earn more money. It would also be difficult to apply with fluctuating earnings.

It is also noteworthy that when selective assistance is given, the people who need that assistance often do not take advantage of it. We all know that only a small proportion of people who are entitled to apply for welfare foods do so. Only about half the people who are entitled to rate rebates apply for them. It is, therefore, most unwise to think at all seriously of any form of selective assistance to these unfortunate people.

The next possibility is to increase substantially all family allowances. This would obviously involve gigantic expense, probably something like £800 million, and it would also involve giving help for large numbers of children who do not need it.

I come, therefore, to what I think is the correct answer, and that is a com- plete reappraisal and reorganisation of the paradoxical confusion which exists in the field of taxation and family allowances. We have the extraordinary situation, for example, that a man with four children and earning £10 a week receives from the country about £80 a year and a man with four children and earning £30 a week receives back from the country £240 This is obviously an absurdity. It is a policy of "to him that hath shall be given". This is contrary to all common sense and to all that we understand about the way that taxation should apply.

The argument has been very well deployed by hon. Members opposite that it would be most unfair to simply stop or to take away the allowances against Income Tax which are given to taxpayers to pay for an increase in family allowances. I agree. I suggest, however, that family allowances should be tax-free and that they should be increased for everyone by the exact amount which a standard rate taxpayer would lose if he had taken away from him his Income Tax child allowances. At the same time Income Tax child allowances should be abolished. This concept may be a little difficult to understand, but if the House will bear with me I will give a few figures. One has to exclude the effect of taxation on family allowances to make the situation clearer.

If tax reliefs were abolished for children and if family allowances were made tax-free, under the present system a man with children under the age of 11 would lose 18s. 3d. a week for the first child and 15s. 8d. a week for the second child. My suggestion is that the family allowances should be increased by those figures throughout the whole scale for everyone. The result would be that the man paying the standard rate of Income Tax would receive back exactly what he had lost and, at the same time, there would be a massive increase in family allowances.

What I am suggesting, therefore, is simply that Income Tax reliefs for children should be abolished and that everyone should receive family allowances increased by a sum roughly equal to what a standard rate taxpayer would lose as a result of the abolition of his income tax child allowances. The effect would be that the standard rate taxpayer would be no worse off. He would have exactly the same amount of money. There would be a large increase in all family allowances, and a great stride forward would be taken in helping the problem of child poverty. I strongly recommend that the Government should consider that suggestion. I know that it would cost a large amount of money, but it would be a relatively economical solution for what it would produce.

It has been estimated that the net cost of this arrangement would be about £80 million. This is a substantial sum of money. In terms of Government expenditure, however, it is not a very substantial sum. When we bear in mind that the Government spend on defence £2,500 million a year, £80 million is only 3.2 per cent. of that. This is a sum which could be found without great difficulty. It is something which the Government must face.

The original Beveridge recommendations were accepted by most hon. Members, on both sides of the House, but if those recommendations were to be accepted now they would be worth 25s. for each child. The Government have to bear in mind, also, the situation in the Common Market countries. Because we in Britain were the people who started family allowances, we have become convinced in our insular way that we have reached the ultimate in perfection. That idea is nonsense. In the Common Market countries, family allowances are much higher than in this country.

Taking, for instance, the value of family allowances as a percentage of national income per person aged 15 to 64, in Belgium, France, West Germany, Holland and the United Kingdom for a man with four children aged 10 to 14, in Belgium it is 46 per cent.; in France, 52 per cent.; West Germany, 19 per cent.; Holland, 22 per cent.; and 9.7 per cent. in Britain. In other words, the family allowances which we in this country give are only one-fifth of those of the country with the best record and one-half those of the country with the worst record. We have, therefore, nothing at all of which to be proud. I suggest that this alone must be ground for urgent Government action.

I know that the Government are considering this matter seriously and I hope that my hon. Friend the Joint Parliamentary Secretary will reinforce the encouragement which both sides of the House are today giving for that consideration. But I warn the Government that there is some restlessness about this matter on this side of the House.

Many years ago I was a Whip. Thank goodness, that is a job which I relinquished a long time ago. It was then my job to assess opinion on the back benches. I do not think that I have entirely lost that faculty. I do not think that the present situation needs much of that faculty. The Government must realise that on this side of the House there is genuine discontent at the speed with which this problem is being tackled. I suggest most earnestly that the Government accelerate their consideration and their action on this very important national matter.

As I have said, there are in Britain nearly 1 million children who are undernourished, wretchedly clothed, cold and generally miserable. The Government may find themselves in serious difficulties with their own party if the mute appeal of those children is not heard, and heard soon.

6.41 p.m.

Mr. Philip Holland (Carlton)

I express regret to the right hon. Lady the Minister for my absence during her speech due to my attendance on an Estimates Sub-Committee. However, I understand that she promised that action would be taken on the subject of child poverty during the summer or later in the year. While I welcome that, I should have hoped that the action would be on a broader front and would cover family poverty rather than just child poverty, because I have the feeling that too many of us are apt to think of family poverty simply as child poverty, whether we be inside or outside the House, in Fleet Street, or Coronation Street.

Often the picture is painted of a hard working, unskilled man not earning enough to support his 12 children, or of the widow struggling to support her three or four youngsters, as though this were the be-all and end-all of family poverty and those were the two causes of it. Some family poverty derives from those causes. My childhood was an example of the second of the two.

This subject covers a much wider field. There are families of no fixed abode who, contribution-wise, do not qualify for National Insurance benefits, but who equally do not qualify for non-contributory benefits or for any assistance or welfare payments because they are of no fixed abode. They are in a vicious circle. Until they can get some money, they cannot get a home. Until they have a fixed abode, they cannot get any money. If they are unemployed, as they usually are, only the Salvation Army stands between them and utter starvation, in spite of our Welfare State.

A little higher up the scale there are the people whose income falls between the statutory subsistence level which qualifies them for non-contributory benefit and assistance payments and the standard rate of Income Tax level which qualifies them for their full tax allowances. Between these two limits there is quite a lot of family poverty. Often it is not recognised, but it exists, nevertheless. The breadwinner in a suffering family may be elderly or crippled, suffering from a chronic illness, or he may be lacking in the skills required to improve his position to cater for a growing familiy.

Each cause of family poverty requires an individual remedy, particularly in the short term. The answer for one may lie in a review of the earnings rule as it applies to pensioners. For another it may mean paying a special rate of benefit for the long-term sick. For another it may mean a recasting of the education maintenance allowances paid by local authorities—for example, by easing the means test, by improving the rates or by lowering the qualifying age of 15.

Family poverty can also arise through fecklessness due to ignorance of the way to use money to the best advantage. Children may be under-nourished and ill-clothed because too much of the available housekeeping goes on beer, budgerigar seed, or—

Mrs. Lena Jeger


Mr. Holland

Rent, too—or because too much is spent on fish and chips instead of eggs and milk.

The remedy lies not only in cash. In some cases a family can begin to live on a reasonable standard only if adequate accommodation is found for them. In other cases it may be necessary to teach a housewife how to spread the limited housekeeping over the whole week instead of spending it too fecklessly at the beginning and to teach her how to provide a balanced diet for her children.

The causes of family poverty and its remedies are manifold. What is needed in research in depth over the whole field. My impression is that the Government have a habit of establishing inquiries into particular aspects on a fairly limited front. But this is inadequate for the task of dealing with the problem. This subject is the concern of a whole list of Government Departments—the Department of Education and Science, the Ministries of Housing and Local Government and Social Security, the Home Office, the Treasury—as well as local authorities. They are all involved in this problem of family poverty. All their efforts should be stimulated and coordinated. Meanwhile, what is needed to set the trend for the future is to tackle what I call the common denominators.

Family poverty varies inversely with the level of income and directly with the size of the family. This is the algebraical equation which we have to solve. One way to tackle the income side—a way with which I do not think the hon. Member for Loughborough (Mr. Cronin) would entirely disagree, in view of his remarks—is by means of tax allowances for families with, in addition, a payment to those who come below the level of income at which the standard rate of tax is paid equal to the benefit which the taxpayer would get—a sort of tax equalisation grant, or a negative tax, as it is sometimes called.

In the case of very large families, this could be supplemented by selective additions to the child allowance, which would not need a means test because they could be graded according to income and according to whether families were in receipt of the negative tax or tax equalisation grant.

I think that even the Government are at last reaching the conclusion that across-the-board increases are unnecessary and too expensive. There would be no further test of need because the Income Tax return would show the level of income in the family. We should be able to introduce the selective method. All that would be needed would be to fix an income level at which payments replaced tax allowances This would have to be investigated and costed, but I should have thought that the level at which an Income Tax payer comes into the standard rate of Income Tax would be a fair guide for action.

I know the cost arguments against these suggestions, but, however family poverty is to be relieved, it will cost a lot of money. By dealing with it on a more selective basis than across-the-board increases on all child allowances, we would do the job more effectively and at very much less cost.

I stress that cash alone is not the only way to solve the problem. There must be a follow-up system of care, as well. Had the Government accepted the Amendment moved by the Opposition in the debate last year on the Ministry of Social Security Bill to create a staff with the positive responsibility for seeking out need, they would have created a framework for providing visits by trained personnel to give advice on making the most effective use of the money available to families, housewives and householders wherever it was desirable or desired by the people—because many of them desire to have this information and advice.

It is not my rôle in a short speech to dot the i's and cross the t's. I am merely giving one or two thoughts of my own in support of the proposals made by hon. Members on both sides of the House, many of whom have spent a lot of time in trying to tackle and solve this problem.

This problem, which has been thrown into stark relief by the development, over the last decade, of an affluent society, came to the surface in 1963. It had been there all the time, but had previously been overshadowed by more massive and urgent problems, such as the unemployment of the 1930s, and the post-war problems of the elderly people, of housing, and similar difficulties. It has now come to the fore, and we are facing what may be the last of the great social problems to emerge in our present era.

My criticism—and we are debating a censure Motion, so that it is my duty to express my criticism—is not so much that in the two years the Government have been in power they have been unable to find a solution to this difficult problem; it is that during their 13 years of opposition they did not use the time to do research in depth on social problems. They failed utterly to come up with a policy.

They were content merely to hang on to the coat tails of Beveridge, periodically proposing leather patches to cover frayed edges rather than trying to redesign the whole coat in a style appropriate to the 'sixties and 'seventies. The Government are now discovering that delay in dealing with this matter is causing criticism even among their own supporters. They find that it is much more difficult, when faced with the pressures of day-to-day administration, to sit back and take a long, hard look at the problem. Their failure lies in the fact that they wasted their opportunities when in opposition. Their best hope for the future will be to take advantage of their next long spell in opposition.

6.53 p.m.

Mr. Harold Finch (Bedwellty)

I agree with the hon. Member for Carlton (Mr. Holland) that the causes of poverty are manifold. Many aspects of this problem require consideration. It is clear that it cannot be dealt with from the point of view of one aspect only.

I was interested to hear the hon. Member for Newbury (Mr. Astor) refer to the chronic sick. A great deal of poverty arises in their case. The Government have introduced a wage-related benefit scheme which operates for 26 weeks, but the chronic sick include men and women who have been idle for years. I hope that the Parliamentary Secretary will bear in mind the problems that arise in connection with these unfortunate people.

To judge from the speech of the hon. Member for Melton (Miss Pike), one would imagine that the party opposite, in its years of power, had done a great deal effectively to cope with the problem of poverty. We know that it did not. We should not be discussing poverty today if the Conservative Party, in its many years of power, had set about the task of eradicating the more serious aspects of poverty among our people. We are here today, after many years of Tory power, and although we have been in office for only two-and-a-half years we are criticised for not having cured the malignant disease of poverty.

During the last few years there has been a rise in the standard of employment and of living for the mass of our people, but a high proportion of our community still suffers hardship as a result of poverty. The people concerned are not able to share in the advantages that have accrued as a result of the improvement in the standard of living. On previous occasions I have referred to the fact that it is an awful thing to be poor but a jolly sight worse to be poor when living among people who are better off. As Bernard Shaw said, it is an awful thing to be poor and to have rich relations.

One of the problems affecting the poorer section of the community arises from the fact that they see around them people who are receiving higher wages and are living in a far better state. This creates a feeling of inferiority among them, and depresses them.

Governments have tried to alleviate some of the problems of poverty, especially in social benefits. This Government have done a great deal in this respect. We have had the Redundancy Payments Act. We never heard of that before this Government came in. Men who become unemployed through no fault of their own now receive redundancy payments. We have had a wage-related sickness benefit scheme, unemployment benefits, rate rebates for those with low incomes, and the removal of prescription charges. There have been increases in injury benefits and disablement benefits, as well as in pensions. All these improvements have been made in two-and-a-half years by this Government, and it is very unfair for hon. Members opposite to speak as though little had been done to cope with the problem of poverty during that time.

Social benefits have been increased to such an extent that they are now almost equivalent to the wages of some of our lowest-paid workers. It is not that social benefits are too high; wages are too low. It is in this respect that I agree with my right hon. Friend the Member for Easington (Mr. Shinwell). We must ask what is the real cause of poverty. There are many contributory causes, but the real one is low wages. Thousands of men and women receive only £10, £10 10s., or £11 a week.

Many workers in the mining industry receive low wages. Men working on the surface receive about £12 a week. Even if they are receiving family allowances, men who are earning, say, £.10 10s. a week will not receive a total of more than £12 a week, with family allowances added, even if they have four or five children. Such persons can still be said to exist in a state of poverty; they still face the problem of eking out an existence for themselves, their wives and their families.

Although great improvements have been made in family allowances and other social benefits, those, in themselves, cannot cure the problem of poverty. They can help, but we must examine the real problem of low wages. Therefore, it is to this problem of wages to which greater attention has to be paid. Parliament has always been reluctant to deal with wages, but we have heard more about wages during this last six months, as a result of having the Prices and Incomes Board, than ever before. We are now talking a great deal indeed about wages, and as time goes on Parliament will have a more powerful influence on wages. That is why I supported in large measure the prices and incomes policy, for I looked forward with a great deal of anticipation to Parliament giving more and more attention to the lower paid.

If out of this debate we can focus attention upon wages we shall be going a long way to eradicate poverty from our midst, and it is in connection with poverty we are discussing the question of low wages.

I agree there should be a national minimum. A national minimum ultimately has to be faced. But I am realistic about it. In the first place, this is a matter for industry—for employers, for workmen, and, partly, now for the Government. The Government are coming into it now for the first time. There are low-paid men in these industries, and surely the time has come when the trade unions, managements and the Government now, too, between them should say that certain wages in certain industries should rise.

I am realistic enough to realise that we cannot immediately have a 15 per week minimum however much we may desire it, but wages should certainly be increased from £10 or £11 or £12 a week in many industries, and we can get nearer to the £15 which, I think, the Transport and General Workers Union and other people have been talking about recently. We can get nearer to it by a policy of increasing the wages of the lower paid. Of course, family allowances may bring a low wage up to the minimum of £15, particularly in a family with a number of children, and I think that we are getting nearer at least to giving a measure of security to masses of men and women who are living on low wages. That, as I said, is the problem which faces us.

Hon. Members know that I have taken over a period of years a great interest in the disabled. It makes me a little cynical about the behaviour of the Opposition in this matter, because I have advocated in this House on many occasions increased benefits for the disabled, and I have had little sympathy from right hon. and hon. Members opposite when they were in power. I have often spoken for those suffering from pneumoconiosis and for the pensioners; I have spoken for them on many occasions in this House; and there has always been opposition by right hon. and hon. Members opposite who used arguments about the state of the industrial funds and the state of the pension funds, whatever funds there were. They made very little progress.

The hon. Lady the Member for Melton galloped away today in a speech I had a job to follow. I say that with all respect, but I think it ill becomes the hon. Lady, after the years of agitation from hon. Members on this side of the House when we were in opposition and the opposite party was in power and we were advocating increases in injury and disablement benefits and right hon. and hon. Members opposite put up all the excuses imaginable to show why that could not be done.

We, on this side, laid the basis of social insurance in this country. I am glad to see here my right hon. Friend the Member for Llanelly (Mr. James Griffiths). We made the basis; we made progress; but there is still a long way to go. I know that my right hon. Friend the Minister will take note of this debate and wish to see further measures taken to help the disabled, the sick, and those who cannot help themselves, because, apart from the question of wages, a great deal of poverty still exists among the disabled and the handicapped. It is in this direction that I hope the Government will give closer and closer attention.

In the end, however, the time must come when we must fix a national minimum on a basis which will remove the poverty of those who are in work. It is very disheartening for a man struggling by the sweat of his brow to get a living wage to find, at the end of the week, that he has £11 and is in poverty. There can be family allowances, there can be social benefits, but there will still be poverty unless there is a national minimum, whether of £15 or £14. We must come nearer to the situation where men, whether working by hand or brain, are able to get a living wage, the minimum wage. The miners have fought for a minimum wage, and the trade unions, although I am a bit critical of the trade unions because their first consideration should be the lower-paid men.

Today, we should be struggling for a national minimum wage. I hope that the time is not far distant when that will be accomplished, so that we can go a long way towards abolishing the insecurity which is prevalent among the lower-paid workers.

7.5 p.m.

Mr. Russell Johnston (Inverness)

I find myself, I must confess, in a great deal of sympathy with the hon. Member for Bedwellty (Mr. Finch), who speaks with such earnestness and sincerity about a problem the size of which we all too often play down.

