HC Deb 04 December 1967 vol 755 cc931-3
19. Mr. Barnes

asked the Minister of Social Security what steps she is taking to protect low-income families from the effects of devaluation; and if she will make a statement.

43. Lord Balniel

asked the Minister of Social Security what steps she intends to take to ensure that help is given this winter to the poorest families and others in need who will suffer most from the rise in prices following the devaluation of the £ sterling.

48 and 49. Mr. Ridsdale

asked the Minister of Social Security (1) what steps are to be taken to increase supplementary benefits, so as to help those most in need because of devaluation; and

(2) what is her estimate of the cost of restoring the purchasing powers of pensions over the next year paid by her Department, including supplementary and other benefits, to what it was before devaluation; and what action she proposes to take to help those most in need.

Mrs. Hart

I would refer the hon. Members to my remarks in the House on 29th November. We shall take action at the right time in the light of the price trends which emerge and it is not possible to say now what the cost will be.—[Vol. 755, col. 458–9.]

Mr. Barnes

Does my right hon. Friend agree that though the old and the sick could be given further help through the supplementary benefits system, the predicament of those families living below the supplementary benefit level where the fathers are in full-time work ought more properly to be dealt with in the framework of an effective incomes policy embodying the principle of a national minimum wage?

Mrs. Hart

I am aware that several of my hon. Friends share that view. I have always made it clear that the problem of low-income families is in essence related to the problem of low incomes.

Lord Balniel

The right hon. Lady will agree that her statement was rather empty of content. How will she help the 250,000 children living in families where the father is at work but who are below the poverty line after the passing of the Family Allowances Bill?

Mrs. Hart

I am afraid that the noble Lord must accept that he will have to be patient about this. I have made it clear that we are committed to helping not only the old and the sick but also families on low incomes. He must now wait and see what the Government's proposals will be at the right time.

Mr. Ridsdale

May I press the right hon. Lady to answer the question whether she intends to help these low-income families before or after Christmas?

Mrs. Hart

I am sorry, but I am not going to be browbeaten by the Opposition in going beyond what I have just said, which is perfectly reasonable. At the right time and in the light of price trends we shall take whatever action is necessary, and we shall put our proposals before the House.

Mr. Hugh D. Brown

Is my right hon. Friend willing to take any special steps in the Department to examine closely and in detail the possible effects of devaluation a, distinct from the normal cost of living increase, because the Opposition have been having fun and games about this for a long time?

Mrs. Hart

Yes, I am indeed proposing to do that.

Mr. Hogg

The right hon. Lady has used the expression "the right time" more than once. Will she accept that the right time is a question not simply for her but for the whole House?

Mrs. Hart

Right hon, and hon. Gentlemen opposite are perfectly entitled to have their view on what is the right time. All I can say is that the Government's proposals will be produced at what the Government consider to be the right time.

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