HC Deb 08 April 1968 vol 762 cc870-1
21. Mr. William Hamilton

asked the Minister of Social Security if she will make a statement on the progress made to protect the poorer sections of the community from the worst effects of devaluation; and what further steps she proposes to take.

Mrs. Hart

A Bill now before the House proposes a further increase of 3s. a week in family allowances from October, in addition to the increase this month. Supplementary benefit will also be increased in the autumn and, as my hon. Friend will know, it is proposed that the income limits for full rate rebates are to be raised with effect from the autumn.

Mr. Hamilton

Is my right hon. Friend aware that the whole country will be grateful for that attempt to protect the poorer sections of the community? Is it true, as the Press reported this morning, that the Government are refusing to help to finance the project survey into national poverty? If that is the case, it is an absolutely outrageous decision.

Mrs. Hart

My hon. Friend should not judge from the rather one-sided reports in The Guardian this morning of what our intentions are. This matter is under consideration. My concern—and this will arise on a later Question—is to analyse in some depth and detail the particular circumstances which we need to take into account if we are to end poverty. I am much more concerned about knowing which line of action would be best to meet—for example, the problems of fatherless families or separated wives or partly disabled—than about any generalities, which could not assist us directly in policy-making.

Mr. Winnick

While appreciating the increase in family allowances, may I ask whether there is any chance at all that the supplementary allowances will be increased before the autumn, in view of our great anxiety about the way in which so many poor people are having a very hard time?

Mrs. Hart

We have to make a balanced judgment on this matter. We have to take into account the fact that the increase last autumn left people in a much better position than they had ever been in before and that it was able to take into account a price rise which was expected. Next autumn will probably be about the right time to take account of those price rises which the last increase was not able to meet.

Mr. Edward M. Taylor

Does that mean that older people living on small fixed incomes who do not receive social security benefits or rebates will not be sheltered from the effects of devaluation?

Mrs. Hart

The circumstances affecting those who are entitled to supplementary benefits are continually changing. It may be that people living on small fixed incomes will find, when we increase the supplementary benefit rates in the autumn, that some of them will then become entitled to them. They should not hesitate in the autumn, when the increases are made, to apply if they have any reason to suppose that they may be entitled to them.

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