HC Deb 23 October 1967 vol 751 cc1320-1
7. Mr. Barnes

asked the Minister of Social Security what are the latest estimates that she now has of the number of children in Great Britain who will be living below the supplementary benefit subsistence level this winter.

Mrs. Hart

I am afraid that no more recent estimates are possible than those in the Ministry's "Family Circumstances" survey report published in the summer.

Mr. Barnes

Would not my right hon. Friend agree that, although social security spending may be up 50 per cent. since 1964, really poor families have benefited comparatively little and there is great need for further action to prevent having a permanent pool of children in poverty of anything between half a million and a million?

Mrs. Hart

I am intensely aware of the problem. The present family allowances proposals will help a great deal. We have to recognise that as we put up the rate of supplementary benefit we get a rise in relative poverty which may not be a rise in absolute poverty, but I am well aware of the problem. I am looking hard at ways in which we might meet it.

13. Lord Balniel

asked the Minister of Social Security what plans she has to help those 250,000 children who, even after the new increases in family allowances, will still remain in families whose total income is below the supplementary benefit level.

Mrs. Hart

The problem of family poverty arises from a complex of causes and there is no simple or single solution to it. Our immediate plans were announced in July. They will bring substantial help to these families. I have no further statement to make at present.

Lord Balniel

What consideration has the right hon. Lady given to the proposal which we made last year that there should be a special supplementary children's allowance, perhaps on a sliding scale, to those families which are below the supplementary benefit level? What has been the outcome of her study of this proposal?

Mrs. Hart

I am not quite clear whether what the noble Lord really has in mind is that there should be a permanent State subsidy to low-wage earners. If he has that in mind, I would not agree with him that this is the solution. My own outlook towards this is that it is best to break the problem down as far as we can into its component elements and see how we can best deal with each one of those component elements.

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