HC Deb 04 December 1967 vol 755 cc926-7
10. Mr. Gwilym Roberts

asked the Minister of Social Security what plans she has for increasing supplementary benefits; and if she will make a statement.

Mrs. Hart

Supplementary Benefit rates were increased at the end of October, but we shall of course continue to keep their level under constant review.

Mr. Roberts

Would not my right hon. Friend agree that supplementary benefits were decreased at the end of October, 1967, and that some adjustment in these benefits will soon be called for to meet the problems of devaluation and the general increase in earnings which is to be expected?

Mrs. Hart

My hon. Friend will be aware, I think, of what I said in the House about devaluation, but he is, I believe, in some confusion about the rates of supplementary benefits, which were, in fact, increased at the end of October.

Lord Balniel

Could the right hon. Lady, if possible, answer this question with a "Yes" or "No"? Does she intend to increase the supplementary benefit level before Christmas?

Mrs. Hart

If the hon. Gentleman has read what I said—indeed, he heard it—in the House last week, he will be quite clear that, in terms of supplementary benefit, we regard the position as it stood in October, just over a month ago, as an extremely good starting point for the winter.

Mr. Spriggs

Will my right hon. Friend consider increasing supplementary allowances at the same time as the statutory benefits are increased?

Mrs. Hart

I am well aware of the kind of problems which my hon. Friend raises. There is a great deal of confusion among pensioners as between those who receive supplementary benefits and those who do not. It has always been found necessary to take full account of the real needs of the poorer section of the community in raising supplementary benefits at different times for those on retirement pensions. However, there is a problem here and I am considering it closely.

Mr. Frederic Harris

Does the right hon. Lady appreciate that hon. Members are under daily pressure from poor people in regard to increasing supplementary benefits, and that they cannot understand how the Government can give a general increase in family allowances and yet not face up to this problem, which is causing considerable distress?

Mrs. Hart

If the hon. Gentleman would care to write to me, as a number of my hon. Friends have done, I will be able to explain the position to him in terms which his constituents will understand.

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