As a relative newcomer to this House, this kind of debate always seems to me to be composed of two facets, one of which one finds—I hesitate to use the word "pleasurable"—gratifying, perhaps in that I think all those involved in politics have to be involved in people's living standards. When one listens to speeches which show that people, by the way they speak and the way they feel, are urgently concerned about this, it is admirable.

It it also equally but much less admirably true that debates on these matters often give rise to the making of a great many party points. I do not think that if, for example, we had a large audience of the unemployed, or of the lower paid, they would be all that impressed by what has been going on in the House today.

It is a great pity that politicians are so reluctant to admit that they are ever wrong. One would have thought, listening to the speech of the hon. Lady the Member for Melton (Miss Pike), who opened the debate, that everything in the garden had been lovely all the time her party was responsible.

Miss Pike


Mr. Johnston

Quite frankly, there was no suggestion in what she said that this was a problem which had been long with us, as it has been. The whole burden of her speech was that the Government must speed up, and that they had failed to do this, that, and the next thing.

It is true that the Government have not proceeded at the pace which many people expected. That is a valid point, despite the fact that the Minister was able to make comparisons. It is easy enough to make comparisons. Hon. Members know perfectly well that one can make comparisons between one set of statistics and another to produce an argument. But, mark you, there was quite a lot of force in her argument that during the time the Government have been in power they have set about this question of poverty and welfare with a considerably greater degree of urgency than their predecessors. I would accept that, but I would not accept that they have set about it with anything like the urgency that they said that they would.

Nor do I think that they have yet had any fundamental effect on the real, long-lasting pool of poverty. We have not yet seen any real change in the number of the poor. There are just about as many poor now as there were in 1964. Indeed, one sometimes wonders if there are not, indeed, almost as many poor people now—even using the term in the statutory way, as meaning those people below the statutory minimum provision set by the Ministry—as there were just after the war. We do not seem to be getting through to the problem.

I think that sometimes we tend to emphasise urban poverty because it is much more stark and bestial and easier to identify. One can point to the Glasgow slums.

Mrs. Alice Cullen (Glasgow, Gorbals)

What about the conditions under the Government's Tory predecessors?

Mr. Speaker

Order. If the hon. Lady, whom we all like, wishes to interrupt, she must do it in a Parliamentary way.

Mrs. Cullen

In the Sun today there is another screed about the Gorbals. There are more slums in other parts of Glasgow than there are in the Gorbals. New housing in the Gorbals is looking after its people; and the sooner the rest of the slums are cleared the happier we shall be, because the people themselves will be much happier.

Mr. Johnston

I am not seeking an argument with the hon. Lady. I have not seen today's Sun. I have spoken to my right hon. Friend the Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Grimond) who was in the Gorbals over the weekend and who was shocked by the things he saw. [An HON. MEMBER: "He has seen the light."] My right hon. Friend had no need to see the light. He knows, as we all know, about these things.

While urban poverty is stark and horrible to see, we often ignore the existence of rural poverty. One sees poverty-stricken folk living in the rural areas often far from assistance and help. Rural poverty can equally be a serious problem.

Mr. Peter Mahon (Preston, South)

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that we have had 200 years of rule by Tory and Liberal Governments in turn and that, therefore, these problems should not be as grave as they are?

Mr. Johnston

That profound remark has not brought us forward very much. All I am seeking to do is to try to be non-political. But if hon. Members persist in making political interruptions they will drive me to retaliate, and I have no special desire to do so.

The right hon. Member for Easington (Mr. Shinwell) spoke of the problem of low wages. The central problem is what is one to do about them. Last Saturday, at one of my "clinics", a man produced his take-home wage packet for £9 11s. He has been working for 25 years for the Ministry of Public Building and Works. In other words, Government agencies do not by any means set an example. Perhaps it behoves them to do so and to set a minimum wage rate above that level.

I am not talking particularly about the present Government but of Governments in general and the fact that it is a great employer of labour. We have heard about the wage rates of people like ambulance drivers and hospital technicians. We really must get round to tackling the problem of very low wages below subsistence level.

However, in this debate we are primarily concerned with problem of the family. The hon. Lady the Member for Melton mentioned the studies by Mr. Brian Abel-Smith. It seems clear that the condtions that existed in 1963 are little different now. About two-thirds of a million children are in families with incomes below the scale rates and another half million in families with incomes very little above. The wages of the lowest-paid workers have not increased compared with those of other workers.

I want to look briefly at some of the effects of this poverty on the children, because it is something of which we must always be sharply and painfully aware. Even reasonably sized families whose parents are beneath the scale rates are immediately much more prone to certain things than are other families. Perinatal mortality increases sharply. The risk of death after the second child increases markedly. Health in later life suffers because adequate nutrition is not maintained. Educationally, children have much less chance of academic success and of making a contribution.

Many poverty-stricken families are driven to taking rented property at a cost in excess of what they can really bear and if they go on assistance rates very often the wage stop prevents them from getting full support. This, again, makes it extremely difficult for them to be properly integrated into the community. We all know the effects on the crime rate. Poverty and crime are closely related because emotional development is impaired.

There have been several suggestions as to what precisely should be done. I was interested in the outline the Minister gave and the remarks of the hon. Member for Loughborough (Mr. Cronin). I would come down strongly in favour of tackling the question of family allowances. The Liberal Party has been looking at this problem for a long time, as we are justified in doing because we have a very fine record on social welfare.

One must admit that welfare can easily be taken advantage of. There are rogues and rascals all over the place. But they are not confined to people in the lower income bracket. People take all sorts of advantages of our tax structure. The better the accountants they have, the more effectively they can do it. But this seldom gets the same prominence in the press as does the man who gets a family allowance and goes to the "bookie" with it. This sort of thing applies at all levels.

If we made a flat-rate increase across the board in the family allowance scale, perhaps to £2, which is the scale for guardianship of children, and, at the same time—and this has also been suggested by the Child Poverty Action Group—abolished the Income Tax allowance for children so that one reduced the actual cost by £580 million, it would not, in effect, be a blanket increase in welfare because the benefit to the lower-paid person would be far greater and, of course, taxation would take proper account of the effect at the higher scale of income. That is a method of tackling this problem which the Government should carefully consider.

It is about time that the Government set about abolishing the earnings rule. There has been pressure to do so from both sides of the House. It would not make our economy collapse and it would do a great deal of good in many individual cases. Equally, the Government should tackle the problem of the over-80s. This has been going on for a long time and it is about time that these old folk, who are ever less able to represent themselves strongly, were given a proper pension.

I do not know whether it will ever be possible to abolish the wage-stop. I know all the arguments against it. But I wonder whether we can, in our sort of society, tolerate an arrangement whereby we set certain minimum welfare standards and then say, when an individual becomes unemployed, "We will not pay you at that rate because it is more than you would be getting if you were employed".

Mr. Cyril Bence (Dunbartonshire, East)

We are doing worse. We are permitting employers to pay people wages below subsistence level, and that we should not do.

Mr. Johnston

That is not exactly the same point, but it is allied.

We here set these standards and yet we ourselves openly breach them. We must, therefore, look very closely at the allied possibilities of removing the wage-stop and, in some way or other, effecting a reasonable minimum wage.

7.20 p.m.

Mr. Hugh D. Brown (Glasgow, Provan)

The whole House enjoys the contrasting styles of the two "sex kittens who opened the debate. I must confess that I think that there is something not right when two spinsters discuss child poverty and family poverty, although I must admit that I have usually found spinsters to be very good at looking after people, even though they do not have personal experience.

This afternoon, the hon. Lady the Member for Melton (Miss Pike), on behalf of her party, reached a new low in a cynical, politically opportunist approach to this whole subject. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] I think that that is a fair point to make. When someone speaks for the Government, or for the Opposition, to some extent he or she is a prisoner of party tactics. There is no doubt that the debate has been occasioned by a Motion put on the Order Paper by some of my hon. Friends. Perhaps the Opposition assumed that there were serious splits on this side of the House because there was no specific mention of child poverty in the Budget, and seized the opportunity.

That is why I say that this is a cynical, opportunist approach by the Opposition, because one must look at the record of the Conservative Party. It is all very well for the hon. Member for Inverness (Mr. Russell Johnston), for whom I have great respect as an individual, but I get a little tired of the lecturing from the Liberal benches about the making of party points. I know that the Liberal Party does not count, but surely our performance has to be measured against that of the Conservatives when they had the opportunity to make the decisions. It is a wee bit patronising to suggest that the Liberals have all the virtues and all the purity, when we know that the reason for their claim is that they have not had real power for 50 years.

Mr. Russell Johnston

The hon. Gentleman is being very unfair. I do not claim purity, but I claim at least interest and I think that one wastes one's time on many of these party points.

Mr. Brown

I had better not get sex and purity mixed, but, equally, the lesson should be that the hon. Gentleman wastes as much time drawing our attention to the time we are wasting. Perhaps that is a better way to put it.

I said that I wanted to consider the record of hon. Members opposite. The most outstanding things which they introduced in 13 years of power were a "half test" for married women and a "running start" for widows. For the benefit of those hon. Members who do not know, I should say that a "half test" for married women has nothing to do with fertility, and a "running start" for widows has nothing to do with physical fitness. But these were regarded as major reforms in the social services during their 13 years. How cynical can one get, considering some of the things which should have been done!

They refused information to voluntary bodies on local authorities which could have assisted in identifying the problems of the aged. There was no difficulty in the Ministry of Pensions and National Insurance, as it used to be, about identifying widows. There was no difficulty about identifying fatherless children. There was no difficult about identifying the long-term sick—we did it regularly in an office for children's Christmas parties. There is no difficulty about identifying large families. The information is all available.

In Scotland, we have a larger proportion of the larger families than the rest of the country has.

In the minds of many people, large families, in Scotland at least, are identified with a certain religious persuasion. Hon. Members opposite could have faced that and, perhaps, could have done something about family planning. There are many matters with which they could have dealt.

In 1965, 21 per cent. of the staff of the National Assistance Board was temporary. Where was the enthusiasm, not to do anything about poverty, but just to find out where it existed? Of course, hon. Members on this side of the House are entitled to remind hon. Members opposite of their shortcomings. They also denied that there was a shortage of doctors in 1962 and 1963 when they refused to increase the number of entrants into medicine. They reduced the number of houses built by local authorities, which is one of the substantial ways in which to deal with poverty in families. That is the record and, of course, we are entitled to make party points and claim that the official Opposition have a cynical and hypocritical approach to the whole subject of child poverty and family poverty.

All they did was to increase the inequalities in society. I am amazed that it should be said that the causes of poverty are manifold. They are simple. Poverty is caused by the inability of an economic system based on the profit motive to distribute wealth properly. It is quite simple and it has nothing to do with low wages. It is amazing that we should need these long and learned discussions and researches which, apparently, have to be made before we can make any decision.

Do we want to follow, do hon. Members opposite want to follow, the classic example of a nation like the United States, with tremendous wealth at its disposal at one end of the scale and where more and more money is now being spent on social programmes because the private enterprise system cannot sort out the distribution of wealth and where there is the ridiculous absurdity of the private medicine scheme while, at the same time, the "Skid Row" derelicts sell their blood for a few dollars? Is this what the party of private enterprise wants to introduce here? Will hon. Members opposite "come clean" and say precisely what they mean by being more selective if, at the same time, they are to reduce the contributions made by those who are better off to the financing of the scheme?

Of course, this is an affluent society, in the sense that more and more wealth is being produced, even though we may argue in party terms about whether we are solving the economic problems better than our predecessors did. The fact remains that more and more wealth is available for distribution in the community.

It is the approach of the party opposite, this idolatry of success and money values, that has done more harm in the social sphere than any other single thing. I want to be reasonably constructive, and address a few remarks to hon. Members on the Front Bench on this side of the House. I am satisfied that we have done enough already in this matter to justify much more support for the Government than we presently enjoy.

I do not think that some of the things that have been done are widely enough known. They are beginning to be enjoyed in the wage-related benefits, although problems are created there. As far as the immediate problem of child poverty is concerned, I want to see an examination, in the House, or in party circles, of the various propositions put forward as to how we should adjust family allowances and Income Tax reliefs and allowances. I know that summer does not mean anything, and that it begins a bit earlier here than in Scotland.

I accept the good intentions of the Government, but I would like us to try to look at this, because there are alternatives. The whole area needs to be examined. All the other means-tested benefits need to be reviewed and the amount of staff required in the various Departments, nationally and locally, investigating these problems, should be reviewed, too.

Apart from the cash side of poverty, I hope that the need for a comprehensive development of the welfare services will not be overlooked. I am thinking of the situation as outlined in the Scottish White Paper, Social Work in the Community. I wish that the hon. Lady the Member for Melton would enlighten some of her colleagues about the Inner London Education Authority report. In her absence, every Member who has spoken from the other side of the House seemed to suggest that poverty, to a large extent, was created by the inefficient use of the money coming into families. That is certainly not borne out by the London report, as the hon. Lady knows.

The Government have done enough to justify popular support. This is a difficult matter, let us recognise that. We can suffer from all of this public criticism about handing out money and its being wasted or improperly used. I always argue that we should abolish the wage-stop, and all the petty disqualifications. I would go further and say that we could almost abolish the whole basis of contributions. If one has a supplementary system, or if one has been in prison or does not have a contribution record, what difference does it make? One still gets the same benefit now. We are deluding ourselves that this is a contributory scheme. If we are to do this, we need to be imaginative and to look ahead.

We need to think in terms of using the information that we have in the Inland Revenue. The Treasury seems to be stubbornly resisting the use of any information that it has, and is not cooperating to the extent that it should be. In welcoming the decision that we will be getting something this summer, I hope that we will have a long, cool look at the social services as well, and come up with some of the answers which have been denied to us for so long.

7.33 p.m.

Dame Joan Vickers (Plymouth, Devonport)

I am very glad to follow the hon. Member for Glasgow, Provan (Mr. Hugh D. Brown), who mentioned three particular points. First of all, one of the highlights of this debate has been unemployment, which is so high and which is causing so much misery at present. Secondly, he mentioned the affluent society. It is the affluent society which has left so many of these other people so far behind, and this is what worries me. He said that the Government had done so well. I do not think that this is justified when one remembers the local government elections. This proves exactly the opposite, that the people have not been deluded by the Government. The local authorities are the major bodies in dealing with these people, and obviously they were not satisfied.

I am sorry that the right hon. Gentleman for Easington (Mr. Shinwell) is not here, because I was fascinated to hear that he was sheltering behind the right hon. Lady the Minister. I have never heard him make such an admission before. I would also like to refer to the fact that he said that he might be the villain over nationalisation. We would have had a great deal of money to spend on the social services if it had not been for the nationalisation of iron and steel. We could have built 220,000 more houses, and as for the £7 million being spent on the Land Commission, this would have come in very useful to help those really in need.

I want to speak on one particular subject, following on what was said by the hon. Gentleman the Member for Inverness (Mr. Russell Johnston). This is to do with the lower paid workers. I have a very big problem in my constituency in this respect. Here again we have a Government Department, the Admiralty, with a very bad record. I have seen the pay packets of some of the workers in my constituency, and they bring home under £10 a week.

The right hon. Lady said that unemployment was 2.4 per cent. In my area it is 3.7 per cent. I hope that we will not deal with areas in this debate. Every area is completely different. The right hon. Lady also mentioned the Rent Act. As far as I can see, the Act has made things a great deal more difficult. Many people will not take families with children, and they can now charge almost any rent that they like. There is accommodation in Plymouth fetching £6 a week. It is just as difficult for a family with a couple of children to get accommodation as it is for an immigrant. People know that if they have a family in their house and do not get on together, they cannot turn them out unless they go to the courts. This makes a lot of people extremely nervous about taking in such families.

The heroines in this are the wives of the lower paid workers, and although we see references to £16 as being the national average wage, this is a very misleading figure indeed. Some people earn under £10 a week, as has been acknowledged in the House. The other heroines are those who are fondly called mothers of fatherless children. One great difficulty—

Mr. Speaker

Order. If other hon. Members wish to talk, they must do so quietly.

Dame Joan Vickers

—is that we are living in a very highly sophisticated society, at least in the towns. This makes things very difficult for those on low incomes. Under rationing everyone had the same amount of food. Now, even on council estates, one can have a person living in a house and bringing in £25 a week and another person on the same estate bringing in £10. It is extremely difficult for the wives to compete with each other in giving their children equality of treatment.

What is the real cause of family poverty? First, there is the low wage, with no chance of any overtime. It is shocking that in this day and age a lot of people do not get a wage on which they can live but have to depend upon overtime. This, I hope, will be attended to by the trade unions in due course. It seems clear that between 500,000 and 600,000 children are living below subsistence level.

As one hon. Members has said, sometimes the inadequacy of the wife is the cause of the trouble. The situation of these women is often difficult. They marry as young girls, and they do not have sufficient training in school. The husband may generously hand over all, or practically all, his pay packet, and then his wife is expected to cope, however inexperienced she is.

On the whole, I am concerned as much for the medium-size family as I am for the large family, and in this connection I make a suggestion which has not so far been made. Could not we have a housekeeping allowance in preference to allowances related to individual children? We recently considered a family planning Bill in the House, and everyone knows that in some countries encouragement is given to people to have more children. But, in my view, whether people have one, two, three, or four children, their expenses in the house are practically the same; the rent is the same, the fuel bill is the same, the electric light and gas bills are the same. If the woman could have a specific amount of money to bring her up to the level set by the average wage in the area or region—I say that because I know that conditions vary from region to region, and, for instance, rents are considerably lower in Plymouth than they are in London—this would be an enormous help.

