HC Deb 26 June 1967 vol 749 cc84-5
40. Mr. Barnes

asked the Minister without Portfolio what are the general principles on which the Government's new scheme for family allowances will be based.

The Minister without Portfolio (Mr. Patrick Gordon Walker)

I must ask my hon. Friend to await the statement on child poverty which we have promised to make before the Summer Recess.

Mr. Barnes

Would my right hon. Friend give careful thought to the need for rents to be taken into account in the case of low income families, as they are with the supplementary benefits scheme? Would not he agree that, certainly in the London area, rents are often a crucial factor in causing child poverty?

Mr. Gordon Walker

I think it is true that the impact of rents varies considerably in different parts of the country and is a factor of importance, but I must ask my hon. Friend to await the report.

Mr. Lubbock

Will the Minister confirm that the Government are considering treating children's allowances as unearned income? Can he say how much this would release for concentrating benefits on the families which most need them?

Mr. Gordon Walker

I think that we should await the full statement of our policy, which will deal with all these and other aspects of the problem. It is not possible to deal with it in little bits.

Mr. Dean

Will the Minister bear in mind that if Income Tax child allowances were devalued many families not now paying Income Tax would come into the Income Tax range?

Mr. Gordon Walker

That is certainly a factor to be taken into account. I understand it well.

Mr. Hamilton

Will my right hon. Friend give an assurance that there is no conflict between the speech he made in the country a week last Saturday, I think, and the statement made in the House last Thursday by my right hon. Friend the Minister of Social Security?

Mr. Gordon Walker

Certainly I can.

42. Mr. Hugh Jenkins

asked the Minister without Portfolio if he will take into account in any statement on the future policy for alleviating child poverty the need for active co-ordination of the supporting services.

Mr. Gordon Walker

Yes, Sir.

Mr. Jenkins

Does my right hon. Friend agree teat there is a need for what might be called a family service, that is, a single co-ordinated service for helping families in trouble? Secondly, does he not further agree that the proliferation of means tests is to be avoided and that the single test of the Income Tax return should be enough for every family?

Mr. Gordon Walker

There is force in both comments The Seebohm Committee is going into the whole question of the reorganisation of local authority services and I am myself considering the co-ordination of means tests, which, like all problems, is a little more difficult when one comes to deal with it than had been thought.

Mr. Alfred Morris

In the context of alleviating child poverty, can my right hon. Friend confirm or deny, or at least comment on, persistent Press speculation that he favours an increase in the charge for school meals and the imposition of a charge for school milk?

Mr. Gordon Walker

I have not seen those retorts in the newspapers. However, I do not want to say anything by way of assertion or denial ahead of our comprehensive statement which we will make before the Summer Recess.