HC Deb 11 May 1967 vol 746 cc1694-5
Q4. Mr. Iremonger

asked the Prime Minister if he will set up an interdepartmental working party to study the subsidies in cash and kind at present being made available without test of need in various ways to the public, and to study the various kinds of means tests at present being applied to the public by Government Departments.

The Prime Minister

No, Sir.

Mr. Iremonger

Whilst I assure the Prime Minister that I understand his reluctance, would he give thought to the proposition that social benefits are bound to be either universal and inadequate or adequate and selective, and that the public is entitled to a little more frankness and less humbug?

The Prime Minister

I agree very much with the hon. Gentleman's last remarks, because I remember some of the speeches made in the recent debate on the social services concerning family endowment a week or two ago. I am well aware of the views of the Opposition that these things should be on a much more widely means-tested basis, but I would not agree with it.

Sir E. Boyle

Has the Prime Minister's attention been drawn to the growing concern among university vice-chancellors about capital grants for universities? Does this not point to the clear need for more positive discrimination in social expenditure between the essential and the less essential?

The Prime Minister

These are matters more appropriate for debate. There has been a recent debate on the question of the discrimination the right hon. Gentleman has in mind. Of course, in certain matters such as rent rebate schemes, uniformity is being sought as far as possible throughout the country, and we all know the work of the Supplementary Benefits Commission. I could not go along with the general proposition made by the right hon. Gentleman.

Mr. Barber

Is the Prime Minister saying that with the provision of additional benefits for those people most in need, which has been promised for the summer, there will be no expansion of the area of the means test?

The Prime Minister

The right hon. Gentleman should await the statement we shall be making on this question before the end of the summer. He will then no doubt express his opinion on it.

Mr. William Hamilton

Can my right hon. Friend say at what period since 1947 any element of selectivity has been applied to the subsidies given to the wealthy farmers of this country?

The Prime Minister

That raises a rather wider issue, which is usually taken up when the House is discussing agriculture.