Money is not the only thing that matters. I refer again, as I have on several previous occasions, to an important suggestion made in the Younghusband Report on Social Workers. This Report has been considered far too little in the House. Many people, those with higher incomes as well as those with low incomes, have not the knowledge or the wherewithal to do their housekeeping and look after their children in the most economical way.

I would like there to be general purpose family visitors, as was suggested in paragraph 970 of the Younghusband Report. The general purpose visitor, I suggest, should be a health visitor. Naturally, such a scheme would call for a great many more health visitors, more highly trained and given social science training and experience. But these are the people who enter every house after the birth of a child, and they are the first to come into contact with the family.

This is what was said in paragraph 969 of the Younghusband Report, quoting another report, the Report of the Inquiry into Health Visiting: In association with the general practitioner, the health visitor will be concerned with a wider range of families than any other comparable worker. She will be in touch with the various family health and welfare teams. She has thus the opportunity to act as a common point of reference and a source of standard information, a common adviser on health teaching, a common factor in family welfare. In the ordinary course of her work, and without exceeding her competence, she could be in a real sense a general purpose family visitor. If we are to improve the standard of life of these people, a general purpose family visitor service would be an enormous advantage. Families would have someone who could explain to them the various benefits to which they were entitled by law. There is at present needless duplication in looking into family incomes. For instance, local authorities which run differential rent schemes might well be able to identify tenants who qualify for rate rebates without such people having to apply and undergo an additional means test. There is another means test in connection with school, and so on.

The general purpose family visitor could at the outset explain to the woman the various benefits which she could have and help her to get them. As I say, to have such a service properly staffed, there would have to be many more trained social workers and they would have to be better paid, but I regard it as an excellent idea.

My next suggestion is that the various time limits for application for this or that benefit should be done away with. Many people do not know what the time limits are, and, what is more, they are very frightened of filling in forms. This is not altogether surprising when one reads on a form some such words as these: Making a false statement or withholding information renders the applicant liable to a line not exceeding £50, or three months imprisonment, or both. I expect that many hon. Members here gold "surgeries" on a Saturday, and I have no doubt that a good many people come to the Member for help in filling in their forms. Without help, they do nothing about it. The forms are put on the mantelpiece or somewhere else in the house, they are not filled in, and the benefit to which the families are entitled is never given. Many benefits are completely lost through ignorance. A good many tenants, for example, do not seem to realise that rate rebates can be claimed even when rates are included in their rent. Advice about this could be of considerable help.

The hon. Gentleman the Member for Provan asked for more information to be given about the findings of the care committees of the Inner London Education Authority. He may be interested to know that this organisation began 60 years ago, and, when I started my social work—not 60 years ago, of course—my first job in the East End of London was in connection with the care committee.

I can give the hon. Gentleman the figures for Hammersmith, Kensington, and Chelsea, where the committee, as he knows, is run by voluntary workers and covers 50 per cent. of the schools. It was disclosed in the last report that there were 1,451 children who needed free dinners. There were 376 fatherless families, 31 families where the chief breadwinner was disabled or mentally ill, 41 where theres was no mother or the mother was ill, 62 where both parents were unstable or irresponsible. There were 111 large families, 186 with low wage earners and high rents. Twenty-two couples had low incomes but were struggling to keep their children at school nevertheless. Fourteen couples were deemed to be generally feckless, one child was a total orphan, and one lived with an old-age pensioner father.

I ask the Minister to encourage other local authorities to set up care committees. They are of enormous advantage. People do not mind going along and discussing matters with the care committee worker, who is regarded as a friend in need.

The trouble in low-income families is that every penny is pledged each week before the next. The cost of living in the last two years has increased by 4 per cent. and wages have now been frozen. This makes the problem even more urgent. The cost of food has just risen again by 1.3 per cent. I saw in the Grocer that, since July, 1966, 1,965 groceries had gone up in price and only 254 had come down. These conditions lead to further crime. There is tremendous temptation in the self-service shops. Everyone knows that shoplifting is increasing, as is breaking into gas and electricity meters. After conviction, of course, there is often a fine, which makes life even more difficult.

We are always being told about the average worker with £16 a week. I wonder how this figure is arrived at. I know of many with very much less than that. One difficulty at the moment is that a man can earn say, £9 16s. a week, but if he goes on social security the family will get £13. This is no incentive to people to work. What is more, even if the husband works and the woman works part-time, very often she still does not get what is known to be the average wage in this country.

I have here many case papers which have been sent to me by the Plymouth Guild of Social Service. One sees that many people have been given £3 food vouchers. It seems incredible that in this day and age this sort of thing should be going on. There is a report here of one family with three children living on a Social Security payment of £10 and family allowances of 18s., making a total income of only £10 18s., while their rent is £1 2s. They are in arrears with the rent because the man has been out of work for 11 months through illness and the need to undergo operations. I could go on giving similar examples.

The papers recently carried the story of a woman who had to go to court because her child did not go to school. She said that the reason for this was that she could not afford to buy her son trousers and he was not allowed to wear jeans in school. When he did attend school he wore his brother's trousers. She did not know that the school would probably have been prepared to help her overcome the problem. This is one reason why I suggest that all-purpose workers might be of great help. They might have been able to help her.

It has been said that the wage stop applies to the sick as well as to the unemployed. The policy is now to reduce the allowance paid to a man who is away from work to below what he receives as his normal earnings. I understand that there were 2,500 of these cases in January, 1967. But it is when a man is sick that he needs a little extra money, and it is fantastic that his wage should be reduced.

Mr. Thomas Swain (Derbyshire, North-East)

I agree that when a man is sick he needs more money than in normal circumstances, but how does the hon. Lady reconcile what she has just said with the fact that she trooped through the Lobbies in February, 1961, in support of the then Minister of Health's measures to increase prescription charges and contributions?

Dame Joan Vickers

The first time the prescription charges were put on I did not vote for them. I did so the second time because it was said that anybody who was chronically sick, or an old-age pensioner, could reclaim the charge. I think it was said that in the first year about £3 million was reclaimed in this way. The man about whom I have been talking would have been able to reclaim the money which he had to pay out.

I think that it is unfair to stop the wages of disabled workers if they draw sickness benefit. A disabled father is naturally anxious to work to keep his family, and someone who is sick, or has had an accident, is often in need of a few extra comforts. A lower-paid worker often does the dirtiest type of work, and is therefore more prone to ill health.

I understand that there are between 200,000 and 300,000 families with more than 1½ million children living below the social security standard. This, I think, is one of the things that we ought to try to rectify, and I would like to make a few suggestions about how we might do this. I do not know how the committees set up by the Minister are getting on, when they are likely to report, and whether there will be an overall survey, but I think that it would be an excellent idea to ask local authorities to make surveys in certain areas. The Americans have done this in what they call saturation areas, in other words, in areas where they feel there is a poor community living in council flats, or on council estates, or in private accommodation. They have sent in social workers to help the people there, and those who are in most need of help are the lower paid workers.

I hope that I shall have the support of the hon. Lady the Member for Eton and Slough (Miss Lestor) in getting pre-school training centres set up in some of these areas. I know that when one mentions this subject one is naturally talking about money, but this idea can be carried out by voluntry means. I have set up one centre with the help of voluntary subscriptions. There are 21 children there, and the parents are delighted with the progress their children are making. We have chosen the children from the poorest families, where the parents do not read to them and in fact hardly talk to them. Children with that kind of background go to primary schools without being properly trained. We are giving them this start, and I hope shortly to start two more centres, and if the Minister would encourage local authorities to provide premises for centres of this kind they would be a great asset.

New Zealand is very keen on this idea of pre-school training centres. They have a system under which a family with three or more children receives family allowances in advance so that the family can buy a house of its own. I would like this idea to be considered here. If a family has three or more children, the Government calculate the total allowances which the family will receive up to the time the children are 16, and this money is advanced to the family to buy a house.

Mr. James Dempsey (Coatbridge and Airdrie)

I am very interested in what the hon. Lady has said about the Government advancing family allowances. What happens if a member of the family dies before reaching the age of 16? How is the recovery made?

Dame Joan Vickers

The Government accept that risk. Fortunately this happens very seldom in New Zealand, but the Government are willing to run the risk of that happening.

If we go into the Common Market, we shall have to make some alterations in our social services, because West Germany spends 10.4 per cent. of her gross national product on social services, cash benefits, social insurance, and public assistance, as they call it. Figures for other countries are as follows: Austria—9.2 per cent.; Sweden—9.1; Belgium—8.8; France—8.3; Italy—7.9; and the Netherlands—7.7. The figure for this country is only 6.4 per cent. If these other countries can afford it, I suggest that we can, too.

My other suggestion is that school meals should be provided during the holidays for those in need. It seems fantastic that we give school meals to children who need them during the school term, but not during the holidays. This affects the children of the lower paid worker in particular. Those who can pay the economic price of school meals should be asked to do so, but those who cannot should receive them during the school holidays.

Dr. Taylor of the Food Education Society has said—and I am sure that the hon. Member who spoke about the physique of children will be interested in this—that there is a wrong feeding pattern. He says that often children get no breakfast, and that tea should consist of proteins, meat, eggs, greens, root vegetable salads, fruit, bread and butter and milk to drink. During the holidays this protein and calcium diet is not given to children. I hope, therefore, that during the holidays it will be possible to provide school meals for the most needy. An article in The Times stated: Everybody wants a lot and wants to give everybody a little bit. This does not appeal to me. I would like to give it to those who are really in need, because we will never improve their general standard of living unless we do.

In my efforts to try to help people I find that difficulty is caused because social security offices are not open on Saturdays. This is certainly the case in my constituency. One is given the telephone numbers of some officers and one can contact them in an emergency. But I hope that the Minister will consider instructing offices to open for two or three hours on Saturday mornings so that husbands and wives can together visit the offices and jointly put their case. With a five day week, it is difficult for many people to visit these offices during working hours and the present general closing rule applying to these offices causes considerable difficulty.

To sum up, I hope that the right hon. Lady—who the right hon. Member for Easington described as the keystone in the Government—will encourage the health visitor to be an all-purpose worker. I trust that she will also look into the present wage related benefits because at present in time of unemployment or sickness a man is prevented from drawing more than 85 per cent. of his earnings. The high rate of unemployment has heightened the difficulties because of this rule and I trust that the right hon. Lady will consider amending it. Even greater hardship is caused if the people concerned have a number of hire purchase commitments, remembering that wage related benefits last for only six months. Although the right hon. Lady was not in her place at the beginning of my speech, I trust that she will consider my suggestion about a house-keeping allowance rather than concentrating on individual allowances. After all, a couple with two children have more or less the same bills for rent, gas and so on as a couple with five children.

Some time ago I was lucky enough to hear about a house which was not wanted and which, I understand, was about to be pulled down. I was able to get it for £500 and I gave it to the Guild of Social Workers. It was renovated and divided into two flats. Families in difficulty occupy these flats and while I do not go near the place, because I do not wish to interfere in their lives, I know, because of the way in which the Guild's officers and church helpers work, that these families have greatly benefited from this experience. In the past 10 years a number of families have lived there and I am glad to say that each one has made good. They have arrived in debt and with many problems, but they have all been rehoused by the local authority and are doing well. If this example could be extended more widely and supporting help given, enormous benefit would accrue to families who find themselves in difficulty.

Above all, we must remember that the poor children of today often make the poor parents of tomorrow. I am glad that we are having this debate and I hope that the Minister will be fortified in her efforts to assist particularly the lowly paid workers.

8.4 p.m.

Mrs. Lena Jeger (Holborn and St. Pancras, South)

The hon. Lady the Member for Plymouth, Devonport (Dame Joan Vickers) made a number of thoughtful suggestions. Hon. Members appreciate the great interest she has shown in this and allied problems for many years and will agree with many of the remarks that she made.

It should be remembered that any development in the personal social services will touch only the fringe of the problem. We could have the most marvellous social workers in the world, but if a housewife has only £9 to live on, and four children and a husband to keep, she does not necessarily want social workers knocking on her door to tell her how best she can spend that money.

It is a miracle how so many women manage so well with so little. Somehow they manage to send their children to school looking as smart as the other kids in the street. They do not claim free school meals because they do not want their children to be picked on because they are different from the other children. In many ways, poverty is disguised because of the pride of parents; and often the parents are the most deprived members of the family.

I urge my right hon. Friend to accept that we do not need to wait for the collection of more statistics and information. My experience is that we already have sufficient information. I am drowning in it. I have loads of documents giving me all the information I need to prove what must be done and which supports my experience in dealing with this problem over many years. Of course, social research must go on, but we must not let the need to improve the conditions of the worse off people wait on the collection of more statistics. I beg my right hon. Friend to make do with the information she already has, because I know that she has a great deal of it and that it is of the highest standard.

The Opposition's Motion is probably the most impudent Motion that has ever appeared on the Order Paper. However, I welcome their effrontery in having tabled it, because it gives us an opportunity to discuss the matter openly. I make no excuse for adopting a party approach. Politics are about poverty if they are about anything. After generations of disregarding poverty by the party opposite, the Labour Party was born in anger and trade unions were established. Let us not be pussyfooting about politics. Let us talk about them because we cannot discuss poverty in any other context. At the same time, however, let us discuss the matter with some humility.

Somebody signing himself "A Conservative" wrote in an article in The Times in April, 1964: Harsh though the judgment may seem, it is in the relief of poverty that the biggest failure of Conservative policy in the past 21 years lies". That sentiment will be endorsed not only by my hon. Friends, but by the country at large.

We must have a meeting of minds to decide how best we can solve this problem, because society can no longer accept the inevitability of poverty. We have a complex modern society in which the Government are trying to run an incomes policy. The only civilised way in which we can come to terms with this problem is to ensure that there is a proper balance between the individual wage and what I would call the social wage.

With respect to my hon. Friends who have spoken particularly about the trade union movement and the question of a minimum wage, I suggest that we cannot even consider having a minimum wage in isolation. Long ago the younger Pitt told Parliament of the problem of assessing what could be regarded as a minimum wage that would provide adequately for a large family without over-providing for the worker who did not have a family. I hope that, as part of the incomes policy, great attention will be paid to the lowest paid workers because their plight is at the root of the problem.

Having said that, I find myself in a contradictory position, because the three political parties have accepted that when a man is out of work his income should be related to the number of children he has. I admit that this concept goes back to the old days—the Poor Law, Lloyd George and Beveridge—because if we are to pay attention to the size of a man's family when he is both in work and out of work the family allowance is the only method by which we can take care of the problem.

This does not mean that I am in any way hesitant in wanting to see the lowest wages go up. I do not think that we shall get a general acceptance of any incomes policy unless that happens. The T.U.C. itself is most anxious to see a general increase in family allowances. It told my right hon. Friend that family allowances should be increased, and that the payment of the increase should not be subject to any form of means test.

Those of us who take that view should be very much fortified, because we have often seen many points of difference among some of our trade union friends and others on the development of our social security system. That point of view has been pressed on the Minister, and I know that she will pay great regard to it. The T.U.C. points out that a general increase would give benefit to families that might not be in need of it, but it takes the view, as I do, that that aspect must be taken care of by changes in taxation.

Many of the objections made to payments of family allowances are never made in connection with income Tax allowances for children. I get letters from people saying that we should not have family allowances as they only mean that people have more children or spend the money on drink. The answer to that could be that we should not have Income Tax allowances either for children. How do we know how people spend the £520 million Income Tax relief for children and the £15 million going to the relief of the Surtax payer? It seems that the richer a man is the more his child is worth to him. That is an impossible situation.

The best way to get over the difficulty is to pool all this money and not to have family allowances and Income Tax allowances going on at the same time. We should pool the money, and have a new share out. I know that it would involve a good deal of actuarial work, because I am most anxious that those in the lower tax-paying brackets should not be any worse off. No one in the House wants that to happen.

I was disappointed to hear the hon. Lady the Member for Melton (Miss Pike) say that she hoped we would hear no more of this suggestion. I hope that we shall hear a great deal more about it, because it seems to me to be the only rational break-through in this otherwise intractable problem of family poverty, and all the more relevant because we are trying to work out an incomes policy which will seem fair to the majority of people.

One hon. Member opposite also objected to the suggestion on the ground that he did not want any disincentives to the splendid young wealth-producing men who, I gathered, were earning a fair wage and whose Income Tax should not be interfered with, at least in an upward direction. My worry is about the splendid wealth-producing young family man who is taking home about £14 or £15 a week, who is below the Income Tax paying level, and who is, therefore, too poor to absorb any benefit resulting from an alteration in the Income Tax structure. That failure to absorb any benefit from reduction in Income Tax forces us to look at this other suggestion.

I have seen this plan working in Sweden, where for every child there is a family allowance of about £60 a year, and no Income Tax allowance for children at all. The Swedes are, in fact, working roughly on the lines that some of us are suggesting now; that we should concentrate the payment as family allowance and not have any Income Tax allowance for children. We do not want to copy that system exactly, because the social security systems in different countries have different patterns and we cannot take just one piece out of the pattern, but something on those lines should be studied.

