§ 23. Mr. Arthur Lewis
asked the Minister of Social Security in view of the Government's policy of allowing increases in rents, rates, fares and prices, which fall heavily upon those in receipt of social security benefits and supplementary allowances, whether she will now review these payments and issue further advice and publicity to explain to recipients how they can claim supplementary benefits to offset any reduction of their living standards.
§ Mrs. Hart
The rates of supplementary benefit are to be increased in the autumn. Supplementary benefit assessments take account of increases in rent and rates. We shall continue to explain as widely as we can, the conditions for supplementary benefits and how people can claim them. National Insurance benefits in general continue to be worth considerably more than under any previous Administration.
§ Mr. Lewis
Is my right hon. Friend aware that poorer families are often not seen because they cannot afford to go out, that they often cannot afford to buy 873 blankets for their beds or eggs for their children? As people living on £10 to £12 a week are finding it difficult to keep their heads above water—and I have used some admirable words which were uttered by my right hon. Friend in her speech last Friday—will she now agree to do something to see that these people are looked after?
§ Mrs. Hart
My hon. Friend is correct to quote what I said on Friday. I also said it in the House on Tuesday, although am not sure that my hon. Friend was in his place to hear me on that occasion. He will, I am sure, agree that it is absolutely essential that the public in general should understand, as I believe the House does, that family allowances, and the increases in them which will take place this month and again in October, are the means directly of assisting the very families I was mentioning. For example, a man with three children living on £12 a week will be 8½ per cent. better off as a result of these increases in family allowances.
§ Sir G. Nabarro
I am not the hon. Member for Kidderminster. I am the hon. Member for Worcestershire, South. Does not the right hon. Lady realise that she has stated four times this afternoon that the increases announced last autumn will more than compensate these unfortunate old people? Is she aware that that is an absolute myth in view of the tremendous increases which are following devaluation, the further increases that are taking place in the cost of living following the Budget, and the many more increases which are to come? Is it not about time that she brought her ideas up to date?
§ Mrs. Hart
I apologise to the hon. Gentleman for misrepresenting his constituency. I would be more impressed with his argument if he had ever at any time during the period when the Conservative Party was in power urged an increase in family allowances. The increases which started in October were 874 the first for about 10 years. A further increase will follow closely on its heels and, whether or not the hon. Gentleman agrees, it will mean a substantial improvement in the standard of living of the very poor family in this country.