There is something else that gives some urgency to the question, and which is also much in the minds of the T.U.C. With the payment of wage-related benefits we can get ourselves into a position where we shall have an increasing number of families wage-stopped because of the higher benefits. That position was not intended at all. We could get a man on a wage of about £9 a week who would be paying his bigger contribution for the extra benefit, but who would be in danger of not getting it because of the wage-stop. This is another reason for trying to take the whole question of poverty out of this sphere, and into a much more generous pattern of family allowance.

The hon. Lady the Member for Melton stressed the possibility of helping some of the poorer families by increased education grants. Anything that is dependent on individual application is not the most satisfactory way of helping these children. I would much rather see the family allowance graded with age, as Income Tax allowances are and as National Insurance benefits are. I can never think why we give the same family allowance for a small baby as for a fast-growing teenager. That has been a serious omission in our system.

But I am very hesitant about paying this through education grants. For one thing, I have found that since these pay-Education and Science and on to the ments went from the Department of block grant system there has been a very wide deviation in payment, and that the amount a family is now getting depends very much where it lives, and under which authority.

I went into this matter very carefully. With one authority, I found that the 16year-old child of a father earning £10 a week could get a grant worth £40 a year to stay on at school. The child is bright, and wants to go on to get his A level. In the other case, another authority was paying to a family with the same income £115 a year. We should not expect this question to be settled in terms of such differentiation.

Miss Pike

I am grateful to the hon. Lady for giving way. I was not in any way suggesting that this would be a major aspect of the solution to the problem. I was facing the fact that we all recognise that, as the hon. Lady has said, these maintenance grants are very different over the country as a whole, and that this is unfair. Equally, I was asking the question to which she, too, might pay attention: would it not, perhaps, be better to bring the age for grant down to 13? It is at 13 that a child needs more help when at school.

Mrs. Jeger

I am grateful to the hon. Lady, but I am also very much against the idea of identifying needy children and putting the burden on their parents, even if they are helped by splendid social workers to fill up the form. We find, for instance, that only about 5,900 children under 5 years are taking welfare foods, though about 150,000 are entitled to them. There are all sorts of reasons for this, and all sorts of difficulties. That makes it all the more important to try to find an answer which does not involve the separate identification of children for this or that benefit. I should like to see a sufficiently generous family allowance to take care of these basic needs of our children. Any idea of linking extra family allowances or higher basic family allowances with incomes would be grossly impractical. There would be a serious disincentive, a disincentive to overtime and to promotion.

There is also the practical difficulty that if it were administered as Income Tax is, it would always be a year behind. A family might be going through a period of terrible impoverishment after a fairly good year and it would not benefit at the time when it most needed the extra money. Many contributions on this theme this afternoon have taken for granted too much a kind of static income, whereas the income of many of the poorest fluctuates according to the weather, chances of casual employment and so on.

It would be absolutely wrong to work on that basis. It would also draw a line between families and some would be just above and some just below that line. Imagine what that could do to a family in a block of flats, or in a village street. The suggestion is quite impracticable and I hope that nothing more will be heard of it.

I was glad that the hon. Member for Newbury (Mr. Astor) raised the question of the disabled. He and several hon. Members have done a great deal of work in this field. We know of the Government's sympathy, but we are asking for more than sympathy. Any disabled member of a family causes some impoverishment to that family, but, if the father is disabled there is a possibility of some benefits whereas if the mother is disabled and has a wage-earning husband there is no chance of any supplementary benefit. Then the family must bear the extra cost and all the extra strain caused by having a mother who is disabled and needs care and assistance in her household work.

I want to be able to look forward to the time when disabled people will have a pension in their own right. My right hon. Friend will have to start with the women here for it is because the married woman at home is not a statistic in National Insurance computers—if there are such computers—that she has no right to benefit however serious or permanent her disability may be. I should like my right hon. Friends to look at the question of a family with a disabled child. I should be interested in a proposal for a slightly increased family allowance when a family is trying to keep in its own home a mentally-handicapped or crippled child.

Mr. Bence

A spastic.

Mrs. Jeger

We know of spastic children whose parents have all sorts of difficulties in this way. I wish there were some way of helping with such a case.

Today we have high-lighted some of the main areas of difficulty. I know my right hon. Friends will not misunderstand our impatience, which I believe they share. We were all very glad to hear from the Minister that by this summer we shall have some better news. We are looking forward to that very much, just as I am sure she is looking forward to telling us what it is to be.

8.24 p.m.

Mr. Maurice Macmillan (Farnham)

I apologise to the right hon. Lady for having had to miss a very short part of her speech. In any case, I was not going to be drawn into the arguments she put forward in detail, except one. That is to hope that when she deals with family poverty, and even before that, she will deal with one of the worst and cruellest anomalies, the treatment of those disabled who have not been disabled by war or industrial injuries.

To this, my hon. Friend the Member for Newbury (Mr. Astor) and the hon. Member for Holborn and St. Pancras, South (Mrs. Jeger) have made reference. I hope that we can establish the principle of dealing with all chronic disability according to the nature of the disability rather than the method by which it has been caused.

The main charge we are bringing against the right hon. Lady and the Government is that their desire in this field has outrun their performance and fallen far short of the promises they have from time to time put forward. This failure is implied and admitted in the Amendment put forward by the Prime Minister. Apart from that one must admit that the Amendment is all eyewash. An hon. Member opposite may talk about cynicism, but we all realise that the sole purpose of the Amendment is to prevent abstentions by giving every member of the party opposite something for which he can vote rather than having to risk hon. Members opposite abstaining.

The Prime Minister's tactics remind me of an occasion when I was taken fishing for octopus. They wriggled like anything, changed direction suddenly, hurried backwards and forwards and concealed their retreat with a cloud of ink. These tactics may succeed in preventing a vote on the Government's performance, but they will not succeed in preventing people judging the Government by their actions. In some sense the failure of the Government to live up to their promise has been one of the main reasons why the judgment has been passed in some small measure during the last few weeks.

Turning to the future, I think that the last five or six years' experience is probably very important in this field. The debate has shown that some of the problems we are talking about were not clearly identified except in the course of the last five or six years. The problems of minorities who have not shared fully in the benefits of the so-called affluent society were brought to light, and indeed intensified, by the more general prosperity that the last 12 or 15 years have brought about.

As my hon. Friend the Member for Chelsea (Mr. Worsley) said, all this evidence points to the need for a higher level of selectivity in adapting a Welfare State correctly designed to cover everyone equally all the time, to begin with, but which now requires, on top of that level of general cover, a selective improvement for those who have not yet shared fully in its benefits.

I turn now to the wider point raised by the right hon. Member for Easington (Mr. Shinwell). I thought that his surrender to the philosophy of the financier was a little sad and that if he had said what he said tonight in the years gone by, in the years when his constituency was Seaham Harbour, he would have reminded his colleagues more of Philip Snowden than of his normal self.

It is the Government's general economic policy that has made the plight of many of those we are discussing far worse—partly the recent policy, the anomalies created by the Selective Employment Tax, and the mounting unemployment, which I fear will rise still further. The incomes policy itself cannot be but damaging to the whole concept of a developing Welfare State. Rents are up. Rates, food and grocery prices are up. A wages freeze muts hit hardest those whose wages are already the lowest, those who are worst off and, most of all, those who have the misfortune to be perhaps, less competent than some of their fellows in managing on small amounts.

The effect of the Government's economic policy will get progressively worse for the bottom level of income earners, the low wage earners, because the Government have adopted firmly a policy dominated by the bankers and based entirely on the financial requirements of overseas economic policy. It is this very policy, which does not allow, which never has allowed, and which can never allow, for the proper care of people, that has been contrary up to now to the whole ethos, the whole purpose, of the Labour Party.

It is no good right hon. and hon. Members opposite forgetting this. It was just this policy which, when it was carried out by Tory and, occasionally, by Liberal Governments in the past, caused the most savage attack from the giants of the Labour Party, in the days when it was a force and not merely a coalition. The very existence of this type of economic policy makes a mockery of the whole reason for the existence of the Labour Party. When it was carried out by Tory Chancellors under Baldwin, by Chamberlain, by Simon and even by Snowden in the National Government, the policy was rejected, even before the war, by some Tories; and, since the war, it has been rejected by almost every Tory.

Even when my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Wirral (Mr. Selywn Lloyd) lapsed temporarily a few years ago, it was for a short period only, a period when, even including the limited squeeze, the general climate was one of economic growth, a rate of growth higher in achievement than even the modest target that this Government will not succeed in reaching. If, in my view—I said so at the time—my right hon. and learned Friend erred slightly, his sin was venial indeed compared to the Chancellor's startling and spectacular betrayal of the classic tradition of Labour economic policy.

It is more important in the future that we get these things right, for the larger and longer-term problems of a more technological industry will bring more definnite difficulties in this field. There will be the problem of a greater number of people whose skills will not be necessarily sufficient to attract the higher wages which will be coming for a large majority of people. There is the increasing problem of very low wages, including those among public employees. There is the need—this, I think, is essential if the welfare state is to be developed properly—for a very high wage base and for a very big differential from a subsistence level, if you like, which itself is very high.

If, as has been demanded, the supplementary benefit is to give an adequate level of existence, it will require a much higher minimum wage in order, as some hon. Members opposite have recognised, that the incentive effect of the wage still remains.

If we are to solve these problems of poverty we shall have to deal with the regressive nature of the payment we pretend is an insurance contribution, but is a poll tax with a heavy incidence on the lowest-paid worker. We shall have to deal with the whole problem of incentive in a mixed economy and the difficulties of trying to decide where best lies the division between collective and individual responsibility.

Those are all serious problems requiring serious study, and they have as yet been untouched by the Government, and were virtually untouched in this debate. I hope that the Minister without Portfolio will deal with them. I do not find it in my wart to blame the right hon. Lady or her team, for it is the Government of which she is a Member who have embarked on a general economic policy that makes it impossible for her to achieve her aspirations.

If the Chancellor is returned to the economic climate of the 1920s and 1930s, haunted not by Paish but by the ghost of Montague Norman, it is inevitable that that sort of limitation is placed upon the capacity to carry out social policy. I do not think that even the Minister without Portfolio will be able to do very much about it.

It is for just that approach that we have been attacked by the hon. Members opposite in successive General Elections. It is they who promised the electorate that they could and would do better, and it is they who have failed to deliver the goods. That has been recognised by the electorate and implicitly admitted by the Prime Minister in insisting. in the terms of his Amendment, that tonight it was the Tory record which was being debated, because he dare not face a debate on his own party's records, or the risk that his party would not fully support him in the Lobby later.

8.36 p.m.

Mr. Thomas Swain (Derbyshire, North-East)

There was only one thing wrong with the speech of the hon. Member for Farnham (Mr. Maurice Macmillan) and that is that it was 18½ minutes too long. He said less in 20 minutes than I have ever heard any hon. Member say. Who the hell is he to talk about poverty? He has never seen it—only through the windows of a Rolls-Royce. What do hon. Members opposite know about poverty? I can speak with a little experience of it. I brought up a family of 10, and every one left school before I had earned £12 in any ore week in my life. In the street where I live even the rent man was on public assistance. That is when we can talk about poverty.

Who created the poverty that exists today? They did—the Tories. Who caused the 1926 strike? The hon. Gentleman, of course, was not old enough to remember it. I was, along with many other Members in this House. Who caused the deprivation and degradation of the working classes in 1931? The Tories—every minute of it. Anyone who has read the Budget speech of 1925 will know that it started the poverty-stricken era which lasted for nine years in this country.

Let us come up to date, only back to 1961, when the right hon. Member who only visits the House occasionally, and makes all his speeches at the weekend and in the News of the World, the right hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Powell), was Minister of Health. What happened in that year? The party opposite milked the poverty-stricken classes for £65 million and within two months the right hon. and learned Member for Wirral (Mr. Selwyn Lloyd) distributed £83 million to the Surtax payers.

That is the equality that those hypocrites talk about. If there is any enemy of social security in this country, it is hypocrites. They are the Mr. Rushtons of the "ragged trousered philanthropists". They preach what they will do, but when they get in office they create nothing but poverty. They have always divided the classes into the poverty stricken and the rich.

One day the true history will be written of the late Macmillan Government. By God, if I were a member of that family I would be ashamed to get up in this House and talk as the hon. Member for Farnham has done. The whole Front Bench on this side of the House, when that Government were in office, was represented by one family.

Mr. Maurice Macmillan

I was never a member of it.

Mr. Swain

Because the hon. Member was not in the House often enough to be a member of the Government, and is not today.

I wanted to raise with my right hon. Friend the question I have raised on many occasions on behalf of a very poorly-paid section of our community. Some time ago, we had several deputations from the miners' group to my right hon. Friend. Incidentally, we had quite a number of deputations to the right hon. Gentleman who used to be Minister of Pensions in the Tory Government. We might as well have rubbed our noses as go anywhere near him. We could not get anything out of him.

My right hon. Friend did, however, relieve the situation somewhat by introducing the latest compensation Bill, for which we of the miners' group and in the mining community were very thankful. But we contended then, as we contend now, that that compensation Bill did not go far enough. It left within the ranks of our very poorly paid and among the very poor section of the community, not only in the mining industry, but in every major heavy industry, the class of people whom we call the latents.

The latents are the people who were injured during the time of the old workmen's compensation legislation prior to 1948, whose little bit of compensation benefit disappeared because of the steady but inevitable rise in wages because of the two-thirds provision in the old compensation law. Eventually, those people got no compensation at all. Most of them were seriously injured. As a consequence, they became the lowest-paid men in the industry in which they worked. They have had no benefits in any shape or form from the National Insurance Industrial Injuries Act and today they are prevented from earning high wages because of their disability.

I would like my hon. Friend the Joint Parliamentary Secretary, when he winds up the debate, to tell us, if possible, if and when something can be done for that section of society. I know that my right hon. Friend the Minister is very sympathetic, as she was then, towards these people, but I once tried to buy a pound of bacon with sympathy and I had dry bread for my dinner. That is the amount of goods that one can purchase from the co-operative society with sympathy. Let us have some practical help. There is no member of the working class who wants charity. We want help, we want decent wages and we want benefits which are ours by right.

That is a fair assessment of the situation in the working-class movement.

We do not want to see the chap who used to come round the street corner with his little briefcase on the crossbar of his bike, who asked, "Have you got a piano" and who looked in the corner to find out what people had had for their dinner—the means test man. We want the benefits for the lower-paid or poorer section of society to be paid by right.

We appreciate the state of the economic climate, on which, however, I will not say too much, because if I were to mention the history of the economic position hon. Members opposite would start laughing. The economic situation, however, did not warrant or allow the benefits to be paid during the time when we were negotiating for the compensation Bill. Today, we can, and should, consider it a duty of a Labour Government to relieve the poverty which inevitably exists. No matter who caused it, let the Labour Government tackle the problem. Let us tackle it as a Labour Government. Let us look right into the very heart of the problem, and I am certain that my right hon. Friend and her colleagues in the Cabinet and in her Department can, and will, solve this aggravating problem.

Another section of society, which has been mentioned tonight from the benches opposite, is the people over 80 years of age. I have quite a number in my constituency. People seem to live longer there than they do anywhere else. Perhaps I may tell the House the story about a man of 87 in my constituency. He had been a member of the Labour Party for about 50 years. When he became gravely ill, he sent for the agent of the Conservative Party and said that he wanted to join his party. I went to see the old man a couple of days afterwards and asked him what he wanted to join the Conservative Party for at his age. "Well, Tom lad", he said, "I have got to die. Better one of them than one of us".

I hope that my right hon. Friend will have some real meat to put in the social security sandwich. Social security has been a neglected subject in the past, but I can say this—and the people in my constituency will say it with me—that, over the past two and a half years, more has been done in the real interests of the poorer classes of society than was done in the whole previous 13 years. Facts and figures are there to prove it. The right hon. Member for Altrincham and Sale (Mr. Barber) may smile, but that is the tact. My right hon. Friend has done a magnificent job, and every credit is due to her and her colleagues for it. Nevertheless, I hope that she will have more to tell us about what is to be done for the poorer classes and will have some good news for us.

8.47 p.m.

Mr. Martin Maddan (Hove)

In effect, the hon. Member for Derbyshire, North-East (Mr. Swain) rebuked his party by the manner of his opening remarks more effectively than did my hon. Friend the Member for Farnham (Mr. Maurice Macmillan), for he conjured up for us that crusading spirit which used to inform the Labour Party in the days when I first knew it in the 1930s and in later years. It is that spirit which seems now to have become completely submerged by the cares of office. If this is what happens after only two and a half years, I wonder what will happen after a longer period.

Mr. Swain

Twenty years.

Mr. Maddan

If it is to be 20 years, then even all the hon. Gentleman's supporters turning Tory before they die will not save the situation.

I turn now—rather more seriously—to one of the problems which faces the right hon. Lady, namely, the poverty of information about poverty and deprivation. The hon. Lady the Member for Holborn and St. Pancras, South (Mrs. Lena Jeger) begged the Minister to act and not wait for more information. I do not wish to dissuade her from acting, either, but there are dangers in the Government not having enough information.

I made some inquiries in my constituency. Hove, naturally, perhaps, is a place where there are a good many elderly people, more, I suspect, than in the constituency of the hon. Member for Derbyshire, North-East. Welfare workers there confirmed that, from their observations and those of their colleagues in the rest of the country, it is the women with large families who are among the worst off today and that, even if they are not the worst off, there are more of them than of any other class. I am sure that this is something which observation will confirm.

Various definitions of these women have been given. One category not mentioned so far is the woman who still has her husband living with her, but he is a feckless and hopeless husband. I do not suggest that such a family would be better off without him, but he adds to rather than subtracts from the problems by his presence. There are many persons in that category, and we look forward to seeing the Government taking some action about them.

The theme of my remarks, however, concerns elderly people—in particular, elderly women, often spinsters. These people may be forgotten while the others to whom I have referred are being dealt with. They have spent much of their youth looking after aged or disabled relatives. Later, they find themselves with, perhaps, a small annuity, or even nothing at all, and, worst of all, with no training that enables them to earn their living and to play a part in the economic life of the country.

The position of the elderly spinster in this category is worse than that of the woman with a large family. For the latter, the future is on her side. She has some potential. Her children will grow up and go out to work. She has years of energy in front of her. Her situation has a certain amount of built-in hope. But the elderly woman in the second category has no such built-in hope, and unless we intervene in some way it is difficult to see what can be done to help her.

I am concerned at the lack of data about the comparative numbers of different types of poor people. I know that a survey of this sort is difficult, by its very nature. The Government's Social Survey organisation could tackle the problem, and I hope that we shall be told that comprehensive investigations on these lines will be carried out. It is important to know which categories of people are experiencing most poverty, so that we may know where to direct most of our attention.

St. John's Church, Hove, is carrying out a survey of every home in the parish. Many of these homes consist of one-room flatlets. The survey is only one-third completed, but it is interesting to know—this may offer a gleam of encouragement to the right hon. Lady—that 30 per cent. of the homes so far visited are lived in by people who would like the help and comfort which can be provided by visits from other members of the community, and that 30 per cent. of the homes visited—a different 30 per cent.—are lived in by people who volunteered to provide such help. The parish is now trying to set up an organisation to help solve this equation.

The solution does not lie in the hands of the Government alone, as the right hon. Lady knows. Only by using voluntary helpers can we make the necessary progress. Efforts by the public and private sector, interacting in a complementary manner, must be the road which leads towards a solution of the problem. Nevertheless, we cannot disguise the fact that lack of cash is the main cause of the plight of most people. If we leave that fact out of account we shall not begin to deal with the problem.

The elderly people of whom I am talking sometimes suffer psychologically because their standards are very depressed compared to those to which they have been accustomed previously. Some might say that their standards are still not very low, but in some cases they are low in an absolute sense.

I know many homes in which the electric power is not turned on even in winter. That is to save money. That is what people have to do to make ends meet. We know of the help given by the Meals on Wheels service, but, typically, they bring meals to these people only two or three days a week. My hon. Friend the Member for Plymouth, Devonport (Dame Joan Vickers) thought—I think it was she—that the school meals service should operate throughout the holidays. If that should be so it is hard to see why the meals on wheels service should operate on a non-continuous basis, which cannot be, from either the psychological or the dietetical point of view, satisfactory.

Many old people and women with large families could, no doubt, manage their money better; many of them, no doubt, could, but again, I do not believe that we can hope to make leopards change their spots all that much, and I do not think there is a great deal of hope in pursuing that possibility, because I believe that muddled people will always be with us.

We see very clearly in places like Hove the sort of poverty of which I am talking among the retired people. It is interesting that the local branches of the Officers' Association and of the Distressed Gentlefolks' Aid Association now find that they are the busiest branches in the country. Whereas, three or four years ago, they were averagely busy, now they are the busiest branches in the country. In Hove and Portslade, 1,800 active cases are on the lists of the geriatric health visitors.

Another indicator of the size of this problem—and that is what I am trying to emphasise, and though perhaps it is not as big as the main problem of large families, nevertheless it is a big problem—is that, despite the fact that there are 350 additional places in old people's homes run by the East Sussex County Council since 1960, the waiting list has got only 10 per cent. shorter. So, clearly, there is a great problem there.

I want to put a specific point to the right hon. Lady and her colleagues. In Hove, for example, though this must be so in many such areas, more than half the places in old people's homes are in private homes, not county council homes. Indeed, if it were not for the existence of those places in private homes the lack of places would be a real and enormous national scandal. Yet there are no powers for the local authorities to contribute to the cost of places in those homes. This is anomalous. They have powers in respect of the homes for the mentally handicapped. Why not for old people's homes? Without such contributions only very slow progress at best can ever be made in providing in homes the number of places we wish to see for old people.

There is another factor. In practically all the county council homes there are very few single rooms, although many people particularly want to have single rooms. So they have to go to private homes, if they can manage that, although their means may make that impossible, or, if they do go, their money runs out and they cannot continue to pay to be there. I therefore hope that the right hon. Lady will give serious thought to local authorities being able to pay towards places in private homes. I believe that if she did so she would get extremely good value for money. There is considerable variation in the cost of places in homes run by the different local authorities, and I think she will find that in private homes, most of which are not purpose-built, the costs are not extremely high, and that £1 for £1 she could get very good value.

It is absurd to have this compartmentalisation between public and private efforts. I made some inquiries in Hove and found that 138 people are on the county waiting list for places in county council homes. Of that number, 16 are currently in private homes, where they are paying the full cost. They are hoping to have a place in a county home before their cash runs out. If they do not, they have nothing to look forward to. This is a bad situation.

The next factor does not come directly under the right hon. Lady's responsibility, but it is directly related to it. That is the shortage of geriatric hospital beds in such areas. The dividing line between a place in an old people's home and a place in a geriatric hospital is narrow. Indeed, in individual cases it can change from month to month according to the fluctuations in the person's health. But the division of responsibility between the local authority and the regional hospital board leads to a great deal of nonsense and, I am sorry to say, to a great deal of friction. I have been in touch with the Minister of Health about some local cases which have not been satisfactorily resolved.

Another factor which does not come within the right hon. Lady's responsibility, but in which I know she has great interest, is the number of, charitable funds, many of them administered by local authorities, where the original purpose is completely out of date and so narrowly drawn that recipients of the money cannot be found. In Brighton, vouchers have been issued but cannot be placed because the authorities cannot find people who qualify for them under the definition of the fund. I know that the Charity Commissioners are gradually trying to work their way through these funds. Much more help, perhaps not in huge amounts, but certainly every-day help at the time of need, could be available through such funds if their terms of reference were widened.

I hope that the right hon. Lady will ask the Charity Commissioners to speed up their work. Most boroughs of the sort I am talking about have charitable funds which have now come to be administered perhaps by the mayor or someone else, but with these out-of-date restrictions. For example, one may have to find people to whom to distribute coal and blankets. But they may be in a smokeless zone and may not want blankets. Perhaps it is food or some other comfort they need instead.

To conclude. There must be a joint effort between public and private bodies and there must not be compartmentalisation between these two types of activity. Neither the one nor the other can begin to solve the problem alone. We must—and I hope that nothing said on the benches behind the right hon. Lady will discourage her—conduct surveys and investigations to ascertain all the facts so that we can get our priorities right and do not run the risk of concentrating perhaps on relieving one particular type of poverty which may suddenly hit the headlines, while forgetting about other types of poverty. I wanted to catch your eye, Mr. Speaker, to emphasise the problem of the elderly poor.

In administering the public sector, the work of the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Social Security is closely allied, and I do not think that it can be long before the Government agree with us that they should be amalgamated. In the localities, all the welfare services, including the hospital services, should be under one authority without the compartmentalisation which means so much frustration and waste of every sort.

During the two and a half years in which the Government have been in office, they have not yet assessed and sorted out their social priorities. If they have, they have done little to show it. The failure to implement their policies is causing increasing dismay not only among the poor people we have been talking about, but also among people working in the social services, both official and voluntary organisations. I hope that this debate will stimulate the Government to action, not only on the topics specified in the Motion but more widely to cover all sorts of poverty.

9.5 p.m.

Mr. Anthony Barber (Altrincham and Sale)

This debate has been about poverty in Britain and the means whereby it can be eradicated. I hope that right hon. and hon. Members on both sides of the House will agree that it has been a useful debate and that the Opposition were right to allocate one of their Supply days to a discussion of this subject.

We had assumed, as I think that most hon. Members had, that this debate would have taken place on the Budget proposals, that is to say, on specific proposals for dealing with the problem put to the House by the Chancellor of the Exchequer. But the Chancellor of the Exchequer had no such proposals and the right hon. Lady has no proposals today, and so it has fallen to the Opposition to take the lead and provide the opportunity for a discussion which we all hope will lead to action by the Government.

Most people in Britain have never seen the heartrending and grinding poverty which pervades so many countries in the East. Those of us—and there are many on both sides of the House—who have seen women and children starving in India, for example, will never forget what we have seen and will never begrudge the aid which we give. We know, however, that as individual citizens and as the Government, whether Labour or Conservative, the action which we can take to help the independent developing countries is very limited. But today we have been discussing a problem which is wholly within our own control, or, more accurately, within the control of the Government of the day—the problem of poverty in Britain, here at home in our own community.

The most recent statistics published by the Government reveal that over the past two years the average standard of living of the people of Britain has actually fallen to below what it was in 1964. Nevertheless, although their living standards have fallen, the overwhelming majority of people can cope. What we have been considering since four o'clock this afternoon are the pockets of real poverty which do exist in our society, and which exist side by side with affluence.

Poverty, wherever it exists, is an affront to civilisation, but I agree with the hon. Member for Bedwellty (Mr. Finch) that when it exists in an affluent society, it is inexcusable. I want, first, to say something about the extent and nature of the problem and then to put forward what I believe to be the prerequisites for solving it.

First, there are those people with low earnings and large families. Almost every hon. Member throughout the debate, including the right hon. Lady, has referred to this important group of people. I missed only two speeches during the debate and I was particularly sorry to miss that of my hon. Friend the Member for Plymouth, Devonport (Dame Joan Vickers) who, I understand, also dealt with this matter.

It is all too easy simply to contend that the breadwinner and his wife are responsible for their plight if they have a large family, that it is their fault that they are now faced with the problem of caring for four, five or six or more children. In some cases I agree that such strictures are fully justified. But to criticise on that score, even if it is justified, gets one nowhere. What concerns everyone in the House far more than the problem of the parents is the tragedy of the children.

The causes of family poverty were dealt with by my hon. Friend the Member for Melton (Miss Pike), who referred to the report of the Education Officer for the Inner London Education Authority, which deals with this, but one thing is beyond dispute, that wherever the fault may lie, it is certainly not with the children. As my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition put it: These children are reared in circumstances which have never given them a chance to step properly on the right highroad of life. They provide a vicious circle of poverty, delinquency and misery from generation to generation. Even if the parents make every conceivable sacrifice to see that their children are properly nourished, and many of them do, that is by no means the end of the matter. Consider these striking figures. In an earlier debate, my hon. Friend the Member for Melton referred to the Crowther Report and to the fact that whereas 42 per cent. of those children where there is only one child in the family stayed on at school after 15, in the case of families with six or more children, only 8 per cent. remained at school after 15.

Obviously, those figures illustrate the extremes. I mention them because what we should be considering is not just a quest on of bread and butter, or of ensuring that children are adequately clothed. What we should, in addition, be concerned with is to see that these children have a fair start in life. At present, it is quite obvious that they do not, for the simple reason that in some cases the parents just cannot afford to keep them at school after 15. We all know how the problem frequently arises. Under the present system there are families, often with several children, where the father's earnings are actually below the level of National Assistance, or, as the right hon. Lady calls it, supplementary benefit.

The name is not of any importance to the family which is on the bread-line. In these cases the family cannot get help from the Supplementary Benefits Commission because the father—and I ask the right hon. Lady to listen to this because it is very important and concerns her—is in full-time work, and so the family has to exist on an income often well below the level of National Assistance. But this is not the only problem of the low-income family, as other hon. Members pointed out.

Even if the bread-winner becomes unemployed, and these days a person can become unemployed through no fault of his own, the amount of his supplementary benefit must not exceed his normal earnings. This is the doctrine of the wage stop, familiar to all hon. and right hon. Gentlemen on the Front Bench opposite. One sees the difficulties, and that is why I, at any rate, have never said at election time, or any other time, and have never led people to believe, that the answer lies in the abolition of the wage-stop.

The sad truth is that while some of these men are lazy and feckless, there are others who, through no fault of their own, simply do not have the ability, or are not sufficiently fit, to warrant the wage which they need to care properly for their families. Again, wherever the fault may lie, whoever may be to blame, no Government can ignore the plight of the children.

While the hardship is often very great for this type of family, the actual number of children involved, as we have been told time and again today, is about half a million—in other words, small enough to make it possible for the Government to act. But the Government have not acted, and I am not in the least surprised that many good Labour suporters in and outside the House are now disillusioned and angry because the Government have not acted. I will go further and explain my words, because these people have been duped.

Let me give one instance of the sort of deception which I have in mind. I will not refer to the Prime Minister at this stage because his words count for nothing. Consider the right hon. Lady. She is sincere and, I am sure, desperately anxious to solve this problem. This is what she told the House of Commons before the election: There are many people today who, because of its operation"— that is, the operation of the wage stop— are living below what even a Tory Government believe to be subsistence levels". She went on to say later: I agree that there are some people who neither work nor want. They exist among the ordinary people as well as among the very well off". Then she put this question: But why, because there are a small proportion of these people, should thousands and thousands of decent families be penalised by the wage-stop?"—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 18th February, 1963; Vol. 672, c. 89–90.] That was her view then, and if those words meant anything at all they meant that the right hon. Lady was in favour of modifying the principle of the wage stop. They could mean nothing else. The ordinary, decent citizen naturally expected that if ever the right hon. Lady had the responsibility for social security she would do something about it. She was given the responsibility. She has had it for two and half years; and the wage stop remains, with all the principles which existed in the autumn of 1964.

Last Sunday, the "Insight" team of the Sunday Times produced an article entitled "The People the Budget Forgot". I expect that almost every hon. and right hon. Member has read it. It contained the facts of a tragic case. It stated: A recent case in Camden, London, was not untypical. The husband, a building-trade labourer, had been unemployed since January because of heart trouble. He is fit only for light work. On relief, he received £11 6s. (£5 3s. 6d. below what he would get without a wage-stop) to support a wife and five children and pay £3 17s. 7d. on his council house. Is that what the right hon. Lady meant when she said today—and I took her words down—"when the father is out of work, there should be social security benefits such that the standard of living of the family does not fall drastically"? If the right hon. Lady had done after the election what she led the nation before the election to believe that she would do, that family would have been better of by up to £5 3s. 6d. a week. Perhaps now right hon. and hon. Members opposite realise why the electorate last week regarded the Socialist Government with a certain amount of cynicism.

Mr. Peter Archer (Rowley Regis and Tipton)

I have tried to follow the right hon. Gentleman's argument, but I am rather puzzled about why he thinks that the abolition of the wage stop would have prevented a fall in the standard of living of that family. The whole point of the wage stop is that it is related to what the breadwinner is earning in employment.

Mr. Barber

Exactly. The whole point is that without the wage stop that family would have got £5 a week extra. We on these benches have never, at election time or any other time, put forward the sort of proposal which the right hon. Lady put forward which in two and a half years has not been implemented.

Miss Herbison

I have made it clear time and again that the only way to help the man on the wage stop or the man with low earnings—and if a man is earning about E11 his family is deprived—is by family endowments. These will help the family whether the man is in or out of work, and this is still our policy.

Mr. Barber

I am grateful to the right hon. Lady for making her position clear. It is a little sad that she did not do so before the election.

I turn now to another specific pledge. Perhaps we will be told by the right hon. Gentleman the Minister without Portfolio whether the Labour Government stand by the pledge in their election manifesto—I do not know whether they do or not— To minimise the effects of the postponement of school leaving on the large family, Labour will replace inadequate maintenance grants with reorganised family allowances, graduated according to the age of the child, with a particularly steep rise for those remaining at school after the statutory leaving age. That was two and a half years ago, and so far nothing has been done. There may be good reasons, but perhaps I can ask the right hon. Gentleman the simple question whether it is the Government's intention to implement this pledge. Perhaps the Parliamentary Secretary knows the answer. If he does, he can get up and say so. I will willingly give way, because that pledge was made two and a half years ago.

This afternoon the right hon. Lady said that the Labour Government stick by what they say. I ask again, and I think we are entitled to a specific answer, whether that pledge still represents the intention of the Government, or has it been quietly discarded along with all the other pledges?

So far, I have concentrated on the low wage-earning families, and I have done so because, in the words of the Minister, "There is no doubt that children of the low wage earners are suffering deprivation at the present time, and we have got to do something about it". But there are a number of other categories of very poor people in this country. Time prevents me from referring to them in detail, but my hon. Friend the Member for Carlton (Mr. Holland) reminded us that family poverty is not just a question of child poverty. There are the chronic sick, and the severely disabled, who were referred to by my hon. Friend the Member for Melton, in her opening speech.

I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Newbury (Mr. Astor) on his thoughtful speech about helping the permanent invalid to live at home rather than in hospital because, as he said, this will have a two-fold advantage. It will have the human advantage for the person concerned, and also, if we can devise a better system, the advantage of an overall financial saving for the State.

One has to consider also the question of the disparity of treatment between industrial diseases and other diseases. This has been dealt with by a number of my hon. Friends, and I would have liked to have said something about it, but once again time prevents me from doing so.

There is also the question of the elderly poor, who were referred to by my hon. Friend the Member for Hove (Mr. Maddan), and the over-eighties who were referred to by one hon. Gentleman opposite. There is also the category referred to by the hon. Member for Loughborough (Mr. Cronin) with all his personal and professional experience, the fatherless families, where the father has died or deserted the family. As the hon. Gentleman said, there are probably about 200,000 to 300,000 children of such families, and their financial problems often come on top of the most heartrending family break-ups.

The point that I am making is that while no Government can help every family in distress, and while the difficulties of helping certain categories which have been discussed today are almost insurmountable, the present Government, despite all their fine electoral promises, in two and a half years have done virtually nothing to deal with these pockets of poverty which we have been discussing today. What is even worse, as my hon. Friend the Member for Farnham (Mr. Maurice Macmillan) pointed out, the position of many of these families has got progressively worse since the Labour Party came to office in October, 1964.

The right hon. Lady said that the first essential was that every father should have a regular job. I thought that that statement was "rich" at this particular time. We all know that these people have been hit by the Selective Employment Tax and that the very poor with very small incomes have been hit by the wage Freeze while, at the same time, the cost of living has been going up.

My hon. Friend the Member for Melton reminded the House that only yesterday morning we were informed in the newspapers that since last July, while the wage freeze has been going on, 2,000 grocery items have gone up in price. [Interruption.] I wish that the Parliamentary Secretary would contain himself, or intervene with an intelligent observation.

The reason for the Government's deplorable record and their failure to help the families most in need is twofold. It arises, first, because, as my hon. Friend the Member for Farnham said, the Prime Minister and the Chancellor of the Exche- quer have pursued an economic policy of stagnation. It arises, secondly, because of the Labour Party's hidebound doctrine of providing indiscriminate welfare for all, which makes it impossible to give help to those who are most in need.

Consider the factor of economic growth, which is basic to all our discussion today. As we talked about this at length during the debate on the Budget, I will give only the bare facts as they affect the provision of welfare and social security. The Chancellor of the Exchequer was for once succinct and to the point when he said that the whole basis of the Labour Party's case was that increased social expenditure would be financed out of the growing expansion of British industry.

The facts, as we now know from the figures released by the Government only this morning, are that industrial production is now actually lower than it was a year ago and lower than it was even two years ago. So it is that in Britain today there are families and children suffering from what the right hon. Lady called "deprivation" and "human misery" as a direct consequence of the incompetence and bungling of the Prime Minister and his economic Ministers. It is incredible that only a year ago the Prime Minister told the nation that the Labour Government would pay for their programme …out of provision in the National Plan involving a growth rate of 4 per cent". He said that not when the National Plan was produced, but last year—the day before the General Election.

The facts speak for themselves. They are that during the last two years of the Conservative Government the economy grew at 4.1 per cent. and 5.9 per cent. respectively. [Laughter.] I hope that hon. Gentlemen opposite will laugh when I remind them that during the first two years of Labour government the growth rate slumped, first to 2.5 per cent. and then to 1.5 per cent. The right hon. Lady criticised the Conservative Party for at one and the same time advocating reduced taxation rates and increased social expenditure.

Miss Herbison

indicated assent.

Mr. Barber

The right hon. Lady nods in assent and obviously thinks that this is extraordinary. It is, of course, precisely what we did when we were in office, although, according to the Government, it is impossible to do this with the Labour Party in power. This is why the future is so bleak for the people of this country. To give the right hon. Lady credit, she did the best she could, and—[Interruption.]

Mr. Speaker

Order. The House must contain itself.

Mr. Barber

—and to cover up the fact, and this is a fact, that she had not one constructive proposal to put to the House, she spent two-thirds of her speech on the old Transport House by-election brief about the 13 years of Conservative government. That did not do the Labour Party any good last week, and it will not do the right hon. Lady any good tonight because, in answer to that long passage from the Minister's speech, I will give the House three simple indisputable facts.

During those 13 years about which the right hon. Lady complained at such great length, the Conservative Government more than doubled expenditure on the social services—from £2,000 million a year to over £4,500 million a year. Even if one allows for the increased cost of living, that was an increase of over 50 per cent. in real terms. In addition, of course, we did what the Minister said this afternoon was impossible—at the same time, we cut Income Tax from 9s. 6d. in the £ to 7s. 9d.—

Several Hon. Members


Mr. Speaker

Order. The right hon. Gentleman is obviously not giving way.

Mr. Barber

Is that what the right hon. Lady meant by 13 wasted years? Does she not know that during those years expenditure on the social services as a percentage of the gross national product went from 15.9 per cent. to 18.2 per cent., and that the gross national product itself more than doubled? Does she not know that the rates of National Insurance benefit were increased on average three times as much as the rise in prices?

If hon. Members opposite, and the right hon. Lady in particular, want any more confirmation of what their Government are doing, I will quote factual statements by a renowned Socialist, respected on both sides of the House—Professor Brian Abel-Smith. He states: From figures now available, it seems that the present Governments social spending is going to fall some way short of that of its Conservative predecessors. He goes on to say: Yet, judged by the statements of its leaders, there was every reason to expect that the advent of a Labour Government would result in a massive increase in expenditure on the social services. That is true. That is what we all know.

The prerequisite to helping the families we have been discussing is, therefore, to get the economy growing at a rate at least as fast at that which prevailed before the present Government came to office. The second essential is this. If we are to help those families who are most in need, the Government will have to abandon their present doctrine of blanket provision of social welfare for all, regardless of need. To put it bluntly, if the State is to give most help to those who are most in need then, to the exent that additional funds are available, the Government must pursue a policy of avowed discrimination based on the identification of need. This was the point put by a number of hon. Members and, in particular, in the excellent speeches of my hon. Friends the Members for Chelsea (Mr. Worsley) and for Hove.

When there are families living in what the right hon. Lady rightly calls human misery, I believe that it is criminal that well-to-do people should receive free prescriptions which costs at least £25 million a year. When there are children who are undernourished solely because the bread-winner's wage is low, it is utterly unjustifiable not to raise the price of school meals for those who can afford it. When there are old people living in poverty and struggling desperately to make ends meet, it is monstrous that more than half the households in council houses, with an income in excess of £30 a week, should be paying less than £2 a week in rent.

What is required is an entirely new order of social priorities based quite simply on encouraging greater personal responsibility for those able to shoulder it, and with discrimination in the provision of social benefits in favour of those who are less fortunate and whose needs are greatest.

Within one year Beveridge produced his classic Report. In two-and-a-half years the Labour Party, despite everything it promised, has failed to tackle the most pressing social problem of our time, family poverty. Now, after two-and-a-half years, the Government Amendment does not even call for action but merely for consideration. If those hon. Members opposite who have been calling for something to be done will go into the Lobby to support this Amendment, they will support anything. The nation showed last week that it is no longer impressed by talk and double talk. We on these benches shall not rest until we have forced the Government to act.

9.36 p.m.

The Minister without Portfolio (Mr. Patrick Gordon Walker)

I agree with the right hon. Member for Altrincham and Sale (Mr. Barber) that this has been a useful debate. Through the whole of its course up to his speech one would not have guessed for one moment that this was a vote of censure. We had a great range, from hon. Members opposite as well as on our side, of very constructive and good speeches. I understand the right hon. Gentleman, realising that it was a vote of censure, felt that he had to hot it up in the final speech, but as he went along, particularly when he was making party points, I thought he had generally misjudged the mood of the House. He certainly misjudged the tone of those hon. Members who either contributed to or listened throughout the debate, unlike many who have come in since.

I could not help being reminded by the right hon. Gentleman's speech of the original inspiration of this vote of censure about which there is a touch of humbug. There is such a gulf set between the words of the Conservatives in Opposition and their deeds in Government that there is hypocrisy about the kind of line they have been taking today. Nevertheless, whatever the original inspiration of the Motion, we have indeed had a very valuable debate in which many constructive speeches were made of which my right hon. Friend and I have made careful note and will consider, and I shall try to reply to them so far as I can.

The prime subject of the debate has been child poverty, on which public attention has rightly been more and more con- centrated, but I agree with the right hon. Member for Altrincham and Sale, and we must not forget, that there are of course other claims upon us, in particular those of the elderly, the chronic sick, the disabled and others who have been mentioned. We have always to balance these claims and give the best help we can to all these categories within the limits of the resources at our disposal.

We do regard the problem of child poverty as an extremely urgent one. That is why my right hon. Friend instituted an inquiry into the problem, a thorough exhaustive inquiry of a quite different kind and on a scale and in a depth different from anything done before. The field work was carried out last June and July, and an analysis of the findings of this survey has not yet been completed. It is necessarily a very complex task. We want to know the whole nature of and character of the problem of child poverty to find for certain the best way of tackling it. When the analysis is completed we shall publish it. I say to my hon. Friend the Member for Loughborough (Mr. Cronin) who made an extremely penetrating analysis of the problem, that I hope we shall be able to publish the survey and the full analysis in June.

Some results are known already. It is generally known that we are concerned with about 160,000 families containing 500,000 children, the families being below the supplementary benefit level. The 160,000 families we know already from the degree of analysis which has gone on comprises a very wide variety of circumstances, kind of employment and degree of poverty. There are, of course, some young persons in these classes who will clearly climb up the economic scale, but the great majority cannot be expected to do so by their own unaided efforts.

Poverty is not simply due to a large family, nor is it proportionate to the size of family, though it gets more acute when the family is very large. About 70 per cent. of families below the supplementary benefit level contain three children or fewer. Those families themselves account for less than one-half of the 500,000 deprived children. About half the families live in council property and most of the rest in what are called twilight areas of towns.

The tackling of child poverty is, by its nature, a difficult and taxing matter. We have, on the whole, found the way of dealing with the economic needs of people who are thrown out of work by accident, injury, unemployment or retirement. We have now added to the older methods such new devices as wage-related benefits and redundancy pay. We are at work on our major measure for income-related superannuation.

The root cause of child poverty is of a different kind. It is due to the hardship suffered by men who fall out of work and to the poverty of men who are in work. This raises problems of a very complex kind, and it is understandable, and indeed right, that the Government should have taken time to study these problems and work out the consequences of various possible ways of tackling them.

We have been greatly aided in this work by the way in which departments of social science in our universities have helped to identify the problem of breakdown in welfare and have worked out various ways in which help can be brought to such people. I want to pay tribute also to the invaluable work in this whole field which was done by my right hon. Friend the Member for Sowerby (Mr. Houghton) in co-ordinating and surveying the study of this problem. Everyone who is concerned with its solution, is, and will long remain, in his debt.

My right hon. Friend the Member for Easington (Mr. Shinwell) and some hon. Gentlemen talked about the problem of low wages in connection with the cause of child poverty. I think that the basic cause is a combination of low earnings and family commitments. When thinking of the wages side, we are up against a complicated problem. Wages are necessarily geared to jobs, not to needs. It nevertheless is—we must admit it—a defect of our national wage structure that, in the kind of case we are concerned with, the earnings of a head of family are not just low: they are below the poverty line as at present defined.

As my hon. Friend the Member for Bedwellty (Mr. Finch) said, or implied, one of the most serious weaknesses of the free-for-all collective bargaining which some people advocate is that it has in fact failed to bring about a lasting improvement in the relative position of lower-paid workers. It is one of the objectives of our prices and incomes policy to bring up the lower paid workers. This puts a great challenge upon trade unions and employers, because between them they have to find a way of raising the lower wages without continuous and immediate repercussions all the way up the whole of the wage scale in order to maintain differentials. This would cause inflation and would destroy the whole prices and incomes policy.

Even if we succeeded in bringing up the lower wages, and it must take time, this would not by itself deal with the whole of the problem of child poverty, which is, by its very nature, related to the size of families as well as to the income coming in to the family.

Hon. Members have therefore rightly concentrated upon the problem of family endowment, which must play a very critical part in the solution of this problem. It is generally agreed now—this seems to come out of the debate—that there are only three main alternative ways of directing family endowment to the alleviation of child poverty, though there are a large number of possible variations of each of them.

One way which attracts very little support is to raise family allowances all round and pay for that out of general taxation. The cost would be £160 million. Even with family allowances being taxable, it would give all sorts of odd sums to all sorts of people, according to their income, which they did not really need, and it would be very expensive. It is not likely to be supported very widely.

But there are variants of this which are not so expensive and are possible, such as limiting an increased family allowance to, say, the third and subsequent children, or something of that sort. The net cost of that scheme would be about £64 million—[Interruption.]—at 10 shillings a time; I am taking that as a sort of specimen. The right hon. Gentleman was right to say that family allowances might well be graded by age. There are extra administrative problems about that, but we have not excluded it from the variations from which one can choose.

The other idea which has attracted a good deal of support is that increased family allowances could be paid to everyone, and corresponding cuts made in Income Tax child allowances. Then the standard rate Income Tax payer would get back in increased family allowance roughly what he lost through reductions in child allowance. The intent and effect of such a scheme would be to leave the family as a whole of standard rate Income Tax payers substantially in the same position as before, and to direct the new expenditure on family allowances to the poorer families. But a number of problems is involved, as there are in other kinds of solutions to the problem. For instance, that would involve the movement of tremendous amounts of money in order to send a fairly small particular sum in a particular direction.

There is also an unknown-psychological factor, and if one knew the answer to this one would find the problem easier of solution. The question is how far men who found a substantial increase in the weekly deduction from their wage packets would regard a corresponding payment to their wives as a genuine counterbalance, and if they started by so regarding it, how long would they continue to do so? That question is vital to this possibe solution, because it depends upon families regarding the two things that balance each other as in fact doing so.

There is a great deal of argument about the way in which a scheme of this kind can properly be costed—whether one should regard the reduction of Income Tax child allowances as a cost, or should merely consider the residual cost of the new family allowances as being the burden that falls upon the Exchequer. There is a great deal to be said for both ways of costing. There is a view that the money comes out of the Exchequer either way. But there is a respectable argument which can make out that the cost is really only that part of the allowances going to the poorer families.

Mr. Barber

Am I right in thinking that a scheme of that kind could not become operative for at least a year unless there were an autumn Budget?

Mr. Gordon Walker

No. The idea that it has to be in a Budget is an extra-ordinarily old-fashioned idea of the right hon. Gentleman's. The essential thing is not the Budget but the time when the coding is done for P.A.Y.E., round about November each year. That is a sort of close season. Once it has started, it is difficult to alter the coding. Up to that point, one could take a decision to introduce this scheme, which would come into operation at the first moment such a scheme could do so, because it must come into operation at the beginning of a tax year to be workable.

The fact that it is not in a Budget makes no difference whatever. It cannot start before a new tax year. If we had wanted to start it this tax year we would have had to announce it last autumn, before the results of the social survey were known. It is nothing to do with the Budget. It is to do with the start of the tax year, and the period when the coding is done.

The third proposition would be in some way selectively to help the families along the lines, in the Chancellor's words last Monday night, of dealing with poverty where it really exists. There are a great many possibilities here. One would be to supplement family allowances so as to bring the 160,000 families now below the supplementary benefit level up to that level. This, incidentally, would be the only way of bringing all the families up to supplementary benefit level.

The other alternatives—a general increase in family allowances, or the one which balances family allowances against child allowances—would bring about 57 per cent. of the families up to the supplementary benefit level. It would help all of them, of course, but it would still leave 43 per cent. below the supplementary benefit level.

The third proposal would involve an incomes test. There are people who feel very deep repugnance to the idea of an income or means test. The repugnance that many people feel to this is a factor which we must very carefully weigh.

I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Provan (Mr. Hugh D. Brown) that the time has come to survey and co-ordinate the whole range of various kinds of means test—whether by central or local authority, and so on. There are formidable difficulties in the way of working any such means-tested scheme. The administrative problems of applying an incomes test to men in work would be considerable.

In addition, one would be getting rid, in effect, of the wage stop, with all the consequences of that. However one judges it, there would be a certain disincentive to work, because extra earnings would produce a corresponding, and immediately corresponding, cut in supplementation. A number of families, because of pride or ignorance, would not apply. This always happens. It happens in the supplementary benefit scheme, although the campaign launched by my right hon. Friend has had a gratifying effect in making people much more conscious of their rights.

A scheme of supplementation of that kind would be much cheaper than any of the other alternatives. For example, if the existing supplementary benefits were amended to permit supplementary payments to all whose incomes fell below the prescribed supplementary benefit limit, the cost would be about £13 million a year as compared with the £60 million, £70 million, or £160 million cost of other schemes.

There are, therefore, arguments of importance on both sides on all these issues and one cannot rush into decisions on this kind of matter. The Government must decide between them or, perhaps, a combination of them. Certainly, this debate will be of great help to us in coming to our decision. We will carefully take into consideration the points that have been made. [Interruption.] The right hon. Member for Altrincham and Sale has only to have a little more patience. We will certainly produce our decision and our policy this summer. With all the options that are still open to us, and because there are considerable difficulties and the survey is not yet fully analysed, we feel that we must have longer to deal with this matter.

Family endowment, in whatever form, will not alone get rid of child poverty. [Interruption.] It is a many-sided problem and needs a many-sided approach. One of the most important of these is to tackle—[Interruption.]

Mr. Speaker

Order. We cannot debate by running commentary.

Mr. Gordon Walker

—the environmental causes of child poverty. Many of these families live in the kind of areas and go to the kind of schools described in the Plowden Report. We must clearly give great thought to the idea of priority areas to be tackled as well as priority categories or pockets of poverty.

My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Education and Science has already allocated £3½ million worth of building projects for those priority areas and is in constant and close urgent consultation with local authorities and teachers about carrying this further forward. As the hon. Lady the Member for Plymouth, Devonport (Miss Vickers) said, there is also the possibility of coordinating local authority services into some kind of family service to make their impact on this problem more effective. But we must wait for the Seebohm report, which is going carefully into this matter. We expect the report some time this year, and we shall, as quickly as we can, let the House know about it and take decisions upon it.

There are several other possibilities which we are still considering and which are not in a state in which we can take decisions about them, but they will be important and, with the other things which I have mentioned, form part of a new concerted campaign against poverty.

We are determined to tackle this problem of child poverty with urgency and imagination. But we are not rushing into decisions before one has all the facts and all the considerations which one ought to have in mind. Although we have, rightly, in the debate concentrated upon child poverty, and it has been most valuable to do so, we must never forget the other claims upon our attention, particularly the claims of the elderly. When one is debating one aspect of social security, it is important not to forget others.

We shall not stop until we have made —[Laughter.] Hon. Members opposite may laugh at this subject if they want to, but I assure those who have come in more recently that this has not been the way in which the problem has been discussed all through the debate. As I was saying, we shall not stop until we have put child poverty behind us and made it a thing of the past, something which we shall remember only as a blot upon our society.

Question put, That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question:—

The House divided: Ayes 234, Noes 287.

Division No. 311.] AYES [10.0 p.m.
Alison, Michael (Barkston Ash) Goodhart, Philip Mills, Peter (Torrington)
Allason, James (Hemel Hempstead) Goodhew, Victor Mills, Stratton (Belfast, N.)
Astor, John Cower, Raymond Miscampbell, Norman
Atkins, Humphrey (M't'n & M'd'n) Grant, Anthony Mitchell, David (Basingstoke)
Awdry, Daniel Grant-Ferris, R. Monro, Hector
Baker, W. H. K. Gresham Cooke, R. More, Jasper
Balniel, Lord Grieve, Percy Morrison, Charles (Devizes)
Barber, Rt. Hn. Anthony Griffiths, Eldon (Bury St. Edmunds) Munro-Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh
Batsford, Brian Gurden, Harold Murton, Oscar
Bell, Ronald Hall, John (Wycombe) Neave, Airey
Bennett, Dr. Reginald (Gos. & Fhm) Hall-Davis, A. C. F. Nicholls, Sir Harmar
Berry, Hn. Anthony Hamilton, Marquess of (Fermanagh) Noble, Rt. Hn. Michael
Biffen, John Hamilton, Michael (Salisbury) Nott, John
Biggs-Davison, John Harris, Frederic (Croydon, N.W.) Onslow, Cranley
Birch, Rt. Hn. Nigel Harris, Reader (Heston) Orr, Capt. L. P. S.
Black, Sir Cyril Harrison, Brian (Maldon) Orr-Ewing, Sir lan
Blaker, Peter Harrison, Col. Sir Harwood (Eye) Osborn, John (Hallam)
Body, Richard Harvey, Sir Arthur Vere Osborne, Sir Cyril (Louth)
Bossom, Sir Clive Harvie Anderson, Miss Page, Graham (Crosby)
Boyd-Carpenter, Rt. Hn. John Hastings, Stephen Page, John (Harrow, W.)
Boyle, Rt. Hn. Sir Edward Hawkins, Paul Pardoe, John
Braine, Bernard Hay, John Pearson, Sir Frank (Clitheroe)
Brewis, John Heald, Rt. Hn. Sir Lionel Peel, John
Brinton, Sir Tatton Heath, Rt. Hn. Edward Percival, lan
Bromley-Davenport, Lt. Col. Sir Walter Heseltine, Michael Peyton, John
Brown, Sir Edward (Bath) Hiley, Joseph Pike, Miss Mervyn
Bruce-Gardyne, J. Hill, J. E. B. Pink, R. Bonner
Bryan, Paul Hirst, Geoffrey Pounder, Rafton
Buchanan-Smith, Alick(Angus,N&M) Hobson, Rt. Hn. Sir John Price, David (Eastleigh)
Buck, Antony (Colchester) Hogg, Rt. Hn. Quintin Prior, J. M. L.
Bullus, Sir Eric Holland, Philip Quennell, Miss J. M.
Burden, F. A. Hornby, Richard Ramsden, Rt. Hn. James
Campbell, Gordon Howell, David (Guildford) Rawlinson, Rt. Hn. Sir Peter
Carlisle, Mark Hunt, John Rees-Davies, W. R.
Carr, Rt. Hn. Robert Hutchison, Michael Clark Renton, Rt. Hn. Sir David
Cary, Sir Robert lremonger, T. L. Ridley, Hn. Nicholas
Chichester-Clark, R. lrvine, Bryant Godman (Rye) Ridsdale, Julian
Clark, Henry Jenkin, Patrick (Woodford) Rippon, Rt. Hn. Geoffrey
Clegg, Walter Jennings, J. C. (Burton) Robson Brown, Sir William
Cooke, Robert Johnson Smith, G. (E. Grinstead) Rossi, Hugh (Hornsey)
Cordle, John Johnston, Russell (lnverness) Royle, Anthony
Corfield, F. V. Jones, Arthur (Northants, S.) Russell, Sir Ronald
Costain, A. P. Jopling, Michael St. John-Stevas, Norman
Craddock, Sir Berestord (Spelthorne) Joseph, Rt. Hn. Sir Keith Scott, Nicholas
Crawley, Aidan Kaberry, Sir Donald Sharples, Richard
Crouch, David Kerby, Capt. Henry Shaw, Michael (Sc'b'gh & Whitby)
Crowder, F. P. Kershaw, Anthony Sinclair, Sir George
Cunningham, Sir Knox King, Evelyn (Dorset, S.) Smith, John
Currie, G. B. H. Kirk, Peter Stainton, Keith
Dalkeith, Earl of Kitson, Timothy Steel, David (Roxburgh)
Dance, James Knight, Mrs. Jill Stodart, Anthony
d'Avigdor-Goldsmid, Sir Henry Lambton, Viscount Stoddart-Scott, Col. Sir M. (Ripon)
Dean, Paul (Somerset, N.) Langford-Holt, Sir John Summers, Sir Spencer
Deedes, Rt. Hn. W. F. (Ashford) Legge-Bourke, Sir Harry Tapsell, Peter
Digby, Simon Wingfield Lewis, Kenneth (Rutland) Taylor, Sir Charles (Eastbourne)
Dodds-Parker, Douglas Lloyd, Rt.Hn.Geoffrey (Sut'nC'dfleld) Taylor, Edward M.(G'gow, Cathcart)
Doughty, Charles Lloyd, lan (P'tsm'th, Langstone) Taylor, Frank (Moss Side)
Douglas-Home, Rt. Hn. Sir Alec Lloyd, Rt. Hn. Selwyn (Wirral) Teeling, Sir William
Drayson, G. B. Longden, Gilbert Temple, John M.
du Cann, Rt. Hn. Edward Loveys, W. H. Thatcher, Mrs. Margaret
Eden, Sir John Lubbock, Eric Tilney, John
Elliot, Capt. Walter (Carshalton) McAdden, Sir Stephen Turton, Rt. Hn. R. H.
Errington, Sir Eric MacArthur, lan van Straubenzee, W. R.
Eyre, Reginald Maclean, Sir Fitzroy Vaughan-Morgan, Rt. Hn. Sir John
Fisher, Nigel Macleod, Rt. Hn. lain Vickers, Dame Joan
Fletcher-Cooke, Charles McMaster, Stanley Wainwright, Richard (Colne Valley)
Fortescue, Tim Macmillan, Maurice (Farnham) Walker, Peter (Worcester)
Foster, Sir John Maddan, Martin Walker-Smith, Rt. Hn. Sir Derek
Fraser,Rt.Hn.Hugh(St'fford & Stone) Maginnis, John E. Walters, Dennis
Galbraith, Hn. T. G. Marples, Rt. Hn. Ernest Ward, Dame lrene
Gibson-Watt, David Marten, Neil Weatherill, Bernard
Giles, Rear-Adm. Morgan Maude, Angus Webster, David
Gilmour, lan (Norfolk, C.) Maudling, Rt. Hn. Reginald Wells, John (Maidstone)
Gilmour, Sir John (Fife, E.) Mawby, Ray Whitelaw, Rt. Hn. William
Glover, Sir Douglas Maxwell-Hyslop, R. J. Wills, Sir Gerald (Bridgwater)
Godber, Rt. Hn. J. B. Maydon, Lt.-Cmdr. S. L. C. Wilson, Geoffrey (Truro)
Wolrige-Gordon, Patrick Worsley, Marcus TELLERS FOR THE AYES:
Wood, Rt. Hn. Richard Wylie, N. R. Mr. Francis Pym and
Woodnutt, Mark Younger, Hn. George Mr. R. W. Elliott.
Abse, Leo Ellis, John Lomas, Kenneth
Albu, Austen English, Michael Loughlin, Charles
Allaun, Frank (Salford, E.) Ennals, David Luard, Evan
Allen, Scholefield Ensor, David Lyon, Alexander W. (York)
Anderson, Donald Evans, Albert (Islington, S.W.) Lyons, Edward (Bradford, E.)
Archer, Peter Faulds, Andrew McBride, Neil
Armstrong, Ernest Fernyhough, E. Macdonald, A. H.
Ashley, Jack Finch, Harold McGuire, Michael
Atkins, Ronald (Preston, N.) Fitch, Alan (Wigan) McKay, Mrs. Margaret
Atkinson, Norman (Tottenham) Fletcher, Raymond (llkeston) Mackie, John
Bacon, Rt. Hn. Alice Floud, Bernard Mackintosh, John P.
Bagier, Gordon A. T. Foley, Maurice Maclennan, Robert
Barnes, Michael Foot, Sir Dingle (lpswich) MacMillan, Malcolm (Western lsles)
Barnett, Joel Foot, Michael (Ebbw Vale) McMillan, Tom (Glasgow, C.)
Baxter, William Ford, Ben McNamara, J. Kevin
Beaney, Alan Fowler, Gerry MacPherson, Malcolm
Bellenger, Rt. Hn. F. J. Freeson, Reginald Mahon, Peter (Preston, S.)
Bence, Cyril Galpern, Sir Myer Mallalieu, E. L. (Brigg)
Bennett, James (G'gow, Bridgeton) Gardner, Tony Mallalieu, J.P.W.(Huddersfield, E.)
Bidwell, Sydney Ginsburg, David Mapp, Charles
Binns, John Gordon Walker, Rt. Hn. P. C. Marquand, David
Bishop, E. S. Gourlay, Harry Marsh, Rt. Hn. Richard
Blackburn, F. Gray, Dr. Hugh (Yarmouth) Mason, Roy
Blenkinsop, Arthur Gregory, Arnold Maxwell, Robert
Boardman, H. Grey, Charles (Durham) Mayhew, Christopher
Booth, Albert Griffiths, David (Rother Valley) Mellish, Robert
Boston, Terence Griffiths, Rt. Hn. James (Llanelly) Mendelson, J. J.
Bottomley, Rt. Hn. Arthur Hale, Leslie (Oldham, W.) Mikardo, lan
Bowden, Rt. Hn. Herbert Hamilton, James (Bothwell) Millan, Bruce
Boyden, James Hamilton, William (Fife, W.) Miller, Dr. M. S.
Braddock, Mrs. E. M. Hamling, William Milne, Edward (Blyth)
Bradley, Tom Harrison, Walter (Wakefield) Mitchell, R. C. (S'th'pton, Test)
Bray, Dr. Jeremy Haseldine, Norman Molloy, William
Brooks, Edwin Hattersley, Roy Moonman, Eric
Broughton, Dr. A. D. D. Hazell, Bert Morgan, Elystan (Cardiganshire)
Brown, Hugh D. (G'gow, Provan) Healey, Rt. Hn. Denis Morris, Charles R. (Openshaw)
Brown, Bob(N'c'tle-upon-Tyne,W) Heffer, Eric S. Morris, John (Aberavon)
Brown, R. W. (Shoreditch & F'bury) Henig, Stanley Moyle, Roland
Buchanan, Richard (G'gow, Sp'burn) Herbison, Rt. Hn. Margaret Murray, Albert
Butler, Herbert (Hackney, C.) Hilton, W. S. Newens, Stan
Butler, Mrs. Joyce (Wood Green) Hobden, Dennis (Brighton, K'town) Noel-Baker, Francis (Swindon)
Callaghan, Rt. Hn. James Hooley, Frank Noel-Baker, Rt.Hn.Philip(Derby, S.)
Cant, R. B. Horner, John Norwood, Christopher
Carmichael, Neil Houghton, Rt. Hn. Douglas Oakes, Gordon
Carter-Jones, Lewis Howarth, Harry (Wellingborough) Ogden, Eric
Chapman, Donald Howarth, Robert (Bolton, E.) O'Malley, Brian
Coe, Denis Howell, Denis (Small Heath) Oram, Albert E.
Coleman, Donald Howie, W. Orbach, Maurice
Concannon, J. D. Hoy, James Oswald, Thomas
Conlan, Bernard Hughes, Emrys (Ayrshire, S.) Owen, Dr. David (Plymouth, S'tn)
Corbet, Mrs. Freda Hughes, Hector (Aberdeen, N.) Owen, Will (Morpeth)
Craddock, George (Bradford, S.) Hughes, Roy (Newport) Padley, Walter
Crawshaw, Richard Jackson, Peter M. (High Peak) Palmer, Arthur
Cronln, John Janner, Sir Barnett Pannell, Rt. Hn. Charles
Crosland, Rt. Hn. Anthony Jay, Rt. Hn. Douglas Park, Trevor
Crossman, Rt. Hn. Richard Jeger, George (Goole) Parker, John (Dagenham)
Cullen, Mrs. Alice Jeger, Mrs.Lena(H'b'n&St.P'cras,S.) Parkyn, Brian (Bedford)
Dalyell, Tam Jenkins, Hugh (Putney) Pavitt, Laurence
Darling, Rt. Hn. George Jenkins, Rt. Hn. Roy (Stechford) Peart, Rt. Hn. Fred
Davidson, Arthur (Accrington) Johnson, James (K'ston-on-Hull, W.) Pentland, Norman
Davies, Dr. Ernest (Stretford) Jones, Rt.Hn.Sir Elwyn(W.Ham,S.) Perry, Ernest G. (Battersea, S.)
Davies, Ednyfed Hudson (Conway) Jones, J. ldwal (Wrexham) Perry, George H. (Nottingham, S.)
Davies, Harold (Leek) Jones, T. A. (Rhondda, W.) Price, Christopher (Perry Barr)
Davies, Ifor (Gower) Judd, Frank Price, Thomas (Westhoughton)
Davies, Robert (Cambridge) Kelley, Richard Price, William (Rugby)
de Freitas, Rt. Hn. Sir Geoffrey Kenyon, Clifford Probert, Arthur
Delargy, Hugh Kerr, Mrs. Anne (R'ter & Chatham) Pursey, Cmdr. Harry
Dell, Edmund Kerr, Dr. David (W'worth, Central) Rankin, John
Dempsey, James Kerr, Russell (Feltham) Rees, Merlyn
Dewar, Donald Lawson, George Reynolds, G. W.
Diamond, Rt. Hn. John Leadbitter, Ted Rhodes, Geoffrey
Dickens, James Ledger, Ron Richard, lvor
Dobson, Ray Lee, Rt. Hn. Frederick (Newton) Roberts, Goronwy (Caernarvon)
Doig, Peter Lee, John (Reading) Roberts, Gwirym (Bedfordshire, S.)
Dunnett, Jack Lestor, Miss Joan Robertson, John (Paisley)
Dunwoody, Mrs. Gwyneth (Exeter) Lever, Harold (Cheetham) Robinson, Rt.Hn.Kenneth(St.P'c'as)
Dunwoody, Dr. John (F'th & C'b'e) Lever, L. M. (Ardwick) Robinson, W. O. J. (Walth'stow, E.)
Eadie, Alex Lewis, Arthur (W. Ham, N.) Rodgers, William (Stockton)
Edwards, William (Merioneth) Lipton, Marcus Roebuck, Roy
Rogers, George (Kensington, N.) Strause, Rt. Hn. G. R. White, Mrs. Eirene
Rowlands, E. (Cardiff, N.) Swain, Thomas Whitlock, William
Ryan, John Swingler, Stephen Wigg, Rt. Hn. George
Shaw, Arnold (Ilford, S.) Symonds, J. B. Wilkins, W. A.
Sheldon, Robert Taverne, Dick Williams, Alan Lee (Hornchurch)
Shinwell, Rt. Hn. E. Thomas, George (Cardiff, W.) Williams, Clifford (Abertillery)
Shore, Peter (Stepney) Thornton, Ernest Williams, Mrs. Shirley (Hitchin)
Short, Rt.Mn.Edward (N'c'tle-u-Tyne) Tinn, James Williams, W. T. (Warrington)
Short, Mrs. Renée(W'hampton, N.E.) Urwin, T. W. Wilson, Rt. Hn. Harold (Huyton)
Silkin, Rt. Hn. John (Deptford) Varley, Eric G. Wilson, William (Coventry, S.)
Silkin, Hn. S. C. (Dulwich) Walker, Harold (Doncaster) Winnick, David
Silverman, Julius (Aston) Wallace, George Woof, Robert
Silverman, Sydney (Nelson) Watkins, David (Consett) Wyatt, Woodrow
Small, William Watkins, Tudor (Brecon & Radnor) Yates, Victor
Snow, Julian Weitzman, David
Spriggs, Leslie Wellbeloved, James TELLERS FOR THE NOES:
Stewart, Rt. Hn. Michael Wells, William (Walsall, N.) Mr. Joseph Harper and
Stonehouse, John Whitaker, Ben Mr. Ioan L. Evans.

Question put, That the proposed words be there added:—

The House divided: Ayes 282, Noes 232.

Division No. 312.] AYES [10.10 p.m.
Abse, Leo Davies, Ednyfed Hudson (Conway) Horner, John
Albu, Austen Davies, Harold (Leek) Howarth, Harry (Wellingborough)
Allaun, Frank (Salford, E.) Davies, lfor (Gower) Howarth, Robert (Bolton, E.)
Allen, Scholefield Davies, Robert (Cambridge) Howell, Denis (Small Heath)
Anderson, Donald de Freitas, Rt. Hn. Sir Geoffrey Howie, W.
Archer, Peter Delargy, Hugh Hoy, James
Armstrong, Ernest Dell, Edmund Hughes, Emrys (Ayrshire, S.)
Ashley, Jack Dempsey, James Hughes, Hector (Aberdeen, N.)
Atkins, Ronald (Preston, N.) Dewar, Donald Hughes, Roy (Newport)
Atkinson, Norman (Tottenham) Diamond, Rt. Hn. John Jackson, Peter M. (High Peak)
Bagler, Gordon A. T. Dickens, James Janner, Sir Barnett
Barnes, Michael Dobson, Ray Jay, Rt. Hn. Douglas
Barnett, Joel Doig, Peter Jeger, George (Goole)
Baxter, William Dunnett, Jack Jeger,Mrs. Lena(H'b'n&st.P'cras,S.)
Beaney, Alan Dunwoody, Mrs. Gwyneth (Exeter) Jenkins, Hugh (Putney)
Bellenger, Rt. Hn. F. J. Dunwoody, Dr. John (F'th & C'b'e) Jenkins, Rt. Hn. Roy (Stechford)
Hence, Cyril Eadie, Alex Johnson, James (K'ston-on-Hull, W.)
Bennett, James (G'gow, Bridgeton) Edwards, William (Merioneth) Jones, Rt.Hn.Sir Elwyn(W.Ham, S.)
Bidwell, Sydney Ellis, John Jones, J. ldwal (Wrexham)
Binns, John English, Michael Jones, T. Alec (Rhondda West)
Bishop, E. S. Ennals, David Judd, Frank
Blackburn, F. Ensor, David Kenyon, Clifford
Blenkinsop, Arthur Evans, Albert (lslington, S.W.) Kerr, Mrs. Anne (R'ter & Chatham)
Boardman, H. Faulds, Andrew Kerr, Dr. David (W'worth, Central)
Booth, Albert Fernyhough, E. Kerr, Russell(Feltham)
Boston, Terence Finch, Harold Lawson, George
Bottomley, Rt. Hn. Arthur Fitch, Alan (Wigan) Leadbitter, Ted
Bowden, Rt. Hn. Herbert Fletcher, Raymond (likeston) Ledger, Ron
Boyden, James Floud, Bernard Lee, Rt. Hn. Frederick (Newton)
Braddock, Mrs. E. M. Foley, Maurice Lee, Rt. Hn. Jennie (Cannock)
Bradley, Tom Foot, Sir Dingle (lpswich) Lee, John (Reading)
Bray, Dr. Jeremy Foot, Michael (Ebbw Vale) Lestor, Miss Joan
Brooks, Edwin Ford, Ben Lever, Harold (Cheetham)
Broughton, Dr. A. D. D. Fowler, Gerry Lever, L. M. (Ardwick)
Brown, Hugh D. (G'gow, Provan) Freeson, Reginald Lewis, Arthur (W. Ham, N.)
Brown, Bob(N'c'tle-upon-Tyne,W.) Galpern, Sir Myer Lipton, Marcus
Brown, R. W. (Shoreditch & F'bury) Gardner, Tony Lomas, Kenneth
Buchanan, Richard (G'gow, Sp'burn) Ginsburg, David Loughlin, Charles
Butler, Herbert (Hackney, C.) Gordon Walker, Rt. Hn. P. C. Luard, Evan
Butler, Mrs. Joyce (Wood Green) Gourlay, Harry Lyon, Alexander W. (York)
Callaghan, Rt. Hn. James Gray, Dr. Hugh (Yarmouth) Lyons, Edward (Bradford, E.)
Cant, R. B. Gregory, Arnold McBride, Neil
Carmichael, Neil Grey, Charles (Durham) Macdionald, A. H.
Carter-Jones, Lewis Griffiths, David (Rother Valley) McGuire, Michael
Chapman, Donald Griffiths, Rt. Hn. James (Llanelly) McKay, Mrs. Margaret
Coe, Denis Hale, Leslie (Oldham, W.) Mackie, John
Coleman, Donald Hamilton, James (Bothwell) Mackintosh, John P.
Concannon, J. D. Hamilton, William (File, W.) Maclennan, Robert
Conlan, Bernard Hamling, William MacMillan, Malcolm (Western lslys)
Corbet, Mrs. Freda Harrison, Walter (Wakefield) McMillan, Tom (Glasgow, C.)
Craddock, George (Bradford, S.) Haseldine, Norman McNamara, J. Kevin
Crawshaw, Richard Hattersley, Roy Macpherson, Malcolm
Cronin, John Hazell, Bert Mahon, Peter (Preston, S.)
Crosland, Rt. Hn. Anthony Healey, Rt. Hn. Denis Mallalieu, E. L. (Brigg)
Grossman, Rt. Hn. Richard Heffer, Eric S. Mailalieu, J.P.W.(Huddersfield, E.)
Cullen, Mrs. Alice Henig, Stanley Mapp, Charles
Dalyell, Tam Herbison, Rt. Hn. Margaret Marquand, David
Darling, Rt. Hn. George Hilton, W. S. Mason, Roy
Davidson, Arthur (Accrington) Hobden, Dennis (Brighton, K'town) Maxwell, Robert
Davies, Dr. Ernest (Stretford) Hooley, Frank Mayhew, Christopher
Mellish, Robert Perry, Ernest G. (Battersea, S.) Stonehouse, John
Mendelson, J. J. Perry, George H. (Nottingham, S.) Strauss, Rt. Hn. G. R.
Mikardo, lan Price, Christopher (Perry Barr) Swain, Thomas
Millan, Bruce Price, Thomas (Westhoughton) Swingler, Stephen
Miller, Dr. M. S. Price, William (Rugby) Symonds, J, B.
Milne, Edward (Blyth) Probert, Arthur Taverne, Dick
Mitchell, R. C. (S'th'pton, Test) Pursey, Cmdr. Harry Thomas, George (Cardiff, W.)
Molloy, William Rankin, John Thornton, Ernest
Moonman, Eric Rees, Merlyn Tinn, James
Morgan, Elystan (Cardiganshire) Reynolds, G. W. Urwin, T. W.
Morris, Charles R. (Openshaw) Rhodes, Geoffrey Varley, Eric G.
Morris, John (Aberavon) Richard, lvor Walker, Harold (Doncaster)
Moyle, Roland Roberts, Goronwy (Caernarvon) Wallace, George
Murray, Albert Roberts, Gwilym (Bedfordshire, S.) Watkins, David (Consett)
Newens, Stan Robertson, John (Paisley) Watkins, Tudor (Brecon & Radnor)
Noel-Baker, Francis (Swindon) Robinson, Rt. Hn. Kenneth(St.P'c'as) Weitzman, David
Noel-Baker, Rt.Hn.Philip(Derby,S.) Robinson, W. O. J. (Walth'stow, E.) Wellbeloved, James
Norwood, Christopher Rodgers, William (Stockton) Wells, William (Walsall, N.)
Oakes, Gordon Roebuck, Roy Whitaker, Ben
Ogden, Eric Rogers, George (Kensington, N.) White, Mrs. Eirene
O'Malley, Brian Rowlands, E. (Cardiff, N.) Whitlock, William
Oram, Albert E. Ryan, John Wigg, Rt. Hn. George
Orbach, Maurice Shaw, Arnold (Ilford, S.) Wilkins, W. A.
Oswald, Thomas Sheldon, Robert Williams, Alan Lee (Hornchurch)
Owen, Dr. David (Plymouth, S'tn) Shore, Peter (Stepney) Williams, Clifford (Abertillery)
Owen, Will (Morpeth) Short,Rt.Hn.Edward(N'c'tle-u-Tyne) Williams, Mrs. Shirley (Hitchin)
Padley, Walter Short, Mrs. Renée(W'hampton,N.E.) Williams, W. T. (Warrington)
Palmer, Arthur Silkin, Rt. Hn. John (Deptford) Wilson, William (Coventry, S.)
Pannell, Rt. Hn. Charles Silkin, Hn. S. C. (Dulwich) Winnick, David
Park, Trevor Silverman, Julius (Aston) Woof, Robert
Parker, John (Dagenham) Silverman, Sydney (Nelson) Wyatt, Woodrow
Parkyn, Brian (Bedford) Small, William Yates, Victor
Pavitt, Laurence Snow, Julian
Peart, Rt. Hn. Fred Spriggs, Leslie TELLERS FOR THE AYES:
Pentland, Norman Stewart, Rt. Hn. Michael Mr. Joseph Harper and
Mr. Ioan L. Evans
Alison, Michael (Barkston Ash) Crouch, David Harris, Reader (Heston)
Allason, James (Hemel Hempstead) Crowder, F. P. Harrison, Brian (Maldon)
Astor, John Cunningham, Sir Knox Harrison, Col. Sir Harwood (Eye)
Atkins, Humphrey (M't'n & M'd'n) Currie, G. B. H. Harvey, Sir Arthur Vere
Awdry, Daniel Dalkeith, Earl of Harvie Anderson, Miss
Baker, W. H. K. Dance, James Hastings, Stephen
Balniel, Lord d'Avigdor-Goldsmid, Sir Henry Hawkins, Paul
Barber, Rt. Hn. Anthony Dean, Paul (Somerset, N.) Hay, John
Batsford, Brian Deedes, Rt. Hn. W. F. (Ashford) Heald, Rt. Hn. Sir Lionel
Bell, Ronald Digby, Simon Wingfield Heath, Rt. Hn. Edward
Bennett, Dr. Reginald (Gos. & Fhm) Dodds-Parker, Douglas Heseltine, Michael
Berry, Hn. Anthony Doughty, Charles Hiley, Joseph
Biffen, John Douglas-Home, Rt. Hn. Sir Alec Hill, J. E. B.
Biggs-Davison, John Drayson, G. B. Hirst, Geoffrey
Birch, Rt. Hn. Nigel du Cann, Rt. Hn. Edward Hobson, Rt. Hn. Sir John
Black, Sir Cyril Eden, Sir John Hogg, Rt. Hn. Quintin
Blaker, Peter Elliot, Capt. Walter (Carshalton) Holland, Philip
Body, Richard Errington, Sir Eric Hornby, Richard
Bossom, Sir Clive Eyre, Reginald Howell, David (Guildford)
Boyd-Carpenter, Rt. Hn. John Fisher, Nigel Hunt, John
Boyle, Rt. Hn. Sir Edward Fletcher-Cooke, Charles Hutchison, Michael Clark
Braine, Bernard Fortescue, Tim lremonger, T. L.
Brewis, John Foster, Sir John lrvine, Bryant Godman (Rye)
Brinton, Sir Tatton Fraser,Rt.Hn.Hugh(St'fford & Stone) Jenkin, Patrick (Woodford)
Bromley-Davenport, Lt.-Col.SirWalter Galbraith, Hn. T. G. Jennings, J. C. (Burton)
Brown, Sir Edward (Bath) Gibson-Watt, David Johnson Smith, G. (E. Grinstead)
Bruce-Gardyne, J. Giles, Rear-Adm. Morgan Johnston, Russell (lnverness)
Bryan, Paul Gilmour, lan (Norfolk, C.) Jones, Arthur (Northants, S.)
Buchanan-Smith, Alick(Angus,N&M) Gilmour, Sir John (Fife, E.) Jopling, Michael
Buck, Antony (Colchester) Glover, Sir Douglas Joseph, Rt. Hn. Sir Keith
Bullus, Sir Eric Godber, Rt. Hn. J. B. Kaberry, Sir Donald
Burden, F. A. Goodhart, Philip Kerby, Capt. Henry
Campbell, Gordon Goodhew, Victor Kershaw, Anthony
Carlisle, Mark Gower, Raymond King, Evelyn (Dorset, S.)
Carr, Rt. Hn. Robert Grant, Anthony Kirk, Peter
Cary, Sir Robert Grant-Ferris, R. Kitson, Timothy
Chichester-Clark, R. Gresham-Cooke, R. Knight, Mrs. Jill
Clark, Henry Grieve, Percy Lambton, Viscount
Clegg, Walter Griffiths, Eldon (Bury St. Edmunds) Langford-Holt, Sir John
Cooke, Robert Gurden, Harold Legge-Bourke, Sir Harry
Cordle, John Hall, John (Wycombe) Lewis, Kenneth (Rutland)
Corfield, F. V. Hall-Davis, A. G. F. Lloyd, Rt.Hn. Geoffrey (Sut'nC'dfield)
Costain, A. P. Hamilton, Marquess of (Fermanagh) Lloyd, Ian (P'tsm'th, Langstone)
Craddock, Sir Beresford (Spelthorne) Hamilton, Michael (Salisbury) Lloyd, Rt. Hn. Selwyn (Wirral)
Crawley, Aidan Harris, Frederic (Croydon, N.W.) Longden, Gilbert
Loveys, W. H. Page, Graham (Crosby) Summers, Sir Spencer
Lubbock, Eric Page, John (Harrow, W.) Tapsell, Peter
McAdden, Sir Stephen Pardoe, John Taylor, Sir Charles (Eastbourne)
MacArthur, lan Pearson, Sir Frank (Clitheroe) Taylor, Edward M.(G'gow,Cathcart)
Maclean, Sir Fitzroy Peel, John Taylor, Frank (Moss Side)
Macleod, Rt. Hn. lain Percival, lan Teeling, Sir William
McMaster, Stanley Peyton, John Temple, John M.
Macmillan, Maurice (Farnham) Pike, Miss Mervyn Thatcher, Mrs. Margaret
Maddan, Martin Pink, R. Bonner Tilney, John
Maginnis, John E. Pounder, Rafton Turton, Rt. Hn. R. H.
Marples, Rt. Hn. Ernest Price, David (Eastleigh) van Straubenzee, W. R.
Marten, Neil Prior, J. M. L. Vaughan-Morgan, Rt. Hn. Sir John
Maude, Angus Quennell, Miss J. M. Vickers, Dame Joan
Maudling, Rt. Hn. Reginald Ramsden, Rt. Hn. James Walker, Peter (Worcester)
Mawby, Ray Rawlinson, Rt. Hn. Sir Peter Walker-Smith, Rt. Hn. Sir Derek
Maxwell-Hyslop, R. J. Rees-Davies, W. R. Walters, Dennis
Maydon, Lt.-Cmdr. S. L. C. Ronton, Rt. Hn. Sir David Ward, Dame lrene
Mills, Peter (Torrington) Ridley, Hn. Nicholas Weatherill, Bernard
Mills, Stratton (Belfast, N.) Ridsdale, Julian Webster, David
Miscampbell, Norman Rippon, Rt. Hn. Geoffrey Wells, John (Maidstone)
Mitchell, David (Basingstoke) Robson Brown, Sir William Whitelaw, Rt. Hn. William
Monro, Hector Rossi, Hugh (Hornsey) Wills, Sir Gerald (Bridgwater)
More, Jasper Royle, Anthony Wilson, Geoffrey (Truro)
Morrison, Charles (Devizes) Russell, Sir Ronald Wolrige-Gordon, Patrick
Munro-Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh St. John-Stevas, Norman wood, Rt. Hn. Richard
Murton, Oscar Scott, Nicholas Woodnutt, Mark
Neave, Airey Sharples, Richard Worsley, Marcus
Noble, Rt. Hn. Michael Shaw, Michael (Sc'b'gh & Whitby) Wylie, N. R.
Nott, John Sinclair, Sir George Younger, Hn. George
Onslow, Cranley Smith, John
Orr, Capt. L. P. S. Stainton, Keith TELLERS FOR THE NOES:
Orr-Ewing, Sir lan Steel, David (Roxburgh) Mr. Francis Pym and
Osborn, John (Hallam) Stodart, Anthony Mr. R. W. Elliott.
Osborne, Sir Cyril (Louth) Stoddart-Scott, Col. Sir M. (Ripon)

Main Question, as amended, agreed to.

Resolved, That this House, recognising that the elimination of poverty among low income families deserves that special recognition denied to it for so long by Conservative administrations, calls upon Her Majesty's Government to give full, detailed and speedy consideration to the best method of dealing with this human problem